Medical Marijuana

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Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Final Committee -- House Floor Next

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 9, 2008 CONTACT: Neal Levine, MPP director of state campaigns, tel: 612-326-6690 ext.802 Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Final Committee Measure Clears Last Hurdle Before House Floor ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- Minnesota's bill to protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation cleared its final committee hurdle today, passing the House Ways and Means Committee, 13-4. The next stop for the bill, SF 345, is the House floor. The Senate version of the bill was approved by the full Senate last year. Preston resident Neil Haugerud, former sheriff of Fillmore County and a former state representative who suffers chronic pain from arachnoiditis (inflammation of the lining that surrounds the spinal cord), said, "I'm grateful to the committee for passing the medical marijuana bill, and I hope the full House and the governor will go ahead and make it law as soon as possible. Patients who are in pain shouldn't have to risk arrest and jail to get relief." "Medical marijuana is a conservative issue," said Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover), a co-sponsor of the bill. "It's about the right of doctors and patients to make the best treatment decisions to relieve suffering, without interference from politicians and bureaucrats." "I hope the House follows the Senate's lead and, for the sake of Minnesota's seriously ill patients, passes this compassionate bill quickly," said bill sponsor Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth). The bill's chances were recently boosted by a strong statement of support for medical marijuana from the 124,000-member American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty society and second largest physician group in the U.S. The ACP statement is available online at http://www.acponline.org/advocacy/where_we_stand/other_issues/medmarijua... Twelve states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- presently allow medical use of marijuana. Medical marijuana bills are now under consideration in Illinois and New York, and an initiative is expected to appear on Michigan's November ballot. With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.
Location: 
St. Paul, MN
United States

You Have My Permission to Name a Marijuana Strain After Me

I know, I'm a D-list pot celebrity at best, but at least I won't throw a raging hissy fit:
Tom Cruise's attorneys are looking to take legal action over a new strain of medical marijuana that has been put on the market under the star's name.

The "Tom Cruise Purple" brand, which features a picture of the actor laughing on the vials, is currently being sold in licensed marijuana clubs in Northern California. [sfgate.com]
Thanks to Prop. 215, it might even be possible to sue in California courts for trademark infringement over the name of a marijuana strain. But all you can really do is go after the clubs offering it, which can in turn just change the name to something else like TCP. Regardless, if Tom Cruise really wanted to screw these people, he would have been well advised to keep his mouth shut rather than make the strain famous by complaining about it.

Until all of this plays itself out, aspiring marijuana breeders should just name their strains after me, which I assure you is totally ok. Call it "Scotty Mo Skunk" or something like that. I won't complain unless it sucks.
Location: 
United States

Americans for Safe Access: April 2008 Activist Newsletter

California Cannabis Dispensaries Testify at Tax Hearing

Medical Cannabis Generates More than $100 Million in Sales Tax

On Tuesday, March 18, medical cannabis advocates and dispensary operators from around California went to the state capital to testify about the sales tax medical cannabis generates. The group urged the Board of Equalization (BOE) to help protect an important source of revenue for the state—$100 million in sales tax collected annually by medical marijuana dispensaries.

The BOE testimony The patients, advocates, and operators who testified.

ASA's Chief of Staff Rebecca Saltzman testified first. She told the BOE that the tax revenue the state receives from licensed medical cannabis dispensaries is in danger, due to increased federal interference in the state medical marijuana program.

"The sales tax collected by medical marijuana dispensaries in one year could fund the construction of two large schools or 2,000 elementary and high school teachers," said ASA Chief of Staff Rebecca Saltzman. "By robbing California of this much needed revenue, the federal government is not only harming thousands of patients that rely on this medicine, it is also impeding the state's ability to fund critical aspects of its infrastructure."

Others who testified included Dale Geiringer, Ph.D., the head of California NORML, who outlined the millions of dollars of tax revenue dispensaries produce for the BOE, and several dispensary operators and former operators from Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Sacramento and Santa Cruz, who all testified to their problems with the DEA.

Among those dispensary operators was Lisa Sawoya, the tax-paying former director of Hollywood Compassionate Care in Los Angeles, who was forced to close her dispensary because the DEA intimidated her landlord by threatening to seize the property. Her collective still suffered a raid at the hands of the DEA, even though her landlord had notified the DEA that the dispensary was closing in a matter of days.

Bill Pearce, former director of River City Patients' Center in Sacramento, described the $700,000 he had paid to the BOE over the past three years, as well as a quarter of a million to the IRS and Franchise Tax Board. The DEA shut him down in September.

All those testifying urged the BOE to do everything possible to help protect safe access and state tax revenues. ASA's Rebecca Saltzman also pointed out that the DEA would soon face oversight hearings before Congress on their tactics, and State Senator Carole Migden is introducing a resolution calling for an end to federal interference and urging Congress and the President to establish policy consistent with the compassionate use laws of California.

In 2007 alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana providers, and they embarked on a new strategy, sending more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries, threatening property owners with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture.

Read more in Rebecca Saltzman's report on the hearing on ASA's blog. Also, see the ASA Fact Sheet on sales tax on the website here.

ASA Mounts Strong Response to Latest LA Raids

Patients, Activists and Victims of DEA Raids Rally, Speak to City Council

ASA organized a quick response to DEA raids on six locations of a medical cannabis collective in Los Angeles on March 20.

Activists were at the locations quickly to protest the raids, thanks to ASA's Raid Response Emergency Text Messaging system. One of the activists onsite even overheard a DEA agent tell the others that "the alert has gone out" and "they're on the way."

Within days, operators of several dispensaries that have been targeted testified before the Los Angeles City Council, then joined 60 medical cannabis patients and advocates for a protest in front of the DEA offices downtown.

"It's very difficult to comply with state law with the DEA continuing to raid legally-sanctioned dispensaries," said Virgil Grant, who had multiple dispensary locations raided. "It's time for the Los Angeles City Council and other local governments to end DEA interference."

The city council was asked to re-convene the city working group that is developing regulations for collectives, and Council Member Janice Hahn said she would.

Next Wednesday, April 2, the council will vote on a resolution endorsing state Senator Carole Migden's Senate Joint Resolution 20 calling on the President and US Congress to end the raids. See below in the City and County Hearings section for more details.

No arrests were made and the collectives, which took only minor losses due to careful precautions, are expected to reopen today.

Sign up for ASA's Emergency Response Text Messaging System to receive instant alerts about raids in your area. Visit ASA online at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/RaidAlert.

ASA Fact Sheet on Senate Joint Resolution 20, calling for an end to DEA interference is at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/SJR_20_Fact_Sheet.pdf.

Maryland Patients Get ASA Rights Training

As part of a campaign to raise awareness about Maryland's medical cannabis law and improve it, patients throughout Maryland received trainings on their rights this month as part of in an education partnership between ASA and the Drug Policy Alliance.

ASA's first Medical Marijuana Teach-In and Know Your Rights Training in the state drew a diverse crowd to hear about the state's medical marijuana law. A few attendees were not even aware that Maryland has a medical marijuana law.

Unlike most states with medical cannabis laws, Maryland still considers patients criminals, even when they can prove that their marijuana use is a medical necessity. A successful medical defense will leave a patient with a misdemeanor criminal record that poses barriers to financial aid, housing, employment, and more.

Those attending the training all signed ASA's petition to protect Maryland medical marijuana patients, and many also signed up to participate in a field trip to meet with state legislators next month.

ASA conducted similar teach-ins throughout the month of March, including trainings in Salisbury, Maryland (Eastern Shore), Silver Spring, MD (Montgomery County) and Western Maryland. The campaign is designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership to support future legislative reform efforts.

For more information about how to help improve Maryland's medical marijuana law see ASA’s website at: AmericansForSafeAccess.org/maryland.

California Supreme Court Affirms Patients’ Rights

Landmark ASA Win in Return of Property Case Stands as Precedent

ASA's landmark litigation establishing patients' right to the return of wrongfully seized medical cannabis was affirmed by the California Supreme Court on March 19.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford

The Court refused an attempt to overturn the appellate ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, otherwise known as the Felix Kha case.

Now that the Felix Kha decision has been affirmed by the highest court in the state, state and local law enforcement can no longer hide behind federal prohibition as an excuse for not returning medical cannabis.

Patients and caregivers can now challenge the wrongful confiscation of medicine in any court in the state.

"California law enforcement is now on notice that they cannot seize and keep the medicine of seriously ill patients," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who represented Kha. "The court has ensured that patients have a way to get their cannabis back."

The decision in Felix Kha's case was a huge victory for patients, one ASA worked hard to get.

This summer, ASA will beef up its return of property campaign to be sure that every patient and caregiver in the state enjoys the full benefit of this important precedent.

For more on this important decision, see Chief Counsel Elford's blog on it at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/blog/?p=74.

Location: 
United States

Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative Well-Positioned for November

With an initiative known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act headed for the November ballot with strong popular support, Michigan is poised to provide a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. If the initiative passes, Michigan would be the first state in the Midwest to approve it and, with 10 million people, it would be the second most populous state to approve it, behind California.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/michigancapitol.jpg
Michigan Capitol
Sponsored by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC), the campaign has already gathered the necessary signatures and had them approved by the state election board. Under Michigan law, the initiative is now before the legislature, which is half-way through a 40-day window it has in which to act. If, as is expected, the legislature does not act, the initiative goes to the voters in November.

According to MCCC, the initiative would:

  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors' approval.
  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for their medical use, with limits on the amount they could possess.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.
  • Continuing certain restrictions on the medical use of marijuana, including prohibitions on public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.

"The clock is ticking," said Diane Byrum of Lansing, who heads the MCCC. "We don't anticipate the legislature will take any action. When that doesn't happen, then we are automatically on the ballot."

While Byrum declined to discuss specific campaign tactics for the coming months, she did provide some hints of the arguments proponents would be making. "We will be focusing on the patients this initiative will protect from the fear of arrest or jail for using medical marijuana," she said.

The campaign will also make efforts to reassure voters, she said. "The law is narrow in scope, it deals only with medical marijuana, there is a mandatory state registration system," Byrum went down the list. "The sky won't fall."

While Michigan voters may want some reassurance, medical marijuana is not exactly a brand new issue in the state. Voters in five towns and cities -- Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City -- have already approved medical marijuana, and it has been before the legislature for several years.

Rochelle Lampkin, a 49-year-old Detroit resident who uses medical marijuana to alleviate optic neuritis caused by Multiple Sclerosis, doesn't want to wait on the legislature. Although Lampkin is protected by Detroit's medical marijuana law, she said that was not sufficient. "I first spoke out about using medical marijuana when we were trying to get the ordinance passed, but I think this needs to go statewide. There are people suffering all over the state," Lampkin said. "People have a preconceived notion about marijuana, and I was one of them, but if you have enough pain, you'll try anything."

It helps her, she said. "The neuritis causes the nerves in the back of my eye to swell up and they hurt so bad," she said. "The marijuana works. It helps to relax the nerves so the pain subsides. I had to be convinced to try it, but I did, and it works. I don't like smoking it, so I learned how to make a tea out of it. That's what I use."

This isn't about potheads, Lampkin said. "I want people to understand everybody is not out here trying to get high," she said. "I don't get high, I don't smoke, I don't even drink. I was the square," she laughed. "When I did try it, it was because other people in my MS group said they used it and I might want to try it. I fought it, but I eventually did try it and it helps."

As the local pro-medical marijuana votes demonstrated, there is broad support among the Michigan electorate. A recent poll provided further evidence of that support, with 67% of voters saying they supported medical marijuana and 62% voicing approval for this particular initiative.

"This is the baby boomers coming of age," Tom Shields of the Marketing Resource Group, which conducted the Inside Michigan Politics survey, said in a statement on its release last month.

Voters between 34 and 54 showed 75% support for medical marijuana, and 63% of retirees did. Somewhat surprisingly, younger voters (18 to 34) were the least supportive, backing the measure 61% to 36%.

Still, the initiative is in good initial shape with voters, said Shields. "This is where you want to start at for a ballot proposal," Shields said. "You want to start over 60% because when the details come out, you lose support... This is a potential winner."

But there is a long way to go, said Byrum, who will be spending the next few months building and strengthening the campaign. "We're building a grassroots organization. We're asking people to make contributions. This is going to take a lot of work."

So far, at least, there is little sign of any organized opposition, although organizers expect law enforcement to eventually mount objections. One objection already being heard is that medical marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.

As for that argument, Byrum said that would make little difference to Michigan medical marijuana users. "About 99% of drug enforcement cases are done by state law enforcement," she pointed out. "Passage of this initiative will effectively protect 99% of our patients. We can see that by looking at states that already have these laws. They do provide protection."

Each state that joins the roster of medical marijuana states only increases the pressure on the federal government to change its policies, Byrum argued. "We believe that as more states pass their own laws it will apply further pressure to get beyond the political debate that dominates Washington and get to the scientific and medical evidence as a basis for policymaking."

Medical marijuana efforts are ongoing in a number of state legislatures this year. But the legislative process is excruciatingly slow and cumbersome, and it is unclear whether any will make it into law. Initiative campaigns, while expensive, have the benefit of bypassing the politicos and letting the voters choose directly. With high levels of popular support a few months out, it looks as if Michigan may beat the other states out of the gate.

Medical Marijuana: California Dr. Molly Fry Sentenced to Five Years

A federal judge in Sacramento sentenced Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry and her companion, attorney Dale Schafer, to five years in federal prison for conspiring to grow and distribute marijuana on March 19. Fry, who used marijuana herself in connection with radical breast cancer surgery, and Schafer, who used it for back pain and a dangerous form of hemophilia, also provided marijuana to patients under California's Compassionate Use Act.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fry-schafer-family.jpg
Fry, Schafer and family at August 2007 demonstration (courtesy indybay.org)
But the Justice Department prosecuted the couple under the federal marijuana laws, leaving US District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. no choice but to impose the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentenced required under the law because they had more than 100 plants.

"It is a sad day, a terrible day," Damrell said during sentencing, adding that if it were up to him, the punishment would have been less. But he also criticized Fry and Schafer for refusing to accept a plea bargain that could have left them free. "You had the opportunity to resolve this case, but you wanted to soldier on, knowing that your kid would be left behind," he told the couple.

In a departure from normal practice on the federal bench and to the delight of supporters who packed the courtroom, Judge Damrell granted the pair bail, so they will remain free while their case is appealed. Damrell, who is also presiding over the Bryan Epis case and has granted him bail too, said the exceptional circumstances of the case create "serious issues that need to be decided by an appellate court." Among those, he noted, are Fry and Schafer's claim they were entrapped.

Watch the video / 67% support for MPP's medical marijuana initiative in Michigan

[Courtesy of MPP] 

A new, independent poll published in a prominent Michigan political newsletter shows that 67% of Michigan voters favor the passage of MPP's medical marijuana initiative in the state. This is a significant increase in support from polls conducted in previous years. It also cuts across all demographics, which bodes very well for making Michigan the 13th medical marijuana state this November.

Momentum is clearly on our side, but we still need the resources to mount an effective campaign this year to ensure we win on November 4. Would you please make a donation to MPP's campaign committee, the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, today?

Shortly after our initiative was certified for the November ballot, local pundits on the public television talk show “Off the Record” spoke glowingly of MPP’s campaign. Host Tim Skubick praised MPP’s strategy of flying under the radar, and one of the guests noted, “This is the most organized of the ballot proposals that are out there right now.” Click here to watch these reporters gush over MPP.

Back to the poll: Conducted by the Lansing-based consulting firm Marketing Resource Group (MRG) and published in "Inside Michigan Politics," it found that 67% of Michiganders support the passage of the medical marijuana law, with 28% opposed and only 5% undecided.

Earlier this month, the nearly half-a-million signatures we had submitted to the state government came back with a whopping 80% validity rate. Now the medical marijuana initiative advances to the Michigan Legislature. If, as expected, the legislature chooses not to act on the initiative after 40 days, Michigan voters will decide the issue at the polls on November 4.

The overwhelming amount of support reflected in the local media coverage and this latest poll is not altogether surprising: Five Michigan cities — Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City — passed local medical marijuana initiatives by wide margins from 2004 to 2007. And previous polling — such as a 2005 survey that found 61% in favor of protecting medical marijuana patients — has always indicated that a majority of Michiganders support reform.

But the MRG poll demonstrates that this support is surging statewide as voters hear more about the issue, and now two out of three Michigan residents are saying they’d vote to protect patients from the threat of arrest and jail.

Despite this encouraging poll, the fact remains that the campaign still has a long way to go, and we'll need substantial resources to maintain this momentum. Would you please consider donating to the campaign today to help ensure a victory in November? Thank you for supporting this important work.

Sincerely,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)
Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your donation to the Michigan campaign today will be doubled.

Location: 
MI
United States

Americans for Safe Access Introduces New Video Testimonials

Dear ASA Supporter,

As the National Field Coordinator for ASA I meet patients, medical professionals, caregivers, and people from all walks of life on a daily basis. When meeting people new to the movement I am regularly asked who supports medical cannabis and why should I get on board? In the past, I would then take several minutes to explain, but that is about to change today!

I am very excited to announce that ASA has developed a new type of outreach and education tool, which also happens to be rather entertaining! Today, we are releasing three video testimonials which at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/VideoTestimonial to help spread the word about medical cannabis.

"I had to pack up all my belongings, sell the family home, and move across the country to California to be safe to be a patient."
- Steve from Oakland speaking about his move from Virginia to Oakland to become a legal medical cannabis patient. Watch Steve's whole story.

The video testimonial project has been designed to help educate people about medical cannabis by having patients and supporters share their stories. This project was also designed to help people like you educate your friends and family about medical cannabis by sharing these videos with your community.

"Even my 80-year-old mother approves of me being a patient. She says to people, 'If it helps her pain then it is okay.'"
- Carole from the Fremont talking about being out as a medical cannabis patient with her family. Watch Carole's whole story.

Over the next month, ASA will be releasing a new testimonial each week beginning next Monday. Be sure to visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/VideoTestimonial next Monday to view the next installment of ASA's video testimonials. We will be releasing a new video every Monday through the end of April. In the meantime, click here to view the first three videos today!

Thank you to Carson Higby-Flowers for volunteering to record, edit, and produce the testimonials. Also, thank you to all of the brave patients, supporters, and advocates who took the time to come in and participate in the video shoot.

Keep spreading the word about medical cannabis and forward this message on to your family, friends, and community members. Also, if you belong to an online social networking page like MySpace, Facebook, Tribe, and/or host your own personal blog, I strongly encourage you to link to the video testimonials.

Sincerely,

Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
Field Coordinator
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Let us know if you are interested in participating in the next video testimonial shoot at the ASA headquarters (date and time have yet to be determined). E-mail Jocelyn@AmericansforSafeAccess.org if you are interested.

Location: 
United States

Drug Sense Focus ALERT: #362 Medical Marijuana In Michigan - Yea or Nay?

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #362 - Monday, 24 March 2008 Earlier this month, the voters of Michigan succeeded in qualifying an initiative for the November election ballot. When passed by the voters on November 4th Michigan law will allow patients to use, possess, and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors' approval. This will likely make Michigan the first medical marijuana state in the heartland, although there are bills pending in some other midwest states. Michigan is home to more than 10 million people. Of the states with current effective medical marijuana laws only California has a larger population. Three articles were written for the Sunday editions of the Kalamazoo Gazette this month, a newspaper in the heartland of Michigan. They illustrate the battle Michigan folks will have in the media in the months ahead. The author of the articles, Chris Killian, went to some length to find both pro and con arguments. Please read the articles at http://www.mapinc.org/author/Chris+Killian Note that for the two oldest articles Michigan letter writers have responded as shown at the 'Letters' link at the top of each MAP archived article. We are not suggesting that out of state letter writers respond to Michigan press articles about the initiative. This is a battle best fought by in state letter writers. Folks outside Michigan may find other ways to support the initiative by going to the initiative website at http://stoparrestingpatients.org/ But the three articles do illustrate the type of arguments made in the press both for and against medicinal marijuana initiatives, bills and laws in every state. As letter writers improve their arguments in letters sent to their state papers they advance the issue. ********************************************************************** Excerpts from 'Nuclear-Blast Survivor Heads Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access' published on March 9th: The atomic explosions off remote islands in the South Pacific seemed to turn night into day. They also turned Martin Chilcutt into a marijuana user. Chilcutt said the drug has helped him to ease the pain he says dates back to his exposure to radiation during a 1956 U.S. government project testing nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. A state ballot proposal could allow voters in November to decide whether Chilcutt's measures to self-medicate should be legal in Michigan. The 74-year-old former intelligence officer with the U.S. Naval Air Force has used other medications to help him with his physical and psychological problems, but marijuana helps "so much better," he said. [snip] Although there are different ways to use the drug, such as ingesting or inhaling it, there is no difference in the drug's effect based on consumption, according to the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, which is spearheading the state marijuana initiative. "It just makes life so much easier," he said. "It allows you to be comfortable." Chilcutt, a retired psychotherapist, said he first learned of marijuana's medical benefits in the late 1970s while counseling Vietnam War veterans in California. They told him the drug could help allay his pain, he said. He said he takes eight other medications for ailments the marijuana doesn't help, including a thyroid condition. Advocates for the medical use of marijuana say it's also effective in easing symptoms from other serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis. Critics cite a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report in 2006 that said "no sound scientific studies" support the medical use of the drug. If the marijuana-use proposal is approved by state voters, Michigan would become the 15th state -- and the first in the Midwest -- with a law that permits marijuana use for seriously ill people. Michigan law currently prohibits marijuana use for any reason. It's estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 people -- about one-half of 1 percent of Michigan residents -- would be eligible to use marijuana for medical purposes. In states where the law is now in place, it's estimated the same percentage of residents would qualify to use the drug, according to the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care. [snip] ********************************************************************** The article 'Most Area Lawmakers Oppose Marijuana As Medical Treatment' published March 16th: For five years, state Sen. Tom George worked for Hospice of Greater Kalamazoo, sometimes prescribing a synthetic form of marijuana called Marinol to help ease a person's pain or discomfort. But George, an anesthesiologist, opposes a ballot proposal that seeks to legalize marijuana use in Michigan for those seriously ill. State Rep. Fulton Sheen, a conservative Republican, opposed medical-marijuana use until he heard testimony from people who said they got relief from debilitating conditions by using the drug. He now supports the initiative, which could appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. Of southwestern Michigan's 10 state lawmakers, seven said they oppose legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Joining George, R-Texas Township, were state Sens. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck; Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis; and Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks; and state Reps. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Texas Township; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers. Such an initiative, they think, could lead to more crime and abuse among nonmedical marijuana users and could be the first step to complete legalization of marijuana. "Marijuana is illegal for a reason," Jelinek said. "Its legalization, even for medical reasons, would denigrate our society eventually. (Using marijuana) is akin to a self-induced mental illness." State Reps. Robert Jones, D-Kalamazoo, and Sheen, R-Plainwell, support the initiative. They said those seriously ill should have marijuana as a treatment option if it helps and is properly regulated. "The right story needs to be told by the right people," Jones said. "We can't be afraid of this as a society. Marijuana is a legitimate treatment for those suffering from serious diseases." State Rep. Lorence Wenke, R-Galesburg, said he is undecided on the medical-marijuana initiative. "These are the types of proposals that politicians run from," Wenke said. "It's a very intense issue." Bill Ballenger, a Lansing-based political analyst and editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said it's easier for the Legislature to choose to not act on the initiative and allow voters to decide its fate. Leaders from the Senate and House have said they don't expect legislative action on the proposal. Gov. Jennifer Granholm opposes it. "Finding a legislator who forms a gutsy position on issues like medical marijuana, like supporting it, is difficult," said Ballenger, adding he expects voters to pass the ballot initiative. Change of Heart Sheen said he was skeptical about supporting marijuana use for medical needs until he heard testimony from people who said it helped ease their suffering. The 2006 hearing was held on a bill that was similar to the current ballot initiative. The measure never got out of a House committee. "As I listened to their testimony and heard how (marijuana) had helped them, my mind began to change," Sheen said. "Now I look at (marijuana) as a kind of prescription drug for those who are very sick. And if it alleviates symptoms, isn't that what a prescription drug is supposed to do?" In the 1990s Sheen's brother, who had contracted AIDS, was dying. In the final months of his life he smoked marijuana, which helped him to breathe and swallow easier, Sheen said. "Although I didn't agree with what he was doing at the time, it helped him," Sheen said. "But now my mind has been changed." But George, who worked from 1996 to 2001 at Hospice of Greater Kalamazoo, said the active ingredient in marijuana -- tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC -- is already available in pill form. Although George admits many patients to whom he prescribed Marinol responded favorably, marijuana -- even in synthetic form -- should not be "a front-line treatment," he said. "What is the additional benefit of legalizing marijuana?" George said. "And even with the Marinol, it should play a small role in any treatment." Potential for Abuse It's estimated about one-half of 1 percent of Michigan residents, between 40,000 and 50,000 people, would be eligible for medical-marijuana use. "There is such widespread use of marijuana that having a very few patients use it legally isn't that big of a problem," Jones said. Other area legislators disagree. "Everybody's going to have a backache," Jelinek said of the potential for people faking chronic pain or other serious health problems. Schuitmaker said she "sympathizes with suffering individuals," but still can't support the initiative. "This would be legalizing a drug that has had a detrimental effect on society and be the first step to the legalization of marijuana for nonmedical uses," she said. "It's a slippery slope." The proposal calls for registered medical users to keep the marijuana in a secure, locked location. Users who give or sell their marijuana to those who are not authorized to have it could be subject to stiff fines and possible jail time. Users also would have to register themselves with the state and carry a state-issued ID card indicating they are a registered medical user. Even with such controls, some lawmakers question how effective enforcement and regulation will be, especially if the number of medical marijuana users increases. "There are other options out there for very sick people (besides marijuana). By not supporting this, it's not like we're denying a dying patient relief," said Hoogendyk, who recently announced he will challenge Democratic Sen. Carl Levin in the U.S. Senate. ********************************************************************** Excerpt from 'Debate Continues Whether Risks of Medical Marijuana Outweigh the Benefits' published March 23rd: The chief medical officer of Kalamazoo County might use marijuana to alleviate the pain of his glaucoma -- if it were legal. In 2000, Richard Tooker, 54, was diagnosed with pigmentary glaucoma, a rare eye disease where fluid buildup inside the eye can lead to intense pain. Blindness is also possible. "I would consider taking it, if it were legal, for medical use," he said. "I want to keep my vision." Studies have shown marijuana can lessen pressure in the eyes of those with glaucoma. Tooker said he would have to consult with legal counsel before he used the drug. That's because, even if Michigan voters in November decide to allow medical marijuana use by seriously ill patients, it still would be illegal under federal law. Users of medical marijuana, as well as others who support its use, say the drug offers relief to those suffering debilitating conditions. They also say it would be cheaper than buying the drug off the street and that use and production can be controlled if properly regulated. But questions remain. How would the appropriate dose be established for those who are deemed eligible users? Are there possible negative health effects from using the drug for medical reasons? Do alternatives to medical marijuana already exist? "On the balance, it's a good thing," Tooker said of medical marijuana. "And if we're going to legalize marijuana for medical use in Michigan, let's legalize it across the country. It's a dicey, difficult issue." State Sen. Tom George, R-Texas Township, worked for Hospice of Greater Kalamazoo and sometimes prescribed a synthetic -- and legal -- form of marijuana called Marinol. But the drug is not cheap. [snip] George, an anesthesiologist, opposes the ballot initiative because of the availability of Marinol and the possible health risks of medical marijuana. "Marinol is better than smokeable marijuana because Marinol does not contain the additional chemicals, impurities and hazards associated with smoke," George said in a statement this month to the Senate. "Also, the resulting THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) blood levels and hence, the effects, are more predictable with Marinol than smokeable marijuana." George said other drugs being developed would include THC, the main active component of marijuana. One drug is called Sativex, which if approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, could be used as a treatment for patients with advanced cancers. Approved in November by the FDA for clinical testing, the drug would be administered as an oral spray. "I'm telling you, as a former hospice physician, it is of no benefit to legalize smokeable marijuana," George said. The FDA agrees. "There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana," the agency said in a statement in 2006. But Marinol, available since 1986, has its problems, said Ruth Hoppe, head of the Michigan chapter of the American College of Physicians, the nation's second largest physicians group. Marinol is absorbed slowly into the body, she said, and a patient experiencing extreme nausea might not be able to use it because the pill must be swallowed to be effective. "We need to look at other routes of delivery," Hoppe said. Potential for Abuse? Smoking anything is harmful to one's health, Hoppe said. But that doesn't mean marijuana doesn't have its place as a legitimate medical treatment or supplement to other medications. The American College of Physicians recently released a position paper on medical marijuana. It concluded that, although more research needs to be done, "reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana." "For patients with AIDS or those undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer severe pain, nausea and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs may provide symptom relief not found in any other medication," the position paper said. The federal government, however, puts marijuana in the same class as LSD, heroin, mescaline, psychedelic mushrooms and ecstasy. "Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision," the 2006 FDA report said. The government's classification of marijuana hinders study of the drug for medical use, Hoppe said. The American College of Physicians is recommending reclassifying the drug to allow for more study. "I can see a day when marijuana is seen as a legitimate medical treatment, especially in conjunction with other medications," Hoppe said. "There is value in this drug." 'Trial and Error' Doses Marinol comes in doses of 2.5 milligrams, 5 milligrams and 10 milligrams. Determining the proper dose of marijuana from plants is less scientific because it can be smoked, drunk, eaten or inhaled through a vaporizer. Tooker, who is open to the medical uses for marijuana, said he opposes smoking it. He said "trial and error" would be the only way to determine what the appropriate dose of marijuana would be for a patient. Dianne Byrum, a former state legislator and spokeswoman for the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, said the dose level would depend on the patient's needs and symptoms. "This would be a recommendation, not a prescription," she said. She also said smoking marijuana would not be harmful, especially for patients with terminal conditions. [snip] ********************************************************************** Style guides for writing effective letters to the editor are available at MAP's Media Activism Center: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides ********************************************************************** Prepared by: The MAP Media Activism Team www.mapinc.org/resource === . DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards. Or, mail your check or money order to: . DrugSense 14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326. (800) 266 5759 . DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
Location: 
MI
United States

Medical Marijuana Training

Currently, Maryland law protects seriously ill patients from being sentenced to prison for possessing marijuana if they can prove a "medical necessity" for using it. The maximum penalty for patients who prove a medical necessity is a $100 fine. However, the law does not protect them from arrest, and it does not provide them a way to safely access their medicine. Even patients who prove a medical necessity still end up with a criminal record! This training is sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project -- these organizations are building support for a truly effective medical marijuana bill, which will protect patients from arrest and allow them safe access to their medicine. For more information, contact Naomi Long at nlong@drugpolicy.org.
Date: 
Tue, 03/25/2008 - 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Location: 
13208 Fountainhead Plaza
Hagerstown, MD
United States

Fry & Schafer Released on Bail Pending Appeal

[Courtesy of California NORML] SACRAMENTO, Mar. 19th - Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer walked out of US Court free on bail pending appeal after being sentenced to a five-year mandatory minimum by a US District Judge Frank Damrell, who deplored the sentence as a "tragedy" that should "never have happened." Supporters were elated by Damrell's decision to grant release on bail, which capped a tense and dramatic day that began with a succession of adverse rulings for the defense. Defense attorney Tony Serra called it "one of the saddest days I've confronted in a long career" after Damrell turned down all the defense's motions to avoid the mandatory minimums. Mollie Fry stirred the courtroom to tears as she related the story of her cancer and subsequent desire to help people with medical marijuana. "We caused no harm to anyone," she said, "There were no victims." Judge Damrell acknowledged the legitimacy of Fry's medical use of marijuana, but said that the couple had "spiraled out of control.' He concluded that he had "no choice" but to impose the mandatory minimum of 5 years, a sentence dictated by the jury's finding that the couple had grown a total of slightly more than 100 plants over a period of three years. On the final and crucial issue of the day, however, Damrell agreed that the couple had "substantial" grounds for appeal so as to justify their release on bail. Following expert testimony by attorneys J David Nick and Ephraim Margolin, Damrell found substantial appeals issues relating to entrapment, the defendants' state of mind, and the conflict between state and federal laws. He added that the couple's precarious state of health was further extraordinary grounds for keeping them out of prison. He reprimanded Dr.Fry for her loose standards in recommending marijuana, and stipulated as a strict condition for her release that she desist from further recommendations, to which she assented. To this observer, today's events felt like a momentous step forward towards the inevitable changing of federal marijuana laws. Judge Damrell effectively declared the bankruptcy of US laws regarding mandatory sentencing and medical marijuana, and rightly referred the matter to higher authorities to decide. There are good grounds to hope that Dale and Mollie will be vindicated by the Ninth Circuit and/or a change in administration. More later.... Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML -- California NORML, 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114 -(415) 563- 5858 - www.canorml.org
Location: 
Sacramento, CA
United States

Drug War Issues

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