Medical Marijuana

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Video Offer: Waiting to Inhale

Dear Drug War Chronicle reader:

Many drug reform enthusiasts read on our blog last month about a new video documentary, Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, and an exciting debate here in Washington between two of my colleagues and a representative of the US drug czar's office that followed the movie's screening. I am pleased to announce that DRCNet is making this film available to you as our latest membership premium -- donate $30 or more to DRCNet and you can receive a copy of Waiting to Inhale as our thanks for your support.

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I've known about Waiting to Inhale for a few years, and I am pretty psyched to see it out now and making waves. People featured in the movie -- medical marijuana providers Mike & Valerie Corral and Jeff Jones, patient spokesperson Yvonne Westbrook, scientist Don Abrams -- are heroes whose stories deserved to be told and whose interviews in this movie should be shown far and wide. You can help by ordering a copy and hosting a private screening in your home! Or you and your activist friends can simply watch it at home for inspiration. (Click here for more information including an online trailer.)

Your donation will help DRCNet as we pull together what we think will be an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Waiting to Inhale will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support. If you haven't already checked out our new web site, I hope you'll take a moment to do so -- it really is looking pretty good, if I may say so myself. :) Take care, and hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

Europe: Spanish Medical Marijuana Group Goes Public with "Therapeutic Cannabis Bank"

A Spanish medical marijuana activist group, the Amigos de María, has announced the creation of the first publicly known medical marijuana dispensary in the country. Operating through the Internet, the "Cannabis Pharmacy" will provide information about medical marijuana, encourage patients to grow their own, and put patients in contact with listed growers who are prepared to donate part of their crops for patients.

While the Cannabis Pharmacy is the first public dispensary, it is not the first Spanish dispensary. As the group noted, "We are aware that other groups have been doing this for several years in a more or less clandestine form. The only new thing is that we have gone public in the hope that our politicians take note of the matter and normalize, once and for all, the use of cannabis, and until that time arrives, we can reduce the risks of the therapeutic use of cannabis."

Spain is moving jerkily toward acceptance of medical marijuana, with Catalan authorities having authorized a pilot program for marijuana in pharmacies last year. Earlier this year, authorities in Barcelona announced plans for a trial of the marijuana-based sublingual spray Sativex that will involve up to 600 patients and 60 participating pharmacies.

But the Spanish government does not recognize the informal dispensaries, making the move by the Amigos de María a challenge to the government. The Amigos are ready. "We are not afraid because we are convinced that what we are doing is right and will help the people," a spokesman told the Basque newspaper Noticias de Alava. "The law is only good if it is just, and in this case it isn't."

The group has already aroused the ire of the Ministry of Health, which accused it of encouraging youth marijuana use -- a big issue in Spain these days. The Amigos rejected that charge, noting that "At no time have we attempted, as the health minister insinuated, to promote the use of marijuana among young people, and it seems incredible to us that since our project is directed toward sick adults, that the health ministry mixes the two and says it is worried this will normalize use among the youth."

And so the battle is joined.

Canada Grows Medical Marijuana for Its Citizens

In case anyone forgot. CBC News now reports that demand for government marijuana is increasing. Since this particular marijuana isn’t supposed to be very good, my guess is that Canadian patients simply prefer the convenience of not having to buy their medicine from criminals on the street.

So Canada spends tax dollars to provide medical marijuana to sick people, while here in America, we spend tax dollars trying to prevent sick people from getting medical marijuana.

If that doesn’t boggle your mind, consider that Canada provides marijuana even though Sativex is already available up there. Meanwhile our drug warriors want sick people here to wait indefinitely while the FDA figures out how to approve Sativex without admitting that marijuana plants are literally soaked in medicine.

And while Canadian patients are choosing between spliffs and sublingual sprays, Americans patients are choosing between suffering and breaking the law.

Even drug-fearing Americans generally agree that this doesn’t make much sense. But if our drug warriors are correct that marijuana can’t heal the sick without hurting kids, then we’ll be thanking them next year when all Canadian children become crack-addicted sex-workers.

Location: 
United States

The Deputy Drug Czar Comes to South Dakota

Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, on Friday. The only apparent reason for his presence was to try to defeat the medical marijuana initiative on the November 7 ballot. Burns showed up for a press conference with state and local law enforcement officials opposing the initiative.
"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns. "Do not fall for the con." "The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, who opposes the measure. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."
Burns went on to argue that marijuana was not a medicine, that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in teen drug use, and that it's just not a good idea, darn it! The press conference got play in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and on the main Sioux Falls TV station, KELOland, but both media outlets made sure to include opposing voices. There hasn't been a lot of other coverage of the initiative, a mere handful of stories. The Argus-Leader editiorialized briefly and feebly—sorry, the link seems to have vanished—against the initiative, with its four-sentence editorial complaining that marijuana didn't come in pill form and that passing the initiative would pose problems for police. Both reasons given are lame. Yes, raw marijuana is plant material. It is not processed, standardized, subject to FDA scrutiny (for what that's worth). But that certainly does not stop patients from rapidly learning to titrate their dosage and to figure out which strains work for them. The law enforcement excuse is even sillier. The South Dakota initiative provides for a state registry of patients and caregivers. If a county sheriff believes he may have evidence of a marijuana grow, the only thing he would have to do is pick up the phone and call the Health Department. If the person is not on the registry, let the evidence be gathered and the search warrant be issued. Two weeks until election day. Will South Dakota voters be as compassionate as those in other states? We will soon see.
Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States

Law Enforcement Condemns Marijuana Measure (South Dakota)

Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
KELO TV Sioux Falls
URL: 
http://www.keloland.com/News/NewsDetail6371.cfm?Id=0,51855

Stand Up to the DEA! (Americans for Safe Access San Diego Action, 10/31)

Please forward this message Patients to Protest DEA Raids at upcoming San Diego Conference Medical cannabis (marijuana) patients and advocates will protest outside a DEA conference in San Diego on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:00 PM. The peaceful protest is in response to recent DEA raids of medical cannabis collectives in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere. DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and the Regional DEA Directors will be present at the conference on October 31. This is an opportunity to let Administrator Tandy and the DEA know that California will not tolerate federal raids on collectives and cooperatives that are in compliance with our state law. We need every patient and advocate to attend this protest. Your voice does make a difference. Bring signs, organize a carpool, and invite all your friends! Stand Up to the DEA! Tuesday, October 31, 2006 * 12:00 PM Marriott Mission Valley 8757 Rio San Diego Dr. San Diego, CA 92108-1620 There will be an organizational meeting the night before in San Diego. Call (619) 723-6572 or (323) 464-7719 for information. Reply to this message for flyers and posters. To find out what else you can do to stop the federal assault on medical cannabis, visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org/
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

Stand Up to the DEA!

Please forward this message Patients to Protest DEA Raids at upcoming San Diego Conference Medical cannabis (marijuana) patients and advocates will protest outside a DEA conference in San Diego on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:00 PM. The peaceful protest is in response to recent DEA raids of medical cannabis collectives in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere. DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and the Regional DEA Directors will be present at the conference on October 31. This is an opportunity to let Administrator Tandy and the DEA know that California will not tolerate federal raids on collectives and cooperatives that are in compliance with our state law. We need every patient and advocate to attend this protest. Your voice does make a difference. Bring signs, organize a carpool, and invite all your friends! Stand Up to the DEA! Tuesday, October 31, 2006 * 12:00 PM Marriott Mission Valley 8757 Rio San Diego Dr. San Diego, CA 92108-1620 There will be an organizational meeting the night before in San Diego. Call (619) 723-6572 or (323) 464-7719 for information. Reply to this message for flyers and posters. To find out what else you can do to stop the federal assault on medical cannabis, visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org/
Date: 
Tue, 10/31/2006 - 12:00pm
Location: 
8757 Rio San Diego Drive
San Diego, CA 92108-1620
United States

Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor; ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in

For Immediate Release-October 19, 2006 Contact: William Dolphin 510-919-1498 Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in Legal Fees California's medical marijuana patients are now protected from arrest and seizure of their marijuana, thanks to a binding agreement between an advocacy group and state officials. The signed agreement settles a lawsuit filed last February against the California Highway Patrol by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on behalf of qualified medical cannabis patients who had lost their medicine in CHP traffic stops. CHP had a policy of seizing any cannabis found, regardless of whether the officer was shown patient documentation or not. On August 22, 2005, as a result of the lawsuit, CHP adopted a new policy that respects the rights of qualified patients to possess and transport medical cannabis. The new settlement agreement - signed by CHP officials and counsel for Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger - makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater. "We're urging local officials around the state to adopt similar law enforcement policies," said Kris Hermes, ASA legal campaign director. "Medical cannabis patients have rights under the law that must be respected, and this consent decree acknowledges that." As part of the settlement, ASA received reimbursement of $75,000 in legal fees for prosecuting the case. ASA received the money yesterday. "California's private attorney general statute encourages concerned citizens to fix flawed policy through litigation and allows for the award of attorney fees where appropriate," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "This case corrects an egregious policy that completely ignored the right of sick and dying Californians to possess marijuana for medical use." The new consent decree is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Settlement.pdf. A photo of ASA staff members with an enlargement of the $75,000 check can be seen at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/img/original/CHP_ Settlement.jpg. The CHP policy that went in to effect in August 2005 is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_policy_update.pdf. # # # With more than 30,000 members, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. _______________________ _______________________ Caren Woodson Americans for Safe Access www.SafeAccessNow.org
Location: 
CA
United States

Europe: Italian Government Gives Approval for Marijuana Derivatives for Pain Control

The Italian cabinet gave its approval Thursday for the use of marijuana derivatives, such as the sublingual spray Sativex, in pain relief, the German agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported. The move reverses the anti-drug policy enforced by the previous government of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was defeated by current Prime Minister Romano Prodi earlier this year.

"We are talking about pain relief therapy. This has nothing to do with smoking joints," Health Minister Livia Turco told reporters after the cabinet meeting where the decision was made. "These drugs are already in use in Canada, Switzerland, and Holland," she added.

Although the Prodi government has vowed to relax stiffened drug penalties enacted by the Berlusconi government, this move has nothing to do with that, said Turco. "If someone mentions cannabis then the whole world is in uproar. We're talking about therapies against pain."

DRCNet Video Review: "Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine, and the Law," Produced and Directed by Jed Riffe

From a handful of federally-approved patients in the late 1970s and 1980s, the American medical marijuana movement has grown by leaps and bounds, with tens of thousands of people in a dozen states now officially registered as medical marijuana users. God alone knows how many people in the remaining 38 states where it is still illegal are smoking pot for the relief of pain, to induce appetite, to reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy, to help with glaucoma, to reduce the tremors and spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, or an ever-increasing list of medical conditions helped by a puff on a joint or a bite of a marijuana-laced brownie.

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As academic and scientific research into the medicinal uses of marijuana gains momentum, the list of its applications seems to grow ever wider. Within the last couple of weeks, researchers reported that marijuana may help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's.

But resistance to medical marijuana remains strong. The federal government -- especially its anti-drug bureaucracies, the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy -- is unalterably opposed to its use, while parent anti-drug groups fear that allowing the medicinal use of marijuana will "send the wrong message" to their children. For other foes, medical marijuana is simply one more front in the culture war against hippies and liberals that has been raging for nearly four decades now.

In just over one hour, "Waiting to Inhale," the recently released video by documentary filmmaker Jed Riffe tells the story of the battle over the healing herb. While decidedly sympathetic to medical marijuana, the video also takes pains to present the other side of the story.

We hear ONDCP spokesman David Murray painting a portrait of a dark conspiracy to legalize drugs. "Who is pushing this and why is it being pushed?" he asks. "The agenda is well-funded and being driven to remove the barriers between themselves and the drug they like or are addicted to." Later in the video, Murray calls medical marijuana "a fraud."

Similarly, and more realistically, DEA San Francisco office spokesman Richard Meyer warns that "some traffickers are using [the California medical marijuana law] Prop. 215 as a smoke screen."

Riffe also makes a place for the anti-drug parents' movement, featuring interviews with legendary drug war zealot Sue Rusche, who explains that a trip years ago to a record store with her children where the kids were exposed to a display case of bongs, pipes, and other pot paraphernalia set her on a course of activism. Riffe shows a parents' anti-drug movement that, while still appearing hideously regressive to drug reformers, shows signs of moderation and sophistication. In one scene, Rusche brings out the old canard about "gateway drugs," but says they include "tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana." In another scene, members of a parents' group talk about providing honest information -- not just trying to scare the kids.

While the parents' anti-drug movement -- a key bastion of support for the renewed drug war of the Reagan era and ever since -- may be adapting to adversity, it is also being changed from within. Riffe interviews New Mexico youth counselor Miguel Santesteban, who is working with the anti-drug group Parents United, and Santesteban has some surprising things to say. "Perhaps when it comes to marijuana," he said, "the better message for them to hear is that there is a responsible context for use." Santesteban didn't seem too impressed with federal anti-drug efforts, saying, "If I was the drug czar, I'd give half my budget to the public schools" and "This sending a wrong message thing is a crock."

But despite the time given to the anti-side, it is clear that Riffe's interest and heart is with medical marijuana patients and their fight for safe access to their medicine. The video begins with Mike and Valerie Corral, the founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) co-op outside Santa Cruz, recounting how the DEA raided them at gunpoint in 2002, then cuts to Irv Rosenfeld, "Patient #1," in the federal government's compassionate access program, which allowed a tiny number of patients to smoke federally-produced weed until President Bush the Elder ended it in 1992. Rosenfeld and seven others were grandfathered in, and Rosenfeld, a Florida stockbroker, smokes 10 joints of fed weed a day in a largely successful effort to fend off the pain of a chronic bone disease.

Riffe also brings into the mix the doctors and researchers who have renewed the science of medical marijuana after the half-century-long lacunae created by marijuana prohibition. Riffe interviews Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli researcher who isolated THC, who explains that marijuana has a medicinal history thousands of years long, and he interviews Dr. Lester Grinspoon, one of the earliest American academic advocates of medical marijuana.

After marijuana prohibition, Grinspoon explains, "physicians became ignorant about cannabis" because of Federal Bureau of Narcotics head Harry Anslinger's Reefer Madness propaganda campaign against it. With unknowing doctors regurgitating drug warrior claims about the evil weed, "physicians became not only the victims, but also effective agents of that propaganda campaign."

While Irv Rosenfeld and Robert Randall ("Patient #0") in the federal compassionate access program were puffing their fed weed in the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic was beginning to rear its ugly head, especially in San Francisco, and Riffe very deftly shows how what had been a movement for gay rights morphed into a movement for the rights of AIDS patients and then became one more stream in the rapidly emerging medical marijuana movement.

Riffe talks to a lot more people -- patients, doctors, researchers, politicians -- than I have space to mention, and "Waiting to Inhale" excels at drawing together the disparate strands that make up the medical marijuana story. As much as it is a paean to the wonders of medical marijuana, "Waiting to Inhale" manages to tell the complex, complicated story of a mass movement, a scientific journey, and an ongoing political battle, and it does so in an engaging, moving fashion. For anyone who is curious about the contours of the medical marijuana issue, "Waiting to Inhale" is a valuable -- and eminently watchable -- resource.

"Waiting to Inhale" is DRCNet's latest membership premium -- click here to order it!

Click here for the film's official web site, including an online trailer and list of upcoming screenings.

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