Feds should allow wider study of medical marijuana

June 5, 2017

Medical marijuana became legal in Delaware in 2011. Six years later, many people interested in trying it don't really know how to obtain it. Their doctors, not likely trained in its use, may routinely prescribe opiates, but they aren't ready to prescribe marijuana.

It's easy to find people who say marijuana has reduced debilitating pain, including cancer patients. Then there's Rylie Maedler, who at age 9 fought for the right to use a marijuana product to alleviate seizures. Her name is on the 2015 legislation that allows children suffering from seizures to receive medicine previously restricted to adults.

Still, study of marijuana's medicinal uses is just beginning, including how it actually works. Then there is the problem of establishing proper doses and selecting proper delivery methods.

Doctors who do not learn about marijuana in medical school can hardly be faulted for not wishing to prescribe medicine they know little about. That creates a disconnect between the decision to legalize marijuana and the ability of patients to purchase it. Medical marijuana may be legal in Delaware, but federally, it's against the law. That makes comprehensive study of its value much more complicated, slowing research and complicating the process of using it.

For now, everyone who wants to use medical marijuana must obtain a card by mailing an application with a $125 fee to the Division of Public Health; caregivers who want to dispense marijuana must jump through more hoops. Once patient and caregiver both receive cards, they can go to the new dispensary in Lewes and learn about treatment options.

The new dispensary will make medical marijuana more accessible, and wider use will likely produce more anecdotal evidence of its value - while possibly also revealing negative side effects. We're now living with the results of widely prescribed opiates, and no one wants a new epidemic of drug abuse.

At the same time, plenty of evidence shows marijuana helps many people. While Delaware allows study of marijuana's value, lifting the federal ban on its medicinal use would spur the serious studies necessary to evaluate marijuana's benefits, making it safer and more effective for everyone.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.