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The Continuing Controversy of Medicinal Marijuana

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In recent years, Americans in seven states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) have taken advantage of their right to vote and passed initiatives calling for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

Since 1998, medicinal marijuana (called Marinol in prescription form) has been providing relief to more than 400 Oregon residents suffering from serious medical conditions including cancer and AIDS. Kelly Paige, manager of Oregon’s medical marijuana program, reported that the Oregon Health Division has been inundated with requests to widen the scope of medical conditions legally allowed to be treated by medicinal marijuana.

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, CFS, FMS and sleep disorders have voiced their desire to have access to medicinal marijuana in order to ease their pain.

The law passed in 1998 allows for some leeway in the parameters in which doctors are allowed to prescribe Marinol. Under the law it is acceptable for citizens to request that medicinal marijuana be available to patients with a variety of conditions.

The Health Division is currently assembling an advisory group of medical professionals and patients that will meet in March to assess the situation and offer suggestions. Paige anticipates that a decision on the issue will be reached by April.

The majority of opposition is coming from politicians who are concerned that allowing patients with other diseases to benefit from the treatment will abuse the law the residents voted for and endanger their status as leaders. State Representative Kevin Mannix, a candidate for state attorney general, stresses that, “the Health Division needs to be careful not to go far beyond what the voters intended.” He feels expanding the parameters will confuse young people by leading them to believe that marijuana use is acceptable.

Political consultant Geoff Sugerman, however, sees the battle from another prospective. He stated that “it is socially irresponsible for politicians like Kevin Mannix to deny a medicine to people that science has proven can help.”

The benefits patients experience from incorporating medicinal marijuana into their drug therapy regime includes appetite stimulation, pain and nausea relief, and euphoria.

Annie, a CFS and FMS patient, told her story in the book, “Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” and highlighted Marinol use, which has improved her condition; “I also use medicinal marijuana for my pain and muscle spasms.”

Paige reiterated the success of the program and stated that there is no reason expanding the parameters is cause for concern since the feedback thus far has been positive.

Sources: Skelly, Mari and Helm, Andrea. “Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Hunter House Publishers.

The Associated Press

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