|Medical marijuana forum held at arts center
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
Without medical marijuana, Eric Crawford says he faces the imminent threat of blindness.
Crawford claims he also needs marijuana to offset the many physical problems he faces as a quadriplegic. He has been a quadriplegic for the past 22 years as result of injuries suffered in a traffic accident.
He claims that marijuana helps him better than opiates in treating his many physical ailments.
Crawford was one of the speakers Aug. 3 at a Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana (KY4MM) Education Forum held at the Gateway Regional Arts Center. About 40 people attended.
Crawford now travels across the state with the advocacy group asking for the public’s support of legalized medical marijuana. He has also lobbied before the state Legislature.
“It is the ethical, compassionate and only right thing to do,” he said of legalization.
Also among the speakers was Jaime Montalvo, the group’s director. He claims marijuana helps him cope with the effects of multiple sclerosis.
Montalvo says marijuana helped with both the physical and emotional symptoms associated with the condition. He is a former health care worker, who once lost custody of his child for a period because he tested positive for THC.
Montalvo said he should not be treated like a criminal.
“I will be relentless in fighting to change the laws,” he said. “I don’t think patients or citizens in general should be sent to jail or lose custody of parenting time just because a citizen uses cannabis.”
Montalvo encouraged the audience to educate themselves, then get involved in changing the law legalizing the use of medical marijuana.
Montalvo said he also wants to erase the social stigmas about medical marijuana. These are not criminals who smoke for fun, but who need it for medical reasons, he added.
Shannon Stacy, executive director of the Alliance for Innovative Medicine and a registered nurse with experience in oncology and Hospice care, talked about the health benefits of marijuana among some patients.
Supporters claim that cannabinoids can limit neurologic damage such as that from strokes and trauma, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.
Cannabis has also proven beneficial for cancer patients by reducing pain and nausea and increasing appetite among those undergoing treatment, medical experts report.
The National Cancer Institute claims that cannabis may protect against the development of certain types of tumors.
Some war veterans, like Danny “Greasy” Belcher of Bath County, claim marijuana has helped them overcome symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome.
Stacy and her group argue that medicinal marijuana should be considered a realistic option for some patients under a set of established regulations.
She said she is confident that goal can be accomplished through education.
“There’s a real, real swelling of people that are trying to get this done,” she said. “I think we will get there with your support.”
Organizers claim that 85 percent of Americans support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes with at least 78 percent support here in Kentucky.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have all legalized medical marijuana. In nine states, all forms of marijuana are legal.
Some medical experts, according to KY4MM, claim that medical marijuana may lead to reduction in opiate abuse.
The group also claims that there has been Medicare and Medicaid savings in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Montalvo claims that the use of medical marijuana has led to a 24.8 percent drop in opiate overdose in the communities where it is legalized.
Local resident Bobby Stinnett, who organized last week’s forum, told the audience that he personally knows of people who have beaten pill addiction through the use of marijuana. He also previously said he believes before 2019 Kentucky will see some legalized form of medical marijuana.
“It is better to stay ahead of these issues than scramble at the end,” he previously said.
Montalvo says there are also economic benefits to legalized medical marijuana. He claims the state could reap $120 million in revenue and produce hundreds of jobs through legalization.
Dan Seum Jr., veterans affairs director for KY4MM, encouraged the public to contact their legislators and ask them to support medical marijuana.
You can call a legislative hotline at 800-372-7181 and leave a message for your legislator. You can also find your legislators at www.lrc.ky.gov.
State Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington, was among those in attendance at the forum. He was not available for the question and answer period at the conclusion.
Part of breaking the stigma about medical marijuana is by speaking out on the subject and educating others about its benefits, Seum said. He said his organization will go wherever they are invited to spread the word.
The group has held 35 forums throughout the state promoting legalization.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about cannabis and get involved,” Seum told the crowd.
You can learn more about the KY4MM group through their website at www.ky4mm.org.