The Highs and Lows of Medical Marijuana Law

by Laura Smith

Sept. 26, 2007

Safe access to medical marijuana has been approved in 12 states; however, it’s not yet federally sanctioned.

According to a Dec. 30, 2007, report by Morley Safer with CBSNews.com, the Drug Enforcement Agency cracks down on California stores known as dispensaries every few weeks.

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Californians were the first to receive the safe-haven stamp from their state in 1996 when voters passed Proposition 215, which gave citizens the right to use marijuana for medical purposes.

Though residents of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have approved the right for compassionate use of marijuana, they still may face federal prosecution for possessing it.

In Safer’s report, he quotes Scott Imler, a United Methodist minister and medical marijuana activist, as saying ”a lot of what we have now is basically pot dealers in storefronts.”

The Office of National Drug Control Policy holds the position that marijuana use results in “problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate and anxiety.” The office further states that chronic use may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in people with a history of schizophrenia. For medical patients suffering from cancer and AIDS, however, advocates say marijuana increases appetite and decreases nausea.

Polls have shown that Americans support medical marijuana. Time magazine and CNN polled more than 1,000 people in October 2002, and 80 percent thought adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it. Yet Congress voted in July against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds to prosecute patients and providers in states where marijuana is legal.