We’ve a pot paradox Puff the Magic Dragon himself might not be able to unroll.
On one hand (let’s call it Hit No. 1), legalizing marijuana use makes complete sense. Medicinal cannabis has proven, wide-ranging benefits for many chronic-illness sufferers. To ban it is cruel. In about six months, fortunately, medicinal forms will be available for sale to those with a prescription at sites designated by the state Health Department. In Bucks County, that’s Franklin Bioscience-Penn in Bristol, and in Montgomery, it’s Ilera Healthcare in Plymouth Meeting. Each can operate at three locations. Will one be in Willow Grove or Hatboro? Warminster or Southampton? We’ll soon know. That’s good news for patients, as well as for tax coffers.
Hit No. 2 also is an argument in favor of legalized use. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — and tax the heck out of it. Crack open a beer, or two or six? Light a joint? Either way, it’s already happening. So, let’s intelligently regulate recreational pot use in small amounts at home — and derive some financial good from it.
Ahhh, that’s good stuff, you say — so far.
But now let’s take another hit. On the other hand, there’s Hit No. 3: the downside. Who among us really wants to share the road, bus, train or workplace with a bunch of stoners? OK, so Cheech and Chong would have you believe they’re all cool and relaxed, safely driving a van (the opposite of the sharp and alert senses needed to drive). Society has proven time and again it’s not to be trusted operating a motor vehicle, handling a gun or working with dangerous equipment when impaired by alcohol. I’m not so sure marijuana use will prove any better.
In fact, statistics show we’re already headed down a deadly road, with drugged driving (namely marijuana) surpassing drunk driving in fatal accidents. Of 70 fatal accidents examined in 2015 by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, 43 percent of victims tested positive for drugs (marijuana mostly), compared to 35.6 percent testing for alcohol. And the AAA Federation for Traffic Safety said Pennsylvania stats show marijuana use among drivers trending upward: from 8 percent of drivers using in 2009 to 17 percent in ’13.
The region is less than six months away now from medical marijuana for sale at a store near you — this at a time when recreational pot use also is finding favor with state legislators across the U.S. It’s an exciting and overdue time for an industry that holds much potential, but if we don’t watch our step, it all could go up in a puff of smoke.
Greg Vellner is a columnist for Montgomery Media.