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If marijuana is medicine, treat it that way; if it isnt, then figure out what it is

Oregonians have consistently signaled their acceptance of marijuana as a medicine that can alleviate the symptoms of everything from chemotherapy-induced nausea to severe back pain.

And regardless of voter insistence on this point, the medical case study regarding marijuana and its effectiveness as a medicine to ease the symptoms of certain ailments is irrefutable. Who in their right mind, for instance, would deny a person suffering from cancer access to marijuana if it would ease that person's suffering?

Yet, the methods by which Oregonians with physician-approved medical marijuana cards have historically been able to get their hands on medicinal marijuana are unreliable, unstable and of questionable legitimacy, and too often closely mimic marijuana culture associated with the illicit use of the plant as a recreational drug.

Whether or not a dispensary system is the best system for the medicinal delivery of marijuana to appropriate patients is debatable. There are other models out there, especially in places such as Colorado or California.

Unlike those programs, which are evolving into the standard for medicinal marijuana delivery, Oregon's program is designed to stifle profit. If, in fact, we can concede that marijuana use as it applies to certain patients does qualify as medicine - and we know that many people do not accept that - than the notion such medicine must be manufactured and delivered without a profit motive does not make sense. If it did, then big pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer Inc., Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble should reorganize as nonprofit agencies or face business sanctions.

Which raises a legitimate question about state regulation of medicinal marijuana distribution. It seems to be a one-foot-in, one-foot-out approach. Ultimately, it acts as a disservice to those who truly need marijuana as a medicine

That must change.

There are several reasons why the marijuana-as-medicine philosophy has only marginally caught on with middle America. First, anti-drug campaigns intended to demonize marijuana have been successful on some fronts, so the process of changing the impression of marijuana from that of a dangerous drug to a beneficial medicine is going to take some time.

Secondly, and most importantly, the burgeoning industry of medicinal marijuana is being - or already has been - hijacked by those who obviously were deeply immersed in the culture of illicit marijuana use. Some of the state's leading voices on medical marijuana dispensaries promote their services through websites and pamphlets that look like they were cooked up in a Portland drug paraphernalia shop.

It's a system that favors those who use dopey monikers such as 'Stoney Girl' and 'Portlandsterdam,' who attempt to develop quality standards for marijuana that likely make more sense to a college-age hippie than middle-aged cancer patient.

What clientele, really, are they attempting to attract?