It’s Time To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Reed Anfinson, Editor, Publisher

During this short session of the Minnesota Legislature there is one bill citizens of the state should be urging their senators and representatives to approve: The legalization of medical marijuana.
What we are talking about is a marijuana plant from which the beneficial chemicals within the plant can be harvested and synthesized into pill or liquid form to be given to people suffering from a variety of debilitating diseases or conditions.
One of those people who would benefit from passage of the law is Greta Botker. She’s a smiley little seven-year-old girl suffering from a rare condition that for most of her life have caused her to have 12 to 15 seizures a day. Multiple drug regimens and a frightening brain surgery have done little to change her condition, her mother Maria (Boone) Botker says. Then news began to spread of a drug called “Charlotte’s Web”, which was derived from a specially designed marijuana plant.
Charlotte’s Web marijuana is high in cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical within the plant that is non-psychoactive but has properties that make it valuable in the treatment of people with epilepsy. The plant is very low in THC, the ingredient that gives a person the marijuana high.  “You’d have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole to get high from…” Charlotte’s Web marijuana because it is so low in THC, one of its growers says.
There is also medical marijuana that is smoked or eaten that is higher in THC. It has helped cancer patients with pain management as well as the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. It has helped with pain management for others suffering from conditions that cause chronic pain such as rheumatoid arthritis. It has proven beneficial to people with glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Minnesota’s county attorneys and sheriffs’ organizations have been staunch opponents of medical marijuana. They fear allowing it to be legally grown and sold for medical purposes in the state will lead to its spread among young people as well as to those who don’t have medical problems, but only seek it for the recreational high. They fear it will be hard to regulate.
So far, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has sided with law enforcement in opposing medical marijuana. But he has indicated that he may be open to legislation that can define in greater detail what medical marijuana is as well as how it is grown and distributed.
Medical marijuana opponents believe that approving its use will eventually lead to the legalization of pot for recreational use. Has anyone used that argument to challenge the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of medicines that treat cancer, hepatitis, or MS?
There are far worse drugs, causing far worse problems, available by prescription. A group of drugs called opioids includes Vicodin and Oxycontin and are prescribed for pain. Nembutal and Valium are prescribed for anxiety and sleeping problems; Dexedrine, Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and narcolepsy. Children don’t have trouble getting these drugs – doctors give them to them.
More than 100,000 people die every year around the world from prescription drug overdoses. Millions are addicted to prescription drugs. Alcohol, America’s approved recreational drug of choice, has been responsible for millions of deaths as well as uncounted cases of violence and abuse. People who are high on marijuana aren’t violent. Not one person has ever died from just smoking marijuana.
 “There’s far more abuse - and life-altering abuse - with prescription drugs than there is with marijuana in any way, shape or form,” a former police officer and now state Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, is quoted by Star Tribune reporter Jennifer Brooks.
“When you see people suffer, and they don’t need to, I think there’s an obligation when you’re a public servant, whether you’re a police officer or [a lawmaker to say] ‘How can I help?’” Schoen once worked in narcotics enforcement, Brooks writes, and now is a co-sponsor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana. He also believes there are enough provisions in current versions of the proposed law to regulate its use.

In an editorial on medical marijuana, the St. Cloud Times reported that Marijuana Policy Project states the basics of the House and Senate bills left from 2013 are:
- Only seriously ill patients could use or obtain marijuana, although if they lived more than 15 miles from a dispensary, they could grow it.
- The state Department of Health would issue medical marijuana ID cards so law enforcement could easily verify that a patient is allowed to use medical marijuana.
- ID cards would be issued to a patient with a qualifying condition, who would have to submit a physician’s written certification that the potential benefits likely outweigh the health risks for the patient.
- Qualifying conditions are: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tourette’s, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and conditions causing severe, debilitating pain, severe nausea, wasting syndrome, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.
- The health department would set up strict regulations for nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and labs. The number per county would be based on population.

As the Minnesota Legislature debates legalizing medical marijuana, the Botkers live a divided family life. They have bought a home in Colorado so they can get their daughter the medical treatment that has proven effective. She was recently down to just two mild seizures a day instead of 12 to 15 more intense ones.
She is also becoming healthier as she is weaned off the prescription drugs that have been part of her life more than six years.  “It is really helping to save her internal organs to be off of the more dangerous medicines…” her mother says. Her daughter is much healthier today now that she has access to medical marijuana. “That is all there is to it,” Maria says.
The sooner medical marijuana is approved, the sooner families like the Botkers can reunite and the sooner those unnecessarily suffering can receive the treatment they need and deserve.

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