After decades of bad publicity and scare tactics, medical marijuana has been legalized in 15 states and the District of Columbia. While many other states are considering joining the medical marijuana bandwagon, the federal government is stuck on the fence, unsure of what to do.
Unfortunately for those who find MMJ helpful in reducing symptoms or treating chronic pain, getting permission to use it is just the first step towards obtaining what they need, safely.
Not Everyone Has the Same Goals
Inevitably, when something such as marijuana is legalized there will always be those who try to use the new situation to their financial advantage. Such is the case of a Salem, Oregon man who was recently arrested for growing and selling pot. Facing six different charges, including selling within 1000 feet of a school, this individual had over 100 plants growing and was found with scales, packing materials and other tools used in distribution.
Most individuals who seek out a medical marijuana card, however, only want to grow enough for their own needs.
The Los Angeles Lottery
One of the many ways in which local municipalities are limiting the number of dispensaries within city limits is a lottery. In Los Angeles the solution which has been put forward is a lottery by which 100 dispensing permits will be assigned. 228 businesses qualified for the lottery and got their paperwork in by the deadline.
To date the exact method of the lottery and when it will be held is unknown. In the meanwhile, the 228 dispensaries will continue to operate. This is far less than the nearly 800 previously located around the city, many of which were shut down back in June 2010.
The goal is to limit the number of dispensaries and to disburse them equally around the city.
What Will the Future Bring?
For the vendors of medical marijuana, public opinion is just part of the puzzle. Even though the sale of marijuana, growing supplies and information is all legal in some states, federal law continues to prohibit it. That means that they often suffer when it comes to obtaining the business support they need to truly succeed.
Banks, merchant account providers and landlords are all reluctant to do business with individuals who run dispensaries. Creative applications stating that the store sells "supplements" or "vitamins" only go so far, and carry a certain risk if the true nature of the business is discovered. Many dispensary owners have found their bank accounts or merchant accounts closed overnight, leaving them without the infrastructure to run their business safely.
Part of the problem surrounding medical marijuana and its negative reputation is a result of its undefined status and the fact that until recently it remained illegal countrywide. It is likely that just as many of the criminal problems surrounding alcohol during prohibition disappeared when drinking was once again made legal, many of the questions surrounding MMJ dispensaries will evaporate if and when nationwide acceptance is achieved.