Yes to Dispensaries!
A Guide to Defending Responsible Cannabis Businesses
Keeping “drugs” off the streets: Numerous studies have failed to associate changes in the legal status of medical cannabis with any causal upticks in youth use.
Medical cannabis dispensaries are not positively associated with an increase in the number of adolescents currently using cannabis, according to data published in the journal Preventive Medicine.
An investigator at the University of California, San Diego assessed the association between cannabis dispensaries and cannabis use habits among young people residing within a 25-mile radius. The author reported that adolescents’ proximity to dispensaries did not influence their current marijuana use habits.
The study concluded: “[W]e did not find empirical evidence showing the availability of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with [the] current use of marijuana among adolescents. … It is also suggestive that the dispensaries may not have spillover effects on neighborhood social norms or marijuana availability overall.”
The example of alcohol shows that it is possible to make it difficult for minors to buy directly from licensed stores and that doing so reduces alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms in the target population.
Dispensaries often have more rigorous protocols for checking ID and doctor recommendations than bars and liquor stores have. In addition, it’s not as easy for youth to ask adults to buy cannabis for them: Adults found buying cannabis to people without a proper recommendation can lose their own and face felony charges that include penalties of three to seven years in prison.
Here are a few studies you can cite to prove the point:
Jayne Elders, MD, former US Surgeon General, wrote in a Mar. 26, 2004 editorial published in The Providence Journal that according to the official California Student Survey teen marijuana use in California rose steadily from 1990 to 1996, but began falling immediately after the medical-marijuana law was passed.
Mitch Earleywine, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, and Karen O’Keefe, JD, Attorney and Legislative Analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, stated in their Sep. 2005 report that nine years after the passage of the nation’s first state medical marijuana law, California’s Prop. 215, a considerable body of data shows that no state with a medical marijuana law has experienced an increase in youth marijuana use since their law’s enactment. All have reported overall decreases of more than the national average decreases — exceeding 50% in some age groups — strongly suggesting that enactment of state medical marijuana laws does not increase teen marijuana use.
The available evidence strongly suggests that this hypothesis is incorrect and that enactment of state medical cannabis laws has not increased adolescent cannabis use. Furthermore…
Safe access to medical cannabis for all who require it: Dispensaries provide a legal regulated marketplace for patients looking for clean, safe medical cannabis where there wasn’t one before. An atmosphere of clandestine cannabis street deals could be reduced or even eradicated. This could decrease the casual black market “street” deals that patients may currently be subject to. In addition, medical-grade cannabis that is dispensed at licensed stores is typically tested for pesticides and other contaminants making it far more superior in quality that anything that can be found in the black markets. This is especially important for patients with compromised immune systems or going through chemotherapy and radiation. Previously patients have had to travel as far as Sacramento to find safe, clean cannabis. For many seniors who use public transportation this may be a day-long trip of many bus transfers.
Security and Crime: Opponents of medical marijuana sometimes speculate that medical marijuana dispensaries will lead to increased crime rates in surrounding areas. These dispensaries, they claim, will attract thieves and robbers to the facilities and breed secondary crimes in surrounding areas. Thankfully, such claims have prompted empirical and statistical analyses by researchers and law enforcement agencies. In what should not come as a surprise, given the robust security at most medical marijuana facilities, these studies have routinely shown that, contrary to these concerns, dispensaries are not magnets for crime. Instead, the studies suggest that dispensaries are no more likely to attract crime than any other business, and in many cases, by bringing new business and economic activity to previously abandoned or run-down retail spaces, dispensaries actually contribute to a reduction in crime.
A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs analyzed crime statistics in 95 neighborhoods in Sacramento found that security guards and cameras around dispensaries helped prevent increased crime. The study also found that dispensaries do not increase crime any more than any other facility in a commercially zoned area.
Researchers from UCLA, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, analyzed two types of crime (violent and property) in areas with varying concentrations of dispensaries. What they found was that while factors traditionally understood to lead to increased crime — for example, large percentages of land zoned for commercial rather than residential use, a high percentage of one-person households, the presence of highway ramps, and a higher percentage of the population ages 15 to 24 — were positively associated with crime in those areas, “the density of medical marijuana dispensaries was not associated with violent or property crime rates.” In their conclusion, the researchers said, “these results suggest that the density of [medical marijuana dispensaries] may not be associated with increased crime rates or that measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras) may increase guardianship, such that it deters possible motivated offenders.”
Job Growth: A typical dispensary may create 5 to 10 jobs, in addition to contractors and ancillary services it may used in a community. There will also be an increase in local revenue as commercial spaces are rented and utilities are contracted with to support the business. In addition, local traffic for all merchants and businesses in town may increase as members of the dispensaries arrive to receive their medicine as well as participate in community programs established by the dispensaries.
Community Support: Nevada City overwhelmingly supports cannabis, or so it seems. Last year Nevada City residents voted 74.76 percent against Measure W and 64.69 percent in favor of Prop 64. And the unfolding of new state regulations is likely to provide more good reasons to proceed forward with an ordinance allowing for dispensaries within the city’s limits. Our community is a progressive community that prides itself in tolerance, equality and compassion.
Cannabis is Already Here: There already exists a cannabis industry in Nevada County. Many farmers have operated under the vague guidelines provided under Prop 215 and they hope that the county will soon adopt measures and policies that will allow them to become compliant with regulations that the state is expected to roll out later this year. A dispensary can be a positive sign that responsible regulated cannabis businesses can be an asset to the community. A dispensary can also serve as a marketplace for locally grown medical cannabis and provide an outlet for farmers who produce the some of the cleanest, craft cannabis in the state.
Community Outreach: Dispensaries can benefit community building through offering community programs for their constituents. Members would be supported in thriving through programming offered by the dispensary such as health education, living skills, social opportunities, support groups of many forms, meals for those in need. In short, the dispensaries may create new communities for folks to connect and feel supported and thereby contribute to the overall health of our towns. Nevada City has the ability to taylor requirements for dispensaries in order for the facilities to match the needs of the local community. Nevada City can also review the business plans of potential owners in order to assure that the intentions of the dispensaries match the needs of the county/cities. Responsible, cooperative owners with clear business plans could be given priority in business licensing. Also those that have a specific interest in community development should get priority licensing.
Economic Development: Cannabis already a $2.3 billion marketplace in the state. A recent study, commissioned by CalTran, showed that Nevada County is an economically vulnerable county with its youth population leaving for larger cities looking for better paying jobs, and local officials struggling to attract new industries that can spark new housing developments, increased revenue from sales taxes and permitting and attracting ancillary businesses that can support new industries. Cannabis businesses in Colorado, for example, reported roughly $1.1 billion in legal sales of medical and recreational cannabis and related products this year through the month of October, according to the latest batch of tax data from the state’s Department of Revenue. We believe just a fraction of the California Market here in our little town can provide much needed sales tax revenues and permitting fees.
A well run dispensary that is aligned with the cultural values of Nevada City can help attract patients from other areas that can benefit from the amenities offered by our community such as restaurants, hotels and downtown shops.
Traffic Fatalities Myth: Two studies have so far found that legalization of medical cannabis is not linked with increased traffic fatalities. In some states, in fact, the number of people killed in traffic accidents dropped after medical cannabis laws were enacted.
A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City found that deaths dropped 11 percent on average in states that legalized medical cannabis after researchers analyzed 1.2 million traffic fatalities nationwide from 1985 through 2014. The decrease in traffic fatalities was particularly striking in 25- to 44-year-olds, an age group with a large percentage of registered medical cannabis users, the authors reported in the American Journal of Public Health.
Another study of data from 19 states published in 2013 in The Journal of Law and Economics showed an 8 to 11 percent decrease in traffic fatalities during the first full year after legalization of medical marijuana.
The authors of both studies suggest that marijuana users might be more aware of their impairment as a result of the drug than drinkers. It’s also possible, they say, that patients with access to medical marijuana have substituted weed at home for booze in bars and have stayed off the roads.
Or, they suggest, the drop in traffic fatalities could stem from other factors, such as an increased police presence following enactment of medical marijuana laws.
Alternative facts: Colorado tells Arizona to stop lying As residents on an area that prides itself in community involvement, we ask city officials to be careful when considering alternative facts provided by anti-cannabis groups. Many of these “facts” or studies have been debunked by professional and academic institutions as well as state officials. In Arizona, airwaves were flooded with TV commercials, mostly from a $4 million special interest “NO” side, and almost every one of their ads featured Colorado teachers and administrators complaining about the effects of decriminalization. According to the ads, Colorado schools didn’t get the money they were promised and kids were smoking a lot more weed. The ads had enough false information that members of the Colorado Legislature had to intervene.
Here is an excerpt from their letter to the “NO” campaign:
“As members of the Colorado Legislature who played intimate roles in the budgeting and appropriation of marijuana tax revenues, we feel it is our duty to set the record straight so that voters in both states have accurate information about this subject.
We can say with certainty that the claims about Colorado marijuana tax revenues featured in your committee’s ads range from highly misleading to wholly inaccurate.”
Let’s not be Arizona in this case.
Cultural acceptance and ER visits: The Colorado Department of Public Safety, which was tasked with studying the impact of legalization in the state, has officially said that it’s challenging to objectively interpret the data they collected.
In its March 2016 report, the agency states that legalization may have resulted in reports of increased use, when it may actually be a function of the decreased stigma and legal consequences regarding use rather than actual changes in consumption patterns. The agency goes further in stating that those reporting to poison control, emergency departments, or hospitals may feel more comfortable discussing their recent use or abuse of marijuana for purposes of treatment, accounting for the increases that Sheriff Royal states are the direct cause of legalization.
Code of Conduct
- Leave your fear at home: Decades of prohibition tells us why we are all scared, but trust us on kicking fear out and letting love in. It’s time to come out of the close and begin painting a picture of the cannabis industry that is rooted in family, community and love for the environment and our craft. It’s time to collaborate on our collective future, and part of that is being able to be sincere with the our elected officials.
- Respect, always: We speak with the same kind of respect we hope others would give to us. We are farmers, patients, parents, business owners, entrepreneurs, and we aim to meet all the same kind of folk in different industries and areas of concern.
- Be succinct and clear with your message: Elected officials will hear organize thoughts. Be ready to speak to them about what you care about most. Be respectful of their time.
- Community sensitivity: Elected officials, community leaders and fellow residents may not always agree with us, but we allow everyone their fair say on the impact cannabis makes in their lives, even our opposition.
- Maintain discipline and a spirit of cooperation: If we are here to build bridges and cultivate a balance of regulation and business and advocacy, we need everyone at the table. Be willing to listen to their concerns also and thank them for the exchange of opinions and information.
- No clapping, no hooting or catcalling the opposition!
- Please wear green!