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Wednesday, June 10, 2009 10:43 pm

Medical marijuana is bad for Illinois

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Jerry Ann Allers of La Grange Park is the mother of a son who was treated for cancer. He died at the age of 20, cancer free with only two more chemo treatments left. Why did he die?

He developed an unexplained lung infection and spent two horrific months on a ventilator, dying slowly. After his death she learned that he had used marijuana to ease his unbearable nausea. His physician had hospitalized him at one point for several days to be able to give him stronger drugs to get him through this difficult treatment. However, like many patients seeking to be able to stay home or lead more “normal” lives while dealing with medical treatments, he made a fatal decision to use marijuana instead of going back to the hospital or using other proven treatments that would have saved his life.

• Singling one drug out for legislative approval that bypasses the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) process for medications sets a dangerous precedent. Such legislation establishes legislatures as the bodies determining what drugs will be made available.

• There is no training provided for doctors in what amounts or in what form to prescribe marijuana for medical use. There is no pharmaceutical supplier available to answer questions and offer education and support to physicians and their patients for this drug.

• There is no provision for increased marijuana abuse prevention education for those who will have easier access to this drug for recreational use. This legislation would come at a time when the state is significantly reducing drug prevention and treatment services.

• The American Medical Association recommends retaining marijuana as a Schedule I Controlled Substance pending the outcome of “adequate and well-controlled studies” of its possible medical use. Similarly, the Glaucoma Research Foundation position states that marijuana is “less effective than safer and more available medicines.”

• This legislation is primed for abuses. As seen in other states, it is very difficult to control medical use of marijuana and thus increases access and availability for recreational use. The fact that marijuana is illegal and not readily available in retail outlets serves as a deterrent for many, in deciding whether to use it.

• By allowing patients to grow plants in their homes, the door is open to increased crime from those who would seek to obtain those plants as well as increased abuses by those who would distribute any “leftover” plants they don’t need.

We sympathize with the urgent needs of some patients. However, their needs must be balanced with the safety of the larger community, and the well-being of those who may be harmed by increased accessibility to a drug that has definitive research proving its dangers. Medical research must be allowed to take its course before putting this drug on the market.

Karel Ares is executive director of Prevention First, a Springfield-based nonprofit resource center.

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