(Source – Journal Star) A group that believes Nebraskans should be able to use marijuana for medical needs is taking its case to the state’s pharmacy licensing board.
They are hoping the pharmacy board will recommend that the Legislature open the door for medical marijuana use, as the Iowa Board of Pharmacy did in February.
But a city official in Billings, Mont., where the number of medical-marijuana businesses has risen from a handful to more than 70 since October, had some advice to Nebraskans.
“Nip it in the bud,” he suggests.
And the chairman of the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee doesn’t expect to see any bills related to medical marijuana introduced anytime soon.
The goal is opening the eyes of others to the benefits of medical marijuana, said Diana Wulf, one of three medical-marijuana proponents who attended the May meeting of the state pharmacy licensing board.
Marijuana can be effectively used for attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorders, curbing the nausea of chemotherapy, and the pain associated with many conditions, according to supporters.
Marijuana would have benefited Bill Hawkins’ father, who had painful neuropathy and died of lung and liver cancer, as well as his mother, who died of lung cancer.
“Cannabis would have greatly relieved their pain without side effects,” said Hawkins, a spokesman for H.E.M.P. (Helping End Marijuana Prohibition), the group which sent representatives to the recent licensing board meetings.
Hawkins, a Lancaster County organic farmer, also extols the benefits of the hemp plant in general.
“The early constitution was written on hemp paper. Columbus sailed over on hemp sails with hemp ropes,” he says.
Hemp concrete (a carbon-storing concrete) is being used to insulate houses on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he said.
The group plans to educate Nebraskans about all the beneficial uses of hemp and medical marijuana and will continue to attend the pharmacy board meetings, Hawkins said.
Montana is one of 14 states allowing the medical use of marijuana.
But the law, passed as an initiative by voters in 2004, has strayed from its original intent – to help people with debilitating end-of-life medical issues, according to Ed Ulledalen, a Billings, Mont., city councilman.
“We thought it would be dispensed by pharmacies. But it’s not legal to have it in a pharmacy,” he said.
What has happened is a quasi legalization of marijuana, he said.
Storefronts that dispense marijuana and “caretakers” who grow it are multiplying like rabbits in spring, he said.
Since September, the number of medical-marijuana patients in the state has more than tripled to nearly 14,000.
And communities like Billings are trying to figure out how to regulate the new medical-marijuana business and hoping for some direction from the state legislature, said Ulledalen.
“I don’t even know where to start,” he said about the problems related to medical-marijuana. “It’s a quagmire.”
Before even moving this direction, a state “should figure out who has the best model, if there is one,” he said
Better yet, “nip it in the bud while you can, no pun intended,” he said.
Nebraska’s pharmacy licensing board chairman isn’t sure that his board is the right place to start .
The real question is whether the issue should even come before the board, said Richard Zarek, a Gothenburg pharmacist and chairman of the Nebraska Board of Pharmacy.
The licensing board advises the Department of Health and Human Services on the practice of pharmacy. Under federal law, marijuana is not eligible to be dispensed, he said.
“That puts it out of our purview,” he said.
An independent pharmacy board in Iowa last winter recommended that the Legislature reclassify marijuana so that it could be used for medical treatment.
The Iowa Legislature has not reclassified the drug.
In Nebraska, the first step should be proposing the legalization, not a licensing board recommendation, said Zarek.
“It seems it would be premature for us to consider this,” he said in a telephone interview last week.
But there’s not likely to be any legislation in the near future.
“I don’t see any likelihood of that,” said State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, where a medical-marijuana bill would likely land.
“Drugs, in the Omaha area specifically, have created such a huge crisis, I can’t even imagine this (someone introducing a bill to make marijuana use legal),” he said.
“It’s not going to happen, even though an argument can be made for it,” Ashford said.
Reach Nancy Hicks at 473-7250 or email@example.com
Here is a viewpoint from a physician – and really, when we’re talking about medicine why not consult those in the field?
“In most of my substance-abuse patients I am far more concerned about booze than marijuana.”
A Doctor’s Case for Legal Pot
(Source) Most Americans are paying too much for marijuana. I’m not referring to people who smoke it—using the drug generally costs about as much as using alcohol. Marijuana is unaffordable for the rest of America because billions are wasted on misdirected drug education and distracted law enforcement, and we also fail to tax the large underground economy that supplies cannabis.
On Monday, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill legalizing marijuana for a short list of medical uses. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine says he will sign it into law. This is a positive step, as cannabis has several unique medical applications. But the debate over medical marijuana has obscured the larger issue of pot prohibition.
As a psychiatrist, I treat individuals who often suffer from devastating substance abuse. Over many years of dealing with my patients’ problems, I have come to realize that we are wasting precious resources on the fight against marijuana, which more closely resembles legal recreational drugs than illegal ones. My conscience compels me to support a comprehensive and nationwide decriminalization of marijuana.
Prohibition did decrease alcoholism and alcohol consumption in the 1920s. However, the resulting rise of violent organized crime and the loss of tax revenue were untenable and led to the repeal of Prohibition. By analogy, while the broad decriminalization of marijuana will likely reduce the societal and economic costs of pot prohibition, it could lead to more use and abuse.
The risks of marijuana use are mild compared to those of heroin, ecstasy and other illegal drugs, but the drug is not harmless. A small number of my patients cannot tolerate any use without serious impact on underlying disorders. Others become daily, heavy smokers, manifesting psychological if not physiological dependence. While most of my patients appear to suffer no ill effects from occasional use, the drug makes my work more difficult with certain individuals.
So why do I support decriminalization? First, marijuana prohibition doesn’t prevent widespread use of the drug, although it does clog our legal system with a small percentage of users and dealers unlucky enough to be prosecuted. More to the point, legal cannabis would never become the societal problem that alcohol already is.
In most of my substance-abuse patients, I am far more concerned about their consumption of booze than pot. Alcohol frequently induces violent or dangerous behavior and often-irreversible physiological dependence; marijuana does neither. Chronic use of cannabis raises the risk of lung cancer, weight gain, and lingering cognitive changes—but chronic use of alcohol can cause pancreatitis, cirrhosis and permanent dementia. In healthy but reckless teens and young adults, it is frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is almost impossible to do so with marijuana. Further, compared with cannabis, alcohol can cause severe impairment of judgment, which results in greater concurrent use of hard drugs.
Many believe marijuana is a gateway drug—perhaps not so harmful in itself but one that leads to the use of more serious drugs. That is not borne out in practice, except that the illegal purchase of cannabis often exposes consumers to profit-minded dealers who push the hard stuff. In this way, the gateway argument is one in favor of decriminalization. If marijuana were purchased at liquor stores rather than on street corners where heroin and crack are also sold, there would likely be a decrease in the use of more serious drugs.
The nation badly needs the revenue of a “sin tax” on marijuana, akin to alcohol and tobacco taxes. Our government could also save money by ending its battle against marijuana in the drug war and redirecting funds to proactive drug education and substance-abuse treatment. Hyperbolic rants about the evils of marijuana could give way to realistic public education about the drug’s true risks, such as driving under the influence.
Our nation can acknowledge the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana while still permitting their use. The only logically and morally consistent argument for marijuana prohibition necessitates the criminalization of all harmful recreational drugs, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. We can agree that such an infringement on personal freedoms is as impractical as it is un-American. The time has come to accept that our nation’s attitude toward marijuana has been misguided for generations and that the only rational approach to cannabis is to legalize, regulate and tax it.
Dr. Nathan, a psychiatrist in Princeton, N.J., is a clinical assistant professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.