There is a lot of reasonable disappointment with Minnesota’s new restrictive medical marijuana law. It will leave many legitimate patients without treatment, will make getting medicine difficult and needlessly creates new legal penalties for patients.
While I don’t defend the law’s worst elements the people of Minnesota should take solace in the fact that medical marijuana laws created by state legislatures have often gotten better over time.
The general trend has been for state legislatures and/or regulators to slowly improve these legislature approved laws once they are in place:
Maryland – The rules in the original medical marijuana law adopted in 2013 were so restrictive it likely could never be implemented. Fortunately, the state government moved to address the problem in 2014 by reforming it to create a logistically viable system for helping patients.
New Jersey – While Governor. Chris Christie (R) has been hostile to improving the medical marijuana law that his predecessor signed right before leaving office, political pressure got even him to accept some modest improvements. In 2013 he signed a law allowing sick children greater access.
New Mexico – Regulators in New Mexico have increased the number of conditions that qualify since the law was adopted. In March both Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease were added.
Rhodes Island – The 2006 medical marijuana laws in Rhodes Island didn’t provide for a way for patients to buy medical marijuana, but the law was amended in 2009 to allow for the creation of compassionate care centers.
Vermont – Similarly, Vermont’s 2004 law only allowed patients to access marijuana by growing their own. This was fixed with a 2011 law allowing up to four dispensaries, and that dispensary law will be further improved by a bill recently approved by in the legislature this year.
District of Columbia – The D.C. medical marijuana law’s restrictive nature has meant few patients have benefited from it, but this year both regulators and the D.C. Council are moving to change that. The Department of Health recently added six other qualifying conditions and the council will likely move forward with a bill to eliminate the qualified conditions requirement. Instead doctors will have the freedom to recommend marijuana to any patient they think will benefit.
This knowledge won’t provide much to help patients in Minnesota who are currently suffering and maybe left out in the cold by the new law, but it shows this law is only the beginning. There is good reason to hope that if patients continue to lobby their legislators it may be noticeably improved.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy