Narrowly Tailored Bill Would Provide Help To Ill 

Narrowly Tailored Bill Would Provide Help To Ill 
Posted by CN Staff on April 26, 2008 at 21:42:36 PT
By Rep. Thomas E. Huntley, Duluth News Tribune
Source: News-Tribune 
M.N. -- The Minnesota House is considering the medical marijuana bill, which was passed by the full Senate last year. As its lead author in the House, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to make the case for it here.S.F. 345 is a tightly crafted bill, the sole purpose of which is to protect seriously ill Minnesotans from arrest and jail for using medical marijuana when their doctors recommend it. Its specific provisions are far more careful, with stricter controls than those of any of the 12 medical marijuana states — and the penalties for violations of the law far more severe.
Similar bills have been introduced before in the Legislature but never gained traction. This session, it has been different: S.F. 345 and its House companion bill, H.F. 655, were introduced with bipartisan support and the consistent backing of Minnesotans, who favor a compassionate law by a 2-1 margin.Opponents wrongly try to characterize medical marijuana as a fringe issue. In fact, S.F. 345 has the support of the Minnesota Nurses Association, the Minnesota Public Health Association, the Minnesota AIDS Project and the Minnesota Senior Federation. Esteemed national health organizations like the American College of Physicians — representing 124,000 cancer and infectious disease specialists and other doctors of internal medicine — the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the American Public Health Association also support protecting medical marijuana patients.In a recent statement, ACP said it “strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws ... given marijuana’s proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity.”In addition, nearly 3,000 Minnesotan medical professionals signed statements of support in favor of the bill, and the Legislature heard supportive testimony from four doctors and 10 nurses.Critics argue that Marinol — a synthetic version of just one of marijuana’s chemical components — is available to patients, but Marinol is certainly not marijuana. It contains only one of marijuana’s more than 60 active components and often just doesn’t work as well.It’s also a pill — not appropriate for cancer patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced nausea — and far too intoxicating for some patients. The ACP noted that Marinol’s psychoactive side effects are “more severe” than those of inhaled marijuana.Critics also hinge their arguments on marijuana’s dangers. Yes, marijuana poses some risks, but so do all medications. Physicians routinely recommend addictive and potentially deadly narcotics to patients because the benefits of these substances outweigh their risks in specific circumstances. There is no reason this shouldn’t be true for medical marijuana, which (as the ACP noted) is far more benign than most painkillers. Medical treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals — not politicians, police, or bureaucrats.I’m hopeful that the House will send S.F. 345 to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and that he will sign it into law. It is a narrowly tailored bill that offers some real hope to some of the sickest people in our state. As a matter of compassion and science, it should be Minnesota law.Rep. Thomas E. Huntley of Duluth is chairman of the Health Care and Human Services Finance Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.Source: Duluth News-Tribune (MN)Author: Rep. Thomas E. Huntley, Duluth News TribunePublished: Sunday, April 27, 2008Copyright: 2008 Duluth News-TribuneContact: letters duluthnews.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives
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