Millie Flanigan: Steamboat should ban dispensaries | SteamboatToday.com

Millie Flanigan: Steamboat should ban dispensaries

— The ease of access to a medicinal marijuana prescription, coupled with the bakery/candy store presentation of dispensaries and their extensive advertising, blurs any clear picture as to whether this drug is truly medicinal or simply recreational. It is this mixed message that I think is most dangerous to our youth.

The dispensary model and what it has evolved into exposes the youth of our community, including the very young, to the thought that medicinal marijuana is neither harmful nor addictive and is no big deal. With the considerable increase of license holders, there is simply more marijuana in our community. With increased saturation of the drug comes increased availability to individuals of all ages, with or without a license.

The current dispensary model is not what was envisioned or intended by the voters of Colorado when Amendment 20 was passed in 2000. Amendment 20 made legal the use of a limited amount of marijuana for an individual suffering from a "debilitating medical condition." The prescription was to be written by a physician with whom the patient had a "bona fide physician-patient relationship." It is certainly debatable whether the majority of license holders have a "debilitating medical condition" and, as a medical provider, I do not think that receiving a license from a MD that has come to town for one day counts as a "bona fide physician-patient relationship."

Statistics with the state registry make it clear that with the opening of dispensaries in 2009 came a staggering increase in the number of medical marijuana licenses that were written. Much of this was driven by the relationship that dispensaries had with physicians who were willing to come to town for a day to see patients with the sole purpose of writing medical marijuana licenses. It is difficult to deny that with the opening of dispensaries, the face of this issue changed dramatically. It should be noted that nowhere in the amendment was there any mention of dispensaries.

The question is not whether marijuana is better or worse than alcohol or prescription drugs, or even if it should be legalized — that is an entirely different debate. The problem is that marijuana is being billed as "medicinal" but is playing by an entirely different set of rules than other prescription drugs. Although other prescription drugs may be over-prescribed and are certainly an issue in our community, access to these drugs is entirely different than what is taking place with marijuana. If marijuana truly is to be "medicinal," it should be playing by the same rules as other medicinal drugs.

Steamboat bills itself as a world-class resort, Ski Town USA. Are full-page color ads plastered all over our daily papers advertising the likes of Cheeba Chews, Kandy Kush and Fridays as Free Keef Cola Day best representing our community?

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Some argue that it is up to parents to raise their children in such a way that they will make good choices. I aim for this in my parenting each and every day, though I am not so naive as to think that my children would not benefit from barriers to potentially risky behaviors.

Arguments against a ban of dispensaries raise the concern that license holders will start growing marijuana in their residences, unregulated. It is possible that some individuals may grow the allotted six plants in their own homes, or may even become caregivers, thereby being allowed to supply marijuana for as many as five patients.

However, this takes some level of commitment and investment, which many individuals who are happy to stop by the dispensary will choose to forgo.

I also think that without dispensaries, we will not have doctors coming to town on a regular basis to write mass prescriptions. Based on this, I would anticipate the number of license holders will dwindle throughout time and that eventually we will get closer to how things were from 2000 to 2009.

It has been argued that owners of these dispensaries have invested in our community and employ a significant numbers of employees. The owners of these dispensaries speculated on what most would consider a risky business proposition. It is not the responsibility of our community to assure their success at the expense of what is best for our community as a whole, and our youth in particular.

The most compelling argument supporting the dispensaries is that some individuals have truly benefited from them. I think this is true for a limited number of individuals. These individuals will continue to be served by Amendment 20, as it was intended, without the negative impact of the dispensaries.

I do not think any of us, including the Steamboat Springs City Council, could have foreseen the evolution of this industry and the impact of the "dispensary model." More than 60 communities in Colorado have moved forward and have banned dispensaries. Steamboat needs to do the same. I think we as a community must re-evaluate what we want for our town and our children.

The City Council will address this issue at their next meeting. I encourage you to contact your council persons, citycouncil@steamboatsprings.net, and if possible attend the meeting tonight.

Millie Flanigan is a physician assistant in Steamboat Springs.

If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. today; discussion of whether to ban medical marijuana centers in Steamboat could start at about 6:30 p.m.; a second reading of the city’s regulatory ordinance is schedule for later tonight

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Contact: Call city offices at 970-879-2060 or visit http://www.steamboatsprings.net for more information

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