Michigan voters will have the opportunity to protect seriously ill patients from the threat of arrest and jail for using their doctor-recommended medicine. Voting "yes" on Proposal 1 is about compassion, common sense and providing a measure of relief for some of our sickest friends, neighbors and loved ones.
Study after study has shown that medical marijuana can be remarkably effective at treating the symptoms of certain debilitating diseases and conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS, as well as countering the side effects of certain treatment regimens themselves. Indeed, medical marijuana often works for patients where conventional drugs fail.
Medical marijuana laws are on the books in 12 other states, and the sky hasn't fallen. These compassionate programs protect patients who use medical marijuana under the recommendation of a licensed physician and are largely operating without the range of unintended consequences opponents of Proposal 1 like to invoke. What's more, Michigan has learned from these other states' experiences and has safeguards that are included under Proposal 1.
For instance, unlike some of the earliest medical marijuana laws like California's, Proposal 1 requires a statewide registry of patients and ID cards so law enforcement can easily tell who is a legitimate patient. It also provides for steep penalties for fraudulent cards and false statements so that the law does exactly what it's intended to do: provide legal protection for the seriously ill while guarding against abuse.
Also, unlike California, Proposal 1 does not allow for dispensaries, so the opposition's overheated rhetoric about "pot shops" is without basis.
In addition, the existing medical marijuana states have not shown increases in teen use -- in fact, use has declined in many of them since the passage of their laws. Proposal 1 in no way affects existing regulations against public use, restrictions on employees or laws against driving under the influence.
These objections are scare tactics meant to distract voters from the central issue: compassion for the sick and dying.
More than 1,200 medical professionals in Michigan, as well as prominent groups like the Michigan Nurses Association, have publicly endorsed Proposal 1. The American College of Physicians, the largest specialty physician group in the country, has acknowledged and supported the efficacy and medical applications of marijuana, as have the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the American Public Health Association and many others.
It's time we listened to these expert voices and exhibited real compassion for the seriously ill. If a physician feels medical marijuana is appropriate for a patient, the law shouldn't stand in the way. And for a limited number of suffering Michiganders, medical marijuana will provide safe and effective relief to the symptoms of hideous illnesses.
We owe it to these most vulnerable members of our communities to vote "yes" to Proposal 1 on Nov. 4.
Dr. George F. Wagoner is a retired obstetrician-gynecologist in Manistee.
By Dr. George F. Wagoner
Tuesday, October 21, 2008