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Curious About Push To Allow Medical Marijuana In Mass.

BOSTON (CBS) - Some people say medical marijuana is about helping people who are seriously ill, but others worry there's a potential for abuse.

Jerry from Whitinsville Declared his Curiosity, asking:

"Are they ever going to pass a law allowing medical marijuana to help people with chronic pain?"

Well, there's a new push here in Massachusetts to do just that.

Steve Saling has advanced ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. He uses a computer to speak and told us: "I think medical marijuana should be available. This medicine calms the constant spasms in my muscles and the rigidity in my joints. I have tried everything else my doctors have recommended and nothing else works."

WBZ-TV's David Wade reports.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, including New England neighbors Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. However, in Mass., pot for medical use has been a non-starter. Some lawmakers say that should change and it's time for the state to legalize medical marijuana, but that controversial idea has run into trouble in other states. Even if some sick people can benefit, the concern is, will a law cause more problems than it cures?

Read: The proposed Massachusetts bill

"The bill is really about compassion," says State Rep. Frank Smizik, the primary sponsor of the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Act. "Now people are buying it, they can get it on the street, and that's illegal."

He wants to change that to what he says is a tightly crafted law.

Under the proposed law, only people with about ten very serious illnesses like cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis would be able to get a license for medical marijuana. Patients would need recommendations from their doctors. No more than 19 dispensaries would be licensed to grow and sell marijuana, and the state Department of Public Health would control the system.

But, some people doubt the state will keep tight control. There have been problems in other states because of loose regulations. Potential abuse is the concern.

In a statement, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone told us he's open to medical marijuana, but with a caution: "...provided that proper regulatory measures are in place to ensure that there is systemic accountability that prevents abuse."

Advocates say the Mass. bill has controls to do just that.

"It's a balance of allowing safe access for suffering, qualifying patients, and including the kind of strict regulations that will prevent abuse of the system," says Matt Allen, from the Mass. Patient Advocacy Alliance.

The debate gets underway next week with a hearing at the State House, and Steve Saling has his own question for lawmakers: "Why shouldn't I have access to an effective, safe, all natural drug?"

Even if the bill passes, there's another issue. Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, authorities have busted dispensaries even though state laws allow them.

New Hampshire has also been debating this issue. Even though the House passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana, the state Senate table it, effectively killing the bill for now.

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