Marijuana is Needed by Seriously Ill Patients

July 11, 2008

Washington, DC — The federal government is waging war on some of our most vulnerable citizens, who Washington voters have acted to protect. Soon, our congressional representatives will have the chance to stand up for those people — seriously ill patients who need medical marijuana.

This is an issue we both know personally. One of us is a physician and researcher specializing in rehabilitation medicine and neuromuscular diseases such as ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”).

The other is a cancer survivor who got through the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy with the help of marijuana, and who has again found relief with marijuana from the chronic pain caused by injuries in a car accident.We have seen that medical marijuana safely helps some patients who get no relief from conventional medications. Washington voters did the right thing when we passed our medical marijuana law a decade ago. A dozen states now have similar laws, and none have been repealed.

Meanwhile, medical community support continues to solidify. New studies have documented marijuana’s ability to relieve nerve pain caused by HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. In February, the American College of Physicians — representing 124,000 oncologists, neurologists and other doctors of internal medicine — released a position paper declaring that the scientific evidence “supports the use of medical marijuana in certain conditions.”

The ACP specifically called on the federal government to reclassify marijuana to permit medical use, but our government simply refuses. Federal officials have arrested patients and caregivers who were following state medical marijuana laws, and could make more such arrests any time.

That’s why Congress must act.

In its 2005 case, Gonzales v. Raich, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the issue to Congress. The court declined to change the status quo, under which patients protected by state law can still face federal prosecution. But Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, went out of his way to note that patients Angel Raich and Diane Monson had made “strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm, because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes.” He pointedly expressing hope that Raich, Monson and their supporters “may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.”

That chance will come this month.


Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)


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