Pubdate: Sun, 04 Jan 2004
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2004 The Orange County Register
Author: Rick L. Root
Note: The Westminster resident is operations manager for a machinery 
manufacturer in Santa Ana and a drug policy reform activist.


Finally, Bob Dornan has made himself useful. In making medical marijuana 
the focus in his attempt to take Dana Rohrabacher's seat in Congress, 
Dornan has opened up a debate that's long overdue. The issue is normally 
considered a political third rail and is purposely avoided in elections, so 
the electorate is denied the opportunity to hear any meaningful debate. 
Hopefully over the next few months, this debate will educate voters on the 
science and truths concerning marijuana and expose the myths and spins that 
prevent a rational national policy toward marijuana as medicine.

In this debate, letter-writer Trish McDonald ["Rohrabacher panders to the 
pro-pot lobby," Dec. 26] took Rep. Rohrabacher to task for his position in 
support of medical marijuana while making comments based on lack of full 
knowledge on the subject and guided by political spin.

Her claim that "there are several prescription drugs that increase appetite 
more effectively than inhaling carcinogenic smoke" is simply not a blanket 
truth. First, today's patients have available to them vaporization delivery 
methods that heat the marijuana to a point below combustion temperature but 
hot enough to release the cannabinoids for inhalation. Inhalation is the 
method of delivery most effective for most patients. Even when smoked, 
though, the quantities consumed are far less than those consumed from legal 
sources of possible carcinogenics.

Further, as to the safety issue, more than 100,000 people a year die from 
the use of prescription drugs. Even aspirin causes hundreds of deaths each 
year. Every prescription drug comes with disclaimers telling us who can and 
who can't use the drug and detailing possible deadly side effects. By 
contrast, marijuana has never caused a single death. In a National 
Institute on Drug Abuse-sponsored study, it was found that "a smoker would 
theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within 15 
minutes to induce a lethal response."

This study is what led DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young to 
rule in a 1998 rescheduling petition that "marijuana, in its natural form, 
is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any 
measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a 
supervised routine of medical care." Unfortunately, the DEA made a 
political decision to deny the rescheduling petition as well as the facts 

As for replacing prescription drugs, marijuana does indeed more effectively 
increase appetite for many patients, as well as being more effective for a 
host of other symptoms.

I know of AIDS patients who can't keep down the cocktail of prescription 
drugs needed daily to combat the disease's advances without the 
nausea-suppressing effects of inhaled marijuana. The government-approved 
alternative to marijuana, Marinol, is just another pill that comes up with 
the rest of them and does little toward helping the appetite.

I know of multiple sclerosis patients who suffer chronic pain and 
uncontrollable muscle spasms even while using prescribed corporate drugs 
but who can lead normal lives, free of the pain and spasms common to the 
disease, through the use of inhaled marijuana. Often, the corporate drugs, 
even though effective for the intended symptoms, cause other symptoms for 
many patients.

That happened with my childhood friend, Richard Hare. He died of brain 
cancer in 1994. He had two legal choices in the last few months of his 
life. He could live in constant, excruciating pain and discomfort from the 
procedures used to keep him alive or he could take morphine and live out 
his last days as a zombie. He chose to defy government know-it-alls and use 
marijuana. He lived out his final days with a better quality of life than 
what was legally available to him at the time.

That's what it's all about - the freedom to improve one's quality of life; 
the very essence of liberty. No politician ought to dictate to any other 
person a definition of liberty or a definition of quality of life. The 
shame is that opponents of medical marijuana will twist and spin facts to 
advance their own political cause to a public all too naive on the subject 
and all too willing to believe the drug war propaganda that is today's 
reefer madness.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart