Weed In The Wings

Weed In The Wings
Posted by CN Staff on April 22, 2008 at 08:53:14 PT
By Nicole Smith 
Source: MSU Reporter
MN -- Minnesota could become number 13 on a list some view as unwelcome as that number.A dozen states - including Colorado, Hawaii, Montana and Nevada - have laws allowing medical use of marijuana, beginning with California legislation passed in 1996. Although these laws prevent medical marijuana users from state prosecution, no state can exempt patients from federal prosecution for marijuana use.
The Minnesota Medical Marijuana Bill, SF 345, is headed to the House after The House Ways and Means Committee voted 13-4 on April 9 to advance the measure. The bill was passed by the Senate last year, so if passed by the House, it will be put into the hands of Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The bill's future rests on Pawlenty's decision, and he has signaled recently that he sides with law enforcement and opposes the bill.If passed, however, it would allow qualifying patients with serious illnesses to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana for medical purposes.According to Bruce Mirken, the communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, "To be eligible you have to file your recommendation from a doctor with the state and be registered with the state of Minnesota." These registered patients would "receive an ID card from the state, which will allow law enforcement or anybody that needs to, to quickly identify who is a legal patient," he said.MPP is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States, working to pass state legislation for medical marijuana and lobby the federal government to change their policy. The organization is comprised of about 24,000 dues-paying members across the country.Marijuana and its medical implications have stirred a controversial debate in recent years. Its medicinal value has been cited spanning more than 5,000 years ago to Ancient China, but it has been illegal in the United States for more than 70 years, since the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act passed. This act was later deemed unconstitutional because of tax stamp implications, and was repealed by the Controlled Substances Act of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970."Federally through the DEA, the government is still saying there is no medically accepted use for marijuana," said Roy Kammer, assistant professor and coordinator of alcohol and drug studies at Minnesota State University. "In these state laws, they are just really eliminating some of the criminal aspects of possessing medical marijuana."Despite doctor and patient suggestions as well as numerous studies with evidence of the medicinal value of marijuana, the federal government recognizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a dangerous drug with no medicinal value.Kammer has worked primarily in the college setting as mental health counselor, alcohol and drug counselor and educator and is the state coordinator for Minnesota as part of The Network: addressing collegiate alcohol and other drug issues.There are many sides to this heated argument, so when researching the subject, it is important to evaluate the accuracy of the information and identify the source."Sometimes, two very different sources can be reflecting on the same study with the same information, and they could look at it in two very different ways," Kammer said. "I think it gets really confusing sorting out what's viable, what's credible and what to believe. There are bodies of literature that support either side of the argument, and can often include personal biases."Advocates of the bill recently released the first in a new series of TV ads featuring seriously ill patients urging Minnesotans to persuade Pawlenty not to veto the bill in an effort to protect suffering Minnesotans from being criminalized for using doctor-recommended marijuana. The ad features Minneapolis resident Lynn Rubenstein Nicholson, who suffers intractable pain after enduring numerous surgeries as a result of back pain.The American College of Physicians - a 124,000-member physicians group, the second largest in the U.S. - recently released a statement recognizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. The statement cited potential medical uses of marijuana: appetite stimulation, antiemetic, glaucoma, neurological and movement disorders and analgesic. This statement supports medicinal marijuana and could help ground the bill in legislation.Mirken has worked with many patients who testify they need marijuana. He said the illnesses of these patients include cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, severe nausea/vomiting and intractable pain.Technology has given new opportunity to study the effects and safety of marijuana in recent years."There's been some new study data published over the last several years that show marijuana can relieve nausea and vomiting and help stimulate appetite - serious problems that can be results of various illnesses - but also side effects of drugs used to treat those illnesses," Mirken said.He also said these side effects can be a major reason why some people miss doses or discontinue therapy, and new study data have shown that patients with these illnesses and conditions who use marijuana are more likely to stay on treatment. Mirken also said patients use marijuana to reduce pain, often intractable or neuropathy pain."It has now been shown in several clinical trials that marijuana clearly helps in people who are often not getting relief from much more dangerous and much more addictive prescription medication," Mirken said.MPP maintains the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate it in a manner similar to alcohol.When the effects and risks of marijuana are assessed, they are often compared with alcohol, a legal and socially accepted drug.Kammer said both alcohol and marijuana have consequences, but because alcohol is socially accepted and commercialized, there is more support and research on it."If I would ask you how much alcohol it would take to intoxicate a person, you could probably give me a reasonable answer with reference to a specific blood-alcohol level. If I asked you the same question about marijuana, what would you say?" Kammer emphasized the difficulty in regulating marijuana to be medically grown because of its inconsistency.Marijuana is composed of at least 60 chemicals called cannabinoids, including THC, the plant's main component responsible for its mind-altering effects."When you think about bottling alcohol, you can really identify the certain ingredients, but when you're smoking a plant, you don't always know the content," Kammer said. "In addition, when you smoke a drug, you have the potential of developing more compounds as the drug transforms the body."The growing conditions and composition of the plant are also factors that can alter its content.Marinol or dronabinol, is the FDA-approved pill form of naturally-occuring THC without the other components of marijuana. This drug is often prescribed as an appetite-stimulant and anti-nauseant primarily for cancer, AIDS, and gastric bypass patients. The pill form of psychoactive THC, compared to marijuana, is easier to control and regulate.Along with its legal implications, marijuana does pose certain health risks, including temporary impairment of motor skills and memory, reduction in balance and coordination and an increased risk of heart attack and respiratory infections. As with all forms of smoke, marijuana smoke contains carcinogenic hydrocarbons, cancer-causing agents."Unlike morphine or opiates, or alcohol for that matter, marijuana and its active components don't suppress breathing. This means it's basically impossible to kill yourself with an overdose of marijuana," Mirken said. "You can quite easily take enough morphine or drink enough vodka to kill yourself."Morphine and opiates are often prescribed for patients with serious illness.Kammer said that this difficulty to achieve a lethal dose provides opportunity for people to use more."If a minimal amount of marijuana would provide the constant benefits, would people only smoke the minimal amount, or are people going to smoke it to the point of intoxication?" Kammer said. "Although marijuana may not have a lethal dose, there's still addictive qualities about the drug. There might be some limited benefits of marijuana, but is it worth the risk in regards to some of those things that wind up causing dependence on the drug?"He said marijuana is evaluated from a diagnostic perspective based on seven different criteria to access its addictive nature on an individual basis. This includes evaluating potential to develop tolerance, withdrawals, and whether the substance is being used more than intended. The debate over marijuana's addictive nature is evident and difficult to generally assess because many factors contribute and influence each individual differently.Mirken and MPP stand firmly behind the implementation of marijuana for medical purposes with emphasis on the thousands of patients in need of help."We hear pretty regularly from a lot of folks that tried everything else and are desperate. Marijuana certainly isn't for everybody, but there are some folks who it clearly seems to help," Mirken said.Nicole Smith is a Reporter staff writer.Note: Amid fierce criticism as well as support, the Minnesota Medical Marijuana Bill is headed for the House, then Gov. Tim Pawlenty.Source: MSU Reporter (MN)Author: Nicole Smith, Reporter Staff WriterPublished: April 22, 2008Copyright: 2008 Minnesota State University Reporter Website: rachel.heiderscheidt mnsu.eduRelated Articles & Web Site:Marijuana Policy Project Debate: Both Sides Can Point To Science Room in Minnesota for Medical Marijuana
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on April 22, 2008 at 13:33:59 PT
"Kammer has worked primarily in the college setting as mental health counselor, alcohol and drug counselor and educator and is the state coordinator for Minnesota as part of The Network: addressing collegiate alcohol and other drug issues."So interesting to learn about these men who work to stop the sick and dying from using cannabis! This guy claims to work toward helping people.  How can any person with a normal, rational, mind who wants to help people - who claims to be an expert on cannabis - not see blatant cruelty and tyranny in the current medical marijuana laws?Is the information we have really that conflicting and confusing? Is cannabis more dangerous for sick people than every other currently prescribe-able drug on the market? That's what the current federal law says that puts cannabis in Schedule one. Minnesota law goes even farther and says in cannot be used by anyone, ever, for anything.Well, Mr. Kammer is an employee of the federal government - the same one with the 45 billion dollar cannabis prohibition business. But I guess he, as a mental health counselor, is more qualified to rule on which medicine the sick people get. Over the 10,000+ practicing physicians (MD's) in the ACP. Right.Well, maybe he's done a great job in his field! I guess he's got the college binge drinking problem licked, eh? No more date rapes of passed-out girls are happening in fraternities anymore. I assume he's working on medical MJ because we're no longer the country with the worst binge drinking college students on Earth, right? He's totally crushed that problem, that's why the media is seeking his opinion on medical cannabis, right?
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment