Seriously ill patients who feel that marijuana eases their pain should have an opportunity to get legal access to it. Those skeptical of its benefits should consider the claims of cancer patients that marijuana curbs the nausea associated with some forms of chemotherapy. Then there are the people with many different conditions who insist that marijuana provides faster relief, with fewer side effects, than more powerful opiates.
That’s why so many states, including in New England, are seeking ways to make medicinal marijuana legally available. The question is how to do it. States like Colorado and California jumped ahead of the pack in allowing medical-marijuana clinics, with dubious results; their loosely written laws made the drug so widely available that there are 1,000 clinics in Los Angeles alone. The ballot measure facing Massachusetts voters contains more safeguards: There would be a maximum of 35 nonprofit treatment centers across the state in 2013; patients would be required to have a relationship with any doctor who recommends marijuana as a painkiller.