It’s a claim that’s been made against the medical marijuana industry since before the laws were passed: the “medical” use of pot is just a front for selling drugs legally. Prohibitionists and others against cannabis have consistently joked or seriously suggested that dispensaries are the legal equivalents of street dealers.

Earlier this month, though, the claim came from inside the movement. Allen St. Pierre, NORML’s executive director, called the MMJ industry a “political and legal farce” and “largely a sham” in a post on CelebStoner.com. St. Pierre argued that the “real problem at hand” is ending the federal ban on cannabis.

“Cannabis consumers, who NORML represents, want good, affordable cannabis products without having to go through the insult and expense of “qualifying” as a “medical” patient by paying physicians and/or the state for some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card.”

He makes a good point: NORML’s position is, and has always been, that cannabis should be legally available to every responsible adult, not just certain ones who “qualify” and can afford a license. This is fair.

That said, the current system is not a bad one. It’s a step in the right direction, to be sure. (It’s also created its own set of problems, but that’s another discussion for another time.) To say that the entire medical marijuana industry is a “sham” is insulting not just to activists and cannabusiness owners, but also to the thousands upon thousands of patients whose lives have been improved by their legal access to pot.

Are dispensaries just legal drug dealers?

Steve Deangelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center and star of Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars,” responded to St. Pierre’s post on Twitter, saying that he “and many other dispensary execs endorsed, campaigned for, and donated to Prop 19.” This was in direct response to St. Pierre’s assertion that the medical pot industry “opposes actual legalization, such as last year’s Prop 19.”

It’s true that some of the medical marijuana community opposes total legalization of the plant. Some, like talk show host and patient Montel Williams, believe that cannabis should only be used for medical purposes and not recreationally. And that’s a completely valid standpoint. Because one thing we can all agree on is that weed works when it comes to certain ailments. It has proven medicinal value.

But what we need is a little more peace. Infighting isn’t the way to end cannabis prohibition. We can and will come to a solution that pleases both sides of this argument. First, though, we should all relax, smoke a joint, and discuss seriously what that solution should be–instead of attacking each other over whether the medical marijuana industry is beneficial to the total movement. (Of course it is. It creates jobs, it offers aid to sick people, it brings local governments revenue, and it offers a fresh perspective on cannabis to the rest of the community.)

What do you think, folks: Is medical pot an obstacle to ending prohibition? Or should MMJ be the only way? Leave a comment and join the national conversation.

Austin Wulf is a freelance writer and cannabis activist. Read more of his THC-infused coverage of the pot industry. Want more updates? Follow @Cannabytes303 on Twitter.

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