I am 54 years old. Two years ago, out of nowhere, I started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy.

I qualify for medical marijuana in New York. The problem is that there are specific strains that are helpful medicinally, and some that are specifically helpful for epilepsy; New York medical dispensaries do not carry these. There is just one product, in various forms (vapes, pills, powder), that goes up in the amounts of THC. When anyone with epilepsy has a seizure, their driver’s license is removed, making it that much harder to access. Others cannot walk, never mind drive. There are people of all ages who use cannabis, often to help with the pain of seen and unseen disabilities. Being able to access those strains is very important for pain management and other side effects. Disabilities, seen and unseen, are a social justice issue.

There has been some concern that there would be long lines and big advertising, which would make smoking even more appealing to kids. From what I have seen in other states, long lines and big advertising in small towns is a myth. If you are concerned about parking, Newton, Mass., requires that people have an appointment. This specifically cuts down on parking problems. You could also give out buzzers, like they do at restaurants, and people can shop in town while they wait. If these are truly your concerns, our leadership and community members are creative enough to find working solutions.

I have read articles on whether dispensaries increase use among teens. The research is not clear. What we do know is that teens in Hastings are already using, generally starting in eighth or ninth grade. This happens as the older kids meet younger kids and peer pressure the kids to smoke and drink. I do not believe a dispensary in Hastings will increase the numbers of teens using, because they cannot buy from these stores. As for kids (young and older) who ask questions, parents will need to be prepared to have discussions about the effects of marijuana and why it is dangerous for young minds that are still developing. Cannabis is legal in New York and is here to stay, so we all need to think about the healthy messages we want to send when the questions come up. We are smart. Let’s approach this from a problem-solving model rather than from fear.

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