Naishtat Files Medi-Pot Bill
Naishtat to Lege: Protect Pot Patients
By Jordan Smith,
2:58PM, Thu. Feb. 15, 2007
Austin Democratic Rep. Elliott Naishtat today filed HB 1534, which would create an affirmative defense to prosecution for pot possession by bona fide medi-pot patients. The bill is a reprisal of HB 658, which Naishtat filed in 2005 with co-sponsor Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, and former Austin GOP Rep. Terry Keel (legislation that was itself a reprisal of a medi-mari bill Keel filed in 2001), and would put the onus on the patient defendant to prove their suffering – and that a doctor counseled about the use of medi-pot in order to alleviate said suffering – in order to enact the medi-mari defense, Naishtat said in a press release.
For sure, the bill is a far cry from medi-pot legalization, but it’s a good, solid start. Indeed, as it stands, a medi-pot patient could raise a medical defense to pot possession prosecution – such as the defense contemplated by Naishtat’s bill – but there’s no guarantee the court would allow it, which, to date, leaves patients vulnerable to the whims – and prejudices – of the criminal justice system.
HB 1534 would also ban law enforcement from taking initiating any “administrative, civil, or criminal investigation” of a licensed doc on the ground that the “physician discussed marihuana as a treatment option with a patient” or that the doctor “makde a written or oral statement that, in the physician’s opinion, the potential benefits of marihuana would likely outweigh the health risks for a particular patient.” (The bill inserts a similar provision into the state’s Occupations Code, to protect doctors from any disciplinary action related to counseling patients about medi-pot.)
There is “ample” evidence that medi-pot helps ease pain associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and neurological disorders, Naishtat notes – indeed, just this week the results of a groundbreaking study out of the Univ. of California San Francisco were published in the journal Neurology, reporting that medi-pot successfully alleviated neurological distress in HIV-positive patients with fewer side effects than experienced with prescription pharmaceuticals.
The Texas Medical Association has adopted a policy supporting the right of doctors to discuss all treatment options with their patients – including medi-pot – without fear of professional and/or criminal reprisal, and numerous other organizations – including the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the New England Journal of Medicine – have also endorsed medicinal pot use. In the 2004 Texas Poll, 75% of respondents said they’d support legislation to allow medi-mari use by seriously ill patients – so far 12 states have done just that.
“It is clear to me that many patients and doctors feel the time has come for a full debate on this issue,” Naishtat said.
Amen to that.