Wisconsin state bill could legalize medical marijuana

October 03, 2005

Jeff Rumage, Daily Cardinal

Individuals suffering from AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other painful diseases may soon be able to alleviate their pain with marijuana, pending the approval of a state bill proposed by Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh. The bill, introduced Monday, would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana at their own discretion. Medicinal marijuana is currently legal in 10 states, and a survey reveals that the majority of Wisconsin residents are eager to join them. Despite support from U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Gov. Jim Doyle, Assembly Speaker Rep. John Gard, R-Peshtigo, denied discussion of the bill in the state Assembly last year. There are fifteen co-sponsors for the bill in state Assembly.

"The task is to let people know that this is something that can be beneficial. The public believes that, and perhaps it's time for the leaders to lead," Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said.

In 1980, a car crash left J.F. Oschwald with limited mobility and a spinal cord injury. He currently uses marijuana to prevent muscle spasms, allowing him to sleep calmly at night.

"For me, it's a matter of independence and being able to live at home without caretakers," Oschwald said.

The properties of marijuana can alleviate the symptoms of a variety of illnesses. It can be used to create an appetite, relieve pain and reduce the symptoms of glaucoma. Also, victims of these diseases can self-regulate how much they smoke, which is impossible with tablets.

Despite the bill's support from such groups as the American Nurses Association and Wisconsin Public Health, some are still skeptical that marijuana may fall into the hands of younger recreational users. However, there has actually been a decrease in younger people using marijuana in states that have legalized its medical use, according to Mikki Norris of Human Rights and the Drug War. Younger people are probably viewing the substance as more functional than glamorous, Norris explained.

Other skeptics maintain there are alternative medicines that will relieve the pain. Marinol contains THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but many patients say it is not as effective, according to Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison. Many doctors are hesitant to undermine prescription drugs, though, explained court-certified marijuana expert Chris Conrad.

Another complaint facing the medicinal marijuana movement is the danger of marijuana smoke. According to Conrad, cannabis-only smokers are no more likely to get lung cancer than any other person.

Although Conrad supports the legalization of marijuana in general, he is currently focused on medicinal uses. "In the war on drugs, I think it's extremely important that we remove patients from the battleground," said Conrad.

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