Roy Exum: Rx: Please Legalize Pot

Saturday, January 25, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I am certainly no expert on pain or the treatment of it. But I have had enough first-hand experience with pain to make me a strong supporter of a very important bill that will be introduced in the Tennessee Legislature on Monday. It is called the Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act and there is ample evidence marijuana can and will ease some cases of suffering in the best way known to man.

Whether the villain is glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic nausea or another on a long list of afflictions where pot has been proven to be profoundly effective, I see medicinal marijuana as a welcome addition to our arsenal to combat disease. Understand, I don’t smoke pot or have any other relationship with “weed” but there have been times in my life when I would have done darn near anything to make the pain go away.

So proudly include me among those who are begging our state legislature to allow sound and compassionate reasoning to take the place of bias and perception. Let’s join a growing number of states – 21 thus far -- that allow marijuana to be carefully controlled and legally available to those who would benefit from it in Tennessee.

Forget that “street dope” is readily available in almost every town in every state. I’m talking about removing the stigma of breaking the law. I am also begging that medicinal cannabis be carefully controlled and regulated, that the quality be laboratory consistent, and that the patients be vetted by healthcare professionals. I have seen too many cases where its usefulness is unparalleled, so help me I have.

I had a dear friend who was such a stickler for society’s rules that he would go nuts if anyone around him had illegal drugs or weed. But when he was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s Disease a few years back, I personally saw how the marijuana he once hated eased the horrifying load he was forced to carry. I know a glaucoma patient who will swear under oath marijuana is the undisputed champion of her pain. And I know personally other sufferers who would gladly testify in open court.

The American Medical Association has even announced: “Research has demonstrated that cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite, and relieves spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.” They could have easily added Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Crohn’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, the treatment and pain of cancer, Hepatitis C, or a dozen other very real diseases.

House Bill 1385 is called the Koozer-Kuhn Act because cannabis is the reason Piper Koozer’s family were forced to leave Ooltewah and move to Colorado. It’s there the two-year-old girl’s parents can get legal marijuana oil – with its quality assured -- to fight her savage Aicardi Syndrome where her tiny body is wracked with otherwise uncontrollable seizures. The “Kuhn” name is in memory of Jeanne Kuhn, a Nashville mother who relied heavily on the once-despised pot in the final stages of breast cancer and chemotherapy.

Like 58 percent of Americans, I believe the time has come to legalize marijuana the same way we do alcohol. Billions have been spent and wasted fighting marijuana in the United States and the war is clearly lost. Legalize it, tax it, and control it in a way that runs the cartels out of the game and gets the tax cash to the taxpayers. Colorado and Washington State have already done it. It is simply a matter of time before the economic pressure alone will sway even the last puritan.

But it is both foolish and inhumane not to legalize medicinal cannabis as fast as is prudently possible. If I am any judge Tennessee will be among the very last states to approve recreational marijuana – that’s just the way we are – but medicinal cannabis is a far cry from recreation; no one can deny it instead provides a quality of life.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) is being cosponsored by Rep. JoAnne Favors RN (D-Chattanooga) and Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Nashville), will be introduced with briefings on “Lobby Day” this Monday. Following an afternoon press conference that will feature the bill’s author, Bernie Ellis, MA, MPH, a two-hour panel including legislators, academicians and actual patients will be held at Vanderbilt’s School of Management.

The Koozer-Kuhn plan promises to be “the most tightly controlled medical cannabis program in the country, and (key phrase) the most patient-friendly.” The guidelines call for licensed processors to sell medical cannabis to regulated dispensaries, all under the supervision of the state’s Department of Health.

It just makes sense. On Thursday Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, said the NFL would most certainly be receptive if medical experts find that using marijuana is a legitimate solution to help treat concussions and other head injuries. How can it hurt? And isn’t it ironic that marijuana has been legalized in both the states of the teams that will meet in the Super Bowl?

Tennessee’s proposed Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act is a wonderful thing. Our legislators should be urged to approve it because it is clear -- it will improve the lives of some who suffer in Tennessee.

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