Montana: Medical Marijuana Serious, Offers Real Lives To Patients

By Tom Daubert

There is a truth that must be heard! Medical marijuana is a serious subject. It's frustrating to see it cast in a frivolous light or to hear the law misrepresented.

Unfortunately, a recent event in Great Falls, sponsored by the so-called "Montana Caregivers Network," made these mistakes, poorly serving the law and thus the welfare of thousands of sincere patients.

I helped write our medical marijuana law; I directed the campaign for it; and as founder of Patients & Families United, I have been involved in most every legal issue that has arisen, and have testified as an expert on the law in court and at the Legislature numerous times.

I have gotten to know hundreds of patients across Montana, many of whom have become close friends.

From what I see, medical marijuana is hugely improving the quality of life for countless patients who suffer widely varying and severe medical conditions.

In some cases cannabis literally makes the difference between life and death.

More people in our communities than we realize suffer from illnesses that lead to things like wasting disease, for example, who can rapidly lose 20 or more pounds per week until they die. But marijuana makes it possible for them to eat enough to survive, improve, and begin living again.

Or consider the experience of a young woman whose epilepsy caused a dozen or more severe seizures every day for years. Can you imagine trying to "live" a life like that?

Since starting with medical marijuana seven months ago, she hasn't suffered a single seizure. Now she can do things without fear of a sudden life-threatening loss of control over her body. Her ability to walk, write and talk is improving steadily.

Thanks to medical marijuana, a real life, complete with hope and meaning, is returning not only for her, but for her entire family. Marijuana is a natural medicine, for real people.

One of the most important and positive outcomes common to medical marijuana patients is an ability to greatly reduce and often eliminate the use of costly, riskier medications like opiates and other narcotics.

I've seen this countless times — radical reductions in a patient's need for expensive drugs that bring uncomfortable and compromising side-effects, which in turn can require yet other drugs to counteract. Patients for whom medical marijuana works can lead healthier, more productive successful lives.

The experiences of Montana patients mirror the voluminous findings of modern researchers who have documented marijuana's many values as medicine.

The Montana patient experience also mirrors the historical record of humans using marijuana as medicine for thousands of years, all over the world, with never a single overdose, never a single recorded death caused by marijuana itself.

Montana's compassionate law, passed by a record-setting percentage of voters, is precious to the lives of patients, and it deserves to be respected and accurately represented.

It has its flaws and needs improving, for the sake of patients as well as law enforcement officials, but it can work very well for the patients who understand it and adhere to its terms.

But those of us who wrote the law, who have conducted education programs about the law and who have led the effort to improve it, never intended for patients to use medical marijuana in public or to flaunt their rights in any way.

We wouldn't want to see diabetics administer insulin in public either, and except in emergencies, it seems to us that health care treatments of any kind should be a private, personal matter.

(By the way, a great many patients don't actually "smoke" marijuana, even in private. They get the most helpful medicinal effects by ingesting it in food or liquid forms.)

The Montana law also doesn't endorse the exchange or use of marijuana by people who merely possess a physician's recommendation.

A patient doesn't receive our law's full protections until he or she has completed the process of registering with the state health department, and when obtaining medicine only from the party registered to be the patient's caregiver.

Periodically, our all-volunteer education and patient-support group holds meetings designed to help patients understand the law and know how to use medical marijuana safely, legally, and appropriately.

For more information, contact info@mtpfu.orgor see our Web site,