Pubdate: Wed, 11 May 2005
Copyright: 2005 Washington Examiner
Source: Washington Examiner (DC)
Page: A19
Copyright: 2005 Washington Examiner
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation 
in Washington, DC.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Imagine there was a nontoxic medication available that provided symptomatic 
relief for a litany of serious and life-threatening diseases, including 
cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis. Imagine that thousands of ill 
Americans were successfully using this medicine under the supervision of 
their physician. Now imagine that the US government was withholding this 
medication and threatening to incarcerate those patients who benefit from 
its use.

We don't have to imagine such a scenario. The medicine is cannabis, and for 
those tens of thousands of Americans who use it therapeutically, 
Washington's recalcitrance on this issue is a grim reality.

Fortunately, this attitude may be changing. US Representatives Barney 
Frank, D-Mass., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., Ron Paul, 
R-Tex. and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. sponsored bi-partisan legislation 
this week to provide for the medical use of cannabis in accordance with the 
laws of various states. The bill, HR 2087, would reclassify marijuana under 
federal law to recognize its medical utility and enable physicians to 
legally prescribe it under controlled circumstances.

Most importantly, this legislation would afford patients legal protection 
under federal law by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I (criminally 
prohibited drug) to a Schedule II (prescription-only substance) and permit 
those states that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems 
the legal authority to do so. Congressional passage of this legislation is 
long overdue.

Since 1996, voters and legislatures in 11 states have passed laws exempting 
patients who use cannabis under a physician's supervision from state 
criminal penalties. These laws do not legalize the recreational use of 
marijuana; they merely provide a narrow exemption from state prosecution 
for defined patients who possess and use medical cannabis under their 
doctor's supervision.  So far, available evidence indicates that these laws 
are functioning as voters intended and abuses are minimal.

As the success of these statewide campaigns suggest, the American public 
clearly distinguishes between the medical use and the recreational use of 
cannabis and a large majority support legalizing medical use for seriously 
ill patients. A CNN/Time Magazine poll found that 80 percent of Americans 
support making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe. 
Similar support has been demonstrated among both Democrat and Republican 
voters in every state and nationwide poll that has been conducted on the 
issue since 1996. Arguably, few other policy issues share the unequivocal 
support of the American public as this one.

The medical community is also solidly behind the medicinal access to 
marijuana. According to a recent national survey of US physicians conducted 
for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, nearly half of all doctors 
with an opinion on the subject support legalizing marijuana as a medicine. 
Moreover, more than 80 state and national health care organizations, 
including the American Nurses Association, American Public Health 
Association and The New England Journal of Medicine, support immediate, 
legal patient access to medical cannabis.

Inexplicably, the federal government has responded to this reality by 
threatening doctors with arrest, prosecuting seriously ill patients and 
stonewalling research of cannabis' medicinal value. This federal 
obfuscation must come to an end.

House Bill 2087 is not a mandate from Washington and does not require any 
state to amend its current laws. It is a states' rights bill that reflects 
the will of the American people as well as the scientific and medical 
communities and would allow states to determine for themselves whether 
cannabis should be legal for medicinal use. It is a common sense solution 
to a complex issue and deserves Congressional hearings and support. For 
those thousands of seriously ill patients who rely on the medicinal use of 
cannabis, it is unconscionable for Congress to do otherwise.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake