Guest Comment: Town of Portville opting out on marijuana | Opinion

With every board member agreeing, we will opt out of allowing cannabis dispensaries to be permitted in the town of Portville.

As the New York state deadline in December approaches, we have discussed the issues several times and we all feel the same way: We will not put profit ahead of the public health and safety of our residents.

I have spoken several times to county and state officials and researched it for a long time. I just don’t throw out my opinion based on hearsay, I research things.

Here are a few facts on legalized marijuana use.

The use of cannabis by drivers will remain prohibited, but driving under the influence is still a major worry for the New York Sheriff’s Association and the New York Association of Chiefs of Police.

“In every state where marijuana has been legalized, you’ve seen an increase of traffic accidents and traffic fatalities. It’s just a fact.” — NYS Association of Police’s Patrick Phelan, quoted by New York News.

Experts also warn legal recreational marijuana could lead to more overdoses in children. Dr. Stephanie Widmer, a Long Island emergency medicine physician, addressed in March a rise in pediatric exposures to cannabis and that “marijuana edibles” are landing children in emergency rooms across the country. According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, poison center calls associated with unintentional pediatric exposures to cannabis increased in the United States from 2017 to 2019, largely as a result of the accidental consumption of edible cannabis products. A study published in JAMA-Pediatrics (the Journal of the American Medical Association) revealed that after legalizing recreational marijuana in 2014, Colorado saw an average of 34% increase in cannabis-related poison control cases per year.

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found an increase in fatal motor vehicle collisions may be tied to legalization, with similar studies also highlighted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety-Highway Loss Data Institute. Data showed crash rates spiked with the legalization of recreational marijuana use and retail sales in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Driving simulator tests have shown that drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, find it harder to pay attention, have more difficulty maintaining their car’s position in the lane and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re sober.

Other factors related to how legalization has affected the way people use marijuana, rather than the physiological effects of the drug, may also be at play. For example, the larger spike in crash rates in Colorado — the first state to legalize recreational use — suggests a burst of enthusiasm that leveled off as the drug’s new status became more commonplace.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) notes that marijuana use “comes with real risks that can impact a person’s health and life. Marijuana was the most commonly used illegal substance in the U.S. and its use is growing now that it is legal in (several) states. Marijuana use among all adult age groups, both sexes and even pregnant women is on the rise. At the same time, the perception of how harmful marijuana use can be is declining. Increasingly, young people today do not consider marijuana use a risky behavior.”

According to SAMHSA, approximately one in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. When they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to one in six.

Marijuana use can have negative and long-term effects on the following:

BRAIN HEALTH: Marijuana can cause permanent IQ loss of as much as 8 points when people start using it at a young age. These IQ points do not come back, even after quitting marijuana.

MENTAL HEALTH: Studies link marijuana use to depression, anxiety, suicide planning and psychotic episodes. It is not known, however, if marijuana use is the main cause of these conditions.

DRIVING: People who drive under the influence of marijuana can experience dangerous effects; slower reactions, lane weaving, decreased coordination, and difficulty reacting to signals and sounds on the road.

BABY’S HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT: Marijuana use during pregnancy may cause fetal growth restriction, premature birth, stillbirth, and problems with brain development, resulting in hyperactivity and poor cognitive function. THC and other chemicals from marijuana can also be passed from a mother to her baby though breast milk, further impacting a child’s healthy development.

Dr. Melinda Ratini, writing for WebMD on medical marijuana in August 2020: “Medical marijuana received lots of attention a few years ago when parents said that a special form of the drug helped control seizures in their children. The FDA recently approved Epidiolex, which is made from CBD, as a therapy for people with very severe or hard-to-treat seizures. In studies, some people had a dramatic drop in seizures after taking this drug.”

I’m in favor for medical marijuana, which must be prescribed by a DOCTOR.

Regarding CBD (Canna-bidiol), SAMHA states: “It’s a substance found in both marijuana and hemp plants. It doesn’t make you high. CBD can be made into CBD oil and sold as pills, gels, creams and other formulas. Some people use CBD to treat pain, seizures and other health problems. But scientists aren’t yet sure how well it works or if it’s safe over the long term. Lack of regulation means you can’t always know exactly what you’re buying.”

THE TOWN OF PORTVILLE is in great financial shape. Taxes have been kept flat for years, roads are being repaired annually, improvements are being done every year as well.

This board has spent over three years researching the effects of green energy on our community by way of solar panels. Several town residents have sacrificed their view of corn fields and forests, even though several hundred pine trees will be planted to block the view of the fence surrounding the panels.

We have invested in solar energy. A PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program will assist Portville financially for several decades.

We’re not investing in cannabis sales.

Solar farms make no noise, create no odor, nor do they create unwanted traffic flow. Solar panels will not put one member of our community in danger. Don’t get me wrong, are there responsible consumers of alcohol, sure. Are there responsible consumers of marijuana, sure. But, according to the statistics, there has been “a significant increase in fatal motor vehicle collisions and fatalities.” That tells me that there are irresponsible marijuana consumers as well.

There is no amount of money I will sacrifice for the life of a Portville resident.

(Tim Emley is the supervisor of the town of Portville.)

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