There are times when society hardly covers itself in glory when dealing with a difficult subject. The medical marijuana debate is one such situation.
The legal position
Let's make it clear up front that this article should not be read as qualified legal advice. The legal position with regards to the medical use of marijuana in the USA is, at best, confused and chaotic. You may find significant differences between your State law and the law in other states - and if that isn’t bad enough, Federal law continues to consider marijuana as being illegal and not permissible, irrespective of the circumstances or justification. The undignified jurisdictional squabbles between Federal and State authorities over this matter have received much attention during recent years. This is another example of why caution is needed before forming a view.
Therefore, this article is essentially a synthesis of opinions gleaned from the web and you should not base your own personal actions and practices on it.
Marijuana - what use is it?
Nobody seriously disputes that marijuana has been used for millennia in both a recreational and medical context. The recreational use of marijuana will not be discussed here other than to say that in most countries in the world it remains illegal and punishable, even if some countries choose not to rigidly enforce those same laws. The use of medical marijuana is where there is considerable confusion and controversy. On one hand, there is a large and growing body of opinion that the use of marijuana is effective in alleviating symptoms of many diseases, conditions and disorders.
The list of ailments where sufferers may apparently receive some help from this drug is now very lengthy and seemingly growing by the year. Many people suffering from illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer and Parkinson's disease, claim that medical marijuana has helped them cope with the sometimes painful and extremely distressing symptoms. Yet against this, there continues to be significant resistance to its use from many sectors of the medical establishment. Many of these point out that there is a noticeable absence of hard-nosed clinical evidence supporting the benefits claimed by the proponents of medical marijuana.
The public perception
There are very large numbers of people who know of someone that appears to have genuinely benefited from the use of marijuana in the medical situation. It must be the acknowledged however, that there may be a rather higher number who very strongly suspect that medical marijuana continues to be simply a flag of convenience for many people wishing to use the drug recreationally. It's always dangerous to start trying to speak for the majority. Nevertheless, there must be a real possibility that in this case, the large majority of Americans are simply confused. Those sources normally looked to for objective guidance and opinion (the medical establishment, the judiciary, law-enforcement and the media) appear to be hopelessly split and divided as to whether the medical use of marijuana should be permitted or even encouraged.
The way forward
The current administration’s pragmatic approach appears to be not to crack down on the legal (in State terms) use of medical marijuana in those states where it is used and administered in accordance with local laws and effective control and distribution procedures. This, however, intuitively seems to be a deeply unsatisfactory situation which leaves many legitimate users of marijuana for symptom relief constantly 'looking over their shoulder' from one day to the next.
It seems incomprehensible that doctors are routinely prescribing massively more powerful and addictive drugs, while many sections of society continue to view the thought of the controlled medical use of marijuana as being abhorrent. One can only hope that commonsense and rationality will prevail in the great medical marijuana debate.