July 24th, 2009
10:14 PM ET

The medical marijuana explosion

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/07/23/us.marijuana.bust/art.pot.gi.jpg]

Dan Simon
CNN Correspondent

Medical marijuana dispensaries have exploded in California. In Los Angeles, there are more than 600 of them. Incredibly, there are more places to buy pot in LA, than there are McDonalds, 711’s and Starbucks. But that could be just the beginning. There is growing momentum in the state to fully legalize marijuana for people 21 and older. That means marijuana could be sold all throughout the state.

Governor Schwarzenegger says the idea ought to be studied. The idea is gaining strength, in part, because of the state’s disastrous budget. Legalizing pot would also make it taxable. The state tax board estimates that marijuana could bring the state more than a billion dollars a year. This is not just a pie in the sky idea. Oakland is now actually doing it. Voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to begin taxing medical marijuana.

There are really two to make marijuana legal in California: A legislative bill or voter initiative. Both are underway. The initiative probably has a better chance of passing the finish line. According to a California field poll, more than half of Californians—56% favor legalization. Meanwhile, lawmakers right now are reluctant to fully legalize. It’s possible the question could be put directly to voters in next year’s election.

Here’s the rub, however. Pretty much anyone over 18 who wants marijuana in California can get already get it legally. All you need is a note from your doctor. The state is filled with “pot docs,” who write the prescriptions for things less severe than hangnails. So while full legalization would put pot on par with cigarettes and alcohol, no one should pretend that pot already isn’t available to anyone who wants it.

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (60 Responses)

    Any adult has the right to Smoke Marijuana if they choose to. The current laws violate our Constitutional and God given rights! Good job Anderson! Thanks for bringing this subject to light!

    August 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Shelley

    Let's see if my previous comment gets yanked! lol

    August 26, 2009 at 8:31 am |
  3. Shelley

    Everyone KNOWS it should be legalized, but this is just another "government power trip".

    We're all going to continue doing what we're doing whether "the government" likes it or not! Oh, and I thought "we" made up the government, after all, it is the American people PAYING their salary!!!


    August 26, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  4. Benjie - San Antonio, TX

    Aspirin is far more dangerous than Marijuana, but companies make money off aspirin and would lose money if marijuana was legal. People need to write their elected officials and tell them it is time to legalize this miracle plant.

    August 26, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  5. Crystal

    LEGALIZE IT ALREADY weed dont hurt anyone if anything its a good medication for alot of things tobacco and alchol are the ones that should be illigel!!!!

    August 22, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  6. Brandon

    Right on Patti.

    August 15, 2009 at 2:15 am |
  7. Dr.Sayini Devarajan

    Medicinal Properties of Marijuana

    If your every waking moment were consumed by pain and nausea, wouldn't you ask for medication? What if the only medication legally available would leave you unconscious or do nothing at all? If you were the one suffering, would you resort to the only treatment that allowed you to live normally even though it was illegal?

    Thousands of people across the country are forced to break the law to ease their pain. They have chosen marijuana over anything legally available because it has various medicinal properties that cannot be found anywhere else. Due to these many unique medicinal uses, marijuana should be reclassified as a valid, legal form of treatment.

    Marijuana has many unique uses as a form of treatment. It has been used effectively to combat the nausea caused by chemotherapy, to reduce the internal pressure of the eyes of glaucoma patients, and to prevent the "wasting syndrome" in AIDS and cancer patients.

    As an alternative to using actual marijuana, modern science has developed a synthetic form of THC, the active chemical in marijuana. However, this synthetic drug, called Marinol, is useless for most everyday treatment because it has the unpleasant side effect of being a powerful sedative. A member of Milwaukee's AIDS community, said that a friend of his was taking Marinol to increase his appetite: "He spends the whole day laughing and watching movies...He can't even drive a car because he's so out of it." In addition to that, Marinol only comes in pill form, which makes it useless for patients taking it for nausea. Marijuana has neither of those drawbacks. Because it is usually smoked, even the most nauseous patient can use it as well as easily regulate their intake. No prescription drug offers the benefits and potential of marijuana.

    Many people have testified to marijuana's validity as a unique form of treatment. One of these, Robert Randall, one of only eight patients supplied with marijuana by the federal government, was diagnosed with acute glaucoma and told that he would be blinded within five years Randall "discovered by accident that smoking marijuana" relieved the internal pressure of his eyes. After more than twenty years of smoking marijuana, Randall still has his vision, defying the predictions of his doctors. Richard Brookhiser, a senior editor of the conservative National Review who has admitted to using marijuana to treat the nausea caused by chemotherapy, claims, that "if that moment comes to you, you will turn to marijuana." Rita Zweig further illustrates marijuana's effectiveness: "If anything that is prescribed worked as well for me," she said, "I wouldn't use marijuana." These three people represent thousands of sufferers across the country who use marijuana as a form of treatment.

    Marijuana as a form of treatment has gained support from the medical community. Such prestigious medical publications as the New England Medical Journal have come out in support of medicinal uses for marijuana (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 1/30/97 3A). In addition to that, a Harvard study showed that nearly 44% of doctors who treat cancer patients in the American Medical Association, a group officially opposed to marijuana, have actually recommended marijuana to ease the pain of their patients. Government has refused any sort of clinical testing or reclassifying.

    Because of its medicinal value and the lack of an effective substitute, marijuana should be reclassified as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I drug, which would allow it for certain medical uses. Other illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin are classified as Schedule II, even though they are considered habit forming and dangerous, whereas marijuana, classified as a Schedule I, has never caused a death or overdose and is not considered addictive. The federal government refuses to reclassify marijuana because there "is no proof that smoked marijuana is the most effective available treatment for anything. There can be no proof until marijuana has been tested in a series of clinical trials. There can be no clinical testing of marijuana because the federal government will not allow them. Anyone who has read the book Catch-22 will find this situation familiar.

    The government opponents of medicinal marijuana are against it for political rather than practical reasons. Clinton, who suffered in the polls after he admitted to smoking pot, has taken a strong anti-drug stance to follow in the popular vein of Reagan and Bush's "war on drugs." Congress has taken a strong anti-drug stance, which could be viewed as another example of Congress' detachment from the people they represent, since 35 states have laws that allow marijuana for medicinal use in certain circumstances. The newly passed referendums in Arizona and California demonstrate popular support of these laws, and that they couldn't be passed through California's legislature also demonstrates the representative's isolation from the voters. Federal law, which bans marijuana for all uses, makes all these state laws illegal. This issue represents the power struggle between the state governments and the federal government. The federal government has no constitutional right to ban drugs, especially not if it overrides a state law. This issue has become more than just marijuana for treatment of the sick, it has grown to include the federal government's desire to maintain its dominance over the state governments. Unfortunately, people whose morality and patriotism prevent them from using marijuana to treat their cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, or other illness pay the price.

    The other opponents of marijuana as a form of medical treatment have presented several illogical arguments against it. Many opponents argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that often leads to harder drugs. This argument is easily disproved by the fact that use of "hard" drugs in the Netherlands has decreased significantly since marijuana was legalized. Parents are often worried that prescription marijuana will mean that more of it will get into the hands of kids. Some of these parents have prescriptions for Morphine, Prozac, Zoloft, Dexedrine, or countless other mood altering drugs which they successfully keep out of their children's hands.

    Marijuana should be reclassified so its unique medicinal value can be legally utilized to treat patients. How long would the loudest opponent of medicinal marijuana live incapacitated by nausea or Marinol before he would turn to marijuana? Maybe opponents should spend a month or two in chemotherapy before they deny patients the most effective means of relief!


    August 14, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  8. patti

    Wow, does it really come as a surprise that CNN would censor my post comments on "tax and regulation" ? I had at least expected a brief explanation as to why my posts, as well as Bruce Cain's were being censored, but then both of our comments WERE BLATENLTY AND RUDELY DELETED by CNN and I would really like an explanation for that. I'm not a fool, I know there is no realm of anything even close to fair reporting or media sources that adhere to the first amendment even in the slightest sense. If you aren't locked in goose step with the nazi agenda of "tax and regulate" then your comments are never going to get posted...Zeig Heil!!!

    July 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  9. patti

    In the fairness of reporting without bias, I think Anderson Cooper should interview Bruce Cain and do a show on the MERP plan. The media has been horribly biased one way to only promote what the propaganda the big 3 “moneyed” organizations are spinning, MPP, DPA and NOMRL. There are other options and other plans and all should be discussed in the fairness of media…if we still have fairness of media , which I have not seen in a very long time, but let Anderson Cooper prove me wrong.

    July 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  10. John

    I have smoked marijuana for 40 years. It has never caused me any problems health-wise, motivationally or anything else. The same goes for everyone else that I know that smokes. Alcohol is a detrimental drug.
    Those that comment along the lines of smokers having to go on State aid or not noticing if an earthquake happens are showing their ignorance on the subject, probably never tried it. If you have tried it and didn't like it, then don't do it any more. Most people do like it.
    It should be regulated and taxed like alchohol. Even at a $50 per ounce tax it would be cheaper than on the street. Seriously, there are number crunchers with the government that have several scenarios worked out that show it will work. Not everyone will grow their own either. I would bet that there are lots of folks that would try it or go back to smoking if it were legal. Try MJ instead of zoloft or the other psychotropic (and worse) drugs that the pharmaceutical companies keep trying out on the public. It really does help with stress reduction, pain relief, sleeping better, on and on...
    Others here have done a great job of commenting on other positive aspects of legalizing (or regulating) such as the cost of imprisonment, etc.

    July 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
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