Alternative Medicine: A Hot Topic in Massachusetts General Election

This November, millions of Americans will vote in what is sure to be one of the landmark elections of our time. With weighty issues like the economy, the disappearing middle class, and LGBT rights being weighed in the Presidential election, other issues are still being played out in the more localized state elections. One of the most interesting local elections will be a proposed bill in Massachusetts to legalize medical marijuana.

After gathering the necessary number of signatures to include the bill in the November elections, the paperwork was filed at the Secretary of State's office on July 3rd.

A vote of "yes" would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana by patients meeting certain conditions. The drug will be produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers. In specific hardship cases, qualified patients will be allowed to grow their own marijuana for personal medical use.

What does this mean for prospective medical marijuana patients in Massachusetts should the bill pass? It means the Bay State will be open to the service of medical marijuana doctors and dispensaries. The bill allows up to 35 dispensaries throughout Massachusetts, capping at 5 per county. Marijuana will be grown and distributed by the state-regulated centers.

Presumptively, the dispensaries would follow a similar format to California's medical marijuana card system, where approval cards have been written into law since the Statewide Medical Cannabis ID Card Program of 2003. Especially in San Francisco, marijuana cards have seen widespread success is regulation, with over 20,000 cards issued.

However, this in no way means that anyone can get a card and walk into a dispensary for recreational drugs. A card is only issued after a written prescription given by a medical marijuana doctor and in most states can only be issued on the grounds of certain debilitating illnesses. Conditions that will be allowed under the proposed law in Massachusetts include Parkinson's, cancer, and other illness where marijuana can improve pain management, increase appetite, and have numerous other health benefits.

This vote comes off the heels of a recent decision by the Chicago City Council to decriminalize marijuana possession by reducing the punishment for carrying small amounts from an arrest worthy offense to a fine of between $250 and $500.

Massachusetts had the benefit of learning from 17 other states and the District of Columbia. The hallmark of this initiative is state regulation. Their proposal is in line with current standards in practice within the other states.

By submitting this issue to a vote, Massachusetts has joined the likes of 5 other states with currently pending medical marijuana legislation. This list includes New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri.