Prevention Connection: The Marijuana Decision (Part 3)

A look at marijuana dispensaries and effects in states with legalization.

The following is a guest column by Marilyn G. Belmonte of the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force:

Marijuana Dispensaries

In those states that have legalized marijuana for self-reported medical use, any resident can obtain marijuana for almost any symptom because the state laws are not written to confine marijuana only for the seriously ill.   The wording of the laws list cancer, glaucoma and HIV but also list “any other illness” which leaves the law open to interpretation.

The process of obtaining “medical” marijuana is fairly simple.  First, patients need to find a doctor who will recommend marijuana.  Marijuana is not a prescription drug, so doctors can only recommend the use.  Most doctors do not recommend marijuana for their patients.  In Oregon, only 10 doctors made recommendations for all the marijuana patients in the state. 

Then patients take this written recommendation to a state-run marijuana dispensary, not a pharmacy.  Pharmacists do not work at marijuana dispensaries.   Their professional licenses can be revoked for breaking federal law by selling an illegal drug.  The dispensary or “pot shop” requires a simple form to be completed.   Then a “marijuana card” is issued which allows patients to visit any pot shop and purchase marijuana.

Pot shops can sell marijuana to patients in large quantities because “medical marijuana” laws allow patients to possess up to a 60-day supply.  However, these state laws do not specify how much equals a 60-day supply.  If a person claims to need 3 joints a day, and there is an average of 60 joints per ounce, that means a 60-day supply equals 3 ounces or 180 joints.

Marijuana is not the only thing sold in these pot shops.  They also sell hashish, pot pipes, pot grinders, bongs, and food laced with marijuana including cookies, brownies, cakes, candy, and sodas.  They sell small pot plants. “Medical marijuana” laws allow people to grow their own marijuana plant if a person lives an inconvenient distance from a dispensary.  That “inconvenient” distance is also not clarified in the state law.

The Legalization of Marijuana

An important issue to clarify is that marijuana is an illegal, DEA-Schedule I controlled substance.  That means that if every state in America passes a law allowing the legal use of marijuana for self-reported medical issues, marijuana will remain an illegal drug.  The conflict between federal law that bans the use of marijuana, and state law that allows the use of marijuana, causes problems between our federal government and our state employees.  In fact, the MA Department of Public Health will be mandated to oversee the marijuana dispensary program if “medical use” of marijuana is legalized.  Employees of the DPH will be subject to arrest for breaking federal law.

Companies that require employee drug testing will still be able to fire employees for failing their drug test even if they have a state marijuana card.  More than 6,000 companies, industries and professions require a pre-employment drug test.  Laws legalizing marijuana for “medical” use may make people unemployable. 

So why is there a movement to legalize marijuana to be used as a medicine instead of outright legalization?  Decriminalization laws and so-called “medical marijuana” laws have softened the public’s perception of marijuana.  These laws were designed to dilute our concerns about marijuana.  Studies prove that as perceived risk of harm from marijuana decreases, the use of marijuana increases. 

In Massachusetts, we are now facing a very important decision that will affect our future and our children’s future.  Your vote needs careful consideration.

For more information check out parts 1 and 2 of this topic: 

Click here for Part 1: Should Massachusetts legalize?

Click here for Part 2: A look at medical research on marijuana use

Marilyn Belmonte is a substance abuse prevention expert who founded Healthy Outcomes, Inc., a non-profit organization, to provide prevention services to all communities through grants and charitable donations. Marilyn is Co-Chairperson of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force in Burlington, Massachusetts.   Her work has received national recognition from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for her innovative community programs in 2010 when she was awarded to the “National Service To Science Initiative”.  She also received the “All Star Award” by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), makers of over-the-counter medications for educating parents about cough medicine abuse in 2008.

Kevin_Hunt October 14, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Pot use and suicide risk.....? Not as bad as getting shot by cops in a botched marijuana raid: Jose Guerana, an Iraq war veteran was gunned down by an AZ SWAT team who was trying to reach their quota of drug raids. No drugs were found. The officers denied paramedics access to their victim and allowed Guerena to bleed to death in front of his 4 year old son. http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2011/11/27/swat-team-shooting-marine-jose-guerena-ortiz-provokes-rage/
Info October 14, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Here from a Doctor in Colorado about what's happening with our kids due to pot legalization efforts - including legalizing for medicinal purposes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGjOqw2-q4c
Kevin_Hunt October 14, 2012 at 03:22 AM
OOOHHH The Children!! "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. " -Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Publ. Houghton Miflin, 1943, Page 403
Greg October 14, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Kev I love Ben n Jerry's . So he better not even go there !
Kevin_Hunt October 14, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Info has been out on the town living it up: At 9:54 p.m. a caller from Pizzeria Villafranca reported an unknown white male mooned him in the parking lot. Employee stated that about 20 minutes ago a male, appearing intoxicated, started yelling at employees in the restaurant. http://burlington.patch.com/articles/police-logs-two-arrested-for-shoplifting-man-picked-up-for-a-b-and-mooning-reported
Kevin_Hunt October 14, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Lock 'em both up in solitary confinement. Ben----------and------Jerry. Those cholesterol-sugar pushers need to pay for their crimes against humanity.
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 03:38 AM
There are no credible studies that show any serious long term issues with respiration or the brain from cannabis use, including from smoking. And I can assure you there are far more morbidly obese people in the US who have never smoked cannabis than there are that do. As for adolescents, no one is suggesting cannabis use for kids, just like most folks oppose tobacco or alcohol use by kids. So keep your red herrings to yourself, please. That the cottage industries dependent on the continuation of cannabis prohibition oppose Question 3 is hardly surprising. They are looking out for their OWN interests, not the interests of the people of Massachusetts.
Greg October 14, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Priceless .. lmao .. Info sighting !!
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 03:48 AM
@info Your ad is utter tripe. So those who know of medical cannabis understand the benefits and harmlessness. What a shock! Extremely addicted to cannabis? Neat trick, considering cannabis is entirely non-toxic and non-addictive. A64 does not allow cannabis to kids... which makes the whole 'kids' line of fear-mongering nothing but a red herring, having no value in the discussion. Why should anyone voting on A64 concern themselves with kids, when kids are not allowed use of cannabis (other than medical with parental permission) under A64. You prohibitionists have no legitimate basis for your self-serving BS so you just flail around with the same tired old fear-mongering, thereby proving the vapid status of your positions and arguments. Vote YES on Oregon's Measure 80! Vote YES on Colorado's Amendment 64! Vote ** NO ** on Washington State's I-502!
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 03:57 AM
@info You are quite ludicrous. None of your claims of 'would increase crime, violence, community decay, school truancy across Massachusetts just like pot stores have done in states like California and Colorado' have any merit and, in fact, in CO and CA quite the opposite of your claims has occurred. Cities and communities are not fighting to shut them down. A small group of very vocal and very misinformed/dishonest prohibitionists try... using fear-mongering, mis-information and outright lies. Did not work very well in LA, did it? Thrives on human addiction? To a plant that is entirely and completely non-addictive? How do you work out that math? Please show your work. Why would there be sales tax on medicine? You will need to explain that illogic. As for 1000 dispensaries in LA, are you aware what the population of LA is? Do let us know when you actually have something relevant to impart.
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 04:00 AM
I agree with you in general principle, but I cannot support I-502 with its arbitrary and baseless per se DUI BS. Vote YES on Oregon's Measure 80! Vote YES on Colorado's Amendment 64! Vote ** NO ** on Washington State's I-502!
Kevin_Hunt October 14, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Quoting Newt Gingrich: "On September 16, 1981, Representatives Stewart McKinney and I introduced legislation designed to end bureaucratic interference in the use of marijuana as a medicant. We believe licensed physicians are competent to employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source". Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association, March 19, 1982;247(11)
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 04:06 AM
@info Your link only shows that cannabis is not 100% guaranteed to prevent suicide in deeply depressed and suicidal folks. Guess what? NOTHING IS. Your posts and links are, at best, pathetic jokes.
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 04:21 AM
@jay lyons How, exactly, are medical cannabis patients 'abusing' cannabis? Do those who take aspirin 'abuse' it by doing so? As for THC levels, if you compare similar grade there has been no huge increase. Additionally, THC is non-toxic and non-addictive. Same today as for at least the previous 10,000+ years. All potency means is you need less weight to get the desired effect. As for your 'intertwined' BS, the reason for any entwining is prohibition. Your attempt at using the wholly debunked 'gateway myth' is duly noted. And there are zero credible studies that show what you claim. Better luck next time.
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 04:31 AM
@jay lyons Interesting how nowhere medical cannabis is legal actually has these outcomes you claim. In fact, quite the opposite. Why should one perceive harm from something that is harmless. Can you explain in detail how you figure this? Actually the dropping price makes it not worth the risks ... the black markey goes away. Maybe you should put down all the deadly products of Big Pharma like Oxycontin.
Neal Feldman October 14, 2012 at 05:06 AM
@jay lyons You clearly have no clue what you are talking about. Just so we are clear, I am 50 yrs old and have been a medical cannabis patient going on 5 years. Prior to that I mad virtually no cannabis use and very little alcohol use. 27 yrs ago I quit a 3.5pk/day tobacco habit. I am a father of four, grandfather of two and a veteran.I am in Oregon so I grow my own. Your claims do not seem to interface well with reality.
Mike Parent October 14, 2012 at 01:01 PM
@Info, please tell us what level of Prohibitionist Parasite you're at. Do you rely on Prohibition for employment or are you just grossly misinformed and Ignorant to the facts, and parrot Lies from the Depts of Propaganda, aka,NIDA/DEA.
Mike Parent October 14, 2012 at 01:07 PM
@Jay, I have some knowledge about crime and NONE of your prognostications has occurred in MMJ States. So are you Ignorant of the Facts or are you just parroting lies?
wm97 October 14, 2012 at 02:26 PM
"I'm going to venture to guess that none of you have had to unfortunate experience of any real life situations with drugs, drug abuse, crime, or any of the serious issues associated with it" Like everything else, you are way wrong. So wrong that it is just plain ridiculous. As for the children, most of them with problems started with alcohol and/or tobacco as their first drugs. The major characteristics of kids with early drug use problems is that they are suffering from anxiety related disorders such as ADD, ADHD, PTSD, etc. Their drug use is characterized by the fact that they typically abuse everything they can get their hands on. Take away one drug and they will abuse another. The solution to that problem is therapy, not prohibition. As for the "gateway" idea, that idea was made up in 1951. When the Marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, Harry Anslinger said specifically that there was no connection between marijuana and harder drugs. The story changed in 1951 when he was trying to justify his budget for his agency. It never did have a shred of truth. You can read the story at http://druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/gateway_myth.htm
Info October 14, 2012 at 03:45 PM
If passed, ballot question 3 would go into effect on Jan. 1st - regardless of whether DPH has set up its regulations or not (as detailed in the 6-pages of proposed law). People could begin to grow and sell marijuana as medicine with NO oversite at all while DPH works through its bureaucracy to put its regulations together. As the Boston Globe put it: "DPH is the same agency that was gazing into space while one of its forensic chemists recently mishandled thousands of drug samples in a state crime laboratory”. DPH does not have the capacity or know-how to oversee a new, unique and separate dispensary system that’s outside of our current, existing pharmaceutical and medical framework that would put 35 pot stores in the MA in the first year – more to be allowed in future years. No one wants their loved ones who are sick to suffer. But Question 3 is NOT the law to pass to allow the chronically ill to have access to pot if they choose to go that route. The law would change the culture, climate and community landscape of Massachusetts dramatically for the worse. To learn more about what this law would really do if enacted and the reasons people are changing their vote to a NO, here are 3 credible links: http://articles.boston.com/2012-10-12/opinion/34409576_1_marijuana-dispensaries-medical-marijuana-debilitating-medical-conditions http://mavotenoonquestion3.com/other-states-woes-buyers-remorse/ https://www.facebook.com/NoOnQuestion3
wm97 October 14, 2012 at 03:50 PM
So, Info, your argument is that we need to throw people in jail for marijuana because the government agencies would be too incompetent to regulate it properly. If that's the case, then you ought to be in jail for just about everything you ever buy.
wm97 October 14, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Info said: "To learn more about what this law would really do if enacted and the reasons people are changing their vote to a NO, here are 3 credible links: " A newspaper article, a political site, and a Facebook page. Ok, you have thoroughly demonstrated your idea of education and "credible". That seems to be the real problem.
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Rennis,,, All the organizations you mention all stand to lose funding from the drug war if Marijuana is legalized. They care for their paychecks, not the children.
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Believe me, I have NEVER heard of a person going to rehab for marijuana use UNLESS it was COURT ORDERED!! It's all about the real gangsters in this drug war, our own justice system!
Chris O'Hara October 17, 2012 at 04:44 PM
the us government owns the patent on medical marijuana US PATENT # 6630507 TITLED ''Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and neuroprotants" the patent was obtained oct 2003
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Yeah, that the ticket,,, "Street price goes down and now our kids can buy it at a lesser price and more of it!" Yeah,,, That's why I buy my alcohol from a moonshiner,, so much cheaper and a much better drunk with that. I am LAZY so you wont see me growing or buying Marijuana to help with my pain.
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 05:07 PM
"illicit drug use primarily begins with pot." No, it begins with alcohol or tobacco.
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Those are great numbers for alcohol and tobacco,,, Why not make them illegal as well?? Many people die from alcohol use. Nobody dies from marijuana use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths, including more than 1,400 in Colorado, are attributed to alcohol use alone (i.e. this figure does not include accidental deaths). On the other hand, the CDC does not even have a category for deaths caused by the use of marijuana. People die from alcohol overdoses. There has never been a fatal marijuana overdose. The official publication of the Scientific Research Society, American Scientist, reported that alcohol is one of the most toxic drugs and using just 10 times what one would use to get the desired effect could lead to death. Marijuana is one of – if not the – least toxic drugs, requiring thousands of times the dose one would use to get the desired effect to lead to death. This “thousands of times” is actually theoretical, since there has never been a case of an individual dying from a marijuana overdose. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur the United States each year. http://www.saferchoice.org/content/view/24/32/
Paul Hurteau October 17, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Paul Hurteau October 20, 2012 at 05:02 PM
"THC Levels in today's marijuana are significantly higher than 30 years ago." According to who??? 30 years ago the people who make these statements did not know where to buy the great bud.


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