BOSTON (CBS) – Finally, it’s here, the long-awaited and, in some quarters, dreaded start of legal recreational marijuana sales in Massachusetts, a first for the eastern U.S. If the sales are as strong and the tax revenues as robust as advocates claim they will be, other states will quickly follow suit.
So, what will this new world be like?
The good news is, it likely won’t be as bad as some legal pot critics have claimed. Nearly 35 million Americans admit to being regular marijuana users, and more than half of all adults have at least tried it. Given how toxic some of the behaviors linked with alcohol can be, it’s hard to believe that we’ll be seeing anything worse than that if pot use expands well beyond its current level. After all, more than 30,000 Americans died of alcohol-related causes in one recent year, while there were zero documented fatalities due to marijuana use. Ask any health care professional what their bigger worry is, pot, or booze and opioids, and they’ll either give you a blank stare or laugh at you.
On the other hand, the law-enforcement people I’ve talked with about the onset of legal pot aren’t laughing, and with good reason.
In 2016, 44-percent of fatally-injured drivers with toxicity results tested positive for drugs, with more than half of those having pot, opioids or a combination in their system. That was a higher percentage of fatals where alcohol was present.
What’s the bottom line?
Legal pot is not the bogeyman, but it’s going to pose many of the same problems as other drugs. And while we reap the benefits, we’ll also have to pay for the consequences.