Pubdate: Thu, 30 Apr 2009
Source: Alton Telegraph, The (IL)
Copyright: 2009 The Telegraph
Author: Laura Griffith, The Telegraph
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Opponents of the Illinois medical marijuana movement are taking
potshots at its supporters.

The opponents are speaking out in response to several recent ads
they're labeling "misinformation" as separate bills await their fate
in the Illinois Senate and House.

"There are many casualties in the Marijuana Policy Project's campaign;
the first is the truth," Dr. Andrea Barthwell, chief executive officer
of the Human Resource Development Institute, said in a news release.

HRDI is one of the largest African-American behavioral health care
organizations in the United States.

"The health and welfare of our children and the safety of our
communities are the ultimate victims when the marijuana legalization
lobby has its way," she said. "The Marijuana Policy Project is a
powerful, super-funded organization, whose ultimate goal is to
legalize marijuana."

Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy
Project, a nationwide advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said
Thursday that those allegations are "laughably false," deceiving and

The TV commercials, which were introduced in April and began running
in the Chicago, Peoria, and Decatur/Springfield/Champaign areas,
feature testimonials from two real patients in Illinois regarding the
use of medical marijuana.

The ads can be viewed at

"Seriously ill patients like Lisa (Lange Van Camp of Lindenhurst) and
Lucie (Macfarlane of Joliet) should not have to fear being arrested
for using a medicine that can, and has, helped them," said state Sen.
William Haine, D-Alton, who previously served four terms as Madison
County state's attorney and is sponsor of the Senate medical marijuana
bill. "It is our hope that my colleagues in the Senate will recognize
that there are many patients out there who could benefit from this
legislation and pass this sensible, compassionate bill."

Medical marijuana can be ingested three ways - smoking, vaporizing or
eating - and would be prescribed for seriously ill patients to help
with severe pain and some other ailments.

Users would need a recommendation from a medical doctor in order to
possess marijuana plants, and then would be required to purchase an
identification card to have them.

Haine said the bill, along with its many amendments at this stage,
includes a number of safeguards to make sure marijuana doesn't get
into the wrong hands.

Still, opponents worry that the bill, should it become law, would
expand the influences of drug cartels.

"That's plainly ridiculous," Haine said.

"If anything, it will take business away from cartels and gangs,
because patients won't have to get it on the street," Mirken said.

Others argue that legalizing pot would send a message to children that
marijuana is a medication and, therefore, must be safe.

Haine disagreed and pointed out that part of the identification card
fee would go into an education fund to warn children about the dangers
of substance abuse, including abuse of marijuana.

He said his experience as a state's attorney allows him to see and
understand concerns from a law enforcement perspective, and because of
that, he has added a number of amendments to ensure that the bill does
not become a road to legalization and that it actually decreases abuse
of the drug. These amendments include a reduction in the number of
plants a patient would be allowed to possess to three, and severe
penalties for those who misuse.

One other safeguard is that the law would "sunset," or expire, in
three years, so that legislators could look at its effects on society
and determine whether to keep it in place.

"California's (law) was a referendum placed on the ballot in sloppy
fashion. There are problems with that," Haine said. "We have taken
care to avoid those problems."

Haine said many opponents simply refuse to believe marijuana ever
could do any good, because they worry that it is addictive and that
it's a gateway drug.

"Gateway to what? Most of these people are dying for God's sake," he
said. "I strongly suggest (opponents) read the bill."

Haine's bill can be read in full at:

"We know that our efforts can nowhere near match the Marijuana Policy
Project's upcoming media barrage, but we are hopeful that the truth
will prevail," said Judy Kreamer, president of Educating Voices Inc.,
an organization dedicated to educating citizens about the dangers of

Opponents have pointed to National Survey on Drug Use and Health
reports that all 12 states that enacted medical marijuana laws prior
to 2008 remain above the national average for youth past-month
marijuana use (6.02 percent), with the three highest rates in the
country being Maine (10.99 percent), Montana (10.56 percent) and
Vermont (10.08) percent.

But medical marijuana advocates have statistics of their

"(The opponents are) ignoring a dozen years' real world experience,"
Mirken said.

In 11 states that have had laws in place long enough to have gathered
proper statistics, teen marijuana use actually has gone down, he said.

"It's a fact that today's marijuana is much more powerful and much
more addictive than it was a generation ago," Barthwell said. "Over
seven million Americans suffer from illegal drug dependence, and more
than 60 percent are dependent on or are abusing marijuana."

Mirken said that while average potency may have gone up, that only
means that patients who need to smoke marijuana don't have to smoke as
much to feel the benefits.

"There's no evidence that it makes it more addictive," he

"No one has ever died from marijuana overdose," Haine said. "People
have died from Oxycontin use when it's prescribed."

Haine said the deadline for a vote was supposed to be today, but time
is needed to consider amendments that would further refine the bill.

The new deadline won't come for a few weeks, although Haine said he
doesn't think he'll need that long and plans to bring the bill to the
Senate floor for a vote sometime next week.

He said he hopes his peers will look at scientific facts, read the
bill carefully and have compassion for patients who could benefit from
the use of medical marijuana. 
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