Voters deserve facts, not fiction

CO– In his Coloradoan July 2 Soapbox, Ray Martinez made many disparaging claims about medical marijuana centers in order to bolster his attempt to ban MMCs from Fort Collins. Too bad that none of his assertions are supported by facts.

Acting police Chief Jerry Schiager reported no medical marijuana business “surge in crime,” and no increase in 911 calls (1). The ordinance regulating MMCs, passed by Fort Collins’ City Council, is stricter than the state requires (2) In fact, state regulators track every gram of medicine produced by MMCs “from seed to sale” preventing any diversion to “the new black market” (3) as Martinez claims.

Proponents of the ban would also like us to believe, based on anecdotal “evidence,” that marijuana use is up among teens and MMCs are the cause.

Wrong again.

Two studies released this week show the opposite. The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that from 1999 to 2010, teen marijuana use dropped 22 percent (4). And a separate nationwide study shows that there is no causal relationship between medical marijuana and an increase in teen marijuana use (5).

MMCs are clearly not the boogey man that Martinez and company would have us believe.

Instead of fear-mongering and fantasy, we need a discussion based on reality.

The people of this state voted to make medical marijuana legal in 2000. Lacking any regulatory framework, Colorado’s state Legislature passed HB1284 in 2010. As a result, Colorado’s licensed MMCs are the most heavily regulated and taxed among all 16 states that allow for medical marijuana use.

Criminals are out. Standards are in place. Taxes are collected. And law enforcement keeps a 24/7 watch to ensure compliance. While this is tedious and expensive for center owners, we know that our customers and community members feel more secure because of the tight restrictions and security.

Reality check:

More than 8,500 people hold valid licenses to purchase medical marijuana in Larimer County. That averages out to more than 16,000 transactions a month, or 200,000 every year.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Martinez gets his way and MMCs disappear. What then?

Patients will lose out. Treatment protocols will be interrupted when the products, services and specialists patients rely upon and trust disappear. This will result in negative health outcomes for patients.

Our economy will suffer. One half-million dollars in sales taxes will go uncollected every year. More than 200 people will lose their jobs. Dozens of commercial leases will be abandoned. Millions of dollars in business investments will be lost. Bankruptcies will soar.

Our neighborhoods will become less safe. Currently, medical marijuana businesses are licensed, regulated, secured, and taxed. If we ban these businesses, medical marijuana sales will be pushed into our neighborhoods where they will be unlicensed, unregulated, unsecured, and untaxed, and increase the risk of illegal sales, fires, and home invasions.

Assuming home growers follow the rules and serve only five patients each, 1,500 homes are needed to serve Larimer County’s 8,500 registered patients. That’s 200,000 sales taking place in 1,500 private homes! Home invasions, electrical fires and chemicals dumped unmonitored into our sewers will become common.

This will be a disaster.

medical marijuana centers are the safest way to ensure that legal patients have access while protecting our community.

Please act to keep MMCs legal in Fort Collins.

Steve Ackerman is a longtime Fort Collins resident and business owner. He is president of the Fort Collins Medical Cannabis Association (FCMCA) and owner of Organic Alternatives. He may be reached at 214-1152. Sources: 1: Schiager, Jerry. Statement to Council. City Council Adjourned Meeting & Work Session, Feb. 22. 2: Agenda Item Summary Feb. 22, Item 3. (n.d.). Agenda Item Summary, Issues Relating to Medical marijuana Businesses, (p. 2). Fort Collins.Fort Collins; 3: (2011). Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division Rules. Denver: State of Colorado Department of Revenue; 4: National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, (June 29, 2011). Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem (pg. 28). New York: CASA Columbia; 5: O’Keefe, K. E. a. (June 2011). Marijuana Use by Young People: The Impact of State Laws. Washington D.C.: Marijuana Policy Project.

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