Medical marijuana. There’s been much discussion about this controversial topic in recent months, as legislature pushes forward legalizing the use of the substance for medical purposes in more and more states. The first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was California in 1996. Today, a total of 14 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to legalize medical marijuana. Both DC and New Jersey implemented laws in 2010.
Other states which have legalized medicinal marijuana use include Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Twelve of the 14 states require proof of residency to be eligible for the use of medical marijuana; Oregon and Montana will accept out-of-state applications. A license is required for use in twelve states, and various fees apply. The amount of marijuana permitted in possession by someone with a license also varies from state to state, ranging between one and 24 ounces. A license costs between $0 and $150.
New Jersey and the District of Columbia prohibit home cultivation of marijuana for medicinal use, and New Mexico requires a special license. Those which permit home cultivation by patients or caregivers have laws limiting the number of plants each licensee may have, between six and 24 plants, although further limitations are placed restricting the number of mature versus immature plants that are permitted. Further, the specific conditions and illnesses for which medicianal marijuana is permitted also vary from state to state.
It’s no easy road to legalize medicinal marijuana. It’s currently classified as a Schedule I substance, meaning it has high potential for abuse and no medicinal value. Federal law prohibits physicians from prescribing Schedule I substances, so individual states have to find a way around this issue in order to legalize use of the drug for medical purposes. Most states require a written statement from a physician — not a prescription — that states that a patient would benefit from medical marijuana, or they enact laws that protect patients from prosecution for possession and use if they have an ID card.
Marijuana is commonly used to alleviate pain in conditions such as cancer. It’s also used to relieve nausea and vomiting common in patients undergoing chemotherapy, and it can be used to stimulate the appetite of patients with wasting syndrome (a complication of AIDS) and in chemotherapy patients.
The issue remains controversial, as several states that have passed laws are experiencing abuse — patients exaggerating their symptoms in order to qualify, and loopholes in laws permit basically anyone to acquire the drug with a doctor’s note. What are your thoughts on medical marijuana? Should it be legalized, for what patient populations and conditions, and how strict do you think regulation should be?
Information on states and legislation from ProCon.org
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