Feb 16, 00
Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HI)
Copyright: 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Author: Leila Fujimori
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Two Bills Are In The State Legislature For Legalizing Pot For Medical Purposes HONOLULU - Doctors prescribed the strongest painkillers to Lynn Foster after cancer of the stomach spread to her bones. She was so drugged, she couldn't communicate, said Scott Foster, her husband. So they turned to marijuana. With marijuana, Foster could reduce his wife's prescription of intravenous drugs. "It was a synergy with the marijuana and the IV drugs -- she was always sharp mentally," Foster said, noting he hopes the drug's high cost will be lowered by legalization. "It gave us another four months when her quality of life was good." Lynn Foster died in 1995. Now Scott Foster supports two bills in the state Legislature for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. He attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, featuring a Washington physician who helped get an initiative to pass in 1998 permitting the medical use of marijuana. Rob Killian, whose Seattle practice has mostly HIV-positive patients, said he doesn't like the idea of his patients smoking anything. But "when somebody is throwing up or is acutely nauseated, instant relief is preferred," he said. Smoking marijuana gets it into the bloodstream immediately, whereas drugs in pill form take time to absorb, and drugs by injection may be difficult to administer. Killian has spoken with the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary committees and expects support for legislation favoring the right of patients suffering from a terminal or debilitating disease to use marijuana medicinally. Brian Issell, professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii's Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and John A. Burns School of Medicine, said he wants "to see research centers do careful, tedious studies" before legislation is passed. He said studies are needed to provide evidence on who can be helped by marijuana. Forum attendees questioned Issell as to why other illegal drugs are allowed for medical treatment and commented that no study would be able to foresee who could be helped by the drug. Issell said a national study would be necessary to test a group large enough to get valid results. Studies that have been done, he said, have selected only those experiencing a beneficial effect. Cynthia Linet, 61, didn't wait for legalization. Linet, a Hilo attorney who suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, said she used marijuana for loss of appetite, nausea and anxiety. As a "health nut," Linet said it was frightening when her legs went numb. The marijuana relieved her anxiety and helped with loss of appetite. She only used small amounts of the drug for 25 weeks during which she underwent chemotherapy. "When it was over, I stopped using it," Linet said. "I had no desire for it, but I was glad it was there."