Pages tagged "Medical marijuana"

  • Medical Cannabis helps ALS Patient Outlive Support Groups and Neurologists

    Guest blog by Jahan Marcu. Cathy Jordan was on a panel with Jahan Marcu at the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference in Arizona.  Before taking the stage, she discussed the medical use of cannabis for ALS with the Vice Chair of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. Cathy Jordan first noticed something was wrong in summer of 1985 when she couldn’t pick things up. Her muscles weren’t responding. A year later, in 1986 she was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). ALS is a disease characterized by the death of motor neurons leading to loss of limb control, breathing, swallowing, speech, and widespread cellular dysfunction. Most cases of ALS are sporadic; it is not a viral or autoimmune disease. “Most people (ALS patients) start using a feeding tube because they are afraid of choking to death”, says Cathy. After her diagnosis, she was given an expiration date; In 1986, she was given 3-5 years to live/die according to her neurologist,  Dr.Fink. Nearly 3 decades later she is still alive, living with ALS. “All my docs are retiring or dead, I’ve outlived 5 support groups and 4 neurologists,” said Cathy. This actually posed a problem for Cathy, who basically lost her social security benefits because she lived passed her expiration date. The state of Florida said her ID and regular documentation wasn’t good enough to prove she was alive and to continue to receive benefits. She had to ask her neurologist at the time, to fill out paperwork to prove she was still alive. Mrs. Jordan began using Cannabis from a Florida grower to treat her ALS in the late 80’s. “Donny Clark provided my medicine, grown in the Myakka River Valley…he was busted and sentenced to life in prison, and that strain of Cannabis was lost. Years later he was pardoned on the last day of the last term of President Clinton,” says Cathy, “You know they say the fountain of youth is in Florida, maybe it was something in the soil that made this plant help me…I don’t understand why Doctors wouldn’t study me—I want to know why this is helping me.” At first Doctors would not accept Cathy’s marijuana smoking and extended life span. Regardless of what she did, “a UPENN doctor told me bluntly, I would die either from suffocation or drowning in my own fluid.” Other Doctors also thought that smoking anything would impair her lung function, and threatened to have this paralyzed women committed because she must be crazy if she thought Cannabis was helping her. “I visited a neurologist at Duke University…when I told him that I was smoking Cannabis he turned into PeeWee Herman. He didn’t know what to do with me, he was afraid. He wouldn’t even take my blood pressure because I was using an illegal drug.” “I asked my docs: would you like a drug that is neuroprotective, an antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory?,” says Cathy, “They then said Yes and asked me if I knew of one. I said yes, [it’s] Cannabis.”   There are ALS patients associations that fight for the right of patients to die with dignity, “But what about my right to life?” says Cathy. “Keeping my medicine illegal removes my right to life.” Nearly three decades later, the science has caught up with this patient. Scientists created a mouse with ALS, which was very exciting for Cathy. Research has shown that THC and other cannabinoids can benefit mice with ALS. The mounting evidence of cannabinoids halting the progression of ALS has started to change the attitudes of Doctors, prominent researchers have recently called for ALS clinical trials with Cannabis or cannabinoids. “They all agree today that I should smoke Cannabis,” says Cathy, “26 years later my original neurologist, fought [successfully] to make sure Cannabis is legal for patients in Delaware.” Researchers think Cannabis may help ALS patients relieving pain, spasticity, drooling, appetite loss, and has minimal drug-drug interactions and toxicity.
  • 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.
  • Educating Health Care Workers About Medical Cannabis



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Guest blog by Amanda Reiman, PhD MSW, Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group

    Since California passed Proposition 215 in 1996, great effort has been made to educate patients, caregivers and dispensary operators on the use, benefits, and risks of cannabis. Recently, there has been a move to include those who work with patients outside of the medical cannabis realm in the education process. Home health care workers, hospice care workers, social workers and substance abuse counselors are all professionals who work with medical cannabis patients. Therefore, part of their continuing education should include medical cannabis education. I myself have presented information on medical cannabis to audiences of social workers, psychiatrists and substance abuse counselors, and, next fall, I am planning to teach a day long workshop for Continuing Education Credits (CEU’s) for University of California, Berkeley Extension on medical cannabis.



    Recently, the State of California has licensed the Medical Cannabis Caregivers Training Program to develop and teach aspects of California's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) to Adult Residential Facility (ARF) licensee’s as part of their CEU requirement. The course will be held under the Department of Social Services Continuing Education Program. The course, titled "California's Medical Marijuana Program and How It Relates to Adult Residential Facility Access", will provide four (4) units of credit toward the 40-hour Continuing Education requirement for the Department of Social Services Renewal of the ARF License. One of the goals of the course is to assist the ARF Licensee in making an informed decision regarding a client’s request to participate in the Medical Marijuana Program.

    As more people make the decision to utilize cannabis as a therapeutic agent, health and social service workers will undoubtedly gain more clients who are also medical cannabis patients. Education around the safe use of cannabis, legal issues and patient care will empower these workers in their ability to work with medical cannabis patients effectively and with the appropriate care and understanding.
  • 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.
  • California Court of Appeal Issues Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana

    Landmark decision denies localities the right to ban dispensaries outright Last week the California Court of Appeal issued another landmark decision on medical marijuana, which is sure to have a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the state. The Fourth Appellate District ruled in City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective that localities may not pass outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, facilities which a majority of Californian patients rely on for their medication. In its 48-page published decision, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s ruling that “local governments may impose a per se ban on medical marijuana dispensaries without contradicting state law.” This is the first time an appellate court in California has rejected the argument that local governments can use their land use authority to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating outright. The court reasoned that SB420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), allows for medical marijuana dispensaries as a matter of statewide concern, so localities cannot simply ban them. The court’s decision brings into question nearly 200 such bans across the state. Unless or until it’s appealed and taken up on review by the California Supreme Court, the Lake Forest case throws a significant wrench into the efforts of medical marijuana opponents and favors the rights of patients to safely and legally obtain their medication. That said, the Lake Forest decision was a mixed bag for the medical marijuana community. Even while agreeing with another recent landmark decision in People v. Colvin, that “a patient or primary caregiver [need not] personally [] engage in the physical cultivation of marijuana” in order to enjoy the protections of California law, the Lake Forest court held that dispensaries must cultivate all of the marijuana they sell on-site.
    [W]e conclude off-site dispensaries are not authorized by California medical marijuana law because nothing in the law authorizes the transportation and possession of marijuana to stock an off-site location.
    Unfortunately, in this regard, the Lake Forest court got it wrong. The MMPA explicitly protects patients from arrest and prosecution for transportation of marijuana when engaged in collective medical marijuana activity.  This part of the court’s decision is not only bad public policy, but has no basis in the law.
  • Reason TV on Cedars-Sinai denying liver transplant to medical marijuana patient Norman Smith

    The fight to get a liver transplant for Norman Smith took another big step today with a Reason TV expose, "Transplant Denied," featuring Smith and Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the group that’s throwing its weight behind the struggling medical marijuana patient. Smith, 63, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2009 and was put on a transplant waiting list at the world-renowned Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. However a year ago, after becoming eligible for a transplant, Smith was removed from the list for testing positive for medical marijuana use. It didn’t seem to matter that Smith’s oncologist at Cedars was the physician who had recommended its use. This moving piece by Reason TV accurately conveys the life of a man hanging in the balance between policies based on moral judgment and the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. At his wit’s end, Smith tells Reason TV:
    It’s only my life that I'm fighting for. What do I have to hide? I have nothing to hide.
    Smith called his chances a “long shot,” but still wanted to “effect a change:”
    It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it makes it easier for the next guy.
    Unfortunately, there are plenty of other medical marijuana patients in California and other states who are suffering the same fate as Smith. With the authority for such decisions left to Cedars and transplant centers like it, the push for policy change must be directed locally. As such, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford sent a letter to Cedars, urging it to immediately re-list Smith and change it policy with regard to medical marijuana. So far, Cedars has refused to budge. Stay tuned here at Voices from the Frontlines for next steps in the transplant case of Norman Smith and the outdated policies of Cedars-Sinai. In the meantime, view this additional video footage of Smith and his plight.
  • Landmark Court Decision Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries in California



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

    The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation. Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

    The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another. Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

    On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:
    The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

    The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:
    [The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative's products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

    However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:
    [T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

    It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.
  • ASA Launches Medical Marijuana Week in Response to 3 Years of Obama's Broken Promises

    UPDATE: Click here for today's detailed action alert.

    When President Obama was elected in 2008, the medical marijuana community was optimistic that the worst days of federal harassment were finally in the past. After all, he had once said, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources." This caused patients and those who provide them with safe access to their medicine to be hopeful that the 200-plus medical
    marijuana dispensary raids under President Bush would be resigned to being a terrible memory, a dark chapter in America’s past never to be repeated. Hopeful, indeed.

    For a brief time, it seemed that Obama’s campaign promises would be followed through upon, with the issuing Holder Memo, which seemed to announce a federal ceasefire in the war on patients. Ultimately, the campaign pledges and Holder Memo turned out to be broken promises, with over 170 SWAT-style raids resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, causing great distress to patients seeking safe access to their medicine. After little more than 3 years in office, Obama is not only on track to surpass two terms worth of Bush raids in just half the time, his Department of Justice has initiated a vicious attack on state sovereignty, designed to destroy the means of safe access patients have come to rely on. Americans for Safe Access is calling on patients, their loved ones, and all concerned citizens to voice their unwillingness to accept Obama’s massive assault against safe access by taking part in Medical Marijuana Week.

    Things would be bad enough if the Obama DOJ had merely doubled Bush’s rate of raids, but instead, US Attorneys have escalated hostilities against safe access to include threats to public officials and landlords. Officials in at least ten states have no doubt experienced a chilling effect on their sovereignty after received threatening letters, such as the City Councils for Chico and Eureka California. This past week, Governor Markell of Delaware announced the suspension of the state's recently passed medical marijuana program. Even the US Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, once considered relatively amicable towards medical marijuana has sent similar threat letters, boldly proclaiming them as “not a bluff.” Americans for Safe Access has filed a 10th Amendment lawsuit against the DOJ for their coercive tactics that have derailed medical marijuana legislation in several states. In a separate federal legal action, ASA has recently filed a brief in its petition against the arbitrary and capricious refusal by the government to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

    Now is the time to tell the White House that enough is enough. Americans for Safe Access is launching Medical Marijuana Week with an action alert to call the White House and demand that Obama end using federal resources to undermine state laws, and stop putting politics before science by acting immediately to reclassify marijuana as medicine. Remind President Obama about his campaign broken campaign promises, because if patients, their loved ones, and concerned citizens do not tell Obama that his medical marijuana policy must change, it will never improve. After calling the White House today, please continue to join ASA’s Medical Marijuana Week actions, culminating in several local rallies on Thursday February 16, 2012, and keep the pressure on Obama until his policy promotes safe access.

    ASA's Medical Marijuana Week: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=7061

    Action Alert to Call the White House: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=7065

     

     

     
  • California Attorney General Calls Federal Government “Ill-Equipped” to Enforce State’s Medical Marijuana Laws



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    In a series of letters sent by California Attorney General Kamala Harris yesterday, the state’s top law enforcement official railed against the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana and called on the state legislature to clarify the law.

    Harris sent a letter to the California’s four U.S. Attorneys who in early October announced with great fanfare an intensified campaign targeting the state’s medical marijuana growers and distributors. In her letter, Harris condemned the federal government’s attempt to enforce violations of local and state medical marijuana laws:
    The federal government is ill-equipped to be the sole arbiter of whether an individual or group is acting within the bounds of California’s medical marijuana laws when cultivating marijuana for medical purposes.

    Harris also sent a letter to multiple state legislators, calling on them to clarify California’s medical marijuana laws, especially with regard to the rules on distribution. Citing “unsettled questions of law and policy,” Harris urged action by the legislature:
    Without a substantive change to existing law, these irreconcilable interpretations of the law, and the resulting uncertainty for law enforcement and seriously ill patients, will persist.

    Harris emphasized the “premium” that California law places on “patients’ rights to access marijuana for medical use.” In her letter to State Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and State Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles), Harris cautioned the legislators on abridging the rights of patients:
    In any legislative action that is taken, the voters’ decision to allow physicians to recommend marijuana to treat seriously ill individuals must be respected.

    Lack of clarity in California’s medical marijuana law, however, is not an invitation for the federal government to interfere in its implementation. Harris is right to condemn this federal interference and the harm it causes law-abiding patients. After 15 years, it’s about time that Proposition 215 and its call to “implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana” was realized.