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December 20, 2005

Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin: Looking Back at 2005: Part Two

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Part One dealt with January to June 2005. In this entry, I move on to the second half of 2005's developments.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Milwaukee's weekly Shepherd Express publishes a blockbuster cover story, "The Politics of Pot Medical Marijuana Activists Are Just Getting Started"

(Source: Shepherd Express)

14 July 2005: Shepherd Express: The Politics of Pot Medical Marijuana Activists Are Just Getting Started click here

MAP: The Politics of Pot Medical Marijuana Activists Are Just Getting Started click here

Rep. Gregg Underheim, a Republican legislator from Oshkosh, has a lot of support, even if it is silent.

When an issue has 65% support from the public, enacting sympathetic legislation would seem to be a no-brainer.

And when support reaches 80% in Wisconsin, you would think that our state representatives would be falling all over themselves to follow the will of the people.


But when the issue concerns that legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, things get complicated. On the one hand, there are those who understand—sometimes first hand—the usefulness and benefits of this sometimes lifesaving drug. Many of these people are living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV, glaucoma or chronic pain or illness.

Gary Storck, a medical marijuana activist in Madison, is one of those people.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Howard Wooldridge, a former police officer who is now an activist with the group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) click here spoke in Madison on July 21 at the Madison Senior Center. The event was sponsored by the Progressive Dane drug policy task force, UW-Madison Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), 4 Lakes Greens and Madison NORML. Howard's visit came during a cross-country horseback ride to raise awareness of the many failures of the war on drugs.

Howard rides his horse, Misty, from coast to coast. (Source: LEAP)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Madison's weekly Isthmus runs a shorter version of the Shepherd Express article.


14 August 2005: Isthmus:Will Wisconsin Allow Pot As Medicine? click here

State Rep. Gregg Underheim, ( R-Oshkosh ) has his own reasons for the supporting the legal use of marijuana as medicine. The chair of the Assembly's Committee on Health, Underheim was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. Although he did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment, he spoke to other cancer patients about the possibility of using marijuana in such circumstances.

"There is a wide array of medical uses," Underheim says. "Marijuana more effectively deals with issues of appetite. When you are in chemotherapy, you can become violently ill. Marijuana quells the nausea and gives you an appetite. Also, AIDS patients are often rail thin from all of their medications, and marijuana helps bring back their appetite.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

On the eve of Harvest Fest, Madison's Core Weekly continued its cannabis-friendly coverage by tapping me for the weekly feature, "Coffee With..."

(Source: Core Weekly)

29 September 2005: Core Weekly: Coffee With...Gary Storck click here
MAP: Coffee With...Gary Storck click here


Three decades later, in 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act, which placed all drugs into one of five categories, or schedules. Marijuana was placed along drugs like heroin and LSD in Schedule I, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no medical value.

It's unlikely there is a Madisonian who disagrees with this more than Gary Storck. On Oct. 3, 1972, Storck, then a 17-year-old Waukesha resident, smoked a joint with his friends. Born with glaucoma, Storck's eyes often retained extra fluid, which put extra pressure on the optic nerve, causing pain. To his surprise, his eyes relaxed after smoking the joint. Weed had eased this troublesome symptom, something conventional medicines had failed to do.


Friday, September 30, 2005

The 35th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival kicks off with the Third Annual IMMLY/Madison NORML benefit at Madison's Cardinal Bar. Special guests include NORML Founder Keith Stroup, California activists Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, New Jersey's Jim Miller and one of the world's most renowned exertts on medical cannabis, Dr. Tod Mikuriya of Berkely CA. Dr. Tod helped entertain attendees by joining guitarist Mark Shanahan to sing "Midnight Special" and another tune.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Harvest Fest continues at the Libray Mall in downtown Madison. Balmy temperatures made for a mellow day as attendees enjoyed live music by some of Madison's finest bands punctuated by rousing speeches by Keith Stroup, Ben Masel, Dr. Tod, Chris & Mikki, Jim Miller, myself and others.

Keith Stroup speaks as Dr. Tod videotapes on Saturday. (Source: Matt)

Keith signs a Madison NORML t-shirt for Jacki Rickert, who was unable to attend, as me and Jim look on. (Source: Matt)

Dr. Tod, Keith and Ben onstage Saturday. (Source: Matt)

Chris Conrad speaks on Saturday. (Source: Matt)

Sunday, October 2, 2005

After gathering at the Libray Mall for great bluegrass music by the band Barleycorn, hundreds join the traditional march up State St. to Wisconsin's Capitol, for music by Groovulous Glove, making a third appearance on the Capitol steps, and all of Saturday's speakers minus Dr. Tod.

Ben does an interview before the march. (Source: Matt)

Marchers bypass construction in the last block of State St. on Sunday as they approach the State St. steps at the Capitol in downtown Madison. (Source: Matt)

The parade streams toward the Capitol Sunday. (Source: Matt)

Monday, October 3, 2005

A press conference supporting Rep. Underheim's bill is held in the Assembly Parlor adjacent to the Capitol's Assembly Chamber. The assembled media hears from myself, Jim Miller, Chris Conrad, Mikki Norris, J.F. Oschwald and a local patient. Following the press conference, supporters deliver 244 postcards supporting medical marijuana legislation to 44 lawmakers' offices. Madison Channel 15 later interviewed me live on their 5pm newscast.

Harvest Fest received lots of friendly and positive media coverage this year from a number of sources.

Medical Marijuana Advocates Rally
They Expect A Bill To Be Introduced Legalizing Its Prescribed Use In Wisconsin

Read article: click here
Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, Oct. 2, 2005
Page 1D
(article included two photos, one of an event attendee and one of longtime event organizer Ben Masel.)

Advocates for legalizing marijuana for medical use in Wisconsin are rallying support at this weekend's Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival for a bill they say is expected to be introduced by Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh.

Underheim, who chairs the Assembly's Health Committee, said in June that after talking with cancer survivors while he was receiving treatment for prostate cancer, he planned to introduce legislation to allow limited use of medical marijuana when prescribed by a doctor.

He could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Local advocate Gary Storck said members of the Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access plan to make an announcement at the Capitol on Monday, when they also will deliver cards signed by medical marijuana supporters to state legislators.

The cards cite surveys that found 80 percent of people in Wisconsin and across the country support access to medical marijuana.


Harvest Fest Gathers Annual Supporters
Read article: click here
Badger Herald
Monday, October 3, 2005

Thousands gathered at the University of Wisconsin's Library Mall to attend the 35th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival this past weekend.

The event, organized by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( NORML ), typically takes place beneath a well-known cloud of marijuana smoke. Though police are present during the annual event, enforcement of drug laws is not common.


Marijuana Rally Speakers Demand Decriminalization
Read article: click here
Daily Cardinal
Monday, October 3, 2005

Harvest Fest 2005 celebrated its 35th year in Madison this weekend, attracting activists and pot smokers from as far away as California.

Kicking off the festivities with a Friday-night fund-raiser hosted by the Cardinal Bar, festival attendees were treated to a host of bluegrass, jam and rock music Saturday and Sunday on Library Mall. Prominent speakers such as Keith Stroup, founder and former head of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also bolstered support.


Hundreds Turn Out For Harvest Fest
Read article: click here
Core Weekly
Thursday, October 6, 2005
(Article accompanied by by 7 x 7 inch color photo captioned: "Several hundred people march up State St. to the Capitol Square Sunday, October 2 in support of marijuana reform.)

Attendees of the 35th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival are proud of the fact they smoke pot. Considering they were doing it in Madison, Wis., why wouldn't they be? Madison has long held a reputation for being a marijuana friendly metropolis. Our town was one of the first in the country to decriminalize minor cannabis possession and also one of the first to pass a medicinal marijuana law. Studies show we consume cannabis at a higher rate than most cities, and those capable of ranking these things say we smoke some of the highest quality bud on the planet. [snip]

State Bill Could Legalize Medical Marijuana
Read article: click here
Daily Cardinal
Tuesday, October 4, 2005


In 1980, a car crash left J.F. Oschwald with limited mobility and a spinal cord injury. He currently uses marijuana to prevent muscle spasms, allowing him to sleep calmly at night.

"For me, it's a matter of independence and being able to live at home without caretakers," Oschwald said.

The properties of marijuana can alleviate the symptoms of a variety of illnesses. It can be used to create an appetite, relieve pain and reduce the symptoms of glaucoma. Also, victims of these diseases can self-regulate how much they smoke, which is impossible with tablets.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

History was made November 22 when a public hearing click here was held at the Capitol on medical marijuana legislation. While an informational hearing on medical marijuana had been held in 2001, it did not involve actual legislation. The last time a public hearing on legislation dates back at least 25 years.

I attended a hearing on July 31, 1979, and it was held in the same room, the GAR Hall, as the 2005 hearing. Another parallel was the presence of a legal federal medical marijuana patient. In 1979, it was the late Bob Randall, a glaucoma patient who successfully sued the federal government to obtain federal supplies of medical marijuana. Randall continued to receive federal medicinal pot up until his death in 2001, successfully preserving his vision.

In 2005, it was Irvin Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld, a Florida stockbroker, has recived 11 ounces of federal pot every 25 days since 1982, a total off 220 pounds in 23 years. He is the longest surviving patient of the 7 now grandfathered into the program.

The Health committee, chaired by the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gregg Underheim, heard from 17 supporters and only one opponent.

As 2005 winds down, state medical cannabis activists are hoping that committee members will vote AB=740 out of committee and on to a vote in the full Assembly.

1 August 1979: Wisconsin State Journal: Ex-alderman asks legal marijuana for medical use click here

One man who suffers from glaucoma and another who has cancer urged Wisconsin lawmakers Tuesday to make marijuana legal for individuals in their predicaments.

"It would be cruel not to pass this legislation for fear that people might misinterpret our intent," attorney Donald Murdoch, a former alderman from Madison's 2nd (near East Side) District, told an Assembly Committee. "Marijuana can help. I know from my own experience."

Murdoch said marijuana alleviated the nausea of cancer chemotherapy and radiation treatments he underwent after cancer was discovered in its early stages in his lymphatic system.

Robert Randall of Washington, D.C., said marijuana proved to be useful in controlling his glaucoma, a disease marked by high pressure in the eyeball that eventually leads to blindness.


State Rep. Stephen Leopold, D-Milwaukee, said he has a constituent who has glaucoma and obtains marijuana illegally for the condition.

"Right now he has to break the law to receive adequate treatment," said Leopold, who added that his constituent was unwilling to testify in behalf of the bill for fear of prosecution.


That constituent was me, then a 24 year old college student living in Milwaukee.

22 November 2005: Wisconsin State Journal: Medical Pot Bill Will Get Hearing
Legislators Will Hear From A Man Who Receives Marijuana In A Federal Health Study. click here

MAP: Medical Pot Bill Will Get Hearing click here

Every day for the past 23 years, Irv Rosenfeld has smoked up to a dozen marijuana cigarettes.

On probably every one of those days, someone, somewhere, was arrested for doing the same thing. But the government not only doesn't care about Rosenfeld's drug use; it's been his supplier.

One of just seven remaining patients in the federal government's "compassionate use" program, which provides marijuana for medical uses, Rosenfeld said the drug helps him cope with the excruciating pain caused by an estimated 200 benign bone tumors that daily poke at his muscles and veins.

Rosenfeld, 52, a stock broker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the star witness in a planned hearing today on legislation to exempt patients with debilitating medical conditions from prosecution for using marijuana.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

AB-740 continued to receive space in state media, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a fine OPED from Gina Dennik-Champion, the director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association. The WNA first went on record in support of giving patients legal access to therapeutic cannabis when they passed a resolution in 1999 click here.

19 December 2005: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: OPED: Nurses back medical marijuana click here

It is difficult for nurses to remain silent when patients are denied access to an effective medical treatment. That is why the Wisconsin Nurses Association supports the medical marijuana bill authored by Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), known as AB 740.

In taking this position, we are squarely in the mainstream of the public health community. The American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of HIV Medicine are just a few of the health care organizations that have acknowledged that marijuana can be a valuable treatment when used under medical supervision.


Posted by Gary at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2005

Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin: Looking Back at 2005: Part One

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, December 19, 2005

With 2005 rapidly drawing to a close, I'd like to take a look back at the year in medical cannabis in Wisconsin. 2005 was a banner year for state medical marijuana supporters, with legislation receiving a public hearing for the first time in at least 25 years. Below are some of the year's developments in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Wasting no time, a group of Madison and Wisconsin NORML activists attend the first meeting of the "People's Legislature" at the Alliant Center in Madison. The group set up an information table and brought up the subject of medical marijuana both in the large group and in breakout sessions later in the day.

11 Jan 2005: Column: People's Legislature Can Turn State Around click here

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Medical marijuana patients and supporters hold a vigil outside Assembly Chambers during Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's "State of the State" at the Capitol.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


First Medical Cannabis Lobby Day at the State Capitol: Activists from The Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access/Is My Medicine Legal YET?/Madison NORML/Wisconsin NORML set up display table in Capitol Rotunda and deliver medical marijuana mail from constituents to lawmakers.

16 Feb 2005: Madison NBC15 television report: Group Wants WI Medical Marijuana Laws Changed (includes video) click here

A group lobbying at the state capitol Wednesday wants Wisconsin's medical marijuana laws changed.

The Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access says there are still medical marijuana patients being arrested in Wisconsin and facing sentencing.


17 Feb 2005: Wisconsin Radio Network: My marijuana's not legal yet? (includes audio) click here

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Madison NORML holds a benefit at Cafe Montmarte in Madison featuring the bands Minglewood and Little Marsh Overflow.


Ben fires up the crowd.


Little Marsh Overflow

Friday, April 1, 2005

Jacki and me with our "Commando Squad" colleague Jim Miller. click here, Jacki and I were joint recipents of NORML's Peter McWilliams award for “outstanding achievement in advocating the cause of medical marijuana, access to a safe effective medicine and equity under the law” at the NORML conference in San Francisco California March 31-April 2. We had accepted the same award for Jim and his late wife Cheryl at the 2003 NORML Conference, also in San Francisco, when they were unable to travel due to Cheryl's illness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Madisonians celebrated 4/20 and the following week the Core Weekly's editor Nathan Comp paid tribute to Madison's longterm friendly relationship with the noble herb.

28 Apr 2005: Core Weekly: OPED: Madison Embraces Marijuana click here

Not only is the Mad City a drinking town, it's a smoking town, too. Any local pothead knows the weed here is plentiful and - at $50 a bag - is generally superb. Though other cities might outrank Madison as the nation's stoniest, Madison has embraced marijuana culture in ways that ought to be celebrated.

For 28 years, thousands have gathered on Library Mall each October for the Midwest's largest marijuana rally. The rally has brought to Madison many notable speakers who have lashed out against government and popular media demonization of marijuana, energizing the crowd prior to the march to the Capitol lawn.

Likewise, our local government largely agrees with the thousands of Dane County residents who've shown support for marijuana reform. At least half of our city alders support some form of decriminalization. In fact, General Ordinance 23.20 states up to 112 grams ( a quarter pound ) of weed can be legally possessed on private property. However, you face a $100 forfeiture for possessing the same amount on public property.


Monday, June 6, 2005

At the Capitol June 6 commenting on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Raich case for Madison's NBC television affiliate (Source: NBC 15).

6 June 2005: Wisconsin State Journal: OPED by Gary Storck: Medical Marijuana: Should It Be Legal? click here


Contrary to what some will be saying about the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling on medical marijuana, this narrow technical ruling does not invalidate medical marijuana laws now in effect in 10 states.

Neither does it invalidate local ordinances allowing medical marijuana, including Madison's ordinance, or those passed in 2004 by Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., and Columbia, Mo.


7 June 2005: Eau Claire Leader Telegram: Medical Marijuana Ban Upsets Users click here

Jacki Rickert, 54, of Mondovi, thinks the Supreme Court has made a mistake.

On Monday, the court ruled that people who smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws.

She called the ruling "ridiculous. I think it's a real big setback definitely for medical patients."


Tuesday, 07 Jun 2005

As the Raich ruling reverberated around the country, at the state level, Rep. Gregg Underheim announced plans to reintroduce medical cannabis legislation. Meanwhile, The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal weighed in on the Supreme Court decision with editorials.

07 Jun 2005: Wisconsin State Journal: Wisconsin Lawmaker Working On a Medical Marijuana Bill click here

In Wisconsin, state Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh, said he plans to reintroduce legislation soon allowing limited use of medical marijuana. Under the bill, the drug would have to be prescribed by a doctor.


08 Jun 2005: The Capital Times: Editorial: Court Ruling Was Dopey click here

It is not often that this newspaper finds itself in agreement with U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O'Connor, three of the Supreme Court's more conservative members.

But Rehnquist, Thomas and O'Connor were right to dissent from the court's wrongheaded decision to permit the federal government to prosecute sick people who use marijuana as a painkiller - even in states where voters and legislators have determined that such use is lawful.


09 Jun 2005: Wisconsin State Journal: Editorial: Let States, Doctors OK Marijuana Use click here

Most of the public understands why a doctor should be able to recommend marijuana to a cancer patient suffering from severe nausea, loss of appetite and pain.

Next week, Congress - including Wisconsin's delegation - should show that it understands, too.

The House is expected to vote on an amendment to an appropriation bill that, in effect, would prevent the federal Justice Department from arresting or prosecuting medical-marijuana patients in states that have legalized the drug's use.


Continue on to Looking Back at 2005: Part Two click here

Posted by Gary at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

William Proxmire: 1915-2005

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, December 16, 2005

Like his late colleague Gaylord Nelson, who died earlier in 2005, William Proxmire did his best to help his constituents. In the late 1970's, I wrote both senators as well as my then-congressman, Henry Reuss, asking for assistance in getting into the Compassionate IND program.

The program still supplies 7 living Americans with medical marijuana, including 2 glaucoma patients. Irvin Rosenfeld, who testified at the recent public hearing, is one of the 7. The program was initiated when Robert Randall, a glaucoma patient, sued the federal government in 1976. I still have copies of correspondence from Proxmire, Nelson, Reuss and Robert Randall and have provided links below to three letters I received from Senator Proxmire in 1979. Ultimately, I was unable to ever locate a physician willing to deal with the red tape and have been forced to make do ever since.

September 17, 1979 letter from Senator Proxmire.
View image

October 4, 1979 letter from Senator Proxmire.
View image

November 15, 1979 letter from Senator Proxmire.
View image

Posted by Gary at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2005

Gina Dennik-Champion OPED: Nurses Back Medical Marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, December 10, 2005

Back in 1999, an old friend who is also a nurse told me about a resolution the Wisconsin Nurses Association had passed supporting medical marijuana click here. That support continues, with the group's director, Gina Dennik Champion not only testifying at the recent public hearing, but weighing in today with a fantastic OPED. That the OPED appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is also significant; not only is it the state's largest daily, but it has been mostly silent on this issue. As Wisconsin awaits a vote by the Health Committee, this OPED can only help.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Author: Gina Dennik-Champion. Gina Dennik-Champion is a registered nurse and executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association.


It is difficult for nurses to remain silent when patients are denied access to an effective medical treatment. That is why the Wisconsin Nurses Association supports the medical marijuana bill authored by Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), known as AB 740.

In taking this position, we are squarely in the mainstream of the public health community. The American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of HIV Medicine are just a few of the health care organizations that have acknowledged that marijuana can be a valuable treatment when used under medical supervision.

A large body of evidence indicates that marijuana can relieve a number of debilitating symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, certain types of pain and the pressure inside the eye that robs glaucoma patients of their sight. Moreover, it can do so with remarkable safety.

Unfortunately, the issue has become shrouded in fear and myth. Exaggerated claims and scientific misunderstandings have tended to overshadow facts and common sense.

For example, we are sometimes warned that marijuana is "addictive." In fact, only a very small percentage of marijuana users ever become dependent - a much smaller percentage than is seen with alcohol or tobacco.

Under proper medical supervision, drugs that are far more addictive and dangerous than marijuana are used beneficially by hundreds of thousands of patients every day. And unlike a great many drugs used for either medical or recreational purposes, marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose.

Contrary to claims sometimes made by opponents, marijuana can provide relief in a number of instances where conventional drugs fail or have unacceptable side effects. A great deal of research has shown that marijuana relieves pain through different mechanisms than conventional pain drugs, including opioids, and can provide relief when these drugs fail.

Particularly encouraging results have come from recent studies involving pain associated with multiple sclerosis well as peripheral neuropathy, an extremely painful condition that afflicts HIV/AIDS patients and others.

It is true that a pill is available containing THC, the component most responsible for marijuana's "high." But research has shown that other components of the plant - called cannabinoids - play an important role in marijuana's therapeutic benefit and may even help to reduce the unwanted side effects of THC.

Just as important, the pill takes one to two hours to work and is absorbed slowly and unevenly. That is why the journal The Lancet Neurology has called oral dosing "the least satisfactory" way to administer cannabinoids. Patients report that the pill makes them too "stoned" to function, while with natural marijuana they can adjust the dose to provide relief without excessive intoxication. The Institute of Medicine, in a 1999 report commissioned by the White House, made the same point.

Some fear that allowing medical use of marijuana sends the wrong message, encouraging teens to experiment with it. But government-sponsored surveys have consistently shown that teen marijuana use has declined, not increased, in states with medical marijuana laws.

In reality, lying to children and teens about a drug's value and risks sends the wrong message. Young people should be taught that all drugs and medicines present risks and that medicine should only be taken under a provider's supervision when the patient is sick.

There is no reason to be frightened of medical marijuana. This is a drug with nearly 5,000 years of recorded medical use and that has been widely used therapeutically throughout the world. It is safer than many medicines Americans take every day.

There is simply no reason to arrest and jail patients battling cancer, MS, AIDS or other terrible illnesses for using marijuana with the recommendation of their health care providers.

Our Legislature should move swiftly to pass AB 740, and Gov. Jim Doyle should sign it into law.

Posted by Gary at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2005

Badger Herald: Medical marijuana hits legislature

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Julie Isen of the Badger Herald has a nice OPED click here about AB-740 in today's edition. It's good to see state weeklies and student papers making up for the low volume of coverage given to this important issue by state media. I've appended some comments to the article below:

Republican Representative Gregg Underheim has once again proposed legislation to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the state of Wisconsin. This year, as opposed to last year when Underheim also introduced this bill, the Assembly Committee on Health held a public hearing on AB 740, the Medical Marijuana Bill. On Nov. 11, 2005, the Committee, chaired by Underheim, heard 17 people speak in favor of the legislation and one speak against. There is strong public support for this as well; a 2004 poll conducted by Chamberlain Research Consultants revealed that almost 80 percent of Wisconsin residents are in favor of medical marijuana legislation.

GS: Actually, the hearing date was Nov. 22.

Now, you may be asking yourself why a Republican from Oshkosh is introducing legislation that seems as though it could have come straight from a Democrat from Madison, but Underheim has his reasons. And they’re good reasons at that. Underheim, a true compassionate conservative, was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. While he was fortunate enough to not have to go through chemotherapy, he has spoken with patients who were not as lucky as he was.

GS: It's a mistake to automatically assume Democrats are any more likely to support this issue than Republicans. When Democrats controlled the state senate a few years back, not one stepped forward to lead on this issue. It seems the common bond among politicians on this issue is the understanding imparted by dealing with serious illness, either personally, or through a loved one. Just ask Lyn Nofziger about his daughter, or Dana Rohrabacher about his mom. Illness is nonpartisan and neither conservative or liberal. When someone is suffering and all legal treatments have failed, or the side efects are intolerable, the beauty and simplicity of medical cannabis becomes apparent. But just as Rep. Underheim and others have had conversions on this issue, there is hope for hard-hearted legislators who oppose this.

Through dealing with a personal tragedy in his own life, Rep. Underheim has learned that problems such as loss of appetite from certain medications and chronic pain can be lessened with the use of medical marijuana. Patients with HIV/AIDS or those going through chemotherapy would not need to lose so much weight and risk complicating factors such as a lack of nutrients from food. The side effects of some treatments for cancer and HIV are so devastating that some even choose to not suffer the debilitating stomach pain and nausea and forego treatment. With medical marijuana, these symptoms can be alleviated. Those who suffer from glaucoma and chronic pain can ease the pressure associated with their pain and live fuller lives.
Although Rep. Underheim does genuinely feel strongly about the benefits of medical marijuana for those who are suffering, his bill does not go far enough to ensure help to those who need it. This bill does not allow a doctor to prescribe medical marijuana, only recommend it. Also, the bill merely provides a possible defense for those who have registered and for whom marijuana has been recommended if they get caught.

GS: Actually, language authorizing doctors to recommend, rather than prescribe, is proper. With marijuana a Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, doctors may not prescribe it without a Schedule 1 license and federal authorization. Arizona found out the hard way: The medical marijuana initiative passed by Arizona voters in 1996 used "prescribe", rendering it symbolic.

The law prohibiting manufacturing, delivering and possessing remains intact. This begs the question, how exactly do those suffering HIV, cancer, glaucoma, and chronic pain patients get this miracle drug that can alleviate their pain without many harmful side effects? This question has been left unanswered by the proposed legislation.

GS: This is a major question. While ten states now specifically exempt medicinal cultivation from prosecution (CA, OR, WA, AK, HI, CO, ME, NV, VT & MT) the amended version of AB-740 removed language protecting it. This was done as an attempt to overcome opposition from conservative Republicans in the GOP-controlled legislature. Oregon's legislature recently passed legislation expanding the state law voters approved in 1998, demonstrating the level of public acceptance and the lack of controversy about the issue in states with legal access. Unfortunately, decades of marijuana prohibition have created irrational fears about marijuana that many politicians cannot get past until a health crisis forces them to question the status quo.

The compassion shown by Rep. Underheim and the good intentions of his legislation are admirable. It has drawn large numbers of bipartisan supporters and has the support of the people of Wisconsin. However, in order to make a significant difference for those who live in pain and suffer on a daily basis, medical marijuana legislation must be taken a couple steps further.
This has been made somewhat more difficult recently. In what was yet another hindrance to improving the quality of life for suffering Americans, the Supreme Court decided in June to allow the prosecution of legal users of medical marijuana in states that have official programs. Another legislator from Wisconsin, U.S. Representative Baldwin, has re-introduced legislation from 2001 that allows states to define their own medical marijuana programs. The bipartisan “State’s Rights to Medical Marijuana Act” could facilitate a compromise between the federal government and state’s rights. If the coalition that has been built and spans party lines is successful, perhaps some positive change can be made in the lives of those who are in need of some relief as well as hope.

GS: While it would be great to see Congress pass the “State’s Rights to Medical Marijuana Act”, federal stonewalling on medical marijuana as well as the Supreme Court decision should not be used as justification to further delay state medical legislation. With state and local authorities making 99 out of 100 cannabis arrests, state legislation still offers protection for patients using small amounts of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Julie Isen (jbisen@wisc.edu) is a senior majoring in political science.
Source: Badger Herald click here, Tuesday, December 6, 2005.

Posted by Gary at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2005

Letter: Most agree medicinal marijuana should be legal

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, December 3, 2005

I had this letter to the editor published in the Capital Times here in Madison today.


Recent public hearings at the Capitol illustrate that while there are strong divisions among Wisconsinites over issues like gay marriage and concealed carry, legal access to medical marijuana is something most people agree on.

Polling in 2002 and 2005 found upwards of 80 percent support among state residents click here, a number few, if any, other issues command. Yet comments by some Assembly Health Committee members during the hearing on Nov. 22 show a large disconnect between the will of the people and the views of lawmakers who represent them. One would think that when an issue enjoys such popular support, lawmakers would put aside their personal beliefs and default to the wishes of constituents.

AB-740, Rep. Gregg Underheim's medical marijuana legislation, is an extremely moderate bill. As one patient who testified at the hearing later confided, "It pretty much keeps current law as it is."

Federal patient Irvin Rosenfeld testified at the hearing that he legally receives 11 ounces of medical marijuana from the federal government's stash every 25 days. AB-740, by contrast, only allows patients to possess 2.5 ounces at a time.

Some of the best advice of the day for the committee came from IMMLY founder Jacki Rickert, a Wisconsin patient approved in 1990 to participate in the same program as Irvin Rosenfeld, but never supplied after the program was closed to new participants in 1992. "Vote from your heart," Jacki implored committee members, "not what the next election will bring."

The truth is, elected representatives do not have to fear losing their seats for supporting medical marijuana. If anything, the opposite is true. The Health Committee heard a lot of compelling testimony about the benefits of therapeutic cannabis and the need to protect Wisconsin patients already using it as medicine.

The next step is now up to the committee. They can vote to give suffering patients and their families hope this holiday season by sending AB-740 to the entire Assembly for a vote, or they can play Scrooge and vote to kill compassionate legislation already working well in 10 states comprising 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Gary Storck
director of communications
Is My Medicine Legal YET?

Posted by Gary at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

Some post hearing media reports

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, December 2, 2005

Reports on the Assembly Health committee hearing for AB-740 appeared in two state weeklies, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express "Medical Marijuana Bill Misses the News" click here, and Madison's Core Weekly, "Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced," click here.

Doug Hissom, in his Expresso column in the Shepherd Express, erroneously reported that two people testified at the hearing who actually did not appear:

Since the public hearing received absolutely no media coverage in these parts, here are some highlights.

. Thomas Rayson, a doctor from St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, explained that marijuana can help chemotherapy patients take care of the nausea and vomiting from radiation and also helps the terminally ill.

"It is simply cruel and irrational to criminalize individuals for using potentially life-saving treatment" if prescribed by physicians, Rayson said. "It is out of ignorance and fear that this medication is not offered."

. Mitch Earlywine, a psychology professor at New York State University in Albany and author of a marijuana usage book, said legalizing medical marijuana does not increase recreational use, which he acknowledged may have been a concern to members of the Assembly health committee. He also said synthetic marijuana pills are problematic, since people with nausea and vomiting have trouble swallowing them.

Hissom then went on to correctly note that:

. Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association, said marijuana can benefit those undergoing chemo, as well as those with glaucoma or AIDS. "Marijuana should be able to be used as a possible option for patients when conventional medications do not work or have negative side effects," she said.

With all due respect, I guess that's what happens when the press relies on press releases rather than actually physically reporting news. But Milwaukee's Shepherd Express has provided welcome and reliable coverage of this issue click here while the daily Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been mostly silent, rarely even publishing letters to the editor about it.

Madison's Core Weekly weighed in with a nice article by Katie Bain that included several quotes I provided in a recent interview:

Gary Storck, director of communications for Is My Medicine Legal YET? a non- profit group dedicated to raising public awareness of marijuana's pharmacological benefits spoke on behalf of this organization, as did Jacki Rickert, IMMLY's founder. Rickert suffers from two medical conditions that almost prevented her from attending the hearing. "Patients like her just don't show up," Storck said, "it takes a lot of work for them to be there...cannabis has basically saved her life."

A slight error in this article left an incorrect impression as to the bill's chances this session.

A companion vote introduced by a Republican senator would then be necessary for the bill to proceed to the state senate.

This is true. A Senate version must be introduced by a Republican Senator.

Even if the bill is passed by the assembly, the Senate would not get the opportunity to vote on it during the current session, making it unlikely that patients who could benefit from medical marijuana will get government assistance anytime soon.

This is not exactly correct...

If a companion bill were introduced in the Senate, there would conceivably be enough time before late March or so when the session is winding down to pass both houses this session.

19 of 33 state senators are Republican. Unfortunately, none have so far shown interest in sponsoring a Senate version. Until a GOP senator steps forward, the farthest the bill can possibly go this session is to pass the Assembly. First, it has to pass the Health Committee.

However, getting the hearing was a big step. The bill being passed out of committee would be a big step. The best thing supporters can do now is write and call Health Committee members and ask GOP state senators to sponsor a Senate version this session.

Posted by Gary at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)