Boston Medical Center (BMC) and former U.S. Drug Czar Michael Botticelli – now director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at BMC – said they have concerns about retail marijuana facilities and request that none be sited within a half-mile of the South End hospital campus.
“BMC shares a neighborhood with many individuals who have not yet found their path to recovery and are severely comprised by their addiction, significant mental health issues and homelessness,” Botticelli said. “Given the burden that many in this neighborhood face, the siting of these facilities has the very real potential to exacerbate their problems. BMC is at the very epicenter of Boston’s effort to prevent and combat the ravages of addiction, and placing retail marijuana outlets in proximity to BMC and its surrounding vulnerable populations would undermine our collective efforts, and credibility, in this life-and-death struggle in which we are all engaged.”
The comments came during an open community meeting Dec. 12 for the siting of a medical marijuana facility, Liberty Compassionates, at 591 Albany St. – which is a short walk from the BMC campus.
Botticelli and BMC asked that the City not site any marijuana facility within a half-mile from the edge of BMC. He said the request did include the Liberty site, which he said is close to where more than a dozen treatment programs and treatment facilities reside.
Botticelli was the nation’s Drug Czar under President Barack Obama, and has since taken a position as director of BMC’s Grayken Center, which focuses on treating and researching opiate addiction – as well as new and innovative recovery methods.
Botticelli, who has been critical of the efforts to legalize marijuana, said he believes that putting dispensaries near vulnerable populations, such as at BMC, could be detrimental to recovery efforts.
“BMC treats thousands of people with alcohol and substance use disorders every year,” he said. “We are acutely aware of how vulnerable people in early recovery are. The siting of these facilities in proximity to BMC and its patients in early recovery would be particularly destabilizing and could even trigger relapses.”
Botticelli concluded his comments by saying BMC is near many low-income and vulnerable populations, youth, homeless individuals, and those with mental health, substance use problems. He said BMC is worried that siting a marijuana facility near those populations could be detrimental.
“As you are well aware, we are in the midst of an epidemic, where thousands of individuals in the Commonwealth are suffering from opioid, alcohol and cannabis-use disorders and we are worried that having facilities near our medical campus will put our patients at increased risk and perpetuate these cycles of addiction, negatively impacting recovery efforts,” he said.