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Both Sides See Hope In Marijuana Debate

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Both believers in and skeptics of the medical benefits of marijuana found some reason for hope in Gov. M. Jodi Rell's veto Tuesday of a bill that would have legalized its use for those with chronic and terminal illnesses.

Mark Braunstein is a librarian at Connecticut College who was paralyzed in a diving accident and said he uses marijuana to relieve chronic pain. He said the fact that the bill made it through both chambers of the state Legislature before being vetoed by Rell showed that progress has been made.

Rell's veto “wasn't a surprise or a disappointment to me, because she had only expressed reservations beforehand,” said Braunstein, who has been active for about a decade in support of legalizing marijuana for medical uses. The next attempt, which supporters may not make until Rell is out of office, could be the one that finally succeeds, he said.

Lorenzo Jones, executive director of the Better Way Foundation, one of the groups that lobbied for the bill, agreed.

“We don't see Gov. Rell's veto as a loss,” he said, because of the wide support in the legislature and shown in polls of Connecticut voters.

His group is hoping for a face-to-face meeting with Rell to discuss the issue. “It's obvious the Senate and the House listened to Connecticut voters,” Jones said. “The question is whether Rell listened to voters.”

Currently 11 other states including Rhode Island have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Federal law, however, still prohibits the practice.

Dr. Edward Hargis is grateful for Rell's action. Hargis, a private practice physician who works in the Pain Management Center at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, said the governor stopped what would have been a huge mistake.

“It would open up a huge can of worms,” he said. “It would be disastrous for our society.”

Hargis said he has never had a patient he couldn't help with the prescription painkillers currently available, and believes that those who turn to marijuana for relief haven't exhausted all their legal options or haven't gotten adequate care. In addition, he's seen patients hurt by using marijuana.

“I've seen patients who've had some mind-altering psychological effects,” he said. One he recalled had to be admitted to the hospital twice after using marijuana for what he called an “acute psychiatric event.”

The bill would have allowed those suffering from certain chronic illnesses to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes, and to use the drug by either smoking or eating it to relieve pain, tremors and other physiological afflictions. Hargis said the bill would have allowed the drug to be used in a nonstandardized way, where its dosage and frequency of use would be difficult to regulate.

He is also concerned that it would be too difficult to control the use and distribution of the drug, and that some doctors would wind up in legal trouble for overprescribing it.

Hargis said there is a lack of data demonstrating that marijuana is really beneficial for pain management and other medical uses. His view corresponded to a statement last year from the Food and Drug Administration that “no sound medical studies” support the medical use of marijuana. The FDA's statement contradicted a 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine that found marijuana was “moderately well-suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting.”

AIDS patients and their advocates, led by the Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition, were among those lobbying for the bill's passage. Sandra Brindamour, executive director of the Alliance for Living in New London, said she is hoping a future effort will succeed.

“We have members for whom marijuana does give them relief, and gives them an appetite,” she said. “They're dealing with enough. To deprive people of something that benefits them, and is basically harmless ...”

One of the strongest opponents of the bill was state Rep. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton. She was relieved by Rell's veto, she said, because she has come to the conclusion through her research that people who smoke marijuana for medical reasons are susceptible to the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers, as well as mental health problems.

“It's not as mild as people assume,” she said. “We don't want people to become sicker.”

Any future attempt to legalize medical marijuana in Connecticut, she said, may be made moot if Savitex, a marijuana-based painkiller made by a British company, is approved for use in this country.

“Then we won't run up against federal law,” she said.



News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: TheDay.com
Author: Judy Benson
Contact: j.benson@theday.com
Copyright: 2007 The Day Publishing Co
Website: TheDay.com - Both Sides See Hope In Marijuana Debate
 
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