US AR: House Panel Refuses To Back Marijuana For Medical Use URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01.n239.a09.html Newshawk: John Markes Pubdate: Fri, 09 Feb 2001 Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (AR) Copyright: 2001 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. Contact: email@example.com Address: 121 East Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201 Website: http://www.ardemgaz.com/ Forum: http://www.ardemgaz.com/info/voices.html Author: Chris Osher - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette HOUSE PANEL REFUSES TO BACK MARIJUANA FOR MEDICAL USE Supporters came in wheelchairs and with walking sticks to push legislation that would allow the medical use of marijuana, but they left the state Capitol disappointed Thursday. The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee declined to recommend passage of House Bill 1303 by state Rep. Jim Lendall, D-Mabelvale. Opponents expressed fears that the measure would make it harder for law enforcement to prosecute illegal marijuana trafficking and could harm those who want to use the drug to treat their ailments. Betty Wicker of Imboden said the drug was the only thing that gave her relief from cerebral palsy, which she said was caused when she fell from a horse. "I have had more seizures in this last year since I quit taking marijuana," Wicker said. "Doctors have had me on morphine and tranquilizers, but none of them seems to keep me from having seizures as the marijuana did." She trembled violently as she spoke into the microphone. She said her palsy caused the trembling. Wicker told the committee that she stopped using marijuana after police arrested her last year for possession of marijuana after they responded to a domestic disturbance at her niece's home. She said that in 1993, a doctor told her she should start taking the drug to treat herself. Reps. Shawn Womack, R-Mountain Home, and Bill Scrimshire, D-Malvern, pointed out that the Federal Drug Administration has approved the use of Marinol, which can be prescribed and is composed primarily of tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, a component of marijuana. Several of those with ailments who were present said Marinol did not give them the same relief. They said they couldn't control the dosage, it was costly and it made them nauseous, causing them to regurgitate the pills in some instances. Speaking from a wheelchair, John Markes of Conway, a disabled veteran, said he had been diagnosed with a digestive disorder that caused him to lose 75 pounds. After a doctor told him to try marijuana, he gained 28 pounds in the first month, he said. He said he wanted to try Marinol, but the doctor told him he would need to have a good digestive system to receive the benefits of Marinol. The legislative activity regarding medical marijuana in Arkansas follows ballot successes last November in Colorado and Nevada, where voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The movement has gained momentum for such use of marijuana since California voters allowed cooperatives to buy marijuana to treat ailments in 1996. Since then, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington, D.C., voters have passed similar measures, according to press accounts. The U.S. Supreme Court in November of last year agreed to weigh the legality of California's law. The case is pending. Lendall failed to convince the Legislature to pass a similar bill during the 1999 legislative session. He said he will talk to committee members before deciding whether to make another try at passing the measure this year. Fay Boozman, director of the Arkansas Health Department, told the committee that his agency thinks more research is needed on the issue. He added that he feared passage of the bill would require additional resources so his agency could weed out illegal drug traffickers from those legitimately seeking treatment. Lendall's bill would authorize the department to issue identification cards to those 18 and over if a doctor decides they should use marijuana for medical reasons. Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is now a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000. The smoking of marijuana actually will cause more harm than benefits for the ill, predicted Ken Fithen of Sherwood, the associate director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council. He said the inhalation of smoke is dangerous when cigarettes are involved and even more dangerous with marijuana. Denele Campbell, who lives near West Fork and is executive director of the Alliance for the Reform of Drug Policies in Arkansas, said her group will continue gathering signatures in an effort to force a statewide referendum on whether marijuana can be used for medicine. The group failed to get enough signatures to put such an initiative on the ballot last year.