Ole Miss home to medical marijuana lab
The University of Mississippi was selected in 1968 as the United States' first, and only, legal marijuana farm since the drug became illegal in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act.OXFORD, Miss. -- The only reason 73-year-old Elvy Musikka still has her sight, she says, is she's been smoking pot for the last 30 years.
"In 1975, my doctor told me if I didn't start using marijuana, I'd go blind," said Musikka. "Shortly thereafter I found out that, indeed, it was the only thing that would help me with my glaucoma."
Musikka is one of only four people still enrolled in the federal government's Investigational New Drug program, which allows a small number of patients to use medical marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi. The program stopped accepting new participants in 1992 but allowed patients already in the program to continue receiving their prescriptions. At its peak, the program provided pot for 30 patients.
"All of us admitted in the program were required to prove to the FDA, DEA and NIDA that marijuana was the safest and most efficient treatment available for us," she said. "The bottom line for me was that I was losing my sight."
For more than 30 years Musikka has had glaucoma, a disease that causes a gradual increase in eye pressure and can ultimately lead to blindness. Pot relieves pressure in the eye caused from glaucoma and has been shown to occasionally reverse some of the damage caused by the disease.
Musikka recently moved from Florida to Oregon to enroll in a state-run medicinal marijuana program but said she found it to be very expensive. Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug, Musikka thinks access to medical marijuana may be easier and that the marijuana may be cheaper.
"There is no state, no place, where people do not seriously need this medicine. There is public support for all of us, everywhere," she said.
Inside the marijuana research lab at Ole Miss, the potent smell of marijuana lingers in the air. The grow room, housing plants that are up to six feet tall, buzzes with the sound of heat lamps and ventilation systems. The entire complex is surrounded by multiple guard towers, two enormous barbed wire fences and countless security cameras.
Ole Miss was selected in 1968 as the United States' first, and only, legal marijuana farm since the drug became illegal in 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act. The pot was grown for research being done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and was supplied to a small number of patients who were able to prove marijuana was the only therapeutic drug that would alleviate symptoms from their varying illnesses.
Acceptance of marijuana for medical use has come a long way since 1968. Currently, 18 states and Washington D.C. all offer prescription pot. The change has been slow, yet gradual, over recent years.
I always knew that pot was available in some cases for medical purposes, but I've never investigated it in full detail. I had no idea that 1 million people in this country could use pot legally, even before the new laws allowing for its recreational use. However, is pot really the only thing that helps relieve pressure on the eyes? I'm surprised there aren't other medicines for that, as well. Also, these programs must take serious precautions to ensure that patients do not become addicted to the drug. Is this really the best way handle treatment? If pot is being legalized in more states, should there be more pot farms to prevent Ole Miss from becoming a monopoly? Feel free to comment.