Massachusetts has officially become the 18th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes with the passage of Question 3. While some are still concerned this could lead our state into a mess of pot-crazed teens and sick people, others recognize it is more about giving people access to a harmless and effective medicine, a plant that should not be banned in the first place.
Beginning next year, patients who are approved, will be able to procure a 60-day supply of marijuana. Approved conditions include HIV, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, and others. A registration card will be available from the state once a patient receives clearance from their doctor.
The Department of Public Health will be using the next four months to draft the specifics, concerning how the system will operate. The Boston Globe reports that there will be at least one nonprofit distribution center in every county, with up to 35 establishments altogether in 2013.
“Now that this law has been passed, it will finally be legal and safe for myself and many others in the state to procure the medicine,” said 59-year old Eric McCoy. McCoy has multiple sclerosis and has been illegally self-medicating for 17 years. Now, he can take his medicine without fear of arrest (at least from the state).
Obviously, it isn’t only patients who passed the measure—with 63% of votes in favor of the issue. Others within the state recognize the need for such legislation. Now, only New Hampshire remains as all other New England states have medical marijuana laws in place.
Not everyone, however, is convinced. In a Reefer Madness sort of mentality, opponents of the law say it could open up recreational marijuana to teens and others (as if teens and others aren’t already able to find and smoke marijuana).
“We just opened our door to a billion-dollar industry that can capitalize on anyone with pain and our young people,” said Heidi Heiman, president of the Massachusetts Prevention Society, echoing what many other opponents have said.
She says that opponents didn’t have the money to fight the issue effectively—that money was what allowed it to pass. While it may be true that advocates for medical marijuana were able to invest more in the campaign, to allude to the fact that Massachusetts voters couldn’t make this decision on mere intelligence rather than what was fed to them through high-dollar commercials is a little insulting.
Still, Massachusetts residents be warned: recreational marijuana is still illegal, though small quantities are decriminalized. If anything, state officials will be keeping an even closer eye on the marijuana trade and prosecuting those who use this new law to skirt marijuana prohibition. As an example—abusing the medical marijuana law to sell marijuana for nonmedical uses will be a felony charge and can result in up to five years in prison.