HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Experts Support Legalizing Medical Marijuana
Source: Reuters
Author: Marilynn Larkin
Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 1998

Experts Support Legalizing Medical Marijuana

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Medically approved use of marijuana can improve the
well-being of "thousands of New Yorkers with serious or life-threatening
medical conditions," said Richard N. Gottfried, chair of the New York State
Assembly Committee on Health. He spoke Wednesday at a briefing here on the
legal implications of medicinal use of marijuana sponsored by the New York
State Bar Association.

"I'm not saying it should be legalized or that marijuana abuse isn't a
problem, only that it can have legal medical uses," explained Gottfried,
who recently introduced New York State legislation to allow
physician-supervised use of marijuana to treat patients with serious
illnesses.

Referring to Marinol -- a US Food and Drug Administration-approved drug
whose active ingredient, THC, is derived from marijuana -- Gottfried noted,
"if you take this artificial pill which has some stuff around the active
ingredient, no problem. But if you inhale the natural form (of marijuana),
the police can break down your door and cart you away. That, to me, is nuts!"

Dr. Robert B. Millman, acting chair of New York Hospital's Department of
Public Health, told the gathering that much anecdotal evidence supports the
medical use of marijuana to relieve nausea and vomiting associated with
chemotherapy,increase appetite and well-being in wasting syndromes, and
improve quality of life in people with seizure disorders, multiple
sclerosis, chronic pain, and glaucoma.

However, the same psychoactive properties that make marijuana medically
useful also pose a danger, especially, when the drug is used
recreationally. "You can get derailed, apathetic," and lose sight of
priorities -- a "terrifying syndrome, especially in young people."

Further, in the past decade the potency of the drug has increased
dramatically in New York City, from "1-2% maximum THC to 6-8%." This can
make the difference, he said, "between being a little high and losing touch
with reality." He also noted that if marijuana is not medicalized and
people with chronic diseases are left to fend for themselves, they may put
themselves at risk for bacterial and pulmonary illnesses from contaminated
street drugs.

All this argues for "medicalization, not legalization," said Gottfried. In
response to a query, Millman told Reuters that medicalization would also
facilitate appropriately supervised medical research into the drug's
benefits and risks.

The Gottfried legislation calls for a monitoring system similar to those
used for other controlled substances, including state monitoring of
physician certifications to prevent abuse, state monitoring of nonprofit
providers of marijuana solely for medical use, and periodic review and
analysis by the Health Department.

Copyright  1997 Reuters Limited.