Pubdate: Tue, 23 Feb 1999
Source: Kansas City Star (KS)
Author: Paul Armentano


Marijuana has therapeutic uses; the law should reflect that Missouri
and other states should protect patients from prosecution

Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medical
use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to
decide which patients to treat. The government should change
marijuana's status from that of a Schedule I (prohibited) drug  ... 
to that of a Schedule II drug  ...  and regulate accordingly.

- - Dr. Jerome Kassirer, editor, New England Journal of Medicine, Jan.
30, 1997

It is clear from available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal
evidence that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of a number of
serious ailments and is less toxic and costly than many conventional
medicines for which it may be substituted. In many cases, marijuana
appears more effective than the commercially available drugs it replaces.

The best established medical use of smoked marijuana is as an
anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy. During the 1980s, researchers
in six different state-sponsored clinical studies involving nearly
1,000 patients determined smoked marijuana to be an effective

For the majority of these patients, smoked marijuana proved more
effective than both conventional prescription anti-nauseants and oral
THC (marketed today as the synthetic pill, Marinol).

Scientific and anecdotal evidence also suggests that marijuana reduces
pain and suffering in other serious ailments. For example, it
alleviates the nausea,  vomiting and loss of appetite experienced by
many AIDS patients.

Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences and others suggest that
marijuana reduces intraocular pressure in patients suffering from
glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

Clinical and anecdotal evidence also points to the effectiveness of
marijuana as a therapeutic agent in a variety of spastic conditions
such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, epilepsy and quadriplegia.
Animal studies and carefully controlled human studies support
marijuana's ability to suppress convulsions.

Many patients and older Americans use marijuana therapeutically to
control chronic pain. Recent studies performed by researchers at the
University of San Francisco and elsewhere demonstrate that compounds
in marijuana modulate pain signals in much the same way as morphine
and other opiates.

Between 1978 and 1996, legislatures in 34 states and the District of
Columbia passed laws recognizing marijuana's therapeutic value.
Twenty-five of these laws remain in effect. The Missouri General
Assembly passed a Senate Concurrent Resolution in 1994 calling on the
federal government to end ``prohibitions against the legitimate and
appropriate use of marijuana in medical treatments.''

Voters in Alaska, Oregon, Nevada and Washington have adopted
initiatives exempting patients who use marijuana under a physician's
supervision from state criminal penalties. Arizona and California have
passed similar initiatives.

These laws do not legalize marijuana or alter criminal penalties
regarding the possession or cultivation of marijuana for recreational
use. Nor do they establish a legal supply for patients to obtain the
drug. They merely provide a narrow exemption from prosecution for
defined patients who use marijuana with their doctor's

Until Congress amends federal law to legalize prescriptive access to
marijuana, Missouri and other states have an obligation to protect
patients using medical marijuana from state criminal

Paul Armentano is the publications director for the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Washington,
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