BOSTON - Governor-elect Charlie Baker pledged to "vigorously oppose" the legalization of recreational marijuana, even as he plans to move forward with the implementation of medical marijuana.
Supporters of legalized marijuana have already started laying the foundation for a 2016 ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana in Massachusetts. Similar ballot questions passed in Colorado and Washington in 2012.
Baker, asked about the issue in an interview with The Republican/MassLive.com in Boston on Monday, said, "I'm going to oppose that and I'm going to oppose that vigorously ... with a lot of help from a lot of other people in the addiction community."
Baker, a Republican, said many people dealing with addiction believe marijuana use is a "significant first step" toward addiction to other drugs. "There's a ton of research out there at this point that says, especially for young people, it's just plain bad," Baker said.
Massachusetts, by ballot vote, has already approved the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana and the use of medical marijuana. However, although the medical marijuana ballot initiative passed in 2012, so far, no dispensaries have opened. Medical marijuana advocates have complained about the slow pace of the licensing process, which has been marred by problems. Several applicants whose licenses were approved were later found to have problems with their applications – for example, applicants mischaracterized their local support or had problems with marijuana dispensaries in other states. The process resulted in several lawsuits from unsuccessful applicants.
Baker declined to comment on his next steps regarding the licensing process or the provisional licenses granted by the administration of outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat. Baker said he needs to learn more about where the process sits today and about the pending legal challenges. He reiterated comments he made on the campaign trail that he is disappointed the administration did not consult with experts in pain and cancer treatment.
Baker indicated that he will move forward with trying to get the dispensaries open. "I think waiting is a bad idea. There are clearly people who are looking for Massachusetts to get its act together and move forward on this," Baker said.
Baker also stressed his commitment to addressing opiate addiction – which has become a big issue over the last year after a spate of overdose deaths in Massachusetts. The state legislature passed a comprehensive bill aimed at addressing drug addiction by requiring insurers to cover substance abuse treatment and implementing new regulations regarding data reporting, the development of abuse-deterrent drugs and more. Baker, a former health insurance executive, said one issue that he thinks the bill did not adequately address is the frequency with which doctors write prescriptions for addictive pain medication. "I want to have a very open and frank discussion" with health care providers about the abuse of pain medication, Baker said.
On health care more generally, Baker said the state needs to do more to create transparency in health care pricing. He said today, different providers provide the same health care services with the same outcome, but the price differences can be 300 or 400 percent. "The state can do a lot more with the information it's already collected to make that case. I also think at some point we should get to the point where people have to post their prices," Baker said.
Patrick's administration did recently unveil a new website that links to cost estimator tools provided by all of the state's insurers, where customers can search for the cost of common procedures performed by different doctors based on the provisions of their health care plan.
Via Mass Live