Guilford Legislator Backs Medical Marijuana Study

May 29, 2008

Source: Greensboro News & Record

Greensboro, NC — A Guilford County representative wants to get the legislature fired up to study the benefits of medical marijuana. But similar efforts in the past went up in smoke.

If the bill sponsored by Rep. Earl Jones should pass, the Legislative Research Commission would determine the feasibility of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

“Medical use of marijuana has already been demonstrated to manage the health problems related to Alzheimer’s, AIDS, arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis,” said Jones, a Democrat. “There are a number of organizations that have endorsed medical marijuana.”

But legalizing marijuana for any purpose still is not approved by the federal government, and previous attempts to study the issue in North Carolina have failed.

Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat, filed a similar bill in 2003 that failed in the state House.

“What happened five years ago is that legislators were a little afraid of taking up the topic,” Luebke said. “There were not that many constituents around the state who had advocated for the benefits of medical marijuana. I could not find the necessary support to get a study commission.”

Recent attempts to legalize marijuana for pain-relief purposes in South Carolina and Tennessee also failed.

Nancy King, a medical ethicist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said medical drug use carries complicated consequences.

“Using marijuana in a medical context is not distinguishable from using it in a context of illegal drugs from the perspective of law enforcement,” King said.

But Jones and Luebke think the tide of public opinion on medical marijuana may be turning.

Twelve states allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to relieve pain and other symptoms, and only in California has the federal government intervened.

Ray Warren is the director of state policies with the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that lobbies for legalization of marijuana. He said the California law allows patients to cooperatively grow their own marijuana. Other states do not.

“You simply don’t hear about any issues in Rhode Island or Vermont or Montana,” Warren said. “In my mind, North Carolina would be a very receptive place to a compassionate marijuana law.”

John Rustin, director of government relations for the N.C. Family Policy Council, disagrees.

Rustin said his group believes that legalizing marijuana for any purpose sends a mixed message to young people and hinders the fight against teen drug use.

“The legislature now is dealing with a lot of the tension focused on gang prevention and gang activity,” Rustin said. “Of course, a lot of those activities or problems are related to illegal drug use. We don’t think it’s necessary to study this. The real purpose of a study would be to move toward legalization of marijuana.”

But Jones said the proposed study may not lead to that end.

“I’ve found the best route to take on something like this is to have a study committee where people can get accurate facts and information and draw their own conclusions,” he said. “They already have the myths and misinformation.”

Should legalizing marijuana for medical use be studied?


2 Responses to “Guilford Legislator Backs Medical Marijuana Study”

  1. Jeff Says:

    America is divided into social sections. The West is Progressive, The East is Conservative, the South and the Mid-West are scared little people waiting to see what the big boys in politics do. It is high time gov’t got the hell out of medicine, KILL ALL NAYSAYERS FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA…in the next election.

  2. Ele from Montana Says:

    Wrong. Things are happening in Montana.

    Parolees OK to use medical marijuana

    By AMY BETH HANSON Associated Press
    HELENA – The state Department of Corrections has backed off from a proposed rule that would bar anyone on parole or probation from obtaining medical marijuana without a judge’s approval.

    Proponents of the medical marijuana law, passed by voters in 2004, argued during a March hearing that the law does not allow any penalty for using medical marijuana, regardless of a person’s criminal history.

    “Our hands are tied by the way the initiative-passed law was written,” Diana Koch, chief legal counsel for the department, said in a statement Thursday. “As a result, those who have broken the law cannot be subject to this reasonable restriction.”

    Tom Daubert of Patients and Families United, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said the decision “recognizes that medical marijuana is entirely legal for any Montanan suffering from a qualifying medical condition whose doctor recommends it.”

    “I think this decision only affects a tiny number of Montanans, but it’s hugely important to their quality of life and their ability to alleviate their pain and suffering,” Daubert said.

    Koch said she isn’t sure Montana voters “understood that the medical marijuana act was going to go this far. There is the very real possibility that a person convicted of drug distribution can get a medical marijuana card and there is nothing probation and parole officers can do about it.”

    Daubert said it was the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes that got some of them in trouble with the law in the first place.

    “All the people on probation whom I know who were convicted of a drug offense are actually legitimately suffering patients whose use of marijuana either predated our state law or who didn’t understand the law as an affirmative defense and pled guilty to a crime they didn’t actually commit,” he said.

    Koch stressed that the decision to exclude the marijuana provision from probation and parole rules does not mean the department endorses the use of marijuana.

    “The use of marijuana is not in the best interest of the public or of offenders, who are responsible for rehabilitating themselves while under supervision in the community,” Koch said.

    The issue came up as the Department of Corrections was developing standard conditions for offenders on parole or probation.

    The agency had proposed prohibiting the use of medical marijuana unless the offenders obtained a judge’s exemption.

    The probation and parole rules, scheduled to take effect June 13, include a prohibition on gambling, firearms and alcohol use; allowing searches of an offender’s home and random testing for alcohol or illegal drug use; and offenders’ payment of court-ordered fines and restitution.


    Copyright © 2008 Missoulian

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