Pubdate: Sun, 10 Apr 2011 Source: Birmingham News, The (AL) Copyright: 2011 Loretta Nall Contact: http://al.com/birminghamnews/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/45 Author: Loretta Nall Note: Loretta Nall is executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care. Bookmark: http://www.drugsense.org/cms/geoview/n-us-al (Alabama) DRUG WAR POLITICS HURT MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN STATE The Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act, introduced in the Alabama House late last month, will protect from arrest and prosecution physicians who recommend marijuana and patients who use marijuana as medicine. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar laws. It's time Alabama joined them. While some Alabama legislators consider this a controversial bill, it is important to point out that the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last session, although too late to progress any further, and Alabama already has a medical marijuana law on the books. In 1979, the Legislature passed the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act and established rules for medical marijuana. This can be found in the Alabama Code sections 20-2-110 through 20-2-120. The code states that medical marijuana can be used in the treatment of cancer and glaucoma. Sadly, due to drug war politics, that law was never implemented. The time has come to not only implement the existing law, but also to update it to include the most recent research, which shows that the marijuana plant is beneficial not only to people suffering from cancer and glaucoma but a whole host of other debilitating illnesses as well. New research shows that in addition to helping manage the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, medical marijuana has anti-tumor properties. Recently, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, posted information on its website admitting for the first time what the federal government has known since 1975. THC and other cannabinoids found in the whole marijuana plant induce apoptosis, inhibit angiogenesis and prevent the metastatic spreading of cancer cells. In short, marijuana kills cancer. In addition to cancer and glaucoma, scientific research shows that marijuana is also beneficial in treating the following conditions: Alzheimer's, ALS, chronic pain, diabetes, dystonia, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, GI disorders, hepatitis C, HIV, hypertension, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, PTSD and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. Aside from the obvious reasons to allow Alabama patients to use medical marijuana, there are other reasons this bill should be passed. Right now, a sentencing and drug law reform package is being debated in the House. This bill is aimed at reducing prison overcrowding by not imprisoning nonviolent, low-level drug offenders. It makes sense to take patients out of the prison equation altogether. If we aren't going to imprison recreational users because it costs too much, we certainly don't want to imprison sick people where we would not only have to pay $15,223 per year to house each one, but also pay for their medical care, which can be astronomical in cost. Besides, imprisoning patients for using a medication that not only can treat the symptoms of their illness, but cure it, is morally bankrupt and sadistically cruel. Another reason to pass this legislation is the potential tax revenue that could be generated for ailing state coffers. The Washington Times recently reported that medical marijuana revenues are currently worth about $1.7 billion. Colorado, which has a population similar in size to Alabama, raised $9 million in tax revenue last year. This is a revenue source our state could use. Patients in Alabama deserve all options when it comes to treating debilitating and sometimes deadly illnesses. These patients using medical marijuana aren't people just trying to get high. They are our mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters. They are our veterans returning from war and suffering from PTSD. And one day, they could be you. Basing access to medical marijuana on geographic location makes no sense. Diseases don't strike based on geographic location, and treatment should not be forbidden based on geographic location. Government interference in the doctor/patient relationship is nothing less than socialized medicine. We must pass this law for the people suffering from debilitating diseases now, and for those who will be diagnosed with them in years to come.