Six key principles for effective state medical marijuana laws

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In order for a state law to provide effective protection for seriously ill people who engage in the medical use of marijuana, a state law must:

1. define what is a legitimate medical use of marijuana by requiring a person who seeks legal protection to (1) have a medical condition that is sufficiently serious or debilitating and (2) have the approval of his or her medical practitioner (Sec. 3(a) and 3(j));

2. provide legal protection for the primary caregivers of patients who are too ill to provide for their own medical use of marijuana (Sec. 4(a) and (b));

3. avoid provisions that would require physicians or government employees to violate federal law in order for patients to legally use medical marijuana;

4. provide a means of obtaining marijuana, which can only be done in the following four ways: permit patients to cultivate their own marijuana; permit primary caregivers to cultivate marijuana on behalf of patients; permit patients or primary caregivers to purchase marijuana from the criminal market (which patients already do illegally); and/or authorize nongovernmental organizations to cultivate and distribute marijuana to patients and their primary caregivers (Sec. 4(a), 4(b), and optional section);

5. allow patients and primary caregivers who are arrested in spite of state law to discuss the medical use of marijuana in court (Sec. 8); and

6. implement a series of sensible restrictions, such as prohibiting patients and primary caregivers from possessing large quantities of marijuana, prohibiting driving while under the influence of marijuana, and so forth (Sec. 7).


TO di cal

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