ServiceNet CEO alerts staff about medical marijuana dispensary plans
NORTHAMPTON — ServiceNet Inc., the county’s largest human services agency, is a player in the addictions field, but its longtime director sees no conflict between that mission and her efforts to support medical marijuana use.
Susan Stubbs, president and CEO of ServiceNet, acknowledged what she described as the controversial nature of her decision in an email to ServiceNet staff last week.
“I am well aware that many people, especially those who work in the addictions field (including some ServiceNet staff) were against the legalization of medical marijuana, for reasons that I understand and respect,” Stubbs wrote. “However, for me, the benefits are compelling, and outweigh any downsides.”
Stubbs is leading a newly formed group, Farm House Compassionate Care, as its board president. The nonprofit has no connection to ServiceNet and also has filed an application for a dispensary in Hampden County.
Stubbs told employees that she views her involvement with a proposed medical marijuana dispensary as a “logical extension” of her work improving the lives of vulnerable people.
“I believe that medical marijuana should be available to people who need it, and that patients should have the opportunity to seek this treatment in a respectful, safe environment where they don’t feel stigmatized by their needs,” Stubbs said.
ServiceNet provides an array of mental health and human services, employing 1,200 full- and part-time workers.
Farm House Compassionate Care is one of five groups that applied to the state Department of Public Health to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Hampshire County. In all, the state DPH received 181 applications for medical marijuana dispensaries by the Aug. 22 deadline. The state agency plans to register up to 35 dispensaries, including one in each of the commonwealth’s 13 counties, around the end of the year.
Stubbs also noted that a senior manager at ServiceNet recently did a consultation with a Springfield pharmacy that had experienced drug thefts. He learned that the five most frequently prescribed medications at that pharmacy were all narcotics, such as oxycodone, which often fall into the wrong hands.
She told employees that a doctor recently confessed privately to her that he wished he could prescribe marijuana instead of oxycodone for pain management, not only because it’s less addictive, but also because it has fewer side effects.
“Marijuana can bring enormous relief to cancer patients,” Stubbs wrote. “In addition to reducing their pain, it can also reduce nausea and allow people to eat again. There is no way to measure these gifts.”
On Monday, Stubbs said reaction to her announcement has been generally positive. She said she has received no negative reactions but recognized that some ServiceNet staff who oppose medical marijuana may not be comfortable speaking to her about the subject.
Dan Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.