Pubdate: Sun, 10 Apr 2011
Source: Birmingham News, The (AL)
Copyright: 2011 Loretta Nall
Author: Loretta Nall
Note: Loretta Nall is executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care.
Bookmark: (Alabama)


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.