While it remains clear problems exist with the application of Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), these issues do not indicate our model of compassionate access is itself a failure (see “Legalization lingo” in Letters, Dec. 9, 2010). The use of cannabis, be it for recreational or medicinal reasons, has been relocated to the back alleys and shadows of our society for over 80 years. This past prohibition creates an array of issues—most tragic being the association of our ill with society’s criminal element.
Unfortunately, when any economy evolves from a complete prohibition to an open market model there will be an awkward phase of assimilation. Individuals considered “drug dealers” prior to the implementation of I-148 will, and do, seek the shelter of Montana’s compassionate access law—thankfully the mechanisms to deal with these potential abuses are already in place. Capitalism and free market economics, long cherished American traditions, “weed” out those who attempt to exploit Montana’s ill, while criminal activity is easily addressed through our existing law enforcement infrastructure.
We hear concerns voiced about the number of people with medical cannabis cards in Montana, yet the reality remains only a small fraction of our population is licensed to possess and consume cannabis. We hear about the 18-year-old with the bad back, and are told that the “circus-like atmosphere” generated by the fading phenomenon of traveling clinics is reason enough to scrap the MMMA. However, when we extricate ourselves from the emotive hysteria that surrounds the ingestion of these flowers, most agree that those who employ deceit to obtain a marijuana recommendation, or physicians that violate accepted standards of medical care, are issues that should be addressed in the same manner as a patient fraudulently obtaining prescription narcotics, or an MD wantonly prescribing such medications purely for profit.
We hear of a proliferation of marijuana into Montana’s high schools, and the imminent risk this poses to our youth. However, it’s important to remember we are discussing the medical applications of cannabis, not recreational use among teenagers. Teenagers do experiment—some abuse prescription medication, some drink alcohol—and it may be a shock, but teenagers were actually smoking pot before Montana had a medical marijuana program. It now becomes the responsibility of our educators to explain the potential liabilities of recreational use, and law enforcement’s obligation to work with medical cannabis providers to prevent diversion and misapplication. Our society would never consider telling the woman dying from stage-four carcinoma, in incredible pain, that she could not have her conventional analgesic medication because it may wind up in the hands of a teen. We don’t do that in Montana because we are compassionate, rational people.
So why do we experience this hysteria and controversy? Throughout our lives, we have been taught that cannabis has no benefit whatsoever. Yet today, through compassionate access, many Montanans have found this sentiment patently untrue. Beyond a wealth of anecdotal evidence, a quick Internet search of marijuana’s affect on tumor reduction alone generates several credible, international studies—the evidence is here and, unlike Ms. Brady or other staunch prohibitionist detractors, you don’t have to take my word alone.
As we approach this legislative session, medical cannabis will continue to be a “hot topic” in Montana. As such, I encourage all citizens to educate themselves regarding the historic realities surrounding cannabis prohibition, and the quantifiable benefits of this plant’s many applications. Look into the facts yourself—it was the American Medical Association that strenuously opposed the prohibition of cannabis in the first place, finding no credible evidence that said plant poses any danger to humanity. At the commencement of this legislative session we find our great state in the unique position to be a national leader; to live up to our pioneering reputation by building a working medical marijuana model for ourselves, our neighbors, and our nation. Montanans are savvy people—we can do the research, we can read the facts, and through hard work and compromise we will find solutions that suit all of our citizens.
Montanans for Responsible Legislation