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Voters in three states next week willdecide on new medical-marijuana laws

While folks fling hyperbole in Colorado, Washington and Oregon over the legalization of recreational marijuana, people in three other states are squaring up over medical marijuana.

Should they pass, the state ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Massachusetts and Montana would give us 20 MMJ states, stretching into every region from the purple mountains, under the big sky and to the birthplace of Thanksgiving, then down into the Deep South, where no state has an MMJ law on the books.

Let's take a glance in alphabetical order, mmmkay?

Arkansas

Much like Arizona's law, the proposed Arkansas law would allow a limited number of nonprofit dispensaries. In Arkansas, however, local governments would set limits on the number of dispensaries—and this could get sticky. Patients living more than 5 miles from a dispensary could grow a "limited amount" of medication.

This law would include all of the usual qualifying-illness suspects, including chronic pain, HIV, cancer, glaucoma and Crohn's disease, but it also includes agitation from Alzheimer's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Their law also would give out-of-state cards the same "force and effect" as Arkansas cards, provided the patient's illness qualifies there.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, because chronic pain is recognized in Arkansas. Maybe this is the first reason ever for a vacation to Arkansas. And don't laugh about a Deep South state passing this law. Arkansas voters decriminalized marijuana a few years ago, though the Class 1 misdemeanor for up to 4 ounces carries a potential year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

A recent University of Arkansas poll shows just 43 percent of likely voters support the measure, so things look bleak. Things are seemingly bleak there, anyway, since 58 percent of the same likely voters support Mitt Romney. Yikes.

Get out the vote, Arkansas MMJ proponents. Your patients need medical cannabis.

Massachusetts

Commonwealth residents will vote on a highly civilized Law for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana on Nov. 6.

This law would also include the usual qualifying illnesses, but adds other conditions as determined in writing by a patient's physician. This seems to allow a doctor to independently declare any condition as "debilitating" on a case-by-base basis. Nice. That makes an MMJ law what it should be—a decision between a doctor and a patient. That. Is. Huge.

The land of the pahked cah would also allow up to 35 nonprofit "treatment centers" and let patients have up to a 60-day supply on hand, with that amount to be determined later by the state. Growing enough plants to maintain a 60-day supply would be allowed for patients with financial hardship or who live a yet-to-be-determined distance from a treatment center.

The list of illnesses is beginning to seem familiar as new states add MMJ laws, but I like this list the best, since it allows any doctor to deem any ailment as debilitating. Awesome, and possibly the most-liberal MMJ law in the nation.

Montana

Voters here will decide the fate of a revised, more-limited version of its 2004 MMJ law. After lawmakers wrangled over the issue and failed, the voters will take over. It would limit patients to three plants, and caregivers to three patients. It forbids the exchange of anything of value for meds and allows local governments to regulate providers. It also will allow the state to set specific standards for chronic pain.

This law sounds pretty good to me. I'm a fan of regulation. But it looks a little too vague for my taste. It might allow severe local restrictions.

All in all, I am in favor of all of these laws, especially the one in Massachusetts. Any MMJ law that lets my doctor decide what's debilitating is fine by me. And any law that advances the cause of medical cannabis is also fine by me, so I support the proposed MMJ laws in all three states.

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