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Medical marijuana: Do state laws matter?

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California has seen more medical marijuana clinics now than ever, prompting a debate over the legitimacy and worthiness of using the drug banned by the federal government, according to media reports.

In the state of California, residents are by law allowed to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use, as recommended by their physicians. The specific legislation rendering medicinal use legal is known as California’s Compassionate Use Act, which was passed in 1996.   

Medical marijuana is reportedly much more effective than conventional pain management medications or painkillers in patients with terminal diseases like AIDS, chronic pain and cancer.   

Some patients who have used medical marijuana in the past, such as recording artist Melissa Etheridge and actor Patrick Swayze, have said that conventional painkillers did not work to release the pain they were suffering.  However, medical use of marijuana is a violation of federal law and the feds wouldn’t sit still and allow people to use the "illicit drug".

In 2007, a federal appeals court ruled against a California woman who claimed that she has a constitutional right to pursue the medical use of marijuana; she wants a court order to prevent her from being prosecuted by the federal government for it. 

Angel Raich, 41, an Oakland resident, suffered at the time from a brain tumor known as scoliosis, which causes chronic nausea and other serious conditions.  She had smoked marijuana since 1997, as her doctor said this federally illegal drug is the only viable preventive to keep her from dying from the disease.

But the court said that the federal government does not recognize the constitutional right and no patients should smoke marijuana for any medical reason; the federal government has the overriding authority to prosecute whoever uses marijuana, no matter for what purpose. 

A dozen states allow their residents to use marijuana for treating diseases, as evidence has become prevalent that the drug is superior, to say the least, to other painkillers typically used for pain management.  In fact, some active ingredients from the plant have already been synthesized and used as active components in conventional painkillers. 

Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, who conducted research on medical marijuana funded by the state and federal government, was quoted as saying, "I see cancer patients every day who suffer from loss of appetite, weight loss, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and nausea. With cannabis, I can recommend one medicine instead of writing prescriptions for six or seven." 

The California Medical Board has reportedly received 81 complaints against physicians who've recommended marijuana to patients since 1996.  Some complaints were sent by undercover police officers, UPI reported. 



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