Pubdate: Fri, 09 Oct 2009
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Daily Iowan


Crawfordsville, Iowa, resident Lisa Jackson had been  taking a wide
assortment of opiates before she  experienced what she called a
two-week overdose. Not  that she'd noticed it; she was in too much
pain.  Jackson suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic condition  causing
extreme body pain and fatigue.

The opiates, legally prescribed painkillers, could not  ease her pain,
she said. Jackson contemplated suicide  until she tried marijuana --
which, she said, eased her  pain in a way the opiates couldn't.

Her testimony is not unique. Many people suffering from  chronic
conditions -- including several at Wednesday's  Iowa Pharmacy Board's
medical-marijuana hearing in Iowa  City -- have testified about
marijuana's benefits. Many  studies also affirm their sentiment.

Due to marijuana's twin benefits of easing pain and  treating illness,
the Pharmacy Board should recommend  that the Legislature legalize
medical marijuana.

Thirteen states have legalized marijuana for medicinal  purposes,
according to the nonprofit site  States have different
rules, but most allow people to  obtain a doctor's prescription and
purchase the drug at  a licensed dispensary or grow it on their own
with the  state's permission. Iowa's reluctance to follow suit is
perplexing, considering the state allows doctors to  prescribe highly
addictive and possibly dangerous drugs  such as oxycodone. An
opiate-based drug, oxycodone can  cause cardiac problems and loss of

Oxycodone is one of many opiate-based drugs available  with a
prescription. Opiates such as oxycodone are  derivatives of the same
chemicals used to make heroin,  perhaps one of the most addictive and
dangerous drugs  out there.

Marijuana's effects pale in comparison and may provide  benefits other
than pain relief. Dr. John Stamler, an  Iowa City ophthalmologist and
clinical researcher,  spoke at Wednesday's medical-marijuana hearing,
arguing  that marijuana could help treat glaucoma. The disease,  he
said, was the leading cause of blindness in America  and caused by
pressure on the cornea. Marijuana can  relieve that pressure.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said people suffering  from chronic
pain and wasting inspired him to introduce  legislation earlier this
year that would legalize  medical marijuana. The bill stalled in the
2009  session, but it remains eligible for next year's  session.

Dr. Ron Herman, a clinical associate professor in the  UI College of
Pharmacy, also testified about  marijuana's benefits and side effects.
He compiled a  series of studies over the course of 30 years and
charted different effects among people suffering  different ailments.
Herman affirmed marijuana's  benefits for glaucoma patients but also
said those same  patients experienced elevated blood pressure. He
could  provide no evidence, however, that those patients  suffered
higher incidences of stroke and heart disease.  Elevated blood
pressure was also not the norm among  glaucoma patients, he said. The
major side effects were  largely mental, Herman said, referring to
marijuana's  psychotropic effects.

Marijuana does have some dependency issues, but they  are minor
compared with legal drugs available in the  market, according to a
1998 study in the Lancet. The  study indicated marijuana dependency
occurred roughly  10 percent of the time, less than the 15 percent
dependency on alcohol and 32 percent dependency on  nicotine.
Marijuana dependency was also temporary and  the result of heavy,
chronic use, the study found.

Marijuana, like any mind-altering substance, carries  both benefits
and consequences. In marijuana's case,  however, such consequences are
usually the result of  the drug's mend-bending effects. And the
medicinal  benefits greatly outweigh any negative side effects.
Marijuana shows extreme benefits to people with chronic  pain and wasting.

The Pharmacy Board should jettison the negative  cultural stigma
against medical marijuana and recommend  its legalization. 
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