The medical marijuana hullabaloo is not about patient care. It is all about money! The money not spent on expensive prescription drugs.

Marijuana is one of the safest medically active substances known to man. It is easy to grow and safe to use. But it isn't taxed, legally sold, patented, promoted or protected by big-money lobbyists and multibillion-dollar out-of-state corporations, as are big tobacco, alcohol and 'legal' prescription drugs.

I'm just an old medical college professor with 30 years of teaching pharmacology and toxicology, turned country doctor for 10 years, with far more education on the effects of drugs than most.

Cannabis has often been called a miracle drug because of its effectiveness in the treatment of pain and such a wide path of diseases. It has been used in medicine for at least 5,000 years. Marijuana is even mentioned in the Bible, Exodus 30:23, when God ordered Moses to make a holy oil, composed of myrrh, sweet cinnamon and haneh bosm (cannabis).

Marijuana is well-known and used in medicine worldwide. It was one of the most widely used medicines in America before being legally banned in 1937. Oregon voters approved medical marijuana in 1998. Eight states have followed.

Oregon patients can now apply to the state, for an annual fee of $150, for a card authorizing their legal use of marijuana for their own medical purposes. Every application must be signed by a physician confirming that, in his or her opinion, the applicant is suffering from an ailment for which the state has approved the use of marijuana for treatment.

Doctors do not prescribe medical marijuana. The state approves all medical marijuana cards.

The state had anticipated

only about 500 applications but

already has issued more than 3,500 cards and is months behind in approving new applications. And now the state has added more delay to its multifarious approval processes by requiring a physician's physical exam of all applicants, which I now do. Why?

The state has approved marijuana in the treatment of nine diseases, including cancer. All require a medical specialist for detection, not just a regular physical exam. Surely the state's public health officer hasn't the time or staff with the expertise to review thousands of physical exams.

I'm but one of nearly 800 doctors who have signed medical marijuana applications. By far, I have examined the most patients: Thus, the state has singled me out, publicly attacked me and threatened my license, even though the law says physicians cannot be prosecuted for giving their opinion. Their goal is to scare other doctors in an attempt to kill medical marijuana in Oregon.

The state seems to be saying, 'We don't care what the voters want,' while ignoring the real victims: the forgotten thousands of Oregonians, the paraplegic vets and others who medically need and want to use marijuana 'legally' as an effective alternative medicine for the relief of their pain rather than using expensive and often harmful prescription painkillers. The state doesn't care.

But, thank God, others do. And thanks to several brave doctors, hundreds of dedicated advocates and the majority of Oregon voters, there are now more than 3,500 Oregonians legally suffering less medical misery than before. To which I say, 'Hurrah!' For that is what doctors should do.

Phillip Leveque, a doctor of osteopathy, says he has signed more than 1,600 medical marijuana card applications. He lives in Molalla.

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