Pubdate: Sun, 01 Sep 2002
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Mitchell Earleywine
Note: Mitchell Earleywine is an associate professor in the department of 
psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the 
author of "Understanding Marijuana" (Oxford University Press, 2002).
Bookmark: (Cannabis)

Pot Use In America



The majority of Americans support medical marijuana. Californians legalized 
it years ago. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine endorses the 
medication, and calls federal policy against this treatment "misguided" and 

A safe, inexpensive medication that effectively relieves pain, nausea and 
muscle spasms while improving appetite makes a welcome addition to our 
pharmaceutical armament.

Meanwhile, as columnist Debra J. Saunders told us ("West takes on East in 
the drug war," July 28) federal drug czar John Walters still claims that 
medical research doesn't support marijuana as medicine.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Medical marijuana began in 2737 B. 
C. The first evidence of marijuana's ability to enhance appetite goes back 
to 300 A.D. Centuries before there was a drug czar or a Proposition 215 or 
even a U.S. government, physicians knew that marijuana improved appetite.

Dr. Richard Foltin of Columbia University confirmed that effect in 1988 
when he found that men who smoked marijuana increased their intake of 
calories by 40 percent. Researchers across the nation want to provide more 
evidence to support medical marijuana, but they are blocked by bureaucratic 
hurdles. The National Institute of Drug Abuse, the sole legal source of 
marijuana for this work, has made obtaining the drug absurdly difficult. In 
short, medical marijuana does not have more research support because the 
government has squashed these investigations.

But based on the faulty assumption that marijuana is not medicine, federal 
law enforcement officers have closed local cannabis clubs. This creates a 
dilemma for the chronically ill who need this medicine. They might try to 
grow their own, but the work is difficult. The marijuana plant requires 
diligent care, including appropriate temperatures, frequent watering and a 
fight against pests. Growers live in fear their plants will be stolen or 
they will be arrested. The task is too demanding for people who are sick.

The chronically ill might try to buy marijuana on the underground market, 
but these purchases are also difficult. Few people have any idea where to 
buy pot safely. They may find themselves in dangerous settings, again 
living in fear of theft or arrest. Dependable sources may be hard to find. 
Dealers may hawk illicit drugs that would be of no help to the chronically 
ill. Each search for medicine could become anything from a draining waste 
of time to a life-threatening confrontation.

The desperate might try to go without their medicine, but this approach 
guarantees suffering. Nausea, pain and muscle spasms are no picnic. These 
symptoms ensure poor sleep and a depressed mood, which in turn make 
adhering to complex medical regimens a struggle. It's hard to remember to 
take pills every few hours while walking around in a fatigued funk. There 
are few things more unpleasant than sitting in front of a plate of food, 
watching your body waste away, wishing for a hint of an appetite. And the 
symptoms go on and on, day after day after day.

Alternative medications are often less effective, more expensive and 
riddled with side effects. This approach can make the last years of a 
person's life completely unbearable.

So these are the options: difficult, dangerous, or depressing. An 
innovative crew of lawmakers, including the San Francisco Board of Supervisors,

have come up with another choice. Cities may create ways to supply the 
medicine to chronically ill citizens, including growing their own (as 
Supervisor Mark Leno has proposed in his November ballot measure). Sure, it 
sounds crazy. But we've tried everything else.

More and more of our loved ones are suffering and wasting away. Many of us 
have watched an ill friend or relative and thought, "I am willing to do 
anything to ease this person's suffering!" Often we think this may require 
a heroic effort, like raising a million dollars or donating a kidney. In 
fact, it's much simpler than that. All we have to do is get an inexpensive 
and effective medicine that happens to be against federal law.

So now we have to ask ourselves, Are we still willing?
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MAP posted-by: Beth