Tuesday, October 31, 2000
In its first year, Oregon's medical marijuana program registered 594 patients, two-thirds of whom list severe pain for their participation, and is working as intended, state health officials said Monday.
"A substantial number of qualified patients and their physicians are using it, and only a very few inquiries from law enforcement officials regarding registered patients have occurred," said Martin Wasserman, administrator of the state Health Division.
Most patients have chronic conditions, said Kelly Paige, the program manager, citing a report recently released by the Department of Human Services.
"There are patients with migraines, arthritis, burns and back injuries," she said. "There are a number who have muscle spasms as a result of multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries."
According to the report, the ages of registered patients ranged from 14 to 87, with the average being 46. Seventy percent were men, and patients live in 31 different counties.
The report also showed 329 physicians provided documentation for the registered patients. Paige said this figure alleviated initial concerns that doctors would be unwilling to provide statements to qualified patients or that only a few doctors would be doing so for a large number of patients.
The registry, which started May 1, 1999, was set up as a directive of the Medical Marijuana Act that Oregon voters approved in 1998. The act allows registered patients -- who must have a physician's statement that they have a debilitating medical condition that can be alleviated by marijuana --to possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes.
Opponents of such programs, including the American Medical Association, maintain marijuana usage can contribute to cancer and affect eye disorders and multiple sclerosis. Program supporters argue marijuana helps people suffering from ailments such as glaucoma, nausea from chemotherapy and appetite loss from AIDS.
The report covers the period through April 30. Since then, the number of registrations has increased to 1,068.
-- Angie Chuang