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Bill Would Ok Medical Pot Use

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Lawmaker's Cancer Fight Altered View

State Rep. Gregg Underheim's fight against prostate cancer got him
thinking about whether those suffering from cancer should be allowed
to use marijuana to cope with the pain.

The Oshkosh Republican has decided to go against his party's
leadership and introduce a bill that would let doctors prescribe
marijuana for medical reasons.

The decision represents a major shift in philosophy for a legislator
who was quoted in High Times magazine in the late 1990s opposing the
legalization of marijuana.

"Certainly, having gone through what I went through makes you think
about things differently. That affected my decision on this,"
Underheim said.

Underheim, chairman of the Assembly's Health Committee, plans a public
hearing on his bill this year.

Underheim, 53, underwent surgery in June 2002 to remove his cancerous
prostate. He then waited several days for test results that showed the
cancer had not spread.

"That was a day of great relief, but you think about things like that
while you're waiting to hear what the outcome was," he said. "You're
wondering about chemotherapy, that kind of stuff."

That experience prompted him to change his mind about the medicinal
value of marijuana.

"If you do the chemo, for a period of time you really feel miserable,"
he said. "Then, just as you're getting better, it's time to do another
chemo. I've talked to a couple of doctors who say it's worthy,
certainly, of looking at."

Underheim knows his bill faces challenges, particularly among his
fellow Republicans, who control the Legislature.

Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, said Underheim's bill has "got
a big mountain to climb -- I think he understands that the odds are
stacked against him."

Underheim said he doesn't think the average person would object to his

"I think the public is much more comfortable with this than
policymakers are right now," he said.

Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jan 2004
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2004 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Contact: wsjopine@madison.com
Website: Wisconsin State Journal