August 14, 2014

What Does A Good Medical Marijuana Program Look Like?

August 14, 2014
new york medical marijuana

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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