The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 8th

Keeping medicinal pot illegal is dopey

Pot, weed, dope, Mary Jane, Cannabis — marijuana goes by many names. But whatever you want to call it, it is a drug worthy of legalization — at least for medicinal purposes.

In the U.S., medical marijuana legalization is done on a state-by-state basis. So far, 14 states have already legalized the use of medical marijuana — and with good reason.

In California, the big debate is whether or not to legalize marijuana for personal use other than medicinal purposes. But in North Carolina, the bill to legalize it for medicinal purposes has still not passed.

A 2010 report on WebMD compiled studies showing that marijuana is effective for treating a multitude of medical problems. Some of the uses include relieving chronic pain in AIDS patients and patients with spinal cord injuries, as well as relieving muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.

The addictive properties of marijuana are not as perilous as those of other drugs that are legal in our country — alcohol and tobacco.

So with all of this evidence in support of the legalization of medical marijuana, why hasn’t North Carolina been one of the 14 states to legalize it?

In the past few years, North Carolina has tried without success to pass House Bill 1380, which would allow patients suffering from certain medical conditions to legally use medical marijuana with a prescription.

In August 2010, the state’s democratic executive committee passed a resolution supporting the legalization of medical marijuana.

So what can you do as a voter in North Carolina to aid in the legalization of medical marijuana?

The best thing to do is to check whether the candidate you plan to vote for on Nov. 2 supports the House Bill 1380, and if they don’t, write or call and request that they do.

The next question is that of whether it is a good idea to legalize marijuana for purposes other than medical use. This issue is being raised in California elections this year with Proposition 19. If passed, the bill will allow people over 21 to possess, consume, and grow small quantities of taxable marijuana without having a prescription.

The supporters of this bill claim that these taxes would bring money in to the state, while cutting funding for foreign drug cartels and reducing violence due to drug trafficking.

But since the bill would not legalize the mass production of marijuana in the U.S., marijuana consumption would still need to be met by foreign growers.

This is evident in Holland, where large-scale production of marijuana is illegal, despite the fact that small-scale possession, consumption and growing is not penalized for those more than 18 years old. This means that many of the coffee shops selling marijuana still get their product from illegal sources.

In contrast, marijuana grown for medicinal purposes is grown by local dispensaries, so foreign cartels are not involved.

To recap, legalization of marijuana for purposes other than medicinal would be ineffective in reducing foreign drug trade; however, legalization for medical purposes would benefit many chronic pain patients, without creating an out-of-control drug culture.

Sarah Dugan is a columnist from The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior environmental major from Asheville. Contact her at sdugan@emai.unc.edu

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