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(USA) Medical marijuana users defend benefits of plant

Anthony Jourden remembers the vomiting, the days spent lying in bed when he couldn’t muster the energy to stay up.

medical marijuana cannabis compassionJourden’s first week of chemotherapy was the stuff bad dreams are made of — nausea, shaking, depression, a three-day stint with no food.

“I was real pale and sickly looking,” said Jourden of Muskegon Township, who uses chemotherapy to treat a rare form of cancer that formed in his abdomen and resulted in small tumors forming on his liver.

If it wasn’t for medical marijuana, Jourden, 29, doesn’t want to imagine what condition he would be in today.

“Without it, I would be skin and bones,” said Jourden, who has been undergoing chemotherapy since July 2008. “It kind of gave me a reason to get up in the morning to be honest with you.”

Despite a few rough patches on a path to implementation, medical marijuana patients are still praising the law that gives them the right to use the substance in peace.

“We’re very, very happy,” said Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, who has been pushing to legalize medical marijuana for about 10 years.

As of May 28, there were 1,188 Michigan residents who had received identification cards from the Michigan Department of Community Health certifying they legally could use medical marijuana, said James McCurtis, the department’s spokesman.

Applications are pending for another 2,144 Michigan residents who want to use medical marijuana, he said. More than 280 applications have been denied.

Patients like Jourden praised the law. He says three daily doses of marijuana gives him energy, an appetite, and eases his severe nausea.

“I just got a big old appetite and started sleeping better,” said Jourden, who started smoking medical marijuana shortly after beginning chemotherapy.

While medical marijuana has drawn praise from many, it still has plenty of critics.

The Michigan State Medical Society, an association of more than 15,000 Michigan physicians, opposed the proposal to legalize medical marijuana, said spokesman David Fox.

He says smoking is a health hazard, and there are no quality controls or regulations governing how much marijuana each patient should use.

“There’s no way to regulate dosage,” Fox said. “We’re opposed to smoking in every other form and it didn’t seem like a good idea.”

Studies on the benefits of medical marijuana also remain hazy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for example, says smoking marijuana is harmful and other, more-effective medications exist.

Others, such as the Michigan Nurses Association, support the substance, saying it’s an effective treatment for patients suffering from cancer, AIDS, and other debilitating medical conditions.

“Nurses across Michigan who are on the front lines of health care recognize that seriously ill patients should not face the threat of arrest and jail for simply following the advice of their doctor,” Michigan Nurses Association President Diane Goddeeris said in a statement.

Nurses point to a 1999 Institute of Medicine report that says “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.”

Terri Jourden, Anthony’s mother, doesn’t need studies to know medical marijuana works.

All she has to do is look at her son.

“If it wasn’t for marijuana, I think he would be skinny as a rail,” she said.

By Brian McVicar

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