Philadelphia, PA — In a move it hopes will spur research into medical uses of marijuana, the nation’s second-largest physicians’ group is calling on the government to ease criminal penalties for doctors who study and recommend the plant, and patients who smoke it.
The American College of Physicians says several nonmedical factors – a fierce battle over legalization of the drug, a complicated approval process, and limited availability of research-grade marijuana – has hobbled scientists from looking into its full benefits.
“A clear discord exists between the scientific community and federal legal and regulatory agencies over the medicinal value of marijuana, which impedes the expansion of research,” the Philadelphia-based organization states in a 13-page policy paper.
A White House official dismissed the report yesterday as a “political act” that contained no new science, and noted that other doctors’ organizations think differently.
Researchers generally agree that there is some medicinal benefit to the drug. The policy paper reviews evidence that its psychoactive ingredient – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – is useful for the treatment of glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, nausea and pain.
But the report also argues that marijuana in its raw form may be helpful in ways that THC alone is not. It explains, for example, how patients who experience nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy may prefer smoked marijuana’s milder effects over those obtained from its active ingredient in approved pills.
The paper was three years in coming, and the organization knew it would be controversial, said its president, David C. Dale, a Seattle internist and professor at the University of Washington.
“In terms of advocating for the public good and the good of medicine, this was the right thing to do,” he said.
“We recognize that this is a drug that may be able to help and harm,” he said, noting that medicines often work at that interface. “But the prejudices of the past shouldn’t limit research into the good it can do.”
Of concern to many physicians is the patchwork of state laws on the issue, and federal agencies’ power to prosecute them regardless, making physicians reluctant to pursue research.
“If it’s permissible by state law, patients and physicians should not be guilty of a crime for marijuana and its uses,” Dale said.
To encourage study, the college wants the federal government to downgrade the drug from its status as a schedule 1 controlled substance – the same as heroin, crystal meth, LSD, and other drugs with no clear medicinal value.
A dozen states – Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not among them – have approved the use of medical marijuana or offered some protection to patients. The Food and Drug Administration has also approved two medicines containing THC.
Medical-marijuana advocates hailed the paper as a breakthrough.
“This is 124,000 doctors that have just told the federal government they are wrong,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington group that lobbies for medical use of marijuana.
“The question about whether this is useful has been studied, and it’s time to move on and figure out how to use it.”
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said it changed nothing.
“This is not medical science,” said chief scientist David Murray. “This is a policy paper. A political act calling for political response.”
“It says, ‘We want more research,’ and we generally support more research as well.”
Murray noted that other medical organizations – the 240,000-member American Medical Association, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – do not support the smoked form of marijuana as medicine.
He acknowledged that compounds in marijuana, mainly cannabinoids, have some value with certain illnesses, such as when treating neurological disorders or used as an analgesic.
Research into those applications should be pursued, but drugs given to patients must be only isolated, purified compounds proven in clinical trials and approved by the FDA, Murray said. “Whatever it looks like, it will not be the raw, crude weed delivering a stew of chemicals that are demonstrably harmful and toxic.”
The American College of Physicians is hoping the paper will encourage the government to help science thoroughly investigate a plant that, after 40 years of study, researchers still know less about than they would like.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
BILL SEEKS MEDICAL DEFENSE OF MARIJUANA
by James Carlson, The Capital-Journal,
28 Jan 2008
Topeka Capital-Journal A bill introduced in a Senate committee Monday would allow judges to consider a medical condition as defense of marijuana possession.
Under the proposal, those with a debilitating illness arrested for the drug’s possession could present in court a doctor’s written certification that marijuana would offer therapeutic benefits.
"This is simply an issue of compassion," said Laura Green, director of the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition that helped draft the measure.
The bill would not legalize or decriminalize possessing the drug.
The mere introduction of the bill, usually a formality, was decried by one Topeka legislator.
Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, opposed the bill’s entry on the calendar, saying, "It costs a lot of money to introduce a bill."
Schmidt, a pharmacist, said it’s difficult to ensure the same amount of marijuana is distributed to each patient. She added that the bill violates federal law.
The bill is expected to receive a hearing in mid-February.
More news to come as this bill is heard on the floor.
Informative CNN video describing Oaksterdam University which teaches classes on growing and selling marijuana under California’s medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana is a $1 billion business in California.
Dennis Peron, one of the people behind Prop 215, is in the video too. Thanks to CNN for airing an unbiased report on cannabis.
By Karl Vick, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Los Angeles, CA — The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for marijuana even if they have a note from a doctor recommending its use for medical reasons.
The 5 to 2 ruling came in a state that was the first to legalize cannabis for medical use but has followed up with ambiguity and ambivalence about making it a reality.
In the latest ruling, the high court said a Sacramento company had the right to fire Gary Ross in 2001 after a routine drug test came back positive for marijuana. Ross showed RagingWire Inc. a copy of his physician’s recommendation to smoke the drug to relieve chronic back pain from three lumbar vertebrae fractured when he fell off the wing of an F-16 as an Air Force mechanic in 1983.
"From 1999 when my doctor started recommending medical marijuana, I can stop that spasm from getting into a knot and I don’t need any pain medication," said Ross, adding he smokes only when he experiences spasms. "Prior to 1999 I was carted off in an ambulance a half a dozen times. Since 1999, only once."
But the company fired him, arguing that drug use was illegal under federal law.
"What are they supposed to do?" said Deborah La Fetra of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed a brief supporting the company.
"Employers are held liable all the time when drunk or stoned employees cause trouble, either in the workplace or driving home. That’s one of the reasons why the drug-free workplace is so important."
The high court largely agreed. "No state law could completely legalize marijuana for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law, even for medical users," Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote for the majority.
"Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and obligations of employers and employees."
Advocates argued that the state legislature did exactly that, however, when it mentioned the workplace in the 2004 law refining the historic ballot initiative passed by voters in 1996.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in support of Ross, five current and former lawmakers quoted statutory language stating that employers were not obliged to tolerate marijuana use on the job. The lawmakers said that amounted to an implicit statement that people who used marijuana medically would, in fact, be expected to have jobs.
Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) immediately announced he would introduce legislation to make the right explicit.
"It really has less to do with whether someone is intoxicated at work than it has to do with the ability of someone to medicate themselves away from work and not during working hours," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, the Oakland advocacy group that represented Ross.
Said Ross: "What we’re fighting here is the stigma of the history of the ’60s against the elderly generation that’s in power."
Part of the confusion in California stems from blurring distinctions between criminal and civil law covering the workplace. The majority opinion noted that Californians voted only to decriminalize marijuana use, saying that "the voters were entitled to change the criminal law without also speaking to employment law."
But while federal criminal law still bars marijuana across the board, employers would not necessarily run afoul of federal law by employing people who use marijuana away from work, said Noel Ragsdale, an expert on employment law at the University of Southern California.
Ragsdale said the 1988 federal drug-free workplace act requires employers to certify that they have a policy against employees abusing drugs in the workplace. "That, I think, is not implicated in a situation where someone is taking medical marijuana at home and then coming to work," she said
Hermes said technology exists to test employees not simply for evidence of having taken marijuana, but for levels that would indicate whether they are impaired while on the job.
"I don’t think the new technology is cheap," he conceded.
The ruling stands to affect some 200,000 Californians estimated to use marijuana under the recommendation of healers.
"They have an impossible choice, just as the defense says: You can live with excruciating pain, and work. Or you can get relief the act says you can get, and not work," Ragsdale said.
"It’s a real visceral blow to any kind of real ability to realize the benefits of that Compassionate Use Act."
Note: State’s High Court Finds Compassionate Use Act Does Not Affect Employers’ Rights.
Source: Washington Post (DC)
It seems the Federal government is engaged in an all out war to shut down California’s medical marijuana dispensaries. A new Federal prosecutor has come to San Francisco with the aim of closing all of California’s dispensaries. Their latest tactic is to send a letter to dispensary landlords threatening them with seizure of their property if they continue to lease their buildings to cannabis dispensaries.
Fortunately the California legislature is standing firm, defending the right to operate dispensaries and sell cannabis to medical patients who desperately need it. However local law enforcement around California has been co-opted by the Feds with many local police agencies dependent upon federal money more than willing to cooperate with DEA raids upon dispensaries.
So now there is a face-off between the Feds and the State of California. It’s a states rights issue that is coming to a head soon.
Hell-bent on shutting medical marijuana dispensaries
Betty T. Yee,Carole Migden
Friday, February 15, 2008
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
This will be a make-or-break year for medical marijuana dispensaries – if they can survive the tactics employed by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which recently added busting dispensaries’ landlords to its repertoire of raids and fear. As urged by Senate Joint Resolution 20 by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, the federal government needs to back off and respect state compassionate use laws that authorize a network of responsible, law abiding and tax-paying medical marijuana providers.
In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 to exempt patients and caregivers from criminal penalties when they possess or cultivate marijuana for medical use as recommended by a physician. On the heels of voters approving the initiative, the Legislature enacted a regulatory framework that authorizes local governments to work with dispensaries so medical cannabis could be provided to seriously and terminally ill patients. Eleven other states have similar laws following California’s model.
Since 2005, the DEA has raided dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives, with 28 of these raids occurring since June 2007 in 11 counties in California. Los Angeles County saw a record of four raids in a single day last year. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the DEA’s authority to conduct these raids in Gonzales vs. Raich, it left state medical marijuana laws intact. Angel Raich of Oakland had sued the federal government in 2002 to prevent it from interfering with her right to use medical cannabis for an inoperable brain tumor, seizures, life-threatening wasting syndrome and severe chronic pain.
The DEA believes these dispensaries are illegal drug dealers facilitating recreational drug use. However, most of the dispensary operators who have contacted the State Board of Equalization for information about how to obtain seller’s permits for collecting and remitting sales taxes are not fugitives, but responsible persons willing to abide by the laws to conduct their businesses.
For example, the Compassion Center for Alameda County was licensed by Alameda County. It paid $3 million in sales taxes prior to being shut down by the DEA at the end of October. The center had employed about 50 workers who earned a living wage and were provided health benefits, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation coverage. Take another example. Nature’s Medicinal in Bakersfield had been licensed by Kern County. It paid almost $1 million in taxes until its closure in 2007, including $203,000 in federal and state income taxes, $365,000 in payroll taxes and $427,000 in sales taxes. Nature’s had 25 employees: eight were indicted, and the rest were left unemployed and without health insurance after the raid.
Multiply these examples by the 300 medical cannabis businesses of which the DEA has sent letters to landlords, and what do we get? Millions of dollars in lost tax revenue for the state and municipalities, thousands are well-paying jobs with benefits disappearing from our economy, and scores of dispensaries forced to close or move underground for unregulated operations. However, the most significant setback of the DEA’s actions will be to the thousands of California patients who suffer from the effects, pain and discomfort of chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and neurological disorders. Where is the compassion when these individuals can no longer access medical marijuana to relieve their chronic pain, debilitating symptoms and treatment side-effects?
We applaud the leadership of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., in his oversight of the DEA’s property forfeiture threats. Recognizing the conflict between federal and state law, we will continue to exercise our responsibilities as state policymakers to the fullest extent and uphold the will of California voters to regulate the provision and availability of medical marijuana for those in need. Meanwhile the Legislature should approve SJR20, urging the federal government to honor California law and respect state-sanctioned dispensaries so medical marijuana patients can treat their pain, pay their taxes, and live in peace.
Betty T. Yee is the chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization and represents the First Equalization District, comprising 21 counties along the Northern and Central California coast and including the entire Bay Area. Carole Migden represents the Third Senate District in the California State Senate, comprising San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma counties.
Saturday-Sunday: Walk Your Talk
Circulate a Petition Calling on Your U.S. Senators to Support Research
Dear ASA Supporter,
What an exciting week! Medical cannabis events have been held throughout the nation, while activists like you have taken action daily. So far this week, activists nationwide dropped-in on their U.S. Senators’ district offices to ask them to support medical cannabis research. On Saturday and Sunday, mobilize your community for medical marijuana research.
Download and print out a petition calling on your U.S. Senators to support access to materials for FDA-approved medical cannabis research. Visit ASA’s fun interactive map to download a petition addressed to your state’s U.S. Senators. Gather signatures on this petition at your work, school, home, church, and in your community.
Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/MMJWeekSunday to take action now!
ASA has created a petition that you can print out and circulate at your work, school, home, church, and in your larger community. Our goal is to collect 30,000 signatures by April 21st . These petitions will be hand delivered each to of your Senators by our National Office staff. Please join in our efforts and begin gathering signatures today! Read on for ways to get involved.
Lets get washington behind this petition.
A cannabis dispensary in Los Angeles has become the first shop in California to use a marijuana vending machine. It will dispense cannabis after hours to those in need of medicine. To use the machine a patient must first get fingerprinted and receive a special card. Then they can come into the dispensary after hours, plug in the card and get their medicine.
Published 2007-12-30 21:30:06
A new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds that cannabinoids, the active ingredient in marijuana, slows the spread of lung and cervical cancer tumors. Researchers from Germany are unable to say by what mechanism it works, but it does in the laboratory.
Published 2007-12-20 19:06:50
“The Canadian government research found 20 times as much ammonia, a chemical linked to cancer, New Scientist said.
The Health Canada team also found five times as much hydrogen cyanide and nitrogen oxides, which are linked to heart and lung damage respectively.” – BBC Continue reading
Published 2008-01-22 21:42:15
Medical marijuana dispensaries in California may soon be exempt from sales taxes. This is following logic that when marijuana is prescribed by a doctor it is a medicine that cannot be taxed.