Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Is Death the Price of Inaction?

By the time state governments have resolved their differences over medical marijuana with the federal government, Timothy Garon will be dead, if he isn't already.

Mr. Garon, lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band in Seattle, was reported Sunday by The Associated Press to be dying from Hepatitis C, which has destroyed his liver. He needs a new one.

He would be on an organ transplant list to have at least a crack at a new liver, if it weren't for one thing: He used medical marijuana, under the authorization of a Seattle physician, as allowed by Washington state law. Dr. Brad Roter recommended the marijuana for Mr. Garon's nausea, abdominal pain and to increase his appetite.

Little did they know that at several U.S. hospitals, people who use illegal substances -- even medical marijuana where it is legal -- are not eligible for a transplant. The University of Washington Medical Center has strict rules about transplant candidates' drug use, but reconsidered Mr. Garon's case when his attorney pressed the issue. Still, the university denied Mr. Garon a shot at a new liver. AP reported that UCLA Medical Center allows patients a chance to reapply for a transplant list if they stay off marijuana for six months.

The Star understands that with a shortage of organs for transplant, available organs should go to those most likely to take care of them. That is why patients who drink heavily or use illegal drugs are often excluded from transplant lists. However, it is inconceivable that a sick person a doctor has deemed a candidate for medical marijuana is lumped in the same category as a drug abuser.

It is inconceivable that in 2008, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is deemed to have no medical use in the U.S.

That is despite a 1999 yearlong study by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science, which concluded marijuana may be effective in easing chronic pain, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, poor appetite, wasting caused by AIDS or advanced cancer, and muscular spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

That is despite the fact that California and 11 other states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana to be recommended by doctors.

And that is despite the fact that, just this year, the American College of Physicians -- 124,000 doctors of internal medicine -- formally called on the federal government to ease its ban on medical marijuana.

The U.S. government has gone to such ridiculous lengths to prohibit medical marijuana that, from 1997 to 2003, it threatened to revoke doctors' federal licenses to prescribe medicine if they even discussed the benefit of medical marijuana with their patients.

Californians and residents of 11 other states that allow medical marijuana are victims of the clash of state and federal laws that has been unresolved for too long. The U.S. Supreme Court recommended in 2005 that Congress resolve the issue.

But, earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers can fire workers who use marijuana recommended by a physician.

And, today, Mr. Garon, if he isn't dead already, doesn't have a prayer.

So, be warned, medical marijuana -- legal for the last 12 years in California with a doctor's authorization -- could cost you your job. And if you need an organ transplant, it could cost you your life.

Votes: 0
Pubdate: Wed, 30 Apr 2008
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Referenced: The AP report "Patients Using Medical Marijuana Can Be
Denied Transplants"
Referenced: The American College of Physicians policy statement
Cited: The Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science

No comments: