#204 SUN-SENTINEL Medicinal Marijuana A “Mine Field”


SUN-SENTINEL Medicinal Marijuana A “Mine Field”

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #204 Thursday March 29, 2001

Well in the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing on the Oakland
Cannabis Club’s case versus the Feds, the FT LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL
gets loose with an editorial that may well have been ghosted by a DFAF
officer. This is implicated due to the fact that FL is the ‘second’
home for DFAF offices and their supporters, outside of St Petersburg.

This one reads like every DFAF anti-MMJ release issued since the
infancy of Prop 215 in California five years ago. It provides a host
of items that can be addressed thru a quick and thoughtful LTE.

Note to letter writers: There are a number of flawed premises and
misleading statements in the article below. Please consider using the
Drug War Facts collection to counter one or more. http://www.drugwarfacts.org


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Source: Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
Contact: letters@sun-sentinel.com
Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2001


The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today on a volatile,
extremely important question: Should marijuana be legalized as
medicine? Mark this debate “handle with care.”

Specifically, the justices are being asked to decide whether a state
law authorizing medical use of marijuana can override a federal
anti-drug law saying pot has no medical benefits and can’t be
prescribed for patients.

The case involves a California law, Proposition 215, approved by state
voters in 1996. It permits pot possession, sale, purchase and use for
medical purposes under a doctor’s prescription.

The federal government sued a pot buyers’ cooperative to get it to
stop distributing marijuana. A U.S. appeals court ruled last year
that “medical necessity” is a valid defense against federal laws
banning marijuana possession, sale, purchase or use.

Voters in six other states later approved similar measures. Two
petition drives in Florida, one to legalize medical marijuana and the
other to legalize it for all uses, have stalled.

Among legalization backers is Irvin Rosenfeld of Broward County, one
of eight Americans legally allowed to smoke pot under a doctor’s
prescription. He claims marijuana is the only medicine that relieves
chronic pain from bone tumors.

While various studies of pot’s medical benefits are under way, the
drive to legalize marijuana is based almost entirely on anecdotal
testimony of sick people. Supporters claim pot smoke can stimulate
lost appetite and reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy drugs used to
treat cancer and AIDS patients. They also say it can reduce glaucoma,
arthritis, chronic pain, headaches, muscle spasms and other ailments.

It is legitimate to investigate and consider the potential medical
benefits of any drug, even mind-altering illegal ones. For example,
morphine is a proven pain-killer commonly used in hospitals and
nursing homes.

But medical-marijuana backers see it only as a compassionate way to
fight pain and illness, ignoring many legitimate objections:

No other prescription drug is delivered to patients by smoking it.
Doing so prevents supplying measured, controlled, properly timed doses
or providing stringent quality control to avoid toxic pollutants.
Marijuana smoke contains about 2,000 separate chemicals, in an
unpredictable, unmeasured and unstable mix.

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is already available by
prescription in pill form.

Much current marijuana is far more potent, mind-altering and harmful
than before. The side effects can outweigh the benefits. Tests show
pot smoking can damage the heart, lungs, brain, reproductive organs
and the immune system. It can be especially dangerous to those who
seek it the most, suffering chronic, intractable illnesses.

For many of the conditions supposedly helped by marijuana, including
pain management, there are numerous adequately tested and proven,
safer and more effective medicines already available, without
marijuana’s harmful side effects.

Studies have documented the similarity in marijuana addiction, and
difficulty of withdrawal, to that of heroin or cocaine. Drug experts
consider marijuana a “gateway” drug that opens the door to
experimentation with more harmful illegal drugs.

Legalizing pot could hurt sick people by encouraging them to use a
psychoactive ( mind-altering ) drug instead of something else that is
more helpful.

Finally, experts in drug policy believe this so-called “weedotherapy”
campaign is a thinly veiled, well-financed effort to eventually
legalize pot and other now-illegal drugs for purely recreational use.

So far, the negatives of legalization of medical marijuana far
outweigh the positives. State laws, no matter how compassionate the
motivation, cannot be allowed to override federal laws.



To the editors:

Your editorial stated that we should not end the criminal sanctions
against consenting adults who use cannabis for medical relief, based
on the advice of their personal physician.

You said that the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, is already
available in pill form. That is indeed correct, but in our work with
cannabis patients here in Florida, as well as nationwide, we have
determined that many patients are unable to successfully consume pills
as medication due to their specific needs, including chemotherapy
related nausea and AIDS wasting syndrome.

You note that current marijuana is often more powerful and harmful
than before. Powerful yes, as a stronger dose reduces the number of
doses needed. More harmful however is absurd, since cannabis sativa
has had the exact same benefit and harm potential for over five
thousand years. The marijuana being distributed at the Oakland
Cannabis Club was carefully grown, harvested and measured for strength
and purity, with of course no additives or adulterants included.

Your suggestion that the harmful side effects outweigh the potential
benefits is immediately contradicted by the tens of thousands of
patients who elect to use cannabis instead of drug company narcotics.
Clearly they feel your statement is in error, as do their doctors.

Your statement that the effects of cannabis addiction are on par with
heroin or cocaine is patently untrue.* The Institute of Medicine in a
report commissioned by former Drug Czar McCaffery released a report in
Mar 1999 that specificly equated withdrawal from active cannabis use
to be on par with caffeine withdrawal. Uncomfortable, yes. But nothing
akin to withdrawal from opiates or cocaine.

Finally, your reference to the ‘gateway theory'(a hoax that was also
clearly debunked by the IOM report)is just plain outlandish. To
suggest that current cannabis patients have any desire or plan to
‘experiment with other more harmful illegal drugs’ is poppycock.

In the end, your editorial position endorses the arrest, prosecution
and incarceration of patients who elect to use cannabis instead of
heavy duty narcotics and pharmaceuticals, on the advice of
theirdoctor. Now that’s a minefield I’d rather not be part of.

Respectfully submitted

Stephen Heath

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