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More MS news articles for September 2003

Patients lobby to ease laws on medical marijuana

September 23, 2003
Lolita C. Baldor
Associated Press

Brian Fitzgerald has been growing a marijuana plant in the window of his Massachusetts home for years, using it to treat his multiple sclerosis.

On Tuesday, he and others lobbied Congress to make that treatment legal.

More than 20 seriously ill patients urged lawmakers to pass legislation sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., that would allow states to pass laws sanctioning the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But Frank acknowledged Tuesday that "with the Republicans in power, there is virtually no chance" of the bill becoming law.

But, he said that the public's attention to the issue could put pressure on lawmakers to give it more consideration.

Fitzgerald, 57, of Springfield, said the marijuana helps ease his MS spasms. "When you have MS, your whole body is doing weird things and I hate it," he said. "Marijuana does the job."

For Marcy Duda of Ware, Mass., the headaches caused by her brain surgery feel like someone is stabbing an ice pick into her temple "and twisting it." Marijuana, she said, is the only thing that eases the pain.

"I smoke marijuana," she said, adding that she used to grow it herself but now has "some really good activist friends who supply it for me."

Duda and Fitzgerald were among the group that has been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, along with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Paul Armentano, policy analyst for NORML, said scientific evidence in favor of marijuana use is mounting.

"It's time for Congress and others to acknowledge cannabis' emerging role as a therapeutic agent and stand up for the rights of patients who ease their pain and suffering through the use of marijuana, he said

Under current law, federal authorities can step in and enforce marijuana laws in states that allow doctors to recommend it to their patients.

The Bush administration has been stepping up its efforts to crack down on doctors who prescribe marijuana. Doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Last week, the Bush administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let federal authorities punish doctors who recommend pot to their patients. The move came in response to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which ruled in October that physicians have a constitutional right to speak candidly with their patients about marijuana without fear of government sanctions.

Copyright © 2003, Associated Press