License to Toke

Marijuana possession is illegal in the United States, and while there have been some efforts to change that, most have failed.  Of recent note are two attempts.  In 2005, the Supreme Court decided Gonzales v. Raich, which hoped to legalize the growing of marijuana for self-use in a state which allowed for medicinal marijuana usage; the Court disagreed.  And in 2010, Californians voted on Prop 19, which would have legalized many types of pot uses in the state.  It failed by about 7 percentage points.  Marijuana use is still widely illegal.

Just don’t tell that to Elvy Mussika of Eugene, Oregon.  Because not only does she legally possess and use marijuana, she gets hers straight from the government.

In 1978, a glaucoma patient named Robert Randall was arrested for growing his own marijuana, ostensibly to relieve the pain caused by his affliction — indeed, that was the defense he used at trial.  That argument carried the day and the charges against Randall were dropped.  Randall and the U.S. government later came to another agreement, wherein the government provided Randall with free, legal marijuana, and Randall wouldn’t press the issue of legalized medicinal marijuana before the courts.

Soon after, the government created the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program to vet and fulfill requests.  (The program set up a sanctioned medicinal marijuana crop at the University of Mississippi, seen above, from which the drugs are supplied.) For the most part, Compassionate IND served patients like Randall.  But as demand for the program rose in the 1980s (in part due to a rise in HIV patients), the government eventually shut the program down to new applicants.  In 1992, George H.W. Bush finally ended the program, grandfathering in the still-living IND patients.

Currently, four known people are still in the program (as well as, perhaps, one or two others who are anonymous).  Mussika, now age 71, is one of those people.  A glaucoma patient, she’s been in the program for over two decades and is entitled to 8 ounces of 100% legal pot each month — enough for, per CNN, “10 potent smokes per day.”

Unfortunately, her March delivery was lost in the mail.

Bonus fact:  Medicinal marijuana may be losing its steam for another reason: a recent study suggests that the chemical in the drug which relieves pain may, in fact, be distinct from the one which gives users a high.  If the two can be separated, a patient can obtain the pain-reducing value without the “side effect” desired by recreational users.

From the Archives: Plantable Paper: In this case, it’s always legal.

Related reading: “The I Chong: Meditations from the Joint,” an autobiography by Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, recounting his time in prison on drug charges.  30 reviews, of which 28 are either five (18) or four (10) stars.  Listed as an Amazon “Bargain Book.” Available on Kindle.

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