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In this issue:

GET WRITING MAD! Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Fee Hike Proposed, Poor Patients Hit Hardest GET WRITING MAD! Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Fee Hike Proposed, Poorest Patients Hit Hardest. GET WRITING MAD! Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Fee Hike Proposed, Poor Patients Hit Hardest Contact the Governor to oppose the medical marijuana sections of The Domino Effect report!
Getting Active - a ToolShed Getting Active - a ToolShed
LTG (Letter-To-the-Gov) Example LTG (Letter-To-the-Gov) Example
LTE (Letter-To-the-Editor) Examples LTE (Letter-To-the-Editor) Examples
LTE (Letter-To-the-Editor) Examples Hearing Notes, including Testimony
OMMP News Update, next Meeting Announced OMMP News Update, next Meeting Announced
The Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM) The Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM)

-NEWS - Articles and Stories

Medical Marijuana From the Patient’s Point of View Medical Marijuana From the Patient’s Point of View
ACTIVISTS PROTEST MEDICAL MARIJUANA RAIDS AND ARRESTS ACTIVISTS PROTEST MEDICAL MARIJUANA RAIDS AND ARRESTS
COULD CANNABIS SLOW THE PROGRESS OF MS? COULD CANNABIS SLOW THE PROGRESS OF MS?
Teen cancer patient battles to choose own treatment; 16-year-old wants alternative therapy, not ordered chemo Teen cancer patient battles to choose own treatment; 16-year-old wants alternative therapy, not ordered chemo

GET WRITING MAD!
Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Fee Hike Proposed, Poorest Patients Hit Hardest
Contact the Governor to oppose the medical marijuana sections of The Domino Effect report

News of the the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Currently the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program annual permit is $100 for most but only $20 for approximately 30% of the patients who are on the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or receiving SSI. Many with chronic illnesses who can barely afford the yearly fee.

Unfortunately, “The Domino Effect: A Business Plan for Re-building Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery”, prepared for: Governor Kulongoski and Members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly by the Governor’s Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs proposes to: “Increase medical marijuana card application and renewal fee to $150 and earmark revenue above the level required to administer the program for prevention, treatment and recovery services program beginning in the 2007-2009 biennium.”

“The Domino Effect provides no evidence that therapeutic use of physician-approved medical cannabis raises costs to Oregonians” testified Dr. Rick Bayer, of the ACMM. “Anecdotal evidence suggests medical marijuana lowers the tax burden. Many patients, including those on OHP, choose herbal cannabis because of cost, effectiveness, or adverse reactions from conventional and expensive pharmaceuticals.

In spite of this, The Domino Effect proposes a medicine tax egregiously targeting Oregonians with pain syndromes, cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions. In addition, this medicine tax ignores the 30% of OMMP patients in dire poverty who cannot afford application fees to rise from $20 to $150. Those who cannot afford this medicine tax will no longer be able to register.

Actions that discourage registration with the OMMP undermine SB 1085. This medicine tax cost-shifts onto Oregon’s chronically ill. After the poor and sick can no longer afford the squeeze, there will be an increase in the number of unregistered medical marijuana gardens in Oregon possibly by 30 to 50%. Bipartisan efforts to pass SB 1085 included legislators and Law Enforcement who sought less unregistered growsites rather than more unregistered growsites like The Domino Effect will cause.

The Domino Effect levies a discriminatory medicine tax on the sickest and poorest Oregonians, worsens access to medicine, and wastes taxpayers’ money.”

A link to the “Domino Effect report” is at: oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/publications/07-09businessplan.pdf

The Domino Effect - currently - isn't typical legislation but more of an executive order type process. There was a hearing before Senator Morrisette's Public Health committee in June (6/21). The ACMM testified at this hearing where it was noticed that Senators Morrisette and Kruse don't like the “Domino Effect”.

The next day the ACMM voted to unanimously oppose the medical cannabis (marijuana) part of the Domino Effect. For the record, Dr. Higginson testified against the Domino Effect at the legislative hearing.

Then, the ACMM heard from Mr. Bob Nikkel of OMHAS and Stephanie Soares Pump from the Governor's Council. Mr. Nikkel expressed no real enthusiasm for the Domino Effect but said the Domino Effect was written entirely by The Governor's Council and OMHAS are only the publishers.

However, Mr. Nikkel and his one billion dollar budget controls the money that goes to drug warriors like the Oregon Nurses Association to do their anti-marijuana shows.

The Governor's Council talked to no one at OMMP to find out the fee structure or anything else.

Taking ACTION

The Domino Effect report is bad news for OMMA patients. The Domino Effect report is bad news for OMMA patients.  Advocates concerned about those unable to afford to register with the OMMP must let the Governor know early and often. The Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM) unanimously opposes all medical marijuana sections of the report but the ACMM are only 11 and can only advise.

One way to sink the medical marijuana portion of the Domino Effect is a letter blitz getting Governor and Candidate Kulongoski to say, "No, I won't tax your program. Or vote for you, either!"

It is up to the Oregon marijuana law reform community to lead the way in writing letters to the media as well to help stop this discriminatory medicine tax or as the Bend Bulletin calls it a "silly fundraising scheme".

Thru Letters-To-the-Editor (LTEs) You – yes, YOU! - can tell the world to come out against the Domino Effect. We see no downside in starting to let people know that this “Domino Effect” is happening and what they can do about it ASAP.

Also, some education should go to The Governor's Council. For suggested reading about the Governor's Council visit: oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/gov_council/main.shtml

The Domino Effect report is bad news for OMMA patients. The Governor must hear from voters because we have a representative government where elected officials need to hear from constituents. Please put this on all websites and blogs that now is the time for those who care about medical cannabis to pursue an important letter and phone call effort like we have in the past. MAILing the Gov; write to: Governor Kulongoski, 160 State Capitol, 900 Court Street, Salem, Oregon 97301-4047. Also PHONing; the Governor’s Citizens’ Representative Message Line - 503.378.4582, FAXing 503.378.6827   –Or- you can e-mail The Governor thru his contact page: http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/contact_us.shtml

Once you have your writing points then other letters or copies should go to the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (see Appendix A of The Domino Effect for addresses), the Department of Human Services Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OMHAS, publisher of The Domino Effect), and the Office of the Director of DHS.

A written letter is far superior to a email which has to be far superior to no communication at all. Phone calls and faxes work too. It's more important it gets sent rather than be the greatest grammar. Mostly, we need a yes or no answer without creating a novel that might be overwhelming for a Governor's assistant.

Now is time to get some posts up, threads going on all forums and blogs around the state. The question to Oregon cardholders and cannabis reform advocates is: Are we going to allow The Domino Effect report to the Governor make the OMMA go back to being nearly unaffordable for many Oregonians? And that doesn't even touch on the principles involved. If we wait. . . it may be too late.

After you send your letter, please share it with The MERCY Newz Report so others get stoked. Thank you.

WRITE ON! LTE and MEDIA Tools and Action Items

Thanks to those who tracked editorials down and posted them on the internet. Let's hope other papers pick that up.

Please update us with examples and suggestions on where to send letters, re-post this action item on your forums and forward this to supporters of cannabis law reform. After you mail your letter please forward a copy to The MERCY Newz Report so others get inspired and educated. The ACMM already opposes the Domino Effect but the newspapers and supporters of this medicine tax need to hear from cardholders, cannabis (marijuana) – medical specific or otherwise - activists, family, other supporters as well as a majority of the voting public. We need phone calls, letters, faxes, visits. They don't have to be long - short is best. Snail mail is always great too.

Writing a good LTE is an art. To improve chance of LTE (letter to the editor) publication please see: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/tips.htm

To get into the archives an article needs to be newshawked. Its just a simple matter of copy and pasting an article into an email and sending it to MAP's editors. The how to page is here: http://www.mapinc.org/hawk.htm

There are never enough NewsHawks. We seriously encourage anyone who enjoys sitting at their qwerty and helping the cause to become a NewsHawk. It is estimated some 90% + of the articles that get to the DrugNews are hawked by 10 folks, many of whom are doing at least double duty.

Many organizations get line space in the DrugNews articles' headers. For instance:

Newshawk: Madison NORML http://madisonnorml.org/

The advantage to getting an article into the archives is that it moves beyond the state list and can become a target for letter writers outside our area. And in our movement any print space is another step. We have to work hard to get fair coverage because we have been maligned for so long.

The lies we must dismember make for a long list. So ...

Get Active!

Continue to advocate folks support MAP/DrugSense. As the host for MERCYs e-mail list and many, many others MAP is the rock of information a large part of the drug policy reform folks rely on for its archived news.

The Media Awareness Project Index of Online HELP Documents can be found at > http://www.mapinc.org/help

Help make sure that patients can access medical cannabis safely and legally. Americans for Safe Access maintains a Take Action page to help you decide which work for you as well as tools to use. Common Sense for Drug Policy also maintains an organizers' toolkit with lots of info and resources as well.

Check Your Representatives' Ratings And See Who Has The Best Record. These ratings are based on point system designed by NORML. Points were assigned for actions either in support of or in opposition to the organization's position.

Then Contact Your Elected Representatives And either Thank them for their Support –or- Urge Them to 'Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers'. Visit:

The home page and check out Current Legislation. Also, they have an excellent action tool to use in following up on the H/R Amendment. See: http://hinchey.mpp.org/

The Drug Policy Alliance monitors legislative work in many states, especially those in which they provide support for educational or legislative efforts. To see the latest developments, visit:

There is also Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with Cannabis laws around the world.



LTL (Letters-To-yer-Legislator) Examples -

LTG (Letter-to-the-Govenor) ß sub-set of LTL – Letr to Legisr

LTG-Ex-1

June 30, 2006
Governor Kulongoski
160 State Capitol
900 Court Street
Salem, Oregon 97301-4047

Dear Governor Kulongoksi:

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) annual fee is $100 for most and $20 for patients on the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or receiving SSI. Patients with health problems can barely afford this.

The Domino Effect: A Business Plan for Re-building Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. Prepared for: Governor Kulongoski and Members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly By The Governor's Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs proposes to: "Increase medical marijuana card application and renewal fee to $150 and earmark revenue above the level required to administer the program for prevention, treatment and recovery services program beginning in the 2007-2009 biennium."

Many patients, including those on OHP choose herbal cannabis because of cost, effectiveness, or side effects from expensive pharmaceuticals. This Domino Effect recommendation proposes a medicine tax on Oregonians with pain syndromes, cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions. Those who cannot afford this medicine tax will no longer be able to register and will again become subject to arrest.

The DHS Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana unanimously opposed all medical marijuana parts of The Domino Effect. Please let me know that you also oppose the medical marijuana sections of The Domino Effect and you will not make my annual fee go to $150. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Ima Patient
1234 Activist Avenue
Voterville, Oregon
phone
fax
email
cell

LTE - Ex-1

Drop the pot fee
Published: June 29. 2006

Thank you for your editorial, "No sinners under law" (June 23). As you say, the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse's idea of a sin tax on medical marijuana is a silly fundraising scheme that should be dropped.

As I testified before the Oregon Senate Public Health Committee recently, the Governor's Council's idea is a discriminatory tax on chronically ill Oregonians that will decrease access to medicine and waste taxpayer money.

In 2005, the Legislature created an Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana within the Department of Human Services. This 11 member ACMM unanimously opposes the medical marijuana tax you describe.

Chronically ill Oregonians have enough trouble gaining access to medicine. None deserve additional barriers placed in their path by people who do not like the voter decision to pass the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act in 1998.

Richard Bayer, M.D.
June 27th, 2006

LTE-Ex-2
From: Laird Funk
Subject: domino affect editorial

Editor-

I want to thank you for your common sense and compassionate stand on the attempt to tax medical marijuana users to pay for the expansion of drug treatment and prevention programs. It is clear that this proposal was hatched by those who not only have little understanding of the reality of medical marijuana users in Oregon, but who have also seem to remain ignorant of those life and death issues facing Oregon medical marijuana users. Yes, taxing sick people to pay for drug programs is an abhorrent and woefully misguided approach to solving the problem of funding these important programs, but the idea does approach an important concept-having marijuana users pay for drug treatment programs.

In 1990, I was Chief Petitioner for a measure (which did not make the ballot) which would have funded drug education and treatment programs by charging adult Oregonians a fee for the right to cultivate and possess marijuana for their personal, private, non-commercial use. Translated into today's reality such a proposal might require a $200 annual payment to the Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the right to cultivate and posses amounts of marijuana similar to those allowed under the medical marijuana law. Using commonly accepted figures of about 300,000 adult Oregonian marijuana users, that would raise $6,000,000 per year for OMHAS compared to the $20,000 - $30,000 at the very most which might be available by taxing medical marijuana users. While responsible adult marijuana users do not constitute a problem, they should be more than happy to eliminate their criminal liability and help Oregonians at the same time.`

Laird Funk
Williams, Oregon
June 24, 2006

LTE-Ex-3

No sinners under law

Oregonians approved the state's medical marijuana law way back in 1998, giving those who would benefit from the drug the right to obtain a physician's prescription for it. While the law has problems, it did not, as the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse seems to believe, create a new class of "sinners" ripe for being taxed to fund social programs.

Supporters of the initiative petition that put the law in place argued that marijuana can be an effective tool in fighting the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy, the muscle spasms that can come with multiple sclerosis, the pain that is part of glaucoma. It can, in other words, make life bearable for those suffering long-term health problems. Oregonians bought the argument and approved the initiative by a 100,000-vote margin in November 1998.

The law does have its problems. Those who seek to use marijuana under it must obtain a license from the state of Oregon before doing so, a move that requires a doctor's certification that the would-be licensee will benefit from it. Those certifications have, on occasion, been laughably easy to get, and some doctors have come mighty close to making a cottage industry of the process. That, we suspect, was not at all what voters had in mind.

At the same time, they clearly did not intend to label those who use marijuana for medical reasons "sinners." In fact, the statute itself says in its opening sentences that marijuana must be "treated like other medicines." It's a message the governor's council apparently has yet to receive.

That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from the council's recommendation to increase the fee for a medical marijuana license by half and then use the extra money collected to beef up the state's drug abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs. That money would be pooled with money raised by increasing taxes on beer, wine and hard liquor. The latter three plus the tax on cigarettes are, of course, the traditional "sin" taxes that voters tend to approve because those using the substances in question are somehow morally weak.

If the state is going to get into the business of declaring users of legal medical prescriptions sinners and then taxing them as a result, it has plenty of fertile ground. Birth control pill users could be taxed to pay for anti-teen pregnancy campaigns on the theory that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Users of such anti-depressants as Prozac could be taxed to fund mental health services because, after all, some mental health problems are the result of some personal weakness. You get the idea.

A better plan would be to treat medical marijuana and those who use it as Oregonians and the law intended. The governor's council should drop this silly fundraising scheme and move on.

Source: Bulletin, The (Bend, OR) bendbulletin.com - published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc.
Author: Editorial page editor
Article Webpage: www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060623/OPIN01/606230325/1032
Website:

Notes on Hearing for future reference. A few activists were recently asked to testify on June 21 before Senator Morrisette's Public Health Committee. HEARING INFO for those who are interested. It was streamed live, people could watch and listen to it at this site: oregon.gov/DAS/IRMD/OPS/en_pctv_rooms.shtml. The Committee was Public Health Membership (see: leg.state.or.us/comm/commset.htm) these are the members:

Bill Morrisette, Chair
Jeff Kruse, Vice-Chair
Avel Gordly
Charles Starr
Joanne Verger

Visit: leg.state.or.us/05reg/agenda/webagendas.htm for info like -

Date: Wednesday-June 21, 2006
Time: 9:00 A.M.
Room: HR 170 (was moved to Room F)

It was titled -

Informational Meeting
Medical Marijuana

Update on SB 1085 (2005) rule-making and other issues Grant Higginson, M.D. Department of Human Services Rick Bayer, M.D., Chair, Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACCM)

Madeline Martinez, Member, ACCM
Lee Berger, J.D., Member, ACCM
Lt. Mike Dingeman, Oregon State Police


Dr. Rick Bayer's oral testimony before the Senate 21 June 2006. This was before the ACMM came out against the Domino Effect and offers some discussion points.

Tstmy (TESTIMONY)-Ex-1

GOOD MORNING Mr. Chair and Committee Members:

Thank you for receiving my testimony. For the record my name is RICHARD BAYER, MD. I am board certified in internal medicine and practiced in Oregon from 1981-1996 routinely caring for chronically ill patients. After a blood clot ended my practice, I stayed active in medicine, was awarded a Fellowship in the American College of Physicians and co-authored: Is Marijuana the Right Medicine For You? A Factual Guide to Medical Uses of Marijuana I was a chief petitioner, co-author, and spokesperson for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act that Oregon voters approved in November 1998. I maintain a website with a medical cannabis bibliography, authored an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, regularly review medical literature concerning cannabis, and testified as a medical cannabis expert in Oregon courts.

A possibly overlooked part of SB 1085 is the Department of Human Services Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana ORS 475.303 Sub 3 states “The committee shall advise the [DHS] director on the administrative aspects of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, review current administrative rules of the program and provide annual input on the fee structure of the program”.

Currently the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) annual permit is $100 for most but only $20 for the approximately 30% of patients on the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or receiving SSI. Many with chronic illnesses can barely afford those costs.

Unfortunately, the DHS Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services published The Domino Effect: A Business Plan for Re-building Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery. Prepared for: Governor Kulongoski and Members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly By The Governor’s Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs. The cover page says to contact the DHS OMHAS for additional information or copies of the report. This Governor’s Council recommendation proposes to: “Increase medical marijuana card application and renewal fee to $150 and earmark revenue above the level required to administer the program for prevention, treatment and recovery services program beginning in the 2007-2009 biennium.”

The Domino Effect provides no evidence that therapeutic use of physician-approved medical cannabis raises costs to Oregonians. Anecdotal evidence suggests medical marijuana lowers the tax burden. Many patients, including those on OHP, choose herbal cannabis because of cost, effectiveness, or adverse reactions from conventional and expensive pharmaceuticals.

In spite of this, The Domino Effect proposes a medicine tax egregiously targeting Oregonians with pain syndromes, cancer, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions. In addition, this medicine tax ignores the 30% of OMMP patients in dire poverty who cannot afford application fees to rise from $20 to $150. Those who cannot afford this medicine tax will no longer be able to register.

Actions that discourage registration with the OMMP undermine SB 1085. This medicine tax cost-shifts onto Oregon’s chronically ill. After the poor and sick can no longer afford the squeeze, there will be an increase in the number of unregistered medical marijuana gardens in Oregon possibly by 30 to 50%. Bipartisan efforts to pass SB 1085 included legislators and Law Enforcement who sought less unregistered growsites rather than more unregistered growsites like The Domino Effect will cause.

The Domino Effect levies a discriminatory medicine tax on the sickest and poorest Oregonians, worsens access to medicine, and wastes taxpayers’ money. The Domino Effect section targeting medical marijuana patients should be opposed by supporters of SB 1085. Thank you.

Richard Bayer, MD
ACMM

OMMP MEETS

Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) public meetings of the ACMM happen quarterly on a regular basis in Portland, Salem and Eugene. To discuss or propose changes one can attend these meetings hosted by the OMMP. The MERCY Newz Report tracks these on our calendar and posts copies of the Agenda and Minutes on the website in our online library. You can also keep up on Public Meeting Notices by visiting the OMMP website at:



Next meeting is:
September 21, 2006
from 10 am to 2:30 pm at
McKenzie Center (DHS)
2885 Chad Drive, Room 1
Eugene, Oregon 97408

At the September meeting the ACMM is expected to entertain motions related to The Domino Effect (such as opposing it, analyzing it more formally, coming back with a report, and allowing those who testify before the legislature to say the ACMM opposes it). The ACMM cannot officially oppose The Domino Effect until they meet because the democratic process doesn't want public bodies, like the ACMM is now, to vote in secret - even if everybody "knows" the ACMM is going to oppose this. But the "open meeting laws" and "public meeting laws" that govern the legislatively-created ACMM don't apply to individuals or activist groups who make up the ACMM and they can express opinion at will. There’s no problem with them discussing in public how they’re going to vote or to advise the public on what they can do about it.

About the ACMM

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM) provides an opportunity for public to discuss administrative issues with the OMMP management.

Section 7 of Senate Bill 1085, required the Director of DHS to appoint an 11 member advisory committee (a committee to advise the Director of DHS) 'from persons who possess registry identification cards, designated primary caregivers of persons who possess registry identification cards and advocates of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.' The ACMM replaces the Administrative Workgroup, which had previously worked on such matters.

The ACMM members consist of: Richard E. Bayer, M.D., Chair; Sandee Burbank, Vice Chair; Leland Berger, Todd Dalotto, Laird Funk, Darryl George, DO, Chris Iverson, Jim Klahr, Madeline Martinez, Stormy Ray, and John Sajo. The most salient feature of this group is that no one who opposes the OMMA is on the committee.

This committee will be merely advisory, and the director can reject advice from the committee once it is formed. Additionally, advisory committee meetings are subject to Oregon's open meeting laws, so that any interested person can get notice of the meetings and attend.

Contacting The ACMM. Oregon NORML lists the email addresses for all the ACMM members at:

http://www.ornorml.org/legal/acmm.htm

Other OMMP News

As of March, 2006, there were 11,592 patient cardholders, total of 13,048 with pending applications. From February 23, 2006 to March 23, 2006, the program received 301 new applications, 358 renewal applications, 870 cards were issued, and 32 denials or terminates.

Denied or Terminated applications are usually due to incomplete information. Ms. Salsbury, Program Manager, clarified that renewing patients who have done the Criminal History Request (CHR) form within about 3-4 months are not required to resubmit the CHR form with the renewal application.

24/7 Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS) VERIFICATION system is up. Ms. Salsbury announced that police could now check cardholder status 24 hours per day and 7 days per week with any LEDS terminal.

The OMMP has access to a report that accounts each check that is run by an officer’s DPSST (Badge Number) and what location. The program would be able to detect if an officer was searching. A report every quarterly meeting showing the number of inquiries - such as how many times officers are accessing the system by county - was requested; Ms. Salsbury will research this topic.

Spanish application materials are available for application instructions, new application form, renewal application form, change request form, and criminal history request form. These forms are available online and upon request. Ms. Salsbury encouraged clinics to take copies of the Spanish forms for feedback.

Contacting DHS/OMMP

DHS Health Services
OMMP - Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
P.O. Box 14450
Portland, Oregon 97293 - 0450
Phone: (971) 673-1226, Fax: (971) 673-1278
web: http://oregon.gov/DHS/ph/ommp/


Medical Marijuana From the Patient’s Point of View
by Kenneth Michael White

July 01, 2006 - The House of Representatives recently voted down an amendment to a spending bill that would have prevented the Justice Department from spending Federal tax dollars on medical marijuana investigations and enforcement actions in those States that have decriminalized marijuana for medical use. From the perspective of a person with a serious illness whose doctor has recommended the medical use of cannabis, the congressional vote was an unfortunate 259 to 163 against common sense.

Of course, common sense is not always common (especially in Washington, D.C.). In this sense, the congressional vote against medical marijuana is nothing new. For example, the 75th Congress started the trend of ignoring reality when it comes to medical marijuana by passing The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Over the objection of the American Medical Association, the 75th Congress allowed prejudice (directed primarily towards Spanish-speaking persons in the Southwest) to trump intelligence. America has paid dearly for this mistake, both in terms of wasted tax dollars spent punishing unpopular people and the inevitable loss of liberty associated with asking the government to protect people from themselves.

The 259 members of the 109th Congress who failed to vote in favor of correcting a mistake of 69-years and counting have given de-facto approval to the practice of punishing sick and dying people. Granted, the Drug Enforcement Administration has promised the United States Supreme Court that it does not target individual medical marijuana patients, but the agency nevertheless opposes the end of medical marijuana prohibition and therefore desires to, at least, threaten legitimate medical marijuana patients with criminal sanction. But, why? Why is it so hard to accept the private medical use of marijuana?

Are people upset with the medical use of marijuana because they believe it looks like lawlessness? Would such people change their view about medical marijuana if they knew that the American Medical Association once considered the plant to be medicine? If they knew that the Chinese have been using the plant as medicine for thousands of years? If they had a family member who needed marijuana to ease the symptoms associated with cancer, AIDS, and/or chronic pain?

Are people upset with the medical use of marijuana because they believe that some medical marijuana patients do not “look” sick? Well, should Congress order doctors to only prescribe medicine on the basis of who “looks” sick to the average person with no medical background or training? What, exactly, is a cancer patient supposed to look like anyway? How about an AIDS patient? An MS patient? Glaucoma? Arthritis? Is it even possible or desirable to judge by a glance which person deserves a disabled parking permit and which person does not?

Are people upset with the medical use of marijuana because they think that marijuana is addictive? Would such people change their view about medical marijuana if they knew that the supervised use of pain medication is not the equivalent of the unsupervised abuse of pain medication? If not, then should Congress prevent doctors from recommending the use of all medicines that could be addictive or could be abused? Why should people be deprived of useful medicine on the basis that certain individuals cannot be trusted with such medicine? Isn’t it simply cruel to threaten to punish people with incarceration for privately following their doctor’s advice?

Are people upset with the medical use of marijuana because they think that marijuana is dangerous? Would such people change their view about medical marijuana if they knew that no one in recorded human history has ever died from overdosing on marijuana? Alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana, so should we re-prohibit alcohol and bring back organized crime figures like Al Capone? If not, then why should we keep medical marijuana prohibition in place when it helps foster a black market that provides ready funding to international terrorists? Is it possible that the war on drugs is more dangerous than the medical use of marijuana? Isn’t it the current system of drug regulation that subjects our children to dangerous streets and dangerous temptations? Has Coors Brewing Company ever sponsored a drive-by shooting or otherwise used violence to profit from the sale of beer? Has a legitimate medical marijuana patient’s use of marijuana ever caused measurable harm to society?

According to the polls there is only 20% of the American population that does not favor medical marijuana. That means a whopping 80% of the country favors making marijuana available for doctors to prescribe to patients without government interference. Despite the fact that both federalism and conservatism seem to call for letting States enact medical marijuana laws and keeping government out of people’s private lives, a majority-of-the-majority in the Republican Party refuses to recognize any comity or restraint, and the Democratic Party is sometimes too afraid to stand up for what is often viewed as a “hippie” drug. The result is an out-of-touch Congress that criminalizes the sick and dying.

Oh well, maybe next year common sense will, finally, prevail in Congress again. In the meantime, people who need medical marijuana to survive are forced to go on living with the stigma of being a violator of an unjust law, which is still some kind of law after all, and which, for conscientious citizens, does not feel good to disobey. The good news is that medical marijuana patients are on the side of truth; however, the bad news is that they have to beg Congress to catch up with them for at least one more year.

Kenneth Michael White is an attorney and the author of “The Beginning of Today: The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937” and “Buck” (both by PublishAmerica 2004). Source: http://www.opinioneditorials.com/freedomwriters/kwhite_20060701.html


ACTIVISTS PROTEST MEDICAL MARIJUANA RAIDS AND ARRESTS

The dragnet that was dropped over San Diego County medical marijuana dispensaries Thursday has prompted deepening concern among patients who rely on the plant to relieve their symptoms.

Most of the dispensaries targeted by the drug task force stayed closed yesterday, but some were open despite a terse warning from officials that they might be next.

Dozens of medical marijuana activists protested yesterday outside the federal courthouse, where one day earlier local and federal law enforcement leaders announced the results of a raid on area pot dispensaries.

Fifteen people were arrested on various state and federal charges after an 18-month investigation into the dispensaries, which are legal under state law but remain forbidden under federal drug rules.

California's landmark 1996 medical marijuana law allows patients to grow and use marijuana, but a follow-up bill that tried to clarify the legislation does not fully spell out guidelines on the commercial sale of the drug.

The resulting confusion has left patients and local officials in a lurch.

"How can you bust people for breaking the law when there are no rules?" wondered Dion Markgraaff, a medical marijuana advocate who helped organize the demonstration. "That's what everybody wants regulation."

Motorists driving by the protest along Broadway honked in apparent support of the protesters, who stayed at the corner for nearly an hour before marching to the Hall of Justice.

They hoped to meet with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who vowed at a news conference Thursday to continue raiding dispensaries if they do not shut down.

Courthouse security teams refused to allow all the protesters to enter the building, permitting only a handful of them to drop off a letter to Dumanis.

The rejection did not sit well with Richard Hertz, a medical marijuana advocate from Clairemont who was among those left outside. "Our local officials aren't following state law or the will of the people," he said.

The letter to Dumanis urged her to develop local rules governing pot dispensaries so patients would have reliable and safe access to their pain-relieving medicine.

Dumanis was out of her office yesterday but had an aide read her the letter by telephone before issuing this response: "Legitimate patients and/or their real care providers can grow reasonable amounts of marijuana as prescribed by actual treating physicians. That's not what's happening here."

Dumanis was unavailable for follow-up questions.

Medical marijuana activist Rudy Reyes, who suffered severe burns across his face and body in the Cedar fire, wants to know what options exist for patients like him if they are unable to grow plants on their own or buy pot from dispensaries.

"There are no guidelines for the county," he said outside the federal courthouse. "What am I supposed to do?"

In an unrelated development yesterday, three advocacy groups petitioned a state court to intervene in a lawsuit brought by San Diego County that seeks to overturn California's medical marijuana laws.

The ACLU, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance filed court papers to join in defending the pending case.

Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA), Cited: District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Cited: ACLU, Cited: Americans for Safe Access, Cited: Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Bookmark: (Marijuana - California), Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topics/San+Diego+County


COULD CANNABIS SLOW THE PROGRESS OF MS?

MILLIONS of people could benefit if the world's first trial to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on progression of multiple sclerosis is a success, it has been claimed.

The UKP2million three-year trial, led by Professor John Zajicek, is being carried out in Britain with the help of 500 volunteers, nearly 20 of whom have already been recruited.

The aim is to discover whether cannabis derivatives could play a role in slowing the progression of MS, a chronic disease of the nervous system suffered by around 85,000 people in Britain.

Evidence suggests cannabis extracts may play a role in relieving the symptoms of MS. Previous trials led by Prof Zajicek, of Peninsula Medical School and Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Devon, also found evidence to suggest one part of cannabis, THC, might slow the development of the disease.

He said: "If this study demonstrates cannabinoids do have a longer term effect on the progression of disability, there are potentially far-reaching implications, not only for people with MS, but also for those with other neurodegenerative conditions.

"If cannabinoids really can protect nerve cells, it might be possible to think about other conditions like Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and motor neuron disease, and other degenerative conditions which result from the loss of cells."

Source: Manchester Evening News (UK), Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topics/multiple+sclerosis, Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Teen cancer patient battles to choose own treatment
16-year-old wants alternative therapy, not ordered chemo

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- A teen cancer patient fighting to use alternative medical treatment said he told a juvenile judge in a closed hearing what it's like to go through chemotherapy and he didn't want to relive it.

"I told him my story ... so he could understand where I was coming from and live through me," 16-year-old Starchild Abraham Cherrix said.

In all, the judge heard 11 hours of testimony before the two-day hearing concluded late Tuesday. At issue is whether the teen can make his own medical decisions and can keep living with his parents and four siblings on Chincoteague, an island off Virginia's Eastern Shore. The judge is expected to issue a written decision by July 18.

The teen, who is known as Abraham, has Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes.

Three months of chemotherapy last year made him extremely weak. So when he learned in February that his cancer was active again, he turned -- against doctors' advice -- to a sugar-free organic diet, herbs and visits to a clinic in Mexico. A social worker asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment.

In May, the judge issued a temporary order finding Jay and Rose Cherrix neglectful for supporting their son's choice to pursue alternatives. Judge Jesse E. Demps also ordered the parents to share custody of Abraham with the Accomack County Department of Social Services. Abraham's parents face losing custody completely.

"What it boils down to is does the American family have the right to decide on the health of their child," Jay Cherrix said, "or is the government allowed to come in and determine that themselves and threaten one way or the other to split our family up?"

Abraham and his parents think a doctor reported them to Social Services for not continuing with chemotherapy. The judge initially forbade the family to leave Virginia, then let Abraham return to the Mexican clinic last month after the teen had X-rays to assess his disease. The X-rays showed the chest tumor had grown mildly, Abraham said.

Barry Taylor, the family's attorney, said the case had major ramifications not only in Virginia, but also across the nation when it comes to parents' rights to determine what is best for their children.

"I don't think any family in the commonwealth would be comfortable with the fact that a social worker with no medical training could make a medical decision for their child," Taylor said. "It's an assault on the American family."

Prohibition was introduced as a fraud; it has been nursed as a fraud. It is wrapped in the livery of Heaven, but it comes to serve the devil. It comes to regulate by law our appetites and our daily lives. It comes to tear down liberty and build up fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance. It comes to confiscate by legislative decree the property of many of our fellow citizens. It comes to send spies, detectives, and informers into our homes; to have us arrested and carried before courts and condemned to fines and imprisonments. It comes to dissipate the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are now living and to fill our land with alienations, estrangements, and bitterness.

It comes to bring us evil --only evil-- and that continually. Let us rise in our might as one and overwhelm it with such indignation that we shall never hear of it again as long as grass grows and water runs.

(From an 1887 speech by Roger Q. Mills of Texas; quoted more than once during the alcohol prohibition debates in Congress. He proved to be a prophet, as the years 1918-1933 taught us. We're learning the truth of this prophecy again in the so-called "war on drugs".)


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