Should people with severe and terminal illnesses have legal access to marijuana to ease their pain and give them some quality of life?
Since 1996, voters and legislatures in 13 states have said yes, marijuana for medicinal purposes is acceptable.
For the family of a Michigan woman who died at 24 last summer after a four-month battle with T-cell lymphoma, there is no question about the drug’s benefits. The Vicodin she was prescribed barely touched the hallucination-causing pain.
But Caprice Wagner found relief when she started using marijuana for the pain on the advice of a medical professional. “It helped suppress the nausea, eased the cramps, helped her sleep,” said her mother, Robin O’Grady. “It was good to see her relax, having a little bit of her life back,” she added.
As the Detroit Free Press reported, O’Grady helped fight for passage of Proposal 1 last fall, a measure that would give patients with pain, nausea and wasting — common with cancer, HIV/AIDS and neurodegenerative diseases — prosecution-free access to smoked or ingested marijuana with a doctor’s letter of recommendation.
Users and their caregivers would carry a state identification card registered through the Department of Community Health.
Michigan voters OK’d the measure last November by a 2-1 margin. Other states that have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes include Alaska, Colorado, California, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Closer to home, a Nelson County activist group, known as Patients Out of Time (POT), has been at the forefront of the fight to make marijuana legal for medicinal purposes.
Irv Rosenfeld, a Florida-based stockbroker, is a member of the group’s board of directors. To help battle pain and other problems caused by his debilitating bone disease, he used to take multiple doses of at least eight prescription medications, including strong pain pills Dilaudid and Percocet.
He no longer takes any of those medications. Now, as Media General News Service reported recently, he relies on just one medication — marijuana or cannabis, as he and his group like to refer to the drug that is illegal to possess or use in Virginia.
“Without cannabis, most likely I would be homebound and on disability. That’s if I was alive,” he said. “It has literally made my life bearable.”
Rosenfeld, 56, is one of just four participants grandfathered into the now closed federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. He has been in the program for 30 years
Rosenfeld and others in the Nelson group believe they can win the fight to make marijuana a legal medicine and are striving to gain its acceptance at the federal level. They are aware of the opponents who argue that marijuana as a dangerous drug that should remain illegal under all circumstances.
Those lobbying for marijuana as a medicine are aware that the substance has remained a Schedule 1 drug for more than 30 years, which means that it is considered to have the highest potential for abuse; there is no medically accepted use for it; and it is unsafe for use under a doctor’s supervision.
Numerous studies around the country contradict that legal description of marijuana. Those studies have shown that it could have medicinal value and that its use could be restricted in an acceptable way for those who can benefit from it, especially those suffering from cancer and the chemotherapy treatments that accompany it.
Ask Irv Rosenfeld about the benefits of marijuana for debilitating pain and illness. Talk to the hundreds — if not thousands — of patients in those states that allow marijuana as medicine. The time might be near when the government can no longer say that the controlled use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is illegal.