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House Panel Hears Case For Medical Marijuana


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MONTGOMERY -- Supporters of medical marijuana, including a Butler man suffering from two forms of cancer, asked a House Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday to approve a bill allowing doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.

Donald Prockup, a carpenter by trade battling leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, brought a box full of what he said were 1,000 prescriptions he had to help him deal with pain from his illnesses -- none of which, Prockup said, worked as well as marijuana.

"This medical marijuana alleviates a lot of this," Prockup told members of the House Judiciary Committee's Civil Justice Subcommittee. "I won't need (these drugs) any more."

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, would allow Alabama doctors to prescribe marijuana to alleviate the symptoms caused by 13 different medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures and glaucoma.

It would also allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for any medical condition that severely limits a person's ability to perform "major life activities" or would cause serious injury to a person's safety or medical health if not prescribed.

Hall, whose son died of AIDS 15 years ago, said marijuana could have alleviated some of the symptoms that he faced in his final months, including nausea and loss of appetite. She called the bill "very personal."

"This is a difficult week for me," she said. "This week, in 1992, our son was dying of AIDS. He was very ill, and if I'd had any opportunity to make that time easier, I would have done that."

Michael Phillips, a former Montgomery Advertiser writer who suffers from a benign brain tumor that gives him seizures, said four surgeries to remove the tumor have failed. He told the committee that marinol -- an FDA-approved drug whose active ingredient is THC, which is also found in marijuana -- has not controlled seizures he suffers due to his condition.

Marijuana, he said, reduced seizures from three to five a day to two seizures every six to eight weeks. He said he has been arrested twice for possession.

"Because of my disability, I'm considered a criminal, because of my four unsuccessful brain surgeries," he said.

Twelve states have decriminalized the use of medical marijuana, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based group that seeks changes to national drug policies. In 2004, 76 percent of respondents in a Press-Register/University of South Alabama poll said they approved of doctors prescribing marijuana to patients.

Committee members did not vote on the bill at Wednesday's public hearing.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill, a fact noted by subcommittee Vice Chairman Charles Newton, D-Greenville.

Newton said the witnesses made an "outstanding case, an eloquent case" for the bill, but that he wants to hear from any opponents.

"We may ask why other states have not legalized it," he said. "We need to be more informed."

The Legislature has only four business days left on its calendar, and Newton noted that it would be very difficult -- but not necessarily impossible -- to pass the bill into law.

Hall said she would be content with getting the Judiciary Committee to approve the it.

"I'm not known for having bills with easy roads," she said.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Press-Register (AL)
Contact: newsroom@press-register.com
Copyright: 2007 Press-Register
Website: al.com: Everything Alabama
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