Group lights up in favor of medical marijuana

October 14, 2007

Katie Wilson, Oregon Daily Emerald

Everyday people are destroying their bodies with perfectly legal and easily accessible drugs, says Sandee Burbank, executive director for Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse.

The worst part? They have no idea that they are doing this to themselves.

Burbank spoke at the downtown Eugene Public Library last Friday as part of a state-wide MAMA tour. The organization is on a mission to pull back the veil on what Americans are being told to put into their bodies.

"It's amazing how uneducated we are about the drugs out there," Burbank said.

MAMA advocates the Medical Marijuana Program primarily because it has seen people destroyed by pain when the medicine prescribed by doctors didn't work. Often, it made things worse.

"The more (medications) they gave me, the problem got worse," said Alice Ivany, who traveled with Burbank to share her story.

Ivany's left arm was amputated after an industrial accident in 1977. She was on a number of pain pills which made her very ill. Nothing worked. Life was further complicated by a surgery.

She began taking Tylenol and continued taking it for 10 years. As a result, she developed high blood pressure and will be on medication for that condition for the rest of her life.

Running out of options, she discussed medical marijuana, also called cannabis, with her doctor.

"I hadn't thought of it as a medication at the time," she said. "It's given me a quality of life I didn't have before."

After a life spent physically pushing his body, Jack Thomas finally came crashing down when he destroyed discs in his spine.

The doctors prescribed three daily doses of 600 milligrams of ibuprofen.

"By the time I finished that, my stomach was gone," Thomas said.

Doctors prescribed more medication to treat the new problems, but this only led to further complications until Thomas was, more often than not, flat on his back in pain.

What helped him was cannabis.

"Here is something I realized," Thomas said. "In my life, I didn't drink. I knew alcohol might kill me. I was told marijuana would kill me, so I didn't want to do that. Then they gave me meds and that almost killed me, so now I'm back to marijuana."
Prescribed drugs have their benefits and their place, Burbank said, but she also holds that "a drug is a drug is a drug."

She said many people are allergic to certain drug ingredients, and some medications are just plain dangerous. Yet, doctors and pharmacists are ignoring the safe and effective cannabis option.

"They are telling us these (other) drugs are safe. They aren't. There is a better way," Burbank said. "We used to say, 'Go talk to your doctor, talk to your pharmacist.' It's no longer enough to do this if you want to be safe. You have to get over the thought that because the doctor told me to and because (the medicine) is legal that it's safe. You need to get online and do some more research. Just because a doctor tells you to take a pill doesn't mean it's right for you."

Currently, the medical marijuana program is on rocky ground, so MAMA is working to educate the people in power and the people in pain about the benefits of cannabis and the dark side of legal medications.

Burbank pointed out that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana. It's not so hard to overdose on legal drugs. She wants to stop the flow of misinformation coming from school boards, political figures, and "The War on Drugs."

Ivany said MAMA has a motto: Follow the money.

"Who is profiting from marijuana prohibition?" she asked.

"Somebody's getting rich," Thomas added.

"I think of doctors and pharmacists as representatives," Ivany said. "It's a powder, it's a cream, it's a pill. It's all marketing and sales."

"It's amazing how messed up it is," Thomas said. "It's like they're trying to get rid of us."

He thinks part of the problem is the emotion that the subject of medical marijuana brings to the surface.

"When you start being emotional, logic is gone," he said. "All I know is this stuff works, and without it I wouldn't be here."

"The war on drugs has failed," Burbank said, citing the meth problem that didn't exist in past years in the way that it exists now. "What we're doing isn't working, and we need to change it around."

She wants people to "tell the truth, and stop the lies."

"People have to get their minds out of the '60s," Ivany added. "(Medical marijuana) is not about getting stoned."

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