Governor Mark Dayton (D) of Minnesota has added his voice to the chorus of politicians that are against the legalization of marijuana in any form. While public acceptance of the drug grows, so too does resistance from certain quarters of the US government. The question is, how long can the stalemate continue, and which side will win?
Medical marijuana is legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and while resistance remains strong in several states, the drug has a growing number of advocates. This revolution is driven for the most part by the frustration experienced by parents of children who suffer from Dravet syndrome, a crippling condition in which young children can experience dozens of seizures per day. Cannabidiol, or CBD, a key chemical found in marijuana, has been shown to reduce these seizures to a manageable level. Untreated, Dravet syndrome causes irreversible brain damage, and conventional medications have severe side effects.
Even as organizations sprung up around the country, several key politicians rally against the proliferation of medical marijuana, citing numerous studies—many outdated—that point to the drug’s danger to children. While it is true that teenagers should avoid smoking the drug, extracts like CBD oil are free from the psychoactive compounds that cause the drug’s less desirable side effects.
Parents of children with Dravet and other conditions have spent thousands of dollars moving to marijuana-friendly states, and some of them have been followed by camera crews from high-profile news shows such as 20/20. Marijuana advocates point to cases such as these as the result of government foot-dragging, implying that the government has ulterior motives for keeping the drug out of reach of the people. On the contrary, the Obama administration has expressed their willingness to reschedule marijuana should Congress choose to do so. Unfortunately, the issue isn’t as simple as that. For every state that wants medical marijuana, there’s another that doesn’t—so far.
Advocates aren’t giving up, however. Fueled by the fact that marijuana has shown promise in managing the symptoms of several diseases—arthritis and cancer among them—and the fact that over 90% of Americans are for medical marijuana, they speak up for the cause wherever possible.
In April, 2014, several passionate medical marijuana supporters spoke up at a press conference, slamming the government for refusing to consider medical marijuana, even as several of the state’s citizens watched their children suffer with Dravet. Even while parents took turns describing their children’s numerous seizures, Governor Mark Dayton suggested that they enroll their children in a study to test the drug’s efficacy instead of committing to push legislation that could make medical marijuana legal in the state of Minnesota.
Resistance to Medical Marijuana in Minnesota
The governor, heir to Target Corp., has previously been a state senator and has also served as state auditor. According to the families that met with Dayton in late April, the governor also advised them to buy marijuana off the street. The problem with this solution—other than the fact that it exposes the families to considerable risk—is that most strains of marijuana are high in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and low in CBD. These strains would make their kids high and would have little therapeutic effect. There are high-CBD strains, such as Charlotte’s Web, but most of them are only sold in Colorado.
Minnesota law enforcement has also expressed concerns. They fear that should the drug be legalized, children will have easy access to it. The Minnesota Health Department is also against legalization, citing the lack of peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate marijuana’s efficacy. However, because cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, American universities find it extremely difficult to conduct in-depth analysis of its potential.
Prospects for Legalization Nationwide
On the whole, though, the outlook is positive for marijuana legalization. Two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, and both are raking in unprecedented tax revenues. Despite speculation that crime rates would explode in Denver, Colorado, violent crime rates have fallen, and prosecutions for petty drug use are down. Prosecutors no longer feel it worth their time to go after offenders who are caught with more than the legal limit of pot on their person. This will undoubtedly save the state money, and it may nudge other states toward a more marijuana-friendly position.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D) believes that it will be “game over” within five years, claiming that marijuana will be flat-out legal in the US within that time. He’s far from the only politician who’s gone on record with a similar sentiment. Perhaps more importantly, despite the difficulty of studying the plant’s medicinal qualities in the US, other nations are making steady progress. In Jerusalem, in particular, patients report relief from the symptoms of many diseases. As peer-reviewed papers from these countries challenge the US government’s stance that marijuana has no medicinal value, more and more Americans may demand an explanation for the government’s reasoning.