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Blubaugh: Longstanding beliefs go up in smoke if medical cannabis provides relief

I had a wonderful evening in D.C. not long ago that included an incredible dinner for four followed by a concert featuring a ridiculously talented band, but I’ll remember the conversation more vividly than the tasty Bay scallops or the mind-blowing solos.

We all like to feel like we’re the smartest guy in the room occasionally, but I actually like it when the opposite is true. That was certainly the case on this night spent with one of my oldest friends and two of his associates, tech entrepreneurs all, with impressive titles and resumes, capable of conversation I can barely follow. So I did what I always do in such situations — I nodded a lot and listened intently, trying to learn something, while paying close attention to my plate and wine glass.

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And then the talk turned to marijuana. I have about as much insight into pot as I do about the business, financial and tech topics that preceded this subject, but it was interesting to me given how drastically perceptions are shifting, not to mention the burgeoning economic and medical importance of the historically maligned leaf. Everything has changed, including its name, usually referred to as cannabis these days.

Anyway, the two dining companions I didn’t know well were quite knowledgeable about all things weed, from various ways to ingest it to the supposed benefits and the science behind it all. Most fascinating, however, was when one began talking about how his virulently anti-drug mother had changed her tune about marijuana once it became clear to her that using it helped certain of her medical conditions. So now the woman who used to scream at and punish him when catching him with marijuana was enlisting his help in getting it for her.

All of which seemed particularly relevant given that a company that grows cannabis for medical purposes opened a facility in Taneytown last year and that Carroll County’s first dispensary of medical cannabis, Herbology, is opening Monday in Westminster. It’s been a long time coming. Medical marijuana was first approved by the Maryland General Assembly in 2013. Patients couldn’t begin purchasing the herb until late-2017, however, and Carroll countians who have been approved have had to travel to neighboring counties to procure it.

Medical cannabis has been used to treat, among other conditions, chronic pain, nausea, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and mental health issues. There is not much hard science yet about its efficacy, but research tends to indicate it can reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation and even kill cancer cells. (Research also shows it stimulates appetite but, heck, even I knew that.)

Diane Davison, owner of Herbology, has spent three years jumping through hoops to get the dispensary up and running. “There’s been, you know, a huge gap here in Carroll County and they’ve been very vocal about it," she told the Times last week at an open house. "And I understand — I wish this was opened a year ago.”

So do patients. One Hampstead resident attending the open house called it a godsend that she will be able to ease her pain from her fibromyalgia and arthritis without a lengthy drive. Another said finding relief in medical cannabis for his PTSD and anxiety was like a religious experience.

Certainly not everyone is on board. For some, it’s a principled or practical argument, believing that medical cannabis is a major step toward the eventual full-scale legalization of marijuana and/or that it will wind up in the hands of kids. For most, it’s just clinging to longstanding beliefs. Those of a certain age grew up with “Reefer Madness,” after all, and were indoctrinated to believe people should be imprisoned for smoking grass. They simply have been told time and again that marijuana is an illicit drug and drugs are bad. (Of course, more people probably overdosed on opioids — long prescribed to treat pain — in the time it’s taken to read this than have overdosed on marijuana in history.)

I’ll just keep listening to people who are smarter than me on this topic. If they say it’s a legal, viable option, and if some patients say it’s the only thing that has helped certain of their conditions, that’s more than enough for me to encourage those I know who are suffering to make an appointment with a doctor to see if it might work.

Stubbornness or age-old prejudices shouldn’t prevent possible life-changing relief. Even at the risk of the munchies adding a few unwanted pounds.

Bob Blubaugh is the Times’ editor. His column appears every Sunday. Reach him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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