Commissioner Corner In Support Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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By: Commissioner Jim Chard Special to the Delray Newspaper

If the City Commission votes to prohibit medical marijuana sales, it will be opposing the will of the 77.4 percent of Delray Beach citizens who voted for a constitutional amendment that makes medical marijuana legal in the state of Florida. But it’s worse than that, much worse.  Delray will be standing on the wrong side of history. Already 29 states have voted to legalize medical marijuana. As a medicine, marijuana is much safer than doctor-prescribed, FDA-approved drugs, is more effective and wholesome as a pain killer than opioids, helps wean addicts from their heroin and opioid addictions, and alleviates the pain and suffering caused by more than 23 diseases.

The Sun-Sentinel recently editorialized that elected officials who vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries “tell people essentially, that your vote means absolutely nothing”. Over 72 percent  of Florida voters supported legalization because they knew that medical marijuana reduces pain and suffering. The Sentinel wrote that most of the arguments against the dispensaries were laughable—-from the risk of carrying cash, to requirements for additional public safety personnel, to the possibility of medical marijuana falling into the hands of recreational users.  The Palm Beach Post has also repeatedly opined against elected officials who failed to obey the will of the people regarding medicinal marijuana.

Ironically, medical marijuana is far safer than many FDA approved drugs. ProCon submitted a public records request from FDA in order to compare fatalities from FDA approved drugs compared to medical marijuana. Their analysis uncovered the following fatalities for the research period

  • Anti emetics  (anti vomiting) – 196
  • Anti spasmodics (Zanaflex) – 118
  • Anti psychotics (Lithium) – 1,593
  • Other popular prescription drugs (Viagra, Ritalin, Aderall) – 8,101
  • 17 FDA approved drugs – 10,008
  • Marijuana – 0
  • It would seem that if the Commission really wanted to protect Delray Beach citizens it would ban the sales of Viagra, not marijuana.

Both opioids and marijuana are used to reduce pain. But only one, opioids, kills its patients. In Florida over 4,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2016, 540 died in Palm Beach County alone. Over 5,000 OD emergency calls were made in the county last year. In the US, trends indicate that over 60,000 will die this year, more than the entire Vietnamese war. Alcohol, another government sanctioned drug, kills more than 88,000 Americans each year either directly or indirectly. And yet alcohol sales are not banned in Delray. Again, the number killed by marijuana is zero.

If we look at the positive side, research is emerging that medical marijuana is preferred to and more effective than opioids for pain management. A study conducted at U Cal Berkeley and Kent State demonstrated that 93 percent of patients who were prescribed both opioids and marijuana, preferred marijuana. The Harvard School of Public Health published research showing that marijuana is not a gateway drug.  And HealthLine printed a report showing that states that permitted medical marijuana experienced a reduced rate of opioid related hospitalizations (Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence – UC San Diego).  The study found lower rates of opioid abuse, mortality, and prescription drug use.  While at the same time, the study showed medical marijuana reduced chronic pain and chemo related nausea and vomiting.

In sum, Dr. Don Teater in an article entitled “The Psychological and Physical Side Effects of Pain Medications” stated “Compared to marijuana, opioids are much riskier, much more dangerous”.  And the clincher…in the International Journal of Drug Policy from the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, “Patients with access to medicinal cannabis reduce their use of opioids.”

So we have seen that medical marijuana doesn’t kill people like government approved drugs and is more effective than opioids like Percocet for pain management, but the really interesting story is its many therapeutic benefits.  Listed below are a few of the benefits from medical marijuana treatment that are being identified in the limited clinical trials conducted to date:

  • Reduction of chronic pain
  • Relief from the symptoms of PTSD and Tourettes Syndrome
  • Reduction in chemo related nausea and vomiting
  • Reducing muscle spasms caused by Multiple Sclerosis
  • Helping with sleep disorders
  • Reversing weight loss caused by AIDS and HIV
  • Treatment for glaucoma- pressure in the eye
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Control over epileptic seizures
  • May help cancer from spreading (turns off Id-1 gene)
  • Decreases anxiety
  • Slows the progression of Altheimers
  • Helps treat Hepatitis C
  • Assists in the recovery from strokes, protects brain after strokes
  • Reduces arthritis pain
  • Improves symptoms of Lupus
  • Soothes tremors of Parkinson

The voters have spoken, and we should respond to their will by taking a reasonable approach to this-by allowing the responsible siting of this use with the limited safeguards the state allows.