Medical marijuana poses an interesting quandary to both the citizens and elected officials who find themselves wringing their hands over where dispensaries should be located. Nearly everyone supports medical marijuana, but not everyone is excited to have it next door.

The public’s views on recreational use of marijuana is pretty evenly split, with a 56 percent majority in favor of fully legalizing the drug. But when that same public is polled on their views of medical marijuana, 88 percent support it, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania voters.

Speaking to the state news website pennlive.com, Montgomery County State Sen. Daylin Leach said it was a remarkably positive approval rating.

“You can’t get 88 percent in a poll of almost anything,” he said. “If you ask people if you want to be eaten by wolverines, less than 88 percent would say no.”

Yet, despite the overwhelming support of voters, many marijuana dispensaries have been met with stiff resistance from local residents who don’t like the idea of a pot store in their community.

In nearby Upper Moreland and Abington townships, for example, commissioners enacted zoning ordinances to restrict location and hours of pot dispensaries at the urging of residents wary that today’s medical marijuana sellers will be tomorrow’s recreational pot shops that a future law might allow. So far eight states have effectively legalized recreational use of marijuana. Another 21 have legalized the drug for medical purposes.

In the Northeast, where the state granted two licenses for dispensaries, residents expressed concerns about what the new businesses would mean for their communities. When asked about one of those dispensaries planned for Franklin Mills Circle, Parkwood Civic Association President Matt Darragh told the Northeast Times, “I don’t think this is going to allay concerns the community has already with disorderly conduct up there.”

Few dispensaries, however, have met with stiffer resistance than Terra Vida Holistics, which was granted a state department of health permit to operate in East Mt. Airy. Not only was the site met with the resistance of some 400 residents who packed a meeting room this spring, but elected officials have come out firmly against the location. That story is well documented this week by Jan Alex.

Those who are concerned about where medical marijuana suppliers should set up shop have a right to be concerned. While claims of increased crime and the corruption of morals aren’t supported by facts, the business is a relatively new one in the state, and we should think hard about just where we should place these dispensaries.

And they do need to go somewhere; the public is asking for it.

Pete Mazzaccaro

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