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   ARTICLES : DRUGS : TRP 1 (SUMMER, 1997)
Medical Marijuana

Everyone's in a fuss over medical marijuana...

Despite the federal government's multimillion dollar anti-marijuana lobbying efforts, voters in both California and Arizona approved propositions favoring legalized medical marijuana last November. The pro-medical marijuana lobby was primarily a grassroots movement, but it found support from the people, from the American medical community, and from a billionaire philanthropist who has vowed to help keep the movement alive in other states. Now that the feds have lost on two fronts, they are once again pulling out the old "anti-drug" slogans and putting pressure on physicians who dare prescribe the forbidden medicine. Will prosecutors seek convictions for doctors who legally prescribe Cannabis, and will the same old propaganda work on a new generation? We think not, but see for yourself how it went down...

New England Journal of Medicine Favors Medical Marijuana
In December of last year, Dr. Jerome Kassirer, editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine came out in favor of controlled medical use of marijuana, calling current U.S. federal policy "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."
In his editorial, Kassirer suggested that marijuana be moved from Schedule I into Schedule II so that it may be prescribed by a physician for medical purposes. He also called the current policy "hypocritical" because it prohibits doctors from prescribing marijuana, but allows them to prescribe morphine a much riskier substance in many ways for pain relief.
The editorial also stated that a DEA judge ordered the same Schedule II reclassification of marijuana in 1988, but had his decision abruptly overruled by higher powers in the DEA. (UPI)

Billionaire Soros To Fund Continued Medicinal Marijuana Efforts
In a major challenge to current U.S. drug policy, billionaire financier George Soros has offered to bankroll new grassroots efforts that could lead to wider legalization of marijuana use for medicinal needs.
Soros, a noted philanthropist, said he was prepared to help finance ballot initiatives like those approved in November by voters in California and Arizona.
"The voters in Arizona and California have demonstrated that it is possible to support sensible and compassionate drug polices while still being tough on drugs," Soros wrote in a lengthy guest column in the Washington Post's "Outlook" section.
"I hope that other states will follow suit," he said. "I shall be happy to support (with after-tax dollars) some of these efforts." He disclosed he had personally contributed about $1 million to help fund the California and Arizona initiatives.
Soros added that "We must be particularly careful not to exaggerate the harmful effects of marijuana because it may undermine the credibility of our warnings about harder drugs." (Reuters)

Feds Harass Doctors for Advising Marijuana
Shortly after medical marijuana initiatives were passed in California and Arizona, U.S. Attorney General
Janet Reno made a public statement warning that doctors prescribing marijuana could be prosecuted for a federal crime and stripped of their authority to write prescriptions for anything. Shortly thereafter, government agents began harassing physicians who ignored the warning and began prescribing the medicinal plant.
The first reported instance of such physician harassment came from Robert Mastroianni, M.D., a practicing family physician in California. Two DEA agents questioned Mastroianni about his recommendation of Cannabis to "three seriously ill patients," shortly after the passage of California's Proposition 215.
According to Mastroianni, the agents questioned the doctor about his education and showed him a copy of the "letter of recommendation" for Cannabis that Mastroianni had written for one of his patients. It is not known how the DEA obtained the letter. They also requested that he give them his DEA number, which tracks the prescriptions that a doctor writes for controlled substances.
Mastroianni said that one of the DEA agents quoted a passage from an article from 1980s government-sponsored research on the effects of Cannabis. "He asked if I had ever read the article, whether
I had studied literature on medical marijuana, whether I had attended any medical courses on medical marijuana, whether I offered marijuana for sale, whether I referred patients to sources for marijuana, and whether I had prescribed, as opposed to recommended, it.
"Many of his questions were professionally insulting," Mastroianni remarked in an affidavit. "They implied that I had acted unethically and in violation of the law." The DEA agents then informed the doctor that it was illegal for him to recommend or prescribe marijuana and that marijuana was a deadly drug for which there was absolutely no medical use.
"This comment and the questions which preceded it were clearly meant to intimidate me and dissuade me from treating certain of my seriously ill patients in accordance with my medical experience and professional judgment," said Mastroianni. "I am now reticent and reluctant to recommend the use of medical marijuana even if it is my ethical duty to do so."
Under federal policy outlined by McCaffrey in December in response to Prop. 215, doctors who prescribe
Cannabis may lose their federal authority to write prescriptions, be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid programs, and even face criminal charges.
Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights, a coalition of local doctors and AIDS patients, have filed suit to block enforcement of federal law against Cannabis. The suit "challenges a draconian White House policy of intimidating doctors who simply seek to practice medicine responsibly," said Dr. Graham A. Boyd of San Francisco, attorney for the coalition.

Harvard Doctor Quits in Pot Protest
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist who supports the medical use of marijuana, resigned from a Harvard University affiliated center for addiction to protest a lecture by President Clinton's drug czar Barry McCaffrey. Grinspoon said he doesn't begrudge retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey the right to speak against the use of marijuana, but he objects to McCaffrey saying that doctors who prescribe it could be prosecuted.
McCaffrey was invited to deliver the March 7 lecture on treatment for addiction as part of a conference at the Harvard Medical School. McCaffrey "has no scholarly accomplishments and is doing harm by insisting that patients who need this medicine desperately should be subjected to confiscation and arrest," Grinspoon said.
Grinspoon is editor of the "Harvard Mental Health Letter" and author of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine. He has resigned from his affiliation with the Norman E. Zinberg Center for Addiction Studies at Cambridge Hospital, but is still part of the Harvard faculty. (Associated Press)

Oregon Clinic Sells Medicinal Pot
According to The Oregonian, an illegal clinic dispensing marijuana to sick and dying people in downtown Portland has been operating for months. Patients who suffer from arthritis, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and other chronic diseases say they can buy an eighth of an ounce of marijuana for $20 to $50, depending on their income. Marijuana cookies are sold in $2 packs, and a pot-filled brownie goes for $3.
Patients allowed the newspaper to visit the Portland clinic on condition that the location not be disclosed. They also have other reasons for secrecy. "We are concerned about vandalism, about our safety when it comes to people thinking that there are a lot of drugs here and a lot of money. And we are afraid of being accosted outside on the street," said Diane Densmore, once convicted of possessing the drug that she said helps her fight chronic back pain, irritable bowel disease, scoliosis, arthritis and depression.
The clinic opened after California and Arizona voters in November approved the medical use of marijuana. Oregon's lawmakers are also currently considering bills to legalize marijuana for medical use. Although authorities are aware of the clinic, they also concede that hassling seriously ill people smoking marijuana is not as high a priority as fighting violent crime. (Associated Press)

Clinton Backs Anti-Drug Ads
President Clinton wants broadcasters to provide $175 million in public service advertising to discourage teenagers from using drugs, which the government would match with $175 million.
Although overall use of drugs has declined dramatically over the past 15 years from 20 million people to 12 million, according to the latest government statistics, it has increased dramatically among teens over the past five years.
White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey believes one reason for this increase is that broadcasters sharply reduced their airing of public service ads such as "this is your brain and this is your brain on drugs" picturing an egg frying around the time of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. (Associated Press)

Thoughts from Dan Lungren
"People say 'Challenge 215!' I challenged it before it was voted on. I don't understand this 'sore loser syndrome,' which is, we can't win in the democratic process so we've got to go win in the courts. When people pass anything now, it's immediately challenged in the court.
We tell people, 'If you don't like a law, go use the process and change it.' Well, despite my best efforts, they changed the law. And we're going to have to live with it."
- Dan Lungren, CA District Attorney


Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-03-05 00:00:00