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Docs for Dope

Ohio Senate considers new medical marijuana legislation backed by doctors

By Margo Pierce · December 17th, 2008 · News

Marijuana is a medicine. Not many doctors are willing to make that kind of statement publicly, especially when U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raids result in the jailing of physicians, terminally ill patients and statelicensed marijuana growers in states where the medicinal use of marijuana is permitted by law.

But Richard J. Wyderski, a physician at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, believes the benefits of the herbal therapy far outweigh the risks of pushing for legalization. In this case he’s publicly backing Senate Bill 343, most commonly referred to as the Ohio Medical Compassion Act sponsored by Sen. Tom Roberts (D-Dayton).

“I provided testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Wyderski says. “I talked about the historical aspects of marijuana — it was a medicine back in the 1800s and early 1900s — and the regulatory stuff that happened that led to it no longer being used medicinally even though it was on the U.S. pharmacopoeia until the early 1940s.

“Patients who have chronic, debilitating conditions do benefit and should have access to medical marijuana to be able to use it in a safe manner under medical supervision unadulterated by other substances that might be supplied if they obtain it illegally.”

SB 343 is similar to the medical marijuana legislation proposed by State Sen. Robert F. Hagan (D- Youngstown) in 2005 (see “Toking the Cure,” Issue of March 2, 2005). That law never received a hearing, but the new bill was the subject of expert testimony in November.

The bill would create a “registry identification” card for individuals who use medical marijuana for specific medical conditions. Those with a diagnosis that fits the definition of “debilitating medical condition” outlined in the legislation would be able to apply for the card and use marijuana under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

Those conditions include cancer, positive status for HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Krohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and other chronic pain syndromes.

“The Institute of Medicine report reviewed all the scientific evidence of the effectiveness of marijuana used as a medication for a variety of conditions,” Wyderski says.

“Muscle spastisity for multiple sclerosis is one of the most commonly used examples, but there’s evidence it works for nausea — cancer patients who have nausea with chemotherapy.”

Under SB 343, the doctor would not actually prescribe marijuana or even supply the patient with the medicine. She would be able to advise the individual of the benefits and risks, recommend dosage, monitor reactions and provide the required diagnosis for patient registry. The patient, doctor, primary caregiver and individuals who work at sites that cultivate medical marijuana would all be protected from arrest and prosecution under state law.

That’s important, Wyderski says, because it begins to differentiate between drug use and drug abuse. In his case, he received a verbal reprimand from his own hospital for treating patients who were self-medicating with marijuana.

“I was the medical director for our outpatient clinic here in Miami Valley, and we had a lot of patients who used marijuana for pain control, to alleviate anxiety symptoms and so forth, and they were seen as bad drug abusers by our nursing staff and the administration of our clinic,” he explains. “Even though I didn’t have a lot of heartburn about it, literally they would dismiss people from the clinic. I was called out because I was allowing them to use marijuana and also prescribing other medications they needed despite the fact that they were ‘drug abusers.’

“In our policy if anybody is using an ‘illicit drug,’ marijuana being one of them, we cannot prescribe another controlled substance for that same individual. So I’m practicing bad medicine because I prescribe controlled substances for people that are using illegal drugs.”

Wyderski says that mixing the use of different drugs can cause dangerous side effects. Prescribing a “controlled substance” like codeine — a powerful painkiller — to someone taking heroin would be a bad idea, which is why his clinic requires drug screening before prescriptions are written. Disregarding the relative safety of marijuana as a medicine and putting it on par with drugs like heroine or cocaine keep a legitimate drug out of reach.

“The FDA came out with a statement in 2006 that, despite the scientific evidence of its effectiveness, marijuana’s ineffective,” Wyderski says. “So I don’t have any hope that the FDA would ever approve marijuana for prescriptive use by physicians.

“There’s a lot of marijuana research that’s missing in part because it’s so hard to do research on the medical marijuana. There are very, very few comparative studies with other drugs that are available that are FDA-approved. In some cases there have been head-to-head trials where other drugs are more effective than marijuana, which is also important information to know. It’s not just that marijuana is ineffective, just that other medications sometimes are more effective.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a case let stand a lower court ruling that a doctor is allowed to discuss the benefits and risks of marijuana, so Ohio doctors are allowed to discuss this medical option. But when it comes to pain management and quality of life for terminally ill people, doctors need more freedom and protection.

Using unregulated herbal therapies as his example, Wyderski makes his case for passage of SD 343.

“We already have people using all kind of herbal therapies for all kinds of other things, and herbal therapies are not regulated by the FDA,” he says. “We have black cohosh for menopausal symptoms. People use ginco biloba thinking it might help their memory.

“(Marijuana) is a special plant because of abuse potential, and it probably should be controlled in some way. I think SB 343 reasonably puts into place those kinds of controls while at the same time allowing individuals to have access to a plant that does have medicinal value. It sets parameters where that substance use is supervised by a clinician.”



12.19.2008 at 12:20 Reply
i think this is a good idea. Actually we have a viable tool here to beer our society for even police officers. Use it as a diversion to alcohol. It'll lower alcohol related crimes, and create safer late night traffic stops for police officers. It is a war fueled by domestic alcohol profit. We need to create a safer enviourment, and show some compassion towards our coounter culture people that live among us. All they want is a peaceful exsistance. Is there something wrong with that?


12.19.2008 at 02:38 Reply
use medical marijuana to combat the loss of appetite, depression, the extreme, constant headaches that come along with Hepatitis C. I am not a criminal! I would like to see a bill in congress to appropriate money to the grossly underfunded research having to do with Hepatitis C. ( an estimated 3.9 million Americans have this disease according to the CDC.) Medical marijuana is a good medicine for me because it allows be the luxury of laughter that helps stimulate the ENDORPHINS which help my immune functions and help alleiviate the headaches and depression. I assure you that my marijuana use is responsible and helping me stay alive. Please consider the fact that marijuana is one of the safest theraputics known to man. and I recently ( a year ago) had a devastating stroke and it is the only thing that has helped me get through this really tough time. I have read lots of studies that reccomend cannabis/hemp as a good medication after a stroke and to prevent the onset of alzheimers Surely we can find a better use for the billions of dollars spent pursuing and eradicating this useful plant. How do you feel about my health care? DARRAL GOOD write me at darral_g@yahoo.com


02.05.2009 at 07:04 Reply
Good luck Dr. Whyderski. Thank you!!!


06.18.2010 at 03:21 Reply
I have fibromyalgia and i smoke about every day for my pain it helps me keep my pain to a minimum along with getting good rest and changing my eating habits, more protien for my muscles. I would love to be able to use marijuana without the fear of having an illegal substance and being caught with it. I also think that it would cut the violence and abuse of family members as alcolhol causes a lot of this type of behavior.


05.16.2011 at 01:14 Reply
The state legeslature won't pass this bill, it's up to a ballot initiative to get the job done. The Ohio Medical Cannabis Act of 2012 has amazing language, 12 pages of patient protections alone! Even scientific research is promoted and supported. www.ohmedcann.org