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Medical Marijuana Once Again on the Table

It’s a great quote: "What I want to do is have a doctor-patient relationship rather than a dealer-patient relationship.” The quote is from Delegate Cheryl Glenn. She’s introducing a bill in the Judiciary Committee to allow medical marijuana in Maryland. This is the same legislation offered last session. According to the Cumberland Times-News, the bill would place regulatory authority under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Glenn frames it as a compassion issue. She describes the current situation as patients who have to break the law to get a needed medication. Unfortunately, the federal government disagrees. A recent ruling in DC by the federal appeals court there said the DEA had acted responsibly in keeping marijuana in the category of “no valid medical use.” The case presented evidence for the use of marijuana as medicine, including some scientific studies, but was still shot down, with the benefits of cannabis determined to be “not proven.”

But there’s a trend across the nation to allow medical weed. Our politicians do feel pressured to take up the question and the public generally approves of it on compassionate grounds. The problem however, is that medical approval leads directly to full legalization. This is evidenced by recent votes in Washington State and Colorado that legalized marijuana for recreational purposes and bills in many state legislatures (including Maine) that would do the same thing.

The path toward getting marijuana accepted, at least as much as alcohol is accepted, steps through legalization for medical purposes, and then, when society doesn’t crumble because of that, a move toward full decriminalization. The problem seems to be that no one is demanding full scientific validation or looking at other options.

One option worth exploring is extracting those compounds from marijuana that show benefits and marketing them as medicine. It turns out that the medically beneficial compounds aren’t the same as the chemicals in the plant that get you high. But no one seems interested in marketing a product that cures but doesn’t make someone stoned. Why? Perhaps because advocates really are relying on a “foot in the door” strategy instead of actually examining the plant as a source of medically relevant compounds to be exploited.

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