Another side to pot billboard


A billboard dispute in South Boston is proof that people can look at the same image and see something very different.

The billboard carried this message: “States that legalized marijuana had 25% fewer opioid-related deaths.” The ad was paid for by Weedmaps, a California-based company that runs a website guide to medical marijuana dispensaries.

A Boston Globe story on the dispute played up one view of the billboard. Sheila Greene, for example, said she was stunned by the advertisement, particularly its placement in a community hard hit by opioid abuse. “I couldn’t believe it was being advertised,” she said. “It’s just insensitive. I’d like to say moronic, but advertisers are smart; they know exactly who they’re marketing their products to.”

Joanne Peterson, executive director at a Taunton-based support organization for families dealing with addiction, scoffed at the ad. “People don’t just stop using opioids. Ever. It’s very rare that somebody can just refuse to use heroin and switch to marijuana,” she said.

Greene complained to Clear Channel Outdoor, claiming that the billboard violated the company’s own policy barring the placement of ads promoting the sale of products off-limits to minors within view of schools, churches, and playgrounds. Clean Channel quickly took the billboard down.

But there is another way to look at the ad. The message on opioid deaths was culled from an October 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study found that states that had legalized medical marijuana had 25 percent fewer opioid deaths between 1999 and 2010 than states that didn’t legalize medicinal pot.

The researchers who conducted the study theorized that people in the medical marijuana states used pot rather than opioids to deal with chronic pain. As a result, fewer people became addicted to opioids and fewer people overdosed and died. The study said 60 percent of opioid overdoses occur among individuals with legitimate prescriptions. The researchers cautioned that they found no direct causal link between medical marijuana and a reduction in opioid overdoses.

The researchers, citing several other studies, said marijuana use is associated with modest reductions in opioid withdrawal symptoms for some people. But they also said marijuana use has been linked to increased use of other drugs, including opioids, although no causal relationship has been established. “Increased access to cannabis through medical cannabis laws could influence opioid misuse in either direction, and further study is required,” the researchers said.

Which seems to be the point here. Rather than closing off debate about pot, shouldn’t we be trying to learn more about it?



A Globe editorial says Gov. Charlie Baker should retain the line item in the state budget that would strengthen the state’s effort to trace the history of guns used in crimes.

Western Mass. leaders are urging Baker to also retain a budget provision calling for a look at the possibility of restoring seasonal weekend train services between Pittsfield and New York City. The Legislature’s budget conference committee nixed a Senate provision for a study of high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Bruce Tarr is pushing legislation that would allow a Gloucester family to reopen an “arcade” that was shut down by state officials three years ago as a form of illegal gambling. (Gloucester Times)


The Lawrence City Council votes 8-0 to let voters decide whether to ban recreational sales of marijuana. (Eagle-Tribune)

An audit finds that financially struggling Barnstable County is leasing land to a number of businesses and nonprofits for less than $1 a year. (Cape Cod Times)

Mayor Marty Walsh, in a Globe op-ed, outlines the Imagine Boston 2030 long-range plan for the city that was unveiled earlier this week.

Charter Communications, with the help of $4.2 million from the state, says it will build high-speed internet connections to four rural towns in the Berkshires. (Berkshire Eagle)

Lynn rolls out the red carpet to graffiti artists, launching the Beyond Walls Mural Festival. (WBUR)

Sign of the times: The run-down, empty Paris Cinema in Worcester is being demolished to make way for a beer garden. (MassLive)


The New York Times runs through the curious timeline of events surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” and his father’s pronouncement just after the meeting was confirmed that he would soon give a major speech outlining Hillary Clinton’s “corrupt dealings.”

“My God, every day is like the ‘Gong Show’ with this crew,” Michael Dukakis says of the Trump administration, though he calls himself “a bit of a skeptic on this Russia stuff” and whether it will amount to a big deal. (Boston Herald)

John Bullard, the Greater Atlantic regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the past five years, says he plans to step down. (Gloucester Times) CommonWealth had this interview with the former New Bedford mayor in 2015 about his controversial decision to impose a six-month ban on cod fishing in the area.

Demand has been so strong that Nevada is running low on marijuana, but the problem seems to be the way lawmakers went about legalizing recreational pot, restricting who could transport the product from growers to retailers. (Governing)


Jimmy Pereira, who is challenging Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter, blames the mayor for a rash of shootings in the city. (Brockton Enterprise)


The recent expansion of MASS MoCA is a big hit, but the museum’s impact on the city of North Adams remains a work in progress. (CommonWealth)

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is planning to sell 40 works of art, including two paintings by Norman Rockwell, to create an endowment and a new vision for the museum. (Berkshire Eagle)

With demand for office space waning, a developer is proposing to build 360 housing units next door to the Staples headquarters off of Route 9 in Framingham. (MetroWest Daily News)


Harvard students would be banned from joining any private, off-campus social clubs under a plan proposed by a faculty committee that is clearly aimed at seven, all-male clubs that have been the focus of widespread criticism. (Boston Globe) A Harvard student, Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz, says the ban is “unfair, unnecessary, and unlikely to succeed.” (Boston Globe)


Nurses at Tufts Medical Center say they will return to work today after a one-day strike, but administrators are calling it a publicity stunt because they’ve made clear that replacement nurses were hired for a five-day period and the hospital nurses won’t be allowed back until Monday. (Boston Globe) Tufts is competing on a health care playing field where it is paid considerably less than other Boston teaching hospitals for the same services, a fact that makes the nurses’ salary demands unreasonable, say hospital administrators. (Boston Globe) Michael Wagner, the CEO of Tufts, laid out the hospital’s position in an op-ed for CommonWealth.


An electrical fire at Boylston Station shut down the MBTA’s Green Line for about three hours yesterday afternoon, with a couple of hundred passengers forced to walk through the subway tunnel from trains caught between stations when the system was shut down. (Boston Herald)

The MBTA plans to issue a request for proposals next month to redevelop 6.3 acres of prime land at the Quincy Center T station. (Patriot Ledger)


The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts says it plans to launch a public education campaign this fall urging voters to hold district attorneys responsible for the way the criminal justice system works. (CommonWealth)

A Boston police officer who nearly choked a man into unconsciousness was ordered reinstated and awarded five years of back pay by the Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that department policy did not specifically forbid the use of chokeholds on suspects. (Boston Herald)

Rachelle Bond will be released on Friday after serving 665 days for her role in the cover-up of the killing of her 2-year-old daughter Bella, but will go to an intensive one-month drug treatment program as a condition of her release. (Boston Herald) Kevin Cullen wrestles with how to now think of Bond, a thoroughly unsympathetic figure who has led a miserable life and leaves prison with neither family nor friends to turn to. (Boston Globe)

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera hires the security firm owned by former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis to train the city’s police department on community relations and customer service. (Eagle-Tribune)

A Teamster threatened to “smash” the “pretty little face” of Top Chef celebrity host Padma Lakshmi, federal prosecutors allege in filings this week in advance of the July 31 trial of four union officials on extortion charges in connection with the incident at a Milton restaurant. (Boston Globe)

A Cape Cod Times editorial expresses shock that four teenagers had sex in the water off Mayflower Beach — and that a crowd gathered around to cheer them on, chanting USA, USA.