Medical marijuana users hold meeting in Visalia

July 18, 2004

Patricia Jiayi Ho, Visalia Times Delta

The smell of marijuana wafted through the air Sunday afternoon as about 150 supporters of using the drug for medical purposes gathered for the first meeting of its kind in Visalia.

Those who attended heard advocates such as Jack Herer, author of numerous books about marijuana, speak.

The goal, according to Jeff Nunes, who organized the meeting, was to both inform people and to influence attitudes toward marijuana.

'It has such a stigma,' said Nunes, who uses marijuana for medical purposes. 'There's other aspects to smoking a joint.

'

In 1996, California voters passed an initiative allowing patients to smoke marijuana with approval from a doctor.

Supporters of medicinal marijuana say the herb helps alleviate chronic pain and is also beneficial in treating symptoms such as nausea and lack of appetite.

For some, marijuana is less intrusive and more effective than conventional approaches.

Luis Padilla, 44, drove up from Orange County to attend the meeting, held outdoors at the PPAV Hall. A work-related injury left him with a bulging spinal disc and chronic back pain. He said he smokes 'less than a gram' once a day after work as a car detailer, and said he prefers it to drugs like Vicodin.

'They made me too drowsy, and they're bad for your kidneys,' Padilla said. 'I know more people hooked on Vicodin than who smoke marijuana.'

Visalia resident James Holland, 42, uses marijuana to minimize the amount of other medications he takes to control his grand mal seizures.

'I was drugged up all the time,' he said of his experience taking pharmaceutical drugs alone.

Nunes said he also hopes to educate patients about the choices available, such as which strain is best for them and how it is grown. He is also working on opening dispensaries in Tulare County where patients can have their marijuana grown and cultivated for them.



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