Marijuana for medical purposes should require a prescription

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Oregon, like a dozen other states including Washington, allows marijuana to be used as medicine to treat people suffering with cancer, glaucoma and other serious conditions.

We've long endorsed the concept, although we have concerns that lack of oversight will result in abuses of the drug.

This is why we believe marijuana as medicine should be dispensed at pharmacies like narcotics and other drugs used for medical purposes.

Unfortunately, that hasn't happened and it's not likely to anytime soon. As a result, states have set their own rules on the distribution of medical marijuana.

The way medical marijuana is dispensed in Oregon could change if a proposal to get the state involved in the distribution process makes the November ballot. Signatures are now being gathered on an initiative.

Under the proposal, a system would be created in which state-licensed marijuana growers would bring the drug to dispensaries where people who are legally authorized to buy it could get what they needed for their condition. Five states, including California, have provisions in their law that allow for dispensaries.

Unfortunately, the dispensaries in California are not well regulated. The medical marijuana laws in the state are so lax that pot is essentially legal. Claiming to have a bad back or bum knees is sometimes all it takes to get approval for marijuana. Los Angeles Times columnist Joe Stein has done several pieces on the subject, including one on how easily he was able obtain a license for medical marijuana.

"There are more medical-marijuana dispensaries in LA than Starbucks. Most are like nice tea shops, where salespeople behind a counter open glass jars so you can smell the Sugar Kush, look at the Purple Urkel under a magnifying lens and ask about the effects of Hindu Skunk," Stein wrote.

Will this initiative put Oregon in the same situation as California, thus making pot essentially legal?

We would hope not. Much will depend on how the initiative, if approved, is acted on and interpreted.

Frankly, this state-by-state approach to medical marijuana is an invitation to abuse.

The long-term solution is for the federal government to allow marijuana for medical purposes to be distributed by a doctor's prescription just like morphine and codeine. In this way those who truly need marijuana to treat medical conditions can get medicine and those who are simply looking to get high would be arrested.

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