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Pubdate: Thursday, February 18, 1999
Source: Canadian Online Explorer
Author: Dr. Gifford-Jones

Have I ever smoked pot? Not in the past and not at the moment. I grew up in an era when the worst thing you did was sneak behind the barn and smoke a cigarette.

But would I smoke marijuana now? You bet, if there was a medical need. And like some people with AIDS and other diseases, I'd fight like hell to do it.

Several years ago I was contacted by Terry Parker, a Toronto epilepsy sufferer. He told me that without smoking marijuana he was subject to three grand mal seizures and anywhere from 15 to 80 petit mal seizures a week!

Parker wanted me to help in his fight to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. I was sympathetic. But at the time I was embroiled in a major fight to legalize the medical use of heroin for terminal cancer patients. I simply didn't have time to fight two battles at once.

Now I do have the time. And it seems ludicrous that Parker and those suffering from multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, chronic pain, migraine headaches and the debilitating effects of AIDS and chemotherapy have to fight both their disease and the law.

The active ingredients in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Synthetic THC (Marinol) is available in pill form, but not synthetic CBD. And many sufferers say smoking marijuana provides
greater relief than pills; it delivers THC and CBD to the bloodstream five times faster than synthesized marijuana.

In July 1996, police raided Parker's apartment and charged him after finding 71 marijuana plants. Parker admitted he gave his home-grown pot to other sick people. The judge accepted his medical pleas and he was given a
year's probation.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECT

During Parker's trial, many eminent authorities attested to the medical benefits of marijuana. And what better witness than his mother, who had seen his grand mal attacks.

The Canadian judge heard both sides of the debate, then ruled that marijuana did show a therapeutic effect in people suffering from epileptic seizures, chronic pain and migraine headaches. He also found it helped control nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, eased pressure in the eye and decreased muscle spasticity from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

The judge ruled that patients suffering from these diseases have the right to obtain safe, legal and affordable marijuana. Buying the drug on the street can cost $5,000 a year.

In the U.S. last November, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes received widespread support in several state-wide referenda. A poll in Canada showed that 83% of Canadians believe that the medical use of marijuana should not be a criminal offence.

Last year, Dr. Jerome Kassier, editor of the prestigious New England Journal Of Medicine, lent his support to the medical use of marijuana. He suggested "the argument that it would be a signal to the young that using
marijuana would be okay is false." But neither the U.S. nor the Canadian government is listening to reason.

But what about those who don't suffer from these medical problems? My enthusiasm for marijuana stops here. Smoking pot has been described as harmless fun. But is it?

There's evidence that daily smokers of marijuana may damage their lungs as badly as -- or worse than -- those who smoke cigarettes.

A study of 1,000 people at the University of Arizona showed people who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to report lung problems.

Marijuana smokers, according to a study at the University of California, inhale five times the amount of carbon monoxide as cigarette smokers! They also deposit three times as much tar due to inhaling deeper and holding the breath longer.

THE BAD NEWS

Regular users of marijuana show a gradual accumulation of the drug, particularly in the brain, lungs and sex organs.

The U.S. Army conducted a study of soldiers in Europe who had smoked marijuana for a few months. Pre-cancerous changes were observed in specimens taken from the air passages of their lungs.

But these effects are irrelevant to those who are suffering debilitating disease or a slow and painful death. To charge these people for possessionof marijuana is a waste of time and a cruel, inhumane approach.

Will we ever learn to use common sense as society becomes increasingly complex? What do you think?



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Last Modified:Thursday, 21-Feb-2002 13:58:15 PST
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