Tag Archives: Massachusetts

I Wish We Had Never Moved Here…..

Born in Massachusetts, our son started out life with a very bright future.  As a toddler he was interested in things with wheels, and anything his big sister was doing. As he got older, Legos was his obsession. In his early school days he tended to get really into a subject, even those of his own choosing. For a while it was Russian language and then it was the Periodic Table.  He begged me to buy him a 2½-inch thick used Chemistry textbook before he was a pre-teen. I did.

I was able to be a stay-at-home parent until our son was 8. I tried to do all the right things. We played outside, limited screen time, and got together with other little ones and their moms for play groups. I read to him and his sister every night until they both reached middle school and wouldn’t let me anymore. Our son routinely tested in the 99th percentile on standardized tests and at least 3 grade levels above. Now, at age 17, he has dropped out of high school.

My husband and I both have Master’s degrees, and my husband is a public school administrator. His father is a retired architect. My mother is a retired elementary school teacher. Our family believes in education, we believe in learning and growing.     When asked why he continues to use drugs, mostly marijuana, my son said, “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”

In reflecting back on “What happened?”   I blame marijuana. We now live in Colorado, where marijuana is legal and widely available to everyone.  What if we had never moved here?

How it All Began

My son’s first time using was in 7th grade when marijuana was legal only if used medicinally with a “Red Card,” if recommended by a physician.   Coloradans voted on legalization in November 2012 and marijuana stores opened in January, 2014. But back in 2012, he and some buddies got it from a friend’s older brother who had a Red Card.  From what I can tell, the use just kept escalating until his junior year in high school when he was using at least once a day…and when he attempted suicide.

Between that first incident in 2012 and the suicide attempt in 2015, his father and I waged an all-out battle on the drug that was invading our home. We grounded him; I took to sleeping on the couch outside his bedroom because he was sneaking out in the middle of the night; we yelled and screamed; I cried, we cajoled and tried to reason with him: ”You have a beautiful brain! Why are you doing things that will hurt your brain?”

We did weekly drug tests, we enlisted the school’s support, we enlisted our family’s support and we even tried talking to his friends.

But nothing worked. Our son was in love with marijuana. Our sweet, smart, funny, sarcastic, irreverent, adorable boy was so enamored with this drug that nothing we did — NOTHING — made any difference. And we slowly lost him.

At the same time I was battling marijuana at home, I was also leading a group in our community to vote against legalizing it in our small town.  I had teamed with a local business-owner and a physician and the three of us got the support of many prominent community members, including the school superintendent, the police chief, and the fire chief. We ran a full campaign, complete with a website where you could donate money, a Facebook page, and yard signs.

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Why does he continue to use marijuana? “I think it’s because of the people we’re around.”

My son’s use isn’t the reason I got involved. I had started advocating against marijuana legalization long before I even realized he had a problem. My background is in health communication and I work in the hospital industry.  I sit on our local Board of Health, so allowing retail stores to sell an addictive drug just doesn’t make any sense. I did think about my children; what I was modeling for them; what kind of community we were raising them in, and the kind of world I envisioned for their future. Those are the reasons I got involved. My son’s use is actually the reason that I’ve pulled away from any sort of campaigning.

Unfortunately, we lost our fight. So in 2014, it became legal in our small town to purchase pot without a Red Card. And the following year, his junior year, he almost slipped away from us forever.

It Got Scarier and Scarier

His use by then had escalated to daily (and I suspect often more than once a day). Pot seemed to be everywhere! We found it hidden all over the house — in the bathroom, on top of the china cabinet, in his closet, outside, even in his sister’s bedroom. It’s a hard substance to hide because of the strong smell. Even in the “pharmacy” bottles and wrapped in plastic bags, the skunk stench still manages to seep out. But it sure seemed easy for a young boy to get!

He started leaving school in the middle of the day, or skipping school altogether, and his grades plummeted. Where he was once an A/B student and on the varsity cross-country team, he was now failing classes and not involved in anything. This boy who had tested in the 99th percentile was failing high school. And this boy who had once been the levity in our home, who used to make me laugh like no one else could or has since, this boy became a stranger.

Our son withdrew from everything except his beloved drug. His circle of friends (never big in the first place), was reduced to only those who could supply him with marijuana. His relationship with his older sister all but disappeared. And his relationship with his father has been strained beyond almost all hope of repair.

Then in late 2015 our son attempted suicide. He was hospitalized, first overnight at the very hospital where I work, and then for a 3-day locked psychiatric unit stay. I remember very little from this difficult (and surreal) time except learning that it wasn’t his first attempt, and that he blamed us for how awful he felt. He started taking an antidepressant and after he was released we took him to a drug counselor for a total of three visits but after that he refused to go — he threatened to jump out of the car if we tried to take him. We tried a different counselor and that only lasted for one visit.

Changing Strategies and a Truce

At this point I convinced my husband that we had to approach things differently, because obviously what we were doing wasn’t working. We stopped the weekly drug tests (we knew he was using so there seemed to be no point anyway). We stopped yelling and punishing. And basically my husband stopped talking to our son altogether — they are both so angry and hurt that any communication turns toxic very quickly. He refused to go back to school so we agreed that he could do online classes.

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More and more, our son is feeling isolated from the rest of his family.

There is an uneasy truce in our home right now. Now it just feels like waiting. Waiting for what will happen next. Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Our son, 17, still lives with us.  His sister left for college this past summer. I acknowledge that he uses pot and doesn’t want to quit, but I continue sending the message that it’s not good for his brain. The one thing my husband and I won’t bend on is no drugs on our property. He has started five different online classes, but has so far finished only one. He doesn’t feel any pressure to finish school — he says he’ll get a GED, but hasn’t made any effort towards that end. He doesn’t drive and doesn’t express any desire to learn, which is probably good because I doubt he could be trusted to drive sober. He started working at a local restaurant recently and has been getting good feedback from his managers, which I take to be a positive sign.   (I’ll take any positive signs at this point!)

Trying Something Else and Blacking Out

I don’t know if the suicide attempt and hospitalization were rock bottom for our family, but I suspect not. Just this past weekend our son came home and I could tell he was on something — and it wasn’t marijuana or alcohol. I checked him periodically throughout the night and in the early morning he was awake and asked me how much trouble he was in. I replied that it depended on what he had taken. He said Xanax. He also said that he had blacked out and couldn’t remember anything that had happened from about an hour after he took it.

Later in the morning, when we were both more awake, I asked him about the Xanax (he got it from someone at the restaurant) and the pot use and what he saw for his future. He has no plans to stop using, but said that he probably wouldn’t take Xanax again (he didn’t like blacking out). He said that he’s very happy with his life right now, that he knows a lot of people who didn’t go to college who work two or three jobs and live in little apartments, and that he’s happy with that kind of future for himself.

I tried not to cry.  Imagine that as the goal for a boy who started life with so much curiosity and such a desire to learn.

It’s not that I don’t think he can have a good and decent life without a college education. But I know that he’ll have a much harder life. Statistically, Americans with fewer years of education have poorer health and shorter lives (partly due to lack of adequate health insurance), and Americans without a high school diploma are at greatest risk.   It’s not just life without a college education, but it is life with a brain that has been changed by marijuana.  Will he be able to give up pot?  If he does give up pot, will he recover the brain he had at one time?  Will he lose motivation?

I asked him why he used pot when he knew how his father and I felt about it and when we had tried so hard to steer him in a different direction.

He said: “I think it’s because of the people we’re around. And all the drugs that are around.”

I’ve finally accepted that his use is not in the range of normal teenage experimentation, and I’m barely surviving on the hope that he’ll eventually grow out of it…and that he doesn’t do any permanent damage.  In the meantime, I’m sorry that we ever moved here.

Massachusetts Group Donates Against Legal Pot, Promotes Healthy Drug Policy

Massachusetts Can Lead Nation in Healthy Drug Policy

A foundation dedicated to the health and well-being of people in central Massachusetts donated $100,000 to defeat commercial marijuana in Massachusetts this year.  The Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts is the official opposition effort against Question 4, which would legalize recreational pot.

The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts,  Worcester, formally voted to oppose Question 4 and to make a large contribution in opposition to the ballot.  Marijuana proponents  outspend anti-legalization campaigns by millions of dollars, so donations to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts would be greatly appreciated. (Donate here)

The Health Foundation is concerned that allowing the billion-dollar commercial marijuana industry to promote and sell its products would negatively impact public health. Pot edibles which include highly potent products like candy, chocolates, cookies, and sodas would be allowed. These products are particularly attractive to kids and look like popular sweets.  They account for 50% of the sales in Colorado.

Question 4 sets no limits on the number of pot shops statewide. In Colorado, that has resulted in more pot shops than McDonalds and Starbucks combined.

“The leadership of the Health Foundation of Central MA is exemplary of what all organizations, groups, associations and residents need to do in order to keep the Commonwealth from being snowed by the marijuana industry who wrote the law that completely protects their big profit interests,” said Heidi Heilman of Massachusetts Prevention Alliance. “The law was written by the industry for the industry. If it passes it’ll be the tax-payers who’ll be burdened with the shovel-up costs from all the negative outcomes,” she concluded.

Most Massachusetts Politicians Join Forces to Oppose Question 4

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Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.  Photo: The Boston Globe

The Commonwealth could lead the country into smart drug policy.  A strong bipartisan team of leaders is working to shut the door on promoting drug dependency and addiction for profit.

The Foundation joins a bi-partisan coalition of elected leaders as well as health care, public safety, business, anti-addiction, and child protection advocates who are opposing Question 4. Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Speaker Robert DeLeo, Attorney General Maura Healey, Sheriff Steve Tompkins, 120 legislators and many other elected leaders have come out in opposition to Question 4.

In fact, Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, Mayor Walsh and Speaker DeLeo have been exemplary leaders in their ability to study all aspects of the issue, educate the voters and work across the aisle.  A group of legislators went to Colorado to study legalization and see if it legal pot could be implemented safely.

An interviewer recently asked Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts if she supports marijuana legalization.  Senator Warren did not give a “yes” or “no” answer.  She replied that marijuana is decriminalized in Massachusetts, putting the state in a difficult position.  She did not endorse Question 4, and probably knows that enacting it would be bad for the Commonwealth.  It’s clear from the video that Senator Warren does not think there’s enough regulation now.  She’s smarter than the legalizers who would love to trap her into supporting Question 4.  (Decriminalization of pot in 2008 resulted in a great increase of marijuana use, followed by a opiate and heroin crisis.)

A citizens group of 20 claimed that Question 4 doesn’t have a definitive standard for testing drivers and that it lacks transparency while leaving policy specifics unsettled until after the vote.

One of the state’s Congressional representatives, Rep. Stephen Lynch, just announced that he is against Question 4.    Lynch said that he has worked with recovering addicts, noting that “I haven’t met an addict who didn’t start with marijuana.”

Investigative Journalism Misses the Mark — for the Most Part

Lee Fang’s “investigative” article published in The Nation two years ago suggested that only those who lose profits are against legalizing marijuana. His predictions have turned out to be largely incorrect. The pharmaceutical industry–like the marijuana industry — spends money on lobbying and donating to politicians, but is not politically involved in the marijuana issue.  According to the Brookings Institution, “pharmaceutical companies have kept an arm’s-length distance from marijuana ballot initiatives.”

Fang’s investigation provides excellent insight into the marijuana industry — which suspects that everyone must have a profit motive.  Much of the giving to marijuana ballots comes directly from the pot industry.  Three of the largest donations to marijuana legalization in Massachusetts come from marijuana businesses, including one in Colorado looking to expand.

In Massachusetts, some of the groups that oppose Question 4 include:
· Massachusetts Hospital Association
· Massachusetts Medical Society
· Massachusetts Municipal Association                                                                               -Massachusetts School Nurses Association
· Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals
· Associated Industries of Massachusetts
· Retailers Association of Massachusetts
· Association of School Superintendents
· Construction Industries of Massachusetts
· Action for Boston Community Development
· Association for Behavioral Healthcare
· National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) – Massachusetts
· Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
· Massachusetts Sheriffs Association
· all Massachusetts District Attorneys

The NAMI chapter in Maine will also be coming out against legalization in that state, a clear indication that marijuana is toxic for those diagnosed with mental illnesses.

Only in the instance of law enforcement have investigative journalists been correct in predicting opposition to legalization. Police unions oppose legalization, but The Nation article doesn’t probe the deeper reason for their opposition.

Looking for Evidence-Based Solutions

In explaining the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts,  President Jan Yost, Ed.D., said:  “The Foundation maintains that Massachusetts would be wise to wait for further evidence from research and other states’ experiences regarding the impact of the use of marijuana on health status, employee performance and public safety, before voting to allow recreational use. This position is consistent with the Foundation’s practice of advocating for public policy that is based on evidence.”

“In addition, the Foundation is concerned that sanctioning marijuana as a legal substance will likely normalize its use and create a commercial industry intent on spreading the use, like the tobacco industry.”   The Nation‘s 2014 article could have looked into why health organizations, hospitals, educators and doctors’ groups oppose marijuana legalization instead of promoting a preordained agenda set by financiers.

Health organizations have insights that a biased media does not have. Evidence-based solutions don’t support pot legalization.

Massachusetts is leading the country in wise drug polices. New England may be ahead of the rest of the country.  Vermont and Maine rejected legalization through their state legislators. These states realize that marijuana is not a solution to the opioid abuse that is rampant today.  Replacing one addiction with another addiction is a bad idea, and actually encourages multi-addiction, making recovery more difficult.   Please donate and vote against the addiction-for-profit industry in Massachusetts or in your state.

Tragic Accidents Related to Marijuana Involve Children

15-year-old driver high on pot paralyzes boy, rips truck into 3 parts near Seattle

When states legalize marijuana for adults, children are in danger, too.  Here’s recent traffic accidents involving marijuana. Eight are dead, three of them children.

  1.  A 7-year-old boy is paralyzed, because a girl driving under the influence of marijuana smashed into his dad’s pickup truck near Seattle on May 24, 2016.  The unlicensed, 15-year-old driver was in a BMW, with a 24-year-old man and a 5-year-old child.  The man driving the truck sustained critical injuries, with his truck  torn into three parts.  (photo above: Kent fire department)
  2. An  8-year old girl, Peyton Knowlton, who was hit and killed while riding her bicycle in Longmont, Colorado, on May 20.  Newspaper articles on July 27 report that the police investigation confirms that the 20-year-old driver high had been high on marijuana at the time.  He was below the legal age for purchasing marijuana.  (A video on below shows the scene of the accident.)

    peyton.knowlton.gofundme
    Peyton Knowlton from a gofundme page, as shared in an article on Westword.com
  3. In Boulder, Colorado on May 7, a 17-year-old was driving home from smoking pot with friends when he plowed through a stoplight while stoned and killed two young adults.   It means that at least two deadly accidents in Boulder County involved marijuana during the month of May.
  4. July, 2016: A Wisconsin teen admitted to using marijuana shortly before his vehicle missed a stop sign and collided with an SUV. The driver was a 17-year old.  His 16-year-old passenger died, as did an adult in another vehicle. The driver was in intensive care.
  5. June, 2016: Authorities in Arizona believe the woman who caused a deadly crash was driving under the influence of marijuana. Court documents reveal the woman was driving at least 75 mph in a 40 mph zone when she crossed the center line, plowing into an oncoming vehicle and killing a man and his daughter.   A 2-year-old and 4-year-old were injured.
  6. In Virginia, a 27-year-old father drove under the influence of marijuana with three children in the car.  He  collided with an oncoming train and the youngest, a 3-year-old girl, died on March 25, 2015.  Last month he was sentenced to three years in prison.

We wrote about bicyclists’ deaths recently.   In Boulder County, three died in two accidents in May.  Here’s a video from the report after Peyton Knowlton’s death, which occurred in Longmont: