Debate Rages Over Medical Use of Marijuana 

Debate Rages Over Medical Use of Marijuana 
Posted by CN Staff on February 16, 2005 at 13:34:29 PT
By Phil Garber, Managing Editor 
Source: Randolph Recorder
A billionaire Democratic philanthropist and a conservative Morris County Republican Assemblyman find themselves on the same side of a controversial state proposal to permit marijuana to be used for medical purposes. The New York philanthropist is George Soros, who gained notoriety in the 2004 presidential election for sinking more than $14 million of his own money in a losing effort to defeat President Bush.
The Assemblyman is Michael Patrick Carroll, considered by himself and others to be among the most conservative members of the state Legislature.While they likely agree on little else, both say that people with terminal conditions, chronic pain and other serious illnesses should be allowed to use marijuana and that the drug has proven beneficial for everything from pain reduction to appetite enhancement for people wasting away from the ravages of AIDS.But others have fought such plans on a federal level, claiming that there are other more effective drugs already available and that the effort is no less than a smokescreen to make it generally legal to use marijuana.Those who have spoken against medical marijuana use range from President Bush to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11.“I don’t believe there is an evil plant,” said Carroll. “This is a decision that should be made by a doctor. If a doctor feels it is efficacious, that decision should be made.”Meanwhile, Soros has donated millions to campaigns around the nation to legalize medical use of marijuana. A spokesman said the Hungarian-born financier supports the New Jersey plan but has not yet given any money toward the lobbying effort.Pending LegislationCarroll said he expects to co-sponsor a bill in the Assembly to mirror one already proposed in the Senate, S2200, and sponsored by Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Union. The bill would allow the state Department of Health and Senior Services to give registration cards to patients whose doctors say they need the marijuana. The bill would allow patients or caretakers to have up to six plants or one ounce of marijuana.Acting Gov. Richard Codey has said he opposes the bill but Scutari said he spoke with Codey and that Codey is willing to further discuss the proposal.“Any time we can help people who are in the weakest position, we should do it,” said Scutari. “We’re talking about people with debilitating diseases, people in their death beds. Where is the compassion for the people who are dying?”“The biggest obstacle we have is to educate the public and our opponents,” said Scutari. “New Jersey is more progressive than the rest of the country and I believe decisions will be made based on the facts.”Ken Wolski, a registered nurse and director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, said he knows people who are planning suicide because of the pain that could be relieved if marijuana was readily available to them.“For the government to say they would rather have these patients commit suicide is absolutely outrageous,” said Wolski of Trenton. “This bill will be enacted because there is too much science, logic and common sense on the side of medical marijuana. How long it takes New Jersey politicians to understand, only they know.”In the United States, 33 states have passed legislation recognizing the therapeutic value of medical marijuana. Nine states have removed criminal penalties for use, possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical reasons, including Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine and Vermont. Washington, D.C. also passed a medical marijuana initiative but Congress struck it down, as the District of Columbia has no home rule.On the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers marijuana as a schedule I drug, in the same class as heroin and LSD. Most recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a California woman sued after she was arrested for illegal possession of pot even though state law allowed its use for medical reasons. The final word will come if the Justice Department appeals and if the Supreme Court rules on whether the federal government can enforce federal drug laws in states that permit medical use of marijuana.Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has introduced legislation in past years to permit medical use of marijuana but the efforts have failed. Frelinghuysen was among the majority in Congress who voted against a bill last year to cut the federal funds used to prosecute patients using marijuana for medical uses. Frelinghuysen also voted with a majority in Congress to block the District of Columbia from allowing medical use of marijuana after the district had voted for the law.In New Jersey, a law passed in 1981 allowed the state to join in a national study to evaluate the medical benefits of marijuana. But federal support later waned and there have been no studies.For And AgainstProponents of legalized use of pot for medical use also rejected the charge that it will lead to general legalization of marijuana. They said that in the nine states that permit medical use of pot, there has been no effort for general legalization while there have been many benefits to patients.“If legalized medical marijuana use is a toe in the door to completely legalize marijuana, it is a complete failure,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based, Marijuana Policy Project. “This is a totally phony argument and a complete red herring.”Those who favor medical marijuana use said its effectiveness has been proven. Currently, physicians may prescribe a drug in a pill form known as Marinol, which contains THC, the primary chemical in marijuana. But studies have shown that smoked or inhaled marijuana is more effective than Marinol.Mirken said a 1999 study commissioned by the White House by the Institute of Medicine said marijuana is preferred over Marinol to treat various illnesses and conditions.Among the reasons, Mirken said many people suffering from chronic conditions, such as nausea, and debilitating illnesses can’t swallow pills. Additionally, Mirken said many people complain that the Marinol gives an unpleasantly high feeling and can’t be regulated in the way that smoked marijuana can.Mirken also cited other studies in England which have shown that smoked marijuana combined with other medication is more effective than Marinol in alleviating pain associated with multiple sclerosis.Dr. Howard Swidler of Bethlehem, Pa., chief of the department of emergency medicine at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, said he has been a strong proponent of a law permitting the use of marijuana in medical situations. “Scientifically, it makes no sense that this should even be a point of contention,” said Swidler. “But politics has usurped science. The states with medical marijuana initiatives have not seen the sky fall.”Swidler said the side effects of marijuana use are slim compared with the side-effects of many drugs that are already prescribed for the same conditions.“Most who would be effected are on really toxic drugs,” said Swidler. “Comparatively, marijuana is sea water.”Swidler said there are not huge numbers of patients who would be prescribed marijuana. But for those who need it, the benefits would be large.“It’s not huge because it doesn’t effect a lot of patients but if it’s you, it is huge,” said Swidler.Swidler said he does not dissuade patients who say they plan to smoke pot to lessen their pain or keep them from withering away. “If a patient’s appetite is so terrible and he is losing weight and says marijuana is helping, I couldn’t in good faith say they shouldn’t use it,” said Swidler.Dr. Richard Winne, an anesthesiologist from Mendham, said he regularly prescribes Marinol at the Pain Management Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital. Winne said he has never encouraged patients to smoke marijuana but rather to use Marino to relieve pain, nausea or to stimulate weight gain.“There is nothing medical that supports smoking versus the pill form,” said Winne. “I don’t see any major advantage of smoking.”“There is a population of people out there who enjoy using marijuana and this is an angle to get it legalized,” said Winne. “You have to wonder about people who want the peak effect of the drug. But the issue is getting around nausea and increasing appetite. You don’t need the peak effect for that.”Winne also said smoking any substance brings on added problems, such as ingesting carcinogens. But Mirken said inhaling devices allow direct ingestion of the chemicals in pot without the potentially, harmful byproducts.Steven Steiner of Tioga Center, N.Y., whose son died in 2001 to a prescription drug over dose, has started an organization to fight legalized use of pot for medical reasons. Steiner said his group believes the effort is a way to win general legalization of pot and that it is being led by Soros.“As a parent who lost a child to drugs, as a parent who smoked pot and saw what it did to my family and my son, it is a gateway drug,” said Steiner. “Based on who is financing it (Soros), it is a ploy to legalize marijuana.”But Carroll insisted that medical use of marijuana is effective.“If a person has a terminal illness and there is a drug to help, why stand in the way,” said Carroll. “That should be the end of the question.”Carroll also said the benefits of allowing marijuana in medical situations outweighs the likelihood that some may abuse the drug.“People will abuse it,” said Carroll. “The question is whether we should ban its therapeutic purpose because of the fear of abuse. There is no reason to have a blind ideological ban.”The Assemblyman also said he has received numerous e-mails from people who are alarmed at Soros’s support of medical marijuana laws elsewhere around the nation and think the proposal is part of a plot to win overall legalization of marijuana.Carroll dismissed the concern and said there are strong reasons to legalize use of marijuana for medical reasons.Scutari said he had never even heard of Soros before he introduced the bill. Scutari said he has not heard from Soros and has received no funds from the philanthropist.Soros was one of the earliest and most significant financial supporters of, a group that waged a national effort to defeat Bush. Soros is a strong supporter of the Drug Policy Alliance of New York City, which coordinated many of the efforts across the nation for medical marijuana laws. The alliance’s executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, said Soros is primarily involved in drug policy reform through his support of the Drug Policy Alliance.Nadelmann said Soros has provided significant financial support for the medical marijuana ballot initiatives which were approved by voters in California, Alaska, Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, Maine and Washington D.C. between 1996 and 2000. He said the Drug Policy Alliance is currently working on medical marijuana legislation in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Alabama and New Mexico.Nadelmann said the Drug Policy Alliance has had a “modest advisory role” in the New Jersey effort and that Soros has had “no involvement whatsoever.”“George Soros is primarily interested in medical marijuana because it lies at the intersection of two broader issues about which he feels strongly, the many ways in which the war on drugs is doing more harm than good and the failures of American medicine to deal compassionately and sensibly with pain and dying,” Nadelmann said in a statement.Nadelmann said Soros is “not particularly interested in marijuana legalization, and would not regard himself as an advocate of marijuana legalization.”However, Soros serves on the board of the Drug Policy Alliance, which believes that that marijuana should ultimately be taxed, controlled and regulated more or less like alcohol, with prohibitions remaining on sales to children, driving under the influence, and other related issues, Nadelmann said.Lining up in favor of medical use of marijuana have been such groups as the N.J. State Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. Among those against the bills have been the American Medical Association and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.Scutari and Mirken were skeptical of the individuals and organizations that have come out against medical use of marijuana. Scutari said doctors, pain management centers and drug companies may be less concerned with the effects of smoked marijuana than they are with the loss of money if more patients use the much less costly, smoked marijuana.They also said organizations that receive federal funds may be reluctant to support a policy that goes against the White House policy.“This is an administration that has been accused of manipulating and pressuring scientists,” said Mirken. “If I were a clinic or a lab with federal funding, I would be nervous to criticize the party line. The fear is real.” Source: Randolph Recorder (NJ)Author: Phil Garber, Managing EditorPublished: Wednesday, February 16, 2005Copyright: 2005 Recorder Newspapers info poweronemedia.comRelated Articles & Web Sites:Marijuana Policy Project Policy Alliance Heart Web Site Senator Wants To Legalize Med Marijuana Push for Medical Marijuana Use
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Comment #21 posted by Gary Storck on February 18, 2005 at 10:06:22 PT
WI Radio Network
A nice report from the WRN. Thy supply newcasts to stations all over WI, so the word of lobby day spread far beyond Madison. The people are with us. If only the pols would catch up or find some courage.
IMMLY WI mmj Poll
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on February 17, 2005 at 11:51:10 PT
My Marijuana's Not Legal Yet?
Wisconsin Radio Network***By Jackie JohnsonFebruary 17, 2005 
The medical marijuana advocacy group lobbied legislators and displayed reading material and buttons for onlookers. 
A man who says he's "living proof" that marijuana is a safe and effective medicine urges legislators to make it legal. The Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access holds its lobby day at the state capitol. Gary Storck of the medicinal marijuana advocacy group (also with Is My Marijuana Legal Yet?, or IMMLY) points out that cannabis is natural and safe, unlike some other widely accepted medications that have recently been taken off the market -- or at least warned against -- by the FDA. "Marijuana is uniquely suited to treating arthritis, which Celebrex and Vioxx and Aleve all were used for, because it's a potent anti-spasmodic anti-inflamitory, antioxidant and it also is a potent pain reliever." Storck says the majority of Wisconsinites -- 80.3% -- support marijuana use for medicinal purposes. He says he uses the cannabis himself, and it's been very helpful to his health. "I was born with what's been diagnosed as Noonan's Syndrome. And from an early age it was apparent I did not have the same good health my older siblings enjoyed. I found myself going blind from glaucoma as a child, and I was raised a strict Roman Catholic and I used to pray every night that I wouldn't go blind. And then around the age of 17 I found the answer to my prayers." Storck urges you write to your lawmakers, and ask them to help sick people statewide get their pot legally. "People are being diagnosed with cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and dozens of other diseases marijuana can help everyday. And to force them out in the black market, or to risk arrest and jail is immoral. People need to let their legislators know that it's time to make this compassionate exception for our sick and dying citizens." He says if most people knew that their loved one would benefit from marijuana, they'd move mountains to get it for them.AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (1:53 mp3) Web Sites:Is My Medicine Legal Yet? -- http://www.IMMLY.orgWisconsin Norml -- http://www.winorml.orgMadison Norml -- http://www.madisonnorml.org
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Comment #19 posted by cannaman on February 17, 2005 at 09:36:19 PT
A weak bill.
It seems to me that a weak bill will make a weak law, and how do they get 1 ounce or six plants, can anbody tell me how a person growing six plants is going to yield only an ounce of cannabis? And to Steven Steiner who lost his son to a drug overdose? Your an idiot and you are fighting the wrong fight. Did your son die of cannabis? or was it from those wonderful prescription drugs created by pharmaceutical companies man....Think about it. He failed as a father an now blames cannabis for his sons prescription drug overdose when neither are to blame, he is for not educating his own son!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
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Comment #18 posted by Hope on February 17, 2005 at 08:49:35 PT
I can't get the video to play. 
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Comment #17 posted by Sam S on February 17, 2005 at 07:50:02 PT:
medical cannabis
While I sympathize with Steven Steiner over the loss of a son to prescription drugs, let's not jump to an erroneous conclustion that cannabis is a gateway drug. He's had his experience and I've had mine. For over 40 years I have known many pot somkers and I know of not one who required greater doses of pot to enjoy it or had the need to use other drugs whatsoever.
Sam S
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Comment #16 posted by potpal on February 17, 2005 at 06:08:58 PT
pa/medpot next...? 
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Comment #15 posted by breeze on February 17, 2005 at 02:25:22 PT
The FDA is embarrasing itself
Seems that the arthritus drug Vioxx was pulled for its safety issues by the makers- but the FDA continued to say it was safe, only it wasn't.Thanks to whistle blower, Dr David Graham, he has stated that many drugs approved by the FDA and labled as safe, basically PAID the FDA to say that the drugs are safe by the makers of the drugs.Doesn't cannabis help arthritus as well as a host of other medical conditions? I wonder when and how we should start sending money to the FDA to get safety approval for cannabis- maybe then it will get mass approval, and become legal again.
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Comment #14 posted by Taylor121 on February 16, 2005 at 22:16:54 PT
What a day 
What a day, what a day to take to
What a day, what a day to make it throughMarijuana is popping out into the mainstream. I feel happy.I don't know about anyone else, but the Supreme Court ruling is on my mind. I hope they rule with us, if not we will not give up. Around this nation Americans are beginning to stand up for what is not only the truth, but for what is truly ethical. What happened to American ethics? Where is the humanity in throwing cannabis users in jail for a non violent activity that no one ever overdoses over? Where is the sense in using limited police resources on a strong minority of the population?
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 22:12:25 PT
I saw the video! Good job! I wish you the very best in your endeavors for Wisconsin. 
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Comment #12 posted by Gary Storck on February 16, 2005 at 22:06:19 PT
A good day at the Capitol
Thanks for posting the NBC 15 article FoM!There is video with it too. We had an information table in the Capitol rotunda for several hours as well as visiting offices delivering mmj mail from constituents. Hopefully we'll see some legislative action here as the session progresses.
Is My Medicine Legal YET?
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 18:20:56 PT
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Comment #10 posted by mayan on February 16, 2005 at 18:20:09 PT
You're right, FoM!
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 18:11:14 PT
You said Soros is buying shares of Time-Warner and News Corp. That's CNN isn't it? I wonder if he is buying enough that he will have some say.
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Comment #8 posted by mayan on February 16, 2005 at 18:07:44 PT
Making Noise
This issue is making noise everywhere! The people know very well that medical cannabis is real and are becoming aware of which politicians truly reresent them. It's high time to seperate the cream from the scum!I saw on the news yesterday that Soros is buying shares of Time-Warner and News Corp. Maybe with his power he can inject a little sanity into those corporate/government mouthpieces.I just hope we can change things before the neo-cons start WWIII. Goss and Rumsfeld are on the news again telling us we're doomed to be attacked again...soon. It will undoubtedly be Iran or Syria that commits the next "terror attack". Yeah,right. THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...THE FAA KNEW! But were they set up? Fire Re-opens 9/11 Questions: Why did the twin towers fall so fast? Francisco 9/11 Truth Alliance Events - March 9-12: Was an Inside Job - A Call to All True Patriots:
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 18:07:34 PT
News Brief from NBC15
They interviewed Gary!Group Wants WI Medical Marijuana Laws Changed Video: group lobbying at the state capitol Wednesday wants Wisconsin's medical marijuana laws changed.The Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access says there are still medical marijuana patients being arrested in Wisconsin and facing sentencing.The group is pointing a finger at the legislature, saying four sessions have passed and no bill has been introduced.“The blame for this falls squarely on the legislature for letting this issue fester. When somebody's sick, you don't withhold treatment and that's basically what we're looking at here is, treatment is being withheld but its being withheld by force and by fear and a lot of people wont even access this to save their lives because they don't want to break the law right now," said Gary Storck, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access.The group says they are strictly for the medical use of marijuana and how it can benefit people that way.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 17:34:09 PT
You're welcome. Now lets see it become law and I'll be happy. 
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on February 16, 2005 at 16:55:23 PT
Global Warming
Excellent letter!
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Comment #4 posted by global_warming on February 16, 2005 at 16:51:38 PT
My Letter To The Governor
Governor CodeyWhen you first came into the news, I thought that you were a good and honest man, and I thought that here was a man who I could vote for.Despite all this commotion regarding the DJ censorship, I do support your efforts in supporting the issues of mental illness, a most serious and tragic matter in all of our lives. I, as a commuter, listen regularly to 101.5, and I heard his remarks. Though I thought that the DJ was "out of line" he did manage to cross over the line, when he suggested the value of your proposal and the lack of attention to other more needy and serious considerations.You lost my vote when you decided to go against the compassionate law to allow the use of marijuana or cannabis as it is correctly known, while you favor spending money to help the mentally ill, you would deny those other people with terminal afflictions, you would continue to place them in jails, this is wrong.I don't know if you can make a come back towards the governorship, but you can help the terminally ill, you can choose to take the yoke of any further burden off their backs.Thank You Governor Codey
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Comment #3 posted by global_warming on February 16, 2005 at 16:22:19 PT
Thanks FOM, NJ Is Coming Home
Good article, too much focus on Soros, the residents of NJ, taxpayers and voters are bursting at the seam, to burst the bubble of all these fatso politicos, our state government is out of control, they are crafting new and better ways to get our tax dollars, they are bleeding and they should in all good spiritual conscience, just go some where and dissapear.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 13:48:53 PT
Coalition for Medical Marijuana - New Jersey
I just found this link. Here it is!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on February 16, 2005 at 13:36:56 PT
How To Contact The Paper
Here's the link for Letters To The Editor.
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