Readers Write: Politicians pander about medical marijuana

The Island Now

It looks like Sen. Elaine Phillips has found a new group of NIMBYs to pander to. 

As John Nugent reported, Phillips showed up to a rally on Oct. 14 opposing the relocation of a medical marijuana dispensary to a retail storefront in Manhasset.

 According to Phillips, “Neighbors and residents have raised legitimate concerns and need answers.”  Well, let’s examine these so-called “legitimate concerns.”

 Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with New York’s medical marijuana program, it allows doctors enrolled in the program to prescribe marijuana to treat the following conditions: cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, MS, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, IBD, neuropathy, Huntington’s disease, PTSD, chronic pain and any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed.

 These are, obviously, serious conditions, and patients suffering from them (or their caregivers) may choose to try marijuana as a course of treatment to improve their quality of life.  That decision is and should be between said patients (or their caregivers) and their doctors.

 From what I gather from Nugent’s article, as well as Teri West’s recent article about a meeting of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, the primary stated concern of those opposed to the move is that the presence of the dispensary would glamorize marijuana, encouraging its use by local school-age children. 

Some protestors even claimed the dispensary would sell marijuana to children.

 This is absolutely ridiculous. 

The dispensary is essentially a highly secured pharmacy that only dispenses non-smokable, non-edible forms of marijuana to patients suffering from these debilitating conditions.  It is not some garish local hangout for children to marvel at, wander into or shop in.

Similar concerns were raised when the dispensary moved into its current location in North New Hyde Park.  At the time, I remember one local resident quoted by Blank Slate Media expressing her concern that the dispensary was within walking distance of a local baseball field.

 Well, like now, local politicians beat their fists and swore that they would prevent any marijuana dispensary from moving into North New Hyde Park.  Predictably, since local politicians had no authority to block it, the dispensary moved in, and (surprise, surprise) the sky didn’t fall.

 Phillips and the other leaders quoted by Nugent and West have clearly taken the time to meet with the small group of self-righteous drug warriors that were at that rally on Oct. 14.  My question to them would be, have you met with even a single patient or caregiver who utilizes the current facility in North New Hyde Park or any other existing dispensary?

 Have you asked them what their opinion is on the proposed change in location?  Have you asked them if relocating the dispensary would be more or less convenient or if it would create or alleviate a hardship?  Have you asked them what barriers to access they’ve faced in the past or are facing now?

 My guess is, Phillips and the rest have not met with or asked any of these questions to any local patient or caregiver.  This is likely because the social stigma associated with medical marijuana makes it difficult for patients or caregivers to come forward and advocate for themselves.

 My advice to these politicians and other leaders, which I’m sure they won’t take, is to carefully consider the needs and preferences of local residents whose lives are or would be substantially improved by the presence of the dispensary.  If they can’t come to your office to discuss the matter or feel uncomfortable doing so, offer to meet with them in their homes or over the phone.

 As for the sign-waving busybodies who think it’s someone else’s responsibility to teach their children not to abuse marijuana, a good politician would still hear them out, but wouldn’t let them dictate policy.

 While going the fist-banging, NIMBY-pleasing route may be the more tempting and politically expedient path (especially right before an election), it’s not the mark of a politician who truly cares about her constituents. 

Matthew Zeidman

New Hyde Park

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