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Medical Marijuana Gets Heavy Support

Cozmo

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Mary Powers of Madison takes marijuana to relieve nausea caused by AIDS and cancer. Brian Barnstable of Milwaukee uses it to ease multiple sclerosis pain.

Both patients can get the pot they smoke and bake with on the black market, but they say medical marijuana should be legal. "Why should it be so hard? " asked Powers, 48.

That question was the focus of the 37th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival Saturday on State Street Mall. The event continues at 1 p.m. today, with a walk to the Capitol at 3 p.m.

On Saturday, amidst booths selling hemp clothes and pot posters, medical marijuana supporters urged passage of a bill, which could be introduced in the state Legislature this week, that would legalize the use of the plant to treat many ailments.

"Every day, cannabis helps me live better, " said Gary Storck, of Madison, the organizer of the event, who uses marijuana for glaucoma and chronic pain. "Immediately when I take it I feel a good effect. "

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior, and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, likely will be introduced Monday, Pocan said last week. It is being called the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act after a woman who rode her wheelchair 210 miles from Mondovi to Madison 10 years ago to raise awareness of the issue.

Boyle, Pocan and others have introduced such legislation before. Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, chairwoman of the Assembly 's health-care committee, is an opponent who has vowed not to give the new bill a hearing.

Twelve states have legalized medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal government 's ability to prosecute medical marijuana patients even in states that have made it legal. But most arrests for pot use are by local or state police, not federal officials.

June Dahl, a UW-Madison professor of pharmacy, said "there really isn 't any strong evidence " that marijuana relieves pain.

"But people who have pain have a lot of anxiety, and marijuana can have a calming effect, " she said.

Dahl said she opposes the legalization of medical marijuana because of the drug 's mood-altering effects and its lung-disease risks when smoked. Also, the pill Marinol, which contains the active pot ingredient THC, is available. And new pain medications are hitting the market, offering more alternatives, she said.

"There are huge implications to legalizing marijuana for patients, " she said. "For one, are you going to let them drive? "

Also, since THC is stored in the brain, Dahl asked, "Are you going to have mass spectrometers in police stations to measure it like Breathalyzers for alcohol? "

Meanwhile, the maker of Sativex, a mouth spray that contains THC and another active ingredient in marijuana, says a clinical trial is underway in the United States. The product has been available in Canada for two years.

Such developments aren 't good enough for patients such as Carolyn McDonough, 21, of Sun Prairie. She has been smoking and baking with marijuana since she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago.

McDonough said marijuana reduces the pressure behind her eyes, enables her to walk better and cuts down on her need to take muscle relaxants.

"I shouldn 't have to be a criminal for it, " she said.


News Moderator: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)
Author: David Wahlberg
Contact: dwahlberg@madison.com
Copyright: 2007 Wisconsin State Journal
Website: WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL
 
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