Article by The Associated Press
A Democratic lawmaker Tuesday proposed directing tax revenue from legal marijuana sales in Massachusetts toward the state’s battle against opioid addiction.
In a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, House Speaker Robert DeLeo called for creation of a Substance Addiction Fund using proceeds from retail pot sales, which are not expected to begin in Massachusetts until mid-2018 at the earliest.
A voter-approved law allows adults to possess and grow marijuana for recreational purposes.
DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, opposed the November ballot question in part because of concerns that marijuana can be a “gateway” to more dangerous drugs, such as heroin.
In proposing the fund to fight opioid addiction, the speaker drew a parallel with a trust fund the state established to prevent and treat problem gambling, using revenue from casinos in Massachusetts.
“We have a rare opportunity to deploy a new tactic to fight what has become the fastest-growing killer of young adults and other Massachusetts residents,” DeLeo told the gathering of business leaders.
State health officials estimate there were as many as 2,000 opioid-related overdose deaths last year, marking the sixth consecutive year that fatal overdoses have increased despite aggressive efforts by the state to bring the scourge under control.