Drug Czar Tries to Duck Debate on Medical Marijuana Today

Medical marijuana patients and activists are giving the nation’s drug czar another chance to debate them today, by taking their Town Hall Meeting to him at Moscone Center, where he is addressing the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.
John Walters, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, yesterday refused a challenge from Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, to explain what she called “his myths and misinformation.” Mr.
Walters said that he’d only debate George Soros, the billionaire financier known for funding state medical marijuana initiatives, though Soros has no connection to Sherer’s organization, a national grassroots coalition of 5,500 doctors, patients and activists.
“George Soros didn’t recommend marijuana to me,” said Ms. Sherer. “My doctor did. The Drug Czar’s fear of debate is typical of the federal government’s attitude. Rather than talk to medical marijuana patients about science, they spout propaganda. Rather than treat us, they imprison us.”
Ms. Sherer and other patients and activists from Americans for Safe Access will be holding a Town Hall Meeting today outside the Moscone Convention Center, waiting for Mr. Walters in hopes that he’ll make good on his promise to begin a national debate on medical marijuana.
Mr. Walters will be introduced to the meeting of public health professionals at 10:30am by Dr. Andrea Barthwell, an ONDCP official whose recent comments on marijuana have focused almost exclusively on ridiculing smoking as a means of delivering medicine, despite the fact that many patients take it orally via tinctures or baked goods, and new “vaporizer” technology allows for smokeless inhalation of marijuana’s active ingredients.
Mr. Walters continues to contend that marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America, even though a 1999 report commissioned by his predecessor found it may ease the suffering associated with glaucoma, arthritis, MS, AIDS and other ailments, and the DEA’s chief administrative law judge concluded in 1988 that marijuana “is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.”
What:     Town Hall Meeting and Protest against Drug Czar John Walters
When:     Tuesday, November 18, 2003 at 11:30 am
(Walters addresses the APHA at 10:30am)
Where:   Moscone Convention Center, North Hall, Main Entrance (Howard St.) in San Francisco
# # #
CONTACT:  Steph Sherer (510) 872-7822 or William Dolphin: (510) 919-1498