ALPENA — Twelve delicate plants growing in the back of Shane Skiera’s home mean he can move his arms, stand without pain, and do a hard day’s work.
Like many others in Northeast Michigan, the Lachine man says marijuana makes his life better.
With the legalization of marijuana in Michigan and medical provision centers and retail stores now selling cannabis products in the Alpina region, residents have access to a drug some say invigorates the body and mind.
Others worry that the drug’s presence in the community endangers the health of residents.
Those who sell the drug – and some of those who use it – say it does more good than harm, offering relief from pain and an escape from anxiety or other mental struggles. And a beer at the end of a difficult Legit way to relax than day.
But health concerns — such as local increases in addiction and marijuana-related hospitalizations — put adults and especially young people at risk, some say.
Lara Coughlin, assistant professor of the Center for Addiction in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, said safe drug use begins with knowing its risks.
“It’s not heroin,” she said. “It’s not fentanyl. But that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
After legalization, Skira went from growing cannabis plants in the woods—the only cure for debilitating pain and migraines that could last up to 30 days—to cultivating legal plants in an enclosure behind his rural home.
At one time a marijuana caregiver, licensed to help others manage their own pain with cannabis, Skiera now makes products for herself and her parents, all of whom hold medical marijuana cards. Huh.
Without the drug, his serious health problems would almost certainly sideline him, he said, but he can still work, thanks to the products and plants he devised to keep his pain under control.
With a tidal wave of Michigan growers producing brand-new varieties of marijuana, stores serving hundreds of thousands of customers may not be able to get the right products into the hands of each person, they worry.
“I start to think about all the people with cancer and stuff that’s going to relief,” Skira said, “but they smoke something that can actually make it worse.”
Responsible store owners and employees make sure customers know what each product will do and how to use it, said Joseph Puraves, butender at Med’s Cafe near Rogers City.
Over 150 customers shopping at the store on a busy day represent all ages and levels of experience with medicine. Purves said most of the store’s customers have a “healthy nervousness” about using the drug for the first time.
Budenders explains cannabis products and dosages in layman’s terms, often suggesting low-dose options for inexperienced users.
Store workers can quickly whisk away any product to provide customers with the highest concentration, Purav said, lest that product prove too strong, “and, the next thing you know, they’re on their heads.” are on.”
Again, he believes, marijuana carries fewer harmful side effects than other drugs, and most people will have some negative side effects if they use the wrong product.
“It means you eat a lot of snacks and fall asleep,” he said.
Teens – except for a handful of minors who have medical marijuana cards – rarely try to sneak into the store, possibly because, in a small town, friends will know who they are and send them packing, Purav said.
Some customers come specifically for the sleep aid. Some just want a quick high or slow mellow for fun, while others use marijuana instead of prescription drugs to fight pain, anxiety, or other ailments.
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Feeling good can also bring healing, said Kevin DeKeyser, owner of Green Farms OceanK.
News photo by Julie Riddle A billboard sponsored by District Health Department No. 2, posted on US-23 north of Harrisville in September, reminds drivers to drive sober.
When his store switched from medical-only to recreational sales this summer, business immediately tripled.
DeKeyser said that in part, this reflects the dwindling number of people who want Medicare cards.
As of September, more than 1,200 Northeast Michigan residents held medical marijuana cards — down from 1,573 in 2020, according to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency.
Statewide, most medical marijuana cardholders list chronic pain as a reason for needing the drug.
DeKeyser said customers pay more in taxes for recreational marijuana but have to pay to buy and renew medical cards, and some people don’t want that hassle.
Customers want marijuana for its pain-fighting properties, but they also want it because it’s fun, the shop owner said.
He described a group that came to his store this summer asking for “something to smoke around the campfire so we can laugh.”
DeKeyser said that winding down with marijuana at the end of a day has the same healing properties that relaxing with a beer or glass of wine.
Those who still associate marijuana with illegal activity may look down on people who use it, “but, in the meantime, they can have six cups of coffee and two packs of cigarettes,” he said. “It’s also not very healthy.”
loss they don’t see coming
While some people can safely use marijuana and products containing THC — the primary psychoactive chemical in a cannabis plant — for fun or health benefits, others may be doing harm they’re not looking for, Michigan Addiction said the center’s Coughlin.
A wide variety of products, Coughlin said, can be found in concentrations significantly higher than users in the 1980s and 1990s, posing a potential danger to people who return to the drug decades later.
She said many users don’t know enough to protect themselves from the withdrawal symptoms, adverse effects and addiction associated with long-term drug use.
Over the past few years, MyMichigan Medical Center Alpena has increasingly seen patients in its emergency department who are experiencing cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, according to Dr. Paul Buchi, emergency medicine physician at the hospital. This condition causes severe, frequent vomiting in some long-term, regular users.
Statewide, the rate of hospitalizations associated with cannabis-related disorders nearly doubled from 2010 to 2017 before Michigan’s 2018 legalization—from 206 per 100,000 residents to 407 per 100,000 residents—after recreational cannabis legalization in Michigan. According to a study of the effects conducted by the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center.
The study showed that youth aged 15 to 24 made up the largest proportion of people hospitalized for cannabis poisoning.
Alpena has also experienced an increase in people seeking marijuana addiction treatment, said Cathy Friel, clinical director of Sunrise Center, an Alpena addiction treatment facility.
For every one patient who came in for marijuana treatment last year, 10 came in this year, Freel estimates.
Marijuana use can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as jitteriness, anxiety, nausea and sleep problems in some people, but, because they lack the drama of withdrawal from a stronger drug, those symptoms may escape notice while the user feels To do more reach for medicine. Better — “the classic addiction cycle,” Coughlin said.
She said the potential harm to young people worries her most.
One in 10 young adults ages 18 to 25 say they use marijuana daily, the highest level among young adults in more than 30 years, according to a survey conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research released in September. According to national study.
Statistically, young adults most likely to use marijuana are also most likely to struggle with mental illness, possibly making them less likely to seek needed medical and other help because of their dependence on the drug, based on a study by the Injury Prevention Center. goes, Coughlin said.
Teens, although not legal users, have greater access to the drug through friends and family who can buy it legally. They also have easier options for concealing their use, even in public, by using THC-containing gummies or other foods without the nasty smell of marijuana smoke to put them off – and researchers are yet to The long term effects are not fully known yet. Experiment on the developing adolescent brain, Coughlin said.
Coughlin said not everyone will face the harmful effects of marijuana, and the drug isn’t necessary, but communities need to educate their residents about its potential dangers.
Over the past three years, the Cannabis Regulatory Agency allocated thousands of dollars to Northeast Michigan counties for marijuana-related education and outreach programs.
District Health Departments No. 2 and No. 4, which serve Northeast Michigan counties, used that money on behalf of the counties to run a social media campaign focused on marijuana safety, to purchase lockboxes that would keep the drug out of the hands of children , and to put up hoardings warning drivers against high driving.
Health officials don’t want to just try to teach residents about marijuana safety.
“Oh God, no,” said Goecke. “The more people, the more fun. It really is a community issue.
See interactive graphic below.