Pubdate: Thu, 17 Mar 2005
Source: Auburn Plainsman, The (Auburn U, AL Edu)
Address: B-100 Foy Student Union, Auburn University, AL 36849-5542
Fax: (334) 844-4110
Copyright: 2005 The Auburn Plainsman
Author: Cara Parell, Senior Reporter


Some mornings Laura Campbell wakes up with pain so severe that leaving her 
bed hardly seems like an option. But unlike most sufferers of chronic pain, 
Campbell can't reach over to her nightstand and pop a pill.

She is allergic to nearly 95 percent of pain medications, including 
morphine, Demerol and Codeine.

So she finds relief with a drug that isn't available with a prescription ­ 
at least not in Alabama.

To manage her pain, Campbell, a 32-year-old mother of three and Cullman 
resident, smokes marijuana several times a week.

Campbell said the illegal substance is her only option for pain management.

"If I take pain medication, I'm going to vomit and go to sleep," she said. 
"With three children, I can't do that."

Campbell's only other options are Marinol, a pill formulation of the active 
ingredient in marijuana, THC and methadone.

Campbell said she and her doctor considered Marinol, but its price­ $400 a 
month­ was too expensive. And Methadone, a synthetic narcotic used to treat 
drug withdrawal, seemed too extreme to Campbell.

"Isn't methadone for people coming off crack?" Campbell responded to her 
doctor after mention of the drug. "It's pretty much ruled out."

She started getting sick four and a half years ago and suffers from three 
forms of arthritis, which cause pain throughout her body and in all of her 
major joints, she said.

She has fibromyalgia syndrome, a muscoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder, 
with ailments that include fevers, achiness, irritable bowel syndrome and 
lack of tolerance to extreme sunlight.

Campbell also has chronic fatigue syndrome and idiopathic hypersomnia, 
which is similar to narcolepsy and causes excessive sleepiness during the day.

In connection with the idiopathic hypersomnia, Campbell has restless leg 
syndrome, which makes her legs twitch at night and prevents her from 
experiencing deep sleep.

"There's no cure," she said. "It's like having a bad toothache. It won't 
kill you, but sometimes you wish it would."

Campbell already takes six prescription medications for her multiple health 

After researching her options, four months ago Campbell chose marijuana to 
treat her pain and has been happy with the results.

"Marijuana helped the irritable bowel syndrome, and I was able to keep 
weight on," she said. "I sleep better, my nerves are not as bad and it 
stops the pain without any other negative side effects. The only downside 
is the smoking thing."

Campbell said she mainly smokes the drug because it produces the fastest 

Campbell said her three doctors support her choice and have noticed change.

She said sometimes she has to travel to Birmingham to get her marijuana.

"Unfortunately that's the seedy part, instead of going to the pharmacy 
where it's safe," she said. "I could lose my kids, my house, my car."

In an effort to legalize the drug, Campbell has sent letters to federal and 
state lawmakers like President George W. Bush; Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; 
and Gov. Bob Riley. She has yet to receive a response.

"If they have an answer, they won't say it," Campbell said. "They don't 
want to be pot advocates, but they know there are people who could use it."

She also contacted the district attorney's office, whose advice, she said, 
was to have the marijuana delivered to avoid arrest.

"I'm stuck being a lawbreaker, but I have no other choices," she said. 
"Either I can have a quality of life and be a lawbreaker or not break the 
law and not have a quality of life."

Campbell's next step is to testify before state lawmakers when the House 
considers a bill in the next few weeks to legalize medicinal marijuana use.

The Compassionate Use Act for Medical Marijuana will be introduced by Rep. 
Laura Hall, D-Madison, and if passed would add Alabama to a small but 
growing list of states that allow medical marijuana use.

The bill stipulates the use of marijuana with a doctor's prescription, and 
the drug could only be prescribed for certain conditions like AIDS.

"The fact that a single mother of three children is willing to risk arrest, 
prosecution and jail in order to obtain pain relief should speak volumes to 
Alabama state legislators about the effectiveness of medical marijuana," 
said Loretta Nall, founder of the Alabama Marijuana Party and president of 
the U.S. Marijuana Party. Nall is engaged in lobbying legislators to 
approve the bill.

Dr. Michael Saag, Director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's 
Center for AIDS Research, works with AIDS patients who are outlined in the 
bill as potential benefactors of legalization of the drug.

He supports legalization for medicinal purposes, saying marijuana as a 
medicine has "definitive medical benefit for patients who have wasting, 
loss of appetite and persistent nausea."

"Testimony to its medicinal effect is the development and approval of 
Marinol for those indications," Saag said. "I cannot imagine a logical 
rationale regarding why marijuana is not allowed as a prescription drug."

Saag said risks associated with smoking marijuana on a regular basis 
include lung irritation and long term potential hazards like asthma and 
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