Greeley should rethink dispensary ban

By Denise Dennington

In 2000, voters in Colorado passed Amendment 20, which allowed certain individuals with particular aliments to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants for personal use that help alleviate the ailments of certain disorders.

The problem with Amendment 20 is that even though Colorado voters legalized the drug, possessing marijuana is still against federal law.  I will be the first person to admit that I am vehemently opposed to drug use of any form, whether it is legal or illegal, but I have come to rethink my stance on the use of medical marijuana.   

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and the Greeley City Council voted in November 2009 to ban the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits.  Had they voted in the other direction, they would be collecting the tax dollars associated with the sales tax linked with the sale of this drug.

The city not only banned the dispensaries from the city limits, they also imposed three parts to the ban.  First, was the council clarified that police could not enforce marijuana laws against patients if they possess a registration card.  Second, any person caught delivering medical marijuana into Greeley from outside the city limits would be taxed under Greeley tax laws.  The third aspect of this is that dispensaries are not allowed.  If Greeley had passed this legislation, the city would have been able to levy a sales tax against the dispensaries and have another source of income for the city, which could have led to more leniencies with the budget. 

The operating budget places a priority on existing programs to insure that the city is able to maintain an excellent level of service and address the overall needs of the community.

The benefits of legalizing this drug are the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis.

However, the benefits of this drug cannot be recognized without acknowledging the drawbacks still associated with medical marijuana.  Some individuals believe that this drug can be addictive.  Cannabis has been classified by the federal government as a schedule I narcotic, which places it in the same class as heroin, LSD and ecstasy.  The officials at the United States Food and Drug Administration believe marijuana has high potential for abuse and is currently not accepted for medical use in the U.S.  This leads to a lack of accepted safety precautions for use, even under medical supervision. 

While the use of this drug has several benefits, under federal law, it is still illegal.  Even with the additional pressure placed on the U.S. government, it will take several years before the government; both federally and locally, will rethink its ban on the use of medical marijuana.  Instead of admitting that they have been misguided, officials can correct a wrong by examining new data and begin to revamp the destructive polices.

If the city had taken a different approach to this topic, it would have been able to settle at least two issues with one swift vote.  The City Council would have been given more flexibility with the budget they continue to struggle balancing and they would have been able to relieve the pain of certain individuals.  With a reconstructed form of legislation, medical marijuana would be a relief to the residents who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, spinal cord injuries and a myriad of other debilitating diseases.

Denise Dennington is a senior journalism and mass communications major with minors in communication studies and history at the University of Northern Colorado.