Has Medical Marijuana Gone to Pot

Presently, there are eleven states who have voted to support the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Canada is legalizing it too under Quebec’s Justin Trudeau. He’s the new Prime Minister of Canada. In Canada their Prime Minister would be in the United States, the President.

The states that voted are:

Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, California, Rhode Island, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Arizona has a similar law but without a means of distribution.

Ten additional states, plus the District of Columbia have laws that support the use of medical marijuana yet do not provide legal protection to patients. Twelve states have medical marijuana RESEARCH laws. Michigan, Ohio and many other states are jumping in now too.

These states passed a law allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana for a variety of medical conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis, Arthritis, Depression, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Glaucoma, and Cancer to name just a few. This comes at the recommendation of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine and the California MS Society. The National MS Society originally dismissed the testimony from those with MS who had been smoking marijuana for both pain management and tremor relief. They now have had a change in thought as evidence continues to mount up in favor of Marijuana versus many of the other drugs presently prescribed for pain management and spasticity.

So why then is it so difficult for the states to implement their recently enacted laws? The answer is unfortunately, both simple and complicated. Simple answer is fear; fear of prosecution. What led to this fear is the more complicated version. In 1997 a class action lawsuit, Conant v. McCaffrey, was filed on behalf of prescribing physicians and patients using medical marijuana. This lawsuit was aimed at top federal drug officials who promised to revoke physicians’ licenses or threatened to criminally prosecute those who recommended medical marijuana. The Supreme Court in 2001 overrode the state ‘Compassionate Use Act’ by upholding the ‘Federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970’. This law bans the use of marijuana for any purpose. The states that enacted a ‘compassionate use’ for marijuana for medical purposes are in direct conflict with Federal Law. And Federal Law trumps State Law. In 2002, an Appeals Court upheld the right of doctors to recommend marijuana for medicinal purposes. In 2005, the Supreme Court case, Raich v. Ashcroft, was to protect patients against federal drug raids. Ms. Raich, from California, lost the case, but state medical marijuana laws still remained in place. Undaunted, Ms. Raich is now back in court with an appeal arguing that she has protection under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments not to have to suffer from pain or death.

California has continued to lead the fight as other states have watched the court cases play out wondering what would be in store for them. Three Counties in California have now banded together to eliminate the state’s Compassionate Use Act. Their argument is a lawsuit stating that Federal Laws ban the use of marijuana for any purpose and that the state of California cannot contradict federal law. The ACLU has taken up the fight on behalf of the medical patients, caregivers and doctors. And so, it has been a battle that keeps being replayed.

What has ensued over the years has been nothing short of a litigation mess. The Feds argue that allowing the states to have their own ‘compassionate use’ for medical purposes would undermine their anti-drug campaign. They feel that legalizing it for this select medical group would open the door to legalizing it for everyone. The advocates of the use of medical marijuana claim that under the proposed medical parameters that the drug would be an affordable, safe alternative to current toxic drugs that alleviate pain and nausea.

Those who were state approved growers of marijuana found themselves in District Court facing Federal Drug charges. The Drug Enforcement Agency started raiding patients in their homes who were using marijuana, arresting both the patient and their caregiver. Physicians who prescribed marijuana for medical use found themselves facing jail time, loss of their medical license or both. So despite the fact that The American Medical Association recommends its use in certain situations, and despite the fact that a number of states have ‘compassionate use’ laws, doctors are reticent to prescribe until the heated debate doesn’t put them in jeopardy. As a result, doctors who may have prescribed medical marijuana in place of the more toxic drugs —or in complement to a patient’s present regime- have been forced to prescribe the more addictive, costly, and toxic drugs instead—or risk their career.

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