Create a better way to distribute medical marijuana

November 28, 2004

EDITORIAL, Portland Press-Herald, Maine

People like to make jokes about using marijuana for "medical" reasons, but for patients who are suffering from certain ailments, there's nothing funny about it.

Maine is one of 11 states that allows some patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will listen to arguments on whether those states should be allowed to adopt such laws, which technically violate federal drug legislation.

Smart laws on medical marijuana use should be acceptable. The substance can ease chronic pain and help alleviate symptoms of certain problems. Maine allows patients to use the drug if they have specific conditions such as glaucoma or suffer from nausea induced by AIDS or chemotherapy. Their physicians must agree that the drug can help them.

There's one major problem with these state laws, however. Right now, patients whose doctors have recommended marijuana don't have a good way to obtain it. They either have to grow their own or buy it illegally. That makes it harder for people who really need it to get it, and it doesn't guarantee that the drug will be safe.

The best option would be to change the federal law on marijuana use so that states can adopt better laws that allow a safe way to distribute the drug. Allowing patients to fill prescriptions at pharmacies or obtain the drug through a state delivery system would be better than the current system.

Canada, for instance, has adopted an application process for users of medical marijuana and has government-designated growers to supply the drug.

The U.S. Supreme Court may not find in favor of the states' rights, but lawmakers should take another look at federal drug laws. Then, states can find better ways to get people the relief that they seek.



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