Pages tagged "DEA"

  • Medical cannabis researcher explains recent scientific review

    The article "Medical Marijuana: Clearing Away the Smoke" by Grant, Atkinson, Gouaux, and Wilsey published this month in Bentham Science's 5-year-old, peer-reviewed, National Library of Medicine-indexed and internationally edited Open Neurology Journal represents a major milestone in the consolidation of knowledge and regularizing of clinical practice with regards to the medicinal use of cannabis.

    The authors, well-established faculty members or associates at leading American academic medical centers, have yet again reviewed the gold-standard clinical trials-based evidence for medical uses of cannabis and related cannabinoids and have found:

    1. that it is inaccurate to say that cannabis lacks medical utility or that information on its safety is lacking

    2. that judgments on relative benefits and risks of cannabis and cannabinoids as medicines need to be viewed within the broader context of risk-benefit of other standard agents as well, many of which are associated with more serious adverse events, and

    3. that enough information and clinical experience exists that an algorithm can be constructed to guide decision-making for physicians who may be considering recommending medicinal cannabis to patients with neuropathic pain, which the authors offer.


    The authors conclude that "it will be useful if marijuana and its constituents can be prescribed, dispensed, and regulated in a manner similar to other medications that have psychotropic effects and some abuse potential" and state that marijuana's Schedule I classification is scientifically untenable and the greatest barrier to forward movement in this area of medicine and medical science. This conclusion is made all the more noteworthy given that the article's first, second, and fourth authors disclose at the end of the manuscript that they have served as consultants and received financial support from major pharmaceutical companies.

    Americans for Safe Access is part of a lawsuit challenging the DEA’s scheduling of marijuana as without any currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Download our lawsuit at http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf

    Sunil Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., PGY-3, is a Housestaff Physician at NYU Medical Center and conducts research on the medical geography of cannabis.
  • DEA’s Leonhart says “We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction,” but what about medical marijuana?



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Administrator Michele Leonhart has created quite a controversy with her comments on medical marijuana made last Wednesday during a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) House oversight hearing. From her bumbling response to Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) on the issue of addiction and comparing medical marijuana to the harmful effects of other Schedule I substances like heroin or methamphetamine, to her commonsense response to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on leaving the question of medical marijuana treatment, “between [a patient] and his doctor,” Leonhart illustrated her illogical approach to medical marijuana as a public health issue.

    Notably, toward the end of Rep. Polis’s examination, he asked Leonhart if she was “willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a way of reducing abuse of prescription drugs,” given that reducing prescription drug abuse is the DEA’s top priority. Leonhart candidly responded:
    We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction.

    Well, Administrator Leonhart, you’re in luck. There is indeed evidence that shows patients using medical marijuana to reduce or eliminate their addictive and often-harmful pharmaceutical drug regimen.

    Just this month, eminent medical marijuana researcher Philippe Lucas, M.A. published an article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs called, “Cannabis as an Adjunct to or Substitute for Opiates in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.” According to Lucas, “Evidence is growing that cannabis [medical marijuana] can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, presenting a safe and viable alternative or adjunct to pharmaceutical opiates.”

    As if directly addressing Leonhart’s statement to Rep. Polis, and her concern over prioritizing prescription drug addiction, Lucas notes that:
    Addiction to pharmaceutical opiates has been noted by the medical community as one of the common side-effects of extended use by patients (such as those suffering from chronic pain), and a growing body of research suggests that some of the biological actions of cannabis and cannabinoids may be useful in reducing this dependence.

    Lucas further argues that, “[R]esearch on substitution effect suggests that cannabis may be effective in reducing the use and dependence of other substances of abuse such as illicit opiates, stimulants and alcohol.”
    As such, there is reason to believe that a strategy aiming to maximize the therapeutic potential benefits of both cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids by expanding their availability and use could potentially lead to a reduction in the prescription use of opiates, as well as other potentially dangerous pharmaceutical analgesics, licit and illicit substances, and thus a reduction in associated harms.

    Another article on the effects of medical marijuana “substitution” was published in December 2009 by the Harm Reduction Journal. Researcher Amanda Reiman MSW, PhD notes that medical marijuana patients have long been engaging in substitution by using it as an alternative to alcohol, prescription and illicit drugs. In a study Reiman conducted with 350 medical marijuana patients, she found that 40 percent reported using medical marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, twenty-six percent reported using it as a substitute for illicit drugs, and nearly 66 percent use it as a substitute for prescription drugs.
    [S]ixty five percent reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% use it as a substitute because it has less withdrawal potential…57.4% use it as a substitute because cannabis provides better symptom management.

    If Leonhart is serious about combating prescription drug abuse, she should heed the conclusions of researchers like Lucas and Reiman and pay attention to the evidence. Answers to two important public health concerns -- medical marijuana and prescription drug abuse -- lie at her feet waiting to be addressed.
  • DEA Chief on Medical Cannabis use by Navy vet: "that's between him and his doctor"

    During today's Drug Enforcement Administration Oversight Hearing, Representative Steve Cohen (D - TN) asked DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart whether or not it would be permissible for a Navy veteran to use medical cannabis to help with severe weight loss. The head of DEA responded by saying, "I think that's between him and his doctor". (begins at 0:50:30)

    Americans for Safe Access absolutely agrees with the candid statement by DEA Administrator Leonhart. Unfortunately, for the Navy veteran that Rep. Cohen brought up, until Leonhart and the Obama Administration stop raiding compliant dispensaries, that veteran may be forced to obtain medical cannabis through unsafe and unreliable means. Worst still for the Navy vet, currently Veterans Administration policy forbids VA doctors from discussing or filling out paperwork associated with state-approved medical cannabis programs. On behalf our ASA's members, I urge DEA Administrator Leonhart, please do not back down from your stated position, in fact taking a stronger stand for safe access has been demonstrated to not the least bit politically dangerous.

    Please contact the DEA (202.307.1000) to thank Administrator Leonhart for to encourage her to follow through with her statement by ending the raids on medical cannabis dispensaries in compliance with state law.

    UPDATE (5:21pm, EDT): Out of curiosity, I poked around to see what Leonhart has said in the past about medical cannabis, and here is what she had to say during her Senate confirmation. No word yet on the "social cost" of thwarting safe access to medical cannabis for American veteran-patients such as the one Rep. Cohen described.
  • Medical Marijuana Reading - June 11th 2012

    Catch up on the latest news about medical marijuana throughout the county.
    • Feds Attack California’s Medical Marijuana Trade - Again (Reuters)
    • Mass. Medical Marijuana Opponents Mobilize Efforts (Bloomberg)
    • Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Linked to Neighborhood Crime (US News and World Report)
    • Cedars-Sinai Again Denies Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient (Opposing Views)
    • DEA Raids Sacramento Pot Shop (SacBee)
    • New blog by Hearst Media - Smell the Truth.
  • Congress takes historic vote against federal raids

    Wednesday night, the House voted on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-McClintock-Farr amendment, to end the federal crackdown on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. While the amendment failed, it received more votes than a similar bill in 2007 (when Democrats controlled the House). Thank you so much for reaching out to your representatives to support safe access. In less than a week, we generated thousands of phone calls, emails, and tweets urging Congress to adopt the bill. We came close because your voices were heard loud and clear. Make no mistake about it - this vote was a great victory for our movement. 73% of Democrats voted to end President Obama’s policy of cracking down on state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. 12% of Republicans voted for this bipartisan amendment to the Justice appropriations bill, a significant increase from 2007 - even as pundits say the House has grown more conservative. Your voice counted for so much in the run up to the vote - and it will continue to make a difference. Please take a minute to let your Congressional Representative know how you feel about their vote, yea or nay, using our Online Action Center. Watch your Congressman speak safe access It was an amazing debate. A bipartisan, coast-to-coast group of nine representatives spoke strongly in favor of the amendment, and only one, Frank Wolf (R-VA), spoke against it. You are probably not as much of a C-SPAN junkie as I am, but I want to share with you five great speeches which show what this amendment was all about: protecting safe access to medical cannabis for vulnerable patients. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-CA, spoke of his experience as an Assistant US Attorney, and how scarce resources force federal law enforcement to choose between prosecuting medical cannabis dispensaries or large-scale international drug traffickers. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-CA, spoke for states’ rights and the needs of patients. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, spoke about the crackdowns in her district, including the recent closing of Berkeley Patients Group. Co-sponsor Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) quoted ASA, saying that there have been 170 raids, and praising the therapeutic value of cannabis. And co-sponsor Sam Farr (D-CA), points out that the Republican-controlled House favors states' rights on all issues - except compassionate use. Thanks again for your support, and you can look forward to more state and federal legislation for safe access in the coming months. Don't forget to thank your Representative!
  • Why we fight for medical cannabis - and how Congress can help us win



    One month ago I traveled to California for an event in San Francisco. The morning before the event, I awoke to the news that the Drug Enforcement Administration was raiding Blue Sky, a dispensary in Oakland. It was heartening to see an outpouring of support for medical marijuana patients, but the dispensary was closed down and medicine was seized. The next day I visited a dear friend who is suffering from late-stage cancer, who is too ill to medicate even with a vaporizer. Though in great pain, my friend did not want to use morphine and lose her ability to communicate with the friends and family whom she loves very much.



    Thanks to California’s compassionate use law, I was quickly able to meet her caregiver at a dispensary in San Francisco where he safely purchased cannabis edibles recommended by her doctor. Within an hour of taking a medical cannabis lozenge, my friend who hadn’t eaten in three days, sat up and ate like a horse. This sight reminded me why we all fight so hard for safe access. What would I have done if this were my grandmother in Texas, which does not permit compassionate use? How could I have quickly found edibles if the DEA had closed every dispensary in the Bay Area?

    When the federal government tries to stop access to medicine, they are trying to undo tens of thousands of hours work that advocates and local governments have put in to creating regulations for safe access to cannabis. The DEA wants to deny patients medicine that can dramatically improve their lives, or reduce their suffering. Without safe access to cannabis, patients and caregivers have to resort to the inconsistency of the illicit market.

    That is why Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher, Maurice Hinchey and Sam Farr will introduce a bipartisan amendment to deny funding to DEA raids against dispensaries operating in accordance with state law. This amendment to an Appropriations bill would not legalize marijuana, but would preserve state’s rights to allow compassionate use, and support local government decision-making.

    If you do one thing for safe access to medical marijuana this year, make it a phone call to your Representative in support of this important amendment by using our Online Action Center.

    My friend is still alive. Marijuana will not reverse the course of her illness, but thanks to high-quality cannabis products, she is alert enough to talk to her friends and family for what may be the last time. Having those precious moments with a dear friend is why I work so hard for all patients. Please join me in asking your Representative to vote Yes on the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr Amendment, to preserve safe access for our friends and loved ones.
  • Obama (Double) Speaks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

    Finally, President Obama has spoken about his aggressive stance toward medical marijuana. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, his statements are underwhelming, inaccurate and do nothing to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. In response to a question from Rolling Stone on why his administration is conducting more medical marijuana raids than the Bush administration, President Obama failed to come clean on reasons for the breadth and intensity of the attacks, which significantly escalated since he took office.
    What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana…

    Actually, what Obama said on the campaign trail in 2008 was that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

    The shell game continued with Obama declaring that, as President, he “can’t ask the Justice Department to…‘ignore…a federal law that’s on the books.’”

    In fact, Obama has complete discretion to let local and state authorities enforce their own medical marijuana laws. When affirming that discretionary authority in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court also questioned the wisdom of going after medical marijuana patients.

    Obama then declared that his Justice Department should use “prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize [its] resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.”

    That, however, seems to beg several questions, not the least of which is “how does one determine what “things” are “really doing folks damage?” Why is that not the purview of local and state officials to enforce? And, is the federal government doing more damage than it’s supposedly preventing? Keep in mind that the damage his administration has inflicted also impacts the fiscal bottom line of local and state governments. In California, dispensary closures precipitated by the federal crackdown have robbed the state of millions of dollars in lost taxes.

    The president seems to seek cover with his comment that, “there haven’t been prosecutions” of medical marijuana users. But, even if it was true, and it’s not (all of the more than 60 people indicted on his watch use medical marijuana), this reasoning would still not justify the SWAT-style raids and the fear and intimidation they create. Nor would it justify the purging of lawful medical marijuana businesses from commercial banking institutions, or the IRS requirement that dispensaries pay taxes on gross proceeds, thereby ensuring bankruptcy, or discrimination against patients in public housing and the Veterans Administration.

    At the end of the day, whether or not Obama’s Justice Department decides to prosecute whom it considers “wrongdoers,” qualified patients are still being denied a safe and legal means of obtaining their medication.

    Even Obama’s “Drug War” excuses don’t match those of his U.S. Attorneys who are directly engaged in the attacks. The president erroneously stated that, “The only tension that’s come up” has been “commercial operations” that may be “supplying recreational users.” However, U.S. Attorneys have made little reference to targeting medical marijuana businesses because they’re allegedly selling to non-patients. The prevailing excuse has been simply that dispensaries are federally illegal or that they are too close to schools and other so-called “sensitive uses” (according to federal standards, not to local or state standards).

    Obama’s weakest rationale for continuing the assault on medical marijuana patients is that he “can’t nullify congressional law.” However, the president can realistically do a number of things to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. First of all, Obama could introduce a bill that would carve out an exception for medical marijuana patients and providers. In fact, he doesn’t even have to introduce his own legislation, he could simply throw his weight behind HB 1983, a bill that would do just that. The president could also issue an executive order, not to change federal marijuana statutes but to exclude medical marijuana so as to let the states enforce their own laws.

    Additionally, the president, through his executive powers, could also reclassify marijuana from its current status as a Schedule I substance -- a dangerous drug with no medical value. Yet, he and his Drug Enforcement Administration choose not to. In addition to four governors who have filed rescheduling petitions within the last year, Americans for Safe Access has a pending federal lawsuit that seeks reclassification.

    At some point, President Obama is going to run out of excuses. Until then, please join ASA in urging him to do the right thing.
  • Lynching Charlie Lynch - A New Medical Marijuana Documentary



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    As we find ourselves, yet again, under attack by the federal government, a new medical marijuana documentary tells the story of a dispensary operator arrested in 2007 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Five years later, the story of Charles C. Lynch has not died out and, in fact, is more relevant than ever.

    Award-winning documentary filmmaker Rick Ray teamed up with Brainstorm Media to release "Lynching Charlie Lynch" this past Friday. A press release issued at the time described the film this way:
    Controversial and provocative, Lynching Charlie Lynch explores the conflict between the state-permitted medical marijuana business and Federal drug law in America, and the human cost of the arbitrary and inconsistent application of the law. Through in-depth interviews with experts and advocates across the country and on all sides of the issue, Lynching Charlie Lynch finds many answers, and raises even more questions.

    Lynch was one of more than 200 Californians raided by the DEA during President Bush's 8 years in office. Yet, the Obama Justice Department has conducted more than 200 raids in at least 9 medical marijuana states in just 3 1/2 years, far surpassing his predecessor. Despite President Obama's pledge to do otherwise, he's waged an all-out assault on medical marijuana patients, the breadth and intensity of which is unprecedented in this country's history.

    President Obama must be made to answer for the stark and harmful contradiction between his medical marijuana policy and his law enforcement practices. Please help keep President Obama accountable and help us pursue a sensible public health policy for medical marijuana.
  • Tension Builds Between Local and Federal Officials over DOJ Crackdown on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Late last year, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag successfully shut down Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), the oldest operating dispensary in California, by threatening its landlord with asset forfeiture. It didn’t seem to matter that MAMM had the staunch support of Fairfax public official and members of the community. It was, truly, the end of an icon.

    Then, news came out this week that the federal government had won in its effort to shut down Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), another historical icon in the medical marijuana community. Despite support from the Chamber of Commerce and its neighbors, BPG and its landlord were targeted by Haag for being too close to two private schools. Notably, teachers from one of the schools Haag is ostensibly trying to “protect” have spoken out in defense of BPG.

    While Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates joined the chorus of support for BPG, calling it a “high-class operation,” with “no complaints,” and “compliments from neighbors,” he stopped short of standing up to the federal government. Instead, Bates said in a statement that, “We’re really sorry to see them close up.”

    However, no sooner than it was announced that BPG would be shutting its doors, the dispensary refuted the news. In a statement issued on Thursday, BPG Chief Operating Officer said, “BPG is not closing.”
    Berkeley Patients Group remains dedicated to providing safe and affordable access to its patient-members, while working to preserve the jobs of its 70+ employees… We have been looking to relocate for several years and look forward to announcing our new site, soon.

    Maybe they won’t have to wait for Mayor Bates to grow a spine after all.

    In contrast to Berkeley’s trepidation, other Bay Area cities have shown bold leadership on medical marijuana. Both San Francisco and Oakland have recently permitted several new dispensaries. While Haag has been threatening numerous San Francisco landlords, which has resulted in a handful of dispensary closures in the so-called “Sanctuary City,” three new facilities have just been permitted. In Oakland, four new dispensaries were licensed this week, doubling the number facilities in that city.

    Cities like San Francisco and Oakland are examples of how to stand up to federal intimidation. We need more local officials to take their lead and develop local laws that recognize the needs of patients in their communities, not the fickle demands of the federal government.
  • Obama Pot Justice? Not!



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Guest blog by journalist Paul Boerger

    Candidate and President Barak Obama promised a more reasoned drug policy, but Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband attorney Dale Schafer are now serving five years in federal prison for conspiracy to cultivate and distribute marijuana. With just over 100 plants collected from their California property by El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputies, in cooperation with federal drug enforcement, in small amounts over a three year period, the pair qualified for a mandatory minimum five year sentence.

    Dr. Fry is a general practitioner and vocal advocate for medical marijuana. She began writing marijuana recommendations after her doctor suggested she try it in conjunction with breast cancer treatments. Operating within the California’s Proposition 215, that legalized medical marijuana, Dr. Fry says she has written over 10,000 recommendations.

    The case has dragged on for nearly ten years, with Dr. Fry’s first contact with law enforcement on the case going back to the Bush administration. After entrapment by the Sheriff’s Department and the confiscation of 34 plants in September of 2001, and an additional 66 plants in two additional confiscations over the next two years, the pair were indicted in 2005. Convicted in 2007, largely on the testimony of two informers who were themselves facing drug charges, they were sentenced to five years in prison in 2008. The pair refused a plea bargain on principle, Schafer having to spend a year in prison and the condition that Fry would have to surrender her license to practice medicine. In addition, Dr. Fry refused to allow her husband to go to prison while she remained free. An appeal was denied in November of 2010 and they began serving five year prison sentences on May 2, 2011. Presidential clemency is their last resort.

    Certainly, the expectation would be that the Bush administration would relentlessly pursue medical marijuana, but Barack Obama promised a different approach. Senate candidate Obama said, “"I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws." As President, Obama initially directed the Justice Department not raid to medical marijuana dispensaries that are compliance with state law.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    The Obama Justice Department has consistently turned a blind eye to far more egregious offenses than marijuana. The complicity of Wall Street financiers in the world economic collapse has been largely ignored or mitigated without criminal charges. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and Anthony Mozilo of Countrywide Financial committed financial fraud on a heretofore unheard of scale and were allowed to pay fines instead of facing criminal prosecution and prison sentences. Numerous others, such as Joseph Cassano of AIG and hedge fund manager John Paulson, have gone completely free of any consequences whatsoever.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    Obama has also allowed past offenses by the Bush administration to go unpunished. John Yoo, now a legal professor at Berkeley University in California, and Jay Bybee, now a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, wrote the legal justifications for torture under Bush. The Obama Justice Department declined to prosecute. Torture is a crime under US and international law, and the Geneva Convention. Both German and Japanese officers were executed after WWII for authorizing torture of prisoners.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    The inconsistencies in the Obama administration’s application of marijuana laws is startling. The case of California medical marijuana dispensary operator James Stacy provides a stark contrast to Fry’s case. Stacy was arrested in 2009 by federal authorities and charged with enough marijuana offenses to net him life in prison. A plea bargain ultimately resulted in three years probation.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry is serving five years in federal prison.

    Despite Obama’s pronouncements, the jails and prisons overflow with marijuana prisoners and in most states the use of medical marijuana is still illegal. The world economy has been brought down by fraud with no consequences to those who perpetrated it, advocates of torture go free and those convicted of far more serious marijuana offenses get probation.

    And Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer, leaving behind five children and two grandchildren, are serving five years in federal prison.

    Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer turned themselves in to begin serving five year prison sentences on May 2, 2011. Presidential clemency is their last resort. Take action on urging clemency by visiting this site, or for more information on the case, visit this site.