By Radical Russ Belville
It started in Washington. They legalized marijuana in 2012 and the next thing you know, medical marijuana was completely obliterated.
Then they legalized marijuana in 2014 in Oregon and the next thing you know, medical marijuana was wiped from existence.
Now they want to legalize marijuana in 2016 in California and the next you know, medical marijuana patients will die in droves.
At least, that’s the way supporters of medical marijuana see it. Whatever you do, don’t legalize marijuana or patients will suffer!
I’m not going to deny that legalization caused these West Coast states to re-evaluate (or finally create) medical marijuana regulations. Some of those changes are indeed unnecessarily restrictive and needlessly harm the most desperately sick and disabled patients.
What I will assert, however, is that the medical marijuana Chicken Little’s cries of “the sky is falling” are falling on increasingly deaf ears, because too much of the public has seen or read about the abuses of medical marijuana, which Chicken Little rarely, if ever, cries out about with the same gusto.
When medical marijuana was beginning in the mid-1990s, activists all across the West Coast wheeled out the sickest cancer and AIDS patients, the paraplegics and the epileptics, the dying and sense-threatened, and said to the public, “How DARE you demand that these desperate people be thrown in a cage?!?”
So the public, moved by the emotional extortion to compassion, passed laws that they believed created a narrow exception to criminal prosecution for people who truly had no choice but to inhale the devil’s lettuce. After all, time after time, the activists said, “This is not about legalizing recreational marijuana, it’s only for the sick and dying to use as medicine.”
Then, just a couple of years later, the public finds out that the “sick and dying” in California included healthy twenty-something young men getting $40 doctor’s permission slips by pointing at a list of conditions that include “headache,” “anxiety,” and “depression.” This was often accomplished by getting an “examination” from a doctor promoted by a woman in a bikini twirling a sign.
Soon, the public found out that being a caregiver for “one patient at a time” in Washington meant you could open up a storefront dispensary, call your clerk a “caregiver,” sign up the first person in line as your patient, then drop that patient for the next person in line. Eventually, “patients” could get their recommendation from a naturopath in a tent at the Seattle Hempfest, to cure “anxiety” before the Kottonmouth Kings concert.
Did Chicken Little cry out that those entrepreneurial “caregivers” were twisting the meaning of the word “caregiver” beyond recognition, risking the goodwill of the public and endangering the chances future states would pass so liberal a medical marijuana law? Nope. Chicken Little kept opening more illegal dispensaries and kept the profits rolling in. When legislators closed the “caregiver” loophole with a “collective garden” regulation, Chicken Little figured out how to loophole that, too, and keep the profits flowing.
Then, the public in Oregon was treated to numerous stories of that “medical” marijuana somehow making it by the trunkload onto freeways east. That was capped off by the news that one of Oregon’s largest medical marijuana gardens, originally thought to be about nice people growing a few plants for sick people they knew, was paying people in weed and selling it illegally. Then news broke that the largest garden turned out to have 624 plants produced for 104 patients who all lived in Southern California.
Did Chicken Little cry out that these pot profiteers were abusing a system designed around one grower growing for no more than four patients, thus risking the perceived legitimacy of all growers? Nope. Chicken Little railed against the persecution of the abusers and claimed that abuse of medical marijuana was so rare as to be insignificant.
So the public saw what liberal late-90s medical marijuana looked like and, as medical marijuana rolled out eastward, it got more and more restrictive, just so supporters could assuage the justifiable public fear that they’d turn out like the West Coast. That job was made even harder for eastern activists because the western activists kept crying “the sky is falling” any time the governments tried to rein in the obvious abuses.
Now it’s tougher still, because all of those states have legalized marijuana, giving credence to the fear that medical marijuana is just a “camel’s nose under the tent” and a slippery slope to full legalization, since (to them) it’s the same people supporting legalization as said that medical wasn’t about legalization.
As Washington Chicken Littles cry about their dispensaries actually having to follow regulations, when the Oregon Chicken Littles cry about restricting a medical garden in the country to “only” four dozen plants, and when the California Chicken Littles cry that prohibiting pot smoking in a moving car is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, patients in New York and Minnesota must be livid. They can’t home-grow and must shop only for non-smokable products from less than 10 dispensaries statewide, largely because New York and Minnesota weren’t going to let West Coast shenanigans into their medical systems. I’ll bet they’d love to shop for flower in many more dispensaries and would even forgo smoking a joint in the car to travel there.
Let’s not even talk about the patients in Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Arkansas, where they have absolute prohibition (no decrim, no medical, no CBD-only, and certainly no legalization). Whatever results from medical marijuana changes on the West Coast would be a dream program for them.
Chicken Little needs to recognize that he made a deal with the public that “medical” was going to be medical – small, unobtrusive, and not-for-profit. The public didn’t expect dozens of 15 foot stinky cannabis plants in a residential neighborhood, surrounded by eight foot fences, razor wire, floodlights, and mean pit bulls. The public didn’t expect 20,000 attendees at outdoor marijuana parties under the guise of “medicating.” Maybe if Chicken Littles had kept to their promises to the public, the legislatures would’ve kept the legalizers’ promises that legalization wouldn’t affect medical.
“Radical” Russ Belville