Medical Marijuana Does Not Mean Access for All


I try not to take things for granted. Though, by living in California for most of my life, I have been extremely fortunate to have access to high quality marijuana without worry. Medical marijuana was legalized here almost two decades ago. Recreational marijuana has been decriminalized for the most part statewide, resulting in a fine with no jail time depending on amount while many Northern California cities have either further reduced marijuana-related punishments or de-prioritized marijuana arrests.

Essentially, I have been able to operate in and around my hometown without worry from law enforcement my entire life. That kind of legislation has bred a certain level of acceptance even from those who do not partake. It can get me into a bit of trouble when I branch out from my comfort zone — either traveling internationally or between states — from sometimes acting a bit too cavalier. When catching a quick buzz at a rest stop, friends remind me, "You can't just do that here!" Oh, right, jail time.

Thankfully, marijuana is gaining acceptance both medically and recreationally across the nation. The problem, though, is that even when legalized, it still feels a bit like the Wild West for some. Even in California. Los Angeles went a little crazy with medical marijuana. More often than not, clubs were not operating with the correct permits, leading to a massive countywide crackdown.

In Newport Beach, medical marijuana clubs were never permitted, though patients managed access through delivery services. A new ordinance has already banned that ability, thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown's Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (not in effect until Jan. 1, 2018) — statewide licensing and regulation of MMJ — that makes the state the lone authority unless municipalities "quickly" enact their own regulation or bans. Patients will now have to resort to other methods.

The state of medical marijuana access is worse elsewhere. New Mexico has had it legalized since 2007, but increased availability has stagnated for patients, leaving zero dispensaries in the western part of the state and leaving them to depend on deliveries from hours away. Medical marijuana users are forced to pay a premium for a meeting spot — most often at a rest stop or burger chain — that leaves them highly exposed. 

Man, you would be crazy not to buy from a black-market dealer instead.