“NOT IN OUR TOWN” was recently spray painted on a medical marijuana dispensary in Billings, Montana. “Not in our town” groups are traditionally made up of suburban parents who fear marijuana dispensaries will attract danger to their community. Coincidentally, drug cartels also don’t want legal sources of marijuana to be sold in the community as it is bad for business. Oh, the irony…
Let’s first look at it from the suburban parents’ perspective.
The picture above is what many suburban homes look like, which is all too familiar to me because I have lived in the suburbs since age 12. My parents moved to Fair Lawn, NJ in pursuit of better schools and more reasonable real estate. Even more importantly, they were in search of SAFETY – the middle school in Brooklyn that I was destined to go to had a locker bomb incident the year before we moved. When you look it at from a statistical perspective, it makes sense: great schools, low crime statistics, and in the case of Fair Lawn: “an unpretentious town that smells like cookies!” (see recent NYT article for reference)
Now, all that sounds great and like the movie Pleasantville. When you look at the reality, it is a little more grim… Is Fair Lawn safe overall? Yes. However is danger not very far? Unfortunately, also yes… Paterson borders Fair Lawn and is the main hub of illegal drug sales for the entire northeastern US, as NJ is a huge shipping port.
I can tell you a little secret if you keep it between us. My classmates (and even some friends) used to drive from the SAFETY of Fair Lawn to the DANGER of Paterson (a whopping 5-minute drive) and pick up some of that grade A affordable and illegal marijuana and then smoke it themselves and/or sell to the MAJORITY of my classmates who didn’t have the courage to take that trip.
Now let’s look it at from the perspective of the drug cartels. Let’s imagine you are a drug cartel or even a drug dealer in Paterson, NJ.
- Would you want cannabis to be legalized?
- How would it affect your business?
- Do you want competition with legal sources of cannabis?
- What does cannabis being illegal do for your business?
First, let’s look at what happened to marijuana drug seizures from 2012 to 2018, which is a period of massive cannabis legalization across the states. Drug cartels have suffered tremendously since legalization, since it is preferable to go to a dispensary compared to driving to a dangerous town and buying it illegally.
Now let’s see the statistics of how that translated to cannabis usage among teenagers, since a logical concern would be that since it is legal and easy to get then usage should go up. WRONG! Look at the chart above from 2013-2016 and how usage in Colorado has gone down. Colorado is a state that for years now has had legal recreational cannabis and yet for some reason utilization is down. WHY? Well, if you are a parent or any reasonable human being who understands how human psychology works, you understand the power of telling someone they can’t do something. This is especially powerful with very hormonal risk-taking teenagers who will find any way to rebel.
More importantly let’s look at the chart above. For every year of cannabis legalization there is a 20% decreased mortality rate from opioid overdoses. These are statistics that drug cartels are not terribly happy about…
So my message is directly targeted at suburban parents who believe their children are living in a safe bubble protected from danger because of strong drug policies, au contraire. Strong drug policies are feeding the demand for drug cartels, taking advantage of people with poor support structures/psychological issues, and have led to so many drug overdoses that the life expectancy in the US has actually fallen.
This is exactly why my company, ICA Public Benefit Corporation is on a mission to empower not only cannabis legalization but insurance reimbursement for this medicine which most notably is a great REAL WORLD mitigating treatment for opioid use disorder.
Thank you for reading and I hope if you are a suburban parent I might have shed some light on this extremely sensitive issue which has the safety of your children at center of it all. If you want safety for your children it would be a good idea to align with strategies that hurts drug cartels instead of bolstering their business.
By Dr. Steven Malen, MBA