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Medical marijuana: Let compassion and medical science chart Minnesota’s course

Despite Senate passage, House committee approval and majority support by Minnesotans as evidenced in opinion polls, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has repeatedly deferred to law enforcement on the topic of medical marijuana. Whenever a decision could improve the lives of people with serious medical conditions, people tend to be on board; it’s no surprise that Minnesotans want to help our sick and dying. No one wishes to see another human being suffer. Too many of us are either dealing with the loss of a friend or family member due to illness or coping with it ourselves to see a reason to withhold medicine from a person. It is odd at best that Pawlenty has not cited any medical experts and their opinions when he states there are “other alternatives” to treat medical conditions. Police officers and prosecutors are not medical professionals.

When a law-enforcement expert, former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper, testified on how crime has NOT gone up as a result of medical marijuana in Washington state, and teen use had actually gone DOWN in this same time frame, the Minnesota officers in attendance at the hearings quickly went to work in an attempt to discredit Stamper’s expert testimony.

To date, the objections of law enforcement against Minnesota’s proposed medical marijuana law   have had little to nothing to do with the legislation itself, and they have failed to meet with lawmakers to make changes that would supposedly make their jobs easier. Instead, their main objection has been: “It will send the wrong message to kids.”

The real message
The message being sent right now is that the government will not allow proper research to take place to prove or disprove claims of medical benefit. Patients are caught in a Catch-22 in which the Drug Enforcement Administration controls medical research of cannabis and will not allow expanded efforts to find medical applications. Scientific and anecdotal evidence continues to mount in countries where the research is allowed.

We tell children that medicine is to be used under a doctor’s care and not to be abused. This issue is no different. Law enforcement may find it difficult to backtrack on the message that they have been sending to kids under “DARE” programs all these years. But a little awkwardness should not be a reason to withhold medication from people who see benefit. The message must be consistent, and should be based on scientific facts and medical evidence. We don’t want kids taking Oxycodone either, but it has a distinct role and application in medical treatment despite its addictive nature and potential for overdose. Locking up your medicine cabinet should be phase one in keeping drugs out of the reach of children and ensuring their safety. Medical marijuana is no different.

Law enforcement also states that crime will go up if medical marijuana were allowed. With 13 states allowing medical marijuana, if this were true, I believe citizens would be calling for the repeal of said laws. Instead, many of these 13 states have actually expanded their medical marijuana programs. Forcing patients to buy their medication on the street is one sure-fire way to ensure that criminal elements may benefit monetarily from the sick and dying. Allowing patients to purchase their medication from a nonprofit organization makes sense. Law enforcement goes beyond reason to suggest that criminals would break into these “compassion centers” to steal the medication; if a pharmacy with a myriad of narcotics can peacefully exist, so too can a compassion center.

Abuse of law would be a felony

Further objections by law enforcement contend that their jobs will be impossible to accomplish if patients are registered with the state and carry identification cards. With a database of approved medical marijuana patients, compassion centers established to get their medication from, and identification cards for patients to carry, it is difficult to identify why this would complicate the jobs of law enforcement. Abuse of the medical marijuana law would carry a serious felony charge. Since 1976, marijuana possession has been a misdemeanor offense in Minnesota. We are one of 13 progressive states that have not made marijuana possession a serious offense or law enforcement priority. We’ve already been living with some of the most relaxed marijuana laws in the nation in case you haven’t been aware of it. The “doomsday” scenarios painted by law enforcement just have not panned out, and allowing registered patients access to the medication their doctor deems beneficial will do nothing to change the public safety landscape of Minnesota.

Laws that prohibit impaired driving are already in place, and are applicable to medical marijuana patients. Many pharmaceutical drugs expressly state that patients are not to drive while taking them. Dispensaries in other states already place such warnings on the medical marijuana they sell. Furthermore, consumption in public places of medical marijuana would not be allowed. The law would do nothing to change clean indoor air laws in place.

Law subject to sunset provision

Moreover, a two-year “sunset” provision has been added to the law. If problems arise (13 states have shown that there are not problems), there will be a method to address them.

I urge Minnesotans to contact their representatives and Gov. Tim Pawlenty to ask for their support of medical marijuana in Minnesota. You or your loved one may not need this legislation at present, but one day you might. Having all tools necessary for patients and doctors to combat serious illness just makes sense, and law enforcement has not raised any objections that deal with the actual proposed legislation. Pawlenty has also failed to raise objections based on medical research or expert medical testimony.

Lawmakers make laws. Law enforcement enforces the laws. Citizens are expected to follow the laws. When the law places you in the position of choosing to be law-abiding or help a loved one to lessen his or her suffering, the law in unjust, cruel and unusual. Minnesota’s seriously ill are stuck in the middle of partisan politics. Let compassion and medical science chart our course.

Mike Wyatt, of St. Paul, is a Crohn’s disease patient.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/15/2009 - 02:15 pm.

    A thoughtful and well reasoned piece Mike.

    Perhaps the Governor and the law enforcement industry would be better off sticking with their chosen professions. Instead of trying to play doctor.

    The governor is looking at this as political death if the law enforcement will not give him some political cover by endorsing the bill.

    Imagine the governor trying to establish his tough on crime credentials in a national forum. When his support for this bill might be perceived by some in his party as “soft on crime”.

    The law enforcement industry will refuse to go along simply because of budgets. It would be fair to say that the “war on drugs” has been nothing less than the mother of all “stimulus packages” to the law enforcement industry over the past forty years.

    It is truly sad to see this being treated as a political issue. When in reality it is a human issue. An issue that should be between a patient and a physician. Not by politicians and law enforcement officers who might like to pretend and play
    doctor.

  2. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 05/16/2009 - 08:19 am.

    A pill containing a synthetic form of the active ingredient of marijuana, THC, has been available through prescription for a number of years, for treatment of the cancer pain and nausea, and AIDS-related anorexia suffering by patients for whom the legalization campaigners so piously claim they speak.

    A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) webpage with the above title reports: “Unlike smoked marijuana—which contains more than 400 different chemicals, including most of the hazardous chemicals found in tobacco smoke-Marinol has been studied and approved by the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the nation’s watchdog over unsafe and harmful food and drug products.”

    In fact, there are no FDA-approved medications that are smoked, because it is difficult to administer safe, regulated dosages of medicines in smoked form, while the byproducts of smoking create entirely new health problems—such as other types of cancers. “There are four times the level of tar in a marijuana cigarette, for example, than in a tobacco cigarette,” the DEA reports. They add: “Morphine, for example, has proven to be a medically valuable drug, but the FDA does not endorse the smoking of opium or heroin. Instead, scientists have extracted active ingredients from opium, which are sold as pharmaceutical products like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone or oxycodone.”

    George Soros’s well-financed drug-pushers, who champion the legalization of “medical marijuana” as required to ease the suffering inflicted on people by keeping marijuana illegal, are caught, once again, to be simply lying.

    Researchers are studying the possibility of Marinol being administered by other delivery forms as well, such as by inhaler or patch.

  3. Submitted by Scott Goodman on 05/16/2009 - 02:18 pm.

    I still think actual scientific studies by legitimate medical doctors, medical schools, and other research groups should lead the way in serving as pioneers (of new pain management for the public, and other therapeutic applications of cannabis).

    The real opportunity would be to develop new and more sophisticated delivery systems for this plant’s extracts. Some ideas include:
    1) Inhalers (like for asthma); 2) trans-dermal patches; 3) liquid-gel capsules; 4) oral sprays (like breath or ‘energy’ sprays); 5) extracts boiled in oil (as the Israeli’s use for their soldiers suffering from suicidal PTSD) ; 5) or refined by more sophisticated processes into other ingestible substances – even eye-drops !!

    So long as the FDA, AMA, and DEA insist smoking anything is bad, the primitive, crude, but most widely used delivery system to date, namely, smoked and inhaled, remains the patient’s only remedy.

    (Note: Synthetic ‘Marinol’ costs about $300. for a month’s supply; and it would be far cheaper to just extract the essential oils from the dried herbal plant).

    Federal laws currently offers a 20 years sentence for extracting essential oil from the dried cannabis plant.

    Get smart people. Let’s put this in the hands of real doctors and researchers. Let’s demand basic studies to determine basic things. Let’s implement the whole program through pharmacies and ‘dispensaries’ like the models in California, with un-intimidated doctors overseeing the research.

    The real ‘opportunity’ here is to help people who suffer from disease. Plain and simple. Find new and better ways to ingest it, and study it in a clinically structured program – so the patients can get the most benefit from the new laws in 13 (and soon 19) states with medical cannabis exemptions.

    Make it easy for Obama and his crew. Approach the whole thing from a scientific research angle. That way, he can keep creating “commissions to determine and study”, and follow up studies, and more studies after that. Don’t force his hand into making too great a leap, especially after all these years of ‘reefer maddness’ and harsh penalties.

    Let real doctors and real patients decide what’s best for us.

  4. Submitted by Richard Steeb on 05/16/2009 - 02:35 pm.

    An herb containing the natural form of THC along with other cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN has been treasured by mankind since before recorded history. Unlike the synthetic THC in Marinol, priced at $2200+ per gram, $15/gram medical-grade cannabis buds contain as much as 25% THC.

    Unless you plan to arrest people for smoking Marlboros, the means of vaprizing the THC out of the natural herb are none of your business. The law DEA is enforcing is a damned lie, as observed by their own administrative law judge Francis L Young, 21 years ago. Their webpage is intended to perpetuate their abominable meal ticket. Do your own research:

    Google “Francis L Young”. Try “US Patent 6630507”.

    To keep Cannabis illegal while tobacco and alcohol are dispensed freely is murderously stupid.

    http://tinyurl.com/Henningfield-Benowitz

    http://www.google.com/search?&q=tashkin

  5. Submitted by Jack Shepard on 05/18/2009 - 02:22 pm.

    Minnesota Medical Marijuana SOS

    Please visit http://www.Minnesota-Medical-Marijuana.com and click at the top of the page to help us contact Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota’s House and write letters to the editors!

    Because even though the Medical Marijuana Bill easily passed the Minnesota Senate, but the Minnesota House did not vote on it and the Governor Pawlenty said he would veto.

    We have until Jan. and the next legislative session to get the Minnesota House to vote on it and convince Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to sign Medical Marijuana into Law, which

    Despite Senate passage, House committee approval and majority support by Minnesotans as evidenced in opinion polls, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has repeatedly deferred to law enforcement on the topic of medical marijuana.

    Whenever a decision could improve the lives of people with serious medical conditions, people tend to be on board; it’s no surprise that Minnesotans want to help our sick and dying. No one wishes to see another human being suffer.

    Too many of us are either dealing with the loss of a friend or family member due to illness or coping with it ourselves to see a reason to withhold medicine from a person. It is odd at best that Pawlenty has not cited any medical experts and their opinions when he states there are “other alternatives” to treat medical conditions.

    I urge everyone to contact their representatives and Gov. Tim Pawlenty to ask for their support of medical marijuana in Minnesota.

    You or your loved one may not need this legislation at present, but one day you might. Having all tools necessary for patients and doctors to combat serious illness just makes sense, and law enforcement has not raised any objections that deal with the actual proposed legislation. Pawlenty has also failed to raise objections based on medical research or expert medical testimony.

    Lawmakers make laws. Law enforcement enforces the laws. Citizens are expected to follow the laws. When the law places you in the position of choosing to be law-abiding or help a loved one to lessen his or her suffering, the law in unjust, cruel and unusual.

    Minnesota’s seriously ill are stuck in the middle of partisan politics. Let compassion and medical science chart our course

    Dr. Jack
    http://www.Minnesota-Medical-Marijuana.com

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