Somewhere, Cheech & Chong are smiling.
The news that California college town Berkeley has unanimously voted to provide small amounts of free medical marijuana to low-income and homeless patients may have the two renowned stoners working on a new movie script.
The Berkeley City Council vote is based on providing the free marijuana to very poor patients who cannot afford it otherwise. The council further stated that drug stores in the area will now be bound by this law to give away marijuana equal to at least 2 percent of their sales to extremely poor area patients.
The other stipulation is that the free medical marijuana will be given to only those people "who have been prescribed it by competent medical authorities and hospitals and not to everyone who come asking for it."
"It's an equity issue," explained City Council member Darryl Moore. "We want to ensure that those who are in need have access to the medication necessary to treat their condition."
There is a long list of what is deemed "approved debilitating medical conditions" for medical marijuana treatment. It includes terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, and many terminal illnesses, if the physician has determined a prognosis of less than 12 months of life.
Additional details on the Berkeley law include the definition of low income being half the area's median annual income, or $32,000 or less for an individual or $46,000 for a family of four. The council also amended its medical marijuana law to increase the number of pot dispensaries to four from three, and added that it will consider increasing that number to six by the end of 2015.
Regarding the council's decision, Charles Pappas, a member of the city's Medical Cannabis Commission, added, "Our mantra is, 'The best medicine for the lowest possible cost for people in need.' "
Medical marijuana laws are gaining widespread acceptance as some 23 U.S. states have now legalized its use. Two states have also now legalized a recreational marijuana market as both Colorado and Washington have passed those legalization laws since the beginning of 2014. Some states have also eliminated criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana.
The Berkeley ordinance will not become law until final approval in August of this year.