What’s Up With Tightening Medical Marijuana Laws?


Graphic: Cannabis Defense Coalition

‚ÄčThere’s a disquieting trend lately in the medical marijuana arena. To this close observer of the rhetoric and results surrounding state (and District of Columbia) restrictions on medicinal use of cannabis, every law seems a little tighter than the one before.

It seems it’s become de rigueur for politicians to announce “this would be the strictest medical marijuana law in the nation” every time legislation is introduced, as if the states are in some sort of twisted competition to see who can be the meanest to sick people.
Since when is making safe access to marijuana difficult or impossible for patients something to brag about?
For instance, the new medical marijuana law in New Jersey, and, apparently the one to be voted on this week in D.C., prohibit cannabis cultivation by qualified patients. For many low income patients, this represents the only realistic chance of obtaining quality medicine.

To prevent home cultivation is to simply close the door to thousands of suffering people. It’s wrong, it’s cruel and it’s made at the expense and to the detriment of patients.
Similarly, the trend in recent state legislation has been tighter and tighter definitions of exactly which medical conditions may legally be treated with cannabis. Of course, having legislation in effect which gives recourse to any sick and suffering people is better than nobody having any protection at all.
But let’s face it, excluding whole classes of patients with serious conditions for which cannabis has been shown effective (including PTSD and chronic pain) results in immeasurable suffering in the real world.
Real people are suffering pain right now in New Jersey because of the restrictive medical marijuana law there — patients whose quality of life could be vastly improved by using doctor-recommended cannabis.
California is always the “bad example” in such medical marijuana debates. Opponents invariably point to the proliferation of dispensaries in Los Angeles, and almost always repeat the line about pot shops outnumbering Starbucks and McDonald’s.
Sponsors of medical marijuana legislation then feel pressured to respond to this hyperbole by stressing how restrictive their legislation is in comparison to California’s.
But the supposedly “out of control” situation in California isn’t nearly as bad as pot opponents would have you believe, and the conventional wisdom that the Golden State’s wide open interpretation of its medical pot law has hurt the movement nationwide may be wrong.
If the trend continues to hold true of every state which passes medical marijuana legislation feeling the need to be “stricter” than all those before, it may be a good thing that California’s law was written the way it is, with almost any condition legally treatable by cannabis.
If the inevitable trend is this tightening of the rules and scapegoating of the patients, try to imagine how bad the legislation being passed by now would be if California back in 1996 had started out where New Jersey is right now.
Now, shake off that scenario and thank your lucky stars that the crafters of California’s Prop 215 were as visionary as they were.
Would it be expecting too much to ever again see political leadership based on medicine, reason, and science, and not on the cheap political points to be gained through outdated superstitions and shopworn stereotypes?
Call me a dreamer, but just once, I’d like to see a legislator announce “This would be the most compassionate medical marijuana law in the nation.”
I want to help build a society that values compassion more highly than some misguided and mean-spirited quest to keep people from “getting high.”