The issue of medical marijuana has been a challenge to both federal and state authorities for several decades. Recently, with more states legalizing marijuana, this social problem has taken on new proportions mainly because at the Federal level possession even for medical purposes is still an offence. The states that have legalized medical marijuana, have been grappling with problems surrounding mushrooming of dispensaries, an increase in doctor referrals and issues of taxation. Solutions involve streamlining a system for effective registration, distribution and regulation imposition of an effective system of taxation. In addition, medical marijuana needs to be be decriminalized by the federal authorities.
Medical Marijuana and the Need for Regulation
The issue of medical marijuana has been with us for decades, however recently this issue has been gaining momentum. According to Cohen (2010), “medical marijuana statute allows practitioners to recommend Cannabis for any medical condition, or treatment for such condition, approved by the state health agency...or...[any approved request] submitted by a patient or physician” (p. 659). The proponents for medical marijuana attest that its use by patients who suffer from severe diseases will help to alleviate pain and make their illness more bearable. “In the United States, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for certain qualifying medical conditions, and efforts are underway to legalize marijuana for medical purposes elsewhere” (Bowles, 2012, p. 9). The states that have legalized are now 18. Furthermore, adults in Colorado and Washington can possess small amounts of marijuana legally. However, regardless of the states’ positions, the Federal government has not approved medical marijuana and deems possession of it illegal and has only approved it for research. Furthermore, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved marijuana as being safe and it insists that it has no medical value (Lublum & Ford, 2011). The social issue is that states have failed to design appropriate state regulations to control the distribution and use of medical marijuana. As more states get on board, medical marijuana is becoming more accepted, but there is the potential for abuse of medical referrals, therefore careful assessment, screening and guidelines need to be in place for medical marijuana to serve its intended purpose.
Use of medical marijuana
Marijuana has been used illegally for medical purposes for years, however, in 1996 California legalized medical marijuana, Colorado did similarly in 2000, then other states followed. The marijuana debate shows the conflicting positions of the states and the federal government. One extreme position has supported total legalization, while the Federal law supports prohibition. Medical marijuana takes a middle ground, restricting its use for medical purposes not clearly defined. The federal law, however, deemed it illegal to possess and to sell marijuana to anyone. “In the debate over medical marijuana, the primary justification advanced by its supporters is that marijuana use, especially by terminally ill patients, mitigates their suffering from unnecessary chronic and unbearable pain that persists until death” (Pfeifer, p. 339). Currently sixteen states have sought a middle position, ‘allowing medical marijuana for patients with approved conditions while keeping it illegal for the general population’’ (Lublum & Ford, 2011, p. 75).