Plan is to implement safe, effective program

November 29, 2007

Rep. Sherry Jones, OpEd, The Tennessean

Have you ever had a friend or loved one who was being treated for cancer, and the medicine prescribed by their doctor simply did not help relieve the constant nausea or pain?

Have you ever known a family member or friend in chronic pain due to bone degeneration, diabetes or neuropathy? Have you known anyone who has suffered from Crohn's disease, glaucoma, MS, convulsions, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, severe spasms, AIDS, arthritis, epilepsy, Parkinson's or anorexia?

There is a natural remedy used by many civilizations for more than 5,000 years, that was a significant part of our country's medical profession until 1937. Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Israel have all concluded that, unlike many prescription drugs, this medicine provides significant medical benefits with virtually no side effect. The Medical College of Virginia in 1975 concluded this medicine is a powerful tumor fighter and has been confirmed by scientists in many other countries. This wonder drug is cannabis. You may know it as marijuana.

In the 1980s, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to certain patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases and conditions. In the 1990s, the program was disbanded only because the federal government decided to no longer supply medical marijuana to states; yet, the same federal government continues to supply marijuana to "approved" patients nationwide.

Convincing testimony

The House Health and Human Resources Committee recently heard testimony on re-establishment of a marijuana program in Tennessee. It was extremely informative. For example, a synthetic drug was engineered in the 1980s that contained only one of the principal ingredients in marijuana, THC, in capsule form to help with a variety of serious conditions. A physician who testified against using marijuana in its natural form admitted, nonetheless, that marijuana DID work and that a prescription for the THC pill would cost an average patient $700 per month. People who testified for allowing a doctor to prescribe marijuana stated they, their spouses or friends had received significant relief by using very little natural marijuana.

At the hearing, we learned there are 450,000 deaths annually in the U.S. from tobacco, 150,000-plus deaths from alcohol, up to 27,000 deaths from prescription drugs, up to 10,000 deaths from caffeine, as many as 1,000 deaths from aspirin and no deaths annually from marijuana. We also learned there has never been a single overdose death from marijuana reported.

The draft legislation we are discussing could be amended to address any issues on how to best govern use of medical marijuana. The bill should require an ongoing relationship with a physician before a prescription can be written and for that physician to monitor its use.

It is time to be open-minded and think about quality of life and the lives of the other people that you love and care about.

I hope that the residents of Davidson and surrounding counties will follow these discussions, try to stay informed, and let your legislators know your feelings on the subject when the hearings conclude.

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