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January 3, 2003

Senator Mooney Should Support New Medical Marijuana Proposal

David 'Kip' Koontz

Senator Alex Mooney is once again showing his naiveté and ignorance when it comes to announcing this early that he "sees no reason to change his mind" and vote to approve a medical marijuana bill in the next legislative session.

Even though it is to be introduced by his colleague, Senator-elect David Brinkley, and seems to have the support of Governor-elect Bob Ehrlich, who, while in Congress, voted to allow states to make the determination as to their positions on this matter.

This may illustrate whether Mr. Mooney can even find a way to cooperate with a governor of the same party anymore than a one of the opposing one.

Doubt it, because to Mr. Mooney, it is all about him and his beliefs, nothing more, nothing less.

But I digress.

His ignorance stems from his belief that -- though he claims he obtained this position from speaking with police officers -- legalizing marijuana use for medical reasons will make drug enforcement nearly impossible.

He was quoted recently as saying that legalizing it would make it impossible to prosecute marijuana users in any case whatsoever.

His proposition is critically flawed.

First, it may be suggested that Mr. Mooney read the bill that is being proposed this year before jumping to conclusions, as it is quite a different bill than has been proposed in the past.

Sponsors of this measure say in its current status that police from local to state jurisdictions are able to support it, contradictory to Mr. Mooney's assertions.

Under the proposed law, a person can go before a judge and ask that proof be entered into the record to show that using marijuana would help alleviate their pain and help ebb their nausea in order to help keep food down -- which are the two main reasons an ill person would use the drug to begin with.

Next, a physician must attest to the fact in a court of law that should the ill person use marijuana it would be of some medical benefit to the said person.

The bill then goes on to state that if the judge deems it necessary to allow the drug to be used, then all that happens is as follows: if an ill person or their caregiver is allowed to obtain and possess one ounce or less of marijuana, and if they are caught by the police, the fine imposed would be a maximum one of $100; more importantly, the ill person's property cannot be confiscated -- which, if you are sick, is a big deal, like not losing your house, for instance.

Now some may ask why it is necessary for an ill person to use the herbal form of marijuana instead of the pill form (Marinol) that can be prescribed in Maryland today?

If anyone has had any experience with someone who has a disease such as cancer or AIDS and is at the point where marijuana use would come into play, they would know that person is quite sick.

The ill person is generally unable to eat as they are cannot retain what they eat. They regurgitate everything even if it is simply phlegm or their stomach linings.

That makes it very difficult to keep down pill or tablet form medicines.

Using the herbal form of marijuana allows its effects to begin with the sick person in a relatively quick manner which in turn cuts down the nausea, allows them to eat something as well as take other medicines that may be necessary for them to take without losing them.

Secondly, Mr. Mooney's premise seems to imply that those who are medically allowed to take marijuana will somehow decide to go out and peddle it on the streets.

Having been a caregiver to two close friends who died of AIDS, I can assure you that when the time came that the nausea and sickness associated with that, which would have made them candidates to be allowed to use marijuana to alleviate those symptoms, I can assure you that they were in no way shape or form able to get out of bed to hawk their drug to people on the streets.

Why not allow those who are in pain and sufferings have a legal method to obtain and use something that gives them relief when they need it most?

Why not give their caregivers the benefit of doing what they can, without running the risk of being considered criminals of the nth degree?

Third, those who would be allowed to use marijuana for medical reasons would have to demonstrate that they were allowed to have the drug for their own medical use -- which makes it different from the pushers on the streets that have much, much more of the drug ready to be bought than the sick person or their caregiver can legally possess.

If, by some chance, a person who has been allowed to take marijuana is caught with huge stashes of the drug -- then all bets are off -- they can be held accountable under the law, as is anyone who is dealing drugs.

It is necessary to ask though, why the senator is not calling for the ban on prescribing other narcotics like Oxy-Contin that are now sold regularly on the streets at a much higher rate than marijuana is, as many are easier and cheaper to get.

Mr. Mooney simply needs to understand the reality that is illness - chronic, serious and deadly - so that he can help those in need to be as comfortable as possible instead of viewing them as a potential criminal.

If he chooses not to try to understand, maybe he could, at least, practice some Christian compassion.

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