Pubdate: Mon, 04 May 2009
Source: Citizens' Voice, The (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Copyright: 2009 The Citizens' Voice
Author: Kent Jackson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Bill Waschko reached to the shelf of vintage medicine bottles at his 
family's century-old drug store in Hazleton and pulled down one 
labeled "Cannabis."

The powdered extract of marijuana was bottled by Eli Lilly and Co., 
but although the bottle is empty and the label has no date, marijuana 
was a legal drug around the country until 1937.

A bill in the state House of Representatives would make marijuana 
legal again for medical uses, emulating action already taken in 13 
states and also proposed in New York and New Jersey.

The Pennsylvania bill, sponsored by Reps. Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, 
and Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, would set up compassion centers for 
growing and distributing marijuana to patients who had registered 
identification cards. Physicians would give written statements to 
patients whom they believe would benefit medically from using 
marijuana, but they would not write prescriptions, which could 
subject them to federal prosecution.

They would have a (marijuana) clinic like a methadone clinic," 
suggested George Waschko, Bill's brother and the pharmacist at 
Waschko's Pharmacy.

George Waschko said the possible medical uses of marijuana include 
treating glaucoma and nausea caused by chemotherapy given to cancer patients.

The bill also lists marijuana as a treatment for wasting due to AIDS 
and for chronic pain, seizures and Crohn's disease.

Tom Dougherty, a pharmacist at Valley Pharmacy in Sugarloaf, 
remembers marijuana was in the dispensary at Albert Einstein Medical 
Center in Philadelphia while he was a student.

It sat there. We had to count it every month. We never used it," 
Dougherty said.

Dougherty wonders whether there is a great medical need for marijuana 
or whether it would be "an orphan drug where you have six patients 
who need it in Pennsylvania."

The Medical Board of California, which in 1996 became the first state 
to re-legalize marijuana, issued a statement in 2004 calling medical 
marijuana an emerging treatment.

Ed Pane, director of Serento Gardens Alcoholism and Drug Services in 
Hazleton, supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes only and 
said numerous patients might benefit from it.

He said marijuana can reduce vomiting in chemotherapy patients, and 
treat migraines and the spasms of multiple sclerosis, "which can be 
extremely painful."

Three hundred thousand Americans have multiple sclerosis, and 1.25 
million people are diagnosed yearly with cancer, Pane wrote in a 
paper this fall for a class he is taking while earning a master's degree.

Marijuana "helps individuals to put on weight and handle food and 
cuts down on the need for pain medication by enhancing what the 
person is taking. It doesn't make the medication stronger to the 
point of overdose, but makes it more effective," Pane said in an 
interview Friday.

While 32,000 people die yearly from prescription medicines, including 
overdoses and allergic reactions, no one ever has died from an 
overdose of marijuana, he said.

States can make money by taxing medical marijuana and save the 
expenses of prosecuting patients who use marijuana, but Pane still 
wants Pennsylvania to prohibit abuse of the drug.

Street dealing under any guise needs to be illegal," he said. "From 
my standpoint, it breaks my heart when I see kids using it. They're 
not going to grow up emotionally. It becomes a means of handling problems."
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