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U.S. House expected to vote on marijuana amendment today

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | 2:44 p.m. CDT; updated 6:16 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Dan Viets (left) and speakers David Sapp (center) and Kathleen Weinshank (right) hold a press confrence concerning the usage of medical marijuana to encourage Rep. Kenneth Hulshof to vote for the Hinchey Amendment in the US House. Sapp has multilpe sclerosis and said "there needs to be a change in the way people think about medical marijuan it is not about drug use and it is not about marijuana it is about compassionate care."

COLUMBIA-While living in California, David Sapp was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His doctors prescribed various medicines to help control pain and spasms in his hands and body, but they were either not helpful or their side effects were too severe.

“Once, I fell asleep in court,” said Sapp, who practiced law in California for 15 years.

One of his doctors suggested he use marijuana to relieve his symptoms. Because he was in California, there are dispensaries where he could legally obtain marijuana. But that doesn’t protect people from federal prosecution unless the Hinchey Amendment, which the House is voting on today, is passed. The Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment would prohibit the federal government from prosecuting people caught with a small amount of marijuana with a doctor’s permission if it is legal in their state.

Medical marijuana is used to treat symptoms associated with serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. It is intended to help increase appetite, lessen pain and help people sleep better.

“I can talk better, sleep better and it helps with spasm control,” said Kathleen Weinschenk, who has cerebral palsy. “Why is it illegal?”

The Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment has been offered three times since 2001. Columbia’s congressman, Kenneth Hulshof, has voted against it. In November 2004, more than 60 percent of voters in Columbia voted for Proposition 2, which allowed the medical use of marijuana without fear of city-level arrest.

Advocates for the Hinchey Amendment are hoping that if it passes, it will encourage Missouri lawmakers to pass state legislation allowing the medical usage of marijuana.

A legal alternative to marijuana is the prescription drug Marinol, which is used to treat nausea and loss of appetite in patients with HIV/AIDS or those who have undergone chemotherapy.

Bill Morrissey, a pharmacist at Kilgore’s Medical Pharmacy, said a 10-milligram pill costs $25, a 5milligram pill costs $13 and a 2.5-milligram costs $7. And not all insurance policies cover it.

Dan Viets, the general counsel for the Columbia Alliance for Patience and Education, said his wife has cancer, and while she was undergoing chemotherapy she was prescribed Marinol.

“It is extremely expensive and not very helpful,” he said.

Because alternatives are costly and comparatively less effective, they ask Hulshof to reconsider his past votes in today’s debate.

“It’s about providing compassionate medical care for people who are suffering,” Sapp said.


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