End The Medical Marijuana Moratorium

At the previous city council meeting, Councilmember O’Malley addressed the potential of allowing state licensure for the sale of medical marijuana in the city of Lakewood. He and the Public Safety Committee expressed the concern that opening a dispensary in Lakewood in the middle of an opioid crisis would promote drug usage, rather than reduce it.

I am calling on the City Council to end, rather than extend, the moratorium on retail medical marijuana establishments.  Public safety and public health will only improve by allowing licensure for medical cannabis establishments, and the city would only benefit from the increased tax revenue.

As many of us well know, the opioid crisis we are facing as a community is extreme. As the Columbus Dispatch reported in November 2016, Ohio is the leading state in the nation in opioid overdose deaths. Specifically, Ohio has the most deaths from heroin – 1 in 9 heroin deaths across the United States happen in Ohio. Last year alone, 28 people died in Lakewood from heroin, and the police and fire departments responded to 251 overdose calls.

We cannot play naïve about who created this epidemic. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy, as well as the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitor, reported that doctors prescribed over 4 million doses of painkillers to residents of Cuyahoga County.  The Ohio Department of Health stated that prescription painkillers accounted for 63% of unintentional deaths in 2010, as well as costing Ohioans $3.6 billion dollars annually. Let’s analyze what this means: when patients are running out of these highly addictive painkillers, they turn to opiates like heroin as a cheaper, readily available solution. 

How can we, as concerned citizens and community members, respond to this crisis?

Well, the American Journal of Public Health testified that, in states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries, opiate overdoses significantly decreased. For example, a study by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor reported that availability of medical cannabis resulted in a 64% lower opioid use. We have the power save lives. The pragmatic decision to open a dispensary in Lakewood would only promote public health and safety. 

In addition, I have not even mentioned the benefits to those living with chronic pain or disease in our city. In 2007, a placebo-controlled study by the Journal of Neurology proved that medical marijuana was effective in reducing pain in HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, and cancer patients. The American Cancer society stated that medical cannabis reduced nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. On a basic level, medical cannabis would help Lakewood residents who are suffering.

Both examples I have provided are very close to my heart. I had a friend and co-worker overdose and die from heroin in December. His loss tore through the hearts of our community. In addition, my father was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. I watched his aching, emaciated body suffer extreme nausea and loss of appetite from frequent chemotherapy sessions – not to mention his chronic pain. It was his diagnosis that drew me to the benefits of medical marijuana as I spent hours researching positive studies that proved marijuana slowed cancer growth – and even cured – colon cancer. Unfortunately, he passed away in September of 2015, but his death only further encouraged me to fight for the availability for medical cannabis – so other daughters, sons, and wives will not have to watch their loved ones suffer needlessly.

Lastly, I want to comment on the fiscal benefits of opening a medical dispensary in Lakewood. Medical marijuana taxes significantly boost local economies and aid funding for our public schools. To use an example from the Midwest, medical cannabis sales in Michigan are expected to bring in more than $63 million dollars in revenue this year, with a projection of bringing in $556 million dollars by 2020. It would only benefit Lakewood to pursue this lucrative financial opportunity.

If we, in the Lakewood community, want to promote public health and safety, while simultaneously stimulating our local economy, our best decision is to end the medical marijuana licensure moratorium. For evidence of its success, we must look no further than the precedents set by similar cities, proving that allowing medical marijuana dispensaries reduces opioid addiction, opioid overdoses, and opioid-related crime. 

For the healing and growth of our community, we must end the medical marijuana moratorium.

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Volume 13, Issue 6, Posted 8:14 PM, 03.21.2017