Yes: Cannabis should come to Pacific Grove.

The possibility of a cannabis dispensary in Pacific Grove has stirred up a fair amount of worry with some residents: That is completely valid and I understand the concern. Cannabis is a drug that can lead to negative outcomes, both emotionally and physically.

On the other hand—when used legally and responsibly—cannabis may be used to mitigate chronic pain, help with sleep, be an alternative to a glass of wine, and/or lead a person to make an extravagant dessert with random things found in their fridge.

To each their own.

The part of the argument against cannabis I’d like to address is a fear of marijuana coming into our community and getting into kids’ hands.

Let me be very, very, very clear that I do not think kids should be allowed to use cannabis and the risks for younger individuals are more acute than adults.

But cannabis—before and after legalization—has been in our community. Restricting retail permits is not a way to stop drug use. Kids experiment with drugs in order to try to self-medicate under difficult circumstances, rebel, or find a group of people to fit in with: Offering more community and recreational activities in addition to mental health services would be a more productive way to reduce abuse.

And if there is an instance of a stupid adult buying marijuana for someone underage, in my mind it is still better than a kid using un-regulated and illegal cannabis that might be laced with something illicit.

Emergency Department (ED) visits from cannabis have increased since legalization. For the year of 2020, ED visits involving cannabis for the entire state came in at 2,710 (11 for Monterey County), which is much more than the 1,848 cannabis-related ED visits of 2016.

Compare the cannabis numbers to the 363,285 ED visits in California that involved alcohol, though, and you can extrapolate how big of a problem the dangers of cannabis pose.

Yet, many stores and restaurants sell alcohol in Pacific Grove without much of a fuss.

Alcohol Related Emergency Department Admissions and Visits, 2020. Source: California Department of Public Health
Cannabis-Related Overdose ED Deaths Source: California Department of Public Health

Perhaps the increase for cannabis ED visits is from more widespread use; maybe from increased THC content. Possibly a combination of both. As a community and State, there may be valid reasons to set limits on THC potency and create programs to encourage safe use, but those are different discussions.

In California, recreational cannabis is legal for people 21+, used by almost 20% of adult residents, and a growing source of jobs. Shunting people to Carmel, Monterey, and Seaside deprives Pacific Grove not only of much-needed tax revenue: it is just plain inconvenient for residents and tourists.

My personal view—and hope for the city—is that adults should be able to make their own, legal choices safely and without hassle. Let’s pass Measure M and Measure N on November’s ballot.

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