Wisconsin Bill Would Give People with AIDS Legal Access to Marijuana
A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature Tuesday would allow state residents with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and some other diseases to legally grow and smoke marijuana with their doctor's consent, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Not-for-profit organizations would also be able to grow and sell medical marijuana while being regulated by Wisconsin's Department of Health and Family Services. Many people with AIDS and other diseases use marijuana to manage pain and increase their appetites, the Pioneer Press reports. Marijuana is "the only thing that allows me to function normally," glaucoma and arthritis patient Gary Storck, who has been illegally using marijuana for medicinal purposes for 30 years, said. The bill, introduced by state Reps. Frank Boyle (D) and Mark Pocan (D), has also gained support from Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson, who is the brother of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. While the State Medical Society of Wisconsin supports legalizing clinical trials to test marijuana's medical efficacy, it does not support legalization for medical use because of "potential risks, including increased addiction," Dr. Michael Miller, former Dane County Medical Society president, said. "We know [medical marijuana] works, but we need proof in the scientific community," Wisconsin Nurses Association representative Tiffany Richards said, adding that clinical research would ultimately "ensure" legalization of marijuana for medical purposes (Wyatt, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/12). Legalizing marijuana for medical purposes has been a "perennial loser" in the Wisconsin Assembly and the bill faces "substantial opposition" in the Legislature, the AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12/12). The bill is modeled after a similar measure signed into law in Hawaii last year. In seven other states, voters have approved ballot initiatives permitting medical marijuana use (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/12). In May, however, the Supreme Court ruled in a California case that "medical necessity" is not a valid defense against federal law prohibiting marijuana distribution (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.