GRAFTON – Since the dawn of time, people all over the world have used roots and herbs as medicine.
West Virginians know, from our ancestors and from the native Indians that lived here before us, the importance of the plants and animals that inhabit our lands, as well as the medicinal and therapeutic value that they offer.
There are still many of us that practice herbal medicine using yellow root or goldenseal for colds and infections and ginseng as a natural heal-all, just to mention a few.
In recent years I have introduced a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to give doctors the authority to prescribe or recommend the use of an herb –marijuana– to treat patient with debilitating disease.
The list of these conditions is narrow as to limit the potential for abuse of this medicine, seeing as so many medicines are prone to abuse. The one benefit that medical marijuana has above all opiate medications is that it isn’t physiologically addictive. Narcotics such as opiates and other pain-relieving medicines tend to result in extremely addictive tendencies.
In fact it has been found that marijuana is an effective treatment for opiate addiction and can help reduce the need for opiate medication for patients who have been prescribed it.
The narrow list of severe conditions that medical marijuana can be used for includes cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, AIDS, severe nausea, wasting disease, severe chronic pain, seizures, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Crohn’s disease, clinical depression and anxiety. Traditional medication either can’t effectively treat these conditions or has had only limited success.
As I watch my television from time to time, I always see the prescription advertisements with their warnings of side effects such as suppression of the immune system (which can make a person susceptible to cancers), chronic liver and kidney failure, blindness, suicidal tendencies, heart attacks, bone loss or pain, amnesia or dizziness, vomiting, stomach or intestinal bleeding, infections, hair loss, swelling, cramps, aggression, stroke and the list continues.
These are serious side effects from legally prescribed medications. I wonder whether the side effects from many of these medications are worth the benefits. Prior to introducing the medical marijuana legislation, I did a lot of research determining whether to take on a serious attempt to address such a controversial issue.
I also knew that this might bring a lot of opposition. However, if you know me, then you know I fight for what I believe is right.
The history of how I started looking into this issue started with some emails requesting me to legalize medical marijuana so that a seriously ill cancer patient in Taylor County could take it as medicine without breaking the law, and a chance documentary that came out soon after the emails.
The documentary was on the history of marijuana prohibition and how the movement of medical marijuana has swept across the country and is now legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
It was just mind-boggling to follow the timeline of when marijuana was a legal medicine, commonly prescribed by doctors throughout the 1800s and through to the 1940s till it was finally criminalized by politicians.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to find out. I searched for more documentaries and also found volumes of articles in magazines, and science journals from research done all over the world. There seemed to be studies going on in nearly every country around the world with nothing but positive results.
Even the federally funded and sanctioned National Academy of Sciences Institute for Medicine’s 1999 study supported the effectiveness of medical marijuana.
There is just so much scientific evidence and support out there that it perplexes me why the federal government hasn’t made more of an attempt to make this form of medicine more available for these chronically ill patients – except for the fact that the big pharmaceutical companies could not profit from a plant that a patient could grow in their back yard or inside their home.
It all comes down to profit and the power of the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry that can lobby our Congressmen and senators to keep it from happening. Corporate America controls Washington and the citizens are usually left holding the bag.
While many of our citizens spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars each month on medicine, CEOs keep getting multi-million dollar bonus checks for selling us prescriptions that counter the side effects of the other medicines we take and then more medications to counter the side effects of those ones and so on. We continue to get poorer while they reap in major profits!
While medical marijuana may not be for everyone, it can open the door to more affordable health care and medicine for many with limited resources offering very few if any side effects.
Medical marijuana also opens up a new industry for West Virginia with any and all of the proposed taxes collected from the sale and production of medical marijuana going into a special fund, dedicated strictly to treat people with substance abuse problems and to bring money into our schools for drug prevention programs.
It’s time we work together on passing the Compassionate Care Act of 2014, so West Virginians with chronic ailments have safe, affordable access to medical marijuana.
– Delegate Mike Manypenny, a Democrat first elected in 2008 to represent Taylor County, is an agricultural/environmental consultant, a greenhouse operator and farmer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at Room 203, East Capitol Complex, Charleston 25305.