Is it time to legalize marijuana?

See also: About.com “Should Governments Legalize and Tax Marijuana?”

By Scott Shenk
Media General News Service

Published: May 4, 2009

(source)

To help battle pain and other problems caused by his debilitating bone disease, Irv Rosenfeld used to take multiple doses of at least eight prescription medications, including strong pain pills Dilaudid and Percocet.

Rosenfeld no longer takes any of those medications to curb the effects of his disease, multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses.

Nowadays, the Florida-based stock broker, who routinely takes disabled children sailing and plays softball, relies on just one medication: Cannabis sativa, commonly known as marijuana.

“Without cannabis, most likely I would be homebound and on disability. That’s if I was alive,” Rosenfeld said this week in a phone interview. “It has literally made my life bearable.”

Rosenfeld is one of just four participants grandfathered into the now closed federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug program.

The 56-year-old has been in the program nearly 30 years, during which time he has continued to push for cannabis to be legalized for medicinal use.

Rosenfeld is not alone, as there has been a surge in recent months by pro-medicinal cannabis activists pushing for changes in law.

One local activist group, Patients Out of Time, for years has been at the forefront of the fight to make cannabis legal medicinally.

Based in Nelson County, just across the Albemarle line, POT is run by Al Byrne and Mary Lynn Mathre, and Rosenfeld is on the group’s board of directors.

They think that, with a presidential administration that appears to be open to their cause, now is the time to win the fight to make cannabis a legal medication — and they believe the change can come at the federal level. Yet there are still many activists and government agencies that condemn marijuana as a dangerous drug that should remain illegal.

For more than 30 years, cannabis has remained a Schedule 1 drug, meaning 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.

Byrne considers the government’s stance absurd.

“The myth out there by the government and people who believe the government is that (cannabis) hasn’t been recognized as a medicine yet,” he said. “There is no logical explanation for the government’s approach.”

He said research has proven cannabis’ medicinal value, noting a study sponsored by POT in which four of the federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug program patients were thoroughly tested and the results showed that cannabis helped relieve their symptoms with minimal side effects.

There also is the Center for Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Researchers there have reported positive results of smoked marijuana in HIV patients and in a study focused on alleviating nerve pain, for instance.

There is much more medicinal cannabis research being conducted worldwide.

But others are not convinced of cannabis’ medicinal value or they believe science can isolate the herb’s medicinal properties and thereby create a safe drug.

Steven Steiner, founder of Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers, believes legalizing cannabis is a bad idea.

“My stance on marijuana is it is not a benign drug that people equate it to be,” he said. “It’s a drug that intoxicates people who make bad choices.”

He admits that cannabis seems to help some with their health problems, but said science can, and has in the form of Sativex, isolated marijuana’s medicinal properties without the need to smoke it.

Mathre and Byrne believe the federal government for too long has used propaganda and lies to keep cannabis illegal.

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