Pubdate: Sat, 23 Sep 2006
Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
Copyright: 2006 Ashland Daily Tidings
Author: Robert Plain, Ashland Daily Tidings
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Robert Kridel Is 53 Years Old, Confined To A Wheelchair And In 
Constant, Agonizing Pain.

Eight years ago he cut off his finger while working on an engine and 
after it was sewed back on he contracted tetanus, the bacteria that 
causes what used to be known as lockjaw.

"My muscles have been turned into rope," he said. "They don't 
respond. I can't believe the pain I experience."

He takes a host of pharmaceutical drugs to reduce the pain and 
discomfort. To deal with the side effects of the pharmaceutical 
drugs, he smokes marijuana.

Kridel is one of the 1,038 Jackson County residents -- there are 
11,143 state-wide as of July of this year -- who can legally use 
marijuana for medical reasons.

"It's a tool in the tool box that people should be able to use," he 
said. "When you look at all the narcotics I take every day, pot is a 

He smokes pot for the nausea his pharmaceutical drugs cause. Without 
it, he said, he would have no appetite and would slowly waste away to nothing.

In November of 1998, Oregonians passed a law that stated, in part, 
"Patients and doctors have found marijuana to be an effective 
treatment for suffering caused by debilitating medical conditions, 
and therefore, marijuana should be treated like other medicines."

But after eight years of being legal in Oregon, medical marijuana is 
still largely misunderstood. Federal law considers marijuana to be 
illegal, despite the fact that 11 states have approved it for medical 
purposes. And many mainstream doctors refuse to endorse it, even 
though it was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, the official public 
standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the-counter 
medicines, from 1850 to 1942, and a recent Supreme Court decision -- 
Conant v. Walters -- protects doctors from prosecution.

Despite the law, and the numerous sick Oregonians who benefit from 
it, law enforcement is still largely unconvinced.

Detective Randy Snow of the Ashland Police Department thinks most 
people in the state medical marijuana program are using the system to 
obtain otherwise illegal drugs.

"It definitely increases the difficulty for us because of those who 
would abuse the system," he said. "That is what is mostly happening 
with medical marijuana."

Jeanette Carpenter disagrees. She said most people -- police included 
- -- don't understand the extent of marijuana's medicinal properties.

She smokes pot to relieve her asthma. Though this may seem 
counterintuitive, marijuana acts as an expectorant. In other words, 
the quality of marijuana that makes people cough actually helps to 
clear her lungs of her sickness.

"Some mornings I have a hard time breathing until I expel the mucous 
in my lungs," said the 63-year-old grandmother of six. "Generally I 
don't have to smoke too much."

Carpenter tries to live a healthy lifestyle and eats mostly organic, 
whole foods. For this reason, she prefers using marijuana to the 
albuterol asthma inhalers that mainstream doctors prescribe. "It kept 
congestion in my lungs," she said. "Why should I want to use 
something that would worsen my medical condition?"

Though she has used marijuana recreationally since the 1960s, the 
plant took on a different meaning to her when she learned it could 
help with her asthma.

"Over time I have learned to respect the medicinal properties of 
marijuana," she said. "I think we should all try to get away from the 
recreational aspect of it and come to understand the medicinal properties."

According to Geri Kulp, a former Ashland resident who helped to write 
the initial medical marijuana law in Oregon, Carpenter and Kridel are 
some of the more lucky ones because they know someone who will 
produce pot for them.

A big shortcoming in Oregon's medical marijuana law, she said, is 
that patients either have to grow it themselves or recruit someone to 
grow it for them for free. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act does not 
allow growers to be compensated for their efforts.

"There are a lot of people who see it as a calling," she said about 
these good-natured growers.

Kulp is a volunteer with Voter Power, an organization that hosts 
medical marijuana clinics around the state, including in Medford. She 
said they have set up a network of growers to produce pot for needy 
patients. "We give it to them," she said, noting that she has met 
people with their medical marijuana cards who couldn't obtain it.

Voter Power is currently working to institute a dispensary system in 
Oregon, as is used in California. A dispensary would give patients a 
place where they could legally obtain medical marijuana, Kulp said.

"The biggest stumbling block to someone who has just been diagnosed 
with cancer is they can't get it," she said. "Under the current law 
you need to either grow it yourself or have someone give it to you."

Kulp said it is largely untrue that many people in the program aren't 
really sick. "You can't legally grow enough to make it profitable," 
she said. "Unless someone is really sick, they aren't going to go 
through the trouble."

But she admitted, "It hasn't deterred the people who were growing and 
selling marijuana illegally before the medical marijuana act was passed."

Perhaps the one point activists like Kulp and law enforcement 
officers like Detective Randy Snow can agree on is that everyone 
would benefit if greed and marijuana could be separated.

Kulp said the abuse that does happen "all gets back to greed."

Snow agreed. "We don't have any problems with people who truly need 
medicine," he said. "If we could take the greed out of it, it 
wouldn't be an issue for us."
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MAP posted-by: Elaine