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Medicinal Mj Law Could Cover More Ailments

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Feb 10, 00
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2000 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
MEDICINAL MARIJUANA LAW COULD COVER MORE AILMENTS SALEM, Ore. -- The state law that has provided marijuana to more than 400 medical patients suffering from diseases such as cancer and AIDS could be expanded if an advisory group decides that smoking pot helps ease anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. Kelly Paige, manager of Oregon's medical marijuana program, said the law approved by voters in 1998 allows individuals to request that additional diseases or conditions be treated. She said the Oregon Health Division has received requests from patients to include post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease and sleep disorders. The Health Division is assembling an advisory group of medical professionals and patients to meet next month to make recommendations. The agency likely will make a final decision in April, Paige said. But some lawmakers already are concerned. "The Health Division needs to be careful not to go far beyond what the voters intended," said state Rep. Kevin Mannix, a Salem Republican and candidate for state attorney general. Mannix opposed the 1998 law and pushed a bill through the 1999 Legislature clarifying parts of it. He said that considering additional medical marijuana treatments might send a message to young people that marijuana use is an acceptable way to deal with anxiety. He said the Health Division is giving ammunition to critics who called the law a back-door attempt to legalize pot. "The citizens were sold on this based on its narrow application," Mannix said. "These additional listed conditions raise the specter of the aggressive broadening of the medical marijuana act," he said. Geoff Sugerman, a political consultant who worked on the campaign to pass the medical marijuana law, said a federal report last year found that marijuana can help some people with anxiety disorders. "It is socially irresponsible for politicians like Kevin Mannix to deny a medicine to people that science has proven can help them," Sugerman said. During the 1998 election campaign on medical marijuana, some law enforcement officials and other opponents warned that large-scale marijuana dealers or growers might hide behind the marijuana law. But Paige said the law appears to be working smoothly and providing help to some seriously ill patients.