Seniors dispute decision to end medical cannabis education

By Dan Aznoff | Mar 01, 2018

Activist members of the senior community continue to question the decision to end the series of classes on the medical benefits of cannabis that had been scheduled at the Mill Creek Senior Center.

Angry seniors claim that Program Director Terry Schuler made her decision to move the classes out of Mill Creek after Police Chief Greg Elwin threatened to cut funding for the center if the cannabis education courses went on as scheduled.

“I’ve lived here for 16 years and had planned to retire in Mill Creek, but I’ve changed my mind based on the backwards thinking enforced by city,” Kathryn Johnson told The Beacon. “I have –and will—take my tax dollars to other municipalities that have better use for my money than restricting education on legal medical products for senior citizens.”

Johnson claims to have spent “thousands of dollars” on medical cannabis products to deal with her chronic health issues.

Geraldine Koch has lived in Mill Creek for 40 years and has used her medical marijuana card since 2012.

“I know that marijuana works for me,” the 66-year-old Koch said. “What they are doing is ugly. The city is trying to deny us an education that we know makes our lives better.”

Koch went on to say she does not understand how the city council could decline revenue from legal marijuana stores and then turn around to increase property taxes that “will result in seniors losing their homes.”

Schuler said she made the decision to move classes that had been scheduled for March and April to senior centers in Bothell and Shoreline.

“The decision was mine,” Schuler said. “The classes were moved after I realized that Mill Creek has a moratorium on all things related to marijuana and cannabis. We did not want to upset anybody at City Hall.”

Councilmember Mark Bond, who was a police officer in Mill Creek before being elected to the city council, said it is “probably time to reexamine” the moratorium on cannabis and marijuana-related items adopted by the city council in May of 2014.

More than 30 seniors attended an educational seminar at the senior center that featured Audria Jaggers, the manager of Theorem legal marijuana store in Kenmore. The class was the second session of a planned series of courses on the medical benefits of cannabis held at the senior center adjacent to city hall on Main Street.

Jaggers said it is her mission to educate consumers—especially seniors—on the medical benefits of cannabis.

“We do not consider ourselves medical professionals,” she said. “But the antidotal evidence has convinced me that cannabis can help with a variety of ailments. Usually for less money than most prescription medications and without some of the side effects.”

She said seniors like tincture ointments to rub on sore joints and the cannabis-laced edibles to improve sleep.

Elwin said he did walk over to he senior center after Jaggers’ presentation, but only to to express his concern with having marijuana products in a building operated by the city that also houses a childcare center.

“I was probably not aware of the classes until read about them in The Beacon,” Elwin said. “There are concerns regarding safety if the packages are opened for the classes. We certainly do not want to infringe on the rights of seniors to obtain the education they want.

“We did not threaten to cut funding.”

Johnson said she spoke with the police chief by telephone, but hung up on Elwin when she came “annoyed” after he told her that the debate over cannabis is a national issue.

City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto defended Elwin’s actions on behalf of the city.

“I can assure you that Chief Elwin did not threaten any funding for the senior center nor did he ask that education classes cease to be held there,” Polizzotto said.  “What he did ask, at my request, is that packaged product not be included in the education classes due to the fact that we have a preschool located in the same building as the senior center.”

The city manager’s response did not satisfy the irate Johnson.

“By that logic, she should direct the Chief of Police to personally visit every grocery store in Mill Creek,” Johnson said. “I have seen toddlers where there is a ton of hard liquor, cleaning products and harmful products within reach on the shelves.”

Johnson said the childcare services are on a separate floor than the conference room adjacent classroom utilized by the senior center.

“The problem is not the packaged cannabis products,” Johnson said. “Apparently, the problem we have is with poorly-supervised toddlers.”

Jaggers agreed that open bags of product do not belong in a place that could be accessible by children.

“The packages of edible products that I brought to the senior center that day were filled with cotton balls,” she said. “That was the only way I could get the bags to stand up so the people in the back of room could see them.”

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