BY KENDER BAST
Soaring demand at the first medical cannabis dispensary to open in Massachusetts, Alternative Therapies Group in Salem, comes as no surprise to anyone who has been paying close attention to the expansion of marijuana in America. Medicinal pot and concentrates can safely help with numerous ailments ranging from epilepsy, MS and traumatic brain injury to nausea, asthma, and severe pain. It is even showing promise fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, all of which are vitally important functions for the massive Baby Boomer population.
It is, however, truly ironic that Salem is the place where this is happening, and that irony may tell us something about some of the behavior that persists in these parts. Back in the 1600s, so-called witches were tortured and burned at the stake because of the hysteria spurred by Puritan demagogues. Ignorance ruled the day, and the general public was at many points misled.
Fast-forward to now. We still have hysterical puritanical leaders railing against another imagined evil. In this case, they seem to believe that they know what is best for everyone else, and continue pushing close-minded morals on an easily cowed public. Take, for example, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose repeated claim that marijuana is a gateway drug has been extensively discredited. Boston’s own “flat-earther” won’t acknowledge research showing how cannabis is actually an exit route away from harmful substances like opioids, tobacco, and alcohol. In states with effective medical marijuana programs, there’s been a marked decrease in opioid overdose deaths, a decrease in the suicide rates of young men, and a decrease in the number of drunk driving fatalities. These are all good things, and pols ignore them at our peril.
And let’s get this straight, we’re not talking about plutonium. As the Drug Enforcement Agency’s own chief administrative law judge once famously noted, cannabis is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” Of course, the DEA ignored this strong assessment, and in turn ramped up an oppressive war on (some) drugs that’s resulted in millions of people being arrested, thousands of innocents murdered, and immeasurable suffering by countless patients.
Meanwhile, the allegedly “liberal” Boston Globe steadfastly neglects to recognize the blatant hypocrisy of marijuana prohibition, while a months-long series on the opioid crisis by our ABC affiliate has failed to mention that cannabis can smooth the road to recovery. It’s unclear what it will take for the media to objectively report on this issue, but until journalists check their own prejudices, and purge all of the puritanism around here, guys like Walsh will keep on passing off their baseless observations as facts, and missing opportunities to help patients and addicts alike.