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Should Tennessee allow use of marijuana for medical purposes?

Staff Report • May 14, 2012 at 9:41 AM

A bill to legalize marijuana for medical use in Tennessee stalled in a state Senate committee last month. The move followed testimony from Constance Gee, the ex-wife of former Vanderbilt University Chancellor Gordon Gee, who is now president of Ohio State University.

Constance Gee told legislators she started using marijuana in 2004 to cope with severe nausea that resulted from an inner-ear disease.

“After a hit or two, my nausea would go away within a minute,” she said. “And best of all, I was able to eat something.”

California became the first state to allow marijuana to be prescribed for medicinal use in 1996. Since that time, 15 other states have passed similar measures. California — the nation’s most populous state — is still home to the nation’s most liberal medical marijuana laws. In fact, no one really knows how many people are legally using marijuana in California because the state does not require residents to register as patients.

Proponents of medical marijuana say it can be an effective and safe treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them,” former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders wrote in a column that appeared in the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

“And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”

But while more states consider making marijuana legal for medical purposes, law enforcement agencies remain steadfastly opposed to sanctioning any legal use of the drug.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency ruled last year that marijuana has “no accepted medical use” and will continue to be listed by the DEA as a schedule I drug — the most forbidden category.

Law enforcement officials and drug counselors fear going soft on marijuana will lead to more crime and complicate efforts to steer addicts away from other drugs.

Opponents to medical marijuana also say various legal drugs are already available to treat pain, and point out that marijuana use can interfere with fertility, impairs driving ability and damages the lungs.

Tell us what you think. Should Tennessee join other states in allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

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