Hare Gets Religious Support for Medical Marijuana

July 20, 2008

Galesburg — Congressman Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, will vote in favor of legalizing medical marijuana for the second straight year.

This time, however, he has the support of seven religious leaders in the 17th district. Clergy from the Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ are standing by Hare in the push to legalize the Schedule I drug.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy and compassion,” said the Rev. William Pyatt, Carthage United Methodist Church, in a news release. “Being seriously ill is stressful enough already without living in fear of arrest for taking doctor-recommended medicine.”An additional 55 religion leaders throughout Illinois have added their support to the legislation.

Hare agrees that a patient comfort should come first.

“We want to give patients the best quality of life,” Hare said. “As long as it is done within the consultation of a doctor.”

The legislation would prevent the federal government from interfering in state medical marijuana laws. Currently 12 states allow the use of medical marijuana. It is often used for patients with cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis.

Not all doctors agree with legalizing medicinal marijuana though. Galesburg oncologist Dr. John McClean said doctors should focus on more powerful medications already on the market.

“People who are for it want to go, more or less, against conventional wisdom and think this is a great drug choice,” McClean said. “It’s not. When the medical community sees these big pushes for medical marijuana it’s kind of a joke.”

Marinol, a prescription drug for cancer patients with nausea or vomiting, is an FDA-approved drug that uses synthetic THC — tetrahydrocannabinol — the main psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant. However, McClean said he does not believe Marinol is as powerful as other prescription drugs on the market.

Hare noted his time spent as a hospice volunteer as an influence on his position, commenting on how he was humbled by several of the patients. One specific patient with lung cancer stands out as one of his most memorable. The patient, an older man, confided in Hare his last wishes were to sit with his cat, drink a beer and have a conversation with someone.

So Hare brought the man a six-pack of Bud Light and his cat. The two sat and talked for hours, sipping beer.

Two weeks later, after the man died, his wife approached Hare, telling him how much the gesture meant to her husband.

Hare became a hospice volunteer after the death of his mother.

The story reflects Hare’s position on medical marijuana.

“We need to do whatever that patient needs or wants, and give them a chance to go out with dignity,” Hare said. “And if I had a chance to (bring the man his cat and beer) again, I would.”

McClean agreed that the patient’s personal well-being should come first.

“If somebody said, ‘I want a joint to smoke before I pass on,’ I’d be the last person to stop them,” McClean said. “But to use marijuana for medical reasons, it’s questionable.”

Advocates for the use of medical marijuana are for the euphoria created from smoking marijuana, McClean said. By creating a sense of euphoria, he said the patient may escape pain.

Hare said medical marijuana is not given for patients to get high, but to make them comfortable.

Morphine and fentanyl are more efficient medications for pain relief McClean said. The two can also be given multiple ways — by patch, mouth or even as a suppository — making it easier for the patient. While both Schedule II medications are heavily addictive, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, McClean said patients can be weaned off them. He also said addiction is not an issue for terminally ill patients because “when they have two weeks to live, we don’t worry about addiction.”

McClean said some researchers and doctors think marijuana is addictive.

Hare said while he is for the legalization for medical marijuana, he does not support legalizing the drug for recreational use.

“We need to draw a line and say there is a huge difference,” Hare said.

Medical Marijuana Pros and Cons

— Treats nausea
— Helps decrease the loss of appetite in AIDS patients
— Reduces pain in multiple sclerosis patients
— Helps glaucoma patients by relieving pressure on the eye

— Impairment of thinking, problem-solving skills and memory
— Reduced balance and coordination
— Increased risk of heart attack
— Heightened risk of chronic cough and respiratory infections
— Potential for hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms
— Contains 50 percent to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke
Courtesy Mayo Clinic

Common Schedule I drugs
— Cannabis
— Peyote
— Heroin
— Mescaline

Common Schedule II drugs
— Cocaine
— Opium
— Methylphenidate/Ritalin
— Morphine
— Fentanyl
Courtesy DEA

Note: Bill would bar feds from interfering in state laws.


Source: Galesburg Register-Mail (IL)
Website: http://www.galesburg.com/



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