August 25, 2010

Portland won't give all HIV/AIDS patients access to medical marijuana

By John Richardson
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The letter sent by the city to HIV/AIDS patients


Maine's medical marijuana law says patients must have a physician recommendation and one of the following debilitating medical conditions: cancer; glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail-patella syndrome, a disease, condition or treatment that produces intractable pain, or a disease, condition or treatment that produces wasting syndrome, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

More conditions may be added to the list by a state review panel. The panel has yet to meet but is required to review the list at least once a year.

Patients also must pay a $100 fee and register with the state in order to be a legal marijuana user.

For information or application forms, go to:

Teschke said the health center is not limiting medical marijuana access out of any fear that it could lose federal funding. All marijuana use remains a federal crime. "That has not been an issue," she said.

Resistance and dismissive attitudes in the medical community are discouraging, said Charles Wynott of Westbrook, a medical marijuana advocate. Wynott was diagnosed with AIDS more than two decades ago, though he is not a patient at the city's health center.

"I have been a regular marijuana user for 25-plus years and I have no signs of cancer. It is the reason that I'm still alive, without any doubt in my mind," Wynott said. "It helps with nausea, it helps keep my medicine down and it helps with wasting and eating. Those are the two main things you need to do as an HIV patient in order to survive – keep your medicine down and maintain your weight."

Wynott said he hopes patients are not denied access to marijuana because it might make them feel good. "That in itself is a good thing for people who are sick," he said.

Owen Pickus, a Westbrook doctor who specializes in AIDS and cancer treatment, said he also wishes marijuana would be studied and controlled like other medicines. "I see nothing about marijuana that would make it a sacred cow that shouldn't be in the same group."

But, in the meantime, he recommends medical marijuana for a number of HIV patients if they have complications and need help managing weight loss and wasting syndrome.

"It's not just having an HIV diagnosis, it's wasting and vomiting," he said. "The drug doesn't work for everybody, but for a substantial number of people, it does."


Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:


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