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U.S. Should Allow Medical Marijuana

Herb Fellow

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Some seem surprised that I advocate the legislation that is supportive of medical marijuana. Let me make it clear that I do not advocate the legalization of marijuana or any other controlled substances. This marks the 25th year since I first publicly supported medical marijuana and the reclassification of marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug (Class I -- no medicinal value; Class II -- medicinal value).

I find it almost unbelievable that our federal government would continue to let its citizens suffer from various diseases when the properties contained in marijuana would alleviate that suffering. Frankly, I don't know how those in the federal government and the Drug Enforcement Administration can sleep at night when they choose to ignore mounting evidence that marijuana relieves suffering from many diseases.

I know about the nausea that comes with most regimens of chemotherapy. In 1972 I was diagnosed with lymphocytic lymphoma in stage IV. The nausea is not just an upset stomach that can be quieted by chewing Pepto-Bismol tablets. It is horrible and in some instances can cause you to be unable to eat or digest food and become immobile for a time.

While I was undergoing chemotherapy, some medicines worked and some did not. The same thing is true today. Opponents of medical marijuana, who say there are plenty of drugs to alleviate suffering, tout the latest drug -- Marinol. Shame on them.

Over the past few months, I have been talking with a young lady who has stage IV liver cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. She is unable to hold down much food and is terribly ill with nausea. One day she was excited because the doctor was going to prescribe Marinol for her. It contains THC, a component in the marijuana plant. A week after she started taking Marinol, she was still so ill she could not hold back vomiting. She has since commenced acupuncture, which helps, but she is still nauseated. Why would anyone deny this wonderful woman the right to use a drug to relieve her suffering?

For 15 years, I visited cancer patients in hospitals in Topeka and Wichita. Some patients said they resorted to marijuana to relieve their nausea. It is not right that they should be subject to incarceration because marijuana was their last resort for relief.

The states cannot violate federal law, but they do have the right to determine state penalties for violations of law. Twelve states have sent a message to the federal government by passing medical marijuana laws. Kansas can add to that message.

DEA administrative law judges have ruled against the DEA position. The New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 called the federal ban on medical use of marijuana "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."

By passing Senate Bill 556, the Legislature would send a message to the federal government and the DEA that they must allow appropriate research of the marijuana plant and place marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug.

Source: The Wichita Eagle
Copyright: 2008, The Wichita Eagle
Contact: Robert T. Stephan
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