By Johnny Green
Last week I wrote an article, 'When Will Marijuana Be Legal?' The purpose of the article was to illustrate to readers that many consumers take the legalization movement for granted, and assume that legalization will come quick and easy. In actuality, due to the election cycle, fragmentation of the coalition, and outright laziness, recreational legalization is going to take longer than people think. Just look at the comments on that article and you will see what I am talking about.
The comments from that article inspired me to write today's article. To give some background about my perspective, I have been an OMMP patient/caretaker/grower in Oregon since 2006. I have been a recreational consumer since 1993. I use my doctor endorsed medical marijuana often, especially on days where the pain is more prevalent. However, I also consume marijuana for recreational enjoyment as well. Oregon Revised Statutes do not provide guidance to the OMMP on how to differentiate between the two; if you are an OMMP patient you get to consume cannabis in a private area with State protection, whether it's recreational or medical.
I was fighting for marijuana policy reform since the mid 90's. Oregon did not get a medical marijuana program until 1998, and it wasn't until years later that it was expanded to cover my ailments. Maybe I am a little biased due to the fact that I was fighting for recreational legalization before I was fighting for medical marijuana. However, I feel that just because I received my OMMP approval it doesn't mean that I shouldn't still fight for full legalization.
I have long dreamed of a day when I could consume without any fears of repercussion from law enforcement. Despite the fact that I have my paperwork on me at all times, I still worry that I am going to be confronted by a member of law enforcement that is on a personal mission to inject his/her views on the subject into their job. A cop can do whatever they want to do, and it's up to the defendant to prove their innocence thereafter, despite the claim that we are a system of 'innocent until proven guilty.' Just ask anyone that has been falsely accused, and had to pay high legal fees to get their lives to the same status as before the cops' wrath. I know there will be readers that will say, 'then you can sue after you win!' but let's get serious, you have to have pay more legal fees, and maybe you win the next case as well. That's not nearly as simple as 'yes officer, I have cannabis on my person and/or in my vehicle, but it is legal, so kick rocks...'
I hope fellow medical marijuana patients understand that I hear their argument, and it is very valid. This was the comment from my previous article that I think sums up the mood of many mmj patients:
“I focus only on patient needs. We are struggling with just that issue. If you want to throw everything into the equation, you will never win in our lifetime…and patients will definitely lose. Don’t try to win your goal for legalization for everyone on the backs of patients. It’s seriously pissing us off.”
- - Steve Sarich CannaCare
I understand where many patients are coming from when they feel this way. They use marijuana to alleviate their horrendous conditions, and see teenagers at the clinic getting their medical card/prescription when they look perfectly healthy. As with any government program, there are going to be loopholes and people taking advantage of the situation. It is absolutely disgusting to think that there are so many people suffering that need medical marijuana to tolerate living, and that there are people faking conditions to get a card. However, speaking as both a patient and a proponent of recreational legalization, I do honestly feel that we are in the same fight together.
Another reader made a very valid point:
“If there were assurances that the program would be left alone, AS IS, I might take your side. However, if you think that the medicinal cannabis business is safe and secure, guess again. The right wingers dismantled the entire system. They just gave the medicinal cannabis program in Colorado some revisions that are designed to make the program unworkable, and the guy who designed that fiasco said that he’s coming to California to “help us with our problem”. - Kevin
I think Kevin is correct. Without the votes of both medical marijuana members/sympathizers and recreational users, both groups are left open to attacks from those that wish to harm safe access. I can't speak for all jurisdictions, but up here in Oregon, most of the members of one cannabis organization are also members of other cannabis organizations, both medical and recreational. These people also don't think it's cool to 'ride the backs of patients,' but they realize that there are clear benefits to banding together with like minded people.
Just as there are many in the MMJ community that are not happy about the recreational crowd, there are some in the recreational crowd that feel the same way toward the MMJ community. I have more acquaintances that are recreational users than medical consumers by far. There are not a lot, but there are some nonetheless, that feel the MMJ community turned their back on recreational users once the programs were started because cardholders already had their legal coverage. One guy I know very well always says, 'We (recreational community) voted for medical marijuana in Oregon, when is it our turn for full legalization? All my card holding friends don't go to any rallies anymore, they don't collect signatures anymore, they just protect their own interests instead of going all the way on this thing.' Like I said, that's not MY opinion, but it's something that I think is part of the conversation and comes up often.
What I do feel is that we are in this together. As a cardholder myself, I feel that medical marijuana should come first out of compassion, but that the fight should go on for full legalization out of a desire to apply logic to government. Anyone that has consumed marijuana, medical or recreational, will attest that it is not the menace that some make it out to be. In fact, it is a wonder plant that can be applied to so many facets of living. I am lucky enough to live in a state that recognizes the medicinal powers of marijuana. I wish it would be more widely applied so we could get the nation off of so many other harmful drugs. I also wish people could use it legally to relax from a long day instead of consuming large amounts of alcohol.
What do readers think? I welcome views from both sides, and as always, even people that disagree with me. I would much rather be wrong and create a constructive conversation than be right and bring zero awareness and education. Do you think that lumping the two causes together hinders the progress of either cause? I look forward to what people have to say.