Thursday, August 13, 2009

NPR -- Pot dispensaries in CA are medical fraud

NPR's report this morning on the growth of medical marijuana dispensaries in California implies that medical marijuana is a fraud. Angel Raich, the courageously ill woman from Oakland who sued Attorney General Ashcroft to enjoin the Justice Department from threatening her with a prosecution for using marijuana that has halted the growth of her tumors and restored her to mobility and function from near total disability, was interviewed. In NPR's listeners' comments, Louise Vera, a commentator, says Angel is crazy.

Oh how judgmental we all are!

I have known about the genuine medical value of cannabis since 1976 when I was in law school and met Robert Randall, the young man who stopped his blinding glaucoma by using cannabis, and sued the Federal government to start the compassionate IND. I stuffed envelopes in Robert's apartment to send to prospects to join the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics in 1981 or so. The Congressman I worked for for 8 years cosponsored legislation to make marijuana legal for medical purposes back in 1981. I was reading the affidavits and briefs that were filed with DEA that were used by DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young to issue findings of fact and a proposed rule to reschedule cannabis for medical purposes in 1988.

I have accompanied a majority of the living legal Federal medical cannabis patients in meetings with Members of Congress -- Elvy Musikka, Irv Rosenfeld, George McMahon, and Barb Douglass.

There is no question that cannabis -- smoked and otherwise -- has medical value for some extraordinarily hard to treat conditions. It ought to be obvious that this does not mean that no other medicines have value. It ought to be obvious that this does not mean cannabis is useful for every medical condition. It ought to be obvious that this does not mean that smoking cannabis cannot irritate the throat and lungs, etc.

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It is tragic that marijuana, as a medicine, has a stigma that discourages some people who are in pain, who are suffering from multiple sclerosis, from cancer, from HIV and AIDS, from Parkinson's Disease, from experimenting with cannabis as a potential form of relief.

But the ease with which basically healthy persons are able to acquire marijuana in the guise of being ill is offensive. It is hard to avoid judging what appears to be a scam because the scam threatens to produce a backlash or reaction that may result in denying cannabis medicine to those who suffer and should be able to use it. The scam perception creates a another stigma for those who are seriously ill and use cannabis. Stigma one -- you are breaking the law. Stigma two -- you are a scam artist.

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For healthy persons to obtain cannabis by scam should be unnecessary!

Marijuana should be legal for healthy people to use socially, spiritually, or to alter their mood. About one-fifth of older teenagers are now using it. Their use of it is going to continue -- illegal or legal. Perhaps we can change the culture to reduce the attraction for cannabis, but this cultural change is not going to be led by law enforcement -- we have tried this with gusto since 1970 with some time out in the mid 1970s. Reagan, Bush I (and Drug Czar William Bennett), Bill Clinton (and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey), and Bush II (with Drug Czar John Walters), have all made condemnation of marijuana use a centerpiece of their anti-drug messages and strategies. So sad...

Marijuana should be available for those who can benefit from it. All physicians should be trained in its effects, in the variation among the strains of cannabis, and in dosing. Marijuana should be produced in clean facilities, tested and properly labeled for medical use. In addition, it should be legal to grow it at one's home. Premises should be licensed to permit persons to smoke it or vaporize it or take it as a beverage. Live music venues should have marijuana smoking licenses and sections.

It seems to me that it considering the totality of circumstances it is close to being within the concept of a fundamental Constitutionally protected liberty to be able to use marijuana at a show like a Rolling Stones concert! Surely no adult ought to apologize for smoking pot there!

You can be elected President of the United States when you are 35 years old. Surely you are old enough to smoke marijuana if you are Constitutionally mature enough to serve as President. Maybe even if you are 30 and old enough to be a U.S. Senator or 25 years old and old enough to be a Member of Congress.

Just how old do you have to be? ...maybe old enough to serve in the Armed Forces of the Unites States at age 17, with parental consent. 10 United States Code section 505.

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So the reasonable desire of healthy adults to obtain cannabis for their non-medical use is using an ambiguously regulated system to meet the genuine medical needs of seriously ill persons. Hopefully the reaction is, let's make the production and distribution of cannabis to this larger market legal, regulated, controlled, and subject to reasonable taxation. It would be tragic, truly tragic, if the reasonable indignation that there is a scam going on results in shutting down the availability of medical cannabis to those few million of California's 37 million residents who need it.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a 60 year old recreational user, been smoking almost daily for 42 years. I do see some medicinal benefits - but I don't need many benefits. I have a CA permit basically as law insurance.
I don't need the permit to acquire pot; I just want to avoid legal bullshit.