At first glance, a new law out in Berkely, California seems utterly ridiculous.
Starting next August, low-income Berkeley residents will have the ability to get free, high quality medical marijuana from city dispensaries. And while conservative and liberal leaning groups have both argued it’s a bad idea, it passed unanimously in the Berkely City Council.
The law is an expansion of a system already in place to provide expensive medical marijuana to the poor.
According to The New York Times, an ounce of high quality cannabis (aka marijuana) can set an individual back $400.
Many people rely on medically prescribed “compassion” (a nickname for free medical cannabis) to treat various illnesses. It’s frequently used to manage pain from illnesses such as glaucoma, cancer or nerve issues. It is also utilized to treat weight loss and nausea from cancer chemotherapy.
The Berkeley law requires the city’s three cannabis dispensaries to allocate two percent of their supply to low income residents. To qualify as low income, an individual must make less than $32,000 annually or less than $46,000 for a family.
Although marijuana is legal in California, because it’s not legal federally, insurance won’t cover it. This leads to a situation where people who could benefit from its use cannot afford to get it.
“There are some truly compassionate cases that need to have medical marijuana,” sid Tom Bates, Berkeley’s mayor. “But it is pricey. You hear stories about people dying from cancer who do not have the money.”
Sean Luse, the Berkeley Patients Group’s chief operating officer, said they have been giving away 1 percent of their product since 1999.
“We do this on our own, so we certainly welcome the city mandating that all dispensaries create these sorts of programs,” said Luse.
However, even Luse is concerned about the amount given away. Excess supply could be sold illegally on the streets. Luse favors lowering the amount to 1 percent.
“I do think there could be problems if we’re oversupplying demand and giving away more cannabis than is legitimately needed.”