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COLOFF: Good morning. Local talk radio on the air on KCNZ, your information station. You're going to have a chance to get in on the discussion, if you'd like to. We're going to open up the phone lines here in just a bit. 277-1918 or 1-800-913-9479. We're talking about the medicinal use of marijuana, not for a drug, but maybe for medicinal usage. Is that possible? We're talking with Allen Helmers. He suffers from a disease that causes great pain, and he says marijuana will help him. Is it possible to have marijuana available to only patients like yourself?
HELMERS: There are currently still eight patients alive in America on the, there's a compassionate users program, and that was begun in the '70s. I think there was 15 when George Bush stopped it in 1992, right before he was voted out of office, two of which live in Iowa, George McMahon which has, he has nail patella syndrome, and Barbara Douglass who suffers from multiple sclerosis. So, we do have two of those patients left in Iowa. That program is no longer in effect, but the people still do get marijuana from the federal government and claim to get excellent results from it.
COLOFF: Uh hum. Now, you mentioned that there are, for your disease and your condition, you said there are 300 other people in northeast Iowa?
HELMERS: There is approximately 300 that come to the support group at Covenant Medical Center from time to time who are members of it. I'm not saying they all come every month.
COLOFF: So, if marijuana was legalized, would all 300 of these people, would it be available to them?
HELMERS: I very much doubt that it would work for all of them. The problem is, what works for Jane doesn't work for Allen. What works for Allen doesn't work for Jane. We found that out through our group discussion that, there's no way I could say that it would work for everyone. It does work for me, and I do know several other people who have claimed results that they have not gotten from chemical drugs or any other therapy that they hadn't felt in over ten years. I guess I'm responsible, because they read my article in the paper and tried it.
COLOFF: Uh hum. Now, how would we know that someone was being honest? If they said, well the drug is working, rather than just saying that so they could have more marijuana legally to smoke?
HELMERS: That's a problem. Drugs are abused. Morphine is probably snitched from a grandpa who has cancer, by the kid, or teenager, or whatever. Any drug can be abused. The point I'd like to make came out of an editorial shortly after the election on the 11th of November in the Des Moines Register. Just one line out of that, outlawing use of certain drugs for any purpose simply because they are favorites on the illegal market means we are letting street criminals dictate our drug policy, while forcing some who suffer from desperate illnesses to pay the price. I believe that says most of it right there.
COLOFF: Uh hum. Mr. Corbett has been gracious enough to stay on the line with us and allow Mr. Helmers to have his say. Ron, we're going to bring you back up now. Mr. Corbett is a Republican from Cedar Rapids. He's the House Speaker. And a group of Republicans who say they don't want to see this come up or be enacted in Iowa. Ron, is it true that we're allowing drug dealers to dictate our legislation?
CORBETT: Well, if you want to take that one step further, if you want to take that editorial one step further, then just advocate legalizing all drugs then, if that's the case, because that's what's being done right now on the street. The problem here is that both sides can argue that there are studies proving one way or the other. So, rather than saying who's right and who's wrong on this, let's look at how broad this thing is. And, it may work for Mr. Helmers. I mean, he just admitted that it doesn't work for everyone. Well, that's what the law says. The law says we can't specifically say only Mr. Helmers can use it, but Mr. Doe can't, because it doesn't work for him. The laws have to be crafted in a way they apply to everyone and anyone. So, I mean, these things are so broad...
HELMERS: But, there is not a chemical drug that works for everyone.
CORBETT: Well, I'm just saying that when you legalize marijuana this first step, you're heading down the slippery slope. And you're so broad. Where do you draw the line? Where do you say, well, only for these people that are...
HELMERS: We have to draw the line with the truth. It's time for the truth to be out.
CORBETT: So, you would want it, you have...
HELMERS: I don't want marijuana on the street. I want it legalized under medical supervision. And, I'm not saying that somebody coming in with a sneeze and get marijuana. That's not right. I'm saying that under a qualified medical doctor.
CORBETT: Well, that's how broad these referendums in California...
HELMERS: Well, those laws need some tuning. And the people that wrote them have even admitted that. I read that in the paper last week also.
CORBETT: And, today, if you look at what caregiver means, what, you know, people think doctor, they think of M.D., but that isn't the case. I mean we have a lot of health care providers and professionals that are recognized as being that. Whether it's a nurses aid, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, an M.D. The list is broad, so anyone can be really classified as a primary caregiver without having the M.D. behind their name, so that aspect of it, as far as being prescribed. I just think that between, whether it be prescribed by some health care professional, or who uses it, it's so broad, the definition is so, I think you have too much case for abuse. And, hey, one of the great things about having fifty states is that some states can try some stuff to see how it works. In two or three years from now we'll see. We'll have an ongoing study from Arizona and from California.
HELMERS: There's been many studies already that for some reason the politicians would wish to discredit or ignore completely, and Holland has been legal for quite a while and I guess it's the most pleasant place to be.
CORBETT: I've never been there. Have you?
HELMERS: No, but I know many people who go there, to enjoy absolute freedom. They do treat people with marijuana over there. The information is there. When the DEA can block the AMA from scientific studies, because they will not allow the different grades of marijuana to be imported into this country, we're letting our police practice the medicine in this country, and that's not right.
COLOFF: Now, Allen, Mr. Corbett makes the point that if we legalize it for a few, how can we not allow it to go to all people, or have people just come in, like you said, with a little pain and they say they need this marijuana? Now to be, honestly, have you had anyone come up to you, who they know that you're in this and that you're fighting for this, have you had anyone come up to you and say, hey, this is great because if this is passed maybe I can get some marijuana, too? I don't need it but, boy, this would kind of open the door. Have you had anyone pressure you at all?
HELMERS: I've had lost of people say, oh yeah, it great man, everyone's going to have it then, and that's not what we're after. We're after doctor's supervision. I wish that I would have brought my bucket of empty pill bottles. It's not that they have not tried everything on the shelf pretty near. That's not the problem. The problem is the marijuana works where the chemicals are not, and I can't deny that fact.
CORBETT: Well, what you're after, Mr. Helmers, is fine, but the unintended consequences of people coming up and using it for whatever reason, being picked up for carrying a commercial quantity of marijuana going into court saying, well, this is just for medicinal purposes, I'm a supplier, whatever. I mean, you might as well throw all of our drug enforcement laws out the window if you're going to start, if you're going to go down this road. I just don't see how you can do it with the safeguards.
HELMERS: How do we continue to use cocaine and morphine then, through our medical community? I don't really see the difference, myself.
CORBETT: Tell me how you...
HELMERS: They're both very abused on the street.
CORBETT: Tell me how you keep this from being abused by your local reefer head.
COLOFF: Mr. Helmers?
HELMERS: It always has been. Now, how are you going to stop it?
HELMERS: I'm telling you that you shouldn't be locking people up simply because they are chronically and critically ill.
CORBETT: And those that aren't?
HELMERS: The reefer head, has he tried all the different pills, has he went through all these different doctors and medical treatment? We're talking about oranges and apples. We're not talking about street people. We're talking about sick people.
CORBETT: Oh, I know.
HELMERS: Is it legal for street people to carry morphine around in their pocket right now?
CORBETT: Listen, I know that I will lose the debate if the people who are in favor of medical use parade around the chronically ill, the cancer victims, the terminally ill, the AIDS victims. Everyone has compassion. I don't want to see anyone suffer, any more than anyone else does. And so, then if that's the case, and if that's all the debate is about, is providing some compassion for these people, and the way to do that is for allowing marijuana, I lose the debate. I'm fully aware of that. But there are some other extremely important consequences that come from this. And so, people are thinking that we're just going to help out these folks that are chronically ill, and that to help them relieve some of the pain, I'll lose. But there's more to that. There is more to it than just that. And, when you start sending messages that marijuana is a legal drug, is for medicine, then the next step is what? And the step after that? And, I just see the slippery slope on this issue.
COLOFF: Okay, Mr. Corbett, I'm going to let Allen answer that, and we've got a caller on the line on hold, so after this comment from Mr. Helmers we'll take that call.
HELMERS: The point is, I first tried marijuana in the Vietnam era and realized what it could do. So when I was hurt, I understood. And number one, at my age, when I was first exposed to it, Art Linkletter was on TV telling us how bad it was and we we're going to jump out windows and this and that. Number one, we have to stop lying to our children. Marijuana is not totally bad. It should not, children should not be using any substances, tobacco, alcohol or any drugs. And, until we're honest about what the drugs are, they're going to get into, well, gee, marijuana isn't anything, maybe crack ain't anything, or maybe this heroin isn't anything. We've got to be honest right on down the line.
COLOFF: Okay, if you have a comment, 277-1918 or 1-800-913-9479. M.B is on line one, and M.B. you're on the air. Welcome to the program.
M.B.: Ah yes. I have a question for both gentlemen, I believe. Both of you seem to be assuming, and saying even, that this drug, this marijuana, will be given by, quote, a bunch of different caregivers. Why not handle it as other dangerous drugs are, by strictly a physician's prescription, with that physician's number? And, not all physicians can even write prescriptions for certain scheduled drugs. Wouldn't that take care of a lot of the problems you two are talking about?
HELMERS: That's what we are advocating.
COLOFF: Mr. Corbett? Did you hear the comment?
CORBETT: Yeah, and that's what people in California and Arizona thought they were voting for, and that wasn't the case. I mean...
M.B.: Well, why not, you're a better legislator than that bunch in California. Surely, you folks in Des Moines can come up with a straight forward. Why not handle it like codeine? You can't go down and buy codeine. You need a prescription. Even for Tylenol and codeine combined.
HELMERS: And, they do plan on changing that law in California. Even the people who wrote that referendum understand that that was written too broadly.
M.B.: You people wouldn't make that mistake in Des Moines.
HELMERS: Well, I'd hope not, because Jim...
M.B.: Why not give it a shot, and simple say, a physician, on his medical judgment, signed, sealed and delivered in a prescription? That takes care of codeine. There aren't too many cases of opium or codeine running around, for the reason that you can only get it by prescription from a physician who can write prescriptions for scheduled drugs. I'll hang up and listen to you guys.
CORBETT: Well, I'd ask, why has the American Medical Association, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Cancer Society passed resolutions saying that they don't, there's no demonstrated medical use for marijuana? I mean, here we're arguing whether we should have it for medicinal purposes or not, but there are people prior to that debate that say there are no medicinal purposes.
COLOFF: Okay, Mr. Corbett. We're going to take a break here, we've got to break. And, we'll be back. And, when we come back, another caller called in didn't want to go on the air. But, wanted to ask Mr. Helmers, and I'll let him think about this during our break, that if he would support, or, would you support legislation for crack cocaine, or for heroin? And, he wanted to know where the line would be drawn. So I'll let you think about that during the break. And, we'll be back with more on local talk radio after this. If you'd like to get in on the show, 277-1918 or 1-800-913-9479.
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