Medical marijuana's time has come

April 26, 2005

EDITORIAL, NK Standard Times

A bill that would legalize the medical use of marijuana is before the General Assembly, and it's drawing the support of leadership as well as the Rhode Island Medical Society and the Rhode Island State Nurses Association. Under its provisions, patients, caregivers and doctors would be protected from arrest if a doctor certifies that a patient would benefit from marijuana use, and the benefit would outweigh health risks. The department of health would be the oversight body, and would issue registration cards providing that the patient or caregiver could possess up to 12 marijuana plants or up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana at any given time.

Among conditions and illnesses in which marijuana is known to alleviate symptoms or reduce adverse reactions to other drugs or treatments are cancer, HIV-AIDS, hepatitis C, glaucoma and 'chronic or debilitating disease' with symptoms such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea and seizures.

Several people gave moving testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, speaking about their illnesses like cancer and multiple sclerosis, and the relief that marijuana use would provide.

If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island would be the 11th state to legalize medical use of marijuana.
Those opposing the measure include Drug-Free Schools Coalition, Drug Free Kids: America's Challenge and Republican state Senator Leo Blais of Coventry, who maintains marijuana has no accepted medical value.

But if it has no value, why does it have the support of two respected state medical associations? And what about the testimony of countless numbers of people across the country who say that marijuana does help them?

This is not, as Blais contends, an effort to eventually legalize marijuana in the general population. Rather, it's an effort to allow doctors to assist people who are suffering. Yes, the bill must be written narrowly enough that recreational users can't hide behind its provisions. Yes, it must address how someone would obtain marijuana if medical use is approved.

We don't prevent morphine from being administered to patients who need it - and that's not a 'legal drug' either. Why should marijuana, a less potent drug by far, be withheld? As to those who complain that it must be smoked rather than swallowed or injected, the issue here isn't smoking. The drug must be inhaled. That's how it's taken.

We think it's time for those with unreasonable fears about marijuana use to realize that for some, it is the drug that can alleviate their suffering. We hope the General Assembly - and the governor - will approve the limited medical use of marijuana as prescribed by a doctor in the appropriate circumstances.

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