Pubdate: Sun, 13 Sep 2009
Source: Daily News Tribune (Waltham, MA)
Copyright: 2009 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Steven S. Epstein and Dr. Keith Saunders
Note: Steven S. Epstein is an attorney and Keith Saunders, PhD, is a 
Cited: MassCann
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


In 1992, Gov. William Weld signed into law the "Controlled Substance 
Therapeutic Research Act." The law requires the state to contract 
with a federally approved supplier of medicinal cannabis for 
distribution to approved patients. It is a cruel joke, for no 
administration, including the current one, has approved a supply.

Filed every session since 1991, legislation that would get the 
medicine into the hands of Massachusetts patients never gets out of 
committee. While our Legislature stalls, states comprising almost 
one-third of all Americans enacted laws that gets cannabis to 
patients without the approval of the Federal Government. The 
legislatures of Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont did it. 
This spring, over the governor's veto, the Rhode Island Legislature 
authorized the licensing of dispensaries where patients may purchase 
their medicine. Voters in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, 
Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and 
Washington passed laws effectively permitting qualified patients' 
access. These laws work.

In Congress, there is legislation that would allow states, including 
Massachusetts, to permit its growth and use for medicine, but despite 
growing bi-partisan support, it too languishes. Re-filed this past 
spring by Congressman Barney Frank, as we write only John Olver and 
James McGovern are co-sponsors. In past sessions, three other members 
of Massachusetts' delegation also co-sponsored.

As they did in working for decriminalization, MassCann members placed 
public policy questions on district ballots beginning in 2000 to 
measure public support for allowing seriously ill patients, with 
their doctor's written recommendation, to possess and grow small 
amounts for their personal medical use. That support is well over 70 
percent. Nine of our state's 10 representatives in Congress recognize 
this. They regularly vote yes on amendments to the Justice Department 
budget prohibiting the DEA from raiding dispensaries, caregivers and 
patients in compliance with their state's law. The lone holdout is 
Rep. Stephen Lynch. Prominent opponent of Question 2, Attorney 
General Martha Coakley, approved the concept during her monthly 
appearance on the Braude and Eagan Show on WTKK FM 96.9 in June.

Beacon Hill ignored the will of the voters expressed in the public 
policy questions on decriminalization of possession. The result, 65 
percent of the voters approved Question 2, a law that did not 
resemble the decriminalization proposals filed in the Legislature the 
decade before. It is unconscionable that once again, the Legislature 
and governor refuse to accept the known support of the people of the 
idea of allowing to patients a medicine that in 1988, an 
administrative law judge of the Drug Enforcement Administration 
concluded is "the safest therapeutically active substance known."

Since that finding was made, scientific research and the experience 
of hundreds of thousands of patients show it to be effective for 
controlling chronic diseases or the side effects of primary 
treatments. The testimony of patients before the Massachusetts 
legislature and elsewhere establish that patients who use 
black-market priced cannabis use it as a substitute for far more 
dangerous and expensive prescription drugs. Legalizing the medicinal 
use of cannabis is health care reform independent of the current 
focus on the cost of insurance.

It is only a question of when Massachusetts will have a real 
medicinal cannabis law. If the Legislature does not act this session 
- - the sooner the better for patients - as surely as the sun rose this 
morning, an initiative petition will be filed by an out of state 
organization on Aug. 3, 2011. On Election Day 2012, it will receive 
overwhelming approval by the people. It probably will not resemble 
House, No. 2160 or Senate, No. 1739 now before the legislature for 
the fifth time in five sessions.

We think it is important that Massachusetts' medicinal cannabis 
legislation be homegrown, to fit the culture of the Commonwealth, not 
California's. Too bad, it looks like our Legislature does not care.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake