Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Contact:  Wed, 19 Aug 1998
Author: Walt Bowen (pro) and David Boze (con)


PRO: Initiative 692 goes beyond partisan politics

* HUMANE: The key point is that the initiative would help decrease suffering.

In about 60 days, the voters of the state of Washington can do something to
relieve pain and suffering - they can vote yes in support of the medical
marijuana Initiative 692.  This should not be a left or right issue.  The
pain and suffering from glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS,
cancer and other illnesses is shared, by all Democrats, Republicans and

Initiative 692 gathered more than 260,000 signatures and is the work of
Dr... Rob Killian, who runs a health clinic in Tacoma.  He sponsored a
similar initiative last year, and only Island County voted for it.  That
initiative was overly broad and would have decriminalized some drugs and
freed some criminals from prison.  The state Senate worked briefly on the
issue this spring, but SB 6271 died, so sponsors had to use the initiative
to get action.

Narrower Focus

The flaws in the last initiative have been corrected.  The new initiative
is modeled after SB 6271 which was sponsored by 6271, which was sponsored
by Sens.  Jeanne Kohl, D-Seattle, and Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane.  Initiative
692 is limited and focuses on medical needs. It allows the medical use of
marijuana for a limited number of specific medical conditions for which
there is. scientific evidence that marijuana works.  Physicians must advise
patients that medical marijuana could be beneficial.

Other safeguards are built in.  Limits are placed on the amount of
marijuana that a patient can possess.  Parental consent is required for
patients under 18.  It cannot be used at work or while driving. Other drugs
are not impacted nor are laws covering the nonmedical use of marijuana.
Patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses who grow and use marijuana
with the consent of a physician would be protected from prosecution.
Protections also apply to physicians who recommend marijuana and to the
people who act as primary caregivers for patients.

It appears that the use of marijuana as a painkiller has been around for
centuries, but the doctors of 1998 cannot prescribe it. This is in spite of
more than 75 studies and research articles published in peer-reviewed
medical journals that have demonstrated the therapeutic value of marijuana.

High Level Of Support

In 1995, the oldest and largest association of public health professionals
in the world, the American Public Health Association, urged lawmakers to
make marijuana legally available as a therapeutic agent.  In 1990, more
than half of the cancer specialists surveyed said they favor the controlled
medical availability of marijuana. Forty-four percent said they had
suggested obtaining marijuana illegally for a patient at least once.

Polling data show a high level of public support.  Thirty-six states have
passed legislation supporting the therapeutic potential of marijuana.

Speaking in support of the marijuana legislation, Sens. Kohl and McCaslin
said, "As one of us is a Seattle Democrat and the other is a Spokane
Republican, we frequently differ on legislation before the Senate.
However, illness and suffering are not partisan issues.  We are united...."

We should be united in support of this humanitarian Initiative 692.

Walt Bowen is a longtime Thurston County political advocate and former
chairman of the Thurston County Democratic Party.

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CON - 'War on drugs' should not include medicinal pot use

* 1-692: The Washington initiative would allow use of marijuana by
prescription only.

Early this year, as I approached the entryway of a local grocery store, two
scruffy-looking youngsters stopped me on my way in.  At first I thought for
sure that the two were down on their luck and needed money for food and
soap for a thorough (and badly needed) washing.  Instead, however, the
catatonic pair asked if I would sign Initiative 692, the "medicinal
marijuana" initiative.

Perhaps I'm a bit cynical, but judging from the appearance of the signature
gatherers for I-692, medicinal purposes were not what they had in mind.
Nevertheless, 1-692 would legalize marijuana only for patients suffering
from a terminal illness or certain other debilitating conditions.

Prescription  Required

Patients would have to get a prescription from their doctor to use the
drug, and possession amounts would be limited to 60 doses.  Patient
caregivers would be permitted to assist patients with the administration of
the drug. All other laws against the recreational use and distribution of
the drug would remain in force.

And these are precisely the points I-692 advocates are hoping you'll remember.

Proponents are emphasizing the limited scope of this initiative.  They
eagerly point out that it does not reform (loosen) drug laws the way the
last "medicinal marijuana" initiative would have. Advocates of marijuana
legalization have learned that their ultimate goals of loosening societal
mores against drug use and liberalizing drug laws do not sit well with the
majority of voters in Washington state.

Just because some of those supporting the legalization of marijuana as a
painkiller for the severely afflicted also support the legalization of
recreational drug use, however, does not necessarily mean I-692 should be
opposed.  Authorizing the use of a drug in specific circumstances does not
necessarily start society, down the slippery slope toward libertarian drug
laws. For example, although morphine is legal for doctors to prescribe, its
recreational use is prohibited. Also, steroids can be legally prescribed by
a doctor but are illegal for recreational abuse.

At Doctor's Discretion

Doctors disagree as to whether marijuana can be used effectively as
medicine; the majority of doctors, it seems, dismiss the "medicinal" value
of marijuana.  Yet, in the case of I-692 where use is legalized only for
patients in specific conditions, it seems reasonable to permit doctors to
use their discretion as to which drug would best alleviate their patient's
pain.  If experience proves that doctors' prescriptions for the drug are
too readily abused, we could reverse the law through our legislature or the
initiative process.

The major forces behind 1-692, such as billionaire socialist (anyone else
see the irony there?) George Soros, are not likely to be satisfied with the
legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. But voters should be wary
of any future attempts to legalize recreational drug use.  Society already
has a great deal of difficulty dealing with the effects of one legal,
mind-altering drug (alcohol). More to contend with may prove too costly.

The "War on Drugs" is not waged on prescriptions for aspirin, penicillin or
morphine.  Neither should it be waged on marijuana used for medicinal

David Boze is a research analyst with the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
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