Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2012
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2012 Roanoke Times
Author:  Michael Krawitz
Note:  Krawitz is a director of Virginians Against Drug Violence and 
executive director of the national notfor-profit, veterans patient 
advocacy organization, Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access.


A very interesting and important piece of legislation is soon to be 
heard in the Rules Committee of the Virginia House of Delegates. 
House Joint Resolution 139 calls for our Virginia governor to contact 
the United States federal Drug Enforcement Administration to 
officially request cannabis, aka marijuana, be removed from Schedule1 
and placed in Schedule2.

H.J.139 is proposed by Virginia Del. David Englin and very much 
deserves our support.

Cannabis has been recognized by Virginia law as a legal medicine 
since 1979 with the passage of state law 18.2-251.1, which allows for 
cannabis as a treatment of glaucoma and cancer. In 1999, a disabled 
veteran named Brian Murphy attempted to use the state law as a 
defense for his use of cannabis for his neurological-based medical conditions.

The Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Murphy couldn't use the 
statute in his defense because the legislature had limited legal 
access to cannabis to just glaucoma and cancer treatment and referred 
him back to the legislature for much needed revision to this age-old 
law based upon the new science that is available.

With the discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid receptor system, 
cannabis' effect on the human body is now better understood than ever 
before. This explosion of new science prompted the U.S. government to 
patent cannabinoids. U.S. Patent # 6,630,507 states unequivocally, 
"Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, 
unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This newfound property makes 
cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety 
of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, 
inflammatory and autoimmune diseases."

The fact that the U.S. federal government still lists cannabis as a 
Schedule1 drug, which by definition means the plant material is 
devoid of any medical benefit whatsoever, causes many problems for 
patients and researchers across the country and especially in 
Virginia, where our state law still uses the language of 
prescriptions, which are technically illegal to write under federal law.

The American Medical Association recently recommended cannabis be 
removed from federal Schedule 1, stating in part, "Results of 
short-term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces 
neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in 
patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and 
pain in patients with multiple sclerosis."

As a disabled veteran, I am denied services at the Veterans 
Administration hospital because ever since 2010 the VA has adopted a 
policy on medical marijuana that hands off responsibility of treating 
veterans' medical conditions with cannabis to the states. The 
directive requires the VA to not punish veterans who use cannabis per 
state law, but it doesn't do anything to help veterans unlucky enough 
to live in a state like Virginia that disrespects our medical needs.

Years ago, Virginians Against Drug Violence worked with the Virginia 
Tech Quality of Life surveys and found consistently between 70 and 
80percent of Virginia voters are in support of controlled medical 
access to cannabis, and these numbers are echoed by many national 
surveys on the subject. It is time that Virginia stand behind our own 
state law, our medical patients, the majority of voters and the 
American Medical Association on this issue of medical access to cannabis.

Please contact your representative in Richmond and let your voice be 
heard in support of H.J. 139.

By Michael Krawitz
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom