It seemed like a good idea at the time: The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allowed Californians to use marijuana with a doctor's permission to alleviate pain. The act was put on the ballot and California voters passed it 56% to 44%, making California the first state to legalize weed for medicinal reasons.
Almost immediately, thousands of pot "clinics" opened across the Golden State. In San Francisco, things got so out of control that then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, a very liberal guy, had to shutter many of the "clinics" because drug addicts were clustering around them, causing fear among city residents.
Some California high school kids, with the emphasis on "high," found a huge loophole in the law. Incredibly, there was no age requirement to secure medical marijuana and no physical examination was required. So some teens just told a friendly doctor that they had a headache, paid $150 for a card, then bought all the pot they wanted. Unbelievable, but true.
A prosecutor in San Diego told me at the time that some "clinics" were even marketing medical marijuana under names like "Reefers Peanut Butter Cup" and "Baby Jane." Cheech and Chong would have been proud. The unintended consequence was that some kids made an industry out of it. Hey, why work at Burger King when you can sell pot cards?
After years of chaos, in 2013 some California legislators, at least the remaining few with a dollop of sanity, introduced a bill laced with common sense. It would have created new rules for growing and dispensing medical marijuana. But because medical weed has sprouted into a multi-billion dollar industry, complete with the usual "special interests," the bill went up in smoke.
And by the way, medical marijuana is no longer just for the folks. A Los Angeles veterinarian, aka the "Vet Guru," has led a movement to dispense pot to ailing dogs. That's right, cannabis for canines.
As is often the case, and for better or worse, much of the nation followed California's lead. 20 states have legalized medical marijuana to some extent, while voters in Washington and Colorado, oblivious to the dangers, approved pot even for recreational use. It's worth noting that a 2-year-old toddler was hospitalized just last week in Colorado after munching on one of her mom's pot-laced cookies.
And now it's New York's turn at the plate. Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to legalize medical marijuana for chronic pain and other serious conditions, but pledges to keep a tight rein on the weed. Doctors in New York will be required to certify that a patient meets strict qualifications, and review boards will, in theory, confirm that the prescriptions are merited. The Empire State has apparently learned a thing or two from the other coast's unbridled "compassion." Whether or not the kids in New York will really be protected remains to be seen.
Of course, there is nothing "compassionate" about kids being intoxicated. It changes them forever. Once a child alters himself with chemicals, childhood vanishes. If marijuana can help those suffering with debilitating diseases, doctors should have the power to prescribe it and licensed pharmacies should carry it. But storefront "clinics" run by irresponsible adults aided by compliant doctors are a joke that only a confirmed stoner would find funny.
Bottom line: Be careful what you vote for. Compassion can easily turn into corruption and chaos.