Joseph Casias has battled sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor for more than a decade. His condition has required extensive treatment and chemotherapy, interferes with his ability to speak, and is a source of severe and daily pain. The pain relief medicine prescribed by Joseph's oncologist helped a little, but he continued to experience constant pain as well as nausea, a side effect of the medication.
Luckily, Joseph lives in Michigan, where a voter-enacted statute allows the use of marijuana to treat certain severe medical conditions like his. Joseph's oncologist recommended that he try marijuana in accordance with the state law; he did, and immediately found it very helpful to treat his condition.
Unfortunately, despite the scientifically proven benefits of medical marijuana, and even though nearly one-third of states have recognized those benefits, the federal government continues to criminalize medical marijuana and obstruct further research into its medical benefits. Because the federal government ignores empirical medical evidence, it has failed to keep pace with states like Michigan that allow the use of medical marijuana, and therefore Joseph has faced serious consequences for using the medicine he so greatly needs — including being fired from his job.
Stubbornly denying the medical benefits of marijuana — and thus treating it differently than more serious drugs subject to extreme abuse — is scientifically unsound and deprives seriously ill patients of much-needed pain relief. The federal government should make clear that it will not prosecute patients, doctors or dispensary operators for complying with state medical marijuana laws. Patients, providers and legislatures need this assurance so that they can proceed in confidence that state laws will be respected.