Medical marijuana (MMJ) in Steamboat. Man, oh man.
“The debate rages,” some would have you believe. “Our kids’ futures hang in the balance,” so say others. “The ‘medicinal system’ is being abused, and for that matter, it’s not medicinal to begin with,” argues Dr. America.
Sensational and attention-grabbing headlines like these beg for repudiation. Therefore, I would like to take a moment today to inject some truths into the discussion surrounding medical marijuana centers (MMCs) in Steamboat. Allow me to address these “headlines” latter to former.
Medicine and pot, they don’t quite go together like peanut butter and jelly for some. However, any argument made against the medicinal aspect of cannabis is simply immaterial.
The electorate of this state passed Amendment 20 in 2000 thereby legalizing and legitimizing MMJ. Medical professionals are free to debate the merits and clinical efficacy of MMJ, just as they are any other course of treatment. Although the fact remains that to receive an MMJ card in Colorado, one must present a recommendation made by a licensed physician. It should be noted that in mankind’s history, not even one death has been caused by acute marijuana toxicity. Compare that to statistics found here.
Just because a local medical practitioner holds his own opinion about MMJ, it negates neither a recommending physician’s nor the constitution’s position. Ever heard the term “second opinion?” Apply here.
To many of the concerned parents in our community, our youths’ access to and use of cannabis is of great enough concern as to trump the needs of the adult MMJ patients in Steamboat. To this, I write that I agree, yet dissent. There was no place for the recreational use of marijuana in my life as a minor, and I do not expect our teens to follow a different path. We can look at some statistics provided by the most recent “Healthy Kids Colorado” survey and see that our MMCs have had zero negative impact on the access to and use of cannabis by minors. The study, focused on teens and tweens, reports marijuana usage rates in the past month and lifetime, as well as the ease of access to the drug in 2008 (pre-MMC) and then 2010 (post-MMC). The results show that the numbers are generally flat or down across the board. Reference here (note: seventh- and eighth-graders were not likely polled in the 2008 survey).
Combine these statistics with other related studies such as a U.S.-Netherlands (Amsterdam, anyone?) comparison (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/67), wherein it’s shown that marijuana usage recently and throughout a lifetime for the Dutch is half that of Americans’, and we may deduce that it is education, not prohibition, that works. In fact, we have suggested to the Steamboat Springs City Council that half of all sales tax receipts from Steamboat’s MMCs be directed to youth substance abuse diversion programs. Let’s put these dollars to work keeping our kids on the right path.
Now, as for the “debate,” the simple fact is that there hasn’t been any. From Day 1, in August 2009, when the seeds for Rocky Mountain Remedies were planted, I have attended each and every one of the dozens of City Council and Planning Commission hearings pertinent to MMJ. Any public opposition to MMCs was not once voiced until the April 5 council meeting. Previously, during the intervening year and a half, council passed an ordinance governing MMCs and issued each of those centers not one but two annual licenses to operate. I can only speak for RMR, but on the council’s go-ahead, we, Ryan and Kevin Fisher, moved forward and invested our life savings in a business that was seemingly approved, licensed and protected by council’s ordinance. Sadly, I find it darkly ironic that the business practices of an MMC west of town, outside of Steamboat’s jurisdiction and unaffected by any city legislation, can largely be blamed for the current dust-up.
Steamboat needs to know that we at RMR call this town home, too. We strive to make a positive impact on our city’s and residents’ health, literally and fiscally. In March alone, our center financed a payroll of $116,217 and supported more than 30 employees. Direct expenditures in our community for the same month by RMR were $61,482.
These are no small numbers. To take these funds out of the local economy would be nothing short of a travesty.
We three MMCs in Steamboat operate under 180 pages of rules and regulations. We must literally account for every gram of MMJ. There are about 1,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Routt County. Their right to possess and cultivate MMJ is, once again, constitutionally protected. With or without licensed MMCs in our town, you can be guaranteed there will be cannabis. Why reinvigorate the black market? To deny patients access to their physician-directed medication in a safe, clean and controlled environment would take the hardest of hearts. Support our city, our industry and our citizens’ right to sovereignty over body and mind.
Kevin Fisher is co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies in Steamboat Springs.