As a result, smoking marijuana tends to be the cheapest way to use it.
"What patients are concerned about is to be protected from arrest if their doctors prescribed marijuana for them and to have a way to purchase it safely and legally," Simon said.
Fifteen states allow some patients to cultivate marijuana plants in their own homes.
Laws legalizing medical marijuana typically prevent patients from being punished or discriminated against in several ways, including: loss of employment, loss of child custody, landlord-tenant relations and permission to receive organ donations and other medical care, Simon pointed out.
Some medical experts stress that marijuana use may prevent the use of dangerously addictive drugs, Simon said.
Ken Albert, director of Maine's Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services -- the agency that manages that state's medical marijuana program, made that point to the Portsmouth Herald last October.
"There are many patients who have been able to be removed from opiate therapy. They are able to be moved by a physician over to a regimen of medicinal marijuana," Albert said. "It enables them to have a better quality of life. Opiate addiction is terrible. For chronic pain, medical marijuana is a viable option."
Albert added, "There is a constant tension between the medical marijuana program and the ability for law enforcement to regulate criminal activity."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.