Outlook

Marijuana has regained a solid foothold in the practice of medicine. Detractors remain, but when the legal barriers to medical marijuana are eliminated, their voices will recede, as an adult’s decision to use marijuana will be his or hers, with or without a physician’s approval.  Those complications will disappear when the legal status of marijuana is similar to that of herbs or natural remedies, or perhaps chicken soup. That will happen when the current prohibition laws are replaced with a system of regulation and taxation, i.e., “full legalization,”  similar to how the alcohol industry is regulated and how alcoholic beverages are sold to the public.

Of particular significance is that in the states that have legalized–Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon–the sky has not fallen, that is, legalization has not produced the dire results that its detractors feared (nor has it raised as much new revenue as its proponents anticipated).

In Massachusetts, there is a full legalization bill in the legislature, H1516. And, a voter initiative is likely in 2016 if the legislature does not act on the bill.

The dark cloud hanging over an otherwise bright outlook is the federal government.  The most favorable scenario is that on his way out of office, President Obama would exercise his authority to reschedule marijuana, thus enabling its doctor-approved availability across the country without involving Congress in changing the law. The least favorable scenario is that a President Cruz or a President Huckabee would reverse all the advances of recent years, forcing both patients and non-medical consumers back to the streets.

In our view, the genie is out of the bottle. The question is not whether there will be a legal, regulated market in non-medical marijuana,  but when.