By: Christian Sarna

We are living in an era in the United States where our exceptionalism stretches to being No. 1 in both incarceration rates and healthcare costs. 

Caught in the center of these two issues is the legalization of medical marijuana. In a city facing a myriad of economic and public health concerns, why are we fighting something that has been so clearly proven successful?

Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana during the 2018 midterm elections. Applications to obtain a medical marijuana card opened over the summer of 2019, and while some have already received their cards, they do not currently have a way to legally obtain marijuana. 

Dispensaries and manufacturing facilities are currently submitting applications for operation, a limited number of which will be approved. Some of these facilities have been proposed for St. Joseph, Missouri, and face opposition in the community. The question is this: who really believes that allowing medical marijuana facilities into St. Joseph would be our biggest problem? 

St. Joseph faces extreme rates of crime and poverty. We are absolutely not immune to the opioid crisis. People are living in houses with lead paint next to asphalt plants and are worried that manufacturing marijuana is going to be the end of our reputation of class and civility?

Hearing outcries against medical marijuana as someone with family in chronic pain makes me want to pick people up by the shoulders and shake them. Medical marijuana can give someone their life back. It can pull someone out of pain that opioids have stopped touching. The science behind medical marijuana speaks for itself. Why are we not listening?

Cities and states that have legalized marijuana – medical or otherwise – have seen immense improvements in public health and economic booms. Medical marijuana could be such an easy win for a town like St. Joseph. If we welcome it with open arms, though, our jobs will not be done. Justice must be served for the many men and women facing time for marijuana charges.

When your white grandma can use a THC roller on her shoulder and your cousin can make thousands of dollars investing in a growery, everyone incarcerated for marijuana possession needs to be living free with an expunged record. It’s no secret that the populations most heavily affected by these possession laws are often people of color and those who live in poverty. We must do justice to these people who are unfairly incarcerated for something popular opinion no longer considers a crime.

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