The longstanding debate about the legality of medical marijuana is heating up. Proponents of medical marijuana suggest that cannabis can be used to relieve the severe pain and physical symptoms of people with cancer, AIDS and other seriously debilitating diseases. Opponents state that marijuana harms a person’s health, reduces short-term memory and does not provide additional benefits to medicine. Some 14 states nationwide have passed medical marijuana laws, usually through ballot initiatives.The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2005 that under the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause, the federal government could regulate marijuana trade, regardless of medical marijuana’s state legality. The federal government has a strong desire to control marijuana because of a prominent, underground drug trade responsible for growing and transporting millions of pounds of marijuana.On the other hand, President Barack Obama has said that he will not pursue federal prosecution for medical marijuana use in states that currently have laws regulating and legalizing the product. This has caused the Supreme Court decision to lack the punch that was likely intended, as federal enforcement has been rendered impotent for the time being. Since Maine adopted a medical marijuana law in early November 2009, the debate about decriminalization of medical marijuana has been reinvigorated.Arizona’s Medical Marijuana DebateThe medical marijuana debate in Arizona and nationwide is a hotly contested one. Residents of Arizona may be voting again on the issue. They approved medical marijuana use in 1996, but that was removed by legislators. The people of Arizona will take up the issue again on the ballots in November of 2010. If the initiative passes, patients will be legally allowed to relieve their pain with doctor-prescribed marijuana.The conflict between Arizona legislators and the people is evident. Overwhelmingly, Arizona voters prefer legalizing medical marijuana, and yet there has been little legislation to that effect. In fact, there are forces actively opposing medical marijuana.On the pro side, several contentions make the debate suitable for the policy arena. Apart from the fact that proponents suggest that medical marijuana should be allowed for patients who are gravely ill, there is also an underlying policy question for lawmakers in regulating marijuana for medical use: namely, if legalizing it to some extent would provide an additional tax revenue stream. Opponents claim that moving toward medical marijuana would lead to the slippery slope of legalizing it entirely. They also claim that marijuana dosages cannot be accurately regulated and therefore the term “medical” should not be applied to cannabis use. Statistics, however, show that medical marijuana use from illicit means can cost far more to the state in enforcement and litigation costs.It seems that the medical marijuana debate is here to stay, at least nationally, until more states adopt or reject medical marijuana measures.
Medical Marijuana Debate, Medical Marijuana, Marijuana Debate
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