Marijuana is less dangerous for adults than legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco and if properly regulated would be less likely to fall into the hands of children, whose still-developing brains could be harmed by it, the physicians said.
“Question 4 would protect our minors, preventing access to the retail shops by minors, requiring reasonable packaging of cannabis products and very importantly undermining the black-market dealers,” said Dr. Jordan Tischler, a Boston-area doctor who works with medical marijuana patients, at an event outside the Statehouse.
The measure on Tuesday’s ballot would allow people 21 years or older to possess and use small amounts of marijuana and individually cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their homes. It also would create a regulatory board to oversee retail sales of the drug.
The group Yes on 4 released a list of 117 doctors from around the state who support the question.
The 23,000-member Massachusetts Medical Society, several organizations representing specialty physicians and nurses and the Massachusetts Hospital Association are urging voters to say no to legalization of recreational marijuana.
The medical society’s president, Dr. James Gessner, has said the measure would be a “big step backward for health and safety,” citing dangers to children despite the age restriction and concerns such as addiction, risks from marijuana use during pregnancy and possible increases in impaired driving.
Critics have contended that since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, there has been an uptick in the number of children being treated in hospital emergency rooms after ingesting marijuana edibles that resembled candy or other treats.
But Tischler said that, as someone who works in an emergency room, “I see huge devastation by alcohol and other drugs and yet never, ever have seen anybody sick from cannabis.”
While acknowledging that there could be such cases involving children if marijuana edibles reach the market, he predicted the number would pale in comparison to the hundreds of children treated each year after accidentally ingesting common household substances, such as laundry detergent.
Question 4 supporters also said they expected no significant impact to the state’s existing medical marijuana program, saying cannabis produced for therapeutic use is tailored specifically for the needs of a patient and often differs significantly from recreational cannabis.
Marijuana legalization questions also appear Tuesday on ballots in Maine, Arizona, California and Nevada. Passage in Massachusetts or Maine would mark the first approvals for legal pot in an East Coast state. Besides Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska allow recreational marijuana.
Are you voting in favor of the marijuana proposals in your state on Tuesday?