Locals speak out in favor of medical marijuana

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 17, 2020

From children to adults, the benefits of medical marijuana are being touted by a medical professional who works with children and an adult who is dealing with the after effects of treatment for Multiple Sclerosis.

This November, voters will have the opportunity to decide whether medical marijuana will be available to Mississippians. It’s a divisive issue that led to the Legislature adding its own alternate to the ballot in an attempt to confuse the voters after a petition successfully received enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot.

Nurse Practitioner Betty Jo Alexander said that the original initiative, Initiative 65, includes 22 conditions that will qualify a patient for access to medical marijuana. But there’s a process involved before a patient can become eligible for the medicine.

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According to the alternative measure established by the Legislature, only patients with terminal illnesses will have access to Medical marijuana.

Under the original measure, Initiative 65, a patient needs to see a doctor, who would provide certification to get a patient ID card before they could get access to medical marijuana from a licensed treatment center, Alexander said.

As a medical professional who provides care to children, Alexander said medical marijuana could be very beneficial to children who suffer from seizures. She has seen children receive a prescription for anti-seizure medication, at times more than one, to no avail. For those patients, medical marijuana can provide the help that patient needs.

Another condition where medical marijuana could be beneficial is for children with autism. She has seen more than a dozen children who are classified on varying levels of the spectrum, some who have behaviors that could lead to unintentional self harm. Alexander said medical marijuana could help relax those children’s brains and reduce instances of that behavior.

Cancer is another ailment where medical marijuana could provide relief, this time from pain. She said cancer treatment is painful for children, and pain medication is available, but typically causes the child to sleep, which can lead to respiratory issues. However, medical marijuana can provide the same relief without the side effects, Alexander said. 

Prescribing medical marijuana to children would not involve giving them rolled cigarettes to smoke, instead it would involve some type of oral substance, such as a gummy or chewable, Alexander said.

For adults, the benefits are also numerous. Local photographer Christian Burge recently received a form of stem cell treatment for her Multiple Sclerosis. The disease has left her with damage to her nerve endings, spinal chord and brain, which now cause her to suffer from muscle spasms. She currently takes up to eight medications to control the spasms. That’s because the first one she was prescribed caused her to gain 40 pounds, which led to her have to take even more medication to deal with the side effects of the others.

Burge said that medical marijuana has more than one type, which can help with various other ailments, such as loss of appetite, loss of focus, and loss of energy.

“I know I could get off several of those medications if I had an alternative,” Burge said.

She also knows a former soldier dealing with PTSD. For a time the man was taking up to 13 medications, but dropped them all over time after moving to Alaska where marijuana is legal. 

“I feel like Mississippi is always last on things that matter, and first on things no one wants to brag about,” Burge said. “I don’t want to have to move to another state, I want to see my state do better.”

There were times when Burge said she tried to use alcohol to deal with her condition, but woke up the next morning with a hangover.

While on a trip to Colorado, Burge said she got the opportunity to try marijuana to ease her pain, and didn’t have any negative after effects the next day. She said the marijuana provided more relief than the prescription medications she is currently taking.

As to the claims that people would become less productive if medical marijuana became legal, Burge contends that there are governors, doctors and many other professionals in the world who take marijuana and are still productive members of society.

“You’re either a strong hard working individual or you’re not. Marijuana is not going to change that.” Burge said.

She also advised voters to vote for Initiative 65 as opposed to the Legislature’s 65A.

The original has specific dates to implement access to medical marijuana along with several regulations, where the alternative measure does not.

She just asks that voters educate themselves on the facts before casting a vote on Nov. 3.