This post was sent in to us from a former California resident/ current New Jersey resident who sees the value in California’s lax marijuana laws. We just had to share:
When I left California and returned to my home state of New Jersey to pursue nursing school over a year ago, I kept hearing something repeatedly within the local medical cannabis movement, referring to a small subculture that most of us found annoying anyway, the dreaded “Stoner Stereotype”. Everyone kept saying, “California is The Wild West!” and “We don’t want to end up like California.”
As someone who spent three years working in a reputable dispensary run by a licensed Pharmacist, I must now ask, “Why not?”
Why don’t we want to be like California? Don’t we want to save multiple lives, make it easier for patients to have access to medication that is non-toxic and safe, and prevent those patients from being arrested? All while creating legitimate jobs and generating millions in tax revenue. Because, I can assure you, that is exactly what is happening in California.
Yes, annoying ads exist in some of the local papers perpetuating the “stoner stereotype”. But try to remember, cannabis is not plutonium.
Yet, irrational fears that people who “are not really sick” will have access to cannabis, have butchered the implementation of the laws in New Jersey to the point where not one patient here has received medical cannabis legally, even though it was voted into law over a year ago.
This fear reminds me of an incident at the California dispensary where I worked. A young man who appeared very healthy came into the dispensary. He had cleared the check-in process at the front desk, which meant he was a legal patient under California State Law. He was about 25-years-old, 5’11, Caucasian, and wearing a baseball hat. He was neither underweight nor overweight, walked with a normal gait, and spoke clearly. I couldn’t help judging. By the looks of him, he did not seem sick to me. However, in the State of California, that is up to the physician to decide. The same as it is in any local pharmacy such as Walgreen’s or CVS; it is the pharmacist’s job to dispense the medicine properly, not to make diagnoses.
The young man began to engage in some small talk with me. I don’t even remember what he said initially that led him to “...and that’s when I was diagnosed with cancer”. I was startled. He looked so healthy. He removed his baseball hat to reveal a totally bald head.
A large lump protruded from it surrounded by Frankenstein-like stitches. “This is where the first chemotherapy port is”, he stated, pointing to the lump. He lifted up his shirt to reveal yet another lump on his chest where another chemotherapy port had been implanted.
I realized that the fact that this young man had cancer and was in the process undergoing chemotherapy, and yet appeared so healthy, was a testament as to just how well the cannabis (and the California State
Laws) worked! This was not an isolated incident.
Deciding who should have access to medical cannabis should be between the physician and the patient. Yes, in California, a lot of people use “insomnia” as a diagnosis to obtain cannabis. So what? Consider the federally legal prescription alternatives: Ambien and Xanax.
Benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawals are a serious and life-threatening health issue. The worst side effects for a medical cannabis user are the munchies and an obsession with Bob Marley.
The only thing we did find “wild” or “rogue” in California was the behavior of the DEA on January 17, 2007 when they raided nearly a dozen dispensaries, descending from helicopters in full combat year, breaking down doors and pointing semi-automatic weapons at the heads of cancer and MS patients. No, they weren’t just busting “illegitimate operations”. They destroyed legitimate treatment facilities who were in the process of serving patients.
While those of us who worked with legitimate patients also found those who were perpetuating the “stoner” image to be annoying, and at worst “bad for the image of the medical cannabis movement”, the danger in it really did stop there. It is the lesser of two evils to make it easier for people to obtain medical cannabis in order to ensure those who need it are obtaining in a safe atmosphere. Especially when one takes into consideration that drugs far more dangerous and addictive, such as Oxycontin or Valium, are not nearly as strictly regulated.
Making sure patients have safe access to medicine under the care and supervision of a licensed physician far outweighs the risks of one so-called “stoner” accessing cannabis and eating too much pizza in his tie-dye. Medical Cannabis patients are as tired of being compared to stoners as much as New Jersey residents are tired of being compared to those on “The Jersey Shore”.
There isn’t an excuse good enough to continue to treat patients like criminals, which the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services’ regulations are doing.
I’d rather we were more “like California”.