I've been an Ashland resident for over 30 years. I am a little surprised by the medical marijuana dispensary objections.
I have a rare cancer without any current known chemo/medication cure. I watched my father die of this disease as a child. For the past two years I've been on prescription medical marijuana.
Ten years ago I would not have imagined myself in this position at age 55, but here I am. I have had research oncologists who have approved my use of this medicine including the National Institute of Health where I was flown to give blood for rare cancer research.
I've spent many an hour in a medical marijuana dispensary waiting room. The fellow clientele are others like me: law-abiding citizens with no criminal records but in need of a medicine that has scientific evidence that it works. It has been approved by the Senate in 2003 for my type of cancer. Yet politics has kept it from being accessible for clinical trials. My dispensary has acquired the skills to distill this plant into a form of medicine I can put in a gel cap and swallow at night, exactly like any other medication.
My oncologist can currently offer me only one medication. Its annual cost is $100,000, and it has a 10 percent chance of working. The biological pathways this $100,000 medication alters are the same pathways that cannabis alters.
To enter a marijuana dispensary I need to have filed for and obtained a medical marijuana card. This requires I see my GP (the family doctor of 30 years, who delivered my children) to sign the paperwork). I send this form and $200 a year to the state. It isn't an easy process and it isn't cheap. But $200 versus $100,000 is cheap.
The medicine I get is by donation. For a year I paid nothing for the pills that helped me recover when two-thirds of my liver was removed because of malignant tumors. The liver grew back completely in four months while I was taking marijuana.
I feel there is a community reaction to the fear of the unknown. I've been in dispensary waiting rooms. There are grandmothers like me, veterans seeking relief from PTSD, and epileptics who couldn't go a day without seizures before access to this medication. I know of others with brain tumors that disappeared — these are stories of Ashland residents who are afraid of the stigma if they said, "I take cannabis."
An individual walking into a dispensary doesn't see product. You would need a current medical marijuana card and a photo ID to be ushered into the room where only two customers are allowed at any given time.
It is against the law to smoke inside or outside a dispensary. These businesses keep pretty short hours: Monday through Saturday 11 to 5. If it is all run under the mandates of the law, there is nothing to fear. If a business, any business, is breaking the law, they face consequences.
I would much rather live next to a dispensary than a nightclub. I feel the convenience store downtown has been more a detriment to downtown than a dispensary would ever be (with the homeless going into the alleys to drink and smoke).
I'd like to see the city of Ashland allow a small number of dispensaries to open. It will be up to the dispensaries to follow the law.
Cathy Freeman lives in Ashland.