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‘An Apple Isn’t Enough:’ Camden Dispensary Gives Teachers Discount on Pot

The Camden Apothecary Dispensary & Wellness shop is offering a 10 percent discount for teachers who buy marijuana there.

“Because sometimes an apple just isn’t enough,” its Facebook ad says.

While the line is meant to be funny and grab attention, pharmacist and owner Tony Minniti, 54, seriously wants to help people. Minniti started working in his grandfather’s drug store at 14. When his family’s business bought Bell Pharmacy in 1997, he found an old bottle of prescription marijuana from the 1930s.

So when New Jersey legalized marijuana for adults over 21 in 2021, he was happy to add a marijuana dispensary next to his pharmacy.

Minniti’s parents were teachers, and his wife is an assistant superintendent, so he knows firsthand how much anxiety the job can bring.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t want teachers to be under the influence of anything while they’re teaching,” Minniti said. However, many of his patients are taking strong prescription medications for anxiety, depression, or insomnia. And those patients might be able to benefit from using marijuana, with their doctor’s permission, instead of more potent pharmaceuticals, he said.

And while other marijuana dispensaries offer discounts for first responders and veterans, he thought teachers should also have a discount.

“Those in the education field have an extremely stressful environment,” Minniti said. The discount “makes it more affordable for them to avail themselves of something that may help.” Over the years, he’s seen teachers “wrestle with and cope with stress.”

Marijuana is not covered by health insurance and remains an illegal drug under federal law. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) joined 10 other Democratic senators in a letter to the Biden administration Tuesday asking that it be legalized. Fellow Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who is up for re-election this year, did not sign the letter.

“Thus, the DEA should deschedule marijuana altogether. Marijuana’s placement in the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion,” according to the letter which Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also signed.

Minniti said marijuana can be used to treat pain for cancer patients and others with chronic pain conditions instead of opioids, which can be very addictive. And people feel comfortable talking to pharmacists about whether they should try marijuana for their conditions.

Some of the other pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed for anxiety can change people’s brain chemistry, he noted. Many, like Xanax, are recommended for short-term use, yet people often stay on the drugs for much longer. Patients using Ambien for insomnia often stay on it for lengthy periods, he said. But marijuana might help them instead with fewer side effects.

“Why not have that conversation?” asked Minniti. Marijuana can also treat opioid and alcohol addiction, he said.

Minniti acknowledged that “a lot” of his customers come over the bridge from Pennsylvania to buy marijuana. But he noted that Pennsylvanians also cross over to New Jersey to buy liquor and cigarettes, which they’re not supposed to. And, by New Jersey law, they don’t keep their marijuana clients’ contact information.

“I’d ask if the discount would be larger if a bunch of us got together and bought in bulk,” said retired teacher Carol Bassetti, a Cheltenham resident. “I definitely agree with their motto.”

Older people are more comfortable going to a dispensary that is part of a pharmacy rather than a freestanding marijuana store.

“What we try to bring is a health-related focus,” said Minniti. “More so than clerks in the liquor store (for those who are self-medicating with alcohol). We bring a serious medical approach. It’s not Cheech and Chong. There is the potential to help a lot of people.”

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POINT: The Dangers of Legal Marijuana Outweigh the Benefits

For an alternate point of view, see: COUNTERPOINT: PA Should Join Neighboring States to Legalize Marijuana 

When I was in high school 20 years ago, marijuana use was generally confined to buying dime bags of dry flower that had a THC potency in the single digits (THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that gives the high). No one was vaping marijuana because vaping wasn’t around yet.

Today, not only has marijuana flower been industrialized to produce upwards of 30 percent THC and more, but you have a host of new delivery mechanisms – including vapes that come in a kids’ menu of flavors like Blueberry Cookies and Orange Crush – that can range between 80-90 percent THC and higher.

No longer are teachers and educators just finding a few students smoking weed under the football field bleachers but are now confronting students vaping marijuana in school, not only in bathrooms but right in the classroom as well, with devices disguised as USB drives and even yellow highlighters.

We have never experienced a time in history when the potency strength of manufactured marijuana is as high and in such a diverse set of products as it is today, and children and young adults are using today’s marijuana at record rates. Both facts are colliding, and the impact of this wreckage is made significantly worse by a state government that encourages its recreational use through legalization.

Earlier this year, researchers at Temple University released a study finding that more children and young adults use marijuana because of states legalizing its recreational use, particularly due to the lowering of perceived harm by making it legal. It is a logical conclusion: if you increase access, you increase use.

We know that using today’s industrialized marijuana with upwards of 99 percent THC can have damaging health consequences, including marijuana use disorder (MUD), the medical term for addiction; risks that increase exponentially for those using in their mid-20’s or earlier as it impacts their developing brain.

“The risk of developing marijuana use disorder is stronger in people who start using marijuana during youth or adolescence,” states the CDC. And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), addiction rates nearly double when you start using before age 18.

Addiction to marijuana? Yes, science has proven today’s marijuana can absolutely be addictive, and rates are steadily increasing. Yet there are some Pennsylvania state lawmakers who dismiss the addictive traits of marijuana. State Representative Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) has gone so far as to claim not only that marijuana is not dangerous or addictive but that the only thing at risk with legalizing marijuana for recreational use is potato chips and Fritos – alluding to getting “the munchies” after use.

Not only is this joke insulting to families who have been directly impacted by the harms of marijuana use, but it denies the existing science and evidence that are contrary to those archaic claims. There’s a reason why every major medical association is opposed to legalizing recreational use.

We know that there has been a significant change in potency strength in the last decade. In 2014, Washington State’s total market of manufactured marijuana extracts was 9 percent. Today, extracts are now 35 percent of the market. This growth has led to calls for potency caps.

“Twenty years ago, prescription opioids were seen as a breakthrough in pain relief,” writes The Seattle Times Editorial Board. “We understand now the human costs of addiction and dysfunction. This state should not make the same mistake with high-potency marijuana.”

We also know that, in states like Colorado, the commercialized sale of marijuana – backed by Big Tobacco and their predatory history of targeting teens for addiction – has led to more marijuana shops than McDonalds and Starbucks combined. This market proliferation is also reflective in the use of social media and billboards advertising these harmful products.

Additional harms caused by marijuana legalization include an increase in DUIs and drugged driving fatalities. Evidence from the two states who started experimenting with marijuana legalization for recreational use, Colorado and Washington State, both witnessed an increase in motor vehicle accidents and fatalities.

A 19-year old woman from Pennsylvania was recently charged with involuntary manslaughter and DUI after having marijuana in her system when she was driving and killed a motorcyclist and father of three. If we don’t want an increase in these types of scenarios, then we should listen to law enforcement and safety associations like AAA and oppose marijuana legalization for recreational use.

When voters are given options of marijuana policy that are not just a one-size-fits-all model for recreational use, options that include ways to address the criminal justice system, voters often do not favor full recreational sales.

Here in Pennsylvania, there are options available to our state lawmakers to improve our medical marijuana program. The question is who do we help: an addiction-for-profit industry or our children? Will we protect public health and safety or subject communities to the harms caused by commercializing manufactured marijuana?

I know my choice.


Bill Would Legalize Recreational Pot in PA

Will this be the year that Pennsylvania legalizes recreational marijuana?

Two state senators, a Democrat and a Republican, announced they are introducing legislation to legalize it in the Keystone State.

“We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice, and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs,” said Sen. Sharif Street (D- Philadelphia). “Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address various community needs throughout Pennsylvania.”

The legislation would grant licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants while providing room for new and existing licensees to ensure demand in Pennsylvania was met. Also, it expunges non-violent marijuana convictions for medical marijuana patients and goes further to expunge all non-violent marijuana convictions.

Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) said, “Legalized adult use of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians, and this legislation accomplishes that while also ensuring safety and social equity. With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs.”

The bill sets the minimum marijuana consumption age at 21 years old and provides appropriate deterrence to keep marijuana out of the hands of anyone under 21. Additionally, law enforcement would be given the means to adjudicate driving under the influence and the authority to pursue and eradicate any illicit market. The legislation also bans any marketing directed toward children and sets workplace requirements regarding marijuana use for those operating in good faith.

During state budget hearings held in 2021, the Senate Appropriations Committee was told by the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office that legalized adult-use marijuana could generate $400 million to $1 billion in new tax revenue for the commonwealth, the senators said in a press release.

Daylin Leach, a former state senator for Montgomery and Delaware counties, said, “I actually introduced the first bill to legalize recreational marijuana in 2018 (SB 350). Getting rid of the pernicious arcane policy of prohibition is long overdue. But it’s important to get it right. I hope they’ve taken the time to fully understand the issue.”

“I’d rather they buy it legally. If they’re going to get it, they’re going to get it,” said Ed “Eddie Z” Zampitella, who owns a sober living club, The Last Stop, in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

If people buy illegal marijuana, it can be laced with fentanyl, which may be fatal, he noted. And also, they may go into bad neighborhoods to purchase the drug, where “they can get robbed or killed,” Zampitella said.

But Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub has a different perspective.

“This seems like pure rationalization for the government to make more money from a taxable vice. DUIs, and therefore DUI-related crashes, injuries, and deaths, will increase due to this legislation,” Weintraub said.

Street and Laughlin also touted the benefits to the state’s farmers. The legislation may also strengthen Pennsylvania’s robust agricultural industry by empowering farmers and craft growers across the state to grow marijuana in a manner that is safe and regulated, they said in a press release. Additionally, it would allow Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana patients to grow a limited number of cannabis plants at their homes for personal use to help ease the cost and accessibility burdens that still exist for medical marijuana.

The legalization effort comes as more studies raise questions about the impact of the widespread use of marijuana on mental health and brain development.

A study published in the medical journal Lancet last year found that high-potency cannabis is associated with a greater risk of psychosis and addiction. And a newly-released National Institutes of Health study showed young men with cannabis (marijuana) use disorder have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

“Previous studies indicate that rates of daily or near-daily cannabis use, cannabis use disorder, and new schizophrenia diagnoses are higher among men than women, and that early, frequent cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia,” the NIH reported.


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Dr. Oz Talks About Trump’s Endorsement, Marijuana, and Transgender Issues

Now that Dr. Mehmet Oz has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, he believes half of the Republican electorate will break his way with the remainder of the candidates divvying up the rest.

“There’s one person who is [the Trump candidate]: Dr. Oz,” said Oz in a podcast interview with the Delaware Valley Journal on Wednesday. “There’s five who aren’t. And those five people now have to split up the remaining half of the electorate. And most of those voters are going to vote for me anyway, because they know I’m going to win. And they want someone who has a bold, loud voice who goes to Washington — not as backbencher — but as someone who can articulate exactly why conservative ideas are better ideas.”

As for attack ads from hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who is vying for Oz for first place in the polls, or PACs supporting McCormick, Oz explained his years on television have given them plenty of bogus ammo.

“They never show footage of me saying what they’re claiming…There’s a reason for that. They’ll pick the promo of a show. Listen, I’ve had a network television show, the top health show in the world for 13 years,” the celebrity heart surgeon said.

Both Oz and McCormick angled for Trump’s endorsement. Oz said he received it because Trump “did his homework. He compared me to Dave McCormick and looked at the details of our records. Did we stand up for folks? Are we pro-Second Amendment, pro-life? Are we pro-American energy dominance? Are we tough on crime? Will we fight against the woke mob that wants to tear down much of what they think is our irredeemably stained society?

“And he decided I was the best person to carry that banner,” Oz said.

But what about the moderate Republican voters in the Delaware Valley suburbs?

“The Republicans that I speak to in the four counties, and I spend a lot of time in my home district…strongly believe in the conservative values espoused by the Trump administration. Yes, it made them uncomfortable to see some of the tweets. But as I make clear when you’re being attacked continually with a dishonest and far-left, liberal-leaning media, in many cases, you do get to become a bit of a porcupine and you need to have thick skin and the ability to punch back when people attack you.”

If the Republican primary voters pick Oz as their nominee he could very well be pitted against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a progressive who is leading in the polls on the Democratic side.

While Fetterman wants a moratorium on fracking, Oz favors U.S. energy independence and unleashing Pennsylvania’s natural energy abundance.

“We have all the resources we need that if we were able to harvest natural gas from out West or up North and pipe it through Philadelphia to where the Naval Yard used to be, and you can put it on ships. It would be a huge moneymaker for the city of Philadelphia (to) address our financial needs and help our allies stay safe from Russian or other toxic forces.”

And Fetterman has been a vocal proponent of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Oz, for his part, has no problem with medical marijuana but opposes legalizing pot for recreational use. Oz says he never tried marijuana himself, adding that as a doctor, he did not want to be impaired and unable to help his patients because he had gotten high.

“I have strong sentiments against the legalization of marijuana because we already have a problem with getting young people to work,” he said. “And if you build a psychological addiction, right, that tells people you can’t get through the day unless you smoke a joint, which is what Fetterman is saying is okay, we’re going to have even fewer people engaged in life and they lose their dignity when that happens.”

And, Oz spoke out against teaching young children about gender nonconformity.

“I’ve covered the topic of my show, 80 to 85 percent of kids who say they are transgender will naturally, if they’re not influenced, go back to their biological gender,” Oz said. “But if you change that natural history, if you place ideas in a 5-year-old kindergarten kid’s mind, then you’re going to mess with their mind. You’re not letting them do what kids have done throughout society. Once in a while, Johnny walks in mom’s shoes. It doesn’t mean anything. Love the child, embrace them, let them be who they need to be. And over time they work it out. If you interfere with that process, you hurt people.”

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McOSCAR: Death, Taxes and Legalized Marijuana

Several friends were milling about talking over sports and such when our conversation abruptly took a serious turn.

The catalyst for the change was the death certificate in my hand. The deceased was a friend’s 35-year-old former husband and the father of their 7-year-old daughter.

The document told his story: Time of death “Approx-0705,” Immediate Cause of Death “Adverse effect of drugs, ” Interval Between Onset and Death “A few minutes, ” Manner of Death “Accident.”

Odds are marijuana was the gateway drug to his 20-year addiction. Of the many addicts I have known, the majority will attest that marijuana was their first drug of choice.

To quote one young man about his first high, “ The feeling was incredible. All my social anxiety instantly went away.” His descent into addiction was driven by his pursuit of that first sensation.

The conversation then turned to the incongruity between the push to legalize marijuana and the so-called “ War on Drugs.”

It beggars belief that anyone the least bit acquainted with the insidious progression of drug addiction would ever call for the legalization of marijuana, the gateway drug to every more powerful and deadly drug on the market.

What sticks in my craw most is the unconscionable duplicity among certain politicians who attempt to have it both ways: Legalize marijuana for the tax revenue it offers while covering their tail by pouring millions of dollars into the largely symbolic (“We’re doing something!”) and astonishingly unproductive (no measures of efficacy) “War on Drugs.”

In his Feb. 16 Wall Street Journal column, “Super Bowl of Sin Taxes,” Daniel Henninger strikes a similar note.

His topic was sin taxes, specifically legalized gambling and legalized marijuana, and the windfall in tax revenues they generate to state and federal coffers. New Jersey, the U. S. sports-bet capital, took in $200 million in gambling tax revenue last year.

Sixty percent of Americans favor medical and recreational marijuana use. Recreational marijuana is now legal in 18 states and Washington D. C.

New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer plans to introduce a federal legalization bill in April. It has a cannabis tax that starts at 10 percent and rises eventually to 25 percent.

Henninger writes that sin and sin taxes are now passé. Consequently, much of contemporary American government is now amoral.

“After decades of pretense from government about its good intentions, government doesn’t much care one way or the other anymore.”

“Any previous pro-social purpose, “he writes, “has been overwhelmed by the crude need to maximize revenue no matter the source, especially in open-spigot states such as New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.”

Echoing my annoyance he writes, “We are legalizing marijuana just as opioid addiction and overdoses from ‘recreational’ fentanyl skyrocket.

“In virtually all the legalizations of marijuana or gambling,” he continues, “the politicians include language about creating programs for prevention and rehabilitation. It’s boilerplate, a pro forma caveat that rarely delivers.”

Politicians don’t care that a 7-year-old girl lost her father to drug addiction so long as they get the one thing they want—a steady stream of tax revenue from both users and the commercial cannabis interests.

Deaths are simply an acceptable cost of doing business.

Henninger concludes, “When more people understand that the goal of governments today is to take rather than help, as they piously claim, perhaps we can have a sensible discussion about whom to tax and for what purposes.”

A discussion long past due.

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LEACH: Bright Future for Legalized Marijuana in PA

In recent years an increasing number of states, both red and blue, have legalized the sale, possession, and use of marijuana. This is good news, Prohibition has been one of the most pernicious domestic policies in all of American history. It is racist, cruel, heartless, expensive, irrational, and devastating to entire communities. Ending it is long overdue. However, while I am proud to have written and sponsored Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law (Act 16 of 2016), the recreational prohibition still endures, and every day it persists is an injustice.

First, it is important to understand the history of prohibition. A Pennsylvanian named Harry Anslinger was head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics during alcohol prohibition in the 1930s. When that ended, Mr. Anslinger needed a new justification to fund his department. He opportunistically seized on Cannabis and began a crusade to make it illegal. But he didn’t argue that pot was bad for you. Instead, he testified to congress that “Marijuana makes Black people think they are just as good as White people” and “Marijuana makes White women desire sexual relationships with Black men.”

Thus, a policy steeped in racism was born. Even though cannabis use is approximately the same among all races, if you are Black, you are four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana-related charges than if you are White, and once arrested, are five times more likely to be incarcerated. Every year 20,000-25,000 Pennsylvanians, largely people of color, are thrust into the vortex of the criminal justice system. This often prevents them from continuing their higher education or from getting a job, permanently altering the trajectory of their lives.

Compelling arguments in favor of prohibition are difficult to find.

Some argue that marijuana is bad for you. But even if cannabis is in some way unhealthy, it is not the role of our criminal justice system to force healthy choices on free individuals. Cigarettes kill over a thousand Americans per day in truly horrific ways. Yet cigarettes are legal in all 50 states.

Comparing marijuana to alcohol shows even more starkly how irrational our policy is. Alcohol directly kills 95,000 people per year. Marijuana has no lethal dose. Zero people die of cannabis poisoning or overdoses each year. Alcohol is physically addictive, to the point that withdrawing from alcohol addiction too quickly can itself be fatal. A person can develop a habitual dependency on marijuana. But nobody quitting it will have delirium tremors or die. People using alcohol are often violent and reckless, cannabis makes people relaxed and mellow. There are virtually no reports of domestic violence committed by people under the influence of marijuana. Yet not only is alcohol legal in Pennsylvania, but it is also actually sold and promoted by the state itself.

The ban on cannabis also causes crime far more serious and violent than simple possession of marijuana. Because prohibition prohibits a legitimate and regulated market, it forces those who use cannabis to support an underground black market. Such a market can’t be governed by the courts and police like other businesses are. Instead, it is, of necessity, governed by criminals, drug syndicates, and violence. Eliminating prohibition will (like with alcohol), over time, end this illicit market. But under current law, every dollar that isn’t going to a licensed, vetted, regulated entrepreneur, ultimately goes instead to a violent drug cartel.

Some falsely argue cannabis is a “gateway” to harder drugs. Sure, maybe a high percentage of heroin users previously used cannabis. But an even higher percentage of heroin users previously drank milk. The point is that looking at what a hard drug user previously did is in no way proof of causation. A better metric is to look at how many marijuana users go on to use heroin. That is approximately 3 percent. The same studies that show this also show that alcohol is a far more effective gateway drug than cannabis. Yet nobody is calling for the return of alcohol prohibition.

Certainly, there will be some people who use marijuana irresponsibly. They may choose to get high rather than go to work, or they may drive while under the influence. However, in the states that have legalized recreational marijuana, there is no evidence that the rates of DUI-related car accidents or injuries have increased.

Responsible marijuana users shouldn’t pay the price of the small percentage of people who are negligent. We don’t turn people who drink beer or wine with dinner at home into criminals because some people drive drunk. That would be unfair and nonsensical. Marijuana users should be treated the same.

Legalization would benefit society in numerous ways. We’d save hundreds of millions of dollars per year if we didn’t have to arrest, process, prosecute, incarcerate and monitor people for smoking a plant that makes them feel giddy. But the economic benefits don’t end there. Cannabis is currently a  $35 billion per year industry. With the right legal changes, that could, within 5 years, grow to be a $75 billion per year industry. This will create literally millions of new jobs. So rather than destroying people’s careers, we’ll be giving them opportunities.

The best argument for legalizing marijuana can be found in the states that have already done it. The sky has not fallen. The world has not ended. Instead, well-regulated grow houses, dispensaries, cannabis lounges, and delivery businesses are thriving. People are freer. The prison populations are being reduced and tax dollars are coming in, instead of pouring out. This is clearly the direction in which history is going. It is time for Pennsylvania to step into this brighter future and consign cannabis prohibition to the ash-heap of history, where it belongs.