Sorting the Medical from the Marijuana

In Vermont, marijuana is two-faced. On the one hand, it’s a recreational drug that can lead to a life-altering addiction. On the other, it’s a medicine. When these two collide, there can be some really heartbreaking stories.

According to WPTZ News, a mother in West Rutland has been unable to get and administer the possibly life-saving strain of marijuana she needs to treat her son. Reilly Jakubiak has a seizure disorder so rare it only affects four in the US. Just the sort of condition we might seek out alternative therapies – especially when the traditional seizure medications aren’t working. At seven, Reilly is out of school and wheelchair bound because of the condition. He has also lost his ability to speak.

The medication for the condition is an extract from a particular strain of marijuana – a strain not grown in Vermont. The strain, Charlotte’s Web, is used by other patients to treat seizure disorders. Administering it to a child would mean extracting out the active ingredient and putting it into an edible product like a cookie or candy. The story also says using this particular strain doesn’t make children high.

An immediate problem is getting the marijuana strain across state lines. It isn’t legal to move marijuana between states, even when those states have medical marijuana policies. So, while the strain needed is available in Colorado, getting it to Vermont, even for a medical use, would entail breaking federal marijuana laws.

Policy makers are kind of stuck. They can write law applicable within their home state, but interstate commerce is directly given over to Congress to regulate. The result is that we have a legal use here in Vermont, a patient who needs the drug, an available drug, but still no resolution. Something needs to change in this situation. After all, some of the most addictive narcotics are regularly (and legally) shipped around the country for medical use.


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