“Unless this goes through, I’ll have to go to another city to get what I need to alleviate my chronic back pain,” says teacher Wendy Cutter, standing outside the Med’s Merchant marijuana dispensary in Sherman Oaks, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles.
“There’s so much back and forth on this issue, I’ve had it. Why can’t City Council understand how much medical marijuana helps people?”
A mile up the street is Ted Nugent, a single father of two who coaches soccer. Standing outside the Sherman Oaks Medical Marijuana Relief Clinic, he offers a different opinion.
“I really just don’t want my kids growing up thinking that using marijuana is a normal, accepted activity,” he says.
Part of the inherent lack of clarity in state medical-marijuana laws comes from federal law, which classifies THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The law states that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" and "there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision," says Robert MacCoun, a professor at the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Clearly marijuana is accepted as a medical treatment by many physicians, but that's what the law says, so unless marijuana is rescheduled, state and federal officials will be at odds over this policy,” he adds.
Public opinion in the state shows strong support for medical marijuana.
A University of Southern California poll in May found that 80 percent of California voters support doctor-recommended use for severe illness.