Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Open Letter to the Illinois General Assembly RE: Medical Marijuana

Dear Representatives to the Illinois General Assembly:

My name is Bruce Janu.  I am 44 years old, married to a wonderful woman and the father of two young boys, ages 8 and 6.  I teach high school history in suburban Chicago.

I don't use drugs of the illicit kind.  My drugs are completely legal but potentially very dangerous.

You see, I have Crohn's disease, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks my digestive system, causing bleeding ulcerations in various sections of my colon.  It is a painful and sometimes debilitating condition.  Last year, I missed a couple of weeks of work as a result of my condition.  In addition, I have had numerous procedures and have experimented with a multitude of drugs.

Currently, I am taking 10 mg of prednisone daily.  I have been on prednisone everyday for over a year now.  My dose has been as high as 40 mg a day.  Prednisone is a steroid that not only lowers the body's ability to fight infection, continued use causes bone loss, cardiovascular problems and cataracts.

In addition, I am taking 750 mg of Flagyl each day.  Flagyl is an antibiotic that has some anti-inflammatory properties.  It also can cause numbness and tingling in extremities and increases the risk of seizures.

And, last, but not least, I am taking 1000 mg of Imuran a day.  This is a drug used to inhibit organ rejection in transplant patients and is also used to treat autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's.  It is a severe immune system inhibitor.  Use of Imuran increases my chances of getting lymphoma and leukemia.  In addition, fungal infections and a certain type of fatal white-blood cell cancer known as T-Cell Lymphoma is more prevalent for Crohn's patients being treated with this drug. 

Pain is a constant reality in my life.  I am so used to it, I imagine my tolerance has grown very high over the years.  But, even so, I have heavy duty pain-killers at the ready.  Just in case.

I am not sure that medical marijuana would do anything for me.   That option, however, should be available when discussing treatment with my doctor.  More and more studies are showing that marijuana can be an effective treatment for people with Crohn's disease.

So much political rhetoric these days involves paying lip service to such amorphous terms as "freedom" and "liberty."  Where is the freedom--where is the liberty---for a person suffering from a debilitating disease when he or she cannot seek all medical options?  Should someone suffering from cancer be denied a basic treatment---a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals--simply because of a political agenda?

If my doctor were to recommend medical marijuana for my Crohn's, would it be moral and ethical to deny such treatment due to some outdated notions about cannabis?  After all, it would be highly regulated and the chance of it turning into a "gateway" to harder, illicit drugs is pure fantasy.  I am more likely to become addicted to the Vicodin in my cabinet than any amount of medical marijuana prescribed to me by a qualified doctor.

It is time to truly enter the 21st century.  Opening the door to medical marijuana will also promote more research into cures for diseases such as mine.  It will allow an alternative avenue to those seeking relief from symptoms without having to fear the side effects of the numerous, but far more dangerous, pharmaceutical options.

In this veto session of the General Assembly of Illinois, I urge you to vote yes on HB 30.  It is the right thing to do.  It is the ethical thing to do.

Thank you.


Bruce Janu
Battling Crohn's since 2000