Marijuana Dilemma 

Marijuana Dilemma 
Posted by FoM on March 21, 2000 at 22:10:10 PT
By Matt Palmquist of The Oregonian Staff 
Source: Oregon Live
Many patients cannot afford to get the state's medical card.Like many disabled Oregonians, John Malaer discovered that the biggest obstacle to smoking medical marijuana isn't a cop or a courtroom -- it's his checkbook. 
Paralyzed from the waist down, Malaer scrapes by each month on $520 in disability payments and $86 in food stamps, not enough to pay the annual fee of $150 for a medical marijuana card plus the costs connected with growing the plants. If not for a charitable foundation that helped pay for the card he obtained in December, he couldn't smoke the marijuana that blunts the pain of his broken back. The manager of the state Health Division's medical marijuana program says the income hurdle is one of the biggest challenges to making the program successful. "The costs are a barrier for low-income people," said Kelly Paige, who is preparing renewal notices and reviewing the budget as the program nears its one-year anniversary. "A lot of the people who are extremely ill fall into that category." Oregon's medical marijuana law, passed in November 1998, allows Oregonians who suffer from cancer, glaucoma, HIV and other physical ailments to register with the Health Division to use marijuana. But the law can be more pipe dream than panacea to many of the Oregonians -- including military veterans -- who need it most. They can't afford the registration fee, and no insurance companies cover the expenses of medical marijuana use. The law prohibits buying and selling marijuana, so patients have to grow their own or get it for free. Start-up costs for an indoor marijuana garden -- plants, grow lamps, electricity and fertilizer -- can range from $700 to $1,000, Paige said. Under the law, patients must have their physician complete a form that says marijuana may mitigate their symptoms. The patient then mails this form, an application and a $150 check to the Health Division. After reviewing the application, the Health Division issues a card exempting the patient from state laws that prohibit possessing and growing marijuana. Of the five states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow seriously ill people to smoke marijuana, only Oregon and Alaska charge fees for an identification card. Alaska's fee, however, is $25. When Oregon advocates were pushing for the initiative, they expected a similar registration fee, Paige said. But the program's $75,000 budget is funded solely by the registration fees -- more than 400 of an expected 500 cards have been issued -- which pay for Paige's salary, printing and postage costs, legal counsel and incidentals. The law stipulates that patients, not taxpayers, must fund the program. Paige estimates another 100 people might apply for a registration card if not for the cost barrier. "I recognize it's a hardship, and I feel really bad about it," Paige said of the fee, "but we need a registration fee to support the program." Insurers Don't Cover Costs: The law does not require government programs or private health insurers to reimburse the costs of marijuana use. "It's not being looked at, not being evaluated, not being considered," said Jim Gersbach, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente. "It would be outside the purview of the health plan to pay for a state registration fee. And marijuana is not treated as a pharmaceutical, so it doesn't come under pharmaceutical benefits." Many insurance companies do pay for the federally approved drug Marinol, a synthetic version of THC, the key chemical component in marijuana. Doctors generally favor prescribing Marinol, because the capsules come in physician-approved doses rather than patient-rolled joints. But proponents of medical marijuana say patients who smoke it get the benefits of dozens of other agents, or cannabanoids, beyond Marinol. The Oregon Health Plan covers Marinol, which can cost $2,000 a month, but not marijuana, because it's not approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Rick Bayer, a retired Portland internist and a chief petitioner of Oregon's medical marijuana initiative, said the lack of access to medical marijuana for lower-income patients parallels their lack of access to health care across the board. "The people who are trying to get medical marijuana are people with chronic illnesses," Bayer said. "Whenever you're talking about people with chronic disabilities, you find lower income. And that decreases access to health care." The Veterans' Quandary: Lower-income military veterans find it almost impossible to get medical marijuana. Because Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers are federal institutions, VA doctors are prohibited from completing the medical marijuana form. They are, however, allowed to prescribe Marinol. Dr. Thomas P. Carr, a staff physician at the Portland VA Medical Center, said three or four patients have approached him with the medical marijuana form. He would have been willing to complete the form, he said, but because of the conflict between the state process and the federal law, he did not. That conflict forces veterans such as Richard Blacklidge to go outside the VA system. Although he's uninsured, Blacklidge sought out and paid for a private physician's signature on the medical marijuana form -- a hassle and expense that he said aggravated his post-traumatic stress disorder and degenerative disk disease. "The year I spent in Vietnam, I didn't beg to go over there," said Blacklidge, 51. "I didn't beg to get these injuries. Why should I have to beg to feel better now?" Financial Help: At Our House of Portland, the only advanced-stage AIDS care facility in Oregon, residents with a registration card can smoke marijuana outside. But many live on as little as $75 a month. "Most people who really need it don't have the money to pull it off," said Judith Rizzio, the facility's community relations director. "The law's set up so that the fees are difficult for people living on benefits. People don't understand what it means to be this ill." But the Blanche Fischer Foundation does. Established in 1981, the foundation provides assistance to physically disabled Oregonians who show financial need. So far, the foundation has co-paid for about a half-dozen medical marijuana cards. John P. Dziennik, the foundation's executive director, said he's uncomfortable paying for the cards -- the foundation would never pay for grow lamps or marijuana -- and he'd like to see insurance policies or the state cover the program's costs. "I understand the need for licensing, but $150 for people living on turkey, franks and ramen is not a realistic figure," Dziennik said. "It frustrates me to step up to the plate and fund a state program." The foundation gave Malear $125 toward his registration card. Malaer struggled to come up with $150 for grow lamps, but he still considers himself lucky. "It's not economically feasible for the people who need it to take advantage of it," Malaer said. "It's almost more of a hassle than it's worth." That's not what medical marijuana advocates like to hear. Although several said a network of compassion has evolved out of the foundations helping, many are uneasy about the program becoming dependent on foundations and grants. Instead, advocates would like to increase doctors' awareness of the medical marijuana option. Paige is inviting physicians to attend a satellite conference in early April for the First National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, which will focus on science, not politics. As the Health Division considers expanding the law to apply to conditions such as anxiety, depression and sleep disorders, advocates want to persuade more patients to try the treatment. "The more patients who participate, the lower the fees will be," said Gina Pesulima, a spokeswoman for the California-based Americans for Medical Rights. "The one thing we're continuing to be concerned about is doing whatever we can to strengthen the system and offset the cost." Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2000Copyright 2000 Oregon Live.Related Articles & Web Site:CannabisNews Web Site & Articles On Oregon & CRRH:CRRH Biggest Obstacle To Medical Marijuana User 
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Comment #9 posted by all knowing on April 27, 2001 at 08:31:28 PT
the reason
anybody that has never spliffed and tasted the bud doesn't understand how good u feel after don't critizize things u know nothing about
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Comment #8 posted by Mary Jane on July 24, 2000 at 10:44:31 PT
Mary Jane
Pot is not bad if you know how to use it well and responsable. Get off our backs!!!
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Comment #7 posted by Puritan on March 22, 2000 at 18:31:21 PT
We appreciate your opinion Sally, but do you honestly feel that it is so dangerous that we need to arrest and incarcerate those that do use it? If so, would you be so kind as to tell us why.Hope to hear from you soon.
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on March 22, 2000 at 16:53:43 PT:
Another good little robot 
I've often wondered what the long-term effect of exposing children to the American public school system are. Evidently, the dangers are even greater than I suspected.From the sentence structure and syntax, I would have to suspect that "Sally" is probably in her mid teens. The perfect time for her to become brainwashed by DARE. Having been subjected to the 'dumbing down' so prevalent in our schools (and I worked for a major metropolitan school system, so I know whereof I speak) it shows in her diatribe. She's been told the 'facts' and she doesn't need to examine the evidence; the good DARE officer did all her thinking for her.The real tragedy of it all is that the vast majority of our citizens are like her; it will not be until she awakens from her slumber and realizes that she has been had by the very government that proclaims to have her best interests at heart that she will change.That, in fact, said government had made an accommodation with La Cosa Nostra's Lucky Luciano as far back as 1942, in a literal deal-with-the-Devil to gain information about Fascist Italy and its' Nazi allies. In return, they were allowed to continue 'their thing', which included - you guessed it! - hard drug importation. And yet the government lies and says it is against hard drugs. The government has been lying about cannabis even longer.Sally, it is *I* who pity *you*. You have yet to learn a very vital lesson. That governments lie. And they like to lie to people like you, because you'll willingly swallow manure if the government declares it is chocolate.
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Comment #5 posted by military officer guy on March 22, 2000 at 15:51:34 PT
your opinion isn't everyone's...
to Sally...i for one appreciate anyone's view, but whether you do or don't smoke MJ, doesn't mean you or the gov't has the right to tell me what i can do in my own time, as long as it doesn't cause pain to others, and MJ doesn' please anyone who has never smoked MJ, please don't feel like you have the right to regulate my life or anyone elses that smokes MJ or anything that you disagree with...thx... 
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Comment #4 posted by mungojelly on March 22, 2000 at 14:50:16 PT:
a drug is a drug is a drug
Hi Sally! I don't suppose you feel the same way about people who drink a glass of wine with dinner? Or at communion? Please don't feel sorry for me: I use my sacraments with all due care, & my marijuana use has brought me nothing but an occasional grace & joy. Well, alright, feel sorry for me if you must -- but please stop trying to put me in jail! 
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Comment #3 posted by Sally on March 22, 2000 at 14:13:50 PT
Marajauna Is NOT A Good Thing
I feel really sorry for anyone who thinks that marajauna is cool and ony uses it to get a buzz or high as they may call it.If you are using it for medical reasons thats another thing. Personally I have never tried pot and I believe that it would be a waste on money and brain cells that I can use in more positive places.
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Comment #2 posted by Dankhank on March 22, 2000 at 10:53:27 PT:
yes ...
Hey, great idea ...OK all you growers ...Let's do the right thing ...Peace and Love to all ...
Hemp n Stuff
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Comment #1 posted by mungojelly on March 22, 2000 at 06:33:36 PT:
hey all you marijuana growers
Hey all you marijuana growers -- want to generate some good will? How about giving these MMJ users what they need? The public perception is that marijuana use is evil, or at least amoral. Why don't we take a little extra effort to prove to them that we care more about the beauty of this plant than about money & recognition? Everything Free! 
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