Rosenberg sitting out marijuana referendum

Senate President not convinced on ‘gateway’ drug argument

SENATE PRESIDENT STAN ROSENBERG, who has not joined the group of powerhouse politicos that has come together to oppose legalization of recreational marijuana, says he has yet to be convinced by arguments that legalizing marijuana would exacerbate the state’s opioid addiction crisis.

Asked Tuesday during a question and answer session with State House reporters about the argument that the state should not be legalizing marijuana amidst the deadly opioid crisis, Rosenberg said he remains unsure about any connection between marijuana use and the addiction epidemic.

“I’m not an expert so I have no opinion right now on that and I haven’t studied it,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve heard those comments. I’m not sure what they’re basing it on, and it would be helpful to see what information they’re using to come to that conclusion.”

Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced last month that they will spearhead the anti-legalization campaign fighting a November ballot question that would legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state. Attorney General Maura Healey has dalso come out against legalization, though she is not taking a role in the campaign.

Rosenberg’s remarks seem to put him in the camp of those skeptical about claims that marijuana is a “gateway” drug leading to use of harder drugs, including opioids.

Baker, Walsh, and Healey made the gateway argument in a Boston Globe op-ed they coauthored in March. Research “shows that regular marijuana users — especially those who start at a young age — are more likely to try more dangerous drugs,” they wrote.

CommonWealth reported last week that an increasing body of research has rejected the idea of marijuana as a gateway drug.

Rosenberg has not staked out a position on the ballot question, but he has said he believes adults should be able to make their own decisions about personal use of marijuana.

Rosenberg said his preference would be for voters to weigh in on an advisory question asking whether they favor legalization. If such a vote were affirmative, he said, the Legislature should then work to craft a law that takes into consideration a wider range of issues than are covered by the ballot question, which solely represents views of legalization proponents.

He conceded, however, that such an approach seems unlikely to be pursued.

“It worries me to see a ballot question of this nature,” said Rosenberg. “I know that the proponents worked hard to do a good job at developing a bill, but it comes from only one perspective.”

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Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

He said there are “lots of the things the bill is silent on, and one of the challenges we have is that when a ballot question passes, the Legislature then has a problem going in and changing it because the proponents argue it’s the people’s law, you have to leave it alone.”

Among the issues Rosenberg has concerns about are the commercialization and advertising of marijuana, the selling of marijuana in the form of “edibles,” and the potency of marijuana products.