Medical marijuana is legalized in more than two-thirds of the U.S. The drug is used to treat a wide range of medical conditions including anxiety, epilepsy, and chronic pain.
Medical marijuana is typically sold to customers via ‘dispensaries,’ controlled storefronts that follow strict guidelines for selling the legal drugs.
Medical marijuana is proven to have massive health benefits for many people, but one thing now under contention is the location of these dispensaries.
Results from the recent C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan indicates that parents of young children are concerned about the proximity to dispensaries to schools.
Location more worrisome than actual drugs
The poll shows that seven in ten parents think they should have more of a say about the location of the dispensaries when they are close to schools or daycares.
Many of the parents surveyed believe that the dispensaries should be banned from being close to these institutions with most of those parents citing the risk of people driving while impaired as their main reason for the concern.
This worry is not unfounded; a recent study showed that more than half of people taking cannabis for chronic pain report driving while high.
"Medical marijuana has become legal in the majority of states, but there is wide variation in state and local policies that regulate the location and operation of dispensaries," says poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.
Parents want more input
"The majority of parents feel strongly that they should give local input on decisions regarding where dispensaries may open and also support limitations on how close dispensaries could be to children's areas."
Aside from road safety concerns, 48 percent of parents described anxiety about children possibly finding and ingesting edible marijuana in the area close to dispensaries.
While another group of parents thought the dispensaries increased the risk of teens finding an easy way to access the drug. Further concerns regarding dispensary location include setting a bad example for kids (45 percent) and bringing violent crime to the area (35 percent).
The concerns were primarily concerned with the dispensary locations, an overwhelming majority of parents supported legal medical marijuana. One-third of the surveyed parents also showed general support for the use of the legal drug with children.
Only 26 percent of parents opposed medical marijuana. "Most parents seem to understand that marijuana can have legitimate medical benefits, but parents also have major concerns about the risks that medical marijuana dispensaries might pose to children," Clark says.
Clear governance is essential
"When it comes to where dispensaries are located, many parents feel that any area near children is too close for comfort."
77 percent of parents believed that medical marijuana dispensaries should have the same regulations as liquor stores regarding their location as well as more say about their frequency and location. However, implementing such concerns may prove difficult.
Currently, there is no consistent local framework to regulate the location and operation of dispensaries. The issue is further confused by the confusion over who is ultimately responsible - local or state government.
"Parents who want to share their views about dispensaries before any open in their school's neighborhood may have limited opportunities to do so. They may not even be aware that a specific dispensary location is under consideration until the decision has already been made," Clark says.
"The lack of established standards may lead officials to enact policies that may not address parents' concerns," Clark adds.
"Parents who want to provide input about local dispensaries may need to take the initiative to learn about the rules for opening a dispensary in their community and what steps they should follow to be involved in these decisions."