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April 26, 2010

Racine Journal Times Editorial: Marijuana not right medicine

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, April 26, 2010

Just days after the failure of the WI Legislature to pass AB554/SB368, this scathing collection of misinformation under the guise of an "editorial" spews forth from the Racine Journal Times! Visit this link to comment on the original article.

Racine Journal Times
Monday, April 26, 2010

Editorial: Marijuana not right medicine

It would be nice to think that medical marijuana laws did nothing more than provide some compassionate relief for terminally ill patients.

Nice and naive.

As the session in Madison ends, we're relieved that two Democratic state legislators, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, failed in their efforts to mellow out anti-drug forces. They proposed a bill that would protect those with prescriptions for marijuana from prosecution.

We have always sympathized with cancer patients and others whose debilitating pain warrants such relief. But the recent follies of other states illustrate the need to strictly control how the pot is given out.

Many of the 14 states that have instituted such laws have learned the hard way that they're vulnerable to abuse. During a series of busts last year, California law enforcement agents found authorized dispensers selling to people whose only ailment was a swollen wallet.

Yet, Pocan and Erpenbach are eager to set up similar nonprofit "compassion centers." Those would need to be closely monitored, and does anyone want slimmed-down state government to beef up for a new oversight role right now?

Perhaps if the task were left in the hands of traditional pharmacies, which already act as gatekeepers for some otherwise illegal drugs, the idea would be more palatable here. A new Associated Press-CNBC poll suggests 6 in 10 Americans favor legalizing marijuana for medical uses.

We're also dubious of vague eligibility categories. Almost one-sixth of those allowed to smoke pot in the Golden State slip by with prescriptions for "mood disorders."

A law filled with loopholes can only undermine the anti-drug messages being conveyed to youths. Marijuana already carries less stigma, school health officials say, and a proposal to legalize it for everyone in California threatens to exacerbate that trend.

Besides the well-known health impacts that worsen with lasting use, research indicates pot smoking paves a path to other, more dangerous narcotics. Plus the chemicals in marijuana can turn up in tests weeks after use - costing kids jobs or roster spots on sports teams.

That doesn't sound like a compassionate ending.

Posted by Gary at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2010

Rep. Mark Pocan & Sen. Jon Erpenbach: An Open Letter To Supporters Of Medical Marijuana:

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, April 23, 2010

A year ago today I was at the Capitol lobbying for the JRMMA with Mary Powers. We were full of hope that day as we began a sustained campaign of lobbying that took the two of us to over 80 offices until her death from cancer Oct. 22. Today, the legislative part of our efforts has come to a pause with the end of the session and the JRMMA not passed. We will now be moving into a new phase. This battle is only just beginning! Read the letter from the JRMMA sponsors below discussing the failure of the JRMMA to pass and the next phase: putting advisory referenda on local ballots.

April 22, 2010

AN OPEN LETTER TO SUPPORTERS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA

We write today with heavy hearts to inform you that when the legislature closes out its two-year session today, medical marijuana protections for patients will not be law.

Today, we are disappointed, upset, but hopeful. We are disappointed because despite all the hope and hard work, medicinal marijuana did not pass the Legislature. We are upset because there are people suffering from serious illnesses who desperately need cannabis to manage their symptoms and they cannot find legal relief in Wisconsin.

However, we are hopeful because we have more momentum today than we've had over the past decade. We won tremendous victories this legislative session: .

. In December of 2009, we had the best public hearing on this bill ever, with 104 patients and doctors testifying or registering in favor of this legislation, and only six against.

. President Obama told the DEA to cease prosecuting people who use cannabis for medical purposes.

. The American Medical Association recently called for changing the status of marijuana to enable more research on medical marijuana, despite the opposition of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

. Governor Doyle signaled his support for medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, the first Wisconsin Governor to ever support this legislation.

. More states and municipalities (14 total) are legalizing medical marijuana, the most recent being Washington, DC this week.

. Organizational support continues to grow, including the Wisconsin Nurses Association, American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the American Bar Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Two former U.S. Surgeons General - Joycelyn Elders and Jesse Steinfeld - also recognize marijuana as a legitimate, beneficial medicine.

. We earned the editorial endorsement from 10 newspapers across the state.

. With the help of Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, we generated thousands of constituent contacts to legislators all across the state encouraging them to support the bill.

Despite the hard work we all collectively put into this bill, there is still a lot more work to be done. We are not strangers to tackling the tough issues and standing up for people who otherwise might not have a champion in the Capitol. And we are not going to stop until we change the law and help seriously ill patients.

As we close out this session of the legislature, we are writing to thank you for your support, emails, phone calls and for sharing your personal stories. While this legislation is not moving forward now, we will continue to push this issue forward until we eventually change the law.

In the coming months, you will likely hear about advisory referenda being added to ballots in municipalities across the state as well as other critical news. Thus, we are also writing to ask you to do one last thing this session; if you have not already done so, please stay involved by signing up at www.jrmma.org. Please add your name to their email list and stay in touch as this movement continues to pick up momentum.

We will not stop until we have compassionate care for cancer patients, compassionate care for glaucoma patients, compassionate care for those suffering from PTSD and all the other patients for whom cannabis is helpful. One day, we will win and these patients will be protected from prosecution.

Thank you for your continuous efforts. Together, we will win!

Sincerely,

Representative Mark Pocan, 78th Assembly district

Senator Jon Erpenbach, 27th Senate district

Posted by Gary at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2010

Badger Herald: Medical marijuana unlikely to pass this legislative session

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Check out the condescending comments (in bold) from the Wisconsin Medical Society's Mark Grapentine. I’m sure they broke out the champagne and celebrated with their Big Pharma enablers at the news of their "victory" against Wisconsin's veterans, its seniors, its sick, disabled and dying. Perhaps Dr. Miller is a little too "hot" after being singled out at last weekend's Meetings and they need someone else to spew out their banal evil. Apparently Grapentine, who supported medical cannabis as a legislative staffer, is just as much of a whore as Dr. Miller, perhaps more.

Badger Herald: Medical marijuana unlikely to pass this legislative session

Source: Badger Herald WI EDU
Pubdate: 22 April 2010
Author: Amelia Vorpahl

MEDICAL MARIJUANA UNLIKELY TO PASS THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Pocan's office says news disappointing, others still recommend other options

The controversial medical marijuana bill that has gained much support over the last few months will not be passed this session, according to government officials.

The office of Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, confirmed the bill would not be placed on the calendar for the Legislature. Pocan is one of the main sponsors of the Assembly bill, which would allow qualifying patients with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of their condition.

"It is disappointing to many of us, myself included, that the Legislature did not pass medical marijuana this session. But as I have assured the patient advocates, our efforts enjoyed many successes this year and we came closer to our goal than ever before," Pocan said in a statement. "This fight is far from over because this issue is far too vital for too many people."

The last day of the regular legislative session is Thursday. However, there will be limited sessions the first week of May.

Gary Storck, president of Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he was very disappointed the bill would not be moving forward because they had a lot of hope that it would get done this session.

NORML will be working this summer to get referendums on local ballots on this issue across the state, Storck added, and will be getting signatures and organizers working to get the word out to more people.

"There's a lot of people in the Legislature who just don't get it," Storck said. "We've come to the conclusion that if you can't change the law, maybe you have to change the Legislature."

Storck added the movement supporting medical marijuana has grown significantly in the past couple months and has reached a level of activism not seen before.

Storck speculated many legislators may be hesitant to support the bill because they have false perceptions about the drug's dangers. He added many legal pharmaceutical drugs are much more harmful than marijuana.

"[Legislators have] been so brainwashed that marijuana is some kind of dangerous, illegal drug, that it's hard for them to think outside the box," Storck said. "Cannabis won't kill you; it won't cause permanent damage. It's definitely something that should be out there."

Mark Grapentine, senior vice president of government relations of the Wisconsin Medical Society, said they care deeply about people who are suffering, but medical marijuana is not the best treatment option and the organization does not support the bill.

Although they understand some people would like to embrace anything that seems helpful, what is most important is that any medicine a patient takes is safe, effective and has as few side effects as possible, he said. The state Legislature is not the appropriate body to be making that decision about marijuana.

"We don't believe anything you can just grow in your backyard . is really the best way to go in terms of advancing the science," Grapentine said. "We completely understand the desire for those who are suffering to find a way to alleviate that suffering, but you can't just skip steps in science and expect the best result."

Posted by Gary at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2010

Buffalo County considers marijuana ordinance

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, April 19, 2010

Despite the three decade plus failure of the Wisconsin Legislature to decriminalize cannabis at the state level, counties across the state continue to fall in line. The latest may be Buffalo County!

"More than 50 other counties in Wisconsin already have similar ordinances, making it a simple forfeiture fine for first-time possession of small quantities of marijuana or related paraphernalia.

Still, in Wisconsin a second-time offender could be charged with a felony if caught with any amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia."

Source: Winona Daily News
Pubdate: 19 April 2010

BUFFALO COUNTY CONSIDERS MARIJUANA ORDINANCE

A proposed Buffalo County ordinance would make it possible to fine first-time marijuana offenders rather than charge them in criminal court.

An ordinance being drafted by the county's law enforcement committee says first-time offenders caught with small amounts of marijuana or pot drug paraphernalia could be fined $100 to $500.

If charged with a small-quantity misdemeanor offense, the penalty now is normally a $330 fine and a year of probation.

Treating first offenses similarly to tickets for traffic violations would free up the court system to avoid criminal prosecutions and relieve probation officers of supervising low-risk offenders.

Buffalo County District Attorney Tom Clark said the ordinance would be a tool in dealing with young offenders rather than charging them with a criminal offense carrying lifelong implications.

The ordinance would give first-time offenders in possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana a second chance to keep a drug crime off their records.

The ordinance would give law enforcement officers and the district attorney discretion to cite an offender with an ordinance fine or charge them with a misdemeanor under state law.

A misdemeanor offense for a small amount of marijuana or paraphernalia could still stick on a person's record.

The proposal has support from the county sheriff's department, district attorney, circuit judge, public defender's office and county law enforcement committee.

Buffalo County Sheriff Michael Schmidtknecht said the ordinance also would take some pressure off the county jail.

The jail is frequently near its capacity for holding inmates. As the law now stands, a person with a small amount of pot is arrested and taken into custody.

More than 50 other counties in Wisconsin already have similar ordinances, making it a simple forfeiture fine for first-time possession of small quantities of marijuana or related paraphernalia.

Still, in Wisconsin a second-time offender could be charged with a felony if caught with any amount of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.

Buffalo County Sheriff's Investigator Lee Engfer said 14 grams is about enough to make seven marijuana cigarettes.

Engfer and officers Colin Severson and Mike Osmond said they see possession of more than 14 grams as evidence of having more pot than necessary for personal use.

By having a county pot ordinance, the county also can retain more of the fine money, officials said.

Posted by Gary at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2010

US WI: Debate Over Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Reasons Heats Up in Wisconsin

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Great article by Jim Collar. Jim wrote about earlier medical cannabis bills at his prior employer, the Oshkosh Northwestern, when GOP Rep. Gregg Underheim had a bill in the 2003-2005 and 2006-2007 sessions before retiring.

Pubdate: Sun, 18 Apr 2010
Source: Post-Crescent, The (Appleton, WI)
Webpage: http://mapinc.org/url/0jhQJvEj
Copyright: 2010 The Post-Crescent
Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/yqP960uk
Website: http://www.postcrescent.com
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1443
Author: Jim Collar, Post-Crescent staff writer
Referenced: medical marijuana bill
http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB-554.pdf
Referenced: industrial hemp bill www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB-740.pdf
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)

DEBATE OVER LEGALIZING MARIJUANA FOR MEDICAL REASONS HEATS UP IN WISCONSIN

Jeffrey Smith says it's time for Wisconsin to put aside its fears and loosen its grip on the use of marijuana.

"Our best weapon is the truth," said Smith, a Brillion resident. "We need to get past all of the old stereotypes. It's getting past all 70-plus years of all-out lies about what the plant is and what it can do."

Smith is a paraplegic. He said marijuana provides relief for his muscle pain. And he wants state lawmakers to approve bills this week that would allow marijuana use by those with certain debilitating medical conditions and create a state registry of those who qualify.

Time is of the essence - the bills will die if a vote isn't taken by the end of the legislative floor period for general business on Thursday.

Opponents say Wisconsin would be ill-advised to loosen restrictions on marijuana. They see it as the first step of a slippery slope.

Appleton's Donna Daniels, coordinator of Wisconsin Families in Action, is concerned that the growing advocacy for medical marijuana could be creating some confusion on a drug that's still illegal and far more potent and dangerous than the marijuana of decades ago.

"There's a need to step up education, and not just to young people, but to parents as well," she said.

Last month, the state Department of Justice announced seven Fox Valley arrests after an investigation into a drug ring they say distributed hundreds of pounds of marijuana and $4 million worth of cocaine. Weeks later, the justice department announced two arrests and seizure of 116 marijuana plants at homes in Sauk and Columbia counties.

Meanwhile, residents statewide have attended rallies supporting bills that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Activists held an educational event at the Appleton Public Library earlier this month. The "THC Tour" has moved throughout the state to build support for medical marijuana bills and another bill that would lift a prohibition on the manufacture of industrial hemp.

One would have to look no farther than California to get a sense of the concerns of opponents of those bills. There, voters will decide in November on whether the state would become the first to make marijuana legal for recreational use.

By most accounts, Wisconsin isn't in the same place.

The medical marijuana bills have stalled in the Legislature after a December hearing.

Dr. Darold Treffert, a psychiatrist from Fond du Lac and member of Wisconsin's Controlled Substances Board, joins those who see medical marijuana paving the way to full legalization.

He pointed to the explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries in California and the ease by which people can obtain permits for use.

"They have more dispensaries for marijuana than there are Starbucks," he said.

Polls: Attitudes Shift

While they are far from having a consensus, activists say they're finding more open ears than they had even a few years ago.

Jay Selthofner, field director for Wisconsin's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said tides are changing. The long-illicit plant moved from taboo to a place where people are at least willing to engage in discussion on its use.

"The time has come," he said. "It's not that we're doing anything different. People aren't afraid to speak out about it anymore."

Polls suggest a culture shift on the issue, though viewpoints on marijuana differ by degree of restrictions.

A poll released by the Pew Research Center this month found 73 percent of Americans favored having their states allow use and sale of marijuana for medical purposes. A majority of Americans, however, still believe recreational use should remain illegal, according to an October Gallup Poll.

Margins, though, are becoming narrower.

In 1995, just 25 percent of those surveyed by the Gallup organization responded in favor of fully legalizing marijuana. In October, 44 percent supported legalization.

Polls and surveys suggest an aging baby boomer population may have a role on shifting opinions.

An even 50 percent of those questioned in the October Gallup Poll from ages 18 to 49 favored legalization. Just 28 percent of those 65 and older would support legal marijuana, according to the poll.

That gap is just as evident in terms of historical usage.

A 2008 federal survey found 9.3 percent of those 65 or older used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes. By comparison, more than 57 percent of those ages 45 to 49 reported having used the drug.

Supporters say old views have been the biggest impediment.

Gary Storck, of Madison, a longtime advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, attributes tarrying among lawmakers to misinformation spread through decades of anti-drug campaigns.

Society had been close to legalizing marijuana as late as the 1970s, he said.

He recalled one of his friends being caught by police with marijuana in 1969. Police then said they figured marijuana would be legalized within a couple of years.

Storck said it's hard to believe it's still an issue, particularly for medical applications.

"It's nothing to be feared," he said.

The Medical Issue

Wisconsin's bills, if enacted, would make it the 15th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Michigan enacted a medical marijuana law in 2008. Lawmakers in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa also have had bills to consider.

Wisconsin's proposals have brought passionate responses from both sides.

Doctors aren't necessarily opposed to the idea of using the active ingredient in marijuana for medical applications, Treffert said. It is effective in certain situations.

Many in the medical community, however, are opposed to legalizing a medicine outside of the traditional Federal Drug Administration approval process. One pill based on marijuana's active ingredient is already on the market. Another drug is going through trials, Treffert said.

"Physicians have been cast as sort of mean to people - that we're not compassionate," he said. "That's not it at all."

Treffert fears doctors would be pressured into marijuana prescriptions even when they don't believe it's the right treatment. He has just as much concern that medical marijuana would mean greater availability of marijuana for recreational users.

Supporters point to those who've gained relief as evidence of its benefit.

Selthofner talked about a young cancer patient who was bedridden and couldn't keep food down. After talking with a friend, she tried marijuana. She was able to eat and get out of bed.

Storck discussed an Iraq War veteran who found marijuana has eased severe post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Selthofner said those who've talked to their doctors and found marijuana worked better than and without the side effects of other medicines shouldn't be cast as criminals, he said.

He knows not everyone is convinced.

"It's not for everybody," he said of marijuana. "No medicine is for everybody."

Debate Increasing, Use Isn't

The debate on marijuana hasn't occurred in a vacuum.

Kathy Verstegen, a nurse at Kimberly High School, said students aren't ignorant of the issue.

The Kimberly Area School District has one of the most comprehensive drug prevention programs in the region, which includes random drug testing for students who have parking spots or participate in extracurricular activities.

Verstegen conducts those tests. She's listened to students voice opinions supporting legalization. Sometimes they want to be heard, but she suspects they many times want information.

"That's always my opportunity to go back to the basics on marijuana and talk about the detriment and that it can ruin a young life," she said.

One survey suggests the debate hasn't muddied health messages directed at teens.

The Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey released in December showed declines in recent years in the number of high school students who reported marijuana use.

The percentage of students who smoked marijuana at least once in their lives was its lowest last year in the 12-year period included in the report at 34.2 percent. The percentage who used marijuana within 30 days of the survey dipped just more than one percentage point from 2007 to 18.9 percent last year. It was the second-lowest percentage in the 12-year comparison.

Treffert isn't certain downward trends will continue

A federal study released in January said consistent declines among high school students have leveled off, as perceived risks associated with regular marijuana use has declined.

He said the medical marijuana debate has a role in how young people perceive the danger of the drug.

Changing attitudes haven't meant a change in police encounters among adults.

Brad Dunlap, commander of the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group Drug Unit, said marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the region, though there's nothing from an enforcement standpoint to suggest its use is on an upswing.

"There are certainly spikes, but we see a fairly consistent number of arrests from year to year," he said.

In Outagamie County, adult arrests for marijuana possession averaged 330 per year from 2004 through 2008. In that five-year period, the highest number of possession arrests came in 2008 with 351, state statistics show. Winnebago County's arrest rate also maintained consistency during that period. The county saw a five-year average of 329 annual arrests. Its highest year for arrests was 2005 with 352 arrested.

Debate Continues

Appleton's Daniels said she knows what she's up against. She attended a hearing on medical marijuana where she was the lone voice among more than 100 to speak against the bills. It's an uphill battle, and one that starts with parents. It's more vital than ever for parents to learn the risks out there and pass their values onto their children.

"Today's world isn't like it was when we were teenagers," she said.

Smith said those in favor of lifting restrictions on hemp and marijuana have plenty of reason for confidence.

"We're making strides," he said.

[sidebar]

MARIJUANA BY THE NUMBERS

4 Days remaining before Wisconsin medical marijuana bills would die should they fail to come up for a vote in the legislature.

14 States that currently have laws allowing for medicinal use of marijuana

15.2 Percentage of Americans aged 12 or older who used marijuana within a month of a 2008 federal survey

34.2 Percentage of high school students in 2009 who reported having tried marijuana in their lifetimes

24,211 Fans through Saturday of a Facebook Web page supporting medical marijuana in Wisconsin

Posted by Gary at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2010

Advance-Titan (UW-Oshkosh): Bill to legalize medical marijuana under review in Wisconsin

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nice article from the UW-Oshkosh Advance-Titan

Source: Advance-Titan (UW-Oshkosh)
Pubdate: Thursday, April 15, 2010
Author: Jessica Bedore

BILL TO LEGALIZE MEDICAL MARIJUANA UNDER REVIEW IN WISCONSIN

If Assembly Bill 554 is voted into law, Wisconsin would be the 15th state to legalized medical marijuana.

Area residents who support the bill, also known as the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA), are hoping that the state legislature will vote in favor of the bill before it ends regular business on April 22.

Among the supporters of this bill is Gary Storck, president of Wisconsin NORML and director of communications of Is My Medicine Legal Yet?

Storck, who has congenital open-angle glaucoma, has been an advocate of medical marijuana for over 25 years.

He explained that a bill was passed on April 20, 1982 that authorized the establishment of therapeutic research programs to provide cannabis to patients.

Unfortunately for patients, the bill was written with the expectation that the federal government, who holds a monopoly on legal marijuana supplies, would be the provider.

This is what the new medical marijuana bill is trying to change.

Storck says medical marijuana is a safe and effective alternative to harmful prescription drugs.

"Many people are being harmed because they are being forced to take these drugs that are bad for their bodies," Storck said. "Many of the patients who are on these drugs say that they don't work well, were addictive or gave them symptoms that were intolerable."

According to Storck, the benefits of using a natural medication versus a synthetic one are great.

"Marijuana has never been proven to be harmful," Storck said. "It has never killed any lab animals during tests, and it doesn't mess with serotonin levels in the brain. It is a natural herb that has been used for thousands of years, so it has a long-term history of being very healthy."

According to David Nordstrom, a professor at the UW-Whitewater who recently debated with Storck, said we should be doing more test on this drug before we legalize it.

He said that he is not an ac tivist on the issue and is not lobbying for or against the legalization of the drug.

"There are those who want to throw the FDA out the window and go through the legislative political process to choose drugs. That's not right in my opinion," Nordstrom said.

Nordstrom also said he doesn't think there is much backing for the drug by health officials or medical providers.

William Stephan, student nurse's aide at UW-Oshkosh's Student Health Center, said marijuana has many adverse effects a lot of people are not aware of.

"Marijuana is a harmful drug that has adverse effects such as psychotic disorders, increased anxiety and depression. Research has also shown that the drug affects heart rate, coordination and memory and could cause learning difficulties," Stephan said.

Stephan believes that if more people would take the time to research the drug's true effects, they would no longer support the bill.

A recent poll by ABC News showed that 81 percent of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis, including 75 percent of Republicans.

"I think it has a good chance of passing, but I think that the use will be so limited that many people will not be able to obtain a prescription," Stephan said.

Storck said the thinks most Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate will vote to pass the bill. He is unsure about the response from the Republicans.

"No Republicans have come out and said that they will vote for the bill," Storck said. "Many have said that they support it, but aren't actively working to make it happen."

Storck said he is keeping his hopes up for the bill to pass, although, many are beginning to think it won't.

"We have until April 22 for it to pass out of both committees and have a floor vote," Storck said. "So far, no vote has been scheduled at this time. We really aren't seeing a lot of movement."

Storck said if the bill fails, it will be heartbreaking to many people in Wisconsin.

"The benefits outweigh the risks," Storck said.

Posted by Gary at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2010

WauwatosaNow.Com: Business Notes: April 14: Psychiatric disorders and marijuana link studied

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Instead of studying cannabinoids to find medical benefit, the Medical College of Wisconsin is trying to find harm. And of course, no humans will be studied either, because mice and rats smoke marijuana, not people.

Psychiatric disorders and marijuana link studied

Source: WauwatosaNow.Com:

The Medical College of Wisconsin will investigate the effects of chemicals in marijuana on the development of psychiatric disorders thanks to $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Some people who use marijuana, particularly teens, have increased risks of developing psychiatric disorders later in life, including schizophrenia-like psychoses and bipolar disorder.

Using lab research and mouse models, this study will test the hypothesis that the primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana produces an over-activation of an enzyme in the brain and that this is responsible for the increased incidence of psychiatric disorders in marijuana users.

Posted by Gary at 01:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2010

GUEST COLUMN: An Open Letter to Wisconsin State Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, Regarding His Position on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, April 11, 2010

Today's blog posting is courtesy of two Wisconsin medical cannabis activists, Jacob Cox & Alex Troester from the La Crosse, WI & Winona, MN Region Americans for Safe Access Coalition! Thanks Jake and Alex for the great analysis!

An Open Letter to Wisconsin State Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, Regarding His Position on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act

By Jacob Cox & Alex Troester
La Crosse, WI & Winona, MN Region Americans for Safe Access Coalition

Your position of opposition to the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA) as laid forth in your December 15, 2009, letter to the members of the Senate Committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue and to the members of the Assembly Committee on Public Health contains many traditional arguments against marijuana that for decades have neglected to consider the undesirable consequences of marijuana prohibition and how it has shaped the scenario in which we find ourselves with marijuana and hemp today. If one is to understand the importance of medical marijuana legislation such as the JRMMA, one must first understand marijuana prohibition.

We have learned through the prohibition of alcohol that the federal government prohibiting a substance for which there is a public demand does not and cannot eliminate that substance, but rather places it in the hands of an underground market. This underground market leaves marijuana entirely unregulated and in the hands of organized groups who will use violence if necessary to protect their marijuana and the large profits associated with its unregulated trade. Permitting marijuana to be used and distributed for medical purposes not only means making marijuana more regulated than it currently is, but it also means allowing patients who need it to obtain it lawfully in a safe, regulated manner rather than leaving them to find a dealer on the dangerous, unregulated underground market. Medical marijuana legislation such as the JRMMA would provide regulatory framework for the safe production and distribution of medical marijuana to patients with specified medical conditions. It would essentially legitimize and bring into the lawful realm of business a sizeable sector of the already-existing underground marijuana market, taking money away from criminal drug cartels.

The JRMMA, as you have said, does indeed circumvent the currently-in-place scheme for approving and controlling drugs to be used as medicine, but only because that is what prohibition has forced the medical marijuana movement to do. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently coordinating an effort with researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMA) seeking permission to begin the studies needed to complete the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is blocking their efforts. MAPS and the UMA researchers are trying to create a facility to grow specific marijuana strains under controlled, reproducible conditions to test under FDA specifications marijuana’s efficacy for various conditions. Such research is essential for FDA approval, but the DEA has repeatedly refused to approve such a facility. Many notable medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, have also recently urged the DEA and FDA to clear the way for medical marijuana research to no avail. Clearly certain federal agencies are dead set on stifling the necessary research to complete the FDA approval process, so the medical marijuana movement has had no choice but to pursue alternative legislative means to legitimizing marijuana as a medicine for patients who need it.

Reputable literature that details marijuana’s 4,000+ years of therapeutic and medicinal use by humans is now widely available to anyone with access to a well-networked library and the internet, so the argument that marijuana has no medicinal applications at this point is simply not true. While the FDA and DEA have been stifling approved research on marijuana’s medicinal properties, research in the state of California and outside of the United States has been progressing quite rapidly and continues to reveal the scientific details of marijuana’s many significant medicinal applications. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California-San Diego was initiated on behalf of the state of California after the state became the nation’s first to enact medical marijuana legislation and has since released numerous peer-reviewed scientific journal articles on the subject. The CMCR has concluded the following: inhaled marijuana has a safe and consistent therapeutic value comparable to that of currently-available prescription medications, inhaled marijuana is an effective treatment for neuropathic pain and multiple sclerosis spasticity, the THC content of marijuana can be used to determine a patient’s proper dosage of marijuana, and vaporization of marijuana is a safe and effective alternative method of administration that is often preferred by patients because it facilitates a longer duration of effects.

Research titled ‘Cannabinoids: potential anticancer agents’ appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Reviews Cancer 3 in October 2003 and demonstrated that marijuana helps cancer patients alleviate nausea, vomiting, and general pain by stimulating the appetite. Furthermore, this research concluded that the cannabinoids contained in marijuana can actually inhibit and suppress tumors by modulating key cell-signaling pathways. This property of the cannabinoids in marijuana is likely why Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California-Los Angeles found in 2006 that smoking marijuana has no positive association with lung cancer, even in individuals who claimed to have smoked more than 22,000 joints.

Recent advances in the medical marijuana industry have made it possible to assess the THC content of a given strain of marijuana in terms of a percentage (%THC). The different varieties of marijuana (Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, and Cannabis ruderalis) have also been demonstrated to have varied effects and applications. The %THC and variety of plant can be considered to determine the right type of medical marijuana for a given condition and to coordinate a safe, accurate dosage regimen. Marijuana extraction products such as hash oil and tincture can also be made and used in such a way that makes it even easier for a patient to control dosage.

While a more complete summarization of the thousands of recent research publications on medical marijuana would be quite extensive and fascinating, this handful of publications adequately demonstrates that marijuana can be used safely, therapeutically and medicinally, for many different reasons. Having established marijuana’s medicinal applications, it is important to evaluate the potential for medical marijuana to be abused and lead to other drugs.

Anything, including drugs, has the potential to be abused because humans have a tendency to repeat pleasurable experiences. It is thus a ludicrous concept, prohibiting something simply because it could potentially be abused. This concept would have fast-food, candy, television, and pleasure itself banned as well. Currently accepted and prescribed opiate pain medications have an extremely high potential for abuse and are also quite toxic, yet they are legal and readily available to patients. If such dangerous medications are to remain legal to prescribe, medical marijuana certainly deserves an equal consideration. Even if a patient were to use medical marijuana with such frequency that the National Institute on Drug Abuse would classify it as abuse, there would be very few, if any, undesirable consequences. Medical marijuana is safe, non-toxic, and may actually block opiate dependence, a finding that further disproves the gateway theory argument.

The gateway theory for marijuana makes sense at first glance, but many people who report moving on to other drugs after starting with marijuana are heavily influenced in their decision to do so by underground market poly-drug dealers who sell marijuana as well as a plethora of other substances. This gateway effect is then due more to the close proximity of marijuana to other more harmful drugs on the unregulated underground market than to any property of the marijuana itself. Furthermore, the gateway theory happens to hold true for other substances as well. The reality is that life is a gateway and that we move from substance to substance as we age and mature. It could be said that people start on milk, move to sugar, and then to coffee. Thus it cannot be claimed that marijuana is especially significant as a gateway to other substances.

While using marijuana for any purpose remains illegal under federal law, in October 2009 the Obama administration announced it would not use federal resources to prosecute individuals and/or businesses properly operating within a state’s given medical marijuana regulations. With this policy now publicized and in action, there is little for potential medical marijuana patients in Wisconsin to fear from the federal government.

Furthermore, prosecution of recreational marijuana users has continued as usual in the fourteen states that have already enacted medical marijuana laws, so there is no reason to believe that the JRMMA would undercut the ability of Wisconsin law enforcement officers to investigate and prosecute recreational marijuana activity. Under the JRMMA, patients and caregivers would be required to register with the Department of Health Services (DHS), which would be responsible for approving patients and caregivers and supplying them with a means to identify themselves to law enforcement as medical marijuana patients and caregivers protected under the JRMMA. This identification tool would make it very easy for law enforcement to distinguish between those complying and those not complying with the JRMMA. It would also make it easy to determine in court which defendants would have a solid affirmative action defense. If the individual is a registered and approved patient or caregiver, then there would be no grounds for legal prosecution. If the individual is not registered and approved as a patient or caregiver, then that individual would be subject to prosecution as usual with no grounds for affirmative action defense. The registration and approval guidelines contained in the JRMMA are there to make it as easy as possible for law enforcement and court officials to continue doing their jobs as needed.

Policy can only hide from the truth for so much longer, and it is becoming clearer each day to the people of Wisconsin that the truth about marijuana is that it is a safe, effective medicine with a wide range of applications. Patients in this state have known this truth for years and it is time they are finally given safe, legitimate, legal access to their medicine. We urge you to change your position and declare support of the JRMMA so as to align your position with that of the people of Wisconsin and with that of modern scientific research.

Posted by Gary at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2010

Wisconsin NORML/JRMMA.org: RELEASE: Wisconsin NORML to begin airing television ad supporting state medical cannabis bill AB554

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, April 2, 2010

The release about our tv ad, now on the air in parts of Wisconsin. Visit JRMMA.org to help get it seen in more areas!

For immediate release: Friday, April 2, 2010

Wisconsin NORML
WINORML.org
Contact Gary Storck 608-241-8922

RELEASE: Wisconsin NORML to begin airing television ad supporting state medical cannabis bill AB554

MADISON - Gary Storck, President of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) announced today that the group's television ad supporting AB554/SB368 the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA), will begin airing this weekend in parts of Wisconsin.

"Thanks to some generous donations from $1 on up, Wisconsin NORML will begin airing a tv ad showing the faces of Wisconsin patients who can benefit from this compassionate exemption", said Storck. "Wisconsin residents who believe its time to protect patients using medical cannabis from arrest and jail need to contact their state legislators now or the issue will have to wait until the 2011-2012 session. Many patients will not live that long. We hope the ad will inspire citizens to urge the JRMMA be passed, This Bill, This Time!"

Storck, who appears at the beginning and end of the 30-second commercial is a longtime Wisconsin medical cannabis patient and advocate as well as the director of communications for the Wisconsin medical cannabis advocacy group, "is My Medicine Legal YET?" (IMMLY).

The ad was created for the group by Steve Swain of No-Koast Productions. "There's no better feeling than helping others who deserve it, but couldn't help themselves," Swain noted.

To view the ad visit JRMMA.org. For more information contact Gary Storck at 608-241-8922. For more information visit WINORML.org, IMMLY.org, JRMMA.org and MadisonNORML.org.

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Posted by Gary at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)