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Editorial: Medical marijuana bill deserves honest look

Racine Journal Times
http://www.journaltimes.com/
Copyright 2001 Racine Journal Times
Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2001 

EDITORIAL: MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL DESERVES HONEST LOOK

By Journal Times staff

EDITORIAL -- Legislation to legalize the use of marijuana as medicine was introduced in Madison last week and immediately drew the endorsement of gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson, the brother of longtime Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The plug from the Libertarian candidate will probably hurt the legislation's cause more than it helps it and will doubtlessly make it easier to dismiss in some circles -- say, for instance the circles of Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, who opposes the legislation.

An aide to Jensen sniffed at the legislation as a "perennial loser." Well, perhaps Jensen and other legislators in Madison should look at this topic with a fresh eye.

The support for medical use of marijuana is not all coming from wild-eyed hippies. There is, for instance, support from the Wisconsin Nurses Association, which says such legislation would force more thorough clinical research.

"We know it works, but we need proof in the scientific community," said a spokesman for the association last week.

And this past summer, the American Medical Association was seriously lobbied by its Council on Scientific Affairs to reconsider its opposition to medical marijuana and support its "compassionate use." The historically conservative group could only bring itself to remain neutral and call for more research.

Advocates of medical marijuana have long argued it can be effective in the treatment of glaucoma and arthritis and that it provides relief from pain for some people who suffer from AIDS or the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

While doctors can prescribe THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, supporters say that is not as effective in delivering relief and that some patients cannot hold down the pills.

The argument at its heart, is then simply one of how the medication is delivered.

Who better to make that determination than a doctor? If one form of medication does not supply relief, shouldn't a certified physician have the option of providing another remedy without the government stepping in? That same physician, after all, is entrusted with writing prescriptions for a wide array of narcotics.

If marijuana can be an effective tool in the treatment of illness and pain, it should be available on a controlled basis.

This would not open to the door to a sweep of self-medicating use by "recreational" marijuana users as those opposed to this legislation doubtlessly fear. Canada, for example, has issued "compassionate use" permits for more than a year now. Last summer those permits totalled 292 for the entire nation.

Nor would it give employers great problems with marijuana-impaired employees. Workers get prescription narcotics now and they often carry the warning not to use machinery or drive. Those same standards would be in effect with doctor-approved marijuana therapy.

Eight other states already have such laws on the books. Wisconsin should join them and give its residents this option for reducing pain and suffering associated with certain conditions and illnesses.

(END)

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