Medical Marijuana


December 9, 2009 – If you want to watch a trial where the defendant has no moral culpability, is prevented from testifying truthfully and where the prosecution distorts an otherwise reasonable law beyond all rationality, you can see one this month right in Somerville. John Wilson, a multiple sclerosis patient treating himself with home-grown marijuana, is charged with operating a drug manufacturing facility. There is no charge, nor any evidence whatsoever, that he supplied or intended to supply marijuana to anyone but himself.

An individual with no prior record growing marijuana plants for home use should be eligible for pre-trial intervention; but this case is being handled by the state’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit. Wilson refused to plead guilty and accept several years in prison (a potential death sentence), so the state is seeking the maximum 20-year sentence. To justify its “manufacturing” charge, the state determined that every day a plant grew constituted a separate offense. It matters not a whit that the statute (N.J.S.A.2C:35-1.1 et seq.) is intended to combat drug distribution chains and those who pose the greatest danger to society. It ignores a statutory intent focused on harm to victims and the actor’s role in a drug distribution network. Section 4 of the statute even excludes coverage where an individual is compounding or preparing the substance for his own use.

The state senators who sponsored our long-overdue and aptly named Compassionate Use Act passionately expressed their dismay over this prosecution, calling it “a severe, inappropriate, discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law.” Sen. Scutari went on to label it “cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins” and characterized it as a waste of taxpayer money. Sen. Lesniak observed, “Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth less than the paper they’re printed on.”

This brutally honest and on-target criticism has drawn accolades from around the country. Lawmakers obviously “get” the difference between drug cartel criminals and suffering people who turn to medical marijuana out of desperation. Even though the law does not currently recognize medical marijuana use as a defense, it does not require that the figurative book be thrown at a patient.

To compound the cruel absurdity of this prosecution, it is being conducted with full awareness of legislative action that would protect Wilson from a prison sentence. New Jersey’s Senate passed the Compassionate Use Act, and it has been favorably voted out of the Assembly Health Committee. Once technical revisions are completed, it is expected to pass the full Legislature, and Gov. Corzine has stated publicly that he would sign it. Informed and enlightened people accept the voluminous scientific evidence of the efficacy of marijuana to alleviate the nightmare of multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.

Outrageously, but understandably, the prosecution desperately wants jurors to be denied all the truly relevant facts. It has fought to forbid Wilson from mentioning his disease, that marijuana has been proven to be an effective palliative for multiple sclerosis, that he was using it solely for that purpose, that 13 other states have legalized it for that purpose and that New Jersey is about to. All the jurors will be allowed to hear is evidence proving Wilson “manufactured” marijuana. This is the type of injustice one is accustomed to seeing in a dictatorship — not in America.

Wilson’s plight is additional evidence that our nation’s founders were wise indeed when they recognized the crucial role “jury nullification” plays in any democratic system of government. Our founders knew that there are times when, to do actual justice, jurors must refuse to follow the letter of the law and act on their instincts of what is right. But if we expect trial by jury to continue to be the final bulwark against unjust prosecutions, jurors must have the truth. They will not get it in court in this case.

Instead of seeking justice, the Attorney General’s Office wastes public resources, its power, its credibility and worst of all, its integrity to inflict inhumane punishment on a suffering patient who merits no blame, a patient whom legislators are working to protect. It is execrable that it tortures the law to demand a maximum prison sentence on a patient suffering a crippling, incurable disease for conduct that helped him, harmed no one and that will soon be as legal as it has always been moral.

In the strife of every battle for human rights, someone is the last one martyred. Despite overwhelming evidence that John Wilson is a patient and not a drug kingpin, it is shameful that the state Attorney General’s Office knowingly and aggressively seeks to sacrifice him. Is this to be what is allowed to pass for justice in New Jersey?

Edward R. Hannaman, an attorney from Ewing, is a member of the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ).

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December 8, 2009 – Seeking to bring the city’s medical marijuana dispensary boom under tight control, the Los Angeles City Council decided today to cap the total number at 70, but to allow those that originally registered with the city to remain open.

Under the city’s 2007 moratorium on new dispensaries, 186 registered with the city. Officials believe at least 137 of those remain open in their original locations. Under the motion adopted this afternoon, those dispensaries could stay open but could be required to move to comply with the ordinance’s restrictions on where they may locate.

Councilman Jose Huizar proposed a cap to ensure that dispensaries would not be concentrated in any one neighborhood. Currently, with no ordinance in place to control their location, dispensaries have clustered in some neighborhoods, such as Eagle Rock, Hollywood and Woodland Hills, drawn by empty storefronts or by proximity to night life.

Urging the city to adopt a low number that it could control, Huizar said that “it is always easier to roll up than to ramp down.”

Councilman Dennis Zine argued strongly to give preference to the dispensaries that registered with the city. “I think we should hold true to those that followed the rules,” he said

After adopting the cap, the council turned to other aspects of the proposed ordinance. It remained unclear when the entire package might come to a final vote.

City officials say between 800 and 1,000 dispensaries are operating. Most opened in violation of a moratorium that the city failed to enforce and that a judge has recently decided was invalid because the City Council illegally extended it.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had also urged the council to send him an ordinance that would put a firm limit on the number of dispensaries in Los Angeles.

With no data on the number of medical marijuana patients in Los Angeles, council members took the same approach as other cities that have adopted caps: picking a number that sounded reasonable to them. Council members acknowledged that they may have to revisit the issue.

The only other city among the state’s 10 largest to impose a cap is Oakland, which has less than one-tenth the population of Los Angeles and allows four dispensaries. Those operations have become extremely successful, splitting about $20 million a year in sales. Berkeley, with a population of 107,000, allows three shops; Palm Springs, population 47,600, two; West Hollywood, population 37,000, four; and Sebastopol, population 7,700, two.

Several of these cities, which set their caps arbitrarily, are now considering raising them.

By John Hoeffel. Source.

December 5, 2009 – Cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana (or marihuana), has been a topic of debate for many years, not only in Canada, but also in several other countries including the U.S. and the U.K. However, while marijuana for recreational use has not been legalized in Canada, medical marijuana use can be granted for medicinal needs.

The Definition of Chronic Pain

Although “chronic pain” seems all encompassing and thus easily used as a reason for medical marijuana use, the organization of Health Canada very clearly defines what can be considered severe enough pain for medical marijuana. With that said, there are many suffering from chronic pain – due to a variety of reasons – with grants for the medical use of cannabis.

Arthritis, headaches and back pain are the most common, but fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy and phantom limb pain are also common reason for chronic pain. Continuing pain can also be caused by debilitating illnesses such as MS (multiple sclerosis), scoliosis, osteoporosis and others.

Original Treatments for Chronic Pain

For many, medical marijuana use is a “last resort”, used only after several pharmacologic treatments fail. Typically, the first treatments include pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Unfortunately, long-term use can cause serious side effects; even if there is pain relief, it can only be in short periods due to the need for short-term use of the “first line” of treatments.

Should the first treatments fail, narcotic opioids such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone are generally prescribed. Although often highly affective, the concern for these types of narcotics is that they have a high possibility for addiction and abuse. As well, their use is also limited, due to possible side effects in higher doses. The withdrawal symptoms for addictive pharmaceuticals can be mild to painfully severe.

Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain

For those that don’t respond to the first or second line of treatments, medical marijuana may be prescribed. As well, there are those who prefer not to use man-made pharmaceuticals that have a high rate of addiction or serious side effects.

According to Health Canada, “Dependence is unlikely to be problematic when cannabis is used therapeutically, although withdrawal affects may be uncomfortable. These include restlessness, anxiety, mild agitation, irritability, tremor, insomnia and EEG/ sleep disturbance, nausea, diarrhea and cramping.”

Relief from chronic pain, however, far outweighs the possibility of addiction for many:

– Migraines – Severe, incredibly painful and often lasting as long as 72 hours, migraines can cause serious debilitating issues such as nausea, vision changes, vomiting and a high sensitivity to light and sound. Many of the pharmaceuticals used to either stop or lessen the amount of migraines cause the same issues as the onset of the migraines themselves. Often, sufferers stop treatment because it doesn’t work or because the side effects are too severe.

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has been a well-documented treatment for many years – even throughout the nineteenth century. Cannabinoids have often demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, as well as dopamine blocking. It is believed by some that one of the causes of migraines is the lack of natural endocannabinoids in the body, which might explain why cannabis works to decrease the pain as well as the symptoms.

– Multiple sclerosis (MS) – MS is a degenerative disease that attacks myelin in the brain and spinal cord. If you imagine nerves to be like electrical wires, myelin is the insulating, protective sheath around the nerves. The autoimmune system treats myelin as a foreign invader, destroying patches of it and leaving nerve fibers exposed, interrupting their normal function. It is debilitating and painful, causing such symptoms as tingling and numbness, painful muscle spasms, tremors, paralysis and more.

Prescribed pharmaceuticals can cause severe, debilitating medical issues such as seizures, abdominal cramps, dizziness, mental disturbances and other problems. Many MS sufferers prefer to self-medicate with marijuana, and have noticed that cannabis helps them control tremors, spasms and bladder control. Tests have also shown that THC helps reduce pain intensity and sleep disturbance significantly.

Although these two illnesses are common for the use of medical marijuana in relieving chronic pain sufferers, the same can be said for rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injuries and even phantom limb pain. While more studies need to be performed to explain exactly how cannabinoids and medical marijuana work, the fact that they do work is clear. Source.

Canadian authorities have still not laid charges ten days after the police action.

December 5, 2009 – (SALEM, Ore.) – There’s a man from Athol, Nova Scotia, Canada who has caused a stir around the world. About five years ago, he made the shocking claim to have cured cancer. As unbelievable as that sounds, there is viable evidence to support his claim.

You may not have heard of Rick Simpson, many people have not yet had the chance. He’s well known globally in the cannabis community, but the general public has been slow in receiving his whole story.

Simpson makes and distributes a medicinal cannabis extract popularly known as “hemp oil”. He does so without any profit motive. Many patients have claimed to be cured of their ailments, often terminal cancer, by this extract.

This pioneer for alternative health solutions was in Europe in November, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took the opportunity to raid Simpson’s home in Canada. As his house, office, and garden were being trampled through by police, Simpson was accepting an International Freedom Fighter award, thousands of miles away.

“While he has been touring in Europe his residence was raided by the RCMP and rumor has it the DEA was involved as well,” explains friend Desmond Wynnd.

“The newest issue of “High Times” that came out a week or two ago has a lengthy article on his story and it’s felt by many this is what prompted the latest raid. He is now seeking political asylum in Europe.”

The 22nd Annual High Times Cannabis Cup is held in Amsterdam annually, and Rick Simpson received the acclaimed honor of “Freedom Fighter of the Year”. The special event came on the heels of a European tour Simpson had just completed.

For five years, Simpson has been diligently working on the behalf of saving lives, challenging the traditional remedies for skin cancer and other cancers, diabetes, as well as many chronic illnesses. He aspires to enlighten the medical community and bring the discussion of curing cancer to a new level. That discussion is widely believed to be more politically motivated than cure goal-oriented.

Though Rick Simpson has helped so many, there are forces that want to stop him, at any cost.

As of December 3rd, Canadian authorities had still not charged Simpson, ten days after the police action. Initially there were discrepancies in available information from the two involved agencies that carried out this police action.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police first claimed that such an action would have been undertaken by the Amherst Police Department, as Simpson’s home falls within their jurisdiction. Amherst PD denied that they incited this action when reached for comment, and deferred inquiry for detail to the RCMP.

Rick Simpson wrote, “If I return home, I will be arrested and put in jail without bail or medicine. I am not afraid of their jails but I cannot go without my medicine, the system has nothing that could help me with my conditions. So for me to return to Canada would be like committing suicide. I would be thrown in jail and denied my medicine and a short time later you would hear in the news that ‘Rick Simpson died of natural causes’.”

“It seems the goal is to keep me from returning home and they succeeded. But to what end? All hemp magazines on this planet are now telling their readers how to heal themselves with this wonderful medicine. If governments want to live in denial, it will be short-lived. We are gaining tens of thousands of followers every day. You cannot stop the truth.”

“For the time being, it seems I will be seeking asylum in Europe.”

The Canadian government’s lack of tolerance for marijuana has been building the last few years, a reaction, some believe, to America’s own drug war. Canadians are feeling the brunt. “They’re doing a great job directing hate toward Americans when it’s undeserved. I haven’t met a bad American yet. In the end, we have to take care of ourselves and each other,” Wynnd said.

One theory on limiting a person’s ability to share information is to incarcerate them. That’s a pretty easy solution. A fellow Canadian, Marc Emery, can vouch for that, out on bail for selling cannabis seeds. He is currently scheduled to be extradited to the United States for a sentence of five years in US federal prison.

Perpetrators of the incarceration strategy believe that eventually the subject may lose support of their advocates, the costs will mount up, and just getting through the drama of arrest, red tape and humiliation that follows will be enough to distract even the most passionate, motivated activists.

But Rick isn’t like “most” activists.

He’s been arrested twice in the past, and his medicinal Cannabis plants confiscated. Both times, he was able to reason with the judicial system and continue living freely. Where the maximum penalty has been 12 years imprisonment in one of these instances, the courts instead levied a $2,000 fine.

Most of us have been duped into completely and blindly accepting that there is no cure for cancer.
–Christian Laurette, producer

“Last time he was arrested, the judge wouldn’t send him to jail because the judge believed it would be a crime to lock up Rick Simpson, it’s all public record,” said Wynnd. “During his last trial he had doctors and patients lining up to testify for him. Even Narcotic officers have sent people to Rick so he could help them.”

“Mr. Simpson is in an unusual position, because unlike other people engaged in the drug trade, he was not engaged in trafficking for financial gain,” said Judge Carole Beaton. “He was engaged in an altruistic activity and was firm in his belief that he was helping others,” she said after Rick Simpson’s sentencing for his second offense in healing dying cancer patients with hemp oil.

Rick Simpson didn’t start out as a crusader to stamp out cancer. He started out as an average guy, first as a steel worker, then in maintenance at a hospital in the boiler room. In his early twenties, Simpson suffered through the loss of a cousin to cancer. That long, exasperating experience changed him forever. He heard some reports about hemp’s healing qualities, and wondered if things would have gone differently for his cousin, had hemp been an option.

For someone who had never even smoked marijuana, this was a very foreign, open-minded idea. The thought provoked some personal research though and later proved very beneficial.

After 25 years working at the hospital, Simpson was in a serious accident causing a temporary nervous-system shutdown, within hours he developed an unbearable ringing in his ears. The doctors tried to find a solution for over a year, and gave up. Not willing to accept his life sentence of daily drugs that altered his memory and other side effects, he asked about medical marijuana, to no avail. So, he began his own research, and experimented with making oil. What he discovered…worked.

To be clear, Rick Simpson’s Hemp Oil isn’t hemp oil in the truest sense. Hemp is the Cannabis (marijuana) plant, specifically the stalk and leaves raised mainly for industrial use, with extremely low THC. Rick Simpson’s oil is made exclusively from the Cannabis flowers, or buds. Not to be confused with hemp seed oil, a very different product, Rick Simpson’s hemp oil is a very pure cannabis extract made from high quality buds with a very high THC content.

In 2003, Simpson had three spots on his skin that his doctor believed to be skin cancer. The doctor removed and biopsied one, which then became infected and didn’t heal. Almost on a whim, Simpson applied hemp oil directly to that sore and the other two spots. In only four days, all three cancerous spots were gone. A miracle? Maybe so, but it isn’t a lone event.

Once he started sharing his success story with others, people lined up to try the hemp oil. Jack Herer is an avid supporter of Simpson’s, always ready to demonstrate his personal success as the oil healed many long-term diabetic lesions on his legs. Herer would be the first to say that Rick Simpson’s Hemp Oil is miraculous.

Rick Simpson has never charged a patient for the hemp oil he creates. He not only teaches people how to make the extract and provides it to the ailing folks who request it, but he also uses it for a variety of his own medical issues. He freely lists the recipe on his site.

What will happen next for Rick Simpson remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though, raiding and seizing his home does not make the police look like the good guys. This type of action only propogates further division in society, turning civilians and police away from one another.

“People are dying needlessly when there’s a cure we all can grow on our own, or have provided to us,” Desmond Wynnd said. “This is all a waste of energy, when we could be helping sick people. That’s all Rick is trying to do.” Source.

December 5, 2009 – Canada’s justice minister says people who sell or grow marijuana belong in jail because pot is used as a “currency” to bring harder drugs into the country.

“This lubricates the business and that makes me nervous,” Rob Nicholson told the Commons justice committee yesterday as he faced tough questions about a controversial bill to impose automatic prison sentences for drug crimes, including growing as little as one pot plant.

“Marijuana is the currency that is used to bring other more serious drugs into the country,” the minister said.

Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences and judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail.

But the Conservatives have proposed legislation which would impose one-year mandatory jail time for marijuana dealing, when it is linked to organized crime or a weapon is involved.

The sentence would be increased to two years for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or pushing drugs near a school or other places frequented by youths.

The proposed legislation would impose six months for growing one to 200 marijuana plants to sell, and two years for big-time growers of 500 plants or more.

The bill is arguably the most controversial piece of justice legislation introduced by the Conservative and critics have warned that, if passed, it could flood prisons and jails.

Opposition critics voiced concerns yesterday that a crackdown would not only target big-time dealers, but would end up sending drug addicts to provincial prisons, which have few treatment programs in place. Source.

December 4, 2009 – A member of a medical marijuana group in Victoria has been arrested for allegedly making cookies, massage oil and other products from marijuana following a raid that could have implications for similar groups.

Thursday’s bust was sparked by a complaint about the smell coming from a makeshift bakery in a one-bedroom apartment in Victoria, according to Ted Smith, head of Victoria’s Cannabis Buyers Club, which rents the apartment.

Victoria police confirmed the raid took place but released no other details.

One man was arrested and Smith said he too expected to be charged.

Smith said his group, which has 3,000 members, has used marijuana to bake cookies and make massage oil and other products in the apartment for the past two years without a problem.

Health Canada allows people suffering from debilitating illnesses to have access to marijuana for medical purposes. They can get the marijuana through Health Canada or they can get permission to grow it themselves.

But Smith said there is a contradiction in the law, which allows the designated users to smoke marijuana but prohibits them from turning it into any other product.

Seeking city’s help
“If you take legally grown cannabis, or Health Canada’s and make it into one of these products, you’ve actually made an illegal extract,” he said.

Smith said he was found not guilty on a similar charge in 2007.

“We were successful in court, beating those charges, so we are going to use this unfortunate opportunity to point out the fatal flaw in Health Canada’s programs.”

The charge makes all medical marijuana groups vulnerable, Smith said.

He said his group would call on the City of Victoria to help legitimize the club by issuing it a permit or making a representation in any court proceedings. Source.

December 4, 2009 – Cancer patients, glaucoma patients and others can benefit from medical marijuana, and now a new analysis shows that it can help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients find relief from the muscle spasms that are the hallmark of the debilitating autoimmune disease.

“The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in MS appears to be comprehensive, and should be given considerable attention,” said lead researcher Dr. Shaheen Lakhan, executive director of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation.

“Spasticity, an involuntary increase in muscle tone or rapid muscle contractions, is one of the more common and distressing symptoms of MS,” the researchers noted in their review. “Medicinal treatment may reduce spasticity, but may also be ineffective, difficult to obtain or associated with intolerable side effects,” they added.

“We found evidence that cannabis plant extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms,” Lakhan said.

Although some objective measures showed improvement, there were no significant changes in after-treatment assessments, Lakhan said. “However, subjective assessment of symptom relief did often show significant improvement post-treatment,” he added.

For the study, Lakhan and his colleague Marie Rowland reviewed six studies where marijuana was used by MS patients. Five of the trials showed that marijuana reduced spasms and improved mobility, according to the report published Dec. 3 in the online journal BMC Neurology.

Specifically, the studies evaluated the cannabis extracts delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These studies found that both THC and CBD extracts may provide therapeutic benefit for MS spasticity symptoms, Lakhan said.

Although there was a benefit from using marijuana there were also side effects, such as intoxication. This varied depending on the amount of marijuana needed to effectively limit spasms, but side effects were also seen in the placebo groups, Lakhan and Rowland noted.

The careful monitoring of symptom relief and side effects is critical in reaching an individual’s optimal dose, Lakhan said. “Moreover, there is evidence that cannabinoids may provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits in MS,” he added.

“Considering the distress and limitations spasticity brings to individuals with MS, it would be important to carefully weigh the potential for side effects with the potential for symptom relief, especially in view of the relief reported in subjective assessment,” Lakhan said.

Dr. Moses Rodriguez, a professor of neurology and immunology at the Mayo Clinic, said that “the idea of using cannabis to treat MS has been around for a long time.”

Rodriguez noted that the effects of using marijuana have been mixed. “It has been difficult to know whether the effect has been just a general well-being or whether it has a direct effect on muscle fibers and spasticity,” he said.

If drugs could be developed that take away the intoxicating effects of marijuana, it could have a direct effect on spasms without the high, Rodriguez said.

The Obama administration announced in October that it will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users or suppliers, provided they obey the laws of states that allow use of the drug for medicinal purposes.

Rodriguez said he is often asked by his MS patients about whether there is a benefit to using marijuana.

“What I tell my patients,” he said, “is if they want to try it they should try it. They should understand that there is a potential for it to be habit-forming and there may be a potential that they are fooling themselves.”

Patricia A. O’Looney, vice president of biomedical research at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said the society has studied this issue and does not think enough is known to recommend that MS patients use marijuana.

“Because the studies to date do not demonstrate a clear benefit compared to existing therapy, and issues of side effects and long-term effects are not clear, the recommendation is that it should not be recommended at this time,” she said.

Another expert, Dr. William Sheremata, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, also doesn’t think MS patients necessarily benefit from marijuana use.

Sheremata noted that the objective measures in the study did not show any benefit from marijuana. “Those are the only valid measures. Subjective responses are subjective; they really don’t have much in the way of validity,” he said. “I am not convinced that the use of marijuana benefits patients as a whole.” Source.

For more information on multiple sclerosis, visit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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