Legislators Restricting Medical Marijuana to Appease Law Enforcement
As the people become more aware and more supportive of medical marijuana, legislators sometimes find it difficult to translate rising popular support into political will. Established lobbies representing law enforcement and other interests threatened by medical marijuana throw up frustrating political roadblocks, leading legislators struggling to find some level of medical marijuana protections that can make it through the legislative process
For example, in Minnesota, law enforcement is close to killing prospects for a medical marijuana bill. Support for the measure only stands at 51 percent, according to the latest Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll, one of the lowest poll results on the issue I’ve read lately. (Opposition to outright legalization sits at 63 percent!)
Rep. Carly Melin was frustrated by law enforcement’s refusal to compromise on the bill, a requirement asked for by Gov. Mark Dayton, who agrees about law enforcement’s “legitimate concerns”. Given the bare majority of support she has to work with, Rep. Melin met the police more than halfway and pared away important parts of the bill. She offered to drop the provision allowing patients to grow their own medicine and offered to prohibit smoking of medical marijuana in favor of vaporization.
That didn’t wasn’t enough for Dennis Flaherty of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, whose group favored only pill and oil forms of medical marijuana. Flaherty also objected that conditions like post-traumatic stress and intractable pain would be allowed because they present “potential for abuse”. Flaherty’s group instead offered that medical marijuana should be for AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and seizures and be limited to high-CBD versions with little to no THC.
Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen said it would be unlikely the bill moves forward without a compromise.
Meanwhile, Louisiana Rep. Austin Badon has filed a bill to legalize whole plant medical marijuana. His House Bill 720, however, tightens the restrictions on medical marijuana even more than other recent “no home grow” laws, saying, “We can really control the medical marijuana.”
Only neurologists, oncologists, and ophthalmologists who register for a special Louisiana state license would be allowed to recommend cannabis, and their relationship with the patient must be “bona fide”, meaning writing the recommendation cannot be the sole contact with the patient. Louisiana patients would only qualify with terminal cancer, nausea produced by chemotherapy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and seizure disorders like epilepsy. There would be just six cultivation centers and ten dispensaries statewide that must be licensed pharmacies, limited to dispensing “one month’s supply” of cannabis. And, of course, patients would not be able to cultivate their own medicine.
I hope sooner rather than later more people see the success of legalization in Washington and Colorado and realize there is no need to separate cannabis consumers by their health status, for prohibition is the only reason to restrict these medical marijuana laws so severely. The more we solve that problem, the better things will be for patients.