Should you have the right to deny a marijuana dispensary from opening?

Published Apr 10, 2019 11:46 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Graeme Roy

Medical marijuana is rarely discussed amongst those who feel poorly about marijuana dispensaries. It’s considered to be more acceptable and a necessary evil much like many other traditional pharmaceutical drugs that we use to manage our health problems. Unfortunately, recreational marijuana dispensaries are not being given the same consideration, with many Canadians in an uproar over the thought of a legal cannabis store possibly appearing out of nowhere in their neighborhood. It turns out that 1 in every ten parents believes that marijuana dispensaries should be completely banned from public areas that cater to children.

There are many different views to consider when looking at what the effects of marijuana being legalized may or may not have on society or an area as a whole. Here are just a few of the most commonly cited concerns along with why those ideas are not entirely based in reality as legitimate potential issues.

1. Driving while under the effects of marijuana

The fear: A lot of people are seriously worried about the potential rise in drivers who are under the influence of cannabis. Many fear that there will be an increase in accidents if marijuana dispensaries are present.

The facts: This is mainly caused by the release of other statistics surrounding marijuana use including several that state over 50% of cannabis user’s report driving high at least one time in their lives. The truth is that the number of fatal or potentially dangerous collisions does not go up at all in an area solely because a cannabis dispensary is introduced. This has been proven time and time again through studies that have been conducted in areas like California and Colorado who have had legal weed for a very long time and didn't experience such a crisis.

2. Forgotten or improperly disposed of product

The fear: Marijuana research shows that one of the most significant fears that many parents have, is that their children may accidentally find an improperly disposed of product. Since it will be up to customers and store operators to throw away their garbage and be sure to leave no pot related products behind that might be found and taken by underage kids.

The facts: Despite several years of legalization in Colorado and a few under the belt of California there has never been a single incident involving youth finding and using a marijuana dispensaries products. The only time that has occurred is when kids found it lazily stored or left around in their own homes. Cannabis derived products are expensive, and much like you don’t find full beer bottles around because those who buy them want to drink them, the same premise holds true for weed.

3. Teens having easier access to marijuana

The fear: As many as 48% of parents worry that a marijuana dispensary being allowed to function in their area would increase the access that many teens have to cannabis products. In turn this would be expected to increase teen marijuana use rates.

The facts: All legal certified and licensed dispensaries are held just as accountable for their product sales as any other controlled substance. Budtenders must ask for identification for anyone who looks like they might be under 35 years old to be extra cautious for situations where younger folks might appear a touch older than they are. Unfortunately, the majority of this belief came from black market dispensaries which will frequently sell to underage youth. That is not the case with legal marijuana dispensaries at all as they would lose their licence for such conduct.  

4. A bad example

The fear: Marijuana research shows that an astounding 45% of people believe that teen use will go up dramatically with the introduction of dispensaries. Mainly due to the previously stated concern of unregulated sales.

The facts: The truth is that teen marijuana use has been on the rise over the last decade and that even regions that have introduced cannabis legalization have seen no dramatic rise in teen or underage users.

5. Increase in violent crime

The fear: As many as 35% of parents believe that the introduction of a marijuana dispensary to their community would increase the level of violent crime that is experienced.

The facts: According to statistics from both PEW research panel and the University of Michigan. There has actually been a drop in crime rates once marijuana dispensaries started popping up. It is believed to be the result of fewer people over consuming harder substances like opioids or alcohol which lead to aggression. Cannabis helps to soothe and relax and very rarely has anyone fighting.

6. Lack of regulation on both product and sales

The fear: According to the latest marijuana research over half of all Canadians believe that marijuana dispensaries are not subject to stringent enough regulation as far as their sales, product potency, and quality. This makes it difficult to navigate what products to choose, leaving many afraid of the possibility of over consumption.

The facts: The Canadian government has taken some rather stringent steps to ensure that this isn’t a concern for any of its citizens. Not only will budtenders have to ask for ID, but they will also have to be trained to detect a person who may have over consumed. Marijuana products have been limited in the strength they are permitted to be manufactured and sold within. These limits according to the professionals in the industry are only a mere fraction of what is allowed in other areas with little to no issue.

Though any person’s concerns, especially from those who are completely new to the industry are important to address, the fact is that cannabis is being compared to alcohol and opioids in their effects, regulation, and possible problems, and it does not act the same way at all. Alcohol is one of the most restricted substances that we have right next to pharmaceuticals and can actually kill you, cause blackouts, and also tend to make users much more aggressive and confrontational in general. Marijuana tends to have the opposite effect on consumers while doing the least amount of damage. Beer and spirits are now available in many convenience stores and major department stores. So the question is, why should pot be subject to any further discrimination based on substances that are entirely different? Cannabis should be made equally and fairly available with rules and regulations to keep everyone safe, but I truly do not believe that citizens or parents should have any say in a dispensary location over false fears.

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