Cancer


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.

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December 3, 2009 – I attended the 1st National Clinical Conference on Medical Marijuana in Iowa in 1998. Arguably the most learned man on the subject of the effects of smoke on the lungs is named Donald Tashkin, Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care, at UCLA. He spoke for almost an hour at the Conference, showing slides of smoke-browned lungs. He showed how marijuana smoke seems to push pollutants towards the outer lining of the lungs.

His presentation did not portray marijuana smoke as harmless, but there was no solid evidence of disease associated with the browning of the lungs’ outer lining. Donald Tashkin has conducted the most extensive research involving the largest number of long-term marijuana-only smokers, as well as multi-drug smokers–marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, and other substances, for several decades. His critique of marijuana smoke was completely non-committal. (Considering the government is his largest source of funding, there is little doubt why his lecture at the first medical cannabis conference was short and unsupportive.)

When Dr. Tashkin finished his speech, he did not wait to answer questions. He grabbed his materials and bolted for the door. I raced after him and stopped him on the steps outside the conference hall. I showed him the passages I had written about his research in The New Prescription. I stood there and watched him read everything I had written about his work. He agreed that my synopsis was correct. Then I asked him the $64,000 question. I said, “Do you know of any cases of marijuana-only smokers who had lung cancer?” He said “Yes, there is one.” Then he smiled, explaining, “He was sixteen years old.” We both smiled, knowing a teenager could not possibly have sufficient exposure to marijuana smoke to cause lung cancer–his cancer was clearly due to some other cause. By: Martin Martinez. Source.

Wisconsin Senate and Assembly consider bill this month.

December 2, 2009 – Linda Moon felt crippled by medications prescribed for her by doctors.

“For three years, I laid in bed. I was almost comatose, and couldn’t move,” she said.

One day, the 50-year-old Fond du Lac woman threw away 25 different kinds of pills and turned to marijuana to treat chronic conditions that had left her disabled.

“I was able to get food in my system. I could get out of bed and I had a personality again,” Moon said.

She is among the supporters of a state medical marijuana bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee. If the legislation passes and is signed into law, a person with a prescription from a doctor could obtain up to three ounces of marijuana from a licensed dispensary or grow up to 12 plants at home.

The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act would cover people with cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Hepatitis C, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and other diseases that could be labeled serious medical conditions.

In October, the Obama administration announced that the federal government will not prosecute users or distributors of medicinal marijuana as long as they follow state laws. The announcement is the latest part of a trend that has seen several states, including Minnesota, take an increased interest in the issue.

Currently, 13 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use.

Personal stories

Teresa Shepherd of Jackson chairs the community outreach committee for the new Milwaukee chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

A gymnast and martial artist, the 34-year-old suffers from fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease and arthritis.

“The medications I was given made me sicker than I was,” said Shepherd, mentioning Vicodin and Lyrica. “I have been unable to work for over a year now. I didn’t think there was any hope.”

Marijuana use put her back on her feet, with no side effects.

“The people coming forward — they aren’t just trying to get high,” Shepherd said. “These are intelligent people who do not want to live on disability.”

Shepherd said she goes through about an ounce and a half each month, obtained through people she most likely would not talk to otherwise in the black market.

“I’m coming forward for every fibromyalgia patient out there. I’m tired of the suffering,” she said.

Jeffrey Smith of Brillion was paralyzed from the chest down 20 years ago and lives in constant pain.

The drugs prescribed for him — Baclofen and Gabapentin — had ill effects and their dosages were life threatening, he said.

“The Gabapentin didn’t stop the pain so much as it gave me a ‘chemical lobotomy,’ made me too spaced out to speak. On the other hand, the use of cannabis hemp as a medicinal treatment has given me a greatly improved living quality. I can once again compose music, perform it and even write for two online magazines. It has given me a life that patented medication surely took away,” he said.

Pros and cons

Dr. Steve Harvey, anesthesiologist and board-certified pain physician with Aurora Health Care in Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, sees medical marijuana as playing a significant role in treating debilitating conditions caused by cancer and chronic pain.

“I think in the case of patients with nerve pain, shingles or post-shingle pain, with pain that radiates down the leg or arms, or herniated discs, it has a direct analgesic effect,” Harvey said.

Particularly useful, he said, is marijuana’s demonstrated anti-nausea effects on cancer patients.

“There are forms of cannabis available outside of smoking it. Any arrow in the quiver that is available to us can be very useful and I think that is being demonstrated in other parts of the country. Frankly, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Marijuana opponent and Fond du Lac psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert says the push for medical marijuana is misdirected, unnecessary and holds great risk.

“I have treated patients with AODA problems, including marijuana, for over 40 years. And marijuana is not harmless. Whatever the benefits, if any, of making medical marijuana available by prescription are far outweighed by the risks of how easily in other states it has led to ‘sham clinics’ with mass diversion to street use,” he said.

In Michigan, which recently made medical marijuana available, there are 1,000 new applications per month from patients and growers, and a “cannabis college” has been established to teach students how to grow the plants most effectively. In dispensaries, the marijuana often has rather exotic, non-medicinal-sounding names.

“I sympathize, and do have compassion, for patients experiencing long term pain or other intractable problems. But the risks of diversion and all its attendant problems far outweigh the benefits of making medical marijuana (smoked) readily available, and there are other alternatives available for such circumstances without those risks,” Treffert said. “Research is under way to synthesize THC or other cannabinols that can be delivered in standardized doses in a conventional manner. I support that research. It is simply a more sensible and less dangerous way to proceed.”

Agnesian HealthCare was unable to provide a physician that would discuss the use of medical marijuana.

More views

State Rep. John Townsend said he opposes any marijuana use, and would vote against the bill.

“Under federal law, it is an illegal substance, and there may by some problems with that. Some state statutes allow medical marijuana, but my question is whether it is really being used for medical purposes — or is it recreational? And who is regulating this use? I’ve been in contact with the local medical community, and they are not in favor of it,” he said.

Disabled veteran Steve Passehl of Wittenberg broke three vertebrae during the Gulf War and has undergone 13 surgeries.

“Marijuana helps with spasms from my paralysis and neck injury. It helps me deal with chronic pain, fights my depression, and gets me to eat,” he said.

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, House and Senate Bills (AB 554 and SB 368) define how many people can be cared for and place caps on the amount of marijuana that can be available in compassion centers, as well as allowing production and distribution facilities.

Previous bills in Wisconsin relating to the topic failed despite occasional bi-partisan support.
By Sharon Roznik. Source.

Additional Facts
WHAT’S NEXT

# A hearing on the medical marijuana bill is set for Dec. 15 in front of the Senate and Assembly health committees. Written testimony can be e-mailed to Kelly.Johnson@legis.wisconsin.gov in state Sen. Jon Erpenbach’s office. The mailing address is Room 8 South, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882. Erpenbach’s office will make all submitted written testimony available to all members of both committees.
# The complete bill can be read at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/AB-554.pdf.

November 28, 2007 – If you have breast cancer, you may have considered the use of “medical marijuana” at some point during your chemo treatment. Smoking marijuana has provided some women with relief from the nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemo, relief that the range of normal side effect drugs weren’t able to give. Some states permit the legal use of medical marijuana; most don’t. Nevertheless, most women who want to try marijuana seem to be able to get it. Personally, I didn’t experience any severe problems with nausea. But I was astounded at the number of people who, prior to treatment, offered to get me a supply if I thought I needed it!

Now, doctors at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco have released a study, in the current issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, that may in the future open the door to a much more critical use of marijuana: stopping the spread of metastatic breast cancer. It seems that a compound found in cannabis (the scientific name for marijuana), CBD, has been shown (in the lab) to stop the human gene Id-1 from directing cancer cells to multiply and spread.

California Pacific Senior researcher Pierre-Yves Desprez, in an interview with HealthDay News, noted that the Id-1 genes “are very bad. They push the cells to behave like embryonic cells and grow. They go crazy, they proliferate, they migrate. We need to be able to turn them off.”

Desprez and fellow researcher Sean D. McAllister joined forces just two years ago. Desprez had been studying the Id-1 gene for 12 years; McAllister was a cannabis expert, but not involved in cancer research. Together they found that Id-1 is the “orchestra conductor” that directs breast cancer cells to grow and spread. And that CBD inhibits Id-1; it turns it off, puts it to sleep, pick your metaphor. Bottom line, it neutralizes it. And the cancer stops spreading.

Both researchers pointed out that CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive. In other words, patients wouldn’t get high taking it. And its non-toxicity is an important attribute; Desprez and McAllister predict that, to be effective, patients might have to take CBD for several years. They also cautioned that smoking marijuana isn’t going to cure metastatic breast cancer; the level of CBD necessary to inhibit Id-1 simply can’t be obtained that way.

While studies are still very much in the preliminary stages, it’s interesting to think that a plant that has been used medicinally for nearly 5,000 years may in the future be a key element in controlling cancer. As recently as 1937 (when it was outlawed in the U.S.), marijuana (“cannabis sativa”) was being touted as an analgesic, anti-emetic, narcotic, and sedative.

Parke-Davis, once America’s oldest and largest drug manufacturer (and now a division of drug giant Pfizer), offered “Fluid Extract Cannabis” via catalogs. Until the invention of aspirin in the mid-1800s, cannabis was the civilized world’s main pain reliever. Now it’s illegal. Here’s hoping that someday soon cannabis returns, this time as a successful treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

November 25, 2009 – One of the most frightening symptoms of advanced cancer is “cachexia”, or severe, unintentional weight-loss and wasting. It’s a terrible prognostic sign, and the only truly effective treatment is removal of the cancer. Treatment of this syndrome has the potential to improve quality of life in patients with advanced cancers. Various types of medications, including antidepressants, hormones, and cannabis derivatives have been tried with little effect. Treating the symptoms of incurable cancers is difficult and although we’re pretty good at it, we sometimes fail. Cannabis seems a plausible intervention, given the anecdotal and clinical data associating it with increased appetite, although appetite in normal, healthy individuals may be mediated by different pathways than the cachexia in cancer patients. Still, it’s worthy of investigation.

(As an aside, what a person with advanced cancer does to find relief is their own business. I hope that we don’t fail them so miserably that they have to resort to desperate measures. I once had an elderly patient who was shooting up heroin for his cancer pain because he didn’t understand the medical system well enough to seek proper help. He did fine on long-acting oxycodone.)

The Journal of Clinical Oncology published an interesting study in 2006 investigating the possible use of cannabis to treat cancer-related cachexia. Since self-administration of self-procured pot is rather inexact, the investigators compared whole marijuana extracts, purified THC, and placebo. The results were a disappointment for those looking for better treatment of advanced cancer.

While cannabis extract was well-tolerated, there was no difference between the groups, although all groups including placebo had some relief of symptoms. Appetite and quality of life saw similar changes in each group. It may be argued that the dose was insufficient, but the investigators chose the dose based on previous studies that showed too many adverse effects at higher doses.

As already mentioned, the failure could be due to a number of reasons, the most likely being that cannabis does not have a mechanism of action that acts on the same pathways as cachexia—the inflammatory cytokines present in cancer cachexia do not seem to be significantly modulated by cannabis. While cannabis may make some people feel better, there is no consistent evidence that it is any better than placebo in making patients with cancer wasting syndrome feel better. by PalMD. Source.

References

Strasser, F. (2006). Comparison of Orally Administered Cannabis Extract and Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Treating Patients With Cancer-Related Anorexia-Cachexia Syndrome: A Multicenter, Phase III, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial From the Cannabi Journal of Clinical Oncology, 24 (21), 3394-3400 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.05.1847

November 21, 2009 – Chemicals found in cannabis leaves can be used to stop prostate cancer cells. The researchers hope that cannabis leaves can be used as a remedy for the treatment of prostate cancer.

After focusing on the network on human cancer cells,Ines Diaz-Laviada and colleagues from the University of Alcala in Madrid, also investigated the effects of the chemicals on canabis leaves on mice and the fact that the substance is capable to reduce the cancer growth significantly.

The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer. Now in the world of research, there have been many studies that examine the medical uses of cannabinoids, the chemical substance found in cannabis.

This experts focused on the research done over the years devoted to seeking the best care in dealing with cancer in humans.

“This is an interesting study that opens the way to develop a potential drug. But this is only new in the early stages, “said Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information, Cancer Research UK, England.

She also explained that this does not mean that the men who use cannabis can automatically avoid prostate cancer.

The cannabinoids substances are investigated by the Spanish team which is requested to conduct the research in the fight against prostate cancer. This substance can block the receptors, the entrance of molecules, which is on the tumor cell surface. It is able to stop tumor cells to break away and growing.

“These chemicals can stop the division and the development of prostate cancer cells.” Source.

November 8, 2009 – In Mississippi, where Dr. David Allen worked as a heart surgeon, authorities seized his home and ranch this year after finding $800 worth of marijuana and $1,000 in hashish. A grand jury is to consider a Picture 7cultivation charge that could net him 30 years in prison under Mississippi’s drug laws.

In Sacramento, where he now lives, Allen is a legal, licensed member of a community of physicians that enables hundreds of thousands of Californians to lawfully consume or grow marijuana for personal use.

His recently opened cannabis evaluations clinic on Auburn Boulevard is a newcomer in an increasingly robust medical industry. Born with California’s Proposition 215 in 1996, the profession is newly energized by the federal government’s recent decision to relax enforcement policies for 14 states that have legalized medicinal use of marijuana.

Voters approved California’s Compassionate Use Act amid stories of AIDS patients needing marijuana to boost appetites and cancer patients needing it to counter nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy.

These days pot physicians, touting marijuana as a healthier alternative to pharmaceuticals, are writing medical cannabis recommendations for a far wider range of ills, from restless leg syndrome to psoriasis, from sleep apnea to menopause.

The widely available doctor’s “recommendations” – they’re not formal prescriptions – stir intense debate in the medical community, even among cannabis doctors.

Doctors argue over whether the recommendations, costing anywhere from $50 to $250 each, go to patients who truly need medical marijuana or help facilitate recreational drug users and provide hefty profits for the doctors writing the notes.

Doctors are barred by state law from giving out marijuana or instructing patients where to get it. But cannabis recommendations are necessary for patients to make their purchases at the pot dispensaries now sprouting like Starbucks in some communities.

The dispensaries must operate as nonprofits. The doctors are under no such constraints.

170,000 patients seen

Already, a lucrative medical industry is taking shape with pot evaluation networks such as MediCann, a “health and wellness service” started with one San Francisco clinic. It now operates 20 offices in California – including sites in Sacramento, Elk Grove and North Highlands – and has overseen the care of 170,000 cannabis patients since 2004.

“The growth has been steady. We open up a new clinic every few months,” said Matthew Desanto, MediCann’s marketing director. “Honestly, it’s just that patients need to use cannabis as medicine.”

In the past year, another group, Marijuana Medicine Evaluation Centers, opened clinics in 10 California cities. It advertises on “WeedMaps,” an Internet service for patients seeking doctors, dispensaries and other pot services.

The newfound visibility of the medical marijuana trade is pronounced on the eclectic boardwalk of Venice Beach in Los Angeles.

Along the boardwalk’s short span, greeters work the crowd in front of three oceanfront clinics, pitching the benefits of medical pot. One large beachfront house holds the Medical Kush Doctor physician’s office and the Kush Clubhouse dispensary. Another doctor’s walk-in clinic is next door to a dispensary entrance, where a woman shouts out: “Free hash bar – patients welcome!”

In his Sacramento office, where medical diplomas are displayed with a news article on a rare beating heart bypass surgery he performed in Mississippi, Dr. Allen is bullish on his career change to full-time pot doc.

Allen was living in California last February when his Mississippi ranch was raided. He denies participation in any illegal marijuana activities.

Jackson County, Miss., Sheriff’s Lt. Curtis Speirs said Allen is being investigated for felony cultivation and distribution.

“In the state of Mississippi,” Speirs said, “whether you think it’s for medicinal use or not, it’s against the law.”

In California, Allen charges $150 for medical evaluations and exults over his work with pot patients.

“Cannabis is a miracle drug that works so well for so many reasons, for so many people, that millions are willing to risk jail and property seizures to use the medicine,” he said.

He said he is dedicated to serving the people who tell him that cannabis “is better for my migraines, for my asthma, for my menstrual cramps” than traditional treatments. “How can you deny these patients?”

Construction worker Brent Bomia, 36, who said he had back surgery after a work-related fall, showed up with his medical records and got a recommendation from Allen.

“I’m happy he is here,” said Bomia. “I believe as a community this is a steppingstone to more people realizing medical marijuana really helps.”

Prop. 215 applied broadly

Under Proposition 215, physicians can recommend cannabis for cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines or “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

Clinical support for pot’s potential health benefits comes from the likes of Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of oncology at San Francisco General Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Abrams conducted state and federally funded research that showed marijuana to be beneficial for patients with HIV and for pain from nerve damage.

“I see cancer patients every day who suffer from loss of appetite, weight loss, pain, anxiety, depression, insomnia and nausea,” he said. “With cannabis, I can recommend one medicine instead of writing prescriptions for six or seven.”

But Dr. Lee Snook, a Sacramento pain physician who serves on the public policy committee for the California Society of Addiction Medicine, is alarmed over the burgeoning use of medical cannabis.

Snook, who heads Metropolitan Pain Management Consultants Inc., said he encounters many patients with marijuana recommendations who don’t need them or are better served by other treatments.

“People go into an outpatient clinic, say, ‘I have chronic pain,’ pay $100 for a card,” Snook said. “That’s it. I see it as a business. I don’t see it as practicing medicine at all.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws – which advocates easing marijuana restrictions – lists more than 160 California doctors and clinics as “medical cannabis specialists.” Their work, as with all doctors, falls under the scrutiny of the California Medical Board.

Since 1996, the board has investigated 81 complaints against doctors who recommended pot to patients.

Regulators revoked licenses for 10 physicians for violating guidelines published to ensure they conduct in-person “good faith” examinations and review patients’ health and medical histories when recommending cannabis. Some were sanctioned for failing to detect overt, drug-seeking behaviors.

Medical Board records indicate some pot doctors attracted attention after other physicians or psychiatrists complained. Other complaints came from undercover police who said they got cannabis recommendations with little or no medical exam.

All 10 license revocations were stayed and the doctors allowed to continue practicing under supervised probation.

In July, the Medical Board sanctioned Dr. Robert Cohen of Santa Monica for recommending cannabis without a physical exam or patient records for a board investigator who said she was a mother of five and needed pot to relax.

In August, the board found that El Dorado County doctor Marion Fry improperly recommended marijuana to a patient with chronic paranoid schizophrenia despite warnings from Merced County health officials that pot exacerbated his condition.

The board put Fry’s medical license on probationary status for three years. That action came two years after she and her husband were sentenced to federal prison for conspiring to grow and distribute marijuana. A trial revealed that her medical pot recommendations netted between $750,000 and $1 million over a 26-month period.

Even some pot doctors question whether the expanding industry has sufficiently established standards and oversight.

Dr. Frank Lucido, a Berkeley family physician and leader in the medical marijuana movement, worries about a proliferation of “quick-in, quick-out mills that pretty much give out cannabis recommendations to anyone 18 or over that has money.”

“It gives the industry a bad name,” he said.

Lucido said he pre-screens patients in a telephone interview, conducts 45-minute examinations and requires medical records documenting serious health issues.

Then, there is Venice Beach.

On an oceanfront featuring four new pot clinics, one employee drew in passers-by by handing out fliers adorned with a cannabis leaf and a list of medical conditions.

“Do you have any of these?” he asked. “We can get you a recommendation. It will only take a few minutes.”

Gilbert, a 42-year-old Los Angeles man who didn’t want his last name used, was in and out of the doctor’s office next to the hash bar. He got a cannabis recommendation minutes after a brief exam and blood pressure check.

“He asked me what medications I was on and what do I think marijuana would do,” said Gilbert, who said he smokes pot to alleviate pain and high blood pressure.

“Pot smokers are going to be pot smokers. If this is going to make them feel better, then so be it.” Source.

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