Medical Marijuana: The Long Version


The sponsors of a South Dakota medical marijuana initiative scheduled to appear on the ballot in November are suing state Attorney General Larry Long over a ballot summary that gives voters reasons to oppose the measure. Long, who is charged with writing a neutral summary of each state ballot initiative, started by renaming the measure. Instead of "an act to provide safe access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons," he wants to call it "an Initiative to authorize marijuana use for adults and children with specified medical conditions." The summary itself also mentions children, saying "the proposed law would legalize marijuana use or possession for any adult or child who has one of several listed medical conditions and who is registered with the Department of Health."

Long's summary implicitly offers two other arguments against the initiative: that patients who use marijuana as a medicine would still be vulnerable to arrest under federal law and that doctors who recommend marijuana could lose the DEA registration that allows them to prescribe controlled substances. The first point is true but misleading, since the overwhelming majority of marijuana arrests are made under state law. Patients who grew their own marijuana (or officially designated "caregivers" who grew it for them) might be targeted by the DEA, but the risk of arrest would be much lower than if they also could be prosecuted under state law. The second point is even more misleading, since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has held that the First Amendment bars the federal government from prosecuting or revoking the prescription privileges of doctors who advise their patients to use marijuana. The Supreme Court refused to hear the government's appeal of that decision.

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  1. Nitpick: SD is in the 8th Circuit, so unless there’s a case in those parts, or a SCOTUS opinion agreeing with the 9th, nobody in the Dakotas has to listen to the west coast judges, even if they should.


  2. Sounds like Larry Long is suffering from that infectious wave of mental illness.

  3. If the inclusion of children is going to make or break this thing, why not just leave them out. Adults can have (pretty much) legal access, and kids can get it school like they do now.

  4. The Children.

    Great, now every state attorney general knows how to sabotage perfectly rational medical marijuana reform initiatives.

  5. Could someone please clarify – does the text of the initative actually allow children to get a prescription for medical marijuana? In other words, is the AG’s text change literally true, if misleading? If so, then frankly the inititative sponsors dug their own grave. The lawsuit is them just digging a bigger hole. All you had to do was say 18-plus only.

  6. Opponents can of course keep children from qualifying for medical marijuana if they can ban children from being afflicted with glaucoma, or having to undergo chemotherapy for their cancer.

    Children under 18 can, in specified circumstances, be given prescriptions for opiate based pain medicines. The disease, not the age of the patient, determines the appropriate response.

  7. “The disease, not the age of the patient, determines the appropriate response.”

    As it should be, I am not aware of any age restrictions for any treatment due to age as long as it is efficacious. Wouldn’t parental notification / permission come into this before the doctor starts rolling up phatties for junior?

  8. does the text of the initative actually allow children to get a prescription for medical marijuana?

    Why the hell wouldn’t it? Children can get morphine by prescription.

  9. In our conservative culture, Reefer Madness still seems like a realistic way in which to view pot heads. People can’t get their brain around the idea that like all drugs it has medicinal uses as well as side effects but society pretends that it only has the undesirable side effects.

    I suspect the main opposition to legalizing medical marijuana is the fear that that’s just a step on the way to legalizing or decriminalizing recreational use.

  10. How could that fear be allayed? A federal or state constitutional amendment that both allowed medical marijuana and forbade recreational use and specified minimum penalties therefore?

  11. AML-

    Uh, because I’d rather see it passed by the voters than not. I did not ask whether is was right or wrong to deny MMJ to children – just saying that inclusion is tantamount to asking it to be defeated. That may or may not be “right” in a pure sense, but in order to allieviate the suffering of the huge majoirty of the potential MMJ users that are over the age of 18, it is perhaps better to be good than right.

  12. Oh god, The Children. How is this even protecting them?? “We can’t have children smoking pot to make their cancer more tolerable, so NOBODY can do it!” I’m just astounded by the mentality that exists in Drug Warriors sometimes. Scratch that, all the time.

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