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Barrington Resident Is Exploring the Other Side of Marijuana


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BARRINGTON - When the Rhode Island House and Senate passed the medical marijuana bill into permanent law on June 21, hundreds of patients in the state celebrated. Many other people, however, may have questioned just how a federally illegal drug was now a legitimate medical treatment in Rhode Island. After all, the medical marijuana program, which had been introduced as a trial program last year, neither provided marijuana to patients nor regulated where the drugs came from.

And marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug by federal standards, which means patients could still technically be breaking the law by purchasing the substance, even if it was for medical purposes.

But for someone like Barrington resident Michael Oliver, a self-described "family guy and working guy," the news was as much a relief as the marijuana treatment itself. Having suffered with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory condition of the intestinal tract, for four years, Mr. Oliver quickly overcame any qualms he had about smoking marijuana when he realized what an effective pain-killer it was.

"I can use it to quell my symptoms on a need-to basis, and it has a much milder effect [than regular pain-killers]," he said. "It helps me in all the areas I need."

When Mr. Oliver was first diagnosed with the disease, he was immediately put on a treatment program that employed a standard, pill-based pain-killer. But he soon grew uncomfortable with becoming more and more reliant on pills, and disliked the perpetual effects they had.

"I really don't like the idea of taking pain medication on a constant basis," he said. "I always kind of just put up with the pain."

After Rhode Island enacted the first medical marijuana bill a year ago, however, Mr. Oliver discovered an alternative that addressed many of his problems. After learning about the program through another patient already taking marijuana, Mr. Oliver consulted his doctors, received the needed physician's approval, and began the treatment.

Right away, he said, the marijuana made a difference in his life. He was able to immediately relieve the intense pain he said he once felt three to four times a week – "At the first hit, my stomach just goes, 'ahhh,'" he said.

"I don't smoke to get high — I never get what I'd call impaired," he added.

Usually, he takes a few hits that last him three or four hours. Most times that's enough to get him through his day as an employee at a dental lab on the east side of Providence — "It doesn't affect my performance. In fact, it makes it better because I'm no longer in pain," he said.

Mr. Oliver had finally attained a level of control over his disease when the debate over whether the state's medical marijuana bill should become a permanent law became publicized earlier this year. Motivated to not lose the stability he had in his life, he decided to become part of the fight to keep the bill.

"I find it ironic, because I've never been much of an activist," said Mr. Oliver, a father of two. "But this wasn't just a bunch of potheads trying to legalize marijuana. It's a new generation of thinking — I'd like to get rid of the stigma, because there's obviously a plus side."

Mr. Oliver became involved with the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, a pro-medical marijuana organization, spoke to many press publications and even submitted editorials defending the bill to newspapers across the state.

But despite his and other medical marijuana proponents' victory on June 21, the program still has its share of controversies. Even though patients protected by the state's new Medical Marijuana Act can possess a limited amount of marijuana under protection of state law, they still may be subject to arrest by federal agencies.

Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri, who vetoed the bill on June 4, also said that the state law could further complicate the roles of state and local law enforcement officials involved in drug control.

And Mr. Oliver admitted that the most widely used method of treatment — smoking — has its own health risks (part of the physician's decision in clearing a patient for the program is determining the risks versus the benefits of the treatment).

"It's a slight concern of mine. But there are so many worse things," he said, adding that he would eventually like to use a vaporizing technology that is becoming more widespread.

The biggest challenge, Mr. Oliver believed, was changing the minds of countless people who have only heard about the well-publicized side of marijuana — the drug trade, the negative side effects and the associated counter culture.

"Some people are still skeptical, but I've run into more curious people," he said. "But I think this is what needs to happen. I love living in America — it's a great country. [The passing of the bill] kind of renewed my faith in the ability of people to enact change."

newshawk: drboomhauer-420magazine.com
source:east bay newspapers
author: scott oconnell
copyright:copyright 2007 East Bay Newspapers
website:Top Stories
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