Home > Drugs, Health Care, Politics > The Medical Marijuana Circus

The Medical Marijuana Circus


There is a rising tide of acceptance of medical marijuana by the American public, as well as the traditional medical community.  As a prescription holding user of medi-jane, it is a movement that I wholeheartedly applaud.
The relief I receive from a “treatment” is significant and life changing.  I could be taking thrice-daily cocktails of Darvocet and muscle relaxers the doctors have prescribed for the three ruptured or herniated discs in my back and the two in my neck.  But,  spending the day mouth-breathing with my ass super-glued to the couch isn’t much fun for me or my family, and assuredly can’t be good for my career.
I have several friends who have become addicted to prescription drugs in the past few years.  It has either ruined their lives, or significantly impacted them in quite an adverse manner.  While some may argue that marijuana is psychologically addicting, it certainly has much less of a downside than traditional drugs.
It’s not perfect by any means:  It can be difficult to judge the right “dose”; the manner in which it is ingested can create other health problems, especially when smoked;  it can lead to the “munchies” which can create weight issues; and, the Feds have yet to agree that this is a State’s rights issue (though, they seem to be softening that stance).
That said, there is a lot of upside to it’s medicinal use:  It is not physically addicting in anyway (trust me, watching someone come off of a pill addiction is no party);  it is “user friendly” in that functionality is rarely compromised (if dosed correctly);  and, most importantly, it works!
I’m not going to delve into the economic benefits legalized marijuana would bring via reduced police, court and prison expenses, as well as from huge tax revenues.  I’m not going to discuss the organized opposition this issue faces from the pharmaceutical lobby that has billions of dollars at stake.  What I do want to examine, however, is the way it is dispensed.
Thirteen states now consider marijuana a medicinal drug.  In 2003, California Senate Bill (SB) 420 (Chapter 875, Statutes of 2003) was passed as an extension and clarification of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.  It led to the establishment of the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP).  It is administered through local public health offices.  With the passage of 215 came the first “dispensaries” where one with a doctor’s prescription could safely buy their hemp without having to resort to some type of shady transaction.  When 420 passed, the dispensary explosion began, with more than 1000 now open in So Cal alone.
Some say that makes it very convenient, while others say it’s too convenient.  My concern isn’t with the numbers, but rather with the way in which some of these places do business.  Personally, I patronize two different dispensaries, depending on which part of town I happen to be in when I need a refill.  Both are very classy, comfortable and safe.  They are not ostentatious in their appearance or presentation.  From the outside, you wouldn’t know what their business was if you didn’t already know.  They utilize security systems and personnel, yet make it a very personable and enjoyable experience.
Contrast that with my experience on the Venice Beach boardwalk recently.  While walking with my 15 year old nieces, visiting from out of state, we were personally bombarded with literature by representatives of the local dispensaries (yes, they actually handed them to the girls), who then tried to physically usher us into the doorway to see their offerings.  Worse, they informed us that there was a doctor on-site who could write our prescriptions for us on the spot!
Needless to say, I was outraged … on several levels.  First and foremost, there is no way that they should be giving that material to underage people, or anybody else for that matter.  You don’t see people hanging out in front of the Bingo Parlor pushing Viagra (though, those TV commercials are close).  This is a personal decision, as any medical choice is, that should be made between an individual of age and their doctor, and should not involve a local beach bum working for free samples.  Plus, it should not take place in the same location that you get your prescription filled.  You can’t get your Driver’s License or ID Card at the liquor store or bar, last I checked!
On a more selfish level, I was angered that behavior like this by irresponsible dispensaries might lead to a wave of sentiment against the MMP as a whole.  The old adage about it only taking one apple to ruin a good thing was never more apparent.  I have recently seen a couple of local news stories portraying the entire industry as doing business in a similar manner.  Fortunately, most of the dispensaries I have found are much more discreet.  But, with the proper spin, that part of the story isn’t readily obvious.
We’ve come a long way to get to where the truths about marijuana’s medicinal value are beginning to be realized.  It has been an arduous journey, at best.  The relief found from a puff or taste of the substance is now appreciated by people young and old, rich and poor, liberal and conservative.  But, we are far from a perfect system of distribution.
There currently are moves in Los Angeles to more keenly regulate who can dispense, and how they dispense, medi-pot.  Some of the proposals go too far and aim to stifle the entire system … authored, no doubt, by agents of those with billions at risk, and promoted by headlining the few “bad apples” making a circus of a needed and compassionate resource.  Do we need more regulation and oversight?  Evidently so … I don’t think Venice Beach Bob and his colleagues are going to reel themselves in anytime soon.  My hope is that we can find a way to toss out the rotten fruit and save the remainder of the barrel for all who desire to partake.  Over regulation will certainly kill the fledgling industry and eventually return the MMP faithful to back-alley deals for dime-bags.  It is doubtful that the program will eventually be rescinded, as California alone took in $18 million in sales taxes last year from dispensaries – valuable revenues to a state on the verge of bankruptcy.  But, I am worried that access to this program may become severely limited if media portrayal of the MMP continues in the same slant.   I hope I am worrying for nothing.

  1. October 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm


    Thank you for the great quality of your blog, each time i come here, i’m amazed.

    black hattitude.

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