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Thread: Medicinal Marijuana

  1. #16

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    You guys should be using scientific studies and clinical data if you want to have a debate in keeping with the spirit of the thread. I'll start you off.

    *****

    FDA on Medical Marijuana: Science or Politics?

    by Joanne Silberner

    Listen Now [3 min 48 sec]


    The FDA says there are no
    scientific studies supporting the
    safety or efficacy of marijuana for
    general medical use. Rod
    Rolle/Getty Images



    All Things Considered, April 21, 2006 · The Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement saying there are no scientific studies to support the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But critics say the FDA is bowing to powerful political pressure.

    The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Office of National Drug Control Policy have long held that marijuana should not be legalized for any reason. And last year the Supreme Court ruled that federal authorities could prosecute patients taking medical marijuana in the dozen states that have approved its use.

    FDA spokesperson Susan Bro said the agency issued its statement in response to inquiries from the public and Congress.

    "For the FDA, there has not been enough clinical data demonstrating that either the drug is effective or safe in treating chronic, painful conditions," Bro said.

    Marc White works for a member of Congress who has requested more information from the FDA, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). Souder opposes the medical use of marijuana.

    "We've been asking them to look at the science of whether marijuana is really medicine for about three years, and asking them to weigh-in on it repeatedly," says White.

    The Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, is already on record with its verdict. The IOM report was not exactly what White was looking for.

    One of the authors of the IOM's 1999 study is John Benson, a professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska. "We thought there was sufficient evidence at that time to justify the statement that it had benefits in patients for pain, for the relief of nausea and vomiting from, for example, chemotherapy for cancer, or AIDS," Benson says. He adds that he's seen nothing since to contradict the panel's 1999 conclusion, though he is disappointed there haven't been more studies since then.

    The IOM report was carefully worded. It focused on possibilities and noted that benefits had to be weighed against potential harm from inhaled smoke.

    Opponents of medical marijuana, including Robert DuPont, drug czar in the Nixon and Ford administrations, point to the potential harm and say that without more solid proof of effectiveness, medical marijuana is a bad solution.

    To Bruce Merkin of the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-medical marijuana group, the FDA's decision had everything to do with pressure from Capitol Hill.

    "This is not a scientific statement, this is a political statement. Nakedly, baldly political," he says.

    Dr. Jerome Kassirer, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, says it's motivated by a concern that smoking marijuana might lead to drug addiction.

    "I think it's ridiculous. The fact is there are circumstances where smoked marijuana may be helpful to patients who are desperately ill," says Kassirer.

    Whether it was politics or science that pushed the FDA, what happens next is not in the agency's hands, says FDA spokeswoman Susan Bro.

    "That is the beginning and the end of what the FDA does," Bro said. "The enforcement of a product such as this is done by other agencies, such as the DEA."

    Meanwhile, Souder will continue to ask the FDA to post more information on harmful effects of marijuana on its Web site. And U.S. Rep Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), who supports the use of medical marijuana, will send a letter to the FDA next week to find out why the agency apparently disregarded the Institute of Medicine study.

  2. #17

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    [quote=Jasonik;214790]You guys should be using scientific studies and clinical data if you want to have a debate in keeping with the spirit of the thread. I'll start you off.

    *****

    FDA on Medical Marijuana: Science or Politics?

    quote]
    Thanks. I think we should do this all the time.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
    Oh please, if you think that "natural" is healthy you are listening to nonsense.

    It is the latest marketing fad. Most of the worlds drugs, medicines, and poisons all are or have had natural roots, so to start screaming "Science is evil" at anything on the basis of pulling it from the ground versus pulling it from a test tube is just plain paranoia.
    Uh, please sir? Don't start generalizing my comments.

    I called you out on a ridiculous analogy. First of all, heroin is manufactured with the aid of chemicals. It is NOT a naturally occurring substance.

    I'm not saying all natural things are good, for God's sake. Nor are all unnatural things bad. HGH (the synthetic kind) has proven much safer than naturally harvested hormone.

    What does all of this say about medicinal marijuana? NOTHING. Stick to the topic.

  4. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jasonik View Post
    You guys should be using scientific studies and clinical data if you want to have a debate in keeping with the spirit of the thread. I'll start you off.

    *****

    FDA on Medical Marijuana: Science or Politics?

    by Joanne Silberner

    Listen Now [3 min 48 sec]


    The FDA says there are no
    scientific studies supporting the
    safety or efficacy of marijuana for
    general medical use. Rod
    Rolle/Getty Images


    All Things Considered, April 21, 2006 · The Food and Drug Administration has issued a statement saying there are no scientific studies to support the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
    That's crap.

  5. #20
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686 View Post
    Uh, please sir? Don't start generalizing my comments.

    I called you out on a ridiculous analogy. First of all, heroin is manufactured with the aid of chemicals. It is NOT a naturally occurring substance.
    OMG!!!!!

    I am saying they come from natural roots. I am saying that most of the chemicals that we use have some sort of basis in natural origination. A lot of the poisons, drugs and medicines.

    I'm not saying all natural things are good, for God's sake. Nor are all unnatural things bad. HGH (the synthetic kind) has proven much safer than naturally harvested hormone.

    What does all of this say about medicinal marijuana? NOTHING. Stick to the topic.
    the tangent you are going on has nothing to do with it. I was trying to steer the argument about MJ AWAY from the whole "It's Natural, therefore it is good" BS I keep hearing.

    I hear that for almost any product. Until people realize that even dirt is "natural" they will keep professing that somehow something is better because it came from it.


    Medicinal MJ is fine by me and we are wasting $$, federally, pursuing it. It is not a constructive or helpful drug in the sense that it does not inspire people to do much, but it is not as destructive as many of the drugs we have both legal and illegal (alcohol being one of them).

    Having vending machines is more than a bit silly, but so is the persecution involving getting and using this stuff. And with 12 states saying "OK", how does the Fed have the right to start stomping all over them when it does not effect the country? Separation of MJ from the other hard core drugs may tighten the pipeline because of the removal of so many casual users from the supply chain of illicit.

    It will no longer be a "gateway" if people stop associating a relatively harmless substance with the big guns. You say MJ is bad and a kid tries it and does not turn into a junkie it is hard to convince them that OTHER drugs that you put in the same category are as bad as you said. Not only that, the dealer would probably know where to get the others.

    If you go to CVS for MJ, I doubt the cashier or pharmacist will be able to tell you where to get some smack.


    So back fully to OT, I don't know which is sillier. The vending machines or the legal pursuit of those providing them.


    Don't we have terrorists to catch or something?

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by All Things Considered View Post
    But critics say the FDA is bowing to powerful political pressure.
    Ya think?

  7. #22

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    Medical marijuana and organ transplants don't mix
    Patients who have used doctor-prescribed pot are being turned away from hospital transplant programs.

    By Stuart Glascock, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    May 19, 2008


    SEATTLE -- Should using doctor-prescribed marijuana be a deal-breaker for someone needing an organ transplant? It is not a theoretical question but a pressing and emotional one confronting hospitals and patients in states where medical use of marijuana is legal.

    This month, Timothy Garon, 56, a Seattle musician, died after being turned down for a liver transplant. He was rejected partly because he had used medical marijuana.

    Now, a second critically ill patient in Washington state says he has been denied a spot in two organ transplant programs because he uses doctor-prescribed marijuana.

    Jonathon Simchen, 33, of Fife, a town south of Seattle, is a diabetic whose kidneys and pancreas have failed.

    He said he was removed from the transplant program at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle because he admitted using medical marijuana. Later, he said, University of Washington Medical Center transplant officials refused to accept him because of the medical marijuana issue.

    "I'm just so discouraged," said the community college student, who wants to be a teacher. "I've lost all remnants of hope. I look at my life right now as if it is a prison term. I just have to serve each day."

    The lawyer who represented Garon has taken on Simchen's case.

    Douglas Hiatt argues that his clients are the victims of a loosely defined transplant policy, one not based on science.

    "They are really killing people over this," he said.

    Hospital transplant programs, wanting to ensure the best possible outcome for each transplant and to make optimum use of the limited number of organs available, have strict standards about drug use and smoking in determining who is eligible for a transplant list.

    Hiatt and advocates of medical marijuana are urging hospitals to adjust their policies after Garon's death May 1. Garon used marijuana with a doctor's approval to ease the symptoms of hepatitis C. He died without gaining admission to the University of Washington Medical Center's transplant program.

    Hiatt wants to negotiate on behalf of Simchen to get him on a transplant list, but he expects he may have to file a lawsuit to get that accomplished. If nothing else, Hiatt intends to compel judicial review of the policy.

    "No, it ain't over," Hiatt said. "Jonathon needs help. He's going to get on that list one way or another.

    "You cannot treat people like this. There's no rational basis for it."

    Although marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law, about a dozen states, including Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada, allow doctors to prescribe it for medical purposes. It is used for conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure and AIDS.

    University of Washington officials, citing privacy laws, declined to discuss specifics of individual cases, but issued a statement acknowledging that they took marijuana use into consideration.

    "Although medical marijuana may be an issue in rare cases, it is never the sole determinant in arriving at medical decisions about candidates for organ transplants," the statement said.

    A spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Hospital said smoking of any kind could "lead to patient-safety and transplant-effectiveness issues" and was precluded. She said the hospital's transplant committee would also weigh a patient's use of medical marijuana in pill form.

    At the University of Washington, the transplant committee said it reviewed "behavioral concerns such as a history of substance abuse or dependency. If such a history exists, then the committee looks at the period of abstinence the candidate has demonstrated to date," as well as the patient's efforts to maintain abstinence and potential to abuse again.

    Asked why the committee considered marijuana use under a doctor's supervision "a history of substance abuse," a hospital spokesman cited the federal law categorizing marijuana as an illegal drug.

    The United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the organ transplant system nationally, leaves it up to hospitals to determine how to allocate organs. The network's members include 254 U.S. transplant centers.

    There are nearly 100,000 people on waiting lists for transplants, the network said. On average, there are about 6,000 donors a year.

    Some medical ethicists say standardized written policies on marijuana use by transplant patients are needed.

    "Medical marijuana is opening a can of worms," said Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker with the liver transplant program at UCLA Medical Center.

    Her studies of transplant centers found discrepancies in eligibility criteria.

    She said bias existed in the medical community against marijuana because of the federal law.

    Some transplant committee members see it as an illegal substance and as grounds for automatic rejection.

    "If we are going to discriminate in this way, then we need to inform doctors that maybe they shouldn't be prescribing marijuana," Stewart said. "It's a problem right now. There's no distinction between a recreational drug user and somebody who used it only for medicinal purposes."

    She said many other addictive prescriptions, particularly pain medications, did not automatically disqualify patients from transplant lists because they were not illegal substances under federal law.

    She said UCLA excluded marijuana users until they could demonstrate that they had abstained for six months. She said the policy was being reexamined.

    The policy debate has done little to soften the grief for family and friends of Garon, the late singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist.

    His death triggered a flood of reaction.

    The website Stop the Drug War called it evil to deny transplants to medical marijuana patients.

    One Seattle-area alternative newspaper was so outraged that it listed the telephone numbers of University of Washington transplant center staff members.

    In an editorial, the Ventura County Star wrote: "So, be warned, medical marijuana -- legal for the last 12 years in California with a doctor's authorization -- could cost you your job. And if you need an organ transplant, it could cost you your life."

    stuart.glascock@latimes.com

    *****

    The editorial linked directly above:

    Editorial: Pot costs man shot at a liver

    Is death the price of inaction?


    Wednesday, April 30, 2008

    By the time state governments have resolved their differences over medical marijuana with the federal government, Timothy Garon will be dead, if he isn't already.

    Mr. Garon, lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band in Seattle, was reported Sunday by The Associated Press to be dying from Hepatitis C, which has destroyed his liver. He needs a new one.

    He would be on an organ transplant list to have at least a crack at a new liver, if it weren't for one thing: He used medical marijuana, under the authorization of a Seattle physician, as allowed by Washington state law. Dr. Brad Roter recommended the marijuana for Mr. Garon's nausea, abdominal pain and to increase his appetite.

    Little did they know that at several U.S. hospitals, people who use illegal substances — even medical marijuana where it is legal — are not eligible for a transplant. The University of Washington Medical Center has strict rules about transplant candidates' drug use, but reconsidered Mr. Garon's case when his attorney pressed the issue. Still, the university denied Mr. Garon a shot at a new liver. AP reported that UCLA Medical Center allows patients a chance to reapply for a transplant list if they stay off marijuana for six months.

    The Star understands that with a shortage of organs for transplant, available organs should go to those most likely to take care of them. That is why patients who drink heavily or use illegal drugs are often excluded from transplant lists. However, it is inconceivable that a sick person a doctor has deemed a candidate for medical marijuana is lumped in the same category as a drug abuser.

    It is inconceivable that in 2008, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is deemed to have no medical use in the U.S.

    That is despite a 1999 yearlong study by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science, which concluded marijuana may be effective in easing chronic pain, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, poor appetite, wasting caused by AIDS or advanced cancer, and muscular spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

    That is despite the fact that California and 11 other states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana to be recommended by doctors.

    And that is despite the fact that, just this year, the American College of Physicians — 124,000 doctors of internal medicine — formally called on the federal government to ease its ban on medical marijuana.

    The U.S. government has gone to such ridiculous lengths to prohibit medical marijuana that, from 1997 to 2003, it threatened to revoke doctors' federal licenses to prescribe medicine if they even discussed the benefit of medical marijuana with their patients.


    Californians and residents of 11 other states that allow medical marijuana are victims of the clash of state and federal laws that has been unresolved for too long. The U.S. Supreme Court recommended in 2005 that Congress resolve the issue.

    But, earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers can fire workers who use marijuana recommended by a physician.

    And, today, Mr. Garon, if he isn't dead already, doesn't have a prayer.

    So, be warned, medical marijuana — legal for the last 12 years in California with a doctor's authorization — could cost you your job. And if you need an organ transplant, it could cost you your life.

    © 2008 Ventura County Star

  8. #23
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    The only thing that has any merit in this action is the request that the drug be taken orally, not smoked.

    But even that is rather thin when it comes to deciding on who gets a transplant or not.

    I think this has more to do with some admins opinion than any medical or legal issue.

  9. #24
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    I just read recently that New Jersey is seriously considering medicinal marijuana. Good news.

  10. #25

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    Pot raid angers medical-marijuana supporter

    Seattle police Tuesday raided a University District office used by medical-marijuana patients, but the operator says he has been following state law and the authorities were overzealous.


    Martin Martinez says his U District office was a mess after police searched it Tuesday afternoon, seizing marijuana and patient records.
    [COURTNEY BLETHEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES]


    By Sara Jean Green
    Seattle Times staff reporter


    Martin Martinez says the small, private collective and outreach group he runs from a University District storefront are legal, a place for medical-marijuana patients to get help growing the medicine they need to manage their pain.

    One of the earliest advocates for what became a voter-approved state medical-marijuana law 10 years ago, Martinez says he hasn't handed out pot, nor grown any in his cramped office on Northeast 50th Street just off University Way Northeast.

    But Tuesday afternoon, Seattle police, armed with a search warrant, carted away marijuana and hundreds of private patient files, and tore down a wall in search of a marijuana patch that didn't exist.

    King County prosecutors say the raid was justified. Martinez's neighbors have been complaining about a pervasive smell of pot, they said, so authorities need to figure out whether Martinez has been breaking the law.

    But the episode has Martinez frustrated and his attorney furious. They accuse the police and prosecutors of being overzealous and refusing to honor the law that is supposed to let sick people use pot in peace. At a minimum, Martinez says, the authorities should let the whole thing blow over — and return his stuff.

    "We're trying desperately to be legal, to stay alive and not have these conflicts," Martinez said. "Science and law have to come to terms, because the doctors are recommending cannabis and the police have got to get on the same page."

    Martinez, 48, suffered severe neurological damage in a motorcycle accident in 1986. He later became one of the first people in King County to use medical necessity as a defense against prosecution for using marijuana.

    In 1998, he helped promote the medical-marijuana initiative that voters approved overwhelmingly. It allows people with certain serious ailments to use marijuana if authorized by a physician.

    For the past four years or so, he has operated Lifevine — a private collective of patients who work together to grow their own medical marijuana — and Cascadia NORML, a public-outreach organization that provides ID cards to medical-marijuana patients so they can show police that they have a legal right. He said the groups used three different locations in the U District on Northeast 55th Street and never had any problems.

    In June, Martinez moved into the storefront on Northeast 50th Street.

    One nearby business owner, who asked that her name not be published because she's concerned someone might retaliate, said the building immediately filled with the smell of pot. She said she hoped "the problem would just go away," but it didn't. So she and other neighbors complained to police.

    Tuesday afternoon, Seattle police bicycle officers entered Martinez's office after smelling pot in various parts of the building. They called for backup and called prosecutors to obtain a search warrant.

    According to Martinez, the police seized 12 ounces of marijuana buds and a large container of the less-potent leaf called "shake," which belonged to him and four other patients who happened to be there. And the police took 500 confidential patient files containing people's medical records and medical-marijuana prescriptions, Martinez said.

    Martinez said one officer became convinced that Martinez was growing a garden in a secret room, so he ripped down part of a wall.

    No plants were found. Martinez wasn't arrested. No charges have been filed.

    "I'm just hopping mad," said Douglas Hiatt, Martinez's attorney, who arrived at the office during the search and called a deputy prosecutor to try to talk her out of executing the warrant. "It's stupid and was totally preventable."

    Hiatt said Martinez is "super responsible" and makes sure he follows the letter of the law.

    "I'd like for them to give him his stuff back and compensate him for anything they broke," Hiatt said. "If they decide to go forward with this [and file charges], we're going to have a real fight."

    But Mark Larson, the chief criminal deputy for the King County Prosecutor's Office, said an investigation is warranted to determine whether Martinez was operating within the bounds of the state law.

    "We're certainly aware people have a right to use medical marijuana," Larson said. "But that doesn't include dispensing, and it doesn't include possessing unlimited quantities."

    State laws don't specify legal amounts or ways medical marijuana can be dispensed to others, he said. The state Legislature last year ordered the Health Department to establish maximum amounts each patient may possess, but the department's proposals are still being debated.

    "We'd love to have these issues clarified so that people who need it get it, and people who operate outside the rules risk prosecution," Larson said.

    The business owner who complained about the smell said she didn't know until after Tuesday's bust that Martinez's office was being used by medical-marijuana patients.

    The woman said she's highly allergic to marijuana and suffered headaches and dizziness. She said the smell was warding away some of her customers.

    She said she suspected someone was growing pot in the three-story building, which houses a mix of businesses and apartments.

    "It sucks they are sick and that they have to take medical marijuana — I wouldn't wish that on anyone," she said. "But it sucks that they're affecting an entire building."

    Martinez said Wednesday that he had no idea the smell was so pervasive. "I'm really sorry. We didn't want to bother anyone. We're a very private group, which is why it doesn't say 'medical marijuana' on the door.

    "We've tried to keep to ourselves."


    Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com
    Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

    *****

    Martin Martinez' website: http://www.cannabismd.org/

  11. #26

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    When It Comes To Medical Pot, Rats Are Smarter Than Our Politicians

    by Paul Armentano

    You can learn a lot from a rat – especially if the subject is medical cannabis.

    According to a just-published study from the University of Milan – you didn't actually think medicinal marijuana research took place in this country, did you? – the administration of whole-plant cannabis extracts provides superior pain relief compared to the administration of the plant's isolated components (such as THC) in an animal model of neuropathic pain.

    "[T]he use of a standardized extract of Cannabis sativa ... evoked a total relief of thermal hyperalgesia, in an experimental model of neuropathic pain, ... ameliorating the effect of single cannabinoids," investigators reported. "Collectively, these findings strongly support the idea that the combination of cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds, as present in [plant-derived] extracts, provide significant [therapeutic] advantages ... compared with pure cannabinoids alone."

    Ironically, US lawmakers and bureaucrats have long argued just the opposite – maintaining that the therapeutic use of the plant should remain illegal, but that its "active ingredients ... could be isolated and developed into a variety of pharmaceuticals, such as Marinol."

    So if rats can deduce that whole cannabis works better as a medicine than a single synthesized molecule, what's stopping our politicians from reaching this same conclusion?

    Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature" (2007, NORML Foundation).

    Copyright © 2008 Paul Armentano

  12. #27

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    There is a great article in recent New Yorker about the medical marijuana
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2...a_fact_samuels

  13. #28

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    Conflicting marijuana laws take stage in trial

    San Luis Obispo County businessman is fighting prosecutors' contention that he is a drug trafficker


    By Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    July 26, 2008


    A highly anticipated trial involving conflicting marijuana laws got underway Friday in Los Angeles federal court with a prosecutor painting the owner of a Morro Bay medicinal marijuana store as a brazen drug trafficker who sold dope to teenagers and toted around a backpack stuffed with cash.

    Defense attorneys struggled to provide context for their client's alleged crimes after being barred by the judge from mentioning the phrase "medical marijuana."

    At the center of the case is Charlie Lynch, a 46-year-old businessman from San Luis Obispo County, who opened a facility called Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in the spring of 2006.

    Prosecutors contend that Lynch violated federal law by selling $2.1 million worth of marijuana in less than a year, some of it to people "not yet old enough to legally drink."

    Lynch's defense attorneys would like to present evidence that their client was dispensing doctor-prescribed medical marijuana to sick people in accordance with state law and with the blessing of elected officials in Morro Bay. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that federal drug laws trump those of the state and that the reasons why the drug is distributed are irrelevant.

    But one of Lynch's lawyers hinted during opening statements that Lynch had sought -- and presumably received -- approval from an official with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration before he set up shop. If they are able to convince U.S. District Judge George Wu that there is a sufficient basis for mounting such a quasi-entrapment defense, they may be allowed to present evidence that Lynch believed he was operating within the law, which legal experts said would likely make him more sympathetic to jurors.

    "It could have an enormous effect," said Rebecca Lonergan, a USC law professor and former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. "Any time you have a hot political or public policy issue like this, there is the risk that members of the jury will decide based on their politics*, not the evidence in the case." *[Feared by gov't, but a right of the citizenry]

    Though they were not explicitly told that the case involved medical marijuana, potential jurors revealed strong opinions on the topic and confusion about the law during the jury selection process. One man, an engineer, said he had trouble reconciling how it could be legal to sell marijuana under state law and prohibited by federal law.

    "It just doesn't make sense to me," he said. The man was excused from the panel.


    Other potential jurors were dismissed after revealing strong feelings on the issue.

    "I don't think I'd be a fair juror because I tend to side with the state law," said a young woman from Torrance who told lawyers she had one friend with chronic back pain and another with stomach cancer who had used the drug medicinally.

    "If a person is going to have a better quality of life, I'd prefer to give them that," she said.

    Another potential juror said she was so troubled by the fact that someone would break any law -- state or federal -- that she had already concluded the defendant was guilty.

    Opening statements began Friday morning with Assistant U.S. Atty. David P. Kowal telling jurors that Lynch had sold drugs to more than 2,000 people, 250 of them under the age of 21, which carries a special sentencing enhancement under federal law. Many of the young customers "came back time and again," Kowal said.

    He told jurors that records seized from Lynch's store and home revealed that he distributed more than 100 kilos of marijuana worth about $2.1 million during the approximately 11 months he was in business. When police and federal agents raided Lynch's home in March 2007, they found a backpack containing $27,000, possible proceeds from recent sales at the store.

    "It involved money. Lots of money," Kowal told jurors, "and he was at the center of everything."

    If convicted, Lynch faces a minimum of five years in federal prison.

    As the prosecutor spoke, Lynch, who looks as much like a bank manager as drug dealer, sat impassively between his two federal public defenders, Reuven Cohen and John Littrell.

    Cohen told jurors that they "will hear directly from Charlie Lynch" when he takes the witness stand in his own defense. He also told jurors that there would be testimony from Lynch's patients, parents who took sick kids to his dispensary and elected officials from Morro Bay who supported Lynch's efforts.

    How much of that testimony jurors will actually get to hear remains to be seen. The judge must still decide whether the entrapment defense is viable and opens the door to such testimony, a decision likely to be reached over the next several days.

    If jurors were to hear Lynch's story, it would go something like this, according court files and interviews:
    Far from the cynical entrepreneur portrayed by prosecutors, Lynch is a compassionate and responsible man who wanted to help sick people and make a reasonable profit. He obtained a business license before opening his doors and was welcomed by city leaders in Morro Bay, some of whom mugged for photos with him at a Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting.

    The facility itself was situated in the heart of the seaside community's downtown shopping district.

    Among Lynch's patients was Owen Beck, a 17-year-old high school football and soccer player who developed bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated, Lynch's lawyers said. The teen's parents took him to Lynch's facility after traditional medicine took away his appetite and did little to ease his pain.

    The pot lessened Owen's pain but not his appetite, he said in an interview on actor Drew Carey's website, www.reason.tv.

    Steve Beck, Owen's father, said Lynch often gave his son marijuana at no charge because he was "a compassionate kind of guy."



    LOCAL SUPPORT: When Charlie Lynch, center, holding scissors, opened his medical marijuana
    store in Morro Bay in 2006, the Chamber of Commerce gave him a warm welcome.



    scott.glover@latimes.com

  14. #29

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    Medicinal marijuana effective for neuropathic pain in HIV

    In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to assess the impact of smoked medical cannabis, or marijuana, on the neuropathic pain associated with HIV, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that reported pain relief was greater with cannabis than with a placebo. The study, sponsored by the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) based at UC San Diego, will be published on line, August 6 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.


    Led by Ronald J. Ellis, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine, the study looked at 28 HIV patients with neuropathic pain not adequately controlled by other pain-relievers, including opiates. They took part in the controlled study as outpatients at the UCSD Medical Center. The proportion of subjects achieving pain reduction of 30 percent or more was greater for those smoking cannabis than those smoking the placebo.

    "Neuropathy is a chronic and significant problem in HIV patients as there are few existing treatments that offer adequate pain management to sufferers," Ellis said.

    "We found that smoked cannabis was generally well-tolerated and effective when added to the patient's existing pain medication, resulting in increased pain relief."

    Each trial participant participated in five study phases over seven weeks. During two five-day phases, randomly selected participants smoked either cannabis or placebo cigarettes made from whole plant material with cannabinoids (the psychoactive compound found in marijuana) removed, both provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Outcome was tested by standardized tests measuring analgesia (lessened pain sensation), improvement in function and relief of pain-associated emotional distress.

    Using verbal descriptors of pain magnitude, cannabis was associated with an average reduction of pain intensity from 'strong' 'to mild-to-moderate' in cannabis smokers, according to Ellis. Also, cannabis was associated with a sizeable (46% versus 18% for placebo) proportion of patients reporting clinically meaningful pain relief.

    The study's findings are consistent with and extend other recent research supporting the short-term efficacy of cannabis for neuropathic pain, also sponsored by the CMCR.

    "This study adds to a growing body of evidence that indicates that cannabis is effective, in the short-term at least, in the management of neuropathic pain," commented Igor Grant, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the CMCR.

    Source: University of California - San Diego

  15. #30

    Default

    Feds Score Another Conviction Against a California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operator

    from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #546, 8/8/08

    In a trial that garnered national attention because of the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, a federal jury in Los Angeles Tuesday convicted the owner of a Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary on five counts of violating federal drug laws. As was the case in previous federal prosecutions, the defense was not allowed to mount a medical marijuana defense or even mention the words "medical marijuana" during the course of the trial.

    Charles Lynch, 46, operator of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in San Luis Obispo County, faces a minimum of five years in prison and as many as 85 years after being found guilty of distributing more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, some of to people considered minors under federal law.

    Federal prosecutors portrayed Lynch as a mercenary drug dealer, toting around backpacks full of cash and selling dope to minors. One minor, Owen Beck, actually took the stand in Lynch's defense. Beck suffers from bone cancer, and accompanied by his parents, he would visit the dispensary to purchase medical marijuana recommended to him by his Stanford University oncologist. But as soon as Beck mentioned that he was ill, Federal District Court Judge George Wu blocked his testimony.

    In an interview with the Los Angeles Times after reaching a verdict, jury forewoman Kitty Meese said jurors understood Lynch was no run-of-the-mill drug dealer, but that federal law made no provision for dispensary operators. "We all felt Mr. Lynch intended well," Meese said. "But under the parameters we were given for the federal law, we didn't have a choice." She added, "it was a tough decision for all of us because the state law and the federal law are at odds."

    Lynch had run the dispensary in compliance with state law and with the blessing of local officials in Morro Bay, but after a fruitless, year-long investigation by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges failed to find any violations of state law, the sheriff invited the DEA to come and raid the dispensary. The DEA did just that last year, and a few months later a federal grand jury indicted him.

    Lynch is only the latest of at least six dispensary operators convicted under the federal drug laws, and his dispensary is but one of the dozens raided by the DEA in the last couple of years. With federal juries blocked from hearing about or considering the state's medical marijuana laws by federal judges in those cases, convictions are all but a foregone conclusion.

    "This just goes to show the difficulty of getting a fair trial on this in federal court," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "The feds are batting a thousand when it comes to getting convictions in these cases. You cannot get a fair hearing."

    "Charley got steamrolled by the federal government," said San Luis Obispo attorney Lou Koory, who represented Lynch in his dealings with local officials. "It's just not a fair fight when you can't tell the whole story," he said.

    "The jury selection process revealed that potential jurors in Los Angeles had major questions about why the feds would be prosecuting someone like Charley when there are several dispensaries operating within walking distance of the courthouse there," Koory pointed out. "Those jurors were dismissed for cause, so we were left with citizens who were apparently not concerned about the federal government's actions in this case and who felt compelled to follow the judge's instructions."

    "When you have things like Owen Beck being prevented from testifying, that only escalates the tragedy of this case," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access. "The jury was not allowed to hear the whole truth in the larger context of the state law," he said.

    Hermes was quick to point out that Lynch was not the only victim of the DEA and its local law enforcement collaborators. "When Charles was raided, his was one of the only facilities in the whole region," said Hermes. "Now patients have to go much longer distances, sometimes hundreds of miles, to get their medicine. Not only has this destroyed Charlie's life, it has worsened the lives of hundreds of patients."

    With the deck stacked against dispensary operators in these federal prosecutions, activists and advocates are looking for ways to change the status quo. Some involve fighting back against recalcitrant law enforcement officials like Sheriff Hedges, others looks to greater help from state officials, while still others are turning a jaundiced eye on the federal marijuana laws.

    At least one of Lynch's patients has filed suit against Hedges, alleging that he violated patients' privacy protections by seizing patient records and violated both her state and federal constitutional rights by doing an end run around state law.

    "The sheriff couldn't get a state search warrant, so he calls in the DEA and participates in the raid," said Koory. "In return for serving up Charley on a silver platter, the sheriff got access to all the evidence, including patient records," he explained. "The dispensary was a rock in the sheriff's shoe, so after a year's worth of failed investigation, Sheriff Hedges invited the DEA to come up to Morro Bay and raid the dispensary. That's the real story here."

    While the idea of suing sheriffs sounds appealing, it's a long-shot, said Hermes. "They are certainly subject to litigation if someone wants to file a lawsuit against a local official for cooperating with the federal government, but it's a difficult legal challenge," he said. "There is no law that prohibits local law enforcement from cooperating with the feds. What officials like the sheriff are doing is wrongheaded, harmful, and unnecessary, but it will be difficult to win, I think."

    In the meantime, said Hermes, there are other avenues to pursue in reining in renegade local officials. "One thing would be to get a pronouncement from Attorney General Jerry Brown directing law enforcement on appropriate conduct around these issues. We're expecting that to happen soon," he said. "Absence of direction from the attorney general has made it easier not only for federal law enforcement to come in and undermine the implementation of state law, but also to make it easier for local law enforcement to help in that effort."

    Hermes said that recent state court decisions, including last week's slap-down of San Diego County's challenge to the law (see related story this issue) are also helping define the playing field. "We've had multiple appellate court rulings declaring the state's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, that the two can coexist, and that local law enforcement should be upholding state law and not federal law," he said. "Between these rulings and the pending guidelines from the attorney general, there will be less and less wiggle room for local law enforcement to skirt the law."

    There is also the ballot box. Sheriffs are elected officials, and they could be challenged at the voting booth over their medical marijuana misbehavior, but ASA's Hermes couldn't recall a case where someone was either defeated or elected over the issue. "It is certainly an issue to bring up in sheriffs' races," he said. "If there are renegade law enforcement officials trying to skirt state law, we can try to make them feel the political heat."

    Still, Hermes predicted that given the state court rulings, the pending guidelines from the attorney general, and new set of faces in Washington next year, the renegade law enforcement problem will probably recede. "If it continues to happen," he said, "there will be a political battle I think public officials will be sorry they got into. I think we will see less and less cooperation between local law enforcement and the feds on this."

    A new administration in Washington could make a huge difference, Hermes said. "If we elect Obama, and he follows through on his promise to end federal raids on dispensaries, then we will hopefully see less federal activity here in California."

    But the ultimate solution is changing the federal law around marijuana. Legalization, decriminalization, rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule 1, or even passage of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would cut off funds for federal raids in medical marijuana states, are some of the steps that could be taken.

    "We need to see either marijuana rescheduled as something other than Schedule 1, or the US Supreme Court's Raich decision needs to be revisited and overruled. The logic behind that decision -- that medical marijuana grown, distributed, and consumed within California affects interstate commerce -- is a stretch at best," said Koory.

    "What we need is a comprehensive federal policy in the US," said Hermes. "Rescheduling or passing Hinchey would be easier than passing either decriminalization or legalization, but we would welcome any of those. We'll be working for a sweeping federal policy that includes rescheduling, further research, and allows for safe access to medical marijuana for patients all across the country."

    Until the federal marijuana laws are reformed or eliminated, medical marijuana patients are not safe. Instead, they will be subject to the whims and political proclivities of whoever has hold of the levers of power in Washington.

    *****

    Jury Nullification

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