Health Officers Sound Alarm on Lack of Planning for Recreational Cannabis at #MACoCon

Funding needs for educational programs and services around recreational cannabis roll out are insufficient for projected growth in use amongst adults and kids. 

At the Cannabis Conundrum panel health officers got right into it. They expressed serious need for a strategic plan and funds to make sure children and adults understand the benefits and, even more importantly, the perils of cannabis use. The lack of resources sets a dangerous precedent, the damage of which can take even more time and money to undue.

While the frustration was clear, the panel moderator, Delegate and House Majority Leader David Moon, was sure to reiterate the importance of recognizing the vast and historic inequities cannabis enforcement has forced on minority communities. And while there were points of contention, the opportunity to respectfully share competing viewpoints speaks to the core of the MACo mission, and this panel was a wonderful example of the process at work. In addition to the esteemed panel and moderator, a number of state delegates were in attendance to hear both sides. With lawmakers and local officials engaging at this early stage, the 2024 legislative session represents another opportunity to continue tweaking strategies around cannabis.

A key factor to the roll out was the requirement to move forward with legalization being based on the citizen referendum. While legislation is admittedly imperfect both priorities, health and equity, hold meaningful societal value. These elements will continue to be considered as new distributors are set to enter the market later this year. Licensing new businesses for the industry in Maryland is, for that matter, an important pivot point for the equity components of the legalization framework that has yet to fully materialize.

Brett Mattson from the National Association of Counties, rounded out the panel with a national perspective and reiterated that not one state did it perfectly. As the Legislative Director of Justice and Public Safety Policy, Mr. Mattson shared an illuminating perspective on how other states have navigated the roll out from a public health perspective. His presentation took a closer look at how Colorado and Missouri fared with implementation. He further highlighted that safety strategies must rely on continuing studies, education, and advancements in impairment testing. Of particular note was how seriously packaging restrictions must be considered to avoid inadvertent use or consumption by children.

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