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Marijuana, not accepted by govenment, treatment

The Benefits and Hazards of Marijuana

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

Have I ever smoked pot? Not in the past and not at the moment. I grew up in a era when the worst thing you did was sneak behind the barn and smoke a cigarette. But would I smoke marijuana now? You bet, if there was a medical need. And like some people with AIDS and other diseases I’d fight like hell to do it.

Several years ago I was contacted by Terry Parker, a Toronto resident. He told me that without smoking marijuana he was subject to three grand mal seizures and anywhere from 15 to 80 petit mal seizures a week!

Parker wanted me to help in his fight to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. I was sympathetic. But at the time I was embroiled in a major fight to legalize the medical use of heroin for terminal cancer patients. I simply didn’t have the time to fight two battles at once.

Now I do have the time. And it seems ludicrous that Parker and those suffering from multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, chronic pain, migraine headaches and the debilitating effects of AIDS and chemotherapy have to fight both their disease and the law.

The active ingredients of marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Synthetic THC (Marinol) is available in pill form, but not synthetic CBD. And many sufferers say that smoked marijuana provides greater relief than pills. Marijuana smoke delivers THC and CBD to the bloodstream five times faster than synthesized marijuana.

In July 1996 police raided Parker’s apartment, discovered 71 marijuana plants, and charged him with criminal activity. Parker admitted he gave his home©grown pot to other sick people. The judge accepted his medical pleas and he was given a year’s probation.

During Parker’s trial many eminent authorities attested to the medical benefits of marijuana. And what better authority than his Mother who had witnessed for years his grand mal attacks.

The Canadian judge heard both sides of the debate. Then ruled that marijuana did show therapeutic effect on epileptic seizures, chronic pain, and migraine headaches.

In addition, marijuana helped to control nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, eased pressure within the eye and decreased muscle spasticity from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis.

The judge also ruled that patients suffering from these diseases have the right to obtain safe, legal and affordable marijuana. Illicit street prices can cost $5,000 a year.

In the U.S. in November, 1998, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes received widespread support in several stateªwide referenda. A poll in Canada showed that 83 percent of Canadians believe that the medical use of marijuana should not be a criminal offence.

Last year Dr. Jerome Kassier, editor of the prestigious New England Journal Of Medicine, lent his support to the medical use of marijuana.

He suggested that “the argument that it would be a signal to the young that using marijuana would be OK is false”. But neither government in either country is listening to reason.

But what about others who do not suffer from these medical problems? My enthusiasm for marijuana stops at this point. Smoking pot has been described as harmless fun. But is it? There’s evidence that daily smokers of marijuana may damage their lungs as badly as those who smoke cigarettes.

A study of 1,000 people at the University of Arizona showed that people who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to report lung problems. In fact, some lung function tests showed that smoking marijuana led to worse results than smoking tobacco.

Marijuana smokers, according to a study at the University of California, inhale 5 times the amount of carbon monoxide as cigarette smokers! They also deposit 3 times as much tar due to inhaling deeper and holding the breath longer.

Marijuana’s THC is also highly soluble in fat. So regular users of marijuana show a gradual accumulation of the drug particularly in the brain, lungs and sex organs.

The U.S. army also conducted a study of soldiers in Europe who had smoked marijuana for a few months. Pre©cancerous changes were observed in specimens taken from the air passages of their lungs.
Hopefully your pilot isn’t smoking marijuana. Pilots show a 6ªfold increase in errors lasting for 2 to 6 hours after smoking marijuana.

But these effects are irrevelant to those who are suffering debilitating disease or a slow painful death. To charge these people is a waste of time and a cruel, inhumane approach. Will we ever learn to use common sense as society becomes increasingly complex? What do you think?

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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