North Dakota among states to de­cide on med­i­cal mar­i­juana

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

FARGO, North Dakota (AP): NORTH DAKOTA vot­ers will de­cide next month whether to le­galise mar­i­juana for med­i­cal use by sid­ing ei­ther with op­po­nents who say sciences is on their side or with sup­port­ers like a des­per­ate grand­mother who il­le­gally pur­chased the drug to help her can­cer-stricken daugh­ter.

Four states have bal­lot mea­sures this year ask­ing to join the list of 25 states that have com­pre­hen­sive med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­grammes and 17 states that per­mit lim­ited ac­cess to the drug. Min­nesota re­cently ap­proved a plan, while sev­eral states are con­sid­er­ing le­gal­is­ing the drug al­to­gether.

Linda Ker­sten is a staunch sup­porter of North Dakota’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana bal­lot ini­tia­tive, Mea­sure 5. The New­burg res­i­dent opted for mar­i­juana to counter the side ef­fects of her daugh­ter’s surg­eries and chemo­ther­apy treat­ment for stage-four colon can­cer. In a mat­ter of min­utes, Ker­sten said, her daugh­ter went from strug­gling to sit up in a chair to talk­ing and walk­ing around the block.


“That was the last thing on my mind when our jour­ney started, but it was pretty much a life­saver,” said Ker­sten, a 70year-old re­tired teacher. “Like any mea­sure, your first in­cli­na­tion is to vote no. If I wouldn’t have seen it with my own eyes, I would have been in the same boat, prob­a­bly.”

The law would al­low qual­i­fy­ing pa­tients to pos­sess up to three ounces of med­i­cal mar­i­juana for treat­ment of about a dozen med­i­cal con­di­tions, such as can­cer, AIDS, hep­ati­tis C, ALS, glau­coma and epilepsy. The state Health Depart­ment would is­sue ID cards for pa­tients and reg­u­late statelicensed dis­pen­saries.

The spon­sor­ing com­mit­tee chair­man, Rilie Ray Mor­gan, is a fi­nan­cial ad­viser from Fargo who suf­fers from chronic pain. He said he be­came in­ter­ested in the sub­ject af­ter watch­ing a re­port by CNN med­i­cal re­porter Dr San­jay Gupta ex­tolling the ben­e­fits of med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

“He said in his nar­ra­tive that be­fore he did that show, he was 100 per cent op­posed to med­i­cal cannabis,” Mor­gan said. “Af­ter he did the show and did the re­search, he said, ‘I have done a 180.’ It got me think­ing that this is the time to get this go­ing in North Dakota.”

Op­po­nents, mostly in the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, say there is no ev­i­dence to sup­port safe us­age of mar­i­juana.

Dr Joan Con­nell, a Bismarck pae­di­a­tri­cian and one time phar­ma­cist, said it’s im­pos­si­ble to study the “ef­fi­cacy or side ef­fects or in­ter­ac­tions” of mar­i­juana be­cause you can’t get a spe­cific dosage from a plant.

“It re­ally be­comes tough to ex­plain that ba­sic fact, when you have an adult who is suf­fer­ing from hor­ri­ble pain or when you have a child who is rolled up in front of the leg­is­la­ture by their par­ent who is des­per­ate for some­thing to make some­thing bet­ter for this child. I mean, who doesn’t want to help that?” Con­nell said.

“With my ex­pe­ri­ence, I un­der­stand that the way to truly help the pa­tient is not to give that fam­ily a bag of pot and say, ‘Good luck. You fig­ure out the dosage, and I hope it’s con­sis­tent so you don’t over­dose your kid,’” he said.

Mor­gan said there have been mi­nor side ef­fects re­ported by some med­i­cal mar­i­juana pa­tients, but no­body has died.

“Can that be said of some of the pre­scrip­tion drugs like opi­oids that doc­tors pre­scribe to­day?” he asked. “No, you can’t say that.”

Court­ney Koe­bele, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the North Dakota Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, which has come out against the mea­sure, said her group’s No. 1 com­plaint is that mar­i­juana has not been tested by the Fed­eral Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion to determine ap­pro­pri­ate dosages.

She coun­ters Ker­sten’s anec­dote with one of her own. She said one of her fam­ily mem­bers is be­ing treated for breast can­cer in Seat­tle, where the use of both recre­ational and med­i­cal mar­i­juana is le­gal, and the doc­tor didn’t rec­om­mend it.


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