Medical Marijuana in Hospice Care

Is it time to legalize medical marijuana in Missouri? Maybe. Is it time to put the issue of legal medical marijuana up for discussion? Yes, absolutely. Is this an issue for our legislators to bring to the state’s voters in 2014? Without a doubt, yes.

Californians voted in November, 1996, to allow medical use of marijuana. Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000. The Illinois state House of Representatives recently voted in favor of becoming the 19th state to allow medical use of marijuana. Is it time to seriously think about adding Missouri to the list? As an organization concerned about providing comfort to patients, we believe this is a topic for serious consideration.

The city of St. Louis Board of Aldermen recently reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a minor offense, not unlike a traffic ticket. Colorado and Washington state voters sanctioned recreational use of marijuana in November, 2012. Obviously, opinions about marijuana use (medical and otherwise) are changing.

As with other drugs that treat patient symptoms and bring comfort, the distribution of medical marijuana in Missouri should be strictly regulated. But laws should not make it difficult for qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana.

Charles Monson of Long Beach, California, is a longtime medical marijuana advocate. He spoke to the California Hospice and Palliative Care Association at their annual conference in 2009. Monson points out: At its heart, hospice care is about bringing comfort to those who suffer. Whether by eliminating nausea and allowing a patient to enjoy a favorite food, or reducing consumption of [stronger drugs], thereby enabling a patient to interact in a more meaningful way with loved ones, or by merely providing peaceful sleep, marijuana delivers therapeutic efficacy and options to hospice care.

Advocates say that medical marijuana can help people with a variety of ailments, such as multiple sclerosis, premenstrual syndrome, epilepsy, migraines, anorexia, bipolar disorder and many others. At Hope Hospice, our primary concerns are patient comfort and symptom control. This is our motivation for putting this issue on the table.

Representative Mike Colona from St. Louis has introduced legislation in Jefferson City that would bring the issue of medical marijuana to state voters. He recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “My philosophy has always been, if we can trust a doctor to prescribe Vicodin, which is more dangerous, why can’t we trust a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana?” He also said, “Historically, this bill has never gotten a hearing.”

We at Hope Hospice believe it’s time to start talking seriously about medical marijuana for Missourians.

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