MMJ Hearing Pits Talk Show Host, Drug Officials

MMJ Hearing Pits Talk Show Host, Drug Officials
Posted by CN Staff on June 09, 2006 at 07:48:47 PT
Source: Bergen Record 
New Jersey -- A tearful TV talk show host and a federal deputy drug czar squared off Thursday over a proposal to legalize marijuana for medical uses. The bill, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, would allow patients suffering from cancer or some other chronic medical condition to use marijuana to ease pain, nausea, seizures and severe, persistent muscle spasms and other debilitating symptoms.
Friends and foes of a proposal packed the state Senate Health Committee on Thursday. Here are both sides of the debate.-- Bob GrovesPRO: Easing The Pain Choking back sobs several times, Montel Williams told the standing-room-only crowd that he has not missed a day hosting his daytime television program in the past seven years, despite smoking and eating marijuana daily to ease pain in his feet caused by multiple sclerosis."It doesn't get me high at all," Williams said. "All it does is allow my feet to stop from hurting."What angers me so much now is people consider me a dope head, and all I want to do is get up and go to work," Williams told the hearing.The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari, D-Union, is similar to legislation passed in 11 other states. It would allow patients who have a debilitating disease or chronic medical condition such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS or glaucoma to use marijuana to alleviate symptoms.If passed, the law would also shield primary caregivers, and doctors who prescribe the drug, from prosecution in New Jersey. Qualified patients would be issued an identification card from the state Health Department and be allowed to possess up to six marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana.Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, is sponsoring an identical bill. Similar bills by the two legislators did not reach a vote in 2004. Supporters stress that marijuana does not have to be smoked to be effective, but can be taken in pills and liquid, or mixed in food. Looking trim in a business suit, with his trademark shaved head and left earring, Williams said he has spoken to more than 3 million schoolchildren about staying drug-free.Canada and Great Britain have approved medical marijuana in various forms, such as sprays, for different conditions, Williams said. Although the federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for medical use, studies in the past 60 years have shown it to be safe and effective, Williams said."For us to argue efficacy is ridiculous," he said. Scutari said his measure will provide doctors with another option for pain management. "This bill is not an attempt to back-door marijuana for recreational use," he said. A poll commissioned by the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey found 86 percent of voters queried in New Jersey believe seriously ill patients should have access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommends it. Eleven percent disagree.The same telephone poll, conducted last month, found that 59 percent believe that marijuana has "medical benefits"; 17 percent dismissed its therapeutic properties.Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they would defy current law to obtain marijuana for a loved one suffering from a condition that could be eased by the drug.Don McGrath, whose 26-year-old son Sean died of cancer two years ago, told the panel that when all other drugs failed to ease his son's nausea from chemotherapy, an oncologist recommended marijuana "off the record.""As a parent and a caregiver for Sean, I didn't need several years of clinical studies or an FDA approval to determine that marijuana was effective," his father said.CON: Risky, UnprovenMarijuana has not been proved safe and effective for medicinal uses and could lead to drug abuse, Scott Burns, deputy drug czar in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, testified.The FDA advises that "marijuana is not medicine, and has demonstrated health risks," Burns said. The federal Food and Drug Administration does not endorse its use as a pain reliever, though it has approved use of a prescription drug made with an active ingredient found in marijuana."There is no compelling evidence that marijuana relieves symptoms" of these diseases, for which other treatments are available, Burns said.A White House drug enforcement official on Thursday also dismissed efforts to pass a medical marijuana law in New Jersey, saying "anecdotal evidence should not drive our nation's approval process for prescription drugs."Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director for demand reduction in the White House drug policy office, described marijuana as potentially addictive and capable of causing harmful health effects.Burns agreed. "Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance," he said. "In states where it is normalized and called medicine, the perception of its danger is grossly reduced among young people."The number of teenagers driving while on drugs is increasing, Burns said. The government worries that legalizing marijuana would lead to more illegal drug use.David G. Evans of the Drug-Free School Coalition of Flemington said his opposition to the bill "is really a consumer protection issue."We don't allow any other home-grown drug to be used. Plus, the science just doesn't back it up," he said.The coalition cites a 2005 Rutgers University poll that said public support for medical marijuana dropped from 82 percent in 2002 to 72 percent last year.State Sen. Robert W. Singer, R-Ocean, a committee member, said he was concerned that the bill allowed marijuana use for end-of-life illnesses such as cancer and AIDS, but also for less threatening diseases such glaucoma, which his 8-year-old daughter has. "There has to be penalties to regulate it," Singer said.Earlier this week, Singer, the ranking Republican on the health committee, said there were many questions to be answered."The bill says you can't operate heavy machinery, but it doesn't say it's not allowed at work," Singer said.The person you designate to pick it up has to be 18 years old, but you can't be 18 and buy a drink," he said. "Is this something you can do strictly in the privacy of home, or at the beach or an entertainment event, like a concert or ballgame?"This article contains material from The Associated Press. Complete Title: Marijuana Hearing Pits Talk Show Host, Drug Officials Source: Bergen Record (NJ)Published: Friday, June 9, 2006 Copyright: 2006 Bergen Record Corp.Website: groves northjersey.comRelated Articles & Web Site:CMMNJ http://www.cmmnj.orgThe Cherylheart Foundation White House Official Opposes NJ's MMJ Law Host Pushes N.J. on Medical Marijuana To Hear Medicinal Marijuana Testimony 
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on June 09, 2006 at 23:54:40 PT
Scott Burns
Does he? I think not!
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on June 09, 2006 at 08:31:00 PT:
Ever watch the old "Little Rascals" shows?
Without going into too much detail, there's an episode where two kids, a Black one and a White one, are trying to make some extra money peddling things. The White one, who is just as clueless as his Black buddy, says to him, "Now, Stymie, don't you show your iggerance' (meaning 'ignorance', of course).That's what these prohibs remind me of. Mouthing off as if they had any facts that wouldn't vanish like an icecube in a blowtorch. Notice something? Notice how, all of a sudden, when faced with an articulate opponent like Mr. Williams, their language gets all weaselly? "Potentially addictive." "Capable of causing harmful health effects." All of a sudden, when faced with the prospect of having their words thrown back in their teeth, they start hedging their answers. Never any specifics. Never any studies that cannot be shot down in seconds by reminding the audience that the studies didn't survive peer review. Just vague generalities and lots of 'he said - she said'. One question: were these people sworn to tell the truth before the legislative body, under penalty of perjury, or are they just venturing their opinions? Because if they gave sworn testimony, they have perjured themselves.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on June 09, 2006 at 08:22:50 PT
Thank you. I will listen to it. I am looking forward to getting Heart of Gold next week.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on June 09, 2006 at 08:06:45 PT
they're definitely getting desperate
How could one possibly site poll results showing 72 percent approval of medical MJ as a reason to keep it illegal?  It doesn't really matter what they say, they've been relying on raw, naked power to keep MJ totally illegal for years now. They just need to mouth some words, anything, so the media can faithfully print "the other side of the story".I love the other reason to lock sick people in jail for using the herb - it's "risky". Any doctor or government official that says they won't give to the sick because it's risky is either incompetent or mean-spirited, hateful person. It's an absurd premise.What about Bextra, which gave great pain relief, right up until the time when you're skin turns red, swells up, and starts sloughing off, resulting in an unbearably painful, slow death for you a few days later?  This is still on the market! Or how about a little anaphylactic shock? At least that kills you quickly. many people have ever had anaphylactic shock from using cannabis? Hearts attacks or strokes? Cancer? Fatal GI bleeds? All these kill THOUSANDS of Americans each year, yet the above-named doctors and government officials are glad to endorse them and merrily prescribe them to millions of people.These are the people for whom you work away at your job every day. Pay them their taxes, pay your health care bills. Or the rest of us will pay for you to sit in jail.
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on June 09, 2006 at 08:03:19 PT
Neil Young on Fresh Air NPR at NOON 
will be talking about Heart of Gold. National Public Radio
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