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Marijuana more than medicinal.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jim Greig The Register-Guard

As a registered cannabis-using patient in Oregon, I enjoy the benefit of one of the best medical marijuana programs in the country. If I actually could get access to my medicine in a safe, consistent manner - at a local dispensary, for instance - it would be perfect.

I am confined to a wheelchair by an especially crippling form of rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from the associated chronic pain issues. I also have glaucoma and other eye conditions, severe muscle spasms and adult-onset insomnia. Growing my own isn't an option for me.

Using cannabis has helped me in many, many ways, but best is its reduction in my menu of costly pharmaceuticals.

I have seen news reports of Lane County officials' efforts to solve county government's budget shortfalls. I've seen officials speak of the need for additional funding, especially for emergency services. I have an idea that is neither radical or unworkable.

According to Jeffrey Mirons, visiting professor of economics at Harvard University, in his report "The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition," Oregon has more than 300,000 users of cannabis. Mirons estimates that the revenue for Oregon from the legalization of cannabis would be $14 million. Many educated Oregonians feel it would be nearly twice that.

Unfortunately, there are federal roadblocks to legalization. Oregon has nearly 15,000 medical patients registered in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program who use the drug to treat their various debilitating ailments. Every one of my fellow cannabis consuming patients is a case study of cannabis and its medical effects. Yet the federal government continues to insist that marijuana has no medical use.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the list of medical conditions for which cannabis is or may be useful continues to grow. Along with the anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties I enjoy, recent research indicates that it may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's and may be an effective tool in the rehabilitation of people who have problems with certain hard drugs.

Of course, there are many other conditions that are helped by cannabis. A friend of mine who has cancer said this about her use:

"Before the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, I took 25 to 30 pills each day. I went to the emergency room three to nine times each year. I saw my doctor every month, plus teams of specialists throughout the year: nuclear medicine, endocrinology, surgical oncology and others.

`After OMMP I take two pills daily, haven't been to the emergency room in six years and see my doctor once or twice a year."

Why does Oregon - a state with a moderate, populist, "leave us alone" stance on federal-state issues - continue to weather abuse by the feds on the issue of medical marijuana? While patients now receive protection under the OMMP, we still have thousands of others, users of a plant that Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge Francis Young called "one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man" who live under the threat of arrest and prosecution.

According to Western law enforcement officials, as noted in our attorney general's recent report on organized crime in Oregon:

"Large-scale outdoor marijuana grow operations have also been discovered in the state, and a number have been found on public forest lands. These operations, controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations, have been steadily increasing in size and numbers and now produce tens of thousands of plants each year."

Why should we allow foreign drug syndicates to gain a foothold in Oregon? Why not accept cannabis use? Why not stand up to the wrong-headed stance of the federal government?

Legalization also would allow us to grow hemp, possibly allowing us to take some stress off of our forests and use a plant that former Cottage Grove and Harrisburg lumberman Bill Conde proved was a better product for industrial composite materials than our fir and hemlock trees.

The benefits to the state and to local governments of legalization might go a long way toward reducing state and local budget shortfalls. I strongly encourage our elected leaders to give some thought and consideration to this idea.

Cannabis is my medicine by choice, because it allows me a certain life with dignity. But it is much, much more. A financial savior, perhaps?

Jim Greig of Eugene is a member of the board of directors of Voter Power, a statewide medical marijuana reform organization.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 16, 2007
Words:734
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