Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Discussion time: Marijuana dispensaries

marijuana quote

A recent article in the Explorer gauges local government officials’ openness to the possibility of hosting recreational marijuana dispensaries in their communities. The response was lukewarm, at best, and most interviewed were resistant to the idea.

From the article:

“The governor’s office is projecting that the adult-use cannabis market could reach $4 billion statewide upon maturity and generate up to $350 million annually in tax revenue. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) establishes the local excise tax on the sale of cannabis products at 4% of the products’ price. Counties would receive 25% of the local retail tax revenue while 75% would go to each municipality hosting a dispensary.

While the potential tax revenue sounds alluring for a region that struggles to lure commercial ventures, town officials contacted for this article universally said it was too soon to tell if their town would be willing to host a cannabis retail dispensary.”

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Should Adirondack communities jump on board with this potential cash crop? Or “just say no”?

Weigh in below. I’ll be looking for answers that we can possibly feature in our “It’s Debatable” feature that runs in Adirondack Explorer magazine (and on this site), so please put a valid email address where I can reach you for potential follow up.

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Melissa is a journalist with experience as a reporter and editor with the Burlington Free Press, Ithaca Journal and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. She worked as a communications specialist for the Adirondack North Country Association and is currently digital editor for Adirondack Explorer, overseeing both the Explorer's website and its community forum the Adirondack Almanack. She enjoys hiking, camping and other outdoors activities, and spending time with her husband, their twin daughters, and rescue animals -- two dogs and two cats.

50 Responses

  1. Bill Q says:

    I am not surprised at the resistance. Apparently, it is okay to have a liquor store in a community without much thought, but not a legalized marijuana store. Alcohol is proven to be extremely harmful on socio-economic, family, community and health fronts. Recent studies have linked even moderate alcohol consumption to many forms of cancer. I am reminded of the old joke about getting 5 guys together. With alcohol you have a bar fight, with pot, they start a garage band. We are okay with people driving up to Stewart’s, buying a couple of six packs and climbing back into their car, but not the sale of legalized pot. I hear claims that pot is a gateway drug. This is totally unproven. Kids watching their parents and older siblings getting totally sloshed is definitely providing them with a gateway to condoning the abuse of alcohol – a drug proven have destructive effects on personal and family health and happiness with addictive capacities far beyond any ever proven with marijuana. Yet our reactionary socio-political powers to be here in the Adirondacks are slow to even consider marijuana stores in their purview and the tax revenue they will bring in. Meanwhile, illegal marijuana is pervasive among the Adirondack population. So our politicos are protecting our citizens from nothing. In fact, they are denying them from purchasing pot that is grown legally with less opportunity for citizens to be smoking or ingesting product of unknown origin and growth chemical risks.It is the same old lack of enlightenment, fear of the “different”, and reactionary ignorance that has its place high up in the causative factors of the economic degeneration of so many Adirondack small towns.

  2. Paul says:

    The federal government has not allowed scientists to study the health effects of cannabis – Research has been illegal. So we have no idea if it is safe or not. Real controlled studies are the only way to learn. Maybe now that it is legal we can do some. And if we learn that it also has “destructive effects” (especially smoking it) should we make it illegal again?

    • Bill Q says:

      Paul, I am sure cannabis has been studied extensively by the medical profession around the world. It is based on this research that we now have medical clearance for cannabis use. The only doubts I have heard reported is a potential negative effect on memory over time with extensive use.

      • Paul says:

        Bill, I am not sure, and the people studying it seem to agree:

        Also, medical use is a different than recreational use, there is a different risk benefit equation for the two.

        The interesting thing here is, as usual these days, the partisan people that either are all for or all against something seem to control the narrative.

        I don’t have a dog in the fight I don’t care if it is illegal or not, I am fine with people making their own decisions, I just hope they do it while keeping informed.

  3. Bill Ott says:

    I have never seen people get angry smoking pot. You can fill in the rest.

  4. Vanessa says:

    An area of the country that has benefited from legal weed whether anyone likes it or not is coastal Northern California. The similarities between there and the ADKs are striking: rural communities with economic hardship that have stunning natural beauty that attracts a lot of outside tourists. The tourism contribution to the economy is middling at best, and extractive industries like logging are in decline having nothing to do with governance at the state level (which is not the preferred governance of locals) but rather globalization.

    When we went to Arcata to see the redwoods at Redwood Natl & State Parks, you couldn’t turn the page on a local paper without seeing a weed ad. I’m not sure locals loved it, but it was bringing local money into town. I don’t think frowning on durable economic opportunity is a good idea. Tax weed shops and pay for local priorities. Weed is not a gateway drug, and with better healthcare access the NoCo could address the *much more serious opioid epidemic. Some people even use weed to get off of other drugs – I’m not a doctor and that is probably poor medical advice, but sure as hell I wouldn’t worry about weed over all of the pain med issues that currently exist.

    • Vanessa B says:

      So I was curious to see if I could find a citation about the above and dang did I find something interesting:

      Apparently the illegal weed industry was really big in this region before the legal industry. Doesn’t invalidate the above comment, and I think it even adds an interesting urban-rural dichotomy where the economic gain is for the rural region with a market in the city. But nor does the weed industry bring only good to the region, as the article points out. I think regulating any future industry would be key to making it beneficial to the NoCo.

      Melissa you can delete/edit out this part, but if anyone is interested in publishing this comment, I’d revise the original to include an “emerald triangle” reference so people can see how a similar rural region is dealing with these issues.

    • JB says:

      I have friends who moved out to Northern California specifically to work in the cannabis industry. They returned after a few years disillusioned and extremely traumatized. Armed groups competing over turf did not go away with legalization. Instead, they have thrived in the shadowy legal gray-areas. From what I understand, being held at gunpoint, being robbed, and being raped are very commonplace experiences for cannabis workers in the Emerald Triangle. I believe that this pattern has been repeated in other states and countries that also have prosperous legally sanctioned cannabis industries, to varying degrees.

      It is disheartening and surprising to see what negative sides of human nature come to the fore when large sums of money are involved. And driven by demand (people always have and always will like to do drugs) and the cost of production of high-cannabinoid material, the price of cannabis products alone, even under legally taxed regimes, may very well be enough to doom the industry to a fate far from its fabled peace-loving roots. This is something that New York state will inevitably be grappling with for years to come. Individuals should be able to freely use cannabis, and the harms of criminalizing users greatly outweigh any potential harm-aversion. But how do you regulate commercialization in a way that curtails and minimizes the cloud of social ills and criminality that has surrounded cannabis thus far?

      As far as the push to turn the Adirondack Park into the next commercial frontier for marijuana tourism, we should be careful what we wish for. As highlighted by the recent New York Times article “Travel’s Back. And It’s High Season.”, marijuana tourism in the United States is no longer a pipe dream. Fueled by the lack of a unified, national legal landscape and the normalization of cannabis use, the demand is huge, and many people are having negative experiences stemming from this reality. Even the Dutch have recently started rethinking drug tourism in Amsterdam. And despite the old adage, “there is no better place than nature to enjoy marijuana”, droves of people stoned on high-potency clones of “Adirondack Kush x Trainwreck” and forest preserve are not a reasonable combination. To onlookers who see small Adirondack towns wanting to keep the cannabis industry away and chock it up to pure insularity, think about the bigger picture. Think of the last great Northeastern ecosystem already reckoning with unprecedented use, think about all of the additional rescues and enforcement issues, and think about all of the discarded blunt wraps.

      • JB says:

        And Vanessa, breaking from trying to be clever as per Melissa’s request, I will pre-empt your response (haha; we’re all friends here).

        I am pro-marijuana, but I am also pro-forever-wild. I would reckon that I have smoked orders of magnitude more weed in my lifetime than the vast majority of people whom most will meet. Somewhere along the way, spruce trees and ferns became more interesting to me than hybrid backcrosses of plants that are already 10,000 years removed from the small annual wild-type Cannabis spp. that once dotted the Mongolian Steppe (I believe the Russian botanical theory as to the origins of Cannabis over the Indian one due to the seed shattering of the northern strains versus the Himalayan).

        • Vanessa B says:

          JB, this is an interesting reply and appreciated!! I want to be clear that we visited Humboldt County 1 time on a brief hiking vacation, and were surprised how big a deal weed was. Even our cab driver was trying to (legally) hook us up. Very entrepreneurial of him I guess lol.

          The Netflix series cited in the above article does imply a rough side to the industry, which is why I said maybe that article clarifies that not all an ADK weed industry might bring would be good.

          But I guess my thing is that I agree with other posters pointing out that people are gonna do drugs regardless of the law. I’m very strong for decriminalization for use and strict regulation for production and sale. I think we agree there btw. You can only do the latter with a legal framework that isn’t punitive (I.e. making all use and sale a crime.)

          As for your question about how we legalize and stop other crime associated with drug use: at risk of not sounding like my hippie self, I think money is a good motivator here. Good old fashioned market-based competition – imo this discourages violent crime and *perhaps encourages “white collar” crime. I think the more you bring an industry above board, the easier it is to isolate folks who are anyway doing crappy stuff and apply the normal laws you’d apply for anyone being violent.

          I just don’t think the “war on drugs” approach has made people safer, and worse it’s really ruined a lot of lives. There probably isn’t a perfect answer, but I don’t think the occasional regulated, above-board weed farm or shop would significantly change the ADKs. Hec, put the approval process through the APA, that would really slow the industry down 😉

          I too vastly prefer the smell of the firs and spruces. Nature is the best high you can get :D.

          • JB says:

            Yeah. I am glad that you understand why I had to chime in on Northern California and the parallel of “what the Adirondacks could be”, because that would be a mess anywhere, but doubly so in an important protected Park with little law enforcement. And I agree that cannabis is ripe for legalization, although it is a very sticky issue (puns intended). But I wonder about the decriminalization of other substances that we are seeing in other parts of the country. For one, there is the good argument for not locking people up for something that cannot be stopped. But the use prevalence of most of those substances in our young people is literally doubling every ten years, and there does not seem to be much effort to explain that decriminalization is not the same as legalization and should be part of a harm-reduction program–meaning, decriminalization efforts will inevitably bolster use-harms rather than decrease them. And then the problem becomes, where does your increased supply come from? Clandestine labs run by well-funded criminal networks or cartels ravaging the biological and human capital of the deserts and jungles of Latin America. Hmm…That’s a tough one.

            In my view, the trouble with commercialization of cannabis, other than its tainted legacy, comes down to economics and the way that cannabis is used and produced. It is an extremely appealing cash crop for those who want to start blackmarket operations, both due to the relative ease of obtaining a high payout and the ease of hiding cultivation. Yet, it will be equally difficult for the legalized industry to sufficiently scale up production of what people currently demand and to integrate that production into our existing industrial agriculture system, like we have done with alcohol. The selection pressures that we have put on the cannabis plant in developed nations over the past several decades and the resulting consumer expectations of high THC, low minor cannabinoid strains has driven production costs and prices sky-high and has arguably made the plant more potentially harmful to those who will experience detrimental effects from abuse. And let’s forget about trying to offset this by making synthetically-produced alternatives widely available, and I would include CBD-derived delta-8-THC in that boat–we just do not know the large-scale effects of people consuming a laboratory derived, purified cannabinoid en masse.

            The headline for me is that as we gain more of an appetite for the plant, we are turning it into something that it has never been before–a commodity that is too costly to produce and too potent for modern users to turn away from, further fueling a vicious cycle. This progression seems inevitable, and at this point, short of all out anarchy, the war over drugs is destined to continue indefinitely rather than meet its end, just in a new form. And I am not optimistic that the government will make significant headway in this regard.

            If we could end all human suffering, violence and despair with a government program, that would be great, but reality has a strange way of making everything into a constant struggle, a push and pull, highs and lows. And in some ways, learning to embrace that, rather than overcompensating in either direction, might just be our best option. It follows that any official efforts to turn the Adirondack Park into a playground for using drugs would not only be a step in the wrong direction, but a negation of perhaps the greatest benefit that the Adirondack Park has to offer an increasingly drugged and desolate society: its mere existence as it is–a protected refuge–can provide us with the real sense of meaning and wholeness that is the true object of desire sought in vain by those who turn perilously towards the false promises of the beguiling perturbations of pharmacology.

            • JB says:

              I also wanted to mention that it occurred to me that there is probably a pretty low ceiling on the amount of cannabis that could or should actually be grown in the Adirondacks. First off, the western and central Adirondacks receive so much rain and fog during the growing season that cultivating most modern, high-yield varieties outdoors would almost certainly require the prodigious use of fungicides, which would be particularly detrimental to Adirondack waters due to the high potential for run-off in the poorly-drained glaciated soils that are so pervasive throughout the region. And the growing season within the Park is also such that outdoor Adirondack weed would probably be “nothing to write home to mother about”.

              More likely, aspiring marijuana cultivators in the Adirondacks and most of the state will want to grow for the commercial market indoors. The problem with this is that the electricity consumption of any large scale operation would be just about the largest that the Park has ever seen. Could the electrical grid in most of the Park even handle this? There are not many high-voltage transmission lines through the Park, so I suspect not. In fact, smaller, isolated communities may even need to pass definitive resolutions banning commercial indoor cultivation, lest they will experience black outs and brown outs.

              I always find it interesting where these conversations go. Fun.

              • Vanessa B says:

                A few extra thoughts here: yeah I actually agree that overall, the ADK climate *probably isn’t ideal for pot. Never grown it myself lol. Also, I am very very pro forever wild, so of course we shouldn’t like demolish forestland or even repurpose a lot of private land for that or any other extractive activity. We need to grow food in a smart way, and let a lot of the land go back to being forest. Yes, even more than there is forest now. (Yes, already a lot of forest in the region.) I’m really into natural forest fighting climate change.

                Final society related thought, both based on the above and what seems like your concern about addiction being treated as a mental health issue: just because institutions kinda suck doesn’t mean a) that they aren’t necessary and b) that they can’t be improved. I am of the strong belief that institutions are what we collectively let them be.

                For mental healthcare – most institutions surrounding it are seriously, deeply flawed. I don’t think we collectively value it enough yet to do it well. I believe healthcare is something everyone can benefit from – there is a spectrum of people’s predisposition to disease or addition, but everyone can use help without stigma. We’re a long way from actualizing this in society.

                For government, lol, well. People in America have such fundamentally opposed ideas regarding what government should do. I certainly don’t believe government is a panacea, but when done right it can and should help people. A lot of people do not share that belief in this country. The COVID vaccine situation is an excellent example. But let’s not get started on that discussion…

      • John L says:

        “The negative side of human nature when large sums of money are involved?” Disheartening….yes. Surprising …ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Which, incidentally, is exactly why the state/county/towns will squander whatever money they get coming in from ‘taxes’ on marijuana. Don’t be fooled by and never forget the promises the state has made for other income streams (thruway, education, etc).
        BTW, I feel strongly both ways on this issue. In other words….eh!

        • JB says:

          JohnL, I think that if you ask anyone in any socioeconomic class if they could use more money, the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. The only difference between individuals and the bureaucracies that govern them is that the government can essentially demand whatever amount of money that they want! I firmly believe that if governments want more money for X, they should be mandated by law to prove that they have spent their funding thus far on a related Y wisely and effectively. Wouldn’t that be nice.

          • JohnL says:

            Dare to dream JB. Dare to dream. I’ll go one step farther (further?). How about not spending more than you take in, i.e. balanced budget? Pretty radical idea I know, but we’re daring to dream here.

  5. Bob Meyer says:

    The war on drugs has always been a farce doomed to failure just as prohibition was. No one can stop people from getting high, whether alcohol, pot or other substances. It’s part of human nature. Some will indulge socially with no ill effects on their work, family or social life. Others will become alcoholics or addicts.
    Those who moralise, judge and try to control our personal behavior are mostly the same folks who turnaround and tell us “you can’t take away our right to own AK 47s or freedom to not vaccinate or not pollute even though it CLEARY harms innocent folks, society as a whole and our planet. Selfish? Humm.

    • MICHAEL DUMAS says:

      what is it called again when you label and make assumptions about a group of people?….hmmmm

      • Bob Meyer says:

        First of all I said most, not all.. statistically proven. Maybe I should have said a majority, but it means the same thing.
        Show me otherwise.
        There are genuine conservatives and liberals who honestly see there positions as best for the greater good. I respect and appreciate both. Where I have issue is with folks who use their political social and moral agendas as a cover for their selfishness.

  6. Pete says:

    Why not? We already have hundreds of legal alcohol dispensaries. And nicotine dispensaries. Casual use of Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. If it’s OK to self-medicate with one, then it should be OK with the other.

  7. Zephyr says:

    Sure, we should have legal dispensaries, but nobody will want to have one next door to where they live, just like nobody likes living next door to a bar or liquor store. There needs to be robust public input and oversight as to where the dispensaries are located. Marijuana may not be a gateway drug, but a lot of people who struggle with substance abuse are susceptible to abusing whatever drug is most readily available. I personally know several people who were multiple substance abusers who basically ruined their lives or are now dead. Marijuana was one of the substances.

    • Vanessa B says:

      I lived next to a liquor store for years! It was ooook, not great. Not the nightmare some people think, but not awesome. Drunks pee everywhere and that was the main issue, low-grade vandalism. 🙁 But on the flip side, a local cop made it his beat to eat lunch parked next to my own car (I shared the lot with the store). My biggest takeaway was that he deterred most but not everyone up to sketchy stuff, and that he also made my (regular old) neighbors and friends a bit uncomfortable too. Kept wanting to bring him healthier lunches but to be honest, in a rougher neighborhood you gotta mind your own business.

      In my experience drunks do a lot worse to themselves and others than pot addicts. I don’t deny at all that drugs and even pot can be detrimental, but it’s the addiction as a psychological issue, as a mental illness, that’s the actual problem. Folks who are in a bad spot mentally will make mistakes. Society needs to significantly change how we treat and judge addiction, and then that will lessen a LOT of the other bad outcomes.

      • Zephyr says:

        I don’t know which would be worse, having a liquor store move in next door or a pot dispensary, but I would prefer neither near me. Having lived a long time very close to a busy bar district I know that the drug pushers come along with the territory. My kids were approached walking home from school, and at one point there was an open air market across the street in an abandoned house. A legal dispensary would be better, but I am not sure that will eliminate the pushers that prey on young kids. Yes, the war on drugs has not worked but I am not sure we have a better answer yet either. I frequent a place where there are dispensaries and it is now routine to be behind cars full of young people with smoke pouring out of the windows as they weave down the highway. Just the other night I was caught behind one going about 10mph below the speed limit and with no way to pass–the stench was nauseating!

        • Vanessa B says:

          Yeah, that’s why I’ve never been a pot fan – emphatically cannot stand the smell. I personally find it extremely unpleasant.

          I hate to sound like a broken record but I come from a family with addiction issues, where folks have made a huge range of choices from mediocre to downright bad. People who try to treat mental health problems with drugs absolutely make their problems worse, but fixing the mental health problem is key. Society stigmatizes and doesn’t fund help for mental healthcare. Most people straight-up cannot afford any sort of mental healthcare. People laugh when I suggest govt has a roll in helping with this.

          I feel like people get so jaded and unhappy about people’s personal decisions, and about past failures of govt, that we are all resigned to just thinking super ill of each other and society. Society and all our relationships are what we make them. Including govt. I feel like the hardest thing to convince anyone of these days is that stuff can change positively. 🙁

          • Paul says:

            I personally know of a few doctors that have left psychiatry since the government rules currently preventing them from helping their patients who need help. Along with funding it the government needs to make rules again that allow people with mental problems to be treated by their doctor when they need help. There are currently rules supposedly protecting patient’s privacy that prevent doctors from doing what they need to do. Sometimes the patient or their family will simply refuse help and the doctor can’t do anything. Here in my town a woman brought her son in to the emergency room because he was having a mental issue. He was technically an adult and could refuse care and did, he murdered is mother that same night. He should have been in the hospital.

            • Vanessa B says:

              :(:(!! That’s not a good thing to happen in anyone’s town.

              Yeah, the system is largely straight-up non-functional and imo it will take a lot to fix. There are supposed to be exceptions to the privacy laws when someone is a danger to themselves or others, but they’re not followed or enforced properly in a lot of situations. Also, I personally agree with JB on the following – most psychotropic drugs are *mostly bad news. A few people do indeed need them, but there are millions of people taking them that probably do not.

    • JB says:

      Yeah, Zephyr, you read my mind on that one. I know that in some towns, supervisors are sending out letters about potential marijuana businesses. Not sure exactly what choices the residents will have when push comes to shove, but there should be a more robust state-wide framework for figuring this stuff out and doing impact studies. Also, I think that there was a provision regulating on-premises cannabis use in businesses (e.g., marijuana tourism), but it looked spotty. Basically, be wary of pro-legalization groups pushing for reckless deployment campaigns in the North Country.

      I was going to mention the gateway drug controversy somewhere, too. Maybe the theory is not backed by scientifically established physiological mechanisms, but people who regularly use cannabis have much higher use prevalence of other substances. This goes back to the sociological question of whether this stems from criminalization and the resulting social effects of that on the group and culture of cannabis users. But in the end, it does not matter. The fact is that we have these problems surrounding cannabis now, and they will not simply disappear with legalization.

      I have seen exactly what you describe, people ruining their lives. I would suspect that everyone living within the US has. Among illicit drugs in particular, the US takes the cake on use prevalence across the board. With some substances, the lifetime use prevalence among under-30s in the US is 50 times greater than that of other developed countries and it is rapidly increasing since 2010. The effects of a systemic trend like that on our society and the world cannot be underestimated.

  8. Bert says:

    I can’t wait to read these comment sections once everyone is all smoked up .

  9. Boreas says:

    People with addictive tendencies can get addicted to any number of things – substances (alcohol, nicotine, narcotics) and behaviors (gambling, shopping, sex). Substance abuse does not prove the “gateway drug” myth. Narcotics can be enormously addictive, but that doesn’t mean cannabis or alcohol use caused the addiction. Most users of cannabis and alcohol are responsible users and are not addicts, so where is the “gateway”? Same with various hallucinogenic compounds. They are only “addictive” to addictive personalities. Narcotics and nicotine are a different matter. They are both HIGHLY addictive, yet neither are strictly illegal if someone will write a prescription.

    Is there an “association” between the users of these substances? Very likely – but that is not a cause and effect of the substances. People with emotional problems look for comfort – so indeed, people may use more than one substance. Cannabis is no more a gateway drug than alcohol or chewing gum. The “gateway” is the HUMAN associations these people have, not the substances themselves. It is association with other people that usually send people down a destructive path – not the joint they just smoked or the beer they just drank.

    Has criminalization of these substances had any effect on these associations? None – other than swelling the ranks of our prisons and making lawyers wealthy. How well did prohibition work? Organized crime exploded, just as it did with making most drugs illegal without any reasoning to back it up.

    You can’t cure human psychosis by criminalizing safe and naturally occurring compounds that have been used therapeutically and recreationally for as long as we have been a species. Humans will always find a way to feel better or dull their pain. Should we lock them all up? If you want to cure psychosis, invest in mental health care – don’t throw people with mental problems in prison.

    • JB says:

      Boreas, I think this might be a little off topic, but I think that decriminalization of certain substances other than cannabis (which should be commercially legalized), if done as part of a holistic reckoning with our own harmful attitudes, could work (emphasis on ‘COULD’, as in ‘possibly’). In fact, in practice we are already decriminalizing many non-cannabis illicit drugs in this state prosecutorially–those caught with small amounts of opioids or psilocybin for personal use are not simply locked up like they used to be, or at least it is becoming increasingly rare. Unless, of course, you consider being put into an involuntary mental health regime being locked up. We certainly do plenty of that to drug and non-drug users alike in this state, despite having much more stringent involuntary commitment standards here than in other states. I personally get very alarmed by this and at the proponents who seek to solve every problem from gun violence to drug abuse by “fixing mental health problems”. It feels a lot like a continuation of the historical ostracization and medicalization of an entire segment of our population. I have dozens of personal stories of people close to me being put into the mental health system and being adversely harmed for it, often for the rest of their lives. I mean, seriously, a confused 80 year old woman recently ended up handcuffed, locked in the psych ward for days and then sentenced to years of mental imprisonment on antipsychotics, SSRIs and benzodiazapines that have only served to exacerbate her brain disease no doubt caused by years of prescribed narcotic drug use. (I believe that more neurological diseases caused by these medications will be coming soon nationwide, if the first generation of guinea pigs are any indication; see research from Prof. Peter Gøtzsche before he was expelled from Cochrane Institute.)

      And that all being said about the so-called legal medications currently used on society’s stigmatized rejects, decriminalization of recreational illicits can also be done wrong. There are a whole gamut of societal problems that need to be considered when passing decriminalization laws like the ones coming out of some of the larger cities–considerations that are simply not being made. Not only do we need to be careful not to conflate decriminalization with legalization, we need to think about the supply chain rather than simply lifting regulations. For example, we could repurpose the massive Tasmanian poppy straw fields and the associated mechanized harvesting equipment developed by J&J for oxycontin to create a heroin prescription program. That would be better than letting cartels do our supply and logistics, and opiates are pervasive and harmful enough to justify unilateral action in this case. This may seem trivial, but the United States has a massive drug problem that dwarfs anything seen elsewhere. Half-measures will just not do.

      Another example of a good decision was that when one locality recently elected to legalize certain naturally occurring hallucinogens, they elected not to legalize peyote due to its status as an imperiled and culturally significant species. This unfortunately is an exception to the trend, and the flood of cities recently decriminalizing peyote has many Native American groups worried. There are other such examples that I will not go into, but the point is to illustrate that just because certain groups want to be able to “spread the love” in a stand of philosophical solidarity and push certain underground recreational practices above ground does not mean that there will not be a negative impact to people and ecosystems elsewhere. Not all substances and species should be widely used by modern capitalist societies. If we want to criticize Chinese elites for consuming tiger bones and pangolin, or for pumping fentanyl and thousands of other mind-altering compounds into our borders, we need to hold ourselves to similar standards when it comes to dampening our own appetites.

      A notable historical example that illustrates just how insatiable the American appetite is for altered experiences in their hurried search for any kind of power and meaning, a far cry from the traditional cultural ritualized use of mind-altering natural substances for healing, would be the story of psilocybin. First isolated from a specimen of Psilocybe spp. given by the Mazatec shaman Maria Sabina to a group of ethnography enthusiasts, including the shady R. Gordon Wasson (who has arguably left an enduring negative legacy that continues to be grappled with by tribal groups throughout the Western hemisphere), the subsequent publication of an article in Life magazine about this new-to-science hallucinogen led to an absolute frenzy of interest in 1960s counterculture America. Hippies and celebrities pilgrimaged to the small village of Huautla de Jimenez in droves, leading to the eventual military blockade of the road to town and Sabina’s condemnation by Mazatec seeking to save their heritage from the deluge of detrimental influences. Luckily, the mycologist brothers McKenna managed to pioneer a reproducible method to culture Psilocybe in the 1970s, still used today. But the pattern of Western colonization of the final frontier of indigenous spiritual practice continues today in a fervent recent renewal, ever moving from plant to animal and village to village in search of novelty, leaving behind newly erected commercial resorts in their wake. The entire purpose of these types of proposed drug reforms should be about more than just individual liberty, which for the most part we are bestowed with greatly–we need to think about large-scale societal effects and the effects wrought by the global purchasing power of the US consumer, not merely our own on-demand ease of individual access to whatever we fancy. And more importantly, our society needs to reckon with its own outdated attitudes towards our world and our relationships with it and each other, and no one seems to be leading the way. Maybe I am looking too far over the horizon for some, but I firmly believe that if we want to talk about actually addressing these problems–“mental health”, “drug abuse”, “despair”–that is precisely what will be required.

  10. John Sasso says:

    I’m not (nor ever was) a pot-smoker, nor have when offered. However, I have been an advocate of the legalization of marijuana and hope the fed govt will move to legalize it. That said, I don’t see any negative repercussions with northern communities engaged in the business of pot dispensaries, nor production of products like CBD. The hysteria I see that pot is a gateway drug to other narcotics is garbage (to put it mildly), as it is no more of a gateway drug than alcohol is. We have seen the abuse of alcohol and repercussions of such, both personally and with the community. If one is going to claim that the negative impacts of pot are too much, then to be logically consistent, one should also advocate a ban on alcohol. Well, we know how well Prohibition worked out.

    Anyways, said dispensaries and other related businesses could benefit northern communities whose economies are already hurting.

  11. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Bill Q says: “Apparently, it is okay to have a liquor store in a community without much thought, but not a legalized marijuana store. Alcohol is proven to be extremely harmful on socio-economic, family, community and health fronts.”

    > We’ve had this conversation already. Picture this: There are two houses, one next door to the other. A party is going on in both. In the one house they are smoking weed; in the other, they’re drinking alcohol. Which house is most likely for a fight to break first? Cops know it’s the alcohol that produces much of the violence, not the weed. I think it’s about time they legalize marijuana. If people do not wish to smoke it, that’s their choice, but where the hay do they have the right telling others what they can’t smoke weed if they want.

    “I hear claims that pot is a gateway drug.”

    > Yep, just like we hear the last election was rigged!

  12. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “our reactionary socio-political powers to be here in the Adirondacks are slow to even consider marijuana stores in their purview and the tax revenue they will bring in.”

    > This is why our founders wanted religion out of the political arena Bill Q!

    ” Meanwhile, illegal marijuana is pervasive among the Adirondack population.”

    > And just think of all those pharmaceuticals that probably three-quarters of the population are hooked on, what them drugs are doing to their innards, their minds.

  13. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Vanessa B. says: “I just don’t think the “war on drugs” approach has made people safer, and worse it’s really ruined a lot of lives.”

    Yes & yes, and I know people who have died because marijuana had been illegal.

  14. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “cannot stand the smell. I personally find it extremely unpleasant.”

    O’ but those sweet cannabis aroma’s wafting through the air! Almost the same as the smell of seegars.

  15. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I come from a family with addiction issues, where folks have made a huge range of choices from mediocre to downright bad. People who try to treat mental health problems with drugs absolutely make their problems worse, but fixing the mental health problem is key. Society stigmatizes and doesn’t fund help for mental healthcare. Most people straight-up cannot afford any sort of mental healthcare. People laugh when I suggest govt has a roll in helping with this.”

    You’re a smart woman Vanessa. Many of our social woes are because of the lack of funding to treat people, which is proven to work. Let us not fund social programs which improve mental health, but let us throw billions into war why don’t we, or billions into a wall! Many of us come from families with addiction problems. One of my brothers died from a drug overdose at 39 years young, yet I’m not against legalization of drugs. We make our own choices in life and who’s to say!

    “govt has a roll in helping with this”

    Yes, as they have the resources. Yet there’s a whole school of people out there who prefer less government.

  16. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JB says: “people who regularly use cannabis have much higher use prevalence of other substances.”

    We generalize so as to blow things more out of proportion than they should be! Who are these people JB? Teenagers who also have ‘peer pressure’ issues which could be a contributing factor for leading into other drugs? 20-somethings? I know people who are in their 70’s who smoke weed and are not doing other drugs. That goes for adults younger a generation below, and continuing down the age ladder, down to the teen age….smoking weed but keeping their distance with harder drugs. You just don’t hear too much about marijuana being a contributing factor in much of the crime and medical reports coming out. It’s always alcohol and other drugs. Unless I’ve been missing something all of these years!

    • JB says:

      Charlie, my comments are partially based on statistical analyses put out by various academics and government reports from North America and Europe. For example, search “LSD lifetime use prevalence”. You will see the correlation between cannabis and MDMA and hallucinogens (and the US prevalences dwarfing other developed nations more and more each decade), for example, and that this correlation does not carry over to alcohol. Now, I know, I know, I know–correlation does not equal causation. And my comment about the “gateway drug” hypothesis seems to have been misinterpreted, since I do not believe that the plant somehow causatively induces people to partake in risky behavior, nor that this would even be enough to explain these correlations. But I am certain that this correlation exists.

      Call me jaded, but my own personal lifetime of experiences has also informed me on this subject. At one time and other, I have, often by pure happenstance, become enmeshed into various groups of cannabis users throughout North America and Canada (I have only partaken of cannabis with people from Europe once). I have seen patterns of behavior that have convinced me that, among cannabis users in much of this country, use of other drugs is rampant when compared with the general population of alcohol users (including alcoholics, many of whom are in the family, some dead). Frankly, I am surprised that people here are saying anything to the contrary. Haven’t any of you hung around a more risqué-type music festival or a dispensary and then a regular old bar or a group of alcoholics for comparison?

      Now, I will not pretend to know of a convenient way to wrap this all up into a simple cause-and-effect relationship. But I do believe that nearly a century of prohibition of cannabis has contributed to a deeply rooted and, in my view, pervasively unhealthy culture that surrounds the plant. Alcohol, on the other hand, has been integrated into our society since its inception. In fact, it is often argued that we have fermentation of alcohol to thank for the neolithic revolution. I am also aware that I am generalizing about cannabis. I can personally attest that some cannabis users will never use other drugs, and some drug users will never use cannabis. But we need to generalize in order to draw comparisons, otherwise we would not have much to talk about. After all, we are speaking about contrasts here, and harmful or not, the stark contrast between alcohol and cannabis users in the United States remains strong as ever.

      Now, as I stated, I believe that the culture of drug experimentation surrounding cannabis is unhealthy. What would not surprise me is if someone argued that the use of these other drugs (tryptamines, phenethylamines, cathinones, benzodiazapines, arylcyclohexylamines, etc.), or at least a large subset of them, was not harmful. I would disagree in the case of most of the drugs of choice among modern American cannabis users, based on my collective experiences and the patterns that I have observed repeated among hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. I also could cite some academic literature in support of my observations, but the trouble is that the empirical research as it stands with these often novel compounds is not enough to move the skeptic to my side, and it probably never will be. What research that we do have relating to the compounds that I view as harmful, coming from in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrating lasting neurological changes and other research demonstrating lasting lasting behavioral change, though often unambiguous, is open to interpretation. Some will be inclined to see any radical changes in a positive light, while purists like me will not. There are psychologists who dedicate their entire lives to analyzing these behavioral changes, and some of them would be worth looking into.

      But my own experience I can simply not deny. You start to see these people with eerily similarly delusional tendencies, sensory disturbances, emotional problems, and then after 30 years of abstinence the problems still remain (cannabis alone will not do this to any comparable degree). And then you meet these kids who you watch grow up, and as they get in with these crowds and experiment with specific substances, they develop these same issues. Some argue that the world is in fact the thing that is troubled, and that if only more people were tuned into their world, the human race would be smarter, wiser and more peaceful. Again, I disagree, but this is a philosophical debate that no amount of convincing and discussion will resolve. Who am I to say otherwise? The important thing is that people are informed, rather than just buying into the mystical dichotomy of culture versus counterculture, as I once did. The cannabis plant itself, if we look at what research does exist with a healthy sense of skepticism of methodology, is not truly harmful enough, even in heavy users, to justify any sort of prohibition. But the next natural step, the next overcorrection of the counterculture aftermath coming down the pipe, is going to entail burying heads in the sand rather than asking these important questions. Yet, we should be doing exactly the inverse of feigning ignorance or buying into one-sided arguments! The lack of an informed citizenry, empowered to make intentional personal decisions, has not only contributed to our mammoth drug problem in this country, but it has also played an integral part in many other Ameican social ills, and just exclaiming that “it’s good/better” or “it’s bad/worse” is merely a continuation of the same old road that has led us here. We need to think about all sorts of effects, large-scale and subtle and small, in addition to but also in spite of philosophical and individual convictions. That in turn entails a robust debate from all corners and a mediating willingness to watch and listen. After all, that is what a functioning society is all about. Although, there are those who are so unhappy that they would simply like to see the breakdown of society rather than its betterment.

      Hopefully that helps clarify my point of view, and maybe it will even be informative.

  17. Vanessa B says:

    Ahh I’m sorry your brother died, Charlie. :(:(

    It’s a real, real hard thing to watch family and dear friends suffer from addiction. It’s tough to help people and often you just can’t. Someone very close to me has had a tough situation for years, but it’s really hard to figure out how I can help.

  18. Fred B says:

    Whether or not towns opt in to sell pot will not change the reality that those who want it will find a way to get it. Better to be part of the program and benefit from the sales tax and have some control over who buys it and where it comes from

  19. Randy Murbach says:

    I’m all in favor in freedom of choice (sleep in the bed you make) and legalizing these products to provide some form of employment, tax base and research opportunity in the ADK. Resources to maintain ADK is dwindling and keeping components of ADK forever wild has economic consequences (lack of development, tax base growth, etc.).

    I’m a lover of the wild and everything ADK. We only live once and we need to evolve ADK to stay with the times and retain residents with stable employment opportunity and sustainable tax base. I don’t consume alcohol, drugs (including prescription), or cannabis (i.e. smoke, except for CBD/sleep).

  20. Charlie Stehlin says:

    JB says: “You start to see these people with eerily similarly delusional tendencies, sensory disturbances, emotional problems, and then after 30 years of abstinence the problems still remain..”

    You’re talking pharmaceuticals sounds like to me JB, what the drug companies legally sell us, and how them drugs effect…………………. Yet they don’t want us smoking weed! Times are changing & it’s about time.

  21. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The important thing is that people are informed..”

    “we should be doing exactly the inverse of feigning ignorance or buying into one-sided arguments! The lack of an informed citizenry, empowered to make intentional personal decisions, has not only contributed to our mammoth drug problem in this country, but it has also played an integral part in many other American social ills…”

    >You’re going into politics now JB and I couldn’t agree more.

    • JB says:

      Charlie, in retrospect, it looks like I did ramble may way through quite a bit of territory there. Sorry about that; I aim to inform, but not to overwhelm. Thanks for putting up with the notorious JB!

      I guess I could have expressed my perspective more simply as: Marijuana isn’t the devil, but it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns either. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that cannabis users consume A LOT of other drugs. Indeed, part of that includes white and gray-market pharmaceuticals. But what really makes cannabis users stand out from the pack, statistically speaking (if you believe the data), is that the drugs of choice tend to be compounds that, although developed initially by pharmaceutical companies and “establishment chemists”, are strictly black market at this juncture. And my whole belief is that the situation is really trending in a direction that I think will surprise some people.

      All of my opinions on the matter are neither here nor there; prescription drug use is going up, illicit drugs are becoming much more widespread, we are seeing a new wave of approvals of psychotropic medications similarly to what we saw in the 1990s with Prozac/Oxycontin/etc. (in the US, that is, some countries in Scandinavia are actually going in the opposite direction), and all of this will continue, regardless of what I think about it. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want my friends and family to know about it, and hopefully not all of them will need to learn the hard way. Unfortunately, many of them already have. And for them, partaking of an understandably beloved plant for pure enjoyment has now turned into constantly medicating with powerful concentrates of said plant in an attempt to dampen the physical and emotional trauma that has resulted from associating with some of the many unfortunate people who orbit the scene. And we all know that harmful, damaged people aren’t born that way. The things that we put out into our environment and into our bodies and the way in which we treat each other must certainly all be related, right?

  22. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Vanessa B says: “Ahh I’m sorry your brother died, Charlie. :(:(”

    So am I Vanessa! Strange how the more time flies by, or how the older I become, the more I think about my brother who has been dead damn near 24 years & O’ how I wish he were still here. There’s no going back except in the mind’s eye, which isn’t a bad thing.

  23. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “I’m all in favor in freedom of choice..”

    Now if we can just get those million-lots of Evangelical’s to mind their own business and think along the same lines…….

  24. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “The things that we put out into our environment and into our bodies and the way in which we treat each other must certainly all be related, right?”

    > We’re all one big family on this wee orb Earth JB (not that we would know that by all of the sheet) and yes, what we do to this our only home we do to ourselves and all of the generations to follow! The way we treat each other! That in itself is a good indicator of what the future holds for our progeny, not that we should give up hope.
    I hear it so often from those advanced in years….”I’m so glad I’m the age I am!” In other words there’s a lot of compassion for those who are in their teens and twenties, and those yet unborn…..a sense of hopelessness you might say. This is where drugs come into the picture….all too often. And suicide!

  25. Vincenzo says:

    I live in the hood and pot make half these fools angry,lazy and half the time their a shoot out while somebody high around here. The Adirondack is precious let’s treat it that way. I’ve hiked to many lean too and high peaks and their enough shit and garbage around already. More people will hurt our natural green heaven in fact I feel like their should be more rules and more patrolling. I always said once they made pot legally for commerical I would quit.
    Why do they want everybody stoned for any way?
    Idk I don’t care to debate the adk is too beautiful for more people all we do is ruin shit let’s be honest.