Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: The Associated Press, and Clarke Morrison, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: ( Raich v. Gonzales)

Top Court Ruling Unlikely to Lead to Legal Woes for Patients Who Use Pot


WASHINGTON -- Anyone who lights up a joint for medicinal purposes
isn't likely to be pursued by federal authorities, despite a Supreme
Court ruling that these marijuana users could face federal charges,
people on both sides of the issue say.

In a 6-3 decision, the court Monday said those who smoke marijuana
because their doctors recommend it to ease pain can be prosecuted for
violating federal drug laws, overriding medical marijuana statutes in
10 states.

While the justices expressed sympathy for two seriously ill California
women who brought the case, the majority agreed that federal agents
may arrest even sick people who use the drug as well as the people who
grow pot for them.

Dr. Ronald Friedman, an Asheville oncologist and former board member
of Mountain Area Hospice, said he strongly disagrees with the ruling.

"I can't imagine why the federal government would be interested in
prosecuting people for small amounts of medicinal marijuana," he said.
"It clearly is beneficial to the right kind of patient.

"There is no long-term danger to people who may have six months to
live. For those selected patients, it's an alternative. I think most
oncologists would agree with that."

Friedman said he sometimes prescribes Marinol, a medication taken
orally that contains the active ingredient found in marijuana, and he
would prescribe the natural form of the drug if it were legal in North

Patients have told him that smoking marijuana helps relieve symptoms
including nausea and pain, he said.

"Sometimes it works when nothing else works," Friedman

Dr. James Biddle, an Asheville internist, said he doesn't know if
marijuana is a useful medicine because he has no experience with it.
However, he said he doesn't understand why it is illegal.

"It doesn't make sense to me that opiates like morphine are useful and
they are legal to prescribe, but for some reason marijuana is not
legal even as a controlled substance, even if there is evidence that
it's useful," Biddle said. "It seems that they are biased against
natural products of all kinds." 
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