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November 30, 2009

OPED: Plain Talk: Time to end the war on pot - period

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, November 30, 2009

A very nice OPED from Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He even cops to playing "cannabis angel" (my words, not his), to his dying father 30 years ago. Kudos to him and anyone else who has done so for having the courage and compassion to take such a risk to help a suffering loved one. It is unacceptable that a bad law puts people in such a position, and passing the JRMMA would put an end to it once for all.

Source: The Capital Times
Pubdate: Monday, November 30, 2009
Author: Dave Zweifel

PLAIN TALK: TIME TO END THE WAR ON POT - PERIOD

Momentum is building to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin. State Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison Democrat, and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Waunakee Democrat, have authored a bill that would make it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana as a pain reliever for various injuries or illnesses. Gov. Jim Doyle has said he would sign the bill into law.

The time for Wisconsin to become the 15th state to allow patients to use pot to make their lives a bit more comfortable is long past due. My own father, who was suffering mightily from the pains of pancreatic cancer, found some relief from marijuana I was able to illegally purchase for him in the last weeks of his life.

That was more than 30 years ago and politicians still balk at allowing sick people the relief that marijuana can provide some of them. The Bush administration had a policy to arrest and prosecute folks using medical marijuana even in the states that have legalized it. Fortunately, the Obama administration has said it will cease doing that.

Madison's Gary Storck, who has been pushing for decades to get the Legislature to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, put it bluntly the other day: "We're not criminals, we're just trying to get on with our lives."

Storck says he has been using marijuana since 1972 to treat his glaucoma and arthritis.

In the latest edition of the Hightower Lowdown, editor Jim Hightower, the Texas gadfly, proclaimed that America's drug war is doing far more harm than marijuana itself ever will. He suggests that the nation would be better off legalizing all marijuana use.

Hightower insists that even the most conservative estimates say the outlay from taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers. And that doesn't include the costs of militarizing the border with Mexico to stop pot imports. Even the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources this year asked deer hunters to look for pot growing in the woods so, presumably, wardens could go out and nab some farmers.

Some 41,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons right now on marijuana charges and that doesn't count the thousands more in city and county jails.

Plus thousands of law enforcement people are diverted from serious crimes to pursue someone smoking pot. That includes agents from the FBI, the Secret Service, Customs, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Yet Congress refuses to change the long-outdated laws that cover the use of marijuana.

Hopefully, the Wisconsin Legislature will act quickly to legalize medical marijuana at the very least. Meanwhile the time has come for Congress to end the war on pot - period. We've got far better uses for all the money and resources.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com

Posted by Gary at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2009

Letter: WI State Journal: Dr. Gott out of date on cannabis advice

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, Nov. 27, 2009

Dr. Peter Gott is a syndicated health columnist whose column appears across the nation in many local dailies. Last week's column stated that cannabis smoking could lead to cancer and health problems. Below is my response.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal
Pubdate: 26 Nov 2009
Author: Gary Storck

DR. GOTT OUT OF DATE ON CANNABIS ADVICE

In a recent column, Dr. Peter Gott wrote that smoking cannabis causes health problems, even cancer, while admitting that he smokes tobacco, a proven carcinogen.

Dr. Donald Tashkin, a researcher at UCLA has been searching for the "smoking gun" since the 1970s. Tashkin's studies identified toxic compounds in cannabis smoke, and he published photomicrographs showing cannabis smoke damages cells lining the upper airways.

Yet in California in April 2008, at the National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, I heard Tashkin report his findings that smoking cannabis does not cause cancer.

Tashkin also discussed research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), finding that the more tobacco was smoked, the greater the rate of decline. In contrast, no matter how much marijuana was smoked, the rate of decline was similar to normal. Tashkin's conclusion is that his and other studies do not support the concept that regular smoking of marijuana leads to COPD.

If Dr. Gott is so wrong about cannabis, how can we trust his other advice? The proper prescription would be to attend next April's cannabis conference. Patients Out of Time (see: www.medicalcannabis.com ) presents these conferences every two years. Mary Lynn Mathre, a nurse and the group's co-founder, is scheduled to be in Madison on Dec. 15 for the combined Health committee hearing on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act.

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

Posted by Gary at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2009

Appleton Post Crescent: Editorial: Medical marijuana's time has come

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

This editorial from the Appleton Post Crescent illustrates the consensus coming together that medical marijuana should be legalized now. Or, This bill, this time!

Appleton Post Crescent
November 25, 2009

Editorial: Medical marijuana's time has come

The tide is turning in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use — and it's about time.

Studies have shown that cancer patients and those with other painful diseases, such as AIDS, can benefit from the substance, which stimulates appetite, reduces nausea and eases muscle spasms and pain. These patients shouldn't be criminalized for seeking relief for maladies hard to fathom unless you've been there.

Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana and a dozen others, including Wisconsin, are considering it.

Though the idea has been floated in our state Legislature before, state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, have introduced a bill that may have a chance this time.

It has firm parameters, such as creating a maximum amount of marijuana a patient may have, and the backing of Gov. Jim Doyle.

Doyle says he supports the bill as long as the users have a doctor's prescription. That safeguard, while not infallible, should assuage the fears that legalization for this specific purpose would open the floodgates to wholesale legalization.

The American Medical Association, once an ally of opponents to legalizing medical marijuana, recently reversed its policy that claimed marijuana had no benefits.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has made good on a promise to halt federal prosecutions of medical marijuana use where permitted by state law.

It's time to adopt a law that simply allows the use of small amounts of marijuana to cope with the effects of debilitating illness.

Posted by Gary at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2009

Wisconsin Legislative committees set to take another look at medical marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, November 22, 2009

As today is the 4th anniversary of Rep. Gregg Underheim's 2005 public hearing on his medical marijuana bill AB740, I thought I'd take a look back at that and other hearings I've attended over the years.

Madison: Medical marijuana has long been an issue in Wisconsin's legislature. A number of legislative hearings on the legalization of medical marijuana have been held over the years, and I have attended four, and submitted testimony at three of those.

On July 31, 1979, as a congenital glaucoma patient and a 24 year old college student, I traveled from my then-Milwaukee residence to Madison to attend a public hearing on the Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act. The first Federal IND patient, Robert Randall, testified about smoking 10 joints per day for glaucoma. The bill was not passed that session, but it came back the next, and was passed by large margins in both houses in 1981 and signed into law by then-Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus in April 1982. However, the law was quickly rendered symbolic when federal authorities refused to supply Wisconsin with their supplies of medical marijuana. You can watch a short video I made about the experience on YouTube, "Medical Cannabis in Wisconsin: Gary Storck talks of glaucoma and Wisconsin medical cannabis efforts".

After a long drought, medical cannabis returned to the Wisconsin legislature in the mid-1990's. A number of bills were introduced, all eventually dying in committee, without receiving a hearing. In the 2001 session, then-Rep. Rick Skindrud (R-Mt. Horeb),, a moderate Dane County Republican, convened an informational hearing of his Assembly State Affairs Committee on Tuesday April 10, 2001.

Testimony was limited to invited guests. Among those testifying was IMMLY Founder Jacki Rickert. Jacki led off the hearing discussing her experiences and how medicinal cannabis has benefited her and helped her regain a little quality of life.

Others testifying included Dr. Michael Miller, representing the State Medical Society and speaking in opposition and Gina Dennik-Champion, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association, testifying in favor. Also giving testimony were then-Rep. Frank Boyle (D-Superior), a longtime supporter, and then-Dane County Sheriff Gary Hamblin, a prostate cancer survivor.

Then-Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh) had become interested in medical cannabis in 2003, around the same time as myself accompanied by Jim Miller, visiting for Harvest Fest, stopped by his office and had a lengthy talk with a staffer about the issue. As Health Committee chair in 1997, Underheim had refused to hold a Health committee hearing on that session's bill, saying "It's not about medicine, it's about intoxication." That bill was sponsored by Frank Boyle and then-State Rep. Tammy Baldwin, now a U.S. Congressperson representing Madison.

But by 2003, Underheim was a cancer survivor himself. The following session, Underheim convened and chaired a public hearing of his Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, the topic, AB740, his bill to legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin.

Testimony was heard from IMMLY's Jacki Rickert and Gary Storck, WNA director Dennik-Champion, Federal patient Irv Rosenfeld and others. A number of other Wisconsin patients testified, including the late Mary Powers. A synopsis can be found in a blog post I wrote, "Recap of Nov. 22 Public Hearing for AB-740".

Unfortunately, Rep. Underheim never put AB740 to a committee vote, and patients who traveled long distances in pain and revealed personal medical information to hostile committee members never got the satisfaction of a up and down vote. He did not seek reelection the following term.

The fourth hearing was an informational hearing on Wed. Nov. 14, 2007. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, the Senate lead sponsor of this session's SB368, held a hearing of the Committee on Health, Human Services, Insurance and Job Creation that he chaired. Those invited to testify included IMMLY's Jacki Rickert and Gary Storck, Federal IND patient George McMahon, who flew in by private plane from Iowa, as well as two physicians who are experts in the field of medical cannabis, Dr. David Bearman, Wisconsin native now practicing in Santa Barbara California and Dr. Chris Fichtner, an Illinois doctor with very extensive credentials. Dr. Bearman also held a book signing and spoke at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine while in Madison. The UW Badger Herald covered the hearing with an article, "Senate hearing on medical marijuana turns emotional". The hearing is archived in video at Wisconsin Eye.

Long suffering Wisconsin patients and those who care about them are hoping that the State Capitol's next hearing on medical cannabis on Tuesday Dec. 15 at 10am is the charm, and that their testimony will convince state lawmakers that this session it needs to be, "This bill, this time!" For more information on how you can help pass the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, submit testimony at the hearing, read the bill test or donate, visit JRMMA.org, IMMLY.org or MadisonNORML.org.

Posted by Gary at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2009

JRMMA press conference generates flurry of WI media coverage

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, November 20, 2009

Below is an article I put together with highlights of some of the amazing media coverage of Monday's JRMMA press conference generated.

Madison: Wisconsin media responded to the Nov. 16 Capitol press conference announcing the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act with a flurry of coverage. News reports included widespread radio and television news coverage, articles on the internet, where it was also carried live and archived by Wisconsin Eye. In addition articles and supportive editorials appeared in a wide array of Wisconsin daily newspapers.

Madison's Wisconsin State Journal, the state's second largest daily, issued an editorial on Nov. 19, "Let Desperate Patients Have Pot". The editorial noted, "A doctor should be able to recommend marijuana to a Wisconsin cancer patient suffering from severe nausea, loss of appetite and pain. More than a dozen other states have legalized medical marijuana. Wisconsin should, too."

Wisconsin's Gannett Media dailies also came out editorially in favor of the JRMMA, sponsored by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison). In an editorial carried by many, if not all of the Gannett dailies around the state, "Time to legalize medical use of marijuana".

"The time is right for Wisconsin to act on legalizing marijuana for medical use. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that the Justice Department would not enforce federal drug laws in states that permit medicinal use of marijuana and Gov. Jim Doyle said he would sign the bill if passed by the legislature. The legislature should pass the bill. It makes no sense to ban a drug that has proven to be medically beneficial when physicians are legally prescribing more toxic and addictive drugs." (Oshkosh Northwestern, 11/19/09).

The Wausau Daily Herald published an identical piece, also on Nov. 19, as well as the Appleton Post Crescent, and likely the rest of the dozen plus papers in the chain in Wisconsin.

On Friday November 20, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl offered his perspective, "Relief, not reefer, is reason for bill".

Stingl wrote, "It will seem strange at first to have marijuana sold in storefronts rather than alleys. But the product is more likely to be pure and safe, Erpenbach said. Doctors already can approve much stronger drugs, and this would be another form of medicine."

Also on Friday, an unexpected source, the online Milwaukee Biz Blog, carried a piece by Alan Gaudynski, a former Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin executive, "Legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin"

Gaudynski, first noting he had undergone surgeries for health problems, continued, "Although I am not a marijuana user, I've read reports that people with certain types of cancers and other types of debilitating diseases find pain and anti-nausea relief when smoking marijuana. If we could devise a low cost way to deliver it to appropriate patients through prescription from a doctor, and purchased from a legal outlet, like a pharmacy, I am all in favor of it."

Wisconsin patients are finding hope where it had not been for many years. The Dec. 15 State Capitol hearing, set for 10am in Room 412 East, should be a very interesting and for many patients, emotional day. To stay updated on the JRMMA, visit JRMMA.org, Is My Medicine Legal YET? or MadisonNORML.org. Send a prewritten letter to your WI State Legislators.

Posted by Gary at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2009

Dec. 15, 2009: Combined hearing for Jacki Rickert MMJ Act AB554/SB368

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, November 19, 2009

The date/time/location for the hearing has been set: Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 10am in Room 412 East, State Capitol: Combined Senate/Assembly Health Committee Hearing on AB554/SB358, the Jacki Rickert MMJ Act (JRMMA)

There will be a combined public hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue and the Assembly Committee on Public Health on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 10am in Room 412 East at the State Capitol.

Interested parties who attend the hearing may register in support of the JRMMA, submit written testimony, and/or testify in person. Arrive early to complete a hearing registration card. A tally will be made of those registering for and against. Written testimony will be made available to all members of both committees. Please dress respectfully of the situation, business casual or even a suit and tie or your best outfit.

Testifying in person: If you plan to testify personally, while there will likely be no time limits, testimony that is shorter and to the point holds legislators attention better. It may be helpful to prepare a brief statement that you can read in a few minutes. You can expand on your remarks in written form to include additional information.

Here's what our friend Jim Miller has to say: "I like to tell potential tesimonialists that if they plan on saying something that someone else could say, then probably someone else should say it. Stick to what is personal to you! When you say how marijuana helps you are saying something nobody else can. THAT is what committee members need to hear. Leave the policy wonk stuff to policy wonks. I hear that there will some in attendance."

How to Submit written Testimony: You may submit written testimony to Kelly.Johnson@legis.wisconsin.gov in State Sen. Jon Erpenbach's office. The mailing address is Room 8 South State Capitol P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707-7882. Sen. Erpenbach's office will make all submitted written testimony available to all members of both committees.

This does not mean each member will make the time to review all submissions. Concise and easy to read submissions with a narrow focus on your personal connection to the issue will likely get read more than long submissions that stray off topic into things like the total legalization of cannabis. Please stay on topic. The bill is not about marijuana legalization, but creating a narrow exemption for the sick and dying. Legalizing marijuana overall is not covered by the bill, and is not pertinent to this discussion.

Posted by Gary at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2009

Channel 3000 video report on Jacki Rickert MMJ Act hearing

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yesterday's Capitol press conference was a success at getting the word out to state media, with coverage statewide. Below is a nice report from Madison's Channel 9 (Channel 3000)

2 State Lawmakers Put Forward Medical Marijuana Bill

13 States Have Legalized Medical Marijuana

MADISON, Wis. -- Supporters of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes said on Monday the time is right to change the law in Wisconsin.

Two Democratic state lawmakers announced on Monday that a bill they are co-sponsoring to legalize medical marijuana will be the subject of a public hearing on Dec. 15.

The idea has been kicking around the state Capitol for years, but some said that they believe the momentum is there for passage next year, WISC-TV reported.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee said he thinks there is enough support to get it passed. He and Assembly co-sponsor state Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison were joined by advocacy groups and patients who say using marijuana can help those ill with cancer regain their appetite and deal with pain from their diseases and treatments.

Under the new plan, called the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, people with certain diseases or medical conditions could legally grow 12 marijuana plants and possess three ounces of marijuana for medical use.

"We certainly are seeing a different landscape than we have in past years," Pocan said.

Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana and Gov. Jim Doyle last month said he would support it if users have a doctor's prescription.

On the federal level, President Barack Obama favors less prosecution of it, according to bill proponents. Add in last year's passage of a Michigan referendum on legalizing medical marijuana, and advocates said that they're more hopeful than ever.

The legislation is named after Rickert, a wheelchair-bound medical marijuana user and advocate from Mondovi. She has been in a wheelchair for 15 years in a wheelchair suffering from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other problems.

"I've seen so much different change this time around that people seem to have hope ...you can lose a lot from your body, but when something's taken from your spirit, that's one of the hardest things," she said.

Rickert said the new proposed named after her is giving her and other supporters new hope.

She said "cannabis angels" mysteriously show up and give her marijuana that lets her keep her weight up and cut her morphine use in half.

Backers of the bill said the measure is about compassionate care when other legal painkillers don't do the trick.

"Medical marijuana, for some people ... is the best way they can find any sort of relief," said Erpenbach.

The measure might face some opposition from law enforcement and some Republican state lawmakers. However, even some conservatives like state Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend are mulling over a "yes" vote.

Grothman said he hasn't made up his mind yet, but is inclined to vote for it unless someone gives him "a good reason not to".

"It wouldn't shock me if I vote for it," Grothman said.

A joint committee hearing will be held on the plan next month. The proposal requires people with a doctor's prescription to register with the state before growing up to 12 marijuana plants or going to state regulated dispensaries.

Some lawmakers said that they want to know if law enforcement believes medical marijuana would increase illegal pot use.

A spokesman for the Madison Police Department said it doesn't have a stance on the issue.

Posted by Gary at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2009

IMMLY Press Release: “This Bill, This Time!”: Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act A Step Forward For Wisconsinites In Pain

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wisconsin medical cannabis supporters are elated as the hours count down to a Wisconsin State Capitol press conference at 11:30am Monday in the Senate Parlor, with bill sponsors Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Jon Erpenbach speaking, along with Jacki Rickert and myself.

Here is an article I wrote about the press conference, and below is IMMLY's press release for Monday.

Is My Medicine Legal YET?
www.IMMLY.org & www.JRMMA.org
For immediate release: November 16, 2009

“THIS BILL, THIS TIME!”: JACKI RICKERT MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT A STEP FORWARD FOR WISCONSINITES IN PAIN

Madison & Mondovi: With Wisconsin’s Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act AB554/SB368 set to be rolled out at a State Capitol press conference Monday morning, IMMLY Founder Jacki Rickert and IMMLY director of Communications Gary Storck, both longtime medical cannabis patient-activists, have each issued statements:

Jacki Rickert – “I would like to quote a line from a song my friend Rick Harris wrote called ‘Legal Medicine Blues’, ‘I never wanted to break the law but I hurt too bad to pretend’. Well, I stopped pretending years ago, before most current legislators were first elected. I am so happy that after so many years, we have reached the point where the cannabis therapy my late doctor William Wright worked so hard to get approved for me seems within reach. It’s tragic so many did not even make it to today, like our friend Mary Powers, who spent her last months in this building asking legislators to pass this bill. For many medical marijuana patients there will be no more do-overs. This bill, this time!”

Gary Storck – “I stumbled upon medical cannabis in 1972 as a means to save my remaining vision from severe congenital glaucoma. After decades of working to see this therapy relegalized and enduring many dark years with no hope that this medicine might be legal for patients like Jacki and me, I now feel that all of that is about to change, and Wisconsinites will soon be free to utilize medical cannabis again. Rep. Pocan and Sen. Erpenbach are true public servants for listening to the people and giving hope this can be resolved and that compassion might no longer be a crime.”

Is My Medicine Legal YET? is a Mondovi and Madison Wisconsin based grass roots patient and caregiver organization dedicated to advancing public education about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. For further information contact Jacki Rickert at 715.926.4950 or Gary Storck at 608.241.8922 or visit the IMMLY websites at www.IMMLY.org and www.JRMMA.org.

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Posted by Gary at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2009

New website JRMMA.org offers full info on Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, November 6, 2009

I have just put up http://jrmma.org/, the official site of the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act. It is your one stop source for everything you need to help pass the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, and will be frequently be updated as the bill progresses through the Wisconsin Legislature.


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Posted by Gary at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)