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    Sunday, September 08, 2002

    Stoner Sanctuary: According to The New York Times Americans are fleeing to Canada to smoke pot medicinally. They portray themselves as morally equivalent to runaway slaves and Vietnam War protesters:

    "It's an exodus," said Renee Boje, 32, a California fugitive from drug charges who has applied for refugee status. "Canada has a history of protecting the American people from its own government like during the Vietnam War, and the Underground Railroad that protected American runaway slaves."

    But you have to wonder about some of the examples the article musters up:

    Steven W. Tuck, a 35-year-old disabled veteran of the Army, fled to Canada pretending he was going fishing after his club was repeatedly raided and he faced drug charges. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and, fearing deportation, applied for refugee status.

    Sitting recently in Vancouver's Amsterdam Cafe, where smoking marijuana is allowed, he was sweating and shaking awaiting a friend who had gone out to buy some. "I have to have marijuana to stay alive," said Mr. Tuck, who said his torment began in 1987 with an Army parachuting accident that caused spinal and brain injuries.

    If he is sent home and denied marijuana, Mr. Tuck says, he fears he will die "choking on my vomit in jail."

    His symptoms sound more like drug withdrawal than pain symptoms, and his fear of “choking on my vomit” also sounds like fear of drug withdrawal than any symptoms he would likely have from spinal or brain injuries. The truth is that marijuana isn’t any better for pain than codeine. Mr. Tuck could easily be given better pain treatment, legally, in the United States. What he can’t get, though, is a drug to keep him in a constant state of euphoria.

    Then there is the drug war refugee:

    The most prominent American fugitive here is Steve Kubby, 55, the Libertarian Party candidate for governor of California in 1998. He and his wife, Michele, have an Internet news program on marijuana issues.

    ..They fled California last year for the rural British Columbia town of Sechelt after the police found 265 marijuana plants, a mushroom stem and some peyote buttons in their house. Mr. Kubby had been sentenced to four months of house arrest and three months of probation, which he feared might eventually lead to a prison term in which he would be denied the marijuana that he says he needs to treat his adrenal cancer.

    "If I don't smoke pot," he said, "my blood pressure goes through the roof and would either burst a blood vessel or cause a heart attack."

    Marijuana, or at least the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, can help with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. It’s a little better than the weakest of the anti-nausea drugs, but less effective than the drugs we have of moderate potency. Their chief value lies, again, in their euphoric effect, an effect that few would begrudge a patient in the throes of cancer. Mr. Kubby, however, doesn’t take it for nausea and vomiting, but for blood pressure. There is no evidence that marijuana decreases blood pressure. In fact, it increases the heart rate and increases the blood pressure when lying down, although it can make blood pressure drop when you change positions. With the wealth of effective blood pressure medicine available today, there’s no reason Mr. Kubby needs to rely on marijuana to treat his adrenal cancer. His physician must have been high himself when he wrote the note to allow him to use it medicinally. (You also have to wonder what Mr. Kubby does with those peyote buttons and mushrooms.)

    Even if marijuana were legal, I wouldn’t recommend it medically. Smoking pot is just as harmful to the lungs as smoking tobacco. And, although tobacco smoking was once used for medicinal purposes, we now know better. We know better when it comes to marijuana, too.

    Note: A good summation of recent research on medical uses of marijuana can be found here.

    posted by Sydney on 9/08/2002 12:25:00 PM 0 comments


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