Discussion of Canada's illegal medical marijuana dispensaries often center on business and politics at the expense of the patients whose lives are affected by legal skirmishes over the illicit industry. But in a letter to the editor to a local paper, one Ontario woman is reminding us that the fractious debate has a human face - one that often takes the form of loved ones with terminal illnesses.

Fiamma Stephen came out in support of dispensaries after a fellow Oshawa resident wrote a letter to the editor of The Oshawa Express and complained that the city's downtown cannabis dispensary and methadone clinic were destroying the city's reputation.

"Do tourists who come to my city and go to the downtown core see people lining up in front of the pot store and lining up in front of the methadone clinic?" he wrote. "That would be quite a site [sic] for first-time visitors. They will tell their friends and no one will come here. What is next for the downtown core? A brothel?"

The writer is referring to GW Weed Emporium, a dispensary that opened in April 2016 to sell dried marijuana, as well as cannabis oil, extracts and edibles to patients with various conditions. City Hall and local police have said that they would monitor the store, but neither has moved to close it down.

And Fiamma Stephen hopes that they don't because her sister depends on the dispensary to treat her Stage IV lung cancer. Stephen says that the lines out front of the dispensary prove that the service is desperately needed. And she argues that the store will improve the Oshawa's reputation by showing "how advanced the city has become in regards to such issues."

Here's full text of Stephen's letter:

Like the writer of the above-mentioned letter, I too am a long time resident of Oshawa and would like to see the downtown core cleaned up as was promised by our local politicians. However, I do not agree that the "pot store" recently opened on Simcoe Street should be classified in the same category as a brothel!

My sister has stage-4 lung cancer and is in daily pain. Her chemo and the drugs she has to take to combat its effect cause her pain and daily nausea. The only thing that has so far proven to alleviate said symptoms and also, as a bonus, helps her to sleep at night is medical cannabis. She does not smoke pot! She consumes medical cannabis in an edible form (a cookie or a butter spread) in order to improve her quality of life. So, in my opinion, lumping a medical cannabis dispensary in with a brothel or an illegal gambling house is not acceptable.

The need for such a dispensary is obvious when you see how many people frequent this recently opened store. And rest assured that each and every patron at this dispensary holds a valid medical cannabis licence or they would not be permitted to purchase any products there. No, I am in no way affiliated with this store. I'm just glad it has opened and pray it will remain open in order for my sister, and patients like her, to have some relief in the time remaining to them.

As for first-time visitors coming to our city and seeing a medical cannabis dispensary in our downtown, maybe they would think like I do and recognize how advanced this city has become in regards to such issues. Maybe next time the previous writer can educate himself prior to condemning places and/or people that he obviously knows nothing about.

h/t The Oshawa Express.