Medical Marijuana: Common Questions and Concerns.

medical marijuana - no rxMedical Marijuana: No prescription required?

Deborah L. Hardin, Managing Attorney

Earlier this week, I encouraged Arkansas voters to read the text of Issues 6 and 7, regarding medical marijuana. Since then, many people have shared important questions, legitimate concerns, and examples of outright manipulation.

I cannot possibly answer every person individually, so I am going to address the most common concerns, here. Please feel free to add your own comments, at the bottom of this page.

What are we talking about? Issues 6 and 7: Arkansas voters will decide whether patients with qualifying conditions and doctor’s certification may use marijuana as part of their medical treatment. Recreational use would remain illegal, and is not at issue.

Full Disclosure: This article was written by a conservative, Christian, teetotaling, homeschool mom, who works with disabled and suffering people on a daily basis through her Social Security Disability law practice. Give yourself a minute to digest that.

Your questions. My answers. Here we go:

Question 1: Will marijuana suddenly become available EVERYWHERE if it is legalized for medical use?

Answer: I hate to break it to you, but marijuana is already widely available in Arkansas. It is illegal, but it is here. This will not change if Arkansas decides to allow patients and their doctors to use the drug as part of a treatment plan.

Here is why: The “legalized” medical marijuana will only be provided to those who qualify and are registered. Even then, it will only be distributed in small, closely-monitored doses.

Remember, this is Arkansas. We like to regulate everything! We still have “dry” cities and counties. And, if you want to buy a decent over-the-counter cold medicine, be prepared to sign over the rights to your firstborn child! No kids? Too bad – enjoy your sniffles. If Arkansas cares this much about alcohol and Sudafed, you can expect significant oversight of any medical marijuana program.

Allowing medical marijuana to be used as part of a treatment plan will not suddenly make it “available everywhere.” It would be far easier for drug dealers to obtain their supply from the black market, as it is already widely available there. Please note: I do NOT advocate or support the illegal use or sale of ANY drug! I’m just making an observation, here.

Question 2: Isn’t marijuana a gateway drug? Will people who use it for medical treatment end up turning to harder drugs?

Answer: Probably not. Although, this is a good question and a legitimate concern.

Here is why: We are specifically talking about medical marijuana, here. If a patient “qualifies” for medical marijuana, there is a good chance that they are already being prescribed harder drugs and are looking for a better/safer alternative. Is medical marijuana a better choice? That is medical decision for patients to discuss with their doctor.

On the other hand, many users already “self medicate” with marijuana. Without proper medical care, it certainly is possible that a user will end up turning to harder drugs to help them cope. Allowing a doctor to include marijuana as part of a patient’s treatment plan is a far better option than self-medicating.

Please note the difference between “patient” and “user.” One would be legal, the other would not.

Question 3: What if my neighbors start growing marijuana and become drug dealers?

Answer:  For your sake, I hope not. Let me ask you this: Are your neighbors currently drug dealers?

No? Medical marijuana is not going to change that.

Yes? Medical marijuana is not going to change that, and perhaps you should consider moving.

Here is why: Dealing drugs is illegal. Selling marijuana is a crime and would continue to be a crime unless done in accordance with the strict guidelines to be set in place for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. Please read the extensive conditions that are already set forth in the text of Issues 6 and 7.

In other words, if your neighbors are not criminals, then it is unlikely that they will suddenly become criminals just like that. Although, anything is possible

Question 4: I have been told that my children will be exposed to other kids who use marijuana, everyday! And, they will be tempted by marijuana that looks like candy and soft drinks! Is this true?

Response: Hopefully, parents are aware that there are already many illegal street drugs and prescription drugs that masquerade as candy and drinks. These can all be potentially deadly for kids. Medical marijuana will not change this availability, or make it any less illegal. Please talk to your kids about this danger. Do it today.

Answer: As far as being exposed to other kids who use marijuana every day… Let me ask you this. Are your kids currently exposed to other kids who use marijuana, every day?

No? Allowing medical marijuana probably* won’t change that.

Yes?  Allowing medical marijuana is  definitely not going to change this. And, parents should probably intervene.

Here is why: *Kids with debilitating conditions, like adults, must qualify for medical marijuana use. So, if your child is friends with another child who has a debilitating condition, it is possible the sick child’s doctor will incorporate medical marijuana into that child’s treatment plan.

Consider this: This might be a good opportunity to talk to your own child about compassion, grace, and love. We are all different and that is okay. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Question 5: What if my child’s teacher or school bus driver is impaired on the job because they are using marijuana?

Answer: That would be horrible and terrifying! But, before we freak out about this, let me ask you a question. Does your child’s teacher or bus driver currently come to work impaired?

No? Allowing medical marijuana is not going to change this. If your child’s teacher or bus driver has a debilitating condition and is able to use their current medications in a responsible manner, then allowing for additional treatment options is not going to change that.

Yes? If your child’s teacher or bus driver is already coming to work impaired, then allowing for medical marijuana is not going to change this – and please find a different class or alternate transportation for your child.

Here is why: Unfortunately, some people will drive (or go to work) while impaired. Driving while impaired is a choice and a crime. Those who would qualify to use medical marijuana are often already prescribed narcotics to help ease their suffering. If so, they are already facing this choice of whether to drive (or work) while impaired. Adding another treatment option is not going to change this.

Question 6: I’ve heard that you won’t even need a prescription to obtain medical marijuana!

Answer: This is true. However, it is also misleading.

Here is why: You will not be able to run down to your corner store and find the medical marijuana stocked between the headache medicine and the laxatives. No, it isn’t stocked near the snack foods, either…(talk about boosting sales!)

In fact, obtaining medical marijuana will likely be more difficult than taking a prescription to your local pharmacy.

Here is what you might expect:

  1. First, a patient must suffer from one of the specified “qualifying conditions.” You cannot qualify just because you have a bit of a headache or a stomach bug!
  2. Next, a patient has to convince their doctor to give them a “written certification” saying that they qualify to use this form of treatment. Technically, this is not a “prescription” which would be regulated by the FDA. Instead, this “certification” will be regulated by a newly created state agency. (See Question 1 about Arkansas and regulations!)
  3. Third, the patient who has the “qualifying condition” and their doctor’s “written certification” still needs to get permission from the State of Arkansas. If the state agrees, the patient gets to pay for a special new identification card designating them as part of the “medical marijuana club.” (insert sarcastic tone, here)

Now that you’ve got your spiffy card – you are all set, right? Not just yet.

  1. Fourth, the patient may only obtain their medical marijuana directly from highly regulated “dispensaries” or “care centers.” There will a limited number of these available in the state, so the patient is likely to have to travel to get there, then wait in line with all the other patients who traveled to get there. For many patients suffering debilitating conditions, extended periods of sitting or standing can be torture.
  2. Fifth, medical marijuana will not be covered by health insurance. Nope, not even Medicare. This may create a financial hurdle for some patients who would otherwise qualify.

Okay, so you’ve got your card, your money, and a ride to the dispensary. Stock up now, so you don’t have to come back right away! Sorry … no.

  1. Lastly, there will be limits imposed on how much medical marijuana each patient can receive. They will not be able to stock up (and won’t have any extra to sell to your children!).

Consider this: Why would patients go to all that trouble, rather than just dropping off a prescription at their local Walgreens? That is a good question, and we can only ponder the possible answers. To find out, you would have to ask patients or their doctors. But, please don’t do that. Doctors won’t violate HIPAA and patient confidentiality, plus it is none of your business.

Question 7: You can’t trust doctors not to “certify” people who don’t really need it!

Response: Can we trust our doctors to prescribe hydrocodone, oxycodone, demerol, or amphetamines? If not, we have a problem. Doctors prescribe these dangerous, addictive, and “high street value” drugs, every day. Why, then, can they not be trusted to include medical marijuana as part of a treatment program for their patients?

Consider this: Is a doctor willing to put all those years of medical school and their medical license on the line to prescribe drugs to someone who doesn’t need or qualify for them? If so, then allowing for medical marijuana is not going to change that.

Question 8: If good people vote for medical marijuana, it is because they have been tricked by clever ads!

Response: I have to admit, this one made me laugh out loud! But once I realized that people actually believed this, I was seriously ticked off!

Here is why: Statements like this are designed to manipulate people’s actions. When the scare tactics from questions 1 through 7 don’t work, special interest groups resort to this method to influence our decisions.

Most of us are free-thinking human beings, capable of making reasonable decisions if we are given enough true and accurate information. However, we are also tend to be prideful and don’t want to be considered “not good” or “tricked” or “not smart.” Playing to our pride is a very clever move, indeed.

Consider this: These methods of manipulation and control come from both sides of every issue. The only *smart* thing to do (see what I did, there?), is to actually read the initiatives for yourself and make an educated decision based on facts.

Question 9: For those who have read this far, you may be wondering what *I* have to gain by medical marijuana being allowed in Arkansas. Am I part of a special interest group? After all, why would I go to all this trouble?

Answer: Through my job, and even with my own loved ones, I see so much pain and anguish and I am powerless to stop it. If I can help ease some of that suffering, even just a little bit, then I must try.

I could (but won’t) tell you heartbreaking stories of veterans with such bad PTSD that they lay awake all night watching the front door, young people with seizures and tremors whose only current option is to take medications that change their personality, and cancer victims dealing with the fallout that chemotherapy has inflicted upon their bodies. And others. So many others. These are the faces of patients who will qualify for medical marijuana. They are not druggies or potheads. They are our friends, our family members, our neighbors.

It is simply a matter of compassion for our fellow humans. We are all in this together, folksmedical_marijuana_.



DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this web site is intended to convey general information. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. It is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

Originally published: October 13, 2016

Last updated: January 5, 2017 at 11:48 am