California was the first state to approve the use of medical marijuana and now voters are considering decriminalization of all marijuana use.
Recently, I went to a local dispensary in Los Angeles to see how easy it would be to obtain medical marijuana. At the dispensary, I told the owner my back hurt but did not have a prescription. He assured me there was no problem. He could send me to “a doctor that was cheap and specialized in medical marijuana evaluation. The owner of the dispensary offered to call for me “since these doctors are pretty busy.” I was told the evaluations would not take long because they only ask a few questions and do not do any examinations. The doctor would give a recommendation (he explained it could not be called a prescription since the patient regulates their own dosage) After getting the recommendation, I could take it to any dispensary and the medical marijuana could be purchased as sodas, candies, lollipops, cookies, brownies, or old fashioned pot cigarettes. A gram was $20 and a reward card would be given out and punched for every “donation” of $20. After ten donations a free gift of one gram would be rewarded. I questioned the word “donation” and was told by the owner, “everything is a donation – it’s an industry buzz word. You are basically buying it.” The owner also warned: “if you are not a seasoned smoker— be aware it’s very, very potent.”
Under California’s medical marijuana laws there are no strict controls on who grows marijuana, how it is grown, and how it is dispensed. Councilman Ed Reyes told FrumForum that there are hundreds of pot dispensaries and only about 20% are legal because there is a whole infrastructure out there “that speaks to profit.” Reyes added that there were “more dispensaries than Starbucks. We need to impose controls that monitor where it should be grown and the amount contained in these products to understand the chemical mix, and cut back the amount of dispensaries that give the product out.”
Former LAPD Police Chief William Bratton commented to FrumForum that California “has the worst system of any state. The regulations and controls are totally missing in action.” By comparison, under New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws, doctors can only give out prescriptions to patients who are terminally ill or have a debilitating condition. Also, there are to be no private pot shops. Only six non-profit operators are allowed statewide, and no home growers are acceptable.
Were the state to decriminalize all marijuana use, this would create an even larger break between California’s state laws and federal laws. The lack of any regulations or controls would further complicate any attempts to continue enforcing federal drug laws in the state. Before pushing for further legalization, California should focus on overhauling their current laws.