You probably missed it, but medical marijuana is now legal in Missouri. Our new medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in the November election, took effect on December 6. Some state residents, however, may have to decide between using the drug under a doctor’s prescription and being able to put food on their table.
According to an editorial in the December 8 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Department of Social Services is grappling with the decision of whether to allow medical marijuana users to receive welfare benefits. The department would be within its legal right under federal law to prevent marijuana users from accessing welfare benefits. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana—medical or recreational—remains a Schedule I illegal drug, regarded as equal in danger to heroin even though it clearly isn’t. But another piece of federal legislation, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, prohibits the government from using the restriction of federal funds to inhibit state marijuana laws.
So, while the state could prohibit medical marijuana users from receiving welfare benefits (or keep welfare recipients from using medical marijuana), the federal government cannot withhold funding for state welfare programs if the state allows welfare recipients to use medical marijuana. So…why would the state even consider such an action?
The Post-Dispatch editorial argued that “Welfare is designed as a social safety net to protect the most vulnerable in society, who include not only families in financial straits but also people who cannot work because of medical conditions or disabilities. The state government has no business deciding which medicine welfare recipients should be allowed access to, and which should not. The government especially should not be making such determinations based on purely punitive and subjective motives.”
That argument could not be more correct. Voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Missouri and if doctors prescribe it to their patients, they should be allowed to use it under every circumstance.
As the Post-Dispatch editorial noted, “Medical marijuana is widely accepted by doctors as having therapeutic value; 64.2 percent of medical marijuana prescriptions go to patients with chronic and severe pain. It also has been useful in easing the effects of Parkinson’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, epilepsy, glaucoma and cancer. These aren’t partiers trying to sneak a legal high. They’re patients struggling with physically and financially debilitating illnesses.”
Missouri voters have clearly spoken on this issue, and in approving our new medical marijuana law, they did not seek to limit its use by the less fortunate residents of our state. The state should not prevent anyone, even welfare recipients, from using a medicine that has been approved for legal use by patients under a doctor’s care.
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