The views on some of the restrictive medical marijuana laws being passed are highlighting the differences within the cannabis legalization movement. Some are heralding the often narrowly focused and burdensome laws legalizing marijuana for a tiny segment of the population as the first step in their march toward full legalization. Others, on the other hand, are saying that these medical marijuana laws are just a way for opponents and politicians to halt further advances by the movement.
The laws that have been passed by some states legalizing medical marijuana have certainly been extremely narrow in the cannabis medicines and illnesses that they have covered. Additionally, many completely ignored the issues of how patients can obtain the medicine; in effect saying, “it’s legal to take it for these illnesses but you can’t grow it, buy it, sell it, mail it, or transport it“.
Those skeptical about these medical marijuana laws are saying that politicians are trying to appear as if they legalized medical marijuana to help media focused patients, without actually legalizing it. And by passing laws that only cover a handful of illnesses, most often the illnesses that afflict families who’ve gained some coverage in the media, the skeptics are contending that politicians are treating the movement as a public relations issue. That is, address the media coverage rather than the underlying issue of legalization, and by doing so, taking the “wind out of the sails” for the cannabis legalization movement.
There is no question that images of children suffering from seizures, along with stories of displaced families living as medical refugees, have garnered the most sympathetic media coverage for the marijuana movement. It was the spark that lit the fire of discussion and reexamination of our marijuana laws at both state and federal levels. Passing laws, often dubbed with a child’s name, that appear to provide relief for these families is a win-win for politicians.
Georgia recently passed a medical marijuana bill (“Haleigh’s Hope Act””) which many consider to fall into the “restrictive” category. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal specifically addressed Georgia’s medical refugees living in Colorado.
Gov. Deal stated that he is reaching out to 17 Marijuana Refugee families that were displaced from Georgia to Colorado.
Having passed a marijuana bill that seems to provide relief for these families, where does Georgia’s cannabis legalization movement go from here? Supporters of full or expanded legalization will surely continue to fight for more rights, but the public support for recreational marijuana is much less than for medical marijuana. With passing of these medical marijuana laws, the public perception could be that medical marijuana has been legalized, and any further push is really a push for recreational use; in a way, effectively implying that the movement is now just full of potheads rather than suffering families. It could be that the next significant advances would have to wait until something is done at the federal level.
THE HALF GLASS FULL PERSPECTIVE
The other side of the argument is that any sort of advance on the marijuana legalization front, however narrow, is a significant victory. And that it does, in fact, help those families that the laws do cover. Non-coverage of one group doesn’t lessen the relief the laws provide for another group, who are dealing with real world illnesses; the question of whether the laws actually provide relief notwithstanding.
Additionally, making any part of marijuana legal could help with overall public perception; that there are actual benefits to cannabis. That “reefer madness” is a lie. Public support for marijuana legalization, in one form or another, are at record levels across the country. Seeing states legalizing marijuana and reading/hearing about it in the news have definitely helped in this regard.
THE BALL’S IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT COURT
Ultimately, the Federal Government must make a move to legalize cannabis. This will free up the states to pass laws that do not have to navigate the federal ban on the plant. And for those living in states that have passed restrictive medical marijuana laws, they may be stuck with them until such time when another call for reexamination of the marijuana laws happens with lifting of the federal prohibition.
UPDATE: Rolling Stones did an article about the restriction that have been placed on medical marijuana patients in New York. (“New York Readies Restrictive Medical Marijuana Law“) The article notes that there are so many restrictions on it that “many of its potential patients won’t be able to get their hands on it”.
New York’s Health Department defended their tight restrictions and the “safeguards” they’ve put in place, saying “the state developed the regulations through this very critical lens to ensure that the entire program would not be subject to enforcement action or legal challenge.”
Barring any setbacks, New York’s medical marijuana law should go into effect by 2016.
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