The Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 8) being considered
by the state Legislature would provide relief from suffering for certain
people with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and spinal-cord injury by
allowing them to use marijuana as a medicine.

Physical suffering is a horrible thing to experience. It is also unpleasant
to watch someone you love suffer for months or years with intractable
nausea, unremitting pain or uncontrollable violent muscle spasms that
result from debilitating or terminal illnesses.

Fortunately, prescription medicines often control these symptoms and the
quality of these medications continues to improve. Unfortunately, there are
always people who fail to respond to available prescription medications or
who experience intolerable side effects.

In some highly specific situations, people have found that smoking small
amounts of marijuana can bring relief when prescription medications have
not. Available scientific data support the possibility that they might be

Many people who receive potent cancer chemotherapy have said that they can
get through it more easily if they smoke a little marijuana, maybe in
addition to the prescription anti-nausea drugs that their physicians prescribe.

I have heard the wife of a man with spinal-cord injury say that one puff of
a marijuana cigarette controls her husband's violent leg spasms to where he
can sleep through the night.

I've taken care of AIDS patients, wasted away to skin and bone, who were
able to gain weight because marijuana controlled their nausea and made them
hungry again.

I believe these people when they say that their suffering has been relieved
by smoking a little marijuana, and I firmly believe that they should be
protected from the possibility of arrest and prosecution on drug charges.

Senate Bill 8, introduced by Sen. Roman Maes of Santa Fe, would establish a
medical cannabis program administered by the Department of Health and
overseen by an advisory board of physicians nominated by the New Mexico
Medical Society.

People with specific medical conditions - cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, MS and
spinal-cord injury - would be eligible to apply.

A physician would be required to attest in writing that the patient has the
specific serious medical condition, that appropriate prescription
medications have been tried and have failed to provide relief, and that the
potential risks and benefits of medical cannabis have been thoroughly

A Department of Health physician would approve or deny the applications,
and the physician advisory board would review enrollment quarterly.

New Mexico physicians would not prescribe marijuana to patients because
federal law prohibits that. A New Mexico medical cannabis program would
simply protect people with serious medical conditions from arrest and
prosecution on drug charges for the possession of small amounts of
marijuana for their medical use - and it would do nothing more than that.

What's the message we send to our children if we pass Senate Bill 8? I
think it's that we care enough about our fellow citizens who are sick,
dying and suffering to make the clear distinction between marijuana as a
medicine and marijuana as a drug.

Dr. Steven A. Jenison is physician administrator of the Infectious Diseases
Bureau, Public Health Division, New Mexico Department of Health.

Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jan 2002
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2002 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Dr. Steven A. Jenison, Guest Columnist
Note: Dr. Steven A. Jenison is physician administrator of the Infectious
Diseases Bureau, Public Health Division, New Mexico Department of Health.