By Lee Krasner
The Boston Globe just ran a profile on three people who are planning on applying for the first medical marijuana licenses in the state of Massachusetts. The article takes pains to emphasize how Jonathan Napoli, Eric Germaine, and Catherine Cametti are normal, upstanding entrepreneurs. It seems silly to applaud such bourgeois legitimization, but dispensaries are at such a point in the national discourse that such lionization seems to be necessary. Here's some truth, though: medical marijuana patients and caregivers come from a range of backgrounds. Patients and caregivers are lawyers and medical personnel, construction workers, farmers, and business-types. And with the expansion of medical marijuana laws, is it any wonder that people are contemplating ways to utilize whatever skills they have?
As per the Globe article, Massachusetts requires $500,000 to apply for a dispensary license. Michigan already has its fair share of dispensaries, though illegal under current law. In Michigan's current economic climate, there should be no reason to deny new businesses the chance to pay state fees and municipal taxes. And in fact there is a bill in the House to legalize and regulate on a city-by-city basis, sponsored by the Republican representative from the 87th district, Mike Callton. Its status has not changed since February.
The necessity for dispensaries is hard to overstate. While the laws on the books lay claim to some fairness, in practice that is less the case. It is hardly fair to expect a cancer or MS patient to be responsible for the growth and curing of their own medication, and short-sighted to expect that every patient has a green-thumbed person in their life who is also willing to accept the legal risk, however small, that comes with cultivation of marijuana. It seems even more absurd that the state expects there to be one medical marijuana expert per five patients.
Now, at first glance I am not supported by the raw numbers. According to LARA's Medical Marijuana website, as of the end of May there were 128,441 registered patients and 26,875 caregivers --- about 1,200 more caregivers than the perfect five-to-one ratio. While there is no information on the average number of patients per caregiver, it is clearly less than five. Of the caregivers I have spoken to personally, many have only one or two.
This isn't growing tomatoes or even marijuana for recreational purposes. This is marijuana-as-medicine, which puts it in a completely different category of cultivation. I can grow oregano in a window pot, but I would not trust myself to differentiate between strains that alleviate MS symptoms and strains that relieve chronic pain. Even under that category, the medication used for migraines has different qualities than that used for back pain. I could go on.
Legitimate dispensaries employ experts as budtenders. Arrive with certification, ID, and a list of symptoms, and they can inform any patient on the kind of medication that will best treat those symptoms. Your average windowsill grower isn't necessarily going to know much about cannabinoids other than THC, not to mention how to breed strains that are CBG-heavy for their glaucoma patient. Dispensaries can be a source of education for caregivers interested in giving their patients the most effective medication that they possibly can. In other states, dispensaries sell clones of the most effective medication for a patient's needs. For a caregiver or patient just starting out, what other recourse do they have? To somehow acquire seeds, and hope they're the right ones, hope they grow - hope all sorts of things. Dispensaries solidify and simplify matters for patients and caregivers alike.
Even legal dispensaries can be fraught with difficulties. They are not, for example, eligible for the standard IRS business deductions. They are always under the DEA's Damoclean sword. President Obama has spent $289 million on cracking down on medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized. And yet, the protection of state law is enough to set many would-be medical marijuana entrepreneurs at their ease, as we read in the Globe article. By not allowing dispensaries on a state level, we do a great disservice to patients.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles