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