Grow, Gift, Repair

Research lagging in the Commonwealth

“There’s an estimated 20 million or more Americans using cannabis every year,” he said. “We should be finding out answers to the questions that everyone is wondering about: Is it harmful, what are the societal impacts of these policies, does it reduce opioid use, and is an effective treatment for chronic pain?”

The state’s Cannabis Control Commission asked for $7.5 million in funding for the budget year that begins July 1 but it only earmarks $70,000 for research.

“They’re actually spending four times as much on community outreach as they are on research,” Hill said. “That’s insufficient to do anything meaningful.”

The state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allows adults age 21 and over to possess up to 10 ounces of weed, and it authorizes cultivation and retail sales.

Massachusetts is also one of 29 states and the District of Columbia that allow medical marijuana use.

A legislative committee that studied recreational marijuana legalization in 2016 – before it was approved by voters – recommended research on pot use prior to legalizing it to determine the “social, economic, public health, and public safety impacts.”

“Lack of such data makes it difficult to accurately assess trends in areas like youth consumption, driving under the influence, or emergency room visits,” the committee reported.

A re-write of the pot law last year requires the Cannabis Control Commission to develop a “research agenda” but doesn’t require funding.

The Baker administration estimates the state will collect about $63 million from pot licensing fees and excise taxes in the next fiscal year. That money has been tabbed for the control commission’s operating budget, substance abuse treatment programs and other items.

Both opponents and supporters of legal marijuana support state spending on research, though for starkly different reasons.