Medical Pot Law Backers Hopeful

  Medical Pot Law Backers Hopeful

Posted by CN Staff on January 23, 2005 at 07:46:58 PT
By Jay Root 
Source: Star-Telegram 

Austin -- Sitting in a wheelchair at the end of a worn wooden ramp in south Austin, thin and soft-spoken Marcia Johnson, 50, does not fit the stereotype of your average illegal drug user. But she is a regular pot smoker, and that is against the law in Texas.Johnson admits to the crime not because she wants to go to jail but because she wants the Texas Legislature to make it legal for people like her -- people who are seriously injured or sick -- to use marijuana medicinally without the fear of prosecution.
"There's a lot of people out there that are very, very afraid," she said. "I can understand that. But unless somebody does something, they'll still be afraid. A lot of people have a lot more to lose than I do."In Texas, where conservative Republicans are firmly in power, legalizing any sanctioned pot use might be an uphill climb. It could easily die in committee as it did in 2001, failing in the House because nobody in the Senate dared touch it. Already, the conservative Eagle Forum is vowing to fight the legislation, warning that it could lead to outright legalization.But advocates of the measure say it's never had a better chance of passing. In a Scripps Howard Texas poll last fall, 75 percent of respondents said they support allowing seriously ill Texans to use marijuana to ease suffering."I think it's better than 50-50," said state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, who plans to file a medical marijuana bill soon. "We expect to have a lot of help from respected organizations and individuals."The Texas Medical Association has not taken a formal position on the bill, particularly because it hasn't been filed.But the TMA's House of Delegates in April endorsed a policy saying that doctors should be free to discuss "any and all possible treatment options related to the patients' health and clinical care, including the use of marijuana, without the threat to physician or patient of regulatory, disciplinary, or criminal sanctions."Proponents also note that 10 states, including usually conservative Montana and Colorado, have medical marijuana laws on the books."I think more and more members realize that the amelioration of serious pain is a legitimate medical use for any drug in our arsenal," said state Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, a former Travis County sheriff and author of the unsuccessful bill in 2001."We have for some reason in our pharmacology isolated that particular herb as not of medicinal value when it in fact is. And we need to correct that."Life-Changing EventIt was an unusually hot September morning in 1988 when Marcia Johnson put her two toddlers into the back of a Chevy crew cab pickup and headed to Cotulla to buy some curtain hardware.She ignored that little voice telling her to put on her seat belt, which probably made it easier for her to turn around and scold her kids for fighting over their ice cream cones.It was that brief moment of inattention that changed her life forever.The pickup veered off Interstate 35, blew out a tire and flipped end over end three times. The children, who were wearing seat belts, only had a few scratches.But Johnson suffered a crushed chest, collapsed lungs, a lacerated heart and two spinal cord injuries that have left her paralyzed from just under her arms down to her toes.Johnson spent two years in and out of the hospital, and on drugs that either didn't help relieve her pain and stiffness or had so many side effects that she couldn't bear to take them any more.After seeing a TV program about a mother who obtained marijuana for a son dying of terminal cancer, Johnson decided to try it herself.She hadn't smoked it since she was a teen-ager, but Johnson said she discovered that marijuana was the only thing that controlled her painful muscle spasms and stiffness. She's been smoking it regularly ever since.Now cast in the unlikely role of medical marijuana advocate, Johnson said she wants opponents of the legislation to put themselves in her position."If you would sit in my chair for a while and live with the things that I have to live with, I think there would be no argument at all," she said."I don't party a lot. It's not like I'm going out and getting high just for the fact of it."The DebateNaishtat's legislation as currently drafted would give doctor-recommended medical marijuana users an "affirmative defense" to prosecution, weaker than an outright exemption but probably more politically palatable in the conservative Texas Legislature.Opponents, however, say that even a crack in the door will lead to widespread pot use and future attempts at more expansive legalization. They say patients can instead use Marinol -- a legal, synthetic alternative -- although many users say it doesn't work as well as marijuana."There are too many other medical alternatives. Marijuana is not only addictive, but I have read too much about the long-term negative effects," said Cathie Adams, director of the conservative Eagle Forum. "It's a very bad idea."Nationally, opponents of medical marijuana have included drug war veterans such as former drug czar Barry McCaffrey and former presidents Ford, Carter and Bush.Proponents note that marijuana has been used medicinally for thousands of years and was even prescribed by American doctors until the 1930s. Whether it is physically addictive has long been debated. Medical marijuana advocates say it's illogical that Congress still lists it as a Schedule I drug, putting it on the same footing as heroin and LSD -- substances that are deemed ripe for abuse and have no accepted medical use."There really is no comparison. There has never been in the history of mankind a recorded death from an overdose of marijuana. It's never happened," said Dr. Richard Evans, founder of the nonprofit Texas Cancer Center in Houston.Evans is another seemingly unlikely ally of the pro-medical-marijuana camp: His brother is Donald Evans, the outgoing U.S. commerce secretary, who is widely regarded as President Bush's closest friend.Richard Evans said cancer patients have told him that marijuana effectively controls the nausea and vomiting that often accompany their treatment. He said he sees no valid reason not to let them have it.He expressed confidence that the Legislature will eventually approve it. The question is when: "We're just trying to make it sooner rather than later."Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)Author: Jay Root, Star-Telegram Austin BureauPublished: January 23, 2005Copyright: 2005 Star-TelegramContact: letters star-telegram.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Texans For Medical Marijuana Advocates Need Lobby, Criminologist, Patients Support MMJ Use Finds 75% of Texans Support Med Marijuana Group Backs Medical Marijuana in Texas 

Home    Comment    Email    Register    Recent Comments    Help


Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 29, 2005 at 09:30:02 PT

Related Article from News 8 Austin
Paralyzed Woman Supports Decriminalization of Medicinal MarijuanaBy Allison Toepperwein  
January 29, 2005Rep. Elliot Naishtat, D-Austin, filed a bill Friday to allow doctors in Texas to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes.The controversial measure’s most notable followers are Texans for Medical Marijuana.But there are others who quietly hope the law goes into effect. “Marcia” injured her spinal cord in a car wreck 16 years ago that left her paralyzed. While she can't feel her legs, she does feel pain. "Some of the medications they give me believe it or not internal bleeding," Marcia said.Because of those harsh side effects, Marcia began tying marijuana to alleviate her pain. "It makes an awfully big difference in the quality of my life," she said.  
Naishtat’s bill would prevent people like Marcia from being charged with possession of marijuana. It also frees doctors from any criminal ramifications if they discuss the alternative with patients. If the bill passes, Texas would be the 11th state to allow marijuana for medicinal purposes."This is not a broad legalization. This is not saying marijuana is OK as a recreational devise. That's not at all what we're talking about. This about people who are in pain," Noelle Davis of Texans for Medical Marijuana said. Naishtat believes the bill would free people with legitimate medical problems of the pain of worry. “People who are wasting away and marijuana is the only thing that allows them to keep food down or put a little weight back on," Davis said. Marcia said she never even used marijuana until the accident. "No. No, I was Mom," she said.Copyright: 2005 TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #2 posted by afterburner on January 28, 2005 at 13:26:32 PT

Jimmy Carter? Are You Sure about That?
"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself." -- President Jimmy Carter,
Message to Congress. August 2, 1977
[The Family Council on Drug Awareness ]"The importation and sale of marijuana is condemned and punished as a serious crime, but we accept as legitimate the manufacture and sale of an infinitely more addictive and deadly drug: the nicotine in cigarettes that cost the lives of 390,000 American citizens last year." Jimmy Carter
[The Hempfiles - Quotes - Politicians/Government - Jimmy Carter ]"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use." 
-- President Jimmy Carter, August 2, 1977 
[MASSCANN/Norml - Thoughts to Ponder ]"For more than 25 years, the medical marijuana battle has been fought graciously by patients with cancer and glaucoma. The war has accelerated recently and has become more vocal. In 1976, following a lawsuit and weeks of tests at UCLA Robert Randall, who was suffering with glaucoma, became the first person to receive marijuana from the federal government. As years passed by, more tests and studies were showing that there was indeed a medical benefit to smoking marijuana. By 1991, the federal government, while still denying its benefit, was shipping marijuana to 12 people suffering from cancer nausea, glaucoma, chronic pain, and muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. Randall encouraged AIDS patients to apply to use the unproven drug as he had. It was a program which Jimmy Carter had established after Randall's case went public." --Medicinal Marijuana: A Continuing Controversy
[ Post Comment ]


Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 28, 2005 at 12:49:18 PT

News Article from News 8 Austin
 Naishtat Files Marijuana BillBy News 8 Austin StaffJanuary 28, 2005Texans would be allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes under a bill filled by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin.HB 658 would allow doctors to prescribe the herb for patients and allow them a defense in court against prosecution for possessing the plant's leaves."There is ample evidence that marijuana is beneficial to people suffering from the chronic and debilitating pain associated with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis," Naishtat said in a press release."It has also been proven effective in alleviating nausea associated with chemotherapy, eye pressure from glaucoma, and muscle spasms from neurological disorders. Under my bill, a patient would have to prove in court that he or she was suffering from a bona fide medical condition, and that a physician had discussed or recommended marijuana as an option to alleviate the symptoms of the medical condition," Naishtat said.The bill is not an all-out legalization of the drug. But during prosecution a defendant would be allowed to show evidence of medical necessity.In May the Texas Medical Association approved a measure supporting a doctor's right to prescribe marijuana. Copyright: 2005 TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin
[ Post Comment ]

  Post Comment