Pot or Not?
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Pot or Not?
Posted by CN Staff on March 18, 2010 at 08:45:49 PT
By Jenna Browning
Source: Brown and White
Pennsylvania -- Some students at Lehigh have recreationally used marijuana, but they have not realized the reality of its legalization, especially for those with severe illnesses. Pennsylvania may become one more state to legalize the use of medical marijuana.In April 2009, State Representative Mark Cohen, along with six other co-sponsors, presented the House Bill 1393, or the "Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," to the general assembly of Pennsylvania.
It is a bill "providing for the medical use of marijuana; and repealing provisions of law that prohibit and penalize marijuana use," according to the document.Under the act, it would be up to the primary care physician to decide whether people suffering from "debilitating diseases" would be able to obtain licenses, allowing them to legally have up to one ounce and/or grow up to six plants of marijuana for medical purposes.Lauren Gill, '10, who is from Massachusetts where marijuana is decriminalized, believes the use of medical marijuana should be legalized in Pennsylvania."It could offer relief to patients suffering from a variety of illnesses with fewer side effects than those associated on their current medication," Gill said.According to the act, some of the diseases covered are cancer, glaucoma and HIV. The use of medical marijuana would not be used to treat the disease directly but rather to treat some of the symptoms."Marijuana is used for a multitude of ailments; however, it is most commonly utilized for treatment of nausea and vomiting and pain," Dr. Susan Kitei, director of the Health Center said.On December 2, Cohen gave a statement to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on behalf of HB 1393. He wanted to highlight the misconceptions about the average user of medical marijuana."In the 1960s the general picture of a person who smoked marijuana was a young person interested in getting high," Cohen said. "In the 21st Century, people who will benefit from this legislation are sick people interested in getting well."Rep. Cohen also noted the support he has garnered from proposing this bill."While I share any politician's love of being complimented, I do not think it takes an awful lot of courage to push legislation backed by over 80 percent of the people," Cohen said. "In the eight months since I first started talking about this legislation, I have not gotten a complaint from a single constituent."However, not all Pennsylvanians are in favor of the bill. MOMSTELL is a group strongly against the legalization of medical marijuana and actively works to defeat it.The organization was founded by Sharon Smith after she lost her daughter to a heroin overdose. The group raises awareness, funding and offers support to other families in need of help in relations to drug issues."This bill is littered with dangers," Smith said. "The fact that this bill will allow an 18-year-old to grow and possess marijuana to give to so-called 'sick' people, as long as they do not have a felony drug charge, is ludicrous."She thinks the decision should be in the hands of doctors and not the government because she worries about the dangers of the drug."This drug is dangerous when regularly used by a person with a mental illness," Smith said. "The man who just shot two officers at the Pentagon had a history of mental illness and he was self-medicating with pot. It is the FDA's job to decide what is and what is not medicine, not the legislature."The decision also comes down to the patients, as well. Some of those in favor of legalization are not in favor of using it themselves."If I had a condition that qualified under the bill, I'm not sure I would use it legally," Cassandra Tuttman, '13 said. "I would look for other treatments first and weigh the pros and cons of using medical marijuana."According to Kitei, many downsides exist."There are multiple health concerns, including: loss of coordination of poor sense of balance, impaired short term memory, intense anxiety or panic attacks, impaired ability to drive a car, psychological dependence, rapid heartbeat, increased respiratory problems, decreased ability to learn, damage to the immune system, decreased fertility in men [and] withdrawal symptoms in long term users who try to quit," Kitei said.Regarding possible legalization, Kitei cited the lack of published data in regards to potential patient benefits."Although I'm not against the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, I do believe there are already many effective pharmaceutical alternatives, and more research on marijuana is needed," she said.Many opponents of the bill worry that if medical marijuana is legalized, it would send the wrong message about the illegal substance.Lauren Burnett, a senior at the University of Southern California, lives in Los Angeles and has seen the effects of legalization in her state."There are definitely a lot of people who have benefited," Burnett said. "I know people who are suffering a lot less now because of their ability to get that medicine, but I also know a lot of kids who are capitalizing on the ability to get weed legally."However, supporters of the bill in Pennsylvania have said their model will differ drastically from California's."This plan to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is not the California plan," Cohen said to the committee. "It is much, much stricter both in terms of limiting eligibility and in insuring state collection of data and revenues."Cohen sees the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes beneficial to the public because he thinks it will take the money away from the black market of illegal drug trade and instead provide revenue for the state of Pennsylvania.The bill does not say where the money will go, but Cohen said the possible $25 million revenue could go back into treatment centers that specialize in addiction.However, at the hearing, Smith made an emotional statement on behalf of parents everywhere."I may be one voice at this one time, but I am representing those tens of thousands of families across this state, who all may not get their voice heard today, but who will certainly have their voice heard when it comes time to pull that lever at the ballet box, if they have to remember who in the legislature decided what was medicine and turned Pennsylvania into the East Coast California with pot dispensaries in abundance," Smith said.Although the bill was presented to the House in December, there has yet to be an actual vote.Both sides of the argument have their own opinions as to whether the bill will pass.Derek Rosenzweig started lobbying for the legalization of medical marijuana as one of the heads of Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana. It is an offshoot of the larger Philadelphia organization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.Rosenzweig thinks there is a strong possibility the bill will pass. He cites his opposition as the main obstacle."A lot of people still believe "Reefer Madness" propaganda that the U.S. government has been putting out since the early 1940s," Rosenzweig said.Smith disagrees."The odds are not good in Pennsylvania," Smith said. "We are a conservative state, and although we do not have the millions of dollars to fight this legislation like our opponents are spending to get this legislation passed, we have a lot of support in the opposition of this bill."Although many Pennsylvanians are watching, students at Lehigh who do not live in the state and aren't affected are not really involved in this situation."I care about the issue," Gill said. "But not enough to picket in Harrisburg."Tuttman agreed, and she said she cared, but because she is from New Jersey, she is not watching closely. She thinks such a debate is unnecessary."I kind of don't understand why marijuana is illegal," Tuttman said. "Like other drugs, it is a plant so I don't see what the huge issue is."Source: Brown and White, The (Lehigh U, PA Edu)Author: Jenna BrowningPublished: March 19, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Brown and WhiteWebsite: http://www.thebrownandwhite.comURL: Medical Marijuana Archives
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