A panel of state legislators, business owners and scientists discussed the medical, political and business effects of marijuana, as Green Wolverine, a student organization that focuses on acquiring information on the legal aspects of the cannabis industry, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a group concerned with the impacts of drug abuse, hosted the event Sunday in the Robertson Auditorium at the Ross School of Business.

Panelist discussed their personal relations and contributions to the cannabis industry, as well as the importance of cannabis in today’s society. Audience members texted in questions for panelists and participated in dual trivia sessions to test their knowledge of the cannabis industry.

Panelists explained the health and safety benefits of marijuana, which is used to treat a list of 32 symptoms, including PTSD, aid chronic pain reduction and help those with chemotherapy and HIV-induced anorexia. 

Stephen Goldner, an attorney, toxicologist and FDA adviser on cannabis, discussed the extended benefits of the botanical. Goldner has aided the FDA approval of more than 240 drugs and devices spawning over 200 companies.

“This is the least toxic of substances that I have ever had the pleasure to work with,” Goldner said. “It clearly works in a plethora of indications.”

Panelists discussed the benefits of cannabis in helping patients wean off opioid usage. Local business owner Mark Passerini stated there has been a 25 percent reduction in opioid overdoses in states where medical cannabis is legal. Passerini, owner of OM of Medicine, a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, has seen an overall 64 percent decrease in opioid use and hopes the medical field will begin pushing medical marijuana more.

Goldner named marijuana an exit drug rather than an entrance drug.

“To the greatest extent, cannabis is actually a replacement to many drugs and alcohol,” Goldner said. “So use of cigarettes is frequently weighed down in states where cannabis is allowed. This makes cannabis one of the most effective drugs and recreational items available.”

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, also vouched for the legalization of the drug, stating the current law’s enforcement is a waste of taxpayer dollars due to the racially unequal distribution of the war on drugs, loss of public revenue and cause of public safety concerns.

“If we think of this as a public safety issue, which we should, the legal use of recreational marijuana is a public health concern and a public safety concern,” Rabhi said. We should make sure that those using marijuana are using it in a safe and legal way.”

Currently, the state of Michigan has legalized the use of marijuana for medical uses.

“As a legislator, I have been working really hard to ensure that our med marijuana industry can maintain its focus on the patients and maintain the work that it’s doing without government overreach,” Rabhi said.

Kevin Boehnke, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan who studies marijuana, discussed the low risks of cannabis usage. Boehnke referred to it as a benign substance that is nearly impossible to overdose on. Boehnke referred to the benefits and low risks of cannabis and the further research to be done regarding the negative effects of marijuana. 

LSA junior Benjamin Tan said he felt the variety of expertise allowed the panelists to discuss the nuances of all sides of the issue and shed light on the government stance of marijuana regulation.

“I’ve never encountered the more technical side of cannabis consumption, and I think that the angle the Cannabis Summit is taking on not just the recreational use of marijuana but the applications of it in business and science is a really interesting opportunity that I felt I should take advantage of,” Tan said.

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