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Monday, March 18,2013

Pot and glaucoma

State Sen. Rick Jones wants to end medical marijuana as a treatment for the eye disease

by Sam Inglot

WEDNESDAY, March 7 — A recently proposed bill would take glaucoma, which is nestled right between cancer and HIV, off the list of Michigan medical marijuana-approved diseases because, as Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, put it, “marijuana doesn’t work.”

Jones said he supports the use of medical marijuana for those suffering from chronic pain or undergoing cancer treatments but was recently approached by doctors who wanted him to axe glaucoma from the list.

“The doctors of ophthalmology came to me with their association and asked that I rush in a bill to take it off,” Jones said. “They’re actually seeing cases of people going blind who are self-medicating with marijuana.”

Glaucoma is an eye disease that increases pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision, which can eventually lead to blindness if untreated. Marijuana has been shown in some studies to relieve this eye pressure for several hours.

People are not going blind from smoking pot, Jones clarified, but some people are not using their prescribed eye drops and are solely relying on marijuana to address their condition.

“Ridiculous” was the word used by Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project to describe the legislation.

The Marijuana Policy Project is a donation-funded, national organization pushing for the removal of criminal penalties from marijuana and advocating for medical usage of the plant.

Senators should not make decisions about treatment options, he said, adding that it’s a discussion that belongs between patients and their doctors.

Fox said there was a “proven positive effect” from marijuana when used to treat glaucoma.

“Chronic pain can be subjective,” he said, adding, “there is nothing subjective about glaucoma.”

There are FDA-approved, more effective, prescription treatments that have been shown to stop glaucoma, said Greg Chancey, executive director for the Michigan Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

Patients who only use medical marijuana are coming back to doctor appointments with vision equal to “looking through a drinking straw ... or worse, they blink-blink into blindness,” Chancey said.

The organization released a statement expressing their concern about smoking glaucoma away.

Michigan law has inappropriately included glaucoma as a condition that will benefit from Medical Marijuana. In fact, a large problem is that many patients forgo the use of approved prescription medications ... and exclusively use medical marijuana which increases their risk of continued visual loss and blindness,” the statement said.

The statement indicated that the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Medical Association, the National Eye Institute and the Michigan State Medical Society do not support the use of marijuana to treat glaucoma.

“That’s crazy,” said Tim Beck, political director of the Oak Park-based Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, a group dedicated to defending Michigan’s medical marijuana law. “Used in combination it’s proven very, very effective.

“Anyone silly enough not to use their eye drops, well, maybe there’s something else wrong with them besides glaucoma.”

Beck called the Jones’ bill “a real long shot.”

“The concept of taking away any option for treating glaucoma is not something people in the community support,” he said.

Chancey, along with other doctors will testify March 20 before the Judiciary
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