Pubdate: Sat, 04 Jan 2014
Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
Copyright: 2014 Wilmington Morning Star


Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. has long marched to the beat of his own drum,
politically speaking. A Republican who once led the effort insisting
that the House cafeteria bill its crispy potato sticks as "Freedom
Fries" to spite the French, he broke ranks with his party on the war
in Iraq and has

So it is not surprising that Jones, who represents North Carolina's
3rd Congressional District, which includes a chunk of the Cape Fear
region, has stepped forward on behalf of parents seeking to allow
their children who suffer from life-threatening conditions legal
access to an oral form of medical marijuana. These parents say they
and their family doctors have tried every available treatment. Some of
the most vocal advocates have been parents whose children who suffer
uncontrollable epileptic seizures that have not responded to other

It is hard not to sympathize. Any parent whose child has been ill from
a cause that seems to defy treatment knows their frustration and pain.
They want to do something, and in this age of medical miracles surely
some cure is out there. And that is where federal drug policy process
clashes with the needs of those who are ill now and who cannot wait
through the lengthy approval process.

In a statement Jones encouraged state officials to work with medical
professionals and scientists "to determine the efficacy of the use of
medical marijuana in certain instances." Efforts are under way to
legalize marijuana for medical use in North Carolina. Because it is
against the law to possess marijuana in any form, the treatment these
parents seek is not an option here.

Jones is not suggesting that North Carolina embrace outright
legalization, however, and he has not made any other comments about
medical cannabis since releasing his statement.Some states have opened
the door to medical marijuana -- and Colorado legalized recreational
use, and Washington state will begin legal sales later this year --
but that leads to a patchwork of policies and does an end run around
the federal process to certify prescription medicines. An October
Gallup Poll showed that for the first time, a majority of Americans
favor legalization even for recreational use. That is not at issue in
this case, although there are efforts in North Carolina to legalize
either medical marijuana or to fully decriminalize its use. Meanwhile,
advocates for patients with chronic pain, terminal cancer,
post-traumatic stress disorder and, like the children Jones' statement
addressed, epilepsy, are calling for immediate measures to provide
relief for these patients.

At the other end of the spectrum are law enforcement officials, who
fear legalizing medical marijuana will open the door to unfettered
recreational use, and the American Medical Association, which does not
support voter-based decisions on medical marijuana but urges the
federal government to relax some restrictions to allow for broader,
well-controlled studies on possible medical uses for cannabis.

All of these factors point to a need to rethink drug policy to take
into account patients who have exhausted all other options to treat
their chronic, sometimes life-threatening symptoms and seek a
promising but currently illegal treatment. Ideally, the issue should
be addressed on a federal level rather than on a state-by-state basis. 
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