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New group backs medical marijuana in Texas

March 3, 2004
Ann Hatchitt
Austin Business Journal

A newly organized group has launched a campaign to promote the medicinal use of marijuana in Texas.

Texans for Medical Marijuana will work to change current law so that seriously ill Texans can have the right to use marijuana under a doctor's recommendation. The group plans to encourage Texans to influence state legislators to support medical marijuana legislation.

"It's an abomination that a safe and effective medicine is kept illegal and out of the hands of patients who need it," says Susan Robbins, a University of Houston professor and a member of the advisory board for Texans for Medical Marijuana.

The group kicked off its campaign Tuesday in Austin.

Noelle Davis, executive director of Texans for Medical Marijuana, says: "It's time for Texas to guarantee that seriously ill patients have safe and legal access to medical marijuana under their doctor's supervision."

Ten states now permit medicinal use of marijuana. Maryland and Hawaii have passed laws, and Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington went through the more arduous initiative process -- gathering signatures in support of ballot measures that eventually were passed.

Patients in those 10 states must receive written clearance from their doctors to use marijuana for medical purposes, according to Christopher Mulligan, development coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws. It's then up to a patient to obtain the marijuana from a private source, Mulligan says.

Marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain, nausea and epilepsy, and can be used for appetite stimulation for patients suffering from AIDS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other diseases, according to NORML.

The Austin-based Texas Medical Association, whose members are thousands of doctors, remains neutral on the issue, spokeswoman Pam Baggett says.

In January 1997, The New England Journal of Medicine in January 1997 came out in support of legalizing marijuana for medical uses.

"Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana's status from that of a Schedule I drug ... to that of a Schedule II drug ... and regulate it accordingly."

Copyright © 2004, American City Business Journals Inc.