It's been nearly 14 years since California legalized medical marijuana, and the industry is still an uncoordinated mess.
Medical marijuana still violates federal law. California has no statewide oversight, and cities are still struggling to determine how to oversee medical cannabis. It creates confusion for everyone -- the growers, the dispensers, the users and the regulators.
But have you heard the one about the New Jersey governor who proposed an interesting idea that opens up a whole new debate? He suggests turning the cultivation over to a prestigious research university.
Governor Chris Christie proposed having one of the country's oldest and most prestigious universities be the sole grower of that state's medical marijuana crop. The university is Rutgers. Christie went a step further and suggested state-approved hospitals would become the sole suppliers of the medicine.
It's a first-of-its-kind idea. And it's been suggested that California examine this idea as a model. (Can you imagine what kind of work-study program that would make?)
Seriously, it opens up the discussion of the need to separate the cultivators from the dispensers, says Eugene Davidovich of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), San Diego Chapter. Davidovich, a military veteran, suffers from post traumatic stress and is himself a medical cannabis user.
"It's a step in the right direction," Davidovich said.
Davidovich believes that for a university or health department agency to cultivate it and a separate entity to take care of getting it into the hands of the patient is a good idea. He says that way the cultivator can concentrate on quality and therapeutic research of the medical marijuana.
At UC San Diego, there's the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, which studies how to best use medical cannabis to treat pain, for example with HIV patients or those suffering from neurological disorders. The Center's director believes the University of California system could play an important role in this debate and sent me this response via email.
Here's a portion of it.
"I think that the responsible thing to do-if the voters and legislators decide medical marijuana should be legalized-is to use a portion of the tax on medical cannabis to conduct further research on quality of the product, optimal dosing and method of administration, monitoring of beneficial and adverse effects, for example. What would be needed is for a very responsible, thoughtful entity - and UC might be an example - to be involved in developing standards for the cannabis itself, and how and went it is administered, and assuring that whatever it is people are prescribed is as safe and pure as we would expect for other medicines. So, eventually, yes - I could see a possible role for UC Scientist," says Igor Grant, M.D., UCSD Department of Psychiatry.
Meantime, Rutgers University is just saying "no" to Governor Christie's idea because apparently, it would jeopardize its status with the U.S. government to the tune of $552 million in federal grants, contracts and loans the school relies on every year. So it's back to the drawing board for New Jersey. Judging from the response from UCSD, universities here in California at least are willing to be part of the debate.
Published at 11:38 AM PDT on Aug 18, 2010 | Updated at 11:54 AM PDT on Jul 6, 2011