Massachusetts is currently experiencing an epidemic of opioid-related overdose and death at rates comparable to the highest among the northeastern United States. The opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts surpassed the national average, with a sharp rise in the last two years. Prior data shows that opioid-related deaths in the state were more than four times higher in 2015 than in 2000. This recent rate of increase is many times faster than anything seen in the United States before. In 2013–2014, opioid-related deaths occurred in two-thirds of the cities and towns in Massachusetts.
Since 2000, the number of opioids prescribed to residents of Massachusetts has increased roughly 7% annually. In 2015, nearly one in six Massachusetts residents obtained an opioid prescription from a healthcare provider. In a startling statistic, in 2016, only about 1 in 12 of those who died had an opioid prescription in the month before their death.
The Center for Disease Control found that in 2013, opioid use, dependence and overdoses cost the U.S. $78.5 billion in 2013, and a breakdown of the drug epidemic estimate from the CDC suggests Massachusetts’ economic burden was about $10 billion in 2016. Opioid deaths have risen dramatically since 2013. The $78.5 billion figure is based solely on the costs of addiction to prescription opioids and does not include costs tied to heroin or fentanyl. Unfortunately, the latter has become the leading cause of death Massachusetts (and other states) so all figures are under-reported. The CDC is in the process of updating its burden assessment to reflect more recent addiction and overdose data, and is planning on taking into account losses associated with street drugs. Also according to the CDC, in 2013, Massachusetts had 2.2 percent of the nation’s prescription overdose deaths. Massachusetts’ share of the $78.5 billion figure could actually be in the range of $1.7 billion. Since the 2013 report, overdose deaths in the state have risen more than six-fold, totaling 1,990. Incidentally, Massachusetts does not have any counties with the highest overlap between opioid prescribing and a shrinking workforce.
Governor Baker says seeing children come in to visit parents after an overdose or hearing stories of children finding a parent passed out, perhaps dead, have become all too common. He wonders how much the opioid epidemic will cost the next generation who may deal with PTSD, depression and other physical health problems. One county in Massachusetts told Reuters its child services budget has nearly doubled in five years as children of parents addicted to opioids flood the system.
Limited medical marijuana is allowed Massachusetts and small amounts have been decriminalized. The possession of major quantities of marijuana can bring jail time and fines.
Less than 8oz:
This is a civil penalty which carries a small fine for the first offense, and slightly larger fine for a subsequent offense. If you are determined to be selling or trafficking marijuana, the second offense is a felony. This carries 1-6 years in state prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
8 oz – 5 lbs:
This is a felony and carries 1-5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. A subsequent offense is also felony but carries an additional 5-10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
5 lbs or more:
This is a felony and the first offense carries 5-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A subsequent offense carries 10-20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine.
Selling to minor:
Selling marijuana to minor is always a felony and carries 5-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The subsequent offense can carry 10-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Possession of marijuana paraphernalia is Connecticut is a civil penalty and carries a $150 fine.