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).

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