All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2003

More good than harm

October 1, 2003
 Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson
Oregon Daily Emerald

If I ponder for a few minutes, I can think of exactly two people I know who have never smoked pot. Of course, I don't wander around among my acquaintances taking pot-smoking polls, but having lived in Eugene for many years, the subject comes up more often than you might think -- particularly if you're discussing brownie recipes.

Some of these people only tried it once or twice and found it wasn't to their liking. Others reminisce fondly about misspent adolescent years and the accompanying drug-induced haze. A handful liked it enough to continue the practice to this day -- often substituting a joint for an after-dinner drink.

Now, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, "Marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug that poses significant health threats to users."

Hmmm ...

What if you're already dealing with a significant health threat? While there is still an awful lot of debate over the efficacy of marijuana in the medical world, there is some reason to think it might offer relief for folks with certain serious health issues.

If you've tuned into the debates over the years, you probably already know that many claim pot can help alleviate the vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy, and it can help stimulate the appetite of those with AIDS. But, did you know that folks with multiple sclerosis have found that smoking pot can ease muscle pain, calm tremors and help increase control over their bladders? It may even prevent epileptics from having seizures and ease eye pressure for people suffering from glaucoma.

Dangerous, indeed!

To save us from that suspect class of people who might seek to do us harm -- you know, doctors -- the federal government has sought to impose sanctions on physicians who have the temerity to discuss with their patients the potential efficacy of marijuana.

Let's be very clear on this point: They want to punish doctors for merely talking with patients about marijuana.

Of course, if you need eye surgery, your doctor is allowed to administer cocaine. If you're in serious pain, she can give you morphine or codeine. If your blood pressure is skyrocketing, she can tell you that a daily glass of red wine might help.

The plain fact is that cocaine, opiates, and alcohol are also dangerous and addictive -- hence the need for organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Nevertheless, where these substances are concerned, the federal government is willing to trust our doctors to exercise their best medical judgment.

What makes marijuana so different?

A little research shows that 35 states have passed legislation recognizing the medicinal potential of marijuana. Nine more -- Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona, Alaska, Colorado and Maine -- have gone so far as to make it legal for people to use marijuana on the advice of their doctors. Canada as a whole allows people with terminal illnesses and certain chronic conditions to grow it themselves or designate someone to do it for them.

From where I sit, marijuana appears to be a big, open secret that everyone but the federal government is in on. Well, actually, our recent heads of said government members do seem to be in on it too. Clinton told us he didn't inhale; Gore confessed that he did. Bush -- well, what hasn't he done?

Last week, the Supreme Court refused to reconsider the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Conant v. Walters that bars the government from investigating and issuing sanctions to doctors who discuss the use marijuana with their patients.

I'm sure that the government's representative -- Solicitor General Ted Olson -- was frustrated by the decision. After all, he thinks that allowing doctors to talk to their patients about using marijuana for medical purposes is likely to "facilitate and promote the acquisition and use of an unsafe controlled substance." Because he was on the losing side of an argument, he has my sympathy if not my understanding. I wonder ...

Do you think he'd appreciate a nice, big batch of brownies?

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