Pubdate: Fri, 26 Oct 2012
Source: Patriot Ledger, The  (Quincy, MA)
Copyright: 2012 GateHouse Media, Inc.
Author: Jack Encarnacao


The group pushing to legalize marijuana for medicinal uses in
Massachusetts says that if the ballot question is approved, the state
will become a national model for how to allow access to the drug
without it being abused.

The Committee for Compassionate Medicine touts the initiative's limit
on the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed in the state - 35 -
and its felony charge for those caught defrauding the system to obtain
marijuana. The crime would be punishable by up to five years in prison.

Voters Nov. 6 will decide on a ballot question that would legalize
marijuana for patients suffering from a debilitating medical condition
such as cancer.

The law would allow patients to possess up to a 60-day supply of
marijuana for their personal medical use. The state Department of
Public Health, which licenses physicians and pharmacists, would be
tasked with deciding what amount of marijuana would constitute a
60-day supply.

Matt Allen, director of the Committee for Compassionate Medicine, said
marijuana can help people suffering from a range of maladies,
including nerve damage or pain from cancer treatments.

"The science is clear. These patients can benefit from access to
medical marijuana," Allen told The Patriot Ledger's editorial board
Thursday. "Many of them would like to have the option to discuss with
doctors and potentially use it, as they can in 17 other states. These
are real people."

Allen was accompanied Thursday by Jerome Smith, a 43-year-old medical
marijuana user from Fall River who was paralyzed below the waist in a
car accident.

Smith said his muscle spasms subsided after he began using marijuana,
which he puts in cookies and candy or vaporizes and inhales. He also
said the drug relieves pain and other problems without the
immobilizing effects of prescription painkillers like OxyContin.

"I've been able to come off at least seven different medications," he
said. "It's allowed me to be a dad again."

Opponents of the initiative, including Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch and
Quincy state Sen. John Keenan, say it is rife with potential for abuse
and makes it too easy for drug distributors to get access to marijuana.

Because marijuana is illegal, doctors can't write prescriptions for it
as they can other medicines. They can only make "recommendations" to
patients in states that allow medical marijuana. Because of this, some
critics worry that marijuana will not be monitored by the state as
closely as often-abused prescription drugs.

Allen said medical marijuana usage would be simple for law enforcement
and state officials to track through a registration process dictated
by the ballot question.

He said the Department of Public Health would have discretion to
decide on appropriate dosages as well as procedures to ensure doctors
are legitimately recommending the drug.

"The fact is, if we tried to put all these parameters in the
initiative itself, it would be hundreds of pages and no one would
understand it," he said.

While it has received modest donations from individuals across the
state, The Committee for Compassionate Medicine is in large part
funded by $465,000 in contributions from Peter Lewis, a retired chief
executive of Progressive Insurance. Allen said Lewis has supported
medical marijuana since he began using it after part of his leg was
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