Despite its newly-legal status in California, cannabis remains a topic that runs long on controversy. Legal to some degree in 29 states and the District of Columbia, cannabis is nonetheless illegal at the federal level, and its industry generates vast sums of cash that cannot be legally banked.
Depending on perspective, it is a mild intoxicant with real medical applications or a dangerous Schedule-1 narcotic. Its legal production and operational costs are expressly forbidden as deductions by IRS code 280e, the only commercial enterprise singled out in federal tax code this way.
To say that everyone in America has not yet made up their mind about cannabis is to state the obvious. And in the crosshairs of this indecision are entrepreneurs like Jon Early. Read More…
There are many who feel teens will use cannabis to a greater degree after legalization.
Perhaps teens and young adults deserve a bit more credit. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey for Sonoma County, consider that from 2011 to 2016, the numbers of Sonoma Unified 11nth graders who have used cannabis at least once in their lifetime has dropped from 49% to 43%. We can probably expect this trend to continue.
Let’s take a broader look at the demographics of cannabis. A recent study by Miner and Co. Studio belies the traditional ‘stoner’ stereotype. The average age of end-users is 30 years old on average, 65% have a household income of $75K or more, and 42% are parents of children.
According to “An Analysis of Applicants Presenting to a Medical Marijuana Specialty Practice in California”, Nunberg, H., et al. (Journal of Drug Policy Analysis), at least half of the population seeking medical recommendations through a physician group was over the age of 35.
And the fastest growing demographic of cannabis users in America is adults 55 or older. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of cannabis users aged 55 or older jumped from 2,812,000 in 2013 to 4,309,000 in 2014.
Older Americans look to cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids. Study after study shows cannabis is safer than other prescriptions for chronic pain and other ailments.
We would contend that the social benefits far outweigh the risks. Risk is inherent in all human activity, but it *can* be controlled and managed.
Bill Boerum has served on the Sonoma Valley Hospital Board and is a medical cannabis advocate. This was his statement to the Sonoma City Council’s special meeting, a Community Workshop on Cannabis, on Monday night: “Though not representing any specific organization, I have had 10 years of healthcare and hospital governance experience on the local, regional, and statewide levels. My other disclaimer is that I am not now, nor have I ever been a recreational or medicinal user of cannabis, and do not have any commercial interest in it. I am addressing you from the standpoint of public health policy about which I have been speaking here in the County and at statewide hearings.
Council and staff, you are taking on a big topic, expansive in its economic impact among different categories of providers, technical in many aspects, and despite continued voter support still controversial as emerging public policy. This complexity is indicated in the text and content attached to the agenda. Specifically, the presentation prepared by Cannabis Support Services as well as the staff prepared content informs the scope of the issue in its many dimensions.
For the Council’s consideration – going beyond enforcement and bureaucratic matters – it would be informative for Cannabis Support Services to survey two dimensions apparently not mentioned in the presentation. One, is the extent of current usage by recreational and medical users within our City. Second, the number of people growing cannabis (indoor and outdoor) within the City for personal use or small trade sale should be determined. Further, for a model of other municipal policy and ordinances, you should look to nearby Santa Rosa which was not mentioned in the presentation.
Council Members, as the electeds and community leaders, you are the deciders of policy and the direction-givers of ordinances, not the staff or consultants. Look to the realities of our own community. Be bold, be innovative. Don’t allow the development of this new industry to be suffocated by regulations. Don’t tax it to support enforcement over-kill. Don’t keep the black market alive. Bring the industry out of the shadows.
There are people in our city suffering from chronic and terminal conditions which can benefit from the curative and palliative attributes of medicinal cannabis. I will not go into reciting the list of conditions which can be treated, but they span from childhood epilepsy to ailments of seniors including pain management. It is likely that the opioid epidemic, spoken of nationally, but unrecognized in our community, can be ameliorated by cannabis as an exit treatment. Increasingly the medical benefits of cannabis and its derivatives are being attested by authoritative organizations. One is at UC San Diego, the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research – CMCR – which is gathering definitive anecdotal and clinical trial information.
What our City population needs is convenient access to medical cannabis, both from a dispensary as well as by delivery. I fully support the establishment in the City of Sonoma of a medical cannabis dispensary with delivery capabilities. Please move ahead expeditiously on this.
The Medical Board of California, the state agency which licenses and disciplines physicians, is moving ahead with its guidelines for physicians in recommending cannabis for medical use. As stated in the guidelines draft: cannabis is a “permissible treatment modality” in California. I spoke before the Medical Board’s Cannabis Task Force in Sacramento on August 30 making suggestions for the guidelines. The Board will be ready by January 1 with its physician guidelines. I hope that the City of Sonoma will have approved a dispensary before that date so that such a facility can be open to meet the needs of people suffering in our city.
From a broader vision perspective, as I have suggested that with so much longtime experience in the state and in the Northern California region across the cannabis industry, we have the opportunity to become the national practice leader in medical cannabis – as an innovative model across the country – as California is in so many other medical modalities, therapies, and technologies.
Bill Boerum, Sonoma