As nurses, we are on the front lines of providing care and comfort to patients suffering from terrible illnesses. Michigan’s nurses strongly support Proposal 1, the medical marijuana initiative.
And, frankly, we are appalled at the misinformation being spread by opponents.
There is simply no doubt that medical marijuana can relieve suffering. In a White House-commissioned study released in 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.”
Since then, the evidence that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine has continued to mount. In just the past two years, three separate randomized, controlled clinical trials — the “gold standard” of medical research — have shown that marijuana can effectively relieve neuropathic pain, a particularly hard to treat type of pain that inflicts misery on millions suffering from multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and other conditions. What was most impressive about these studies was not just the relief that marijuana provided, but the lack of serious side effects.
Opponents would have you believe that health and medical organizations are on their side, but that is simply false. Not only have the Michigan Nurses Association and a variety of state and national nursing groups recognized the therapeutic value of medical marijuana, so have the American College of Physicians, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and many, many others.
In a U.S. Supreme Court brief a few years ago, a coalition of medical groups including the Lymphoma Foundation of American and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America wrote, “For certain persons the medical use of marijuana can literally mean the difference between life and death. At a minimum, marijuana provides some seriously ill patients the gift of relative health and the ability to function as productive members of society.”
The simple truth is that there are no currently legal medications that provide all the relief marijuana can give. And that includes Marinol, the THC pill often touted as a substitute, but which is harder to dose properly and which, according to the American College of Physicians, has “more severe” psychoactive side effects than marijuana.
Opponents have also tried to frighten us with wild tales of abuse and “pot shops,” mostly from California. What they don’t tell you is that Proposal 1 is nothing like California’s law, which was the first of its kind and was indeed too loosely worded. They never mention that the 11 other states with more tightly regulated medical marijuana laws have had virtually no problems at all.
And even in California, despite the problems, teen marijuana use has gone down, not up, since their medical marijuana law was passed in 1996. That’s not my opinion, it’s the finding of the state’s official survey, which you can read at //safestate.org/documents/11th_CSS_2005_06_Tables.pdf
In Michigan, we’ve learned from other states’ experience. Proposal 1 includes strict controls and safeguards. Participants in the program will be required to register and obtain an identification card that will enable law enforcement to quickly determine if someone is a legitimate patient. There are strict limits on the amount of marijuana patients may possess, and an absolute ban on use of marijuana in public or driving under the influence, plus tough penalties for violating any portion of the law.
Please don’t be fooled by misinformation. Proposal 1 is a carefully written, compassionate measure that will give relief to patients who suffer terribly and who certainly don’t deserve arrest and jail, while providing tough, common-sense safeguards.
Michigan’s nurses strongly urge you to vote “Yes.”
Barbara Davis is a nurse at Dickinson County Healthcare System and is a member of the MNA Board of Directors and Chair on MNA’s Congress on Public Policy.