By Jim Gogek
Montana may repeal its medical marijuana law. The Treasure State took a Wild West, anything goes approach to medical marijuana, much like Colorado and California, and people there are fairly shocked by what happened. Marijuana purveyors popped up all over the place with high-powered marketing and outreach, a statewide pot industry quickly grew up, and today there are more than 28,000 registered users in a state with less than 1 million people. And, a third of them are under 30, which is really silly because young people are generally very healthy and don’t much use medical services.
Here’s what a recent Associated Press article said happened in Montana:
Advocates and distributors figured out they could sign up thousands of people who claim to suffer from “chronic pain” — a vague term covering everything from creaky knees to sore backs to persistent headaches.
They started caravans, going from town to town to register patients by the thousands…
The state board of medical examiners fined one doctor who saw a new patient every six minutes during one of the traveling clinics — not enough time to provide adequate care.
Even the medical marijuana advocates in Montana now want the government to impose a bit stricter regulations. Might I suggest that Montanans emulate another Wild West state? New Mexico took a much more common-sense approach, never allowing marijuana advocates to hijack its state law, or at least not yet. The entire state of New Mexico only has about a dozen licensed medical marijuana purveyors (there are that many within a few blocks in downtown Boulder, Colorado), and getting a permit to use marijuana remains restrictive, as is usually the case with medicine. New Mexico, a state of about 2 million people, has about 2,500 licensed medical marijuana users, which is more reasonable considering that the drug only has limited uses for the very sick.
This from an FAQ on New Mexico’s Department of Health website:
Q: How do I apply for the Medical Cannabis Program?
A: Your physician must certify that you have an eligible condition, that the condition is debilitating and can not be helped by standard treatments, and that the benefits of medical cannabis usage outweigh the detriments. For post traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatrist’s diagnosis must be included. For glaucoma, an ophthalmologist must provide the diagnosis. For chronic pain, you need objective proof of severe chronic pain (X-rays, CT scans, MRIs) and receive two recommendations, one from your primary care physician and one from a specialist consulting on your case. The program has 30 days to review your application starting from when the program receives your complete application. If the Medical Director approves your application, the program will issue you a registry ID card.
In many states, medical marijuana has made a mockery of the medical practice. But in New Mexico, medical marijuana more closely mirrors real therapeutic care. Montana would do well to emulate it, and so would other states.