Mixed Bag Over Support of Medicinal Marijuana

September 30, 2008

MI — Michigan voters will decided whether or not to legalize medicinal marijuana in a state wide ballot initiative this November. Although polls show there is growing support for the move, getting people to speak openly about the subject can be bit more difficult.

According to a September poll by the Michigan Resource Group of Lansing, 67 percent of voters said they would support the proposal, while 29 percent said they opposed it.

If passed, the law would permit physician approved use of marijuana for patients with “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, as well as other conditions approved by the Department of Community Health.

Those patients permitted to use marijuana would be given an identification card and the right to grow marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility. The last portion of the law would also permit care givers and patients the right to used medical reasons as a legal defense in marijuana prosecutions.

Joshua Snider, a 30-year-old Petoskey resident, advocated for the use of marijuana as medicine for a variety of medical conditions. Snider said his own mild temporal epilepsy was improved with occasional use of marijuana.

Besides working as a pain killer and an appetite stimulant, Snider asserted that marijuana also has antispasmodic qualities.

“It works a lot better than any other prescribed medicines,” he said. “A lot of them can make you pretty sick, they mess with your stomach.”

Snider is an outspoken advocate for marijuana and helped collect signatures to get the measure on the statewide ballot, he said it is not uncommon for people to shy away from speaking about marijuana in public.

“All of it is fear,” Snider said. “Right now it’s dangerous to use it under the current law.”

While the current ballot initiative would allow patients with glaucoma to use marijuana, Dr. Tim Jarvi, an ophthalmologist in Petoskey, is not convinced that marijuana is better other pharmaceutical treatments already on the market. While marijuana can reduce ocular pressure, Jarvi pointed out that it also decreases blood pressure and therefore makes it more difficult to pump nutrients into the eye through the optic nerve.

“It’s impractical,” he said. “Even if it was legal we wouldn’t use it.”

Dr. George Wagoner, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist in Manistee, admitted that he had no scientific experience with marijuana. But during his wife’s unsuccessful battle against severe ovarian cancer in 2007, he said they turned to the illegal drug and found it helped her cope with the pain better than anything else.

Wagoner said his wife developed intractable nausea and vomiting during her chemotherapy and that other pharmaceutical drugs were ineffective.

“When my wife inhaled the smoke twice, she said the nausea was gone,” he said. “It took practically none to be effective. I think everyone in her situation should be allowed to do this legally.”

However, there are those, even with a personal knowledge of cancer, who do not support the current ballot initiative’s scope.

Bob McCullough, a 74-year-old Petoskey resident, is in remission from multiple myeloma and said he understands the need for medicinal marijuana, but was uncomfortable with people being given the legal right to grow it. He said that would open up the possibility of people selling it illegally for profit.

“There is such a strong desire for this stuff, I think it needs to be done through a pharmacy,” he said. “I would like to see it made available, but only a month’s supply at a time. That way a doctor would know if you are starting to abuse it.”

Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, and classified as a schedule I drug, 12 states have passed medicinal marijuana legislation. In 2005, Traverse City passed a city ordinance to make the prosecution of medicinal marijuana cases the lowest priority. However, both the offices of the county and city prosecutors referred requests for comment to one another, preferring to stay mum rather than weigh in on the taboo subject.

Charlevoix County Sheriff George Lasater deferred a request to comment to his successor, Don Schneider, after admitting he was not familiar with the ballot language. Although Schneider had yet to read the language, he said his first reaction was that legalization of medicinal marijuana would compound the issue of prescription drug abuse and marijuana use further.

“I think there’s always the potential for it to be grossly misused,” he said. “There are some doctors, although they are few and far between, that lack integrity and will give a prescription for anything.”

Source: Petoskey News-Review

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