As I walked into the Jackson medical cannabis dispensary last weekend, I noticed behind me an old, frail woman. Her hands were shaking, and her voice was filled with tears.

“The OxyContin doesn’t take away the pain,” I heard her say to the attendant.

She asked the cashier for a few grams of cannabis and told her that was all she could afford. The woman may return to addictive opioids to relieve the pain of her Parkinson’s disease after she runs out of cannabis, because Medicare only covers prescription drug costs.

As a nation, we should stop restricting access to life-saving and life-enhancing medicine. And that can start by showing your support for medical cannabis dispensaries in Hillsdale at the city council’s meeting on Monday.

Most medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, legal or illegal, have the potential for abuse. Cannabis is no different. But its medicinal properties and ability to treat many afflictions—anxiety, cancer, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and alcoholism, heroin, and methamphetamine addiction—outweigh concerns about it falling into the wrong hands.

The Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that cannabidiol—or CBD, an active, non-euphoric compound in cannabis—has shown to repair parts of the brain damaged by drug addiction. The institute also said CBD lessens anxiety, improves mood, and boosts appetite, which are crucial for recovering drug addicts..

Pro-cannabis individuals often claim the drug is not addictive. That’s false, but it is less addictive than harder drugs, including alcohol. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal organization that promotes the War on Drugs, even testified to this.

Its 2012 study found 9 percent of people who used cannabis became addicted, whereas 15 percent of people who used alcohol became addicted.

But addiction is not the only factor to consider. After all, nicotine has a 32 percent rate of addiction, while heroin’s is 23 percent, but no one would consider heroin less harmful.

It’s about the effects cannabis has on the body and mind.

The main active ingredient in cannabis is THC. It causes euphoria, pain relief, sleepiness, and increased appetite, among other side effects. Unlike opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, THC does not affect the body’s respiratory system, so cannabis cannot cause fatal overdoses. 

Well, it could, but researchers estimate the average individual would have to consume between 20,000 and 40,000 joints in a 15-minute period to die. 

On the other hand, alcohol causes 100,000 deaths per year and opioids cause 33,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cannabis has low addictive potential and low toxicity, but many opponents worry about its effects on teenagers. Yet medical cannabis is available only to patients 21 years and older or with a parent’s permission.

Still, people fear medical cannabis will give teenagers easier access to the drug. Since Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2014, the National Institute on Drug Use and Health reports use among teenagers has declined, though not significantly.

In 2011, cannabis use was at 22 percent. In 2015, cannabis use among teens dropped to 21.2 percent.

If teenagers use cannabis, there is no evidence to suggest that it will harm their long-term health. An often-cited study found that marijuana use among teenagers led to brain abnormalities, particularly in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala.

But researchers who attempted to replicate the study were unable to do so. They discovered that the study had insufficiently eliminated variables such as alcohol and drug abuse. 

Bringing medical cannabis dispensaries to Hillsdale is a good economic option because it will bring jobs and revenue to the community, but more importantly it’s best for the physical, social, and moral development of residents.

It can bring an end to the suffering caused by Parkinson’s, like that of the woman in the Jackson dispensary. It can help cancer patients endure the pain of chemotherapy. It can ensure AIDS patients maintain a healthy weight during treatment. It can help the one in six Americans who use prescription antidepressants to achieve mental health again.

It’s not for everyone, though. Some people will respond adversely to cannabis, just like any other medicine, and they should stay away. Teenagers will use cannabis, like 20 percent already do. And unfortunately, people will abuse cannabis, and they need treatment like any other addict.

But for those in Hillsdale who can benefit from cannabis, they deserve the medicine in their hometown.

Joshua Paladino is a senior studying politics.

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