Newtown News Update

Welcome to the April 13, 2018, issue of "Newtown News Update." The opinions expressed here are solely the personal opinions of John Mack and do not reflect the opinions of any other person or entity. If you are not a subscriber, please subscribe here. If you are a subscriber and do not wish to receive further updates, please use the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of this email.

Improved Access to Medical Marijuana Can Help Combat Opioid Addiction

On April 4, 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf renewed the state’s “opioid disaster declaration.” The declaration makes it easier for victims addicted to opioids to get treatment such as waiving certain licensing fees and eliminating other roadblocks to treatment. However, it does NOT include any expansion of PA Act 16 - PA's Medical Marijuana (MMJ) Law - that would allow more people who use opioids for pain relief to switch to MMJ, which has been shown to be effective in treating pain.

[According to a study by Dr. Frank D’Ambrosio, aka “Doctor Frank,” an orthopaedic surgeon with over 30 years of experience, 51% of medical marijuana users in California were able to reduce or replace their use of opioids and other medications with serious side effects. Listen to my podcast interview of Doctor Frank.]

MMJ is not a “major bullet” that will end the opioid epidemic, but there is evidence that it can help. A study that researched the association between the existence of state medical marijuana laws and opioid overdose deaths from 1999 to 2010 found that opioid overdose deaths declined by as much as 25% in states that had medical cannabis laws in effect (Bachhuber MA, Saloner B, Cunningham CO, Barry CL. Medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in the United States, 1999-2010. JAMA. Intern Med. 2014; 174:1668-1673).

Unfortunately, it is not possible for certified physicians in PA to prescribe MMJ for treatment of moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain – the types of pain for which opioids are often overprescribed.

Another problem is the limitations placed on the access to MMJ. In Pennsylvania, MMJ is not sold or distributed in pharmacies such as CVS, Rite-Aid, etc. Patients and caregivers can obtain medical marijuana only at VERY FEW approved dispensaries approved by the PA Department of Health. Furthermore, MMJ dispensaries “may not be located within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private or parochial school or a day-care center” according to PA Act 16.

Because Newtown Township is part of a joint municipal zoning consortium with neighboring Upper Makefield and Wrightstown townships, any zoning ordinances regulating the location of the MMJ operations must be approved by all three municipalities, collectively known as the “jointure.”

On March 1, 2018, the jointure drafted an amendment to the Joint Municipality Zoning Ordinance (JMZO) to permit Medical Marijuana Dispensaries by special exception (SE) in the VC-1 Village Commercial-1 and TC-2 Town Commercial 2 Districts as long as long as the applicants “verify that the proposed Medical Marijuana Dispensary is not within 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private, or parochial school, preschool, or day care facility.”

In Newtown Township there is practically no location that meets these requirements (see map below). Only Upper Makefield has possible locations for dispensaries.

As reported by Allen Fidler, Chair of the Newtown Planning Commission, at the April 11, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, the Commission had some questions about this zoning restriction. View this 3-minute video of his comments: “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Schools”.

What do you think?

Take My Medical Marijuana & Schools Survey

April 28 is Drug Take Back Day!

Did you know that there may be more than 100,000 unused opioid pills sitting in medicine cabinets in Newtown just waiting to be diverted for illegal use (read my LTE)? Don't be the Pusher. Drop off your unused pills at the Newtown Township Municipal Building at 100 Municipal Drive on Saturday, April 28, 2018, between 10 am and 2 pm. You can also turn in your drugs at the Newtown Athletic Club during the Together We Can Convention.

John Mack