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Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jul 2000
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2000 Albuquerque Journal
Contact: opinion@abqjournal.com
Address: P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103


Imagine being nauseated -- not for several days with a flu bug, but nauseated for weeks.
What would you do to make it stop?

Vernon Jackman doesn't have to imagine. The 59-year-old Taos electrician vividly recalls
endless waves of nausea induced by chemotherapy. Jackman told the Governor's Drug
Policy Advisory Group last week that he was unable to eat or drink much for two months and
lost 50 pounds. "I was ready to try anything."

Anything ended up including a substance proscribed by law: Marijuana. After eating two
marijuana-fortified cookies brought to him by friends, Jackman rediscovered an appetite for
food and an appetite for life.

"It made a difference overnight," he said. "For the first time, I was hungry. I could eat and
not throw up. For the first time, I had a glimmer of hope."

Back to the future. Similar advocacy from an eloquent cancer patient named Lynn Pierson
led to passage in 1978 of legislation acknowledging marijuana's potential to ease the ordeal of
chemotherapy. The law permitted such uses, but only within the legitimizing context of a
research project.

Because of that, the Lynn Pierson Act has become ineffective and should be repealed, Health
Secretary Alex Valdez told his colleagues on the drug policy panel.

More than 150 research subjects participated under the act until 1986, when the Legislature
yanked its annual appropriation. Efforts by Valdez to revive the program encountered a
distinct lack of interest by potential researchers.

What Valdez proposes to supplant the Lynn Pierson Act would be patterned after new Hawaii
law. In that state, people with a qualifying condition can legally possess up to three mature
marijuana plants, four immature plants and one ounce of marijuana for each mature plant.

After hearing Jackman's testimony, Nick Bakas, Department of Public Safety secretary and a
panel member, said: "The last thing he should worry about in his cancer state is that a police
officer is going to take him to jail for marijuana. We have a full plate dealing with people who
injure ... and prey on other human beings. That's who we need to concentrate on."

And those who make policy on medical marijuana use can concentrate on people whose
suffering now compels them to violate the law.
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