Treehouse 603, a marijuana shop that opened this past November, recently released a fleet of pedicabs in partnership with Boober, a cab tour company that employs those recovering from addiction, in order to make marijuana accessible to the public during the pandemic. 

The cabs transport customers from various campus locations to Treehouse 603’s E. William St. store and back. Chris Ly, Treehouse 603 managing director, said the pedicabs have been helpful in transporting people safely during the pandemic.

“COVID has made us adapt, and we focus on deliveries,” Ly said. “We think it’s important that people can get access to their cannabis a lot easier.” 

In 2008, Michigan became the 13th state to officially legalize medical marijuana through the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, allowing those over 18 to obtain medical marijuana cards. Recreational use of the drug was legalized in November 2018 through the Michigan Taxation and Regulation of Marihuana Act. Through this act, all Michigan citizens over the age of 21 became legally able to purchase, grow and sell marijuana. 

Following the MTRM Act of 2018, also known as Proposal 18-1, Michigan saw marijuana sales skyrocket. In Ann Arbor, legalization created a high demand for marijuana and led to the opening of numerous stores around the city.

Ly said sales at Treehouse 603 are evenly distributed between recreational and medicinal marijuana users, though they pay special attention to the medical aspect of the business.

“We want to make sure that we focus on the medicinal side of sales,” Ly said.

While more states are beginning to legalize marijuana, some question whether the benefits of legalization outweigh the harms. Daniel Kruger, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a large study in 2017 that found marijuana has numerous medical benefits. 

“(NASEM) determined that there is sufficient evidence to say that cannabis can effectively treat several different conditions, including chronic pain, chemotherapy induced vomiting, multiple sclerosis spasticity and sleep disturbances,” Kruger said. “The challenge is, for most of our lives, everyone has probably been misinformed by anti-drug messages, more so than being informed.”

LSA sophomore Mutaz Faqqouseh said medical marijuana has helped him treat ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that caused him to lose significant weight his freshman year. 

“During the time where I was trying to gain that weight back, I did use medical marijuana and it worked,” Faqqouseh said. “It also helps with the pain management of the condition.”

Kruger said though marijuana can be very beneficial, it is not always a “cure-all." He said cannabis use can become unhealthy when people use it to treat everything. 

“There are some conditions that it is not effective for treating, and there are mainstream medicines or pharmaceuticals that would be better,” Kruger said. 

Faqqouseh agreed that people should be careful when using marijuana to treat medical conditions. 

“Most of the time, medical marijuana is not the best treatment for you,” Faqqouseh said. “You have to be honest with yourself with what you are really using it for.”

Kruger said research on the subject of medical marijuana is scarce because of the legal restrictions set forth by the federal government which limit clinical studies. 

For pharmaceutical drugs, several phases of successful testing must be completed before a drug can be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These studies test the drug’s efficacy in controlled experimental environments — however, no such research can be done on cannabis. 

“All of a sudden, it is becoming legalized and medicalized and we don’t have the medical framework for it,” Kruger said. “All these tests that are typically done for drugs that are used to treat medical conditions haven't happened for cannabis largely because it is still considered a Schedule-1 drug by the federal government, which restricts the clinical research that can be done.” 

Kruger said marijuana is mislabeled as a Schedule-1 “high potential for abuse” drug by the federal government, the same classification given to ecstasy and heroin, making it seem as though it is not medically beneficial for some patients.

“We are still trying to integrate the medical use of cannabis with the mainstream health care system,” Kruger said. “In terms of scientific evidence, marijuana is completely misclassified right now regarding its level of relative harm.”

Although stores like Treehouse 603 make marijuana easily accessible around Ann Arbor, there are legal prohibitions regarding cannabis use on campus. Since the University is federally associated and funded, it must follow the restrictions set by the federal government, regardless of how various states choose to operate. This means that marijuana is illegal for use on campus grounds. 

Ly said that with the decrease in foot traffic around the store and on campus, the company is now catering to an older population. 

“In December, when all the students were gone, a good 30% of our demographic was people that were over 50 years old,” Ly said. 

In Kruger’s opinion, the notion that marijuana is a “gateway drug” is misleading. Rather, when there is an available market, the likelihood of drug abuse decreases. 

“If there is a market for it and people want it, but it's illegal, then it goes on the black market and that is actually the way a lot of people might be introduced to other substances, risks and harms,” Kruger said. “That might be the real gateway mechanism.”

 Daily Staff Reporter Nadir Al-Saidi can be reached at alsaidin@umich.edu

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