Marijuana shop opening and location raises grave concerns

by the Bethel Family Clinic Board of Directors

A letter dated January 11, 2019 to the Honored Members of the City of Bethel Council.

Respected Members,

As the Board of Directors for the Bethel Family Clinic, this letter notes our grave concerns regarding the opening of a marijuana dispensary and its’ location. Our offices have been for years, located in the Nicholson building where the Barber Shop is located. The placement of a dispensary is contrary to the Mission and Vision of the Bethel Family Clinic and those we serve.

The Bethel Family Clinic provides health, behavioral health and dental services to the community. As a non-profit organization, we rely on grant funding and community involvement to be an integral part of Bethel. We promote healthy living and assist in recovery.

We specifically treat and assist in recovery of those patients and clients with substance abuse problems. Having a dispensary next door to an established dental office damages the Mission to provide health care services to the community.

As noted in the Mission Statement, our primary goal and function is to promote wellness for all members of the regional population. The ability to provide integrated healthcare for the patients involving drug and alcohol use is a mission near and dear to the staff and the Board of Directors. It is counterintuitive to have at the same location as a facility for the care and treatment of patients, an acknowledged product with noted health hazards.

The product is known to have molds and fungus levels which recommend the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when trimming or in direct long exposure contact with the product. This exposure is linked to moderate to severe respiratory symptoms.

There are specific concerns with the location:

First, the particulate transfer in the building. Unless there is a sealed ventilation system for the dispensary location, the particulates of the product will transfer into the Dental Clinic. That will be irritating to the patients and staff. Continual exposure to the product by the Dental Clinic employees, through research, shows, in data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notes Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can encounter ozone as a product of the chemical reaction of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The full report can be provided at your request. Recommended is a properly sized and working HVAC system and providing appropriate ventilation. As the location of the dispensary is noted to be in the same building structure, it is not achievable to have improved air quality for the Dental Clinic when walls, lobby and ceiling space are shared.

Second, marijuana dispensaries and associated safety. Due to the federal status of being illegal, these businesses are cash only. Large amounts of cash will be present and known to be located there and available for robbery and break-ins. As the Dental Clinic shares the same lobby entrance, there is justifiable concern for the safety of the Clinic, patients and staff. As noted in research, there are security guards and cameras usually located at dispensaries. We are unaware if that is the intention of the business owner.

Third, the shared restroom facilities. The building housing Bethel Family Dental Clinic has one (1) restroom area. It is located in the lobby and used by the tenants and customers. There will be a noted increase in traffic once the dispensary opens and with it the increased use of the restroom. Water and sewer issues will become standard and hygiene affected as a result. The building management would be responsible for ensuring the health and safety standards are maintained.

Fourth, the limited parking space. The City of Bethel requires a structured amount of space for a commercial building. There are currently two (2) active businesses at this location. At any given time, the Dental Clinic can have 2 to 3 patient vehicles, and 3 staff vehicles. The barber shop as well has a clientele that moves in and out the building during regular work hours. There simply is not enough space to allow the patients to utilize parking spaces when there will be an anticipated increase in traffic at this location.

Fifth, Federal employment law concerns. The federal government does not recognize the legal use of medicinal or recreational marijuana. Those businesses and organizations that accept federal funds, are prohibited from having illegal use of drugs. YKHC, AVCP, and BFC are all non-profit federally funded or assisted organizations. As such, we have to adhere to the federal drug laws. This includes marijuana. We must maintain an active Drug and Alcohol Use Policy and notice for the right to test employees. Even though it may be legal in Alaska, it is prohibited for the majority of the employers in Bethel. Employees engaging in use and testing positive can be terminated from employment.

Sixth, serving an underage population. Both the Bethel Dental Clinic and Stan’s Barber Shop serve an underage clientele. The presence of this type of facility, to a youth, can illustrate to them the acceptance of this behavior and our involvement in the acceptance of such.

Seventh, proposed new legislation determining the allowance of use on dispensary premises. The concerns here accentuate the points already brought forth. Ventilation, no matter how closed the system is, will not stop the shared lobby from accumulating the odor. Patients going into the clinic will have to move past customers, in an influenced state, smell the second hand smoke (which does have long term health effects on those not directly consuming). Parking will be further limited and keep patients away from the entrance to their dental provider.

In conclusion, the fact that a marijuana dispensary is moving to Bethel is not the key point. The key point is the intrusion of this type of storefront engaged in business where families and children routinely visit. At the very least, please seriously consider having the dispensary in a standalone structure.

-The Members of the Bethel Family Clinic Board of Directors

Bethel Family Clinic Mission Statement: Bethel Family Clinic promotes wellness for all people within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by providing accessible, high-quality comprehensive health care. Bethel Family Clinic Vision Statement: Empowering individuals and families to build strong, productive, and healthy communities.

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