Pages tagged "Norman Smith"

  • Effective grassroots advocacy gave a 51-year old mother and grandmother a chance to survive

    Tamara HowardUPDATE: ASA is happy to report that Tamra received her organ transplant in June and is currently recovering at home. Hers is the first life saved by AB 258, the Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act!

    Norman Smith died from inoperable liver cancer in 2011, after he was dropped from the organ transplant list for using legal medical cannabis to treat his debilitating symptoms. His tragic story and tireless advocacy for patients’ rights inspired members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) to stand up for medical cannabis patients and demand legal protection.

    That work paid off when California Governor Jerry Brown signed the ASA-sponsored Medical Cannabis Organ Transplant Act, known as AB 258, in July. Authored by Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), the new law prevents anyone in the state from being denied an organ transplant just because they use legal medical cannabis.

    Pictured: Medical cannabis patient Tamra Howard, with a good reason to smile

    Norman was a vocal advocate for organ transplant patients who use medical cannabis, and his efforts led directly to the adoption of AB 258 this year. “It’s probably too late for me, but I hope it helps the next guy,” he said before his tragic and preventable death in 2011. Norman did do it for the next guy. ASA has just learned of the first medical cannabis patient to be re-added to the organ transplant waiting list after being denied a place based on her medical cannabis use. 

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  • Medical Marijuana Patient Norman Smith Passes, But Not Without a Fight

    Last Saturday, a memorial service was held for Norman Smith, 64. I never met Norman in person, but I feel like I got to know a part of him before he passed. Norman was a fighter, yet he seemed to face the difficulties in life with grace and acceptance. In 2009, Norman was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer, and spent the rest of his years in treatment.

    Norman was also a medical marijuana patient. For nearly two years, Norman took part in a rare clinical trial to combat his liver cancer. During the trial, Norman smoked medical marijuana as an adjunct to his treatment, and was the only patient out of 60 to have a successful remission, earning him the moniker of “Miracle Man.”

    In September 2010, Norman became eligible for a liver transplant at Cedars-Sinai, where he was receiving treatment and where he obtained a recommendation for medical marijuana from his oncologist. However, Norman was removed from the transplant list by Cedars in February 2011 after testing positive for marijuana.

    In August 2011, Norman stopped smoking medical marijuana in order to adhere to Cedars’ requirements, which were remarkably stringent: 6 months of drug abuse counseling and random drug testing. Americans for Safe Access tried to intervene by urging Cedars to change its policy and by bringing attention to Norman’s plight. Tragically, despite compelling publicity from media outlets like the Los Angeles Times and Reason TV, and Norman’s compliance with the hospital’s 6-month requirement, Cedars refused to put him back on the transplant list.

    After he stopped smoking marijuana, Norman’s cancer returned and he was subjected to further chemotherapy instead of being given a transplant for which he should have been eligible, but for his medical marijuana consumption. Norman fought as long as he could and eventually passed this July.

    One of the many redeeming qualities about Norman was his selfless interest in helping others forgo what he had to go through. Unfortunately, Norman was not alone in being denied organ transplants at Cedars and many other hospitals across the country. Most recently, Toni Trujillo was kicked off the kidney transplant list at Cedars-Sinai for her medical marijuana use.

    Notably, over the past four years, there have been numerous reports of patients being purged from transplant lists across California, as well as in other medical marijuana states like Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. In 2008, Seattle resident and medical marijuana patient Timothy Garon died after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center. A year later, in 2009, Big Island resident and medical marijuana patient Kimberly Reyes died at Hilo Hospital after being denied a liver transplant.

    Norman, Timothy, Kimberly, Toni and all of the other patients who have benefited from medical marijuana deserve better from our health care system. Norman knew best how politics have trumped science and medicine, and he paid for it with his life.

    Norman will not be forgotten, and his wish that no one else follow in his footsteps is a rallying cry for the rest of us to change harmful policies such as those indefensibly upheld by Cedars and hospitals like it.
  • 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.