This story elaborates on an article published at 8:14 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, 2018: Marijuana’s potential for pain relief and economic booster discussed by Holyoke panel

HOLYOKE — Marijuana poses nowhere near the dependency problem of nicotine or alcohol, a physician said at a panel discussion Tuesday.

And the only way marijuana acts as a gateway drug is as a gateway away from opioids, the same doctor told an audience at Gateway City Arts on Race Street.

“I just think it’s complete propaganda that it’s a gateway. It’s associated to other drug use, but that doesn’t mean it’s causally related to other drug use….I think cannabis, if anything, is a gateway out,”  Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Massachusetts General Hospital said.

Grinspoon was among panelists during the forum titled “Cannabis and Opioids: Prevention or Treatment.”

A featured topic was use of marijuana as an alternative for pain treatment to opioids, abuse of which for the past several years has attacked Holyoke, the state and the nation as an epidemic.

“I have always held the mantra: It’s your recovery, it’s your decision,” said panelist Jennifer Flanagan of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. 

Among issues are the devastation of opioids and the accompanying reality that insurance companies don’t cover the medical marijuana prescribed for pain relief, she said.

“But I think that cannabis is slowly but surely playing a role,” Flanagan said.

Other points during the forum were that more research is needed on marijuana’s medical benefits, such as to determine which strains of the plant are effective against which illnesses, and the importance of explaining dosage and the perception-altering effects of marijuana.

For example, people need help to understand how to use marijuana. The drug will make them feel “high,” temporarily affecting how they experience their surroundings and their feelings, said panelist Ezra Parzybok, a cannabis consultant

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