I have never been asked this question before. Nope. Opponents of medical cannabis don't ask this... they state it. It typically sounds like this: "I voted against that marijuana initiative because you know anybody will be able to smoke it 'legally'." We can't have that, can we? Truth be told, people are going to eat, drink, and smoke what they want for the most part. If a federal bill banning the consumption of fried starchy foods (like potato chips) - because of the cancer risks associated with acrylamide found in the foods - were to pass, people would still find a way to consume them. Let's not kid ourselves. The rate of cannabis usage doesn't go up merely because of state MMJ initiatives. How do I know? Well, I personally can't vouch for that. I enlist the help of studies! In "Marijuana Use and the Response to Proposition 215 Among California Youth, a Special Study From the California Student Substance Use Survey (Grades 7, 9, and 11) 1997-1998", the researchers found NO increase in youth cannabis use despite the enactment of Proposition 215, the loosest of all the state initiatives. Other state studies have comparable findings.
Increase in legal patients can be contributed to an increase in public awareness and education concerning medical marijuana. That is how I was introduced to it and I had never used it before it was made available medically. Just because a state like Michigan has about 100.000 registered voters doesn't mean that there are too many people getting MMJ cards too easily. Many people if given the opportunity would prefer to use a natural substance to treat ailments and chronic conditions without the harmful side effects of prescription drugs. Sure, many patients were using prior to the passing of state bills. That should attest to the fact that cannabis has worked for them and they are now wanting to take the legal route in getting their medication.
In addition, it is just irresponsible to say that state initiatives have created an "open market" for cannabis use. A person mast have an ailment that a licensed medical doctor believes is best treated with marijuana. The General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress, recently renamed the Government Accountability Office) interviewed officials from 37 law enforcement agencies in four states with medical marijuana laws. The key issue they examined was whether medical marijuana laws had interfered with enforcement of laws regarding non-medical use. According to the GAO's findings, the majority of these officials "indicated that medical marijuana laws had had little impact on their law enforcement activities." In California, the number of marijuana arrests has increased since passage of Prop. 215, totaling over 65,000 in 2004. That hardly sounds like legalization, does it?
If the state bills and initiatives are not perfect, they are still the best attempt to protect patients and physicians from punishment for using and recommending cannabis for medicine. Currently in the U.S., about 99% of all cannabis arrests are on the state and local levels. The remaining 1% of arrests (DEA, FBI, and Border Patrol) are manly focused on drug trafficking and large-scale operations. Once federal law changes, we may see less of a need or no need at all for these state MMJ laws.