Meanwhile, opponents of legal weed are backing a number of plans to restrict where marijuana can be sold and used.
One would extend the 500-foot buffer between marijuana establishments and schools to include day care centers “or any facility where children congregate.” Another imposes a blanket ban “advertising, marketing and branding through promotional items, including giveaways, coupons, discounts, free or donated marijuana.”
“The commercialization of this drug is making a dangerous drug more harmful,” said Jody Hensley, a policy adviser for the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, which opposed legalization. “And we’re dealing with a regulatory structure dominated by the cannabis industry, which has escalated the harms caused by this drug.”
Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who also opposed legalization, has filed legislation that, among other changes, would suspend the driver’s licenses of motorists who decline to submit to police demands for a blood, saliva or urine test. It and other proposed rules would mirror the penalties for drunken drivers who refuse a Breathalyzer test.
Driving while under the influence of marijuana is illegal and punishable under the same laws against drunken driving. But there is no “implied consent” law in Massachusetts that requires drivers suspected of driving while stoned to submit to any such test.
Baker has said the legislation, based on recommendations of a special panel, “will make Massachusetts safer and improve how police officers train for detecting the influence of intoxicating substances like marijuana, how they interact with motorists who show signs of impairment, and eventually how these cases are tried in a courtroom.”
“There is plenty of evidence that no one should drive when they’re impaired, period, whether it’s alcohol or drugs of any kind,” he told reporters recently.
Baker’s plan would also would extend the state’s open container law to include marijuana, prohibiting drivers from having loose or unsealed packages of pot in their vehicle.
Pot advocates and groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts say they support efforts to reduce impaired driving but oppose pairing rules for drunken driving and marijuana use, citing the unreliability of pot field sobriety tests and the possibility that minorities could be targeted in impaired driving crackdowns, among other concerns.
“The problem is that these tests are not admissible in court,” said Borghesani. “Until we have a test that is scientifically proven to determine impairment, we shouldn’t be applying operating under the influence laws to marijuana.”
Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, has filed a separate proposal that would require cannabis regulators to set limits on the potency of marijuana products similar to beer, wine and hard cider.
Another proposal, filed by Rep. Jim O’Day, D-Worcester, seeks to increase the legal age for buying and using marijuana from 21 to 25.
Hensley, of the Marijuana Prevention Alliance, said there is increasing research showing negative mental health effects from use of the drug by youth and adults, including cannabis-induced psychosis.
“The harms of high potency cannabis use to mental health is becoming clear,” she said. “This should give everyone pause.”
There’s even a citizen-filed proposal seeking to repeal the recreational pot law, as well as one requesting the state Supreme Judicial Court to rule on the law’s constitutionality.