Legalization of retail marijuana raises questions of potential impact on safety and youth


Natalie Arbatman

The Mountain View city council vote on Oct. 23 to allow cannabis dispensaries to set up shop in Mountain View passed by a vote of 5-2, inciting discussions about the safety implications of making the legal drug more readily available.

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga voted against the new law, citing safety as her main concern. Though some argue that voting in favor of the dispensaries would be in line with the city’s progressive politics, she disagrees.

“I think there are a lot of other aspects and characteristics of our community … that make us progressive … having cannabis shops, to me, does not,” Abe-Koga said.

According to Abe-Koga, the dispensaries will be prohibited from selling marijuana to those under 21 and from operating within 600 feet of any youth-related establishments.

Abe-Koga is also worried about the cash the stores keep on hand and how this may lead to an increase in crime.

“I think that is a real criminal concern, robberies and so forth… there is definitely an element of potential for higher crime,” Abe-Koga said.

Chad Strand is the the co-founder of Blackbird, a marijuana delivery company based in Reno, Nevada, where dispensaries and delivery services have already been implemented. Strand said that the dispensaries are secure enough to prevent criminal activity around the stores.

having open dispensaries generally creates a safer environment for selling the legalized drug rather than underground dealing

“There is so much security and regulation going on to even enter the dispensary, that there’s no [criminal] activity going on around the area in any way, shape or form,” Strand said.

The argument that high security and guards can be implemented, “just does not sit very well” with Abe-Koga.

Strand explained that having open dispensaries generally creates a safer environment for selling the legalized drug rather than underground dealing.

“The crime [rate] has dropped in [Reno] because now people are not involved in the black market trying to obtain marijuana. [Instead] they are able to it in a very legal, safe manner,” Strand said.

Though school administration has not yet explored how the measure may affect students, Student Activities Officer William Blair said since students cannot legally purchase the drug, there is not a cause for concern. “[Are we] going to see a major uptick in drug use because of it on campus? I don’t think so,” Blair said.

Health teacher Heather Boyle said she believes that teen use of marijuana is especially dangerous because growing brains are more susceptible to addiction. She does not, however, believe that opening dispensaries throughout the city will cause an increase in smoking habits, as teens find ways to access the drug even without them.

“Not that you couldn’t be more exposed, but…everybody who would consider [smoking marijuana] is already doing it,” Boyle said. “With a lot of these things it’s kind of a ‘we’ll see’ kind of thing, so, I guess we’ll see.”

*Image courtesy of Wikipedia