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Marylander Argues Medical Marijuana Defense; Public Opinion Supports Medical Use


January 1995

An HIV-positive farmer is bringing a medical necessity defense against charges of possession, manufacturing, and intent to sell 10 grams of marijuana (Eugene L. Meyer, "Marijuana as Medicine at Heart of Md. Case," Washington Post, Dec. 20, 1994, p. D1).

Jerome Edward Mensch was arrested on Nov. 12, 1993 on his farm in Welcome, Maryland (Charles County, south of Washington, DC). Mensch said he started using marijuana several times per week when he switched from AZT to ddI to guard against the onset of full-blown AIDS. The ddI caused fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, Mensch said.

"I looked in the mirror," he said, "I looked like I was just slipping away." Friends told Mensch that marijuana might help him with the side effects of the medication.

Mensch said he grew a small amount of marijuana on his farm for his personal use. Marijuana use calmed his side effects and allowed him to resume his farm work, but he never told his doctor about his use. Mensch's lawyer, Andrew M. Dansicker of the National Capital Area Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that marijuana "allowed him [Mensch] to work and get rid of his problems."

A poll conducted by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland indicates that public opinion supports medical use of marijuana in Maryland. 84% of Marylanders in the spring of 1994 answered "yes" when asked: "If marijuana is proven to be effective in treating some health conditions, do you think physicians should be allowed to prescribe it?" (CESAR FAX, Jan. 9, 1995).