To the editor, On Wednesday, Feb. 21, dozens of patients and concerned citizens journeyed to the Capitol to voice their support of House Bill 1534, which seeks to allow patients to raise an affirmative defense to prosecution for the possession and use of medical cannabis [“Reefer Madness,” News, Feb. 23]. Legislators would be wise to heed their call. The use of marijuana as medicine is a public health issue; it should not be part of the war on drugs. According to a national survey of U.S. physicians conducted for the American Society of Addiction Medicine, nearly half of all doctors with opinions on this issue support legalizing marijuana as a medicine. Despite opponents' claims, support for the medicinal use of cannabis is based on science, not rhetoric. A recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of Ethnopharamacology identifies more than 70 controlled clinical trials available in the scientific literature investigating the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, cancer, spinal-cord injuries, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, and glaucoma among other serious diseases. Most recently, the February 2007 edition of the Journal of Neurology reported that cannabis significantly reduces HIV-associated neuropathy, a painful nerve condition that often goes untreated by available analgesics. Passage of HB 1534 would ensure that patients who use cannabis under a doctor's supervision to treat these or other conditions may present medical evidence at trial and that a jury and judge may – when appropriate – consider it as a mitigating factor. Currently, patients in 11 states enjoy legal protections if they use medicinal marijuana under a doctor's supervision. Texas patients deserve similar protection.
Sincerely, Paul Armentano Senior policy analyst NORML | NORML Foundation Washington, D.C.