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Medical Marijuana – It’s A Long Way To The Pharmacy, Part 3

(Medical Marijuana... p3)

Though I am a capable young person, I’ve had a hard time getting started growing my legal medicine. If it’s this difficult for me, imagine how hard it would be for the little old lady languishing in a nursing home with little money and few friends or relatives. Her doctor tells her that she’ll live for five more years comfortably if she just smokes a little marijuana once in awhile. How is she supposed to grow her own medicine? Her predicament makes her one of the millions of victims of the unintended consequences of our country’s War of Drugs. She should rightfully be able to fill her prescription at her pharmacy, as she does her other prescriptions.

Confronting the Myth of Marijuana
I vehemently take exception with the claim that putting medicinal marijuana in the pharmacy gives youth the wrong message about drugs. Thousands of powerful drugs are dispensed through pharmacies without giving “the wrong message.” If we treat marijuana as it should be treated, as a medicine, then the youth of our society will also treat it as a medicine and be less likely to abuse it as a recreational drug.

At last year’s Hemp-Fest in Harrisburg, Oregon, I took an informal poll. I asked everyone I met, “At what age did you first try marijuana?” The youngest had it introduced to him as a medicine by his mother at age nine. He has used it only twice since, strictly for medicinal purposes. He is now twenty-five years old. I think his story is indicative of how many young people would react to treating marijuana as a medicine rather than a recreational drug if our society had a rational relationship with it.

America is schizophrenic about this herb. We outlaw marijuana as a drug and condemn people to prison for its possession, yet we classify it as a medicine and license citizens to grow and use it. We don’t allow prescriptions to be filled in pharmacies, yet people with the power of policy-making offer “solutions” such as having the federal government mail out the medicine or having doctors fill their patients’ prescriptions from their offices. Not only are these ideas costly but they are fraught with the possibility for corruption. There is a reason we have a pharmacy system in this country. It is to regulate powerful but beneficial medicines in such a way as to make their use safe, effective and uncorrupted. What are the people in power thinking?

Let’s get real about this, and consider the alternatives. The answer is as simple as it is elegant. To offset the costs for local, state, and federal governments, we could implement the plan that would have gone into effect if the ballot measure to legalize marijuana had passed in 1987. The Oregon state government took bids from companies to grow, package, and distribute marijuana. Although the plan was discontinued when the ballot did not pass, it was augmented long enough to prove its feasibility. Not only would this offset costs but it would create a profit for all governments—local, state, and federal.

Sane Social Policy
All the prohibition laws, the distorted facts and the contorted logic surrounding this powerful herb serve only to confuse people, especially the young, and force people to focus on exactly those characteristics of the plant that are the least beneficial to our society. It is a tragic irony that criminalization of marijuana has made our society act criminally towards its citizens. Our nation routinely damages and destroys millions of lives of young people whose only “crime” was possession. At the same time, society uncompassionately withholds a beneficial medicine from many suffering people who need it. We need to rethink this whole thing. Proving the bumper-sticker wisdom, “When the people lead, the leaders follow,” voters across the nation have already begun the process through ballot initiative, and Oregon is a leader among states on this issue.

I challenge you to think about the social benefits of medicinal marijuana and the crazy double standard that prevents it from being in pharmacies. If you agree with me that something should be done about it, write me c/o Alternatives, or send a letter to your newspaper editor. Perhaps it’s time for another ballot measure to pick up where the last one left off. It’s a long road back to sane social policy and this is only one step along the way.

Brady Derrah is a 31 year old student who lives in Albany, Oregon.