Activists Assemble for Cannabis Conference

April 06, 2006

Ryan Grandov, Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara)

Doctors, health care professionals and a famous talk-show host will gather in Santa Barbara this weekend in an attempt to smoke out the truth about medicinal marijuana use.
The Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by Santa Barbara City College, began on April 6 and runs through April 8. The conference meets from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday and will feature lectures from doctors, health care researchers and patients, such as talk show-host and medical marijuana advocate Montel Williams.

Allan Byrne, co-founder of the nonprofit organization Patients Out of Time, said the main goal of the event is to educate health care professionals on the medical benefits of cannabis and lend scientific validity to the use of medical marijuana.

Byrne said Patients Out of Time, the organization coordinating the conference, advocates the legalization of medical marijuana in order to help the terminally ill patients who need it.

“These patients aren’t hippies; they could be your uncle or dad,” Byrne said. “They use marijuana medically because they need it. They’re not using it recreationally just to get stoned.”

The conference opened yesterday with a kickoff dinner hosted by UCSB’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort and Hotel. During the 7:30 p.m. dinner, NORML gave an award to Dr. Todd Mikuriya for his work advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana.

This weekend, the conference will feature nine guest speakers from seven countries where research on marijuana is being conducted, Byrne said.

“We’re having lectures from doctors from Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, the UK - anywhere you can think of,” Byrne said. “The United States is so woefully behind the curve in research that we need to look internationally for education.”

Rick Doblin, Founder of the Florida-based Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, will speak at the conference as well. Doblin said he will discuss the government’s monopoly on the production of marijuana for research. He said he was unable to receive marijuana for his research, even after the Food and Drug Administration approved his proposed studies.

“We’re probably the only people in America that can’t buy 10 grams,” Doblin said. “Scientists can obtain LSD and MDMA for research, but we can’t get any marijuana.”

Byrne said the conference will link anecdotal evidence from patients such as Williams with scientific research to show that marijuana serves a valid, medicinal purpose.

“We’re accredited and blessed by the American Medical Association, [so] how could [marijuana] not be a medicine?” Byrne said.

Registration information and a schedule of lectures and events for the conference is available at www.medicalcannabis.com/conference.

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