New Jersey - The (No Medical Marijuana) Garden State - coming soon to a state near you! In 2010, New Jersey passed the first medical marijuana law that did not allow the patient to grow their own low-cost medicine, instead requiring them to pay street prices for cannabis sold through dispensaries.
The District of Columbia followed suit when setting up their rules, despite the fact that the initiative that passed by 69% back in 1998 allowed an “exemption for cultivation [which] shall apply only to marijuana specifically grown to provide a medical supply for a patient.”
Marijuana Policy Project then wrote Arizona’s new law which forbids home cultivation if the patient lives within 25 miles of a dispensary. The reasoning given was that the dispensaries would need to be guaranteed a clientele in order to remain viable.
So imagine you’re a 70-year-old glaucoma patient in Phoenix living on SSI. A friend donates to you a small closet grow and you’re producing a few ounces for yourself at about $12.50/ounce. Next month, an entrepreneur applies for and is approved to open a dispensary 18 miles away from your rent-subsidized apartment.
Your choices are to move seven miles farther away on your fixed SSI income and keep growing or to sell your grow equipment and start buying those $300 ounces at the dispensary that you can only get to after a lengthy bus ride. Don’t worry, nobody on the bus or at the stop in your bad neighborhood will smell the ounces of weed on you as you bring them home every couple of weeks (you’re not allowed to stock up – two ounces per fortnight only). Because we want to be sure a place that sells marijuana in a storefront doesn’t go out of business, since marijuana is such hard commodity to market.
We at NORML had warned that continued focus on medical without an eye toward full legalization would eventually lead to a “box canyon” where opponents say, “Oh, you want medical marijuana? All right, we’ll make it medical. You don’t grow your own Vicodin, do you?” and begin to eliminate home growing provisions, the only protection cannabis consumers have against government and/or corporate overpricing, strain degradation, and pharmaceuticalization of cannabis into pills, sprays, and inhalers that will make possession of raw plant material by patients just as criminal as it is now for non-patients.
Two current medical marijuana states, New Mexico and Montana, face efforts to outright repeal medical marijuana. Two current medical marijuana states, Arizona and New Jersey, don’t allow for home cultivation.
Now, New Hampshire, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, and New York have medical marijuana proposals that forbid home grows and require street-price dispensary shopping. Proposals in Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia would be similar to the current thirteen medical marijuana states that allow registered home cultivation.
NORML supports all these proposals, because what kind of pro-marijuana organization could oppose protecting patients from arrest for marijuana possession, even if they had to buy it at a dispensary?
At least the dispensary is clean and safe and reliable and tested and secure compared to the streets. But we remind all supporters of medical marijuana that only through legalization for the healthy will you ever get reasonable prices, peace of mind, and avoid the eventual box canyon the DEA and FDA want to steer you into.