Pubdate: Mon, 12 May 2008
Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)
Copyright: 2008 Post-Bulletin Company, LLC
Author:  Anthony Clark
Note: Clark is a Rochester resident.


I was disappointed to read the Post-Bulletin's editorial opposing the 
medical marijuana bill ("Is Minnesota ready for marijuana as 
medicine?" April 24). As seems to frequently be the case in 
discussions of the issue, the editorial touched on numerous aspects 
but ignored the most relevant -- the seriously ill patients who would 
be most affected. The fact is that this legislation could 
dramatically improve my quality of life.

I was diagnosed with intra-abdominal desmoplastic small round-cell 
cancer, a sarcoma that forms on connective tissue in the abdomen. 
When I was diagnosed, there were only 80 known cases known in the world.

I was told by doctors in Minneapolis -- where I was born and raised 
- -- that there was nothing that they could do. However, I was treated 
successfully at the Mayo Clinic here in Rochester, where I now live 
so I can be close to my doctors. This may sound like a great outcome 
- -- and it is, though bittersweet. I had to give up a lot of me to be 
here. I have had three reoccurrences, requiring several surgeries, 
chemotherapy, and radiation.

When treated with chemotherapy drugs, it was very difficult to keep 
my appetite up and my food down. I was given prescription drugs for 
the nausea and vomiting, but they made me sicker still. I would get 
involuntary dry heave attacks after chemotherapy, which were very 
painful and generally lasted half an hour.

After my third chemotherapy treatment, I took the advice of friends 
and acquired some marijuana to smoke when I arrived home. When the 
predictable attack started, I smoked a miniscule amount, literally 
two or three puffs, and my diaphragm relaxed and the heaving stopped. 
In contrast to the awful side effects of the prescription drugs, I 
simply became relaxed and, most amazingly of all, hungry for the 
first time in ages.

My doctors have repeatedly stressed how important it is for me to eat 
so that I could continue fighting the cancer, and marijuana was a 
welcome ally in this fight. If nothing else, I want to soldier on so 
that doctors would have data to help others combat this cruel form of cancer.

Additionally, medical marijuana helped my outcome because the 
positive results gave me hope. I could keep my weight, reduce my 
pain, and get to sleep. It's simply cruel and unethical to deny those 
in similar situations a way to relieve their pain and reduce complications.

In answer to the question in the editorial's title: Yes, the time has 
come for a compassionate medical marijuana law in the state. 
Minnesotans are not only "ready" for such a move, but polling 
indicates we support it by a 2 to 1 margin.

And while I appreciate the Post-Bulletin's concern about cost and the 
fact that insurance won't pay for medical marijuana, you can be sure 
that I would rather spend some money than die from my illness. While 
a few might not be able to afford medical marijuana, those who can 
use it should not face arrest and jail. Thousands of patients in 
states with medical laws are benefiting from them today.

Similarly, the concern that a medical marijuana law would somehow 
interfere with drug company research into marijuana-related drugs is 
absurd. There will always be a market for pharmaceuticals that 
insurance will cover. Companies are indeed working on such drugs, but 
they are years away from being available. And there is a simple plant 
product that can help patients today, just as it helped me.

People are suffering, and we let them continue to suffer because we 
wrongly think that prescription drugs are the answer to everything. 
As someone who has taken more than my share, I can tell you that they are not.

I hope that our elected officials never have to be in a situation 
that would necessitate the use of medical marijuana, but, if they 
were, I would hope it would be a safe and legal option for them, 
without being forced to break the law as I have done. From my own 
experience, I firmly believe this bill could save lives.

Clark is a Rochester resident.
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