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May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006: Remembering Medical Marijuana Patients

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day 2006 and I've been thinking about some late friends - medical marijuana patients - caught up in this endless draconian war on a non-toxic medicinal plant.

A grade school/high school classmate, Bob, was one. A union electrician, father of two sons, husband, Bob found himself in a battle with cancer of the esophagus. He endured more suffering than anyone should. Cannabis was his ally, helping him get through the chemo, the radiation, the nausea and the pain. But thanks to cowardly politicians, he died a lawbreaker, forced to sneak a few hits of pot so he could have dinner with his family without puking. So much for family values.

Going way back to 1983, another friend who succumbed to cancer and its complications was my friend Paul. Paul was a transplant from Chicago, a black man who a decade earlier hipped us suburban white kids to the blues and the worldly ways of the big city. Bone cancer and kidney failure claimed Paul. Cannabis helped him deal with the pain, nausea, and the dialysis. We medicated together often, me for glaucoma, Paul for his cancer symptoms. Paul died a lawbreaker too, even as the Wisconsin legislature passed a medical marijuana bill in 1982 that the federal government immediately rendered impotent by refusing to supply marijuana.

Another veteran of this war who lost his life was Eddie Smith. I first met Eddie in New Jersey in 2000 for an action organized by Jim & Cheryl Miller click here. Eddie, who was dying from AIDS and cancer, had recently distinguished himself by having his medicine in Al Gore's campaign office in Austin Texas. At Al Gore's office in New Brunswick New Jersey, Eddie took the "torch of freedom" joint passed by Prof. Julian Heicklen and medicated. Eddie fought until the end, even traveling to Colorado to make a stand for his medicine one more time before returning to Kentucky to die.

And of course, today I am remembering my friend Cheryl Miller click here. Paralyzed from the neck down by multiple sclerosis for the last dozen or so years of her life, unable to even scratch her nose, Cheryl was fearless, getting arrested in Rep. Jim Rogan's office on Capitol Hill, taking on former Rep. Bob Barr and many other politicians, the MS Society, whoever was standing in the way of getting this medicine to patients. And while Cheryl passed away in June 2003, her energy and her memory is still alive, helping to push medical marijuana legislation along in New Jersey. On June 7, 2006, the third anniversary of her passing, her husband Jim and other medical cannabis activists will participate in a press conference at New Jersey's Statehouse. The next day an informational hearing will be held in the Senate Health committee, the first stop on what will hopefully be a medical marijuana law in New Jersey. While it will be too late for Cheryl, she did what she did for "all the other Cheryls". She knew that would be the case, but that was Cheryl's nature, even as she suffered herself.

I must also mention other patient-heroes who gave their lives for this struggle, Peter McWilliams, Joe Hart, Brownie Mary Rathbun, Hazel Rogers, Ron Crickenberger, Kiyoshi Kuromiya and others. You can read more about these good folks and others here click here. And we can't forget the civilian casualties, the millions of patients who never even had the option of medical marijuana, even though it could be very easily provided were it not for cannabis prohibition and those who profit from it.

The sick and dying should not be targeted for their choice of medicine. Cowardly elected officials continue to allow this to happen. We saw it firsthand in Wisconsin with the hearing last fall in the Assembly Health committee, and how cowards from both parties, like Rep. Tom Nelson (D-Kaukana) refused to take a position on the issue, while people like our would be Lieutenant Governor, Rep. Jean Hundertmark (R-Clintonville) rudely questioned patients and mocked their need for medical marijuana. Outgoing Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), who raised, then dashed the hopes of Wisconsin patients with his medical marijuana bill, recently put the blame for the bill's failure with his Republican colleagues in an article in the Spooner Advocate click here.

If one believes in an issue, one should be willing to fight for it. In different ways, Bob, Paul, Eddie and Cheryl all were, and I thank them and remember them today. And I hope, by next Memorial Day, there is better news to report for Wisconsin patients, and a state law in place protecting New Jersey patients.

Posted by Gary at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

New Jersey medical marijuana bill takes off

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

While Wisconsin's medical marijuana bill died in committee due to Republican domination of the state legislature click here, Jim Miller is hopeful about efforts in New Jersey. A longtime New Jersey activist click here, Jim has been involved in Wisconsin's efforts in a number of ways. It was our visit to Gregg Underheim's office in October 2003 the day after Harvest Fest that spurred Underheim to take up the issue. At the 2005 event click here, Jim's moving speech about Cheryl on the State St. steps of the Capitol helped us collect over 250 signed postcards which he then helped to deliver to lawmakers the Monday after HF. And he also joined a press conference in the Capitol's Assembly Parlor. Interestingly enough, we are very fortunate to have an open Capitol here. In New Jersey, unlike the Badger state, an appointment is required to enter the Statehouse.

On Sunday May 15, Jim's local paper, the Ocean County Observer featured Jim in this look at the renewed effort.

Trenton is next battleground in marijuana fight
Posted by the Ocean County Observer on 05/14/06 click here
BY KIM PREDHAM
STAFF WRITER

TOMS RIVER — With the announcement that a medical marijuana bill will be discussed by the state Senate in June, residents and officials in Ocean County — which has become an improbable battleground for the issue — are once again gearing up for a fight.

Supporters like Jim Miller, a Dover Township resident whose wife used marijuana to relieve the symptoms of her multiple sclerosis, hailed the decision to hold a June 8 hearing.

"It's an important first step," Miller, whose wife Cheryl died in 2003, said.

Miller and other proponents of the legislation say that marijuana alleviates pain and relieves the effects of more traditional medications, perhaps most notably chemotherapy-induced nausea. Indeed, Miller said that he once used marijuana to relax his wife Cheryl's muscles enough that she could continue physical therapy.

"For many really ill people, that (marijuana) is their best medicine," Miller said during a telephone interview this week.

[snip]

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who is chairman of a Senate health panel, is expected to hear from experts on medicinal marijuana during the June hearing.

The legislative hearing would be the first for a bill long proposed by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union.

The Assembly hasn't scheduled any hearings on the bill, but Gov. Jon S. Corzine — then a gubernatorial candidate — pledged last year that he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law.

At next month's hearing, the Senate will likely hear from an expert in marijuana in medicine, the head of the New Jersey State Nurses' Association and a representative from a state that already allows medicinal marijuana, Miller said.

Scutari is also expected to testify, Miller said.

The hearing is being held to answer any questions Vitale may have, Miller said. A vote would likely not be held until a second round of hearings, he said.

"I am hopeful," Miller said.

Miller, who co-founded the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, has remained involved in the struggle to make medicinal marijuana available and does not intend to stop anytime soon.

{snip}

Miller is confident that by this time next year, legislation approving medicinal marijuana will be before Corzine.

"I allow myself to get hopeful," Miller said. But, he noted that while a year might seem short legislatively, for those with grave illnesses a year may be too late.

"There are a lot of people that will die in the process," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Posted by Gary at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2006

Global Marijuana March in Madison recap

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, May 06, 2006

Madison WI -- Sunny skies and temperatures in the 60's set the stage for a small but energetic Global Marijuana March in Madison WI today. Attendees mingled with Farmer's Market crowds at the State Street steps of the Capitol holding GMM posters and some signs. A little after 12:30 about two dozen marchers headed down State St., calling out pro-pot chants and clapping. Bemused observers at cafes and passersby gave signs of support and a couple joined the march. Marchers exited State at Gilman and headed to an undisclosed location for a short post-march medication and celebration.

Posted by Gary at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2006

Global Marijuana March in Madison and 200 Cities Worldwide May 6

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, May 4, 2006

This Saturday, May 6, 2006 supporters of cannabis freedom will gather and march in over 200 cities worldwide.

In Madison, gather at the State Street steps of Capitol at 11 am, March at noon. Download March flier here click here.

Posted by Gary at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)

Letter: 'Madsterdam'

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, May 4, 2006

Had this letter published today in the Isthmus. Having visited "Oaksterdam" click here since I wrote the letter but before it was published, I am even more convinced, if that is possible, for the need for regulated sales for adult cannabis consumers and dispensaries for medical users in Wisconsin. Marijuana prohibition is hurting us badly across the board. On the eve of Global Marijuana Marches in Madison and 200 other cities worldwide this weekend, it's time to end cannabis prohibition. It's un-American.

Source: Isthmus
Pubdate: 5 May 2006
Author: Gary Storck

'MADSTERDAM'

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's story about Madison in 2031 failed to consider whether we would still have marijuana prohibition (4/7/06). In 2031, 54 years after Madison voted to legalize medical marijuana and private possession for personal use, will there be cannabis coffeeshops like in Holland? Will patients have safe access to their medicine from dispensaries? Will cannabis bloom on State Street? Or will we still be mired in a lost war that currently arrests over 750,000 Americans per year?

Madison with regulated pot sales and cannabis coffeeshops -- let's call it Madsterdam -- would be safer, less violent and less angry. While Cieslewicz envisions a "new biological agent" being used to make future gatherings at Halloween and on Mifflin St. happier and less prone to violence, such an agent already exists with cannabis. Roll 'em up!

Gary Storck
Madison NORML
www.madisonnorml.org

Posted by Gary at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)