02 October 2011

Get facts on medical marijuana

Hyperbole and conjecture, these are the tools of the trade for those who oppose the medical marijuana center model in Colorado. Facts and stats, luckily, are what we, the supporters of medicinal cannabis, have on our side.

I can go on for pages or hours discussing medical marijuana, and I encourage those with an interest to contact me at any time. However, I’d like to take this opportunity to address some of the points brought up by the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s editorial published Wednesday.

The notion that Amendment 20 was drafted without a retail model in mind is patently absurd. Martin Chilcutt, the author of the amendment, as reported in this very publication, has said that a corner drugstore type of distribution model was part of the evolution he envisioned for Amendment 20. In fact, quoted in response to the development of the dispensary model, he says: “Great. It’s working. Dispensaries are opening, and there’s a delivery system in process. I thought, ‘This is great. It’s wonderful.’”

I think that clarifies his intent for the amendment.

As to the opinion that somehow our industry is underregulated, I reply: hogwash. Amendment 20, HB 10-1284, HB 11-1043, SB 10-109, HB 10-1250, the associated rulemaking guidelines and our local Steamboat Springs city ordinance account for nearly 200 pages of regulations. All cannabis from seed to sale is tracked to the gram. All operations are captured on video and stored for 40 days. None of the legislation in the 15 other states that have enacted medical marijuana laws even comes close to the level of accountability Colorado’s laws provide. And make no mistake, strict civil and criminal penalties apply for those who do not comply.

Let us now address the “rampant abuse” of the medical marijuana system. Is there abuse? Absolutely — just as there is abuse of the prescription drug system. The defining characteristic of prescription drug abuse, however, will be the deaths of more than 21,000 people this year. That number is greater than that attributable to traffic accidents in 17 states and across all 50 states in the 31- to 54-year-old demographic. Total deaths in mankind’s history attributable to acute THC toxicity (too much pot): zero.

The Pilot & Today’s editorial board asserts the fact that 6.2 percent of our county’s population holds an medical marijuana card “defies credibility.” Often cited in this vein is the rate at which medical marijuana recommendations are made for “severe pain,” one of the eight qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Colorado. However, anyone taking this position must be without the knowledge that the American Chronic Pain Association shows that nearly 25 percent of our population suffers from the disease. Add to this the rates of cancer, severe nausea, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, HIV, epilepsy, glaucoma and cachexia, and the thoughtful citizen may conclude that more, not fewer, adults should be seeking therapies offered by cannabis.

The frank bottom line is this: The only people who will be negatively affected by a ban of medical marijuana centers in our community will be those who truly need the medicine. Those who use marijuana recreationally have and always will find a way to procure their wares. How can we as an educated, compassionate community punish those in need for the actions of the minority abusers? If to ban medical marijuana centers is an acceptable course of action, than I say we halt construction of the new Walgreens monstrosity with due haste, as well.

Lastly, the Pilot’s editorial acknowledges that “pot is here with or without marijuana centers.” If this is the case, then why empower the criminals in the black market? Why drive cultivation into our neighborhoods? Why remove the nearly $200,000 direct monthly contribution our industry provides for our community in these tough economic times? Why take this therapy out of the hands of those who truly need it while those with nefarious intent remain unaffected?

The emergence of the medicinal cannabis industry is an opportunity for us all to address the substance abuse issues in our community. Let us move forward together in a constructive, logical way to help those making the poor decisions get back on track. Let us not allow opinion and emotion to hamstring these efforts.

Kevin Fisher
29 September, 2011
Steamboat Today
Kevin Fisher is the co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies in Steamboat Springs.

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