Medical marijuana’s fate to be decided by voters

By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist

There is a complex initiative on our ballot this fall, called the Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative or I-182.

Voting yes on I-182 would repeal the limit of three patients for each licensed provider and remove the authority of law enforcement to conduct unannounced inspections of medical marijuana facilities. See ballotpdedia.org for a full description.

An obvious complication is that federal law states there is “no accepted medical use” for cannabis, yet our federal government holds a patent proving its medicinal qualities.

In 2003, the United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services, was assigned U.S. Patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.”

It states: “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties … This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis [disease prevention] of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic [restriction of blood supply], age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

“The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

Yet, paradoxically, our federal government continues to list marijuana as a Schedule I drug. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency website:
“Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Due to the illegal status of the drug, it’s challenging for researchers to get the approval and funding necessary for clinical studies.

Pharmaceutical companies have found a way around this by creating synthetic versions of the active ingredients in marijuana and putting it in a pill form.

In a 2011 Public Broadcasting Service documentary, “Clearing the Smoke: The Science of Cannabis,” physicians and patients alike said that the synthetic drugs are ineffective.

Another complexity is that in 2004, 61 percent of Montanans voted for the legalization of medical marijuana.

However, in 2011, the Montana Legislature amended the initiative via Senate Bill 423, which repeals Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act that a majority of us voted for. SB 423 bans medical marijuana advertisements, limits dispensaries to having three clients, and requires state review of doctors who prescribe marijuana to more than 25 patients per year. After being tied up in the courts for five years, the legislature’s bill went into effect Aug. 31.

After hearing stories from those affected by medical marijuana, I have a newfound respect for its medicinal benefits.

A young woman with several autoimmune diseases told me, “Medical marijuana saved my life.” Before it, she was on several prescription drugs that had negative side effects and didn’t alleviate her pain or depression.

Another woman who was left with intractable nausea after chemotherapy and radiation treatments for brain cancer says that she tried every anti-nausea drug but still couldn’t keep food down. Her oncologist suggested medical marijuana and she says it helped.

“It’s the only medicine that keeps me from starving,” she explained. “My caregiver worked with me to find the right strain for my particular issues.”

One might argue that recreational users have taken advantage of the legalization of medical cannabis. I believe that misses the point. This plant has scientifically proven healing properties and should be available to the public without the fear of criminalization.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at jackie@corehealthmt.com.