A Plaintiff Speaks: My Quest for Safe Access

October 12, 2012 | William Britt
Shortly after California passed Prop. 215 in 1996, I asked the chief physician at my county clinic for a verbal or written recommendation to use cannabis medicinally. He told me that, while he had no problem with me using cannabis for my conditions, he was afraid to make any kind of recommendation without proper authorization and guidelines. He said as long as cannabis is a Schedule I drug, he could not prescribe it to me.

Over the years living with epilepsy and Post-Polio Syndrome, I have been prescribed and used a myriad of over and under the counter medications for pain, seizures, inflammation, nausea (Marinol), anxiety, insomnia etc. and none of the medications I have taken are as effective, tolerable and free of side-effects (both short term and long term) as cannabis.

After being denied by my doctor, I met with the clinic director who said the same thing as every medical professional and county/state health department representative I communicated with: "As long as cannabis is a schedule I drug, I cannot help you."

In 2002 when I heard that ASA was going to DC to protest at the Dept. of Health and Human Services for rescheduling, I felt it was a perfect opportunity to take my quest to ease my own, and other patients' suffering, to the federal government. It was my first trip to DC, but I didn’t tour the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. I did end up touring the downtown jail facility along with 14 other patients (including ASA Director Steph Sherer), from 11 different states.

We were arrested for blocking the entrance the HHS Building holding a 300 ft. banner with the names of 7,000 MD’s that support cannabis rescheduling. We also served notice that we wished to challenge the federal scheduling process regarding cannabis.

Ten years later, we finally have a chance in court to challenge the government’s position that cannabis has no medical value. Being fortunate enough to live in a state that allows patients the right to use cannabis medicinally, I have experienced the benefits of using cannabis, and noted its superiority over other accepted medications. Working as a patient advocate for 15 years, I have spoke with thousands of patients who also profess its benefits.

Recently, the federal government has stepped up efforts to close down any group or organization that tries to distribute cannabis to patients, which forces patients to purchase on the street, or go without.

Patients in states without medical cannabis laws and states with restricted access are being forced to suffer needlessly. Cannabinoid research must be allowed to go forward. Cannabis, and the chemicals it contains, have the potential to replace many of the prescription drugs on the market today with a safer, more effective medicine.

Recent studies prove that cannabis has the potential to be an effective medicine for many different conditions and illnesses. Doctors, nurses and patients agree that cannabis should be made available. Nearly 80% of the general U.S. population also agrees it’s time to legalize cannabis for medicinal use. Red tape and preserving the status quo can no longer be an excuse to allow needless suffering and wasted resources: cannabis must be rescheduled.

William Britt is a plaintiff in the case Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration.
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