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What Does A Good Medical Marijuana Program Look Like?

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new york medical marijuanaMore and more states are looking into legalizing medical marijuana. I tend to complain about states that are ‘CBD only’ because in my opinion, they are not real medical marijuana programs. In the case of Utah, CBD is legal, but there’s no way to obtain it. That’s why I don’t consider Utah to be a ‘medical marijuana state.’ I got asked the other day what a good medical marijuana program should include, and I came up with a handful of things.

This is not intended to be an ‘end all be all’ list. If there’s something that you think I missed, by all means put it in the comments section. Minnesota and New York recently passed medical marijuana laws, but only allow vaporization or edibles. I’m kind of on the fence on how I feel about that. I lean towards saying yes, those are medical marijuana states, but with at least a little hesitation. Not everyone can afford a vaporizer, and not everyone likes the strength of edibles.

For many patients, getting a pipe and some flower is tough enough as it is, and they simply don’t have the money or means to consume marijuana in vapor or edible form. A good program does not have those restrictions.

Arguably the biggest thing that a good program has in my opinion is the right to home cultivation. States that don’t allow home cultivation force patients to have to buy marijuana from dispensaries. This can be very expensive for some patients, and in the case of New Jersey, has led to many patients being forced to go without. If the dispensary isn’t open due to supply shortages or whatever the reason, than there’s no way to safely access medicine.

A good program allows patients to grow their own medicine. Along those same lines, a good program has dispensaries. Not everyone has the means or skill set to grow their own medicine. They should have the right to if they can, but if they can’t, they need a safe way to access medicine. A good program not only allows dispensaries, but it allows a lot of them. Having a dispensary system that only has one or two dispensaries for the entire state is unnacceptable. That type of system leads to price gouging, supply shortages, lack of variety/quality, and if the patient lives far away, can be a travel burden for suffering patients.

A good program has dispensaries, and enough of them that affordable safe access is not an issue for patients. A good medical marijuana program has as many qualifying conditions as possible. California, and now Washington D.C., are the best in this area, as a doctor in these areas can approve a patient for whatever condition they see fit. This should be a no-brainer, as a patient’s doctor knows what’s best for the patient, not law enforcement or politicians. Not every state program has PTSD on the list of qualifying conditions, in addition to many other conditions.

If a patient can alleviate their symptoms with medical marijuana, then they should be able to be approved for it. A good medical marijuana program is well regulated with clear rules. Whenever there are gray areas, law enforcement can take advantage of innocent patients as they see fit. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but it happens far too often in states that don’t have solid regulations. This is one area where California falls short, which has caused a lot of legal headaches for patients and members of the industry.

Something that gets overlooked a lot is reciprocal agreements for medical marijuana programs. When I was a patient, I like that I could travel to states like Arizona and know that my card would be recognized. My home state of Oregon doesn’t recognize out of state cards, but does allow out of state patients to become patients in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). I would like to see Oregon recognize out of state patients, in addition to allowing patients from non-medical marijuana states to get their Oregon cards. Possession limits are another big thing. Oregon allows possession of up to 24 ounces of medical marijuana. More states need to allow similar limits.

Finally, something I think makes a good medical marijuana program is reasonable fees. Oregon doubled the fee to enroll in the OMMP a little while ago, which made it unaffordable to many patients. I was one of them. I still qualify for a card, but simply can’t afford the fee to the doctor, and the $200 fee to the OMMP. Reasonable fees also apply dispensary licenses and grower licenses. If a state charges five figure fees, which are non-refundable, just to apply for a dispensary license, that pretty much ensures that only rich people can open a dispensary, even though they may have no other qualified skills to do so other than writing a hefty check.

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  • Ron

    Yes, grow your own. Has anyone ever considered community gardens for MJ? Are there such things already? If people can’t afford vaporizers, etc. then they can’t afford all the things needed for cultivation and likely lack open space for outdoor grow. Community gardens would be humane way to deal with it: Rent a space large enough for so many plants and with easy access. Of course security would be an issue and precautions would have to be taken against pollination.

    • Olympic

      There are in Washington.

      • Ron

        I’m confused. I thought cultivation wasn’t allowed in Washington. Please clarify.

        • Dusty Relic

          Cultivation is allowed in Washington for medical patients which is the topic of this article. It is not allowed for recreational use.

          • Ron

            Thanks. I guess I wasn’t thinking about the difference between med and rec.

        • Olympic

          You can have up to 15 plants if you carry a valid recommendation for MMJ – which costs about $75 to get by seeing a doc. It should be legal to grow for everyone but whatever, we’ll get to that. I should state the qualifying conditions should be extended to chronic back pain and mental health conditions but that’s not the case just yet. There are various co-ops one can join as well. You can read it here: http://www.thehopeclinics.com/resources/orientation/

    • Sarijuana

      Californians have been co-oping gardens for a long time now. They are non profit “collectives”, I believe, and people who can’t actually work in the gardens contribute in other ways.

      • Ron

        Hope it’s working well. Can I assume that only clones are allowed?Male plants could reek havoc. Is security a problem? I mean, are there thieves to deal with?

  • Olympic

    It’s clear that the MMJ industry is in it’s budding phases and hopefully these concerns will be ironed out as we go. What needs to happen, really, is for the Fed to stop dragging it’s incompetent heels and reschedule MJ. They are probably dragging their heels until their bed partner, Big Pharma, gets a strong foothold in the area.

  • Pcdocjon

    I have studied the genesis of laws continually improved with bipartisan support in Vermont. If you read the first law then the humane subsequent laws to improve access to MMJ I think it is or should be one of the major models of careful but successful implementation of MMJ. New York’s MMJ law, with rollout delayed 18 months not to study and implement the ridiculous limits it imposes, but to stall to see if the MMJ movement is reversed in the near future. In 18 months MMJ should be replaced with total legalization. Come on you greedy politicians. You stand to make pocketfuls of money from legalization. Why give that money to the cartels. For marijuana legalization greed will be good. LEGALIZE NOW!

    • painkills2

      Sorry, greed is never good (which is probably why we don’t have any good politicians). Is it useless to appeal to a politician’s sense of fairness and logic, or maybe just their basic humanity? (Stop laughing.)

      • theskeptic2

        If you can still vote, it’s time to change the guard. In my lifetime, I have seen people who ‘serve’ for decades. They ARE the problem…get those lunatics out of office…
        Bring on term limits…

    • Sarijuana

      New Mexico voted in MMJ in 2007. It was longer than 18 months before we had rules in place and dispensaries open. The rules process is tedious and seemingly takes f o r e v e r.

      • Ron

        Yeah, and for all that time they often still manage to screw it up. Hopefully that will change as good models are established.

  • theskeptic2

    Take the government out of the equation…it does not belong…

  • zach

    great article. i agree that the less regulations the better. i also wanted to add that the more competition they allow the better as well. In maine they only allow 8 dispensaries to open and 1 company owns 4. it almost goes hand in hand about what you said about high fees to just apply they just give the select few who get all the privilege.

  • Dusty Relic

    A good program has a flexible definition of what constitutes a qualifying patient, such as any condition for which the benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risks. And I echo the importance of the right to grow as a deterrence to predatory pricing.