« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 24, 2006

Wisconsin State Journal Letter to the Editor: Will Legislature look at medical marijuana?

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, November 24, 2006

While I was off enjoying Thanksgiving yesterday, the Wisconsin State Journal published this version of a leter I sent them. The original version named some of the anti-medical marijuana zealots voters tossed Nov. 7.

With a new session just weeks away, it's not too early to put medical cannabis out there.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal
Pubdate: Thursday, November 23, 2006
Author: Gary Storck


The headline of Tuesday's editorial about cleaning up state politics -- "No more excuses for Legislature" -- could also easily apply to medical marijuana. Polling has long established that a majority of voters support legal access to medical marijuana.

Some of the "bums" the voters "threw out" were anti-medical marijuana zealots. In the 2005 to 2006 session, AB 740 became the fourth medical marijuana bill to die in committee without a vote since 1997.

Each year, there are an estimated 36,000 new cases of cancer in Wisconsin and around 11,000 people die from it. Add in patients with multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma and many other medical conditions, and we are talking about thousands of citizens who will benefit if the Legislature will only listen to the people.

As a medical marijuana advocate and patient, I field calls from patients and family members seeking information. Sadly, I have to counsel them that patients and their caregivers still risk arrest and jail if they try to get and use cannabis for medical purposes.

The legislature should pass Senate Bill 1 and start the cleanup of state politics. And Senate Bill 2 ought to be a medical marijuana bill, passed quickly with the mercy, compassion and respect our sick and dying citizens deserve.

Gary Storck, communications director, Is My Medicine Legal YET?, Madison

Posted by Gary at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2006

Fred Gardner previews his survey of CA cannabis physicians

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fred Gardner is the editor of O'Shaughnessy's Journal click here of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group. I first met Fred at my very first NORML Conference in Washington D.C. in 2001. At the time, Fred was working for then San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan.

Since then, Fred has gone on to chronicling the trials and tribulations, along with the successes and knowledge gained of CA doctors reccomending cannabis to patients.

Gardner has lately been previewing the results of his survey of CA doctors, and the results are very interesting. Last week, in "Marijuana, the Anti-Drug" he wrote how CA cannabis physicians are finding that patients using cannabis are reducing use of conventional prescription medications or even discarding them completely.

November 11 / 12, 2006 Pot Shots Marijuana, the Anti-Drug


The extent to which medical cannabis users discontinue or reduce their use of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs is a recurring theme in a recent survey of pro-cannabis (PC) California doctors. The drug-reduction phenomenon has obvious scientific implications. Medicating with cannabis enables people to lay off stimulants as well as sedatives -suggesting that the herb's active ingredients restore homeostasis to various bodily systems. (Lab studies confirm that cannabinoids normalize the tempo of many other neurotransmission systems.) The political implications are equally obvious. Legalizing herbal cannabis would devastate the pharmaceutical manufacturers and allied corporations in the chemicals, oil, "food," and banking sectors. Put simply, the synthetic drug makers stand to lose half their sales if and when the American people get legal access to cannabis.

Read the rest of the article:
Counterpunch: click here
DrugSense: click here

This week, Gardner offers more from his survey results:

November 18 / 19, 2006 California Medical Survey The Adverse Effects of Marijuana


In the past 10 years, California doctors have authorized cannabis use by at least 350,000 patients. What have they learned about its adverse effects?

According to a survey of 19 doctors associated with the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, side-effects are relatively rare, mild, and transient. There have been no deaths, no major adverse events attributed to cannabis -with one exception involving a claim by an establishment psychiatrist that cannabis induced and exacerbated psychosis in an 18-year old whom she had on a regimen of Lexapro and Zyprexa.

Comments by the SCC doctors follow.
(continue reading on Counterpunch click here.

Posted by Gary at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2006

Election results raise hopes for medical marijuana in Wisconsin

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good news for Wisconsin medical marijuana supporters! Both Mark Green and John Gard went down to defeat and back to private life, meaning Gov. Jim Doyle will serve four more years and Dr. Steve Kagen will be representing Green’s former congressional district instead of Gard. Green’s running mate, outgoing Rep. Jean Hundertmark, who badgered medical marijuana patients at last fall’s Health Committee hearing, joined him in defeat.

Not only were these three arch-enemies of medical marijuana sent back to private life, but there was more good news. Democrats picked up 4 seats to regain control of the State Senate 18-15. Longtime Sen. David Zien (R-Eau Claire), never a friend of medical cannabis was one of the four, along with Jacki Rickert’s state senator Ron Brown. In the Assembly, there was a pickup by the Dems narrowing the Republican majority to 53-46. Assembly Health Committee member Rep. Judy Krawczyk (R-Green Bay), who spoke out against medical marijuana at the hearing, also suffered a narrow defeat.

Two Republican contrived referendums in Wisconsin on the death penalty and banning gay marriage passed with 55/45 and about 60/40 of the vote. The referendums were concocted as a way to drive up the GOP vote. Instead, the GOP lost seats in the Assembly, lost the State Senate, lost a seat in Congress, and lost the gubernatorial election.

At the federal level, Democrats regained control of the US House of Representatives, and were 2 seats from control of the Senate. This means Rep. John Conyers will be replacing WI Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The Democratic pickups could mean that medical marijuana legislation could actually get a committee hearing.

The 3 state cannabis initiatives were less successful. In South Dakota, Initiative 4, which would have legalized medical marijuana, lost 52/44, the first such initiative loss for medical marijuana. Colorado Amendment 44 was losing 60/40 and Nevada Question 7 failed by a 56/44 margin. However, in Santa Monica, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz CA, Missoula MT and Eureka Springs AR voters passed proposals requiring local police to make marijuana arrests their lowest priority.

With the WI State Senate in Democratic hands, and with Speaker John Gard (“medical marijuana has a mountain to climb in Wisconsin”) no longer feeding at the public trough, there is renewed hope for medical cannabis legislation in the coming session. Hopefully, a more moderate Capitol will result that will listen to the people of Wisconsin on this issue. Stay tuned!

Posted by Gary at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2006

Fred Gardner: Dr. Mikuriya's Observations 10 Years of Legalized Medical Marijuana in California

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, November 4, 2006

It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed since California voters passed Prop 215. While there has been much progress in that time, there continues to be too much pain and suffering, caused by the U.S. government's failure to listen to its people and the science. While some areas of California have good access to medical cannabis, like the San Francisco Bay Area, the fight continues in other areas. In some locales, local authorities are teaming up with the DEA to close dispensaries. Even in places like San Francisco, a NIMBY backlash is threatening to push dispensaries out of neighborhoods where patients can easily access their medicine.

The good news is hundreds of thousands of patients ARE getting their medicine, and much has been learned from these patients. The passage of Prop 215 has helped inspire 10 other states to pass medical marijuana laws. And in those areas where local officials have been supportive, patients now have access to a wide selection of different strains, hash, kif, edibles, capsules, tinctures, salves and more. Vaporizers are cheaper, more efficient and more commonplace. Activist groups like CA NORML, Americans for Safe Access and DPA are fighting against the backlash and having success sticking up for patients. While the US war on the sick and dying shows no signs of abating, hopefully the next ten will be smoother. There is even a little hope for action at the federal level should Democrats retake Congress. I'll be exploring the election results and their impact Tuesday night on this blog.

Below, Fred Gardner details Dr. Tod Mikuriya's observations ten years after. Dr. Mikuriya was last in Madison in 2005 when he spoke at the 35th Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival.

Dr. Mikuriya's Observations 10 Years of Legalized Medical Marijuana in California


Tod Mikuriya, MD (Berkeley), was the first California doctor to monitor patients' use of cannabis systematically. In the early 1990s his interviews with members of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club documented Dennis Peron's observation that people were self-medicating for an extremely wide range of problems.

The broad range of applications confirmed what Mikuriya had learned from his study of the pre-prohibition medical literature on cannabis, and so when Prop 215 was being drafted, he urged that it apply not only to people with a list of named conditions, but to those treating " ... any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."

No sooner had Prop 215 passed than top California law enforcement agents colluded with Clinton Administration officials and Prohibitionist strategists from the private sector to plan its disimplementation. On Dec. 30, 1996, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, Attorney General Janet Reno, Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Alan Leshner, held a press conference to threaten California doctors with loss of their licenses, i.e., their livelihoods, if they approved marijuana use by their patients. McCaffrey stood alongside a large chart headed "Dr. Tod Mikuriya's, (215 Medical Advisor) Medical Uses of Marijuana." Twenty-six conditions were listed in two columns. ("Migranes" was misspelled.) "This isn't medicine, this is a Cheech and Chong show," he said. Reno said prosecutors would focus on doctors who were "egregious" in approving marijuana use by patients.

Dr. Mikuriya watched the press conference on CNN at his home in the Berkeley Hills. "As doctors become more fearful," he says. "I'll obviously get more and more patients who are using cannabis or are considering it. Will that make it seem that there's something 'egregious' about my practice? You bet it will!"

From the Attorney General's office in Sacramento a memo went out from Senior Deputy AG John Gordnier to district attorneys in all 58 counties asking them to forward any cases involving Mikuriya. In due course, on the basis of complaints from sheriffs, cops, and DAs, Mikuriya was investigated by the medical board and found to have committed "extreme departures from standard practice." He was placed on probation and ordered to pay $75,000 for his own prosecution.

Over the years the number of cannabis specialists among California doctors has risen slowly but steadily. In 2000 Mikuriya organized a group, now known as the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, to share data for research purposes. More than 20 doctors have become involved with the SCC. Collectively they have approved cannabis use by an estimated 350,000 patients. This summer, with the 10th anniversary of Prop 215's passage approaching, I surveyed the SCC doctors get their basic findings. Here are Dr. Mikuriya's responses to the survey he inspired.

Approvals issued to date: 8,684.
Previously self-medicating: >99%
Category of use: Analgesic/immunomodulator 41%
Antispasmodic/anticonvulsant 29%
Antidepresssant/Anxiolytic 27%
Harm reduction substitute: 4%

Results reported are dependent on the conditions and symptoms being treated. The primary benefit is control without toxicity for chronic pain and a wide array of chronic conditions. Control represents freedom from fear and oppression. Control -or lack thereof- is a major element in self-esteem.

With exertion of control, with freedom from fear of incapacity, quality of life is improved. The ability to abort an incapacitating attack of migraine, asthma, anxiety, or depression empowers.

Relief from the burden of criminality through medical protection enhances a salutary self-perception.

Alteration in the perception of and reaction to pain and muscle spasticity is a unique property of cannabis therapy.

Patient reports are diverse yet contain common elements. 100% report that cannabis is safe and effective. Return for follow-up and renewal of recommendation and approval confirms safety and efficacy.

Cannabis seems to work by promoting homeostasis in various systems of the body. Its salient effects are multiple and concurrent. They include- o Restoration of normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract with normalization of peristalsis and restoration of appetite. o Normalizing circadian rhythm, which relieves insomnia. Sleep is therapeutic in itself and synergistically helps with pain control. o Easement of pain, depression, and anxiety. Cannabis as an anxiolytic and antidepressant modulates emotional reactivity and is especially useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorders.

Patients treated for ADHD: 92
Patients using cannabis as a substitute for alcohol: 683.
The slow poisoning by alcohol with its sickening effects on the body, psyche, and family can be relieved by cannabis.

Medications no longer needed? Opioids, sedatives, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories), and SSRI anti-depressants are commonly used in smaller amounts or discontinued. These are all drugs with serious adverse effects. Opioids and sedatives produce depression, demotivation, and diminished mobility. Weight gain and diminished functionality are common effects. Cognitive and emotional impairment and depression are comorbid conditions. Opioids adversely effect vegetative functioning with constipation, dyspepsia, and gastric irritation. Pruritus is also an issue for some. Circadian rhythms are disrupted with sleep disorders and chronic sedation caused by these agents. Dependence and withdrawal symptoms are more serious than with sedatives.

Opioids are undoubtedly the analgesic of choice in treating acute pain. For chronic pain, however, I recommend the protocol proposed by a doctor named Fronmueller2 to the Ohio Medical Society in 1859: primary use of cannabis, resorting to opiates for episodic worsening of the condition. Efficacy is maximized, tolerance and adverse effects are minimized. (Neither cannabis nor human physiology has changed since 1859.)

NSAIDs can be particularly insidious for those who do not immediately react with gastric irritation and discontinue the drug. Chronic irritation with bleeding may produce serious morbidity. Most often, the dyspepsia produced is suppressed with antacids or other medications. Many patients tolerate acute intermittent use but not chronic use. SSRIs, if tolerated, coexist without adverse interaction with cannabis. Some SSRI users say cannabis is synergistic in that it treats side effects of jitteriness or gastrointestinal problems.

Many patients report pressure exerted by the Veterans Administration, HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente, and workers' compensation program contractors to remain on pharmaceutical regimens. A significant number describe their prescribed drugs as ineffectual and having undesirable effects. "Mainstream" doctors frequently respond to reports of adverse effects by prescribing additional drugs. Instead of negating the problem, they often complicate it. Prevailing practice standards encourage polypharmacy -the use of multiple drugs, usually five or more.

Out of the ordinary conditions? While all pain reflects localized immunologic activity secondary to trauma or injury, the following atraumatic autoimmune disorders comprise a group of interest: Crohn's disease Atrophie blanche, Melorheostosis, Porphyria, Thallasemia, Sickle cell anemia, Amyloidosis Mastocytosis, Lupus, Scleroderma, Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome. These are all clearly of autoimmune etiology, difficult to treat. Specific metabolic errors such as amyloidosis and certain anemias warrant further study and may elucidate the underlying mechanisms of the illnesses and the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Multiple sclerosis with its range of severity varies in therapeutic response to cannabis.

Demographics: male patients, 72; female, 28%. Women are more likely than men to use cannabis for psychotherapeutic purposes (32% to 18%). Men are more likely to use for harm reduction (4% to 1%). A roughly bell-shaped curve describes the age of my patients. 0-18 years, 1%; 19-30, 19%; 31-45, 36%; 45-60, 37%; older than 61, 7%.

Additional Observations:

Proactive structuralism works. Meaning: people can create something and by doing so, set a precedent.

Medical cannabis users are typically treating chronic illnesses -not rapidly debilitating acute illnesses.

The cash economy works better than the bureaucratic alternative. Word of mouth builds a movement.

The private sector is handling marijuana distribution because the government has defaulted.

Cannabis was once on the market and regulated, then it was removed from the market and nearly forgotten.

Not all that we've learned in the past 10 years is new.

Once upon a time the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 became the law of the state. We had the mistaken belief that civil servants, sworn to uphold the law, would set about implementing the new section of the Health & Safety Code. Hardly... Twenty California doctors have been investigated by the Medical Board for approving cannabis use by their patients. Limited immunity from prosecution for physicians was either proclaimed invalid or, more commonly, evaded by the Board and the Attorney General. They dissimulate, pretending that it is not the physician's approval of marijuana at issue, but his or her standard of practice. They then hold cannabis consultants to a standard that most HMO doctors violate constantly.

The fix is in. The state criminal justice entities share information and operate in concert with the DEA. There has been a total end run around the injunctive protection of the Conant ruling. [In Conant, a federal court enjoined the government from threatening doctors who discuss cannabis as a treatment option with patients.] General media indifference enables this RICO under color of authority and the continuing defiance of the will of Californians who spoke ten years ago.

This is counterbalanced by the rewards of helping patients with serious chronic aliments who have adverse experience utilizing so-called main stream medicines.

Fred Gardner can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

Posted by Gary at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2006

Powerful Amendment 44 Television Commercial Hits Colorado Airwaves

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

SAFER's blog has posted this great tv ad for Amendment 44. This is exactly the right argument for legalizing cannabis. As I noted yesterday, alcohol overuse is creating a crisis in our society. Making cannabis available as a non-toxic alternative should be a no-brainer.

Source: http://www.safercolorado.org/blog.html

This powerful "YES on 44" commercial began airing on CNN, FOX News and CNBC in Colorado yesterday. The commercial, which is designed to point out the dangers associated with alcohol use and question why we prohibit adults from using the safer alternative, marijuana, can be viewed on YouTube:

Posted by Gary at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)