Video: Montel and medical marijuana

updated 6/16/2005 11:18:18 AM ET 2005-06-16T15:18:18

The debate over medical marijuana continues to rage today. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly not to legalize medical marijuana, 264-161. It was a big setback for proponents of medical marijuana.

One of the most influential proponents of medical marijuana is talk show host Montel Williams. Joe Scarborough talked to him about the issue and asked him why he needs medical marijuana so badly.

To read an excerpt of the conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video of the interview, click on the video icon above.

Williams: I happen to use it from neuralgic pain from M.S.

I, along with a lot of other people who have diseases like this, fibromyalgia and other kind of illnesses, suffer from a strange form of pain that just is persistent and doesn't go away. There are several different kinds of pain medications that are out there and are available. I have been written prescriptions for all of them. And it's the reason why the drug manufacturers make over 190 different drugs for different pain things, because they know that less than 25 percent of the people can be affected by any individual drug.

So, medicinal marijuana won't work for everybody, but it works for me.

Scarborough: You know, I would be skeptical, but for the fact, last fall, I had about as severe back pain, I think, as possible. And your story sounded so much like mine.

I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would have shooting nerve pains down both my legs. I would be screaming at the top of my lungs. I was on 1,000 different narcotic type of drugs. Nothing touched it. Now, luckily, for me, Bextra did, which, of course, is now illegal.
It's an anti-inflammatory.

But you know what? You literally could have shot heroin into my arm.

Williams: That's right.

Scarborough: You could have shot Valium into my leg. It wouldn't have touched this pain.

And, unless you go through that, I mean, people just can't relate to it. Tell me how marijuana, tell me how that affects this pain, how it touches this pain, where all these other pharmaceutical drugs just don't do it?

Williams: Well, I think what we need to understand is, let's talk about marijuana itself.

Up until 1937, marijuana was a legal drug all over the world. It was used. And several U.S. pharmaceutical corporations made prescription medications that you could get from a pharmacy before 1937 with marijuana in it.

Currently, right this second, for the last 25 years, our government has been distributing marijuana to -- it was 12, now seven people who are stricken with various forms of pain and other forms of illnesses. They have been distributing this for 25 years through a program at the University of Mississippi, where we grow it. It goes and distributed once a month, I think the 17th of every single month, distributed under a USDA stamp of approval, 50 marijuana cigarettes to people, who they have been using and testing for over 25 years.

Scarborough: Let's talk about you specifically. What does marijuana do for you at night before you go to bed that helps ease that pain, helps -- helps to take away what you're going through?

Williams: The same thing -- the same thing that a person who might take Vicodin or OxyContin.

For me -- and I'll tell you something. I could take six OxyContin and get the same relief. But then I'm just going to drool in the corner and possibly urinate on myself this evening. I could take seven or eight or nine or 10 or 11, 12, 13 or 14 Vicodin, OK? I have taken up to four at a time at the same time together to get the same kind of pain relief.

It's -- believe me, see, what people -- the misconception is that there are a lot people sitting around smoking a joint. Marijuana can be eaten. It can be drank in a liquid form. I utilize it and eat it the same way as I would take a pill about an hour and a half before I go to bed. And then it gives me about four or five hours of relief while I sleep.

If I wake up in the middle of night and it kicks back him, I can take another pill or I can take another piece of a cookie and go right back to sleep. And it's the same thing as if somebody else took any other any opium-based drug that they sell or get from a pharmacy.

Look, I have a doctor right now who can write me a prescription for morphine, OxyContin. And guess what, Joe? I can get a prescription of cocaine that's given to me from the pharmacy right down the street, because it's a schedule two drug. If we think our doctors are smart enough to prescribe cocaine, morphine, other barbiturates and amphetamines, why is that same doctor not smart enough to be able to prescribe marijuana, if he thinks it works?

It is the most ridiculous thing on the planet that we have something else that is available. And believe me, it doesn't work for everybody. There are probably only 25 percent of people out there who suffer from the type of pain that I have, suffer from, that medicinal marijuana will work for. But why not make it available to those that it will work for under a doctor's supervision? That's where the ignorance in this is all about.

And if our government has been sending it out for 25 years, spending taxpayer dollars, investigating this drug's efficacy at the University of Mississippi for 25 years, and they haven't figured it out yet, then, first off, anybody involved in the program should be fired. And, secondly, we ought to be able to sue the federal government, because we can say that, after 25 years, if you have not figured that this works, how could you have been poisoning people if you didn't think it works?

And we know it works. The argument is so ridiculous. That's the reason why the Supreme Court had to decide this time on an interstate commerce ruling. And the lead justice even said that this is an issue that should be brought before Congress and the will of the people will be heard. Look, 70 percent of the people polled in America today will tell you that, if their child, their mother, father, sister, brother was laying in a hospital in pain and the only drug available to relieve that pain was medicinal marijuana, they would all agree to give it to their child. I don't understand what the problem is.

Scarborough: All right. Montel Williams, thanks a lot for being with us.

Williams: Thank you.

Scarborough: Obviously, this debate is going to be raging in Washington for some time. We appreciate you being here tonight. We hope you will come back with a follow-up discussion on this topic. And know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Watch 'Scarborough Country' each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


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