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)
  1. Kyle

    Joe America said it perfect too, and stephen I hate to break it to you but most of the time losers and failures all attract to each other. Chances are that you are indeed a loser too. I know plenty of super successful smokers and I also know of some middle aged non smokers and the smoker is more ambitious and successful.

    July 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  2. Kyle

    Joshua hit it on the head. Basically three quarters of people have to get their smoke from someone who in one way or another get it from the Main producers. These main producers are usually a bad person, for instance mexican cartel, we pay them a lot. If they don't have marijuana to make money off of there revenue and power will be cut in half. Because we have to realize that we waste money for incarceration and ect, but do we think about the money on top of that, that we already gave to a drug cartel? When i got raided with 12 plants i was facing 15 years! I had no priors, no guns, and not any other substance of any sort in my house but cannabis. I alone cost my county a lot of money to live in the jail and for the b.s drug counseling. In the end they let me out after investigating to find out I wasn't a dealer but just someone who didn't like buying crappy over fertilized weed. Also the quality.... take a couple rips or smoke a bowl or j of some mold weed. Don't they care that no matter what we will smoke, why not try to help us not pollute our bodies or the air.

    July 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  3. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Gov. Swarzenegger thinks it ought to be studied? Wow, now I'm even more sure it's a bad idea! Someone needs to study him for early on-set dementia! And that is my perspective on that! I know, another country heard from, right? Whatever!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 24, 2009 at 8:12 pm |
  4. Rob from Texas

    No doubt it should legalized. Marijuana was never banned for health reason. It was only banned due to an immigration problem in the Southwest due to people bringing pot across the border, so a few officials started an all out campaign to ban the plant...there was a detailed special on this on The History Channel. No one has ever died from pot yet millions die from alcohol and cigarettes, even 10,000 people a year die from over the counter Asprin. It's time to legalize it and tax it.

    July 24, 2009 at 8:11 pm |
  5. Jilly Witman

    It probably should be legalized for any reason if it helps the budget.
    It might not be though. A stretch.
    People are pretty conservative in Cal. but if it happens
    a good thing. Ok bye. J

    July 24, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Joe America

    Not just Obama, but Bush and Clinton as well smoked it. Legalize it, and put some drug cartels out of business, while creating legal avenues for an industry that is already there. You can go to Cali big cities, or any town large or small in America and buy it....why shouldn't it be bought and sold with structure and taxation?

    July 24, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  7. blk macgyver

    Wow! Do all these posts say yes to pot? or am i high already? And this post should reflect an accurate avarave, i would think.. LETS GET HIGH..

    July 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  8. Stephen

    This strikes me as absurd. Everyone that I can think of right now that really managed to fail at life used pot in some way in obtaining their negative outcomes. But at the same time maybe they would have failed anyway and failures are attracted to pot. We should study this.

    July 24, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  9. Lynn T

    Yeah well this is just smoke blown up the skirt when it is a "could be".
    A "could be legalized" is still a long stretch from "IS". If the Gays cannot even marry in California, and they "had the right to". Then a "could be" for legalized mary jane is still a pipe dream.
    The uber Christian puritan groups will get on that band wagon and call a reforendum and even some how will frig over the unwell folks who need medical marijuana.
    I have no faith in the people of California to be open minded. They proved it when they voted.

    July 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  10. John Dixon

    How long will this lead story stay up on the blog – pretty old stale news now

    July 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  11. Denise, Ohio

    I so completely agree when people point out that they would rather drive alongside a "pothead", then an alcoholic......alcohol is 100 times more fatal than pot.....you have people killed daily due to drunk drivers...you have people who are violent drunks and beat their children or their wives.....or anyone for that matter.....I could go on and on of the "cons" against alcohol......I have smoked pot of and on since I was 17, I am now 30. Pot is no where near as addicting as alcohol is.....I'm not saying to do it, but if anything should be illegal it should be alcohol over pot anyday!!!! The only experience I've ever had around anyone who has smoked including myself is sitting around laughing, truly laughing having a great time....and I can't tell u how it has helped my anxiety disorder in the past......tax if they must, treat it just as alcohol and ID people, whatever, just truly look at which is less harmful in EVERY way!

    July 24, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  12. Rick

    Alright, Now lets go Nationwide.

    July 24, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  13. Texas

    Honestly i smoke weed and work 40 hours a week and go to school on top of that. I can work, go to school, and do anything while high and you wouldn't notice. It helps in English b/c my mind goes off and i can write a 15 page paper in 1 day most of the time. I'm a pretty smart dude and think that taxing marijuana would be the best choice this economy has made in a very long time. Marijuana simply puts your mind and body on a 30-45 min vacation

    July 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  14. Craig

    As a resident of California and a medical marijuana card carrying member for the last four years, I love that I can get in the car and go to the store and purchase some medicine. I don't have to bother trying to score on the streets and the quality is way better. There are many options as well from edibles to concentrates, Some clubs even let you consume on the premises. About two years ago the clubs implemented a State tax policy on all purchases. I was put off at first, but then realized how much money that the state could make from this and I didn't have a problem paying tax. I love California.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  15. D Smith

    Proponents of legalizing marijuana cite the destructiveness of alcohol and cigarettes to advocate legalizing yet another problematic drug. I've yet to meet a weed fiend who was smoking it to relieve glaucoma or nausea from chemotherapy. California's problem was being sloppy about failing to limit medicinal marijuana to actual legitimate medical use.
    There are some major problems caused by regular smoking of marijuana for pleasure. Just talk with a few people who stopped smoking dope, recovered their motivation, and grew up enough to move out of their parents' homes by age 35.
    Any state that chooses to exploit people who have become dependent on marijuana – just to raise money – needs to examine its ethics.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  16. Scotty

    Legalize it already. There are so many benefits from its medicinal use. It helps smooth out those rough edges in everyday life. It relieves stress, pain, and emotional turbulence. There is already so much support throughout our country to legalize it; I'm kind of surprised it wasn't legalized back in the 60's and 70's when just about everyone and their brother were smoking it.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Maggie

    Im 50yrs old and although I have smoked pot in the past, I do not smoke it now: I live in Texas. But I certainly am tempted to pick up and move to California! Here I come!! I say, Legalize it once and for all. It is no worst at impairment than ole Jim, Jack or the Captian.


    July 24, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  18. Maggie

    Im 50yrs old and although I have smoked pot in the past, I do not smoke it now: I live in Texas. But I certainly am tempted to pick up and move to California! Here I come!! I say, Legalize it once and for all. It is no worst at impairment than ole Jim, Jack or the Captian.


    July 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  19. john D

    dont worry jane from wood dale. if he said he wouldnt support it , He will. The man has more flip flops than myrtle beach Sc.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  20. Elise

    Criminalizing marijuana while allowing the legal consumption of alcohol and nicotine never made any sense to me. Both of the latter substances kill many every day, and are incredibly more addictive. Even though I have not smoked pot for many years, I would sooner see my kids a bit mellow on the occasional weed than smashed and stupid on alcohol. Also, right now the extra tax dollars couldn't hurt.

    If, hopefully when, they get over this inane fear of weed and make it legal for adults, I am hoping they will also improve the process of ingestion and standardize the amount of THC so that consumers will know exactly what they are taking. Smoking anything is hazardous. I have heard that in Europe you can buy a medicinal liquid form that involves placing a drop beneath the tongue. Taking out the factor of lung disease would considerably lower any risks involved with the drug.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  21. Kylie Pickens

    All you guys could not have said it better! There's no reason in me putting my opinion because all of you took the words right out of my mouth! I think everyone would agree, this economy needs this badly!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  22. Dawn Sperry

    Those that were apart of the 60's Renaissance remember that the prohibition of typical socially-unacceptable products is not necessarily a progressive choice.

    Let our tax dollars work fighting the real criminals.

    As for the head shops still in existance, promote the practical uses of hemp (see hemp.com) because it is the approach needed to fulfill a gap and promote a necessary, diverse and useful product in our society.

    President Obama please use your diplomacy to help create a balance between conservative and liberal viewpoints in this matter.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  23. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    According to Gil Kerlikowske, Obama's drug Czar, Obama will never support legalizing marijuana.

    If I recall correctly, Obama has admitted to using marijuana in his youth and I guess he turned out okay. So I wonder why Obama won't support legalizing marijuana now?

    July 24, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  24. Joseph

    California appears to be the jumping ground for a positive trend that hopefully will soon catch-on in other states. It often takes many small steps to achieve a larger national level-cultural change.... Cannabis has gotten a horrible rap; when in todays comparison, your Dr. is prescribing you and your children worse things than something that occurs naturally. Readily available substances and products like Tylenol and Caffeine have caused more deaths than Cannabis or Marijuana (0 deaths). The "Aura" that surrounds the idea of legalizing marijuana is often frightened away by tired irrational paranoia and propaganda that marijuana usage itself is demoralizing to our nation... often riddled with redonkulous ideas as, "Thats what the children..,need more drugs, and legal, why not legalize all drugs and murder too?" This isn't about morals, it isn't about people wanting to get trashed or turn your children on to it, its about freedom, fairness and personal liberty. If alcohol and tobacco are legal, why isn't Cannabis? Regulate it, Tax It, and legalize it. If its legal, and regulated much like Alcohol and Ciggarettes, its a good assumption: it will be less available to your underage children. Now I'm not trying to say Cannabis is completely harmles; People already suffering with dependency problems or addictive personalities potentially could abuse Cannabis, however that occurs in already more lethal and legal substances and can be addictions can be treated. Studies in Portugal and Amsterdam do not show a significant increase in drug use or drug related crime due to their legalization movements, in some cases/studies crime and abuse levels dropped. Their is a fair amount of taxes, money, and jobs that can come as a result of legalization. Again this is not the end-all-be-all answer to the Economic problems our country faces, but lets face it, what have the politicians in either party given us?..Most of our politicians at the State and National scene are too scared to push what I think will soon become a public majority...they won't speak up, because of of the stigma that surrounds Cannabis and "drug" legalization from a political standpoint. More of the same from these folks, so why not tap an unused source of revenue for this country..its not a entirely new idea, but one thats gaining momentum and has potential...

    July 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  25. Dan

    I'm going to continue the trend of favoring legalizing marijuana. I agree that it would not only drastically help our economy but generally improve peoples well being. This would free up many resources such as jailing people who where caught with marijuana. As with alcohol and other legal substances, anything can be abused and too much of anything is bad for you. Recently I've started smoking a little bit everyday for a month and I still function as a student (currently enrolled in Advanced Placement Classes) and a graphic designer, web developer and maintaing a part time job.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  26. john d.

    i have adhd and cannabis is known to have positive affects on the symptoms. i have used ritalin,aderol,and concerta, and cannabis is the only thing that truly improves my quality of life. Legalize it!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  27. gogo

    It should be legalized but there's no real need to tax. People will still buy it on the street untaxed anyway.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm |
  28. elliott

    Pot is only legal for politicians , who party at the white – black house

    July 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  29. wayne

    It's about time this has been seriously brought to the table, Anyone who wants to smoke pot can already get it, legally or illegally, no matter what state your in.

    Why give the drug cartels the money, Not only would Calif make billions in tax revenue it would also save billions in the fight on drug related border crime.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:16 pm |
  30. Dr. Jane

    If you ask any doctor if they have ever treated a patient for Marijuana overdose 100% of them would say "never". The only people who don't want to see this pass are the corrupt Big Tobacco Companies. I say legalize it and tax it and end hunger in the streets of California.


    July 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  31. Michael J Gannon

    We should legalize hemp for paper, plastic bags, and fuel this would make this country whole. This would make us a green country also

    . Mike!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  32. Chronic pain sufferer from another state

    Please help legalize, so sick people can get their medicine!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:14 pm |
  33. john D

    If they legalize it in Cali I will move there within a year. It being illegal has caused me so many issues in life. It only makes sense.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  34. Alex (Oahu, Hawaii)

    I'll sit back for a bit and wait for the battle to begin then make up my mind. Issues as touchy as these most often than not have little surprises that can turn a table either way. My two cents anyway for NOW. 🙂

    July 24, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  35. Tee

    The medicinal uses for marijuana far outweigh the adverse effects if any, I have eaten, smoked and drank this substance and every year during my physicals I am deemed a picture of health. The time is now for the bowl to be passed from state to state and everyone live in harmony, smiling and at peace with the universe, oops sorry a little too much mary jane today.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm |
  36. Joshua

    Cannabis should be legalized. Far much safer than the already legal substances. I have never heard of anyone ever over-dosing on Cannabis. I have seen Cannabis heal. There is no reason to be afraid of this plant. By this plant being illegal it has forced it into the black market. Good honest people have to go to the blackmarket where they are usually confronted with dangerous drugs. This plant is far from a gateway. The blackmarket presented to people by the drug dealer is the gateway. The gateway myth is ignorance. Don't blame human desires on a plant. Let's be professional and mature. Sure sometimes I may smoke some Cannabis and then want a beer. That does not mean that the Cannabis made me crave another substance. Although, I have drank beer and then craved a cigarette to the point I will get one. Even though I don't smoke cigarettes. I also do not do drugs. No Cannabis is not a drug, IMO. So many familes could make a good living off of Cannabis farming. As well as Hemp. Our economy is cracked and so are many families finances. That is why so many have turned to growing Cannabis now. LEGALIZE IT!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  37. Thomas

    Legalization is the wrong word. Fully legalized would allow children to buy, possess, and use. Regulate is the proper term that needs to be used. It should be regulated and taxed much the same way alcohol is. Regulated so that only those 21 and older can buy, possess, and use. This is the best way to keep it out of the hands of the youth. When their only source of the drug is the kid down the street (they are not buying it directly from Mexican drug mafia members, they are buying it at school from each other), you're putting the drug right in the hands of the person you want to keep it away from. Regulate it so that businesses under the authority of the State must ID those looking to purchase. In order for youth to obtain alcohol or tobacco in this country is for an ADULT to be complicit and a part of the purchase. Right now there are no adults needed to act in a complicit or active manner in order for youth to obtain any form of cannabis. Regulate the substance like tobacco and you will see a reduction in the use of the substance by teenagers, just as we have seen with tobacco.

    July 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  38. Joe Supporter

    It's always been senseless to criminalize pot. Especially when you've got alcohol around that's 10,000x more destructive. I would rather be driving next to someone a little high then 30 minutes after a couple tylenol pm's.

    It's amusing how some of these vice laws are gotten around. Like gambling in the midwest, where the people were told it must be on a river, but they built moats, watered down laws along the way and now they build large casino hotels right there on land. I don't disagree with this, but why don't they just come right out and legalize it and stop with the hen-pecking to appease people. Now it's being done with the legalization of marijuana by making it for "medicinal" purposes. It's really sad that's the way these archaic laws have to be over-turned.

    WTG California, you're leading the way in something that should have been done back in the 1920's when they were falsely demonizing pot. I wish the rest of the country would start wising up.

    MIssouri Supporter

    July 24, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  39. Renato Martins

    Avant-garde State... where else than California?

    July 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  40. JohnAthana

    there are rallies in Harrisburg as well, encouraging legislators to create a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania. Maybe this is becoming a nationwide trend!!

    July 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  41. Martina Ilstad Germany

    so what do we learned about Michael Jackson death.We can by enough legal medicin,sometimes it doesn help.(Michael, could not sleeped,thinking about that is verry terrible,makes me sad.That a man like M.J.could not find legal help)

    July 24, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  42. Sober guy

    I can't wait to go to work and have more of my paycheck go to the pot smokers who will be on State aid.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  43. tabitha t

    Making pot legal would do wonders for the governement. Not only could they tax it and somewhat control it, but think about how many people we are financially supporting in jail that were arrested for pot. I dont hear any other ideas that are logical and that we haven't already tried in the past. History always repeats itself. We need some relief from this recession and this may be our only way without sending the country into a complete uproar.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  44. Orlando

    How can something that grows from the earth be illegal anyway? Get a lift to the 46% that didn't vote to legalize it. Pot should be legalized world wide

    July 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  45. charmichael

    If cigarettes and alcohol–which cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, and which have no medical benefits–are legal, then maintaining pot illegal is merely a political move.


    July 24, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  46. Annie Kate

    If any state does legalize it I would bank on California to be the first. I just wonder though if everyone is smoking marijuana out there when the "Big One" hits – will they care? Better yet – will they notice?

    If legalizing it cures California's budget ills then go for it – more states may follow. Maybe it will create some jobs too – although I think when Obama talks about green jobs its not marijuana he had in mind.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  47. aaron arntson

    How can this country still sell death dealing cigarettes and continue to make pot illegal??? It is time to wake up this country to the fact that pot doesn't kill its users and cigs do....

    July 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  48. Tiernan

    Hopefully California can start a nationwide trend.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  49. Stan

    They may as well legalize Marjuana: If people can get comfort from what a Doctors considers pain, I'am all for it. Their are p[eople that smoke pot daily and function quit well without any pain. Lets legalize pot with a Doctors perscription and tax it. The Billion dollars it brings in Taxes will help the economy. The people who want to smoke it will get it no matter if you legalize it or not.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  50. Roger Melius

    I would agree that it should be legalized aswell as taxed. Make it legal already.

    July 24, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
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