Pubdate: Sat, 21 Dec 2013
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2013 The Advertiser Co.
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Brian Lyman


Advocates Say Survey Shows Doctor Support

At some point during last spring's legislative session, the Medical
Association of the State of Alabama conducted a survey of physicians
on their attitudes toward medical marijuana, apparently at the request
of the House Health Committee

That much is agreed on between MASA and medical marijuana advocates.
They differ on what that survey showed.

Over the past week, medical marijuana advocates have been
carpet-bombing officials with MASA and the state with form emails
urging the release of the survey, which to date has not been publicly

"Alabama Safe Access Project (ASAP) has long thought that the reason
that the results of the survey have never been released is because
they did not yield the results that (House Health Committee chair Jim)
McClendon and (MASA president Dr. Michael) Flanagan had hoped for,"
reads one such letter. "This week we have been told that is the case."

But MASA says the survey did not reveal any new information.

"There was a survey done," said Niko Corley, a spokesman for MASA.
"The results were very inconclusive. The data was not released due to
the inconclusivity."

The push by medical marijuana advocates comes on the heels of new
surveys showing increasing support for marijuana legalization among
Americans, and about a year after a brief but emotional debate over
medical marijuana in the Alabama Legislature.

The House Health Committee last February considered a bill sponsored
by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, which would have allowed certain
patients with doctors' authorizations to purchase up to 10 ounces of
marijuana each month to alleviate the symptoms of various debilitating

In a rare move, the House Health Committee held a hearing on the
proposal out of session in November, 2012. Proponents of the measure,
including Ron Crumpton, president and executive director of the
Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, said marijuana consumption helped
them manage pain and allowed them to function as productive members of
society. However, prosecutors and law enforcement spoke against the
measure, arguing that legalization of medical marijuana would invite
criminal organizations into the state to cultivate it.

McClendon was blunt during the meeting, saying he did not expect the
legislation to get out of committee and that "he certainly didn't see
it surviving a vote on the House floor." Flanagan, a Dothan-based
physician who was then president-elect of MASA, told the committee he
had "not seen a need to include marijuana in a pain reduction plan"
and that he saw "insufficient evidence" for the efficacy of marijuana.

In the February meeting, the House Health Committee overwhelmingly
rejected Todd's medical marijuana bill; Rep. John Knight,
D-Montgomery, was one of two members to vote in favor of it.

Crumpton, who is running for a state senate seat, said in an interview
last week that if the survey showed what he believed it did, it would
take an argument away from opponents of medical marijuana.

"It gives us something to argue with," he said. "It may force them to
come up with a different (argument). They wouldn't be able to use
their old, tired song and dance."

Corley declined to discuss the reasons why the survey was considered
inconclusive, but said that MASA does not have an official position on
the issue.

"That's not a debate we're going to wade into," he said. "Anything we
put out would be used by one side or another to further their argument."

Crumpton declined to discuss his knowledge of the survey, but said he
believed the results should be clear-cut.

"I don't see how a question there could be inconclusive," he said.
"You're going to have so many yeses or so many nos."

House committees have approved medical marijuana bills in the past,
but those approvals have typically come too late in legislative
sessions for the bills to win approval by the full

Last May, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that
three-quarters of doctors in North America said they would approve the
use of marijuana in a hypothetical case involving a 68-year-old woman
dealing with cancer that had metastasized through her body. In
October, Gallup reported that 58 percent of Americans favored the
legalization of marijuana. The polling organization said it was the
first time in the history of its polling that a clear majority of
Americans favored legalization.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D