People in Wisconsin, including at least one newspaper editorial board, are wondering whether their state will be the twenty-ninth state to legalize medical cannabis. (Thinkstock/Getty Images)

Wisconsin medical marijuana legalization gaining mainstream support

Via The Associated Press. The following editorial was published in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Jan. 19:

Medical marijuana use should be legal in Wisconsin.

Twenty-eight states — Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota and Ohio joined in November — and the District of Columbia allow for such use. California was the first to legalize medical marijuana 11 years ago.

There are signs that Wisconsin may eventually adopt that stance. Although Republicans in the state often have opposed such measures, The Associated Press reported that state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, is circulating a bill that would make possessing a marijuana extract used to prevent seizures legal with a doctor’s certification.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, also recently told AP he would consider it, though Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Gov. Scott Walker remain opposed. Advocates have said it’s less harmful than opiates as painkillers. Approved drugs often are as intoxicating as marijuana but can be more habit-forming.

“If you get a prescription to use an opiate or you get a prescription to use marijuana, to me I think that’s the same thing,” Vos said. “I would be open to that.”

Democrats have rekindled the issue as well. The AP reported that state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, are looking for bill co-sponsors. “They say … the public supports such a move to help those who are suffering with debilitating illness,” the story reads.

A new report from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine addresses the issue in detail.

“One of the therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids is to treat chronic pain in adults,” the report reads. “The committee found evidence to support that patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.

“Furthermore, in adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, there was conclusive evidence that certain oral cannabinoids were effective in preventing and treating those ailments.”

It also improves patient-reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms. Other conclusions in the report included:

There is “moderate evidence” that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for:
— Improving short-term sleep outcomes in those with sleep disturbance associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

There is “limited evidence” that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for:
— Increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/?AIDS.
— Improving Tourette syndrome, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

The study addressed harmful side effects as well, though almost any drug will have drawbacks. It also lists several ailments for which marijuana doesn’t help and made specific suggestions regarding future research.

Medical marijuana should not be a partisan issue, though it will require a bipartisan effort in Wisconsin.

We need to explore all possible avenues when treating a person in chemotherapy who cannot eat because of severe nausea, a patient enduring chronic pain or a victim suffering the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis.

Legislation legalizing medical marijuana use can include parameters to limit its use and avoid abuse. But let’s leave it to the doctors, not legislators, on how it should be applied.

It’s critical for health care providers to have as many resources as possible. Medical marijuana would be one more tool with which they could provide the best care possible.

Information from the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram