Medical pot push takes hit

By WYATT EMMERICH PRESIDENT EMMERICH NEWSPAPERS,

Medical Marijuana 2020 has run into some opposition in its campaign to bring medical marijuana to the state. Mississippi Board of Health unanimously voted to oppose the measure, which will be on the November 2020 ballot.

Last week, Medical Marijuana 2020 held a press conference refuting each point of the Board of Health’s opposition letter in great detail, flying in some of the nation’s top experts in the field. It was an impressive performance.

As first, it seemed like smooth sailing for the medical marijuana initiative. Polls show 65 percent of Mississippians support medical marijuana. Getting 105,686 signatures was no small feat, indicating pretty strong support. Neighboring Louisiana and Arkansas recently passed a similar measure. Throughout the nation, 34 states have approved medical marijuana compared to only three defeats at the ballot box.

But then, this is Mississippi. Our state can be quite cautious and conservative about social issues. Mississippi voters can be quirky and unpredictable on issues such as these. The denunciation by the Board of Health indicates the initiative supporters still have work to do.

The irony is that the initiative, which enshrines medical marijuana in the staate constitution, places the Board of Health in charge of writing all the additional rules and regulations and then overseeing the new industry.  Apparently, the existing board has little taste for the job.

Some opponents to medical marijuana say there is no proof of its medical benefits – an argument the pro medical marijuana folks find to be absurd. Just spending a little time on the internet, I found dozens of medical studies indicating a wide variety of medical benefits to  marijuana. The fact that there are FDA-approved drugs using THC and cannabis derivatives seems to indicate that, yes, there are some medical benefits.

If you read the Board of Health opposition letter, they do not deny the medical benefits of marijuana. Instead, they take a different approach. They argue that there are existing FDA-approved drugs that can be legally prescribed in Mississippi, thus there is no need for a broader medical marijuana initiative, especially one allowing vaping, smoking and edibles.

The Board of Health writes: “Don’t be fooled, this proposal is not about medicine, and it’s not about parents with cancer or kids with epilepsy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several drugs derived from marijuana and its CBD or THC components, and they can be used legally in Mississippi today. Epidiolex, which contains purified CBD, can be used to treat seizures. Marinol and Syndros (which contain THC) are used by AIDS and cancer patients. Cesamet, which has a chemical structure similar to marijuana, is used to treat the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.  You can get these with a doctor’s prescription, they come in pill form, and there has been research conducted to make sure these drugs work and are safe.”

Medical Marijuana 2000 responded to this with the following:  “And while there are four FDA-approved medications that are marijuana-based available for epilepsy and nausea related to cancer treatment, those are the only conditions approved and come in limited delivery methods. Additionally, three of the four medications are made from synthetic marijuana cannabinoids, and patients have reported the medications were too strong and did not produce the help they needed or even made them feel sicker; and, the fourth medication, Epidiolex, is made from real marijuana but only contains one of over 100 compounds found in the plant. These current four FDA-approved medications do not meet the needs of many patients in Mississippi who suffer from the debilitating medical conditions listed in the initiative, such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, sickle cell anemia and multiple sclerosis.

“While the four medications may be helpful to some, there are patients who are suffering that need more options. This campaign’s ballot initiative for medical marijuana, if passed in November 2020, would provide those options that so many other patients are finding relief from in 34 other states.”

During the press conference, Dr. Rachel Knox, from Portland, Oregon, said that some of the FDA-approved marijuana drugs are outrageously expensive, costing up to $36,000 a year.

Knox said, “These medicines are way more potent and way more toxic. Patients can’t tolerate them and after trying them ask to return to cannabis.

“Another issue with the FDA-approved drugs is that they are monomolecular. They come with increased risk of side effects, which means their therapy window is much more narrow. Patients typically do not tolerate Cesamet or Marinol whereas they do much better tolerate cannabis.”

“The benefit of a regulated marketplace is you can limit the potency of THC. You have the opportunity to put a cap on the amount of THC which can be contained in a product for sale. Right now with the unregulated black market, you have no idea how much THC is present not to mention other contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, etc.”

Another speaker was Will Humble, director of Arizona Department of Health Services. He oversaw the implementation of medical marijuana there. He said states have learned from past mistakes and newer medical marijuana laws are written much better. He praised the Mississippi initiative for incorporating all the good elements of medical marijuana laws from states across the nation.

Medical Marijuana 2020 has a comprehensive website if you want to delve into this further. These folks are not wigged out hippies. They are intelligent, educated professionals who truly believe medical marijuana can help thousands upon thousands of people battling a variety of illnesses.

Both sides of this issue have well-meaning, knowledgeable people who believe intensely they are right. Democracy will decide this one.

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