Updated: 2:34 p.m. Friday, March 1, 2013 | Posted: 5:41 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013
By Lauren Pack
WEST CHESTER TWP. —
More than 100 community members from the business, medical, education, law enforcement and government sectors attended a regional marijuana summit Thursday in West Chester Twp. to learn more about issues surrounding legalization.
The half-day event, sponsored by the Butler County Coalition for Healthy, Safe and Drug-Free Communities, featured Dr. Kevin Sabet, founder of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and the director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida. .
While heroin, cocaine and prescription medication abuse are rising problems in Butler County, marijuana was chosen as the focus of the summit because of “its more general use in the community,” said Dan Urra, coalition project manager.
After November’s election, the number of states that allow medical marijuana is 18, plus Washington, D.C., Sabet said. The push is ongoing for Ohio to become one of those states, he said.
Among the arguments for legalization are that there would be less people in the criminal justice system and medical use to relieve pain for cancer patients and others who are chronically ill.
But Sabot said in states where medical marijuana is legal, only 10 percent of card holders have cancer or were glaucoma patients.
“Ninety percent are registered for ailments such as headaches and athlete’s foot,” said Sabet, who has also served as the senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s drug czar from 2009-11 and also worked in the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
Sabet said proponents of medical marijuana are appealing to compassion, but warned those in attendance to not be mislead.
“This is not the hippies in Berkeley hanging out on Telegraph Avenue. This is about big business,” he said.
He noted there is ongoing research for marijuana-based pills and sprays to treat those with true medical needs, but smoked or inhaled marijuana is not a medicine.
“We don’t smoke opium to the effect of morphine. So why smoke marijuana to get relief?” Sabet said.
Also in attendance was Hope Taft, former first lady of Ohio, who is a prevention specialist and has been involved in drug prevention activities at the local, state and national levels for many years.