Pubdate: Sat, 23 Oct 1999
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 1999, Bangor Daily News Inc.
Related: The NEMJ editorial is at:
Cited: Mainers for Medical Rights


Do you want to allow patients with specific illnesses to grow and use small
amounts of marijuana for treatment, as long as such use is approved by a

The arguments in favor of medical use of marijuana are well laid out in a
1997 New England Journal of Medicine editorial included in the information
packets provided by Mainers for Medical Rights, the group that initiated
this referendum: The advanced stages of many illnesses and their treatments
are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, pain and loss of appetite;
thousands of cancer and AIDS patients have found striking relief from these
symptoms by smoking marijuana; many of these patients and their families
have risked jail to obtain the drug.

The title of the editorial is ``Federal Foolishness and Marijuana.'' If the
problem is federal foolishness -- stubborn, even paranoid, drug policies --
the solution is not Question 2.

In attempting to skirt the federal prohibition on physician-prescribed
marijuana, the law that would take effect with the passage of this
referendum question will allow these patients and designated caregivers to
possess up to 1.25 ounces of marijuana.

This marijuana can be obtained only two ways -- by dealing with illegal
drug traffickers or by growing it. The first unwisely legitimizes criminal
activity, the second is far more difficult than the acquisition of medicine
should ever be.

Both methods, and the ``designated caregiver'' provision, will create
confusion and inequity in law enforcement.

Further, this approach to making a drug, any drug, available for medicinal
use sets a terrible precedent. Drugs are approved for the marketplace
through a thorough regimen of testing, research and review, not by popular

Although ``slippery slope'' arguments can be tiresome and often mere
obstructionism, in this case the argument, raised by many in the medical
community, is valid. It is not hard to imagine the manufacturers of dubious
cancer cures and harmful weight-loss potions evading scientific assessment
and the FDA approval process merely by getting their product on the ballot.

The active compounds in marijuana are available in pill form. Many who use
Marinol say it is slow to take effect and sometimes only increases nausea.
It is important that alternate delivery methods, such as inhalers, be

It is also important, though, that any pharmaceutical be delivered in
measured doses and that sufficient steps are taken to prevent illicit use.
Marijuana bought on the street or grown on a window sill provides neither
of those protections.

Mainers for Medical Rights have conducted an informative campaign and have
performed a valuable public service in bringing this issue of the
therapeutic use of marijuana by the terminally ill to the forefront.

Other such groups in other states are doing the same. The remedy for
federal foolishness, however, will be found in Congress, not on a state
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake