Guest Viewpoint: Marijuana rhetoric was off base

April 11, 2005

Phil Barnhart (OpEd), Register-Guard

State Sen. Floyd Prozanski and I appreciate that Michael Spasaro and Jim Feldkamp (guest viewpoint, April 4) agree with Prozanski's earlier column on the methamphetamine crisis.

We do not agree with the views expressed by Spasaro and Feldkamp, however, on medicinal marijuana. We regret that former federal law enforcement officers such as Spasaro and Feldkamp don't recognize the constitutional rights of states to do the will of their citizens.

In 1970, Congress banned the use of medical marijuana when it passed the Controlled Substances Act, restructuring federal drug laws in the process.

In 1998, Oregon's voters passed Measure 67, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.

Oregon's law allows medicinal marijuana for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, cachexia, cancer, glaucoma, HIV-AIDS, nausea, severe pain and seizures. Many patients who suffer from these conditions support the use of this medicine, as do many scientific researchers and a majority of Oregon voters.

Letting doctors treat patients with a proven drug in no way endorses the recreational use of that drug. After all, the Legislature lets hospitals use morphine and other opiates to ease pain and suffering, but this does not condone or encourage the use of another opiate, heroin.

We must also set the record straight with regard to Spasaro and Feldkamp's accusation that Prozanski and I have sponsored bills on medical marijuana, thereby sending the "wrong message."

Neither the senator nor I have ever sponsored a medical marijuana bill, though each of us has introduced bills to fight criminal activity.

I did not send a "wrong message" this year by sponsoring House Bill 3297, which would create a "Smart on Crime" Task Force. Neither did I send a "wrong message" in sponsoring House Joint Resolution 11, which urges Congress to restrict access to the components of metham- phetamine.

And I certainly sent no "wrong messages" about illicit drugs when I prosecuted illegal traffickers as a Lane County assistant district attorney in 1972 and 1973.

Prozanski has served as a prosecutor since 1987, and he currently serves on the governor's Meth Task Force.

Having spent 15 years as a forensic psychologist and 20 years as a board member of Addiction Counseling and Education Services Inc. (now known as Emergence), I have expertise on the harmful effects of illicit drugs.

As a legislator, I bring that expertise to bear by working with Prozanski to provide needed leadership in reducing substance abuse in our communities.

We will continue to recognize the indisputable medicinal benefits of marijuana in treating certain kinds of patients - benefits that many scientific studies have verified. And we will continue to show compassion to the sick, while respecting the will of the Oregon voters.

We appreciate Spasaro and Feldkamp's support as we move forward to address the methamphetamine crisis. We also appreciate that Spasaro and Feldkamp endorse our efforts to educate children about the harmful effects of illegal drugs. We will never forget that truth and facts are our best weapons to minimize the harm caused by dangerous drugs.

Political grandstanding has no place in this important enterprise. Recall that Spasaro opposed me and Feldkamp opposed U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio in the last election.

Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, represents District 11 in the Oregon House of Representatives. His e-mail address is rep.philbarnhart @state.or.us.

 



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