Show some compassion -- consider medical marijuana

March 03, 2006

Dr. Steven Dunn, M.D. / Guest Columnist, Metro West Daily News

As a Massachusetts resident and medical professional, I am appalled at that fact that some of our state legislators still refuse to consider the bill that would protect seriously ill people who use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation from the threat of prosecution.

    As our current law stands, any and all marijuana users are subject to criminal penalties, even those seriously ill individuals who have been advised by their doctors to use marijuana. Medical professionals worldwide continue to recommend marijuana to patients who suffer from a variety of conditions, including muscle spasticity and neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), and severe nausea and wasting due to chemotherapy treatment. If these seriously ill individuals can be prescribed morphine, OxyContin and other powerful, highly addictive narcotics by their doctors, why not allow them to use relatively safe, all-natural marijuana?

   According to the Drug Policy Forum, over 1,300 doctors in Massachusetts have signed a pledge supporting medical marijuana. In all seven Massachusetts districts where medical marijuana has appeared on the ballot, voters have consistently been in favor of the measure by an average of 69 percent. Despite overwhelming support from the community, many legislators still oppose the bill. They continue to hide behind the same old objections, even though these complaints have been discredited time and again.

    They claim, for example, that medical marijuana legislation sends the wrong message to teens and encourages teen drug use. In fact, every other state that has had a medical marijuana law in effect long enough to produce data has seen a decrease in teen marijuana use since implementing the law. Some claim that the THC pill, Marinol, is a sufficient substitute for marijuana, but I know first-hand that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy can often be too nauseated to even swallow a pill. In fact, research has shown that oral administration is the least effective way to administer THC or the other therapeutic components of marijuana. 

 The Joint Committee on Public Health considered the bill this week, and sent it for study. I call on the committee to recognize the plight of these seriously ill people and reconsider. I also urge all concerned constituents to contact their senators and representatives and let them know how important medical marijuana is to Massachusetts’s residents.

    Prosecuting medical marijuana patients, besides being cruel and inhumane, wastes taxpayer dollars and preoccupies law enforcement officials when they could be arresting violent criminals. Individuals who are seeking relief from the debilitating symptoms associated with their diseases should not be branded as criminals. They deserve our compassion and understanding, and it’s time to allow them a wider range of options for relief.

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