The Ethics of Medical Marijuana
Greg Cole opened the medicine cabinet, and he saw enough bottles of medication to fill a pharmacy. Having retired from the Marine Corps a few years earlier with, among other things, two traumatic brain injuries, four herniated discs in his upper back and neck, and two blown knees, he had no trouble getting medication from the Veterans Administration (VA). But he hated taking pills, especially the opioids he had been prescribed for pain. “I don’t like putting that junk in my body,” he thought to himself as he closed the medicine cabinet. He had used other methods to relieve pain such as physical therapy and chiropractor visits. Those, along with medical marijuana, had helped him deal with the pain without subjecting himself to the possibility of becoming addicted to painkillers. However, he had just moved from California to Florida, where medical marijuana use was not legal. Greg was faced with a difficult decision: Should he take the medication his doctors has prescribed to him and risk getting addicted to them, treat his ailments with marijuana and risk being arrested for breaking the law, or just suffer through the pain and sleepless nights?
Greg received his medical discharge from the Marine Corps in 2013. After his discharge, he decided to stay close to where he had been stationed in California. He had experienced many physical injuries during his military career, and he also suffered from insomnia. With a seventy percent disability rating from the VA, he was classified a disabled veteran. As a California resident, he had been able to apply for and receive a medical marijuana card after leaving the military. California was one of the first states in the United States to legalize medical marijuana with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 (Imler, 2009). Medical marijuana had lessened, and in some cases relieved, the symptoms of his injuries and his insomnia.
Medical Marijuana in Florida
A few years earlier, Greg moved to Florida, where he faced a dilemma. While living in California, he had found an effective way not to take pills to relieve the symptoms of his disabilities. However, medical marijuana usage was not legal in Florida. In 2014, Amendment 2 gave Florida’s voters the option to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Even though it received the support of a majority of voters in the November election, it fell short of the 60% threshold required for passage (Ferner, 2014). Greg was encouraged when Amendment 2 was on the ballot again in 2016 and easily passed (Auslen, 2016). Unfortunately, the licensing process for businesses that wanted to grow and distribute medical marijuana had faced numerous delays (). These delays made it difficult, if not impossible, for people like Greg to obtain medical marijuana, leaving them with no other option other than purchasing it illegally if they wanted to used it.
Was Greg’s only option to take his prescription medications, because he lived in a state that made it difficult for him to obtain medical marijuana legally? Should he have to break the law to relieve his pain?