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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.

  • Delta-NIne Michigan

    Read my post on Facebook at Delta-Nine Michigan. Stop the war on Patients. Safe access to med­icine is a con­sti­tu­tional right. #stopthereefer­madness #real­facts­matter