Concerns regarding medical marijuana cultivation in our area

In the past weeks, we have read several articles in the local newspapers as well as others within the region that several individuals are looking to develop a medical marijuana cultivation facility or agricultural area within the Salem and/or surrounding areas.

Individuals have completed their research of the state law and have worked with an attorney indicating they are meeting the letter of the law, meeting zoning regulations and other regulations indigenous to the law. We are sure that extensive planning has been put into place in order to bring the industry to our area to help the area’s employment base, increase taxes and hopefully remain a good neighbor. All this, at the same time, no doubt, remain transparent in their planning and execution of their plans.

Not only do we anticipate an agricultural plant or a cultivation plant being developed, but many questions remain: What will be taking place once the marijuana plant reaches maturity? The harvesting of the plant? Transportation of the produce and/or its by products? Is there a possibility of expansion into surrounding areas/fields? Where will the product be transferred to? Development of a medical facility for sale of medical marijuana to only those individuals who have legitimate prescriptions for medical marijuana?

We would be remiss if we did not bring our concerns to the attention of your readers, as well as the general public. The impact that medical marijuana and ultimately the use of marijuana has on the majority of individuals who are already using it and obtaining it through various ways is vastly known.

What will be the impact that medical marijuana sale and ultimately the use of marijuana have on an individual starting on this drug for medical purposes (and others who have been using it recreationally and obtaining it illegally)? We do not deny that there may be a well-documented need for its use as a medication. However, we have seen first hand where continual use is and can be harmful.

A review of our clients over the past number of years indicate the following:

— Between 70 and 80 percent of our clients involved in our various treatment programs smoked marijuana (pot) at an younger age (8-18) and start using harder drugs as they age.

— We have definitely concluded for many, over the years, that pot is a gateway drug before the use of cocaine or heroin. This concern is completely addressed by Sheriff Stone in his letter to governmental leaders that: “Columbiana County, in fact, is facing a near heroin epidemic.”

The DEA still lists marijuana (cannabis) as Schedule 1 drug. The federal law supercedes the state law, making enforcement even more difficult and challenging.

A major concern for us, as a treatment facility, as well as provider of Drug Free Workplace Programs are some of the following questions that employers will be asking:

— Can employers fire an employee for engaging in legal activities off the clock and still maintain a drug-free workplace?

— Does firing an employee who tests positive for marijuana violate anti-discrimination laws?

— Is an employee who uses this drug off the clock impaired when he/she comes to work?

— What is the impact of higher THC levels as production may have this as a goal?

— Must employers cover medical marijuana costs for employees injured on the job?

— Finally, the question of employers possibly being responsible for unemployment compensation for an employee being fired for failing a drug test?

As you can see, there are many concerns that go far beyond the cities, villages or townships looking at working with potential growth and employment as well as encouraging businesses to settle in the community, its industrial parks and elsewhere.