Perspectives on Access to Medical Cannabis

By Lauren Payne  |  January 9, 2013

Montana is green but has had safe access removed as an available option for their patients.

What does “safe access”  to medical marijuana mean, anyway?

To patients as a whole, it means being provided access to convenient, reliable, affordable medicine.

The specifics of safe access are where things get a little murkier.

Some patients enjoy safe access through their local collective or dispensary; some enjoy safe access through their own gardens. “Safe” is relative, as law enforcement and legislators continue to create barriers to truly safe access.

The general public has yet another view of safe access. The complexities of access are lost on people who don’t need it.  The general public, fed by headlines and limited exposure to the trials and tribulations that daily face the chronically ill, think that as long as there are laws on the books and a promise from the Federal Government to step back, that it’s enough–that access has been achieved.

A deeper look at geography complicates things further.   The interplay between Federal laws & policies, state laws & policies, and local regulations & attitudes all affect access.  Can there truly be safe access when local law enforcement refuses to recognize state and local laws?  Is safe access achieved in communities that ban any and all points of access out of fear?  And even in localities where the community and law enforcement support access, how can we call it “safe” when the threat of Federal enforcement looms, with paramilitary-style raids acting as an ever-present reminder that medical cannabis patients continue to be marginalized by those in power?

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