Medical marijuana laws don't address where to get the drug

December 12, 2004

EDITORIAL, Press Herald - Portland, ME

Imagine that you are sick.

You're in a lot of pain, and your doctor suggests using marijuana as a treatment. Under Maine law, those circumstances make it legal for you to use the drug.

The question is: What are you supposed to do now?

Have your local pharmacist fill a prescription for weed? Go to a convenience store for a pack of joints?

Laws on medical marijuana simply don't adequately address the issue of obtaining the drug. That leaves patients to choose between growing their own or buying it illegally.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether state laws on medical marijuana use should be allowed even though they violate federal drug legislation.

At the same time, a Maine activist is challenging Maine's laws. Don Christen of Madison established a marijuana distribution center in his house this fall to supply the drug to five ill people who possessed written recommendations from their doctors.

Clearly, it was illegal for him to do so, but should it be?

Lawmakers should take another look at federal laws on marijuana use so that states can adopt laws that make sense. They should do this no matter what the Supreme Court's findings are. Even if the use of medical marijuana is left up to states to decide, it still doesn't address the issue of distribution.

Leaving patients to figure out how to get the drug puts them in a difficult position, and it can be dangerous because the drugs are unregulated. Marijuana joints can easily be laced with other, more powerful drugs.

Wouldn't it be safer and more convenient to set up a system of state-licensed growers and processors and then distribute the drugs through pharmacists?

People who already are suffering shouldn't have to endure the extra headache of figuring out how to provide themselves drugs that they're legally allowed to use.

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