Should patients with serious illnesses such as cancer and multiple sclerosis be thrown in jail for using their doctor recommended medicine? This is what is currently happening in our state to patients who use marijuana to treat their condition - even if their doctor believes it's the best treatment for them. Please support legislation to protect the seriously ill from the threat of arrest and imprisonment, and help end this cruel policy.

Not only is supporting medical-marijuana legislation the right thing to do, it's also supported by public opinion. A November 2005 Gallup poll showed 78 percent of Americans "support making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering," and state medical marijuana initiatives have been repeatedly endorsed by voters.

Why do we trust doctors' ability to prescribe otherwise illegal substances such as cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine, but not marijuana? It can't be because these other substances are safer than marijuana. Even the government's own study concluded that marijuana was safe and effective.

In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that, "[E]xcept for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications." With recent medical developments in vaporizers, patients don't even have to smoke marijuana to get the relief they need. Additionally, the IOM study found that "Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety ... all can be mitigated by marijuana."

The American Public Health Association (APHA) agrees. A 1996 APHA resolution concluded that "greater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use" because "desperate patients and their families are choosing to break the law to obtain this medicine when conventional medicines or treatments have not been effective for them or are too toxic." In addition to the APHA, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Preventive Medical Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and many other organizations support medical marijuana.

It's time we allow dying and suffering patients to get the relief that they deserve.

AARON SHAW

Lake Wales