Daniel Doherty

The city council in Berkeley, California has finally figured out how to provide medical marijuana to low-income residents who can't afford it: Just give it to them for free.

Weed welfare?

That's what the Berkeley City Council in California has unanimously approved, ordering medical marijuana dispensaries to donate 2 percent of their stash to patients making less than $32,000 a year.

The new welfare program in the liberal-leaning city is set to launch in August 2015.

The ordinance, which passed in August and is the first of its kind in the country, comes at a time when several states are debating how to handle a growing movement to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use.

Obviously, furnishing poor Americans with a possible gateway drug free of charge probably strikes most Americans as abhorrent. This may lead to increased dependency, lethargy, and even addiction in some cases. On the other hand, there are clearly people who rely on -- and need -- medical marijuana. And therefore because prescriptions for the drug aren’t covered under any insurance policies in California, according to the New York Times, free weed is one possible solution to making it more accessible and available to those in need.

At the same time, it is well known that at least one dispensary in the area has already been handing out free medical marijuana for a period of years. Legally permitting this practice, in other words, would legalize a long-standing tradition that is, for better or worse, already quite common.

Parting question: Is this new ordinance a mistake that will further impoverish low-income Californians, and waste taxpayer dollars, as the good bishop suggests? Or is it providing a valuable public service to those who can’t afford their doctor-prescribed medicine? Hmmm.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography