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Idaho Legislature should pass a medicinal marijuana law

Tim Teater
February 15, 2006
Idaho Statesman

Medical marijuana or medicinal cannabis, as is the more properly descriptive term, has a long history in Idaho and America. Before the federal Marijuana Stamp Tax Act of 1937 that initiated prohibition, cannabis was one of the most prescribed medications in America, as testified to at the time by the American Medical Association.

Support for access to cannabis is widespread with numerous health-related and other organizations endorsing immediate patient access, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the America Public Health Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the American Preventive Medical Association, the Society of Addiction Medicine, and many more.

The Journal of the AMA recently called for doctors to be allowed to prescribe cannabis. Eleven states have passed medicinal cannabis laws, and many other states are considering such laws. Reliable polling has shown 70 percent to 80 percent of respondents support access to medicinal cannabis. Time magazine referred to medicinal cannabis efforts as a "legitimate medical trend." Even the federal government distributes cannabis to patients through its Compassionate Use Program.

Why all this support? Briefly, research shows substantial efficacy and safety of cannabis in the treatment of diseases and conditions including "wasting syndrome," nausea and vomiting, pain, and glaucoma, and potential in treating autoimmune diseases. Research also strongly suggests neuroprotective effects and value in treatment of neurological diseases such as MS and ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Combating cancer through promotion of "programmed cancer cell death," and by arresting the increased blood-vessel production in tumors, has also shown great promise in at least eight studies.

Cannabis is one of the safest medications known. There is essentially no known toxic dose. It is nonaddictive and does not lead to abuse of dangerous drugs, brain damage, mental illness, violence, increased traffic fatalities or any of a host of perilous consequences put forth by prohibitionists. The Journal of the AMA noted: "One of marijuana's greatest advantages as a medicine is its remarkable safety."

While there has been no case of cancer attributable solely to smoking cannabis, smoking is a concern. Smoking, while an effective route of administration, can be replaced with vaporizers, inhalers and sprays. Marinol, a single synthetic cannabinol (one of cannabis' active compounds) is a useful medication, but is not always tolerated by some patients; they can't keep the pill down or complain of strong psychotropic effects.

A federal study of states with medicinal cannabis laws showed no diversion of cannabis into black markets. Marijuana Policy Project-sponsored research indicates that in states with medicinal cannabis laws, adolescent cannabis use dropped. While nothing is totally safe, cannabis included, much of what passes for research showing cannabis' dangers is poorly done or purposefully misinterpreted for political purposes. Heretofore, research to explore cannabis' efficacy and safety has not been allowed by the federal government, which controls all U.S. research.

Most opposition to medicinal cannabis comes from groups that have a substantial economic interest in maintaining prohibition. The reality is that medicinal cannabis is a safe and effective medication, often superior to standard medications, and does not put people or society at risk.

However, Idahoans are put at risk for arrest and incarceration for using medicinal cannabis. We in Idaho tend to believe that people, not governments, are capable of making the best decisions regarding our own lives and health. I urge all Idahoans to consider this issue with an open mind and heart and contact your legislators and ask them to sponsor and support a medicinal cannabis law for Idaho.

Tim Teater of Boise is coordinator for the Idaho affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. E-mail Idaho NORML at normlid@cableone.com.


Originally posted at http://www.idahostatesman.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060215/NEWS0503/602150304/1052/NEWS05

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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