The town’s health department has contracted Boston-based Health Resources in Action to conduct the study. The nonprofit organization provides research, assessment, strategic planning and program support services nationwide, the statement said.
The study will investigate whether there have been any changes in youth marijuana use, and whether attitudes have changed since Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, among other issues. Brookline’s first retail cannabis store, New England Treatment Access, opened in 2019.
Reiss said Brookline has opened three cannabis retail stores and a fourth is expected to open soon.
Under state law, only those 21 and older may purchase, use, possess or grow recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.
Brookline Health also formed a 15-member steering committee to advise on the research process. It included parents, school officials, students, a police representative, a social worker, public health experts and a representative from New England Treatment Access, who was also part of the group, according to Reiss.
New England Treatment Access did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Both Reiss and Dr. Rosemarie Roqué Gordon, a pediatrician who serves on the steering committee and the town’s public health advisory committee, said the goal of the study was not to advocate for stricter rules on legal retail sales in the town.
Brookline retailers were responsible for not marketing their products to young people, they said.
“No one in Brooklyn, including marijuana sellers, wants kids and teens to use marijuana,” Gordon said in an interview.
According to Gordon, the Department of Health started the project after an advisory committee decided the town needed to look more closely at Brookline’s retail cannabis issue.
The study will examine whether the availability of retail cannabis to adults changes attitudes towards cannabis and its use. It will conduct focus group discussions with students, parents and other stakeholders, for example, to examine how parents talk to their children about marijuana use.
“Marijuana existed in Brookline and all of our surrounding communities before there were dispensaries. So how is that going to change?” Gordon said. “We wanted to know if there was an effect, and then whether it was greater for certain populations, especially children.”
It will also review other available data on cannabis attitudes and use, including Brookline’s Student Health Survey. The 2021 data showed a decline in reported marijuana use among the town’s students in grades 9 through 12.
In 2021, 11 percent of students reported using marijuana in the month prior to the survey, down from 17 percent in 2017. Researchers want to learn more about this shift and are considering whether it was influenced by stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, Reiss said.
“One of our assumptions is that young people don’t experience peer pressure and each other, and don’t have as much access to [marijuana]’” Rice said. “We’re really looking at the data, we’re going to [to] Let’s see if this continues, or if it goes up in the other direction. “
The study will include a preliminary and final report from Health Resources in Action, which is expected to be completed in July, Reiss said. The HRA will also include recommendations to help address public health concerns related to cannabis, should any issues be identified in the report.
“For me, the biggest goal is to understand the landscape [and] There are areas where we can take action, whether it’s policy or planning, to reduce these risks,” Rice said. “We know that every community has finite resources, and we want to make sure the policies we’re developing are having an impact. “
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.