Portsmouth City Council held a public hearing Monday night to allow members of the public to express their views and concerns on the possibility of the City being a future home for a medical marijuana dispensary.
Dozens of members stepped up to share personal stories as medical marijuana refugees, going out-of-state to get medication for themselves or loved ones. By the end of the meeting, all but one member of Council felt that a dispensary is needed in Portsmouth.
Among the stories they heard was that of Waylon Cordle, whose mother addressed the City about how marijuana has helped her 11-year-old son.
“My son is somebody that would benefit from medical marijuana, actually he does,” she explained.
She continued to inform Council that her son got a viral infection in 2012. As he result, he has uncontrolled seizures. The mother explained that her son has had to relearn to walk and talk. He has been put into medically induced comas and has tried more than 20 seizure medications that have not worked. Tara Cordle explained that finally she went to Colorado and got medical marijuana for her son.
“We’re criminals,” the mother stated. “We have been for two years, but what it has given him is not a gateway drug but a gateway to life. It has given him a gateway off some of his prescription pills. It has literally allowed him to join baseball teams, bowling leagues and allows him to stand before you today.”
She explained that she has no regrets because in the two years that her son has been on medical marijuana, he has decreased the more than 40 medications he had to take daily and his seizures have decreased from 150 a month to 10-15 a month. Finally, she explained that having a dispensary locally would be a blessing for her family.
In addition to the Cordles, a veteran spoke in tears as he introduced Council to his wife who is bound to a wheelchair and in constant pain as a result of multiple sclerosis and a young man explained how he watches her suffer in pain from liver cancer that has now metastasized to her spine.
In addition to the more common ways in which medical marijuana can be used to treat pain and illnesses, opiate abuse was also a topic of concerns as citizens explained that a local dispensary could benefit the problem in various ways including boosting the economy but also by being used as an exit drug. The National Institute of Health now confirms that research shows medical marijuana can be used to treat opiate addiction. Medical marijuana refugees who had left the state to get medicine to help them treat opiate addiction and have now successfully done so also shared their stories.
Michael Vermilion, of Portsmouth, explained that he was at the meeting on behalf of Cheryl Shuman, who is applying to open a dispensary within the City. Vermilion was able to offer some education explaining the numerous medical issues that can be treated with medical marijuana. He added that medicines will be dispensed as oils, patches, lotions edibles and in various other forms excluding in plant form for smoking. He added that much of medicine is non-psychotropic, meaning it does not create an intoxicated feeling. Furthermore, purchasing medical marijuana will require a prescription. He also added that dispensaries are licensed by regions; however, no one is required to use the dispensary in their region. Thus, a dispensary in Portsmouth could be utilized by patients in surrounding counties.
Director of the Cleveland National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Alison Kareem explained that in looking at national data, if Portsmouth were to become the location of a dispensary, it could see increases in property values, decreases in crime by 12-18 percent, decrease of 25 percent in opiate death and an even great decrease in opiate-related emergency room visits among other benefits.
Still there were some with concerns. Jay Hash, Lead Counselor and Clinical Director of HopeSource Treatment Center in Portsmouth, explained that though he agrees with the ways in medical marijuana can be beneficial, he did not think Portsmouth was the correct location for a dispensary.
“I have some concerns about a dispensary being in Portsmouth, Ohio. I agree with a lot of what has already been said, but I have a lot of differences from what has already been said,” he stated.
He stated that because the location of a dispensary is prohibited from being sold within 500 feet of schools or churches, there is reason to believe that it would encourage questionable activities. Though he said that marijuana is a great alternative to heroin, he did not want to encourage cannabis use disorder or the use of a substance of abuse.
Following the discussion from those in attendance, First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson explained that he has also been a marijuana refugee, obtaining marijuana to help dying friends and loved ones. Still, he stressed that he also did his research on the topic.
“There’s going to be one county in our area that’s going to get this (dispensary). I’d rather have it here. From the research I’ve done, I’d rather have it here,” Johnson stated.
All but Councilman Gene Meadows agreed with Johnson, Meadows explained that the meeting did help to educate him on various topics, including the concept that it is illegal marijuana that is a gateway drug because it is sold through the black market, putting marijuana users at the mercy of drug dealers, who expose them to other drugs and activities. However, marijuana that is safely and legally purchased either recreationally or medicinally eliminates that exposure to hard drugs and other illegal activities that may accompany the purchasing of illegal marijuana.
Portsmouth City Council would have had to vote to ban a dispensary if the did not want one. Rather they voted not to ban a dispensary and are working with applicants applying for a license to establish a dispensary in Portsmouth.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.