Source: Albany Democrat-Herald (OR)
Pubdate: Mon, 28 Sep 1998
Author: Hasso Hering, Editor, Albany Democrat-Herald


If the sheriff of Multnomah County had a medical degree and had
acquired experience treating patients as a doctor, what he says about
the medical marijuana initiative would have some weight.

Since he does not and has not, he has no standing to declare, as he
did last week before the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, that
marijuana would be "the least effective and most risky" medication to
give to someone.

On the subject of the effectiveness of various substances in treating
people for illnesses, you would think sheriffs would disqualify themselves.

Sheriff Dan Noelle and other sheriffs think that the medical marijuana
initiative should not be approved. They believe that it would weaken
the notion of marijuana as an illegal drug, that it would lead to more
use of marijuana among the young, and that it would lead to more
lawlessness and suffering. These are legitimate worries for law
enforcement people and anybody else.

Some doctors, though, among them initiative sponsor Dr. Rick Bayer of
Portland, see the initiative strictly as a medical issue. They make
the case that smoking marijuana does have some benefits for some
patients in some situations, and they want to be able to advise
patients to get it and use it without breaking the law.

Logic is on their side. Morphine is addictive and dangerous. Yet
doctors are able to prescribe it as needed. The same is true of other
powerful pain relievers that make the patient feel wonderfully woozy
for a while. (Remember getting high on the stuff the dentist gave you
after your last oral surgery?) Nobody says doctors should not be able
to prescribe them on the chance that their use could become epidemic
among the young.

Doctors could legally prescribe marijuana if the federal government
reclassified it and put it in the same category as various opiates. It
is instructive that in the 1930s, when marijuana was made completely
off limits, the American Medical Association opposed the action.

Like most sheriffs, the editor of the D-H has no professional
knowledge of the effectiveness of marijuana as a medication. But at
least some doctors, who should know, say it is effective. It should be
legal to use if and when it can help somebody who is sick. (hh)

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady