Medical Pot Law at Risk for Abuse

Article excerpt

Byline: STRAIGHT STUFF By Jerry Gjesvold For The Register-Guard

A few weeks ago, I spent a day in Salem testifying before the Legislature. There were hearings on two proposed amendments to Oregon's medical marijuana laws.

One bill would have prevented workplace discrimination against people with medical marijuana cards. The other would allow employers to take the medical use of the drug into account when making medical disability decisions. Both are part of a healthy debate.

Regardless of how loudly each side argues, the question of marijuana's effectiveness as medicine is still not settled. Intriguing evidence indicates that marijuana sometimes eases nausea during chemotherapy. Some AIDS patients say it increases their appetite. It may reduce the effects of glaucoma, and have some impact on some types of pain.

At the same time, the U.S. government still considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, with no known medical use. Possession and use are still illegal under federal law.

During the hearing, I was impressed by the arguments - and the passion - of those supporting marijuana for medical use. But I was troubled by what seems to be a real risk of abuse of the program - which could ultimately threaten legal access to marijuana by those who might be helped by it.

The law, as it is now, is at

real risk for abuse. Unlike any other drug, there are no established dosages for marijuana. It's like saying, "Take as much Vicodin or OxyContin as you feel like you need. We trust you." The amount allowed per person is also very large - possession of up to 1 1/2 pounds is legal.

The issue of pain management is also unsettling. Initially, prescriptions for medical marijuana were restricted to pain that was determined by a licensed physician to be chronic and long-term. The definition has now expanded to include severe and/or short-term pain - significantly broadening the definition of who's eligible for a card. …