Pubdate: Wed, 16 Sep 2009
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2009 The Honolulu Advertiser
Author: David Shapiro
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


In another example of the Legislature's inability to focus on the 
most pressing issues of the day, a new dispute has flared up between 
lawmakers and Gov. Linda Lingle over medical marijuana.

Legislators led by 'Ewa Beach Sen. Will Espero and Rep. Joe Bertram 
III of Maui are squawking about Lingle's refusal to convene a task 
force lawmakers authorized over her veto to study the obstacles 
patients encounter when trying to obtain pot for medical use.

Lingle, who has the power to manage state resources in the current 
budget shortfall, determined that the task force is of too little 
priority to be bothered with while core state programs are in crisis. 
Bertram and Espero plan to form their own working group to study the 
matter, which only proves Lingle's point that a task force wasn't needed.

The medical value of marijuana is a matter of dispute among doctors, 
but some patients swear by it for relieving the symptoms of diseases 
including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, severe nausea and seizures.

Hawai'i law allows medical use of marijuana, but only if patients get 
a prescription from a doctor and grow it themselves. Some bills 
introduced by legislators in the past would have the government all 
but grow the reefer for them and roll their joints.

This is an issue affecting relatively few people who are capable of 
seeing to their own needs by either growing their pot or acquiring it 
on the market. Neither local nor federal authorities are prosecuting 
medical marijuana at this point.

I had no trouble getting it that way when friends persuaded me over 
the skepticism of my doctor that marijuana might alleviate the nausea 
from a treatment I was taking for my multiple sclerosis, and possibly 
help with the underlying disease.

My doctor turned out to be right. The pot did me no harm, but I found 
the buzz to be of zero medicinal value.

It's difficult to take marijuana seriously as a medical substance. It 
hasn't been rigorously studied like other drugs or vetted by the U.S. 
Food and Drug Administration.

It's a weed that's pulled out of the ground and taken in uneven doses 
by a variety of decidedly nonmedical means, including smoking it and 
eating it in brownies. There's no control over the purity of the pot 
or the concentration of its THC, the active ingredient.

It's kind of like getting your penicillin by chewing mold. How much 
infection would that fend off?

That said, marijuana is a relatively benign substance, and people 
with debilitating diseases who find comfort in it should be allowed 
to use it if they wish.

But there's a difference between the government allowing its use and 
promoting its use, as Bertram and Espero seem to want. And there's a 
limit to the service patients can expect from government in terms of 
holding their roach clips for them.

Critics are suspicious that the push for medical marijuana is an 
attempt to get a foot in the door for full legalization of commercial 
production and sales.

If that's the issue, let's have the discussion up front instead of 
trying to sneak in the back door. It might even be a relevant topic 
in these times, with its potential to generate economic activity and 
tax revenue.

But on the narrow matter of medical marijuana, there's no way this 
fringe issue deserves to jump to the front of the line at a time of 
shrinking government services and far more compelling needs to attend 
to - like the people threatened with losing life-saving chemo-therapy 
and dialysis.
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