More MS news articles for April 2001

Medical necessity

Updated 12:00 PM ET March 29, 2001

Staff Editorial
Independent Florida Alligator
U. Florida

(U-WIRE) GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The use of marijuana in medical therapy has been a hot topic in this country for years. From debates on the actual effectiveness of marijuana as a medicine, to the legality of using it, regardless of its effectiveness, medicinal marijuana use has never had a lack of supporters or detractors.

The issue came up again on Wednesday as the Supreme Court heard arguments from the federal government that despite the wishes of voters in California, marijuana is still illegal, and thus should not be used to treat patients, regardless of the circumstances.

A ruling against the use of marijuana as a medicine would go against the wishes of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative in California. California was one of the first states to pass a medicinal marijuana law in 1996. The buyers' cooperative has distributed medicinal marijuana in California for years as a treatment to people suffering from symptoms of horrible diseases.

Advocates of medical marijuana say the drug can be used to ease the blow of the side effects from chemotherapy, save nauseated AIDS patients from wasting away, and allow multiple sclerosis sufferers to be able to walk again.

Many consider marijuana used in a medicinal form to be a sort of wonder drug. But, even though some say marijuana can be used in such a positive way, there are still no definitive scientific evidence the drug works any better than conventional medicines, or that it works at all.

But there are still some doctors who stand by the use of marijuana to treat patients and nine states have passed laws allowing the use of marijuana in a legal medicinal form to treat many illnesses.

Of course, this is not just a medical matter. It is also a legal one. A federal law passed in 1970 classifies marijuana as an illegal drug with no known medical value and the federal government seems ready to stand by that law to keep marijuana illegal no matter what.

But by doing that, the government is living in the past, rather than looking at the present and the future of the treatment of illness in this country.

They are standing by a law passed more than 30 years ago -- a law that was passed before testing showed marijuana does, in fact, have medicinal value. It is an antiquated law that must be looked at and perhaps altered in this case.

Of course, we are not condoning the illicit use of marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana is illegal and should continue to be so. There are those who disagree with that, but the federal clearing of marijuana to use a substance to reach a point of altered consciousness should never happen.

But if there is a chance marijuana, if used correctly, could ease the suffering of an AIDS patient, or someone who has cancer, it should be made legal for that use. This is why we hope the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Oakland club.

A ruling for the club would allow special medicinal marijuana clubs in California to start selling the drug again, but it would do more than that. It would set a precedent for other clubs in other states to open. It would finally allow other groups like theirs to begin the selling of medicinal marijuana.

Of course, that scares a lot of people, but with the right amount of federal regulation on how the drug is sold and to whom, this could be a positive move for health care in our country.

(C) 2001 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE