Medical Marijuana Patients


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).

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 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.

November 24, 2009 – Tim Timmons is not your average pot smoker. The former risk management consultant, college professor and stand-out athlete has never considered himself a hippy or a pothead. Even so, Timmons has been smoking marijuana nearly every day for the past six years. He doesn’t smoke to get high. According to him, he’s just taking his medicine. Timmons is slowly wasting away from Multiple Sclerosis, a painful disease that attacks the nervous system. “I would be considered in one of the final stages of the disease right now,” Timmons said. Diagnosed 22 years ago, the former football player and bull rider is now confined to a wheel chair. He is paralyzed from the waist down and no longer has control over his bladder or bowels. Timmons relies on his wife to help him go to the bathroom, take a bath and get in and out of bed. In addition to losing control of his muscles, Timmons must also live with a great deal of pain and frequent muscle spasms. “The pain is overwhelming, to the extent where you’re in bed the only thing you can do is hold yourself in a fetal position,” said Timmons. Doctors have prescribed him a virtual pharmacy of powerful narcotics to treat the pain and symptoms his disease causes. At one point he was taking as many as 20 different drugs up to four times a day. Timmons never thought to treat his pain with marijuana until a chance encounter with a former high school classmate at their 30th class reunion six years ago. The man offered Timmons a joint and told him it might help ease his pain. Desperate for anything that could relieve the constant pain, Timmons took a toke. “The pain relief was immediate. And I thought, ‘Whoa, what’s the problem with this if it works this well for people that are in pain,’” Timmons said. Not long after that first joint, Timmons began looking for someone to supply him with pot. He did some research on the Internet, which led him to a restaurant where he began asking waiters where he could find some marijuana. By the time he left, he had a bag of weed. Timmons now gets his “medicine” from Mendocino, Calif., an area known for producing some of the highest-quality marijuana in the U.S. He said he spends about $480 a month for one ounce which typically lasts him three to four weeks. While California and 12 other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, pot is still illegal in the state of Texas. Timmons is trying to change that. “You think, ‘Well how is it, it can be helping these people in these other states but it won’t help me in Texas?’” Timmons said as he puffed on a pipe filled with marijuana, taking a deep breath of the white smoke, holding it in a few seconds and exhaling with a smile on his face. Timmons accidentally became the face of the movement to legalize medical marijuana in Texas when he spoke at the State Capital in 2007 and urged state lawmakers to pass legislation to protect patients. During that speech, he admitted he was a daily pot smoker and invited police to come arrest him, even giving his home address and phone number so they could easily find him. A video of that speech was put on You Tube and has been viewed thousands of times. Despite his attempts to get arrested, no law enforcement agency has ever taken him up on his offer. Unlike other states that have successfully passed laws legalizing medical marijuana, the focus in Texas is to get lawmakers to pass a bill that gives patients an affirmative defense. Under current law, patients who get caught buying or using marijuana to treat their illnesses can not use that as a defense in court. “You’re barred from mentioning that and how ludicrous is that. That you can’t even tell the jury why you were doing it. You just have to sit there and be silent,” Timmons said. “We are not even trying for medical marijuana in Texas. We’re trying to simply get it to where someone in the position like me would at least be able to offer an affirmative defense to the jury and say, ‘This is why I was breaking the law.’” The first attempt to get medical marijuana legislation passed was in 2001. Every bill that’s been introduced each session since then has died in committee. Timmons believes socially conservative politicians are unwilling to risk their political careers on such a hot button issue, particularly one that has the medical community at odds. For years many doctors and medical organizations have stated pot has no medical benefit. Many of those same doctors and groups, including the American Medical Association, are now changing their attitude when it comes to medicinal uses for marijuana, calling for more serious studies. “I have to believe that there might be some medicinal effects of it, and if science can prove that it can be delivered in a form that isn’t harmful, great,” said Joel Marcus, a Clinical Psychologist at the UT Health Science Center’s Cancer Therapy and Research Center. Marcus is one of a handful of psychologists who are helping cancer patients deal with the effects of living with cancer. He said many of his patients ask him about using marijuana to relieve the nausea and vomiting that come with their radiation treatments. Marcus tells them to stay away. “I can’t in any good conscience recommend something that could be carcinogenic,” Marcus said. “I see far too many patients living with and dying from lung cancer to say go ahead and smoke anything.” Instead Marcus, and many other doctors, offer patients a drug called Marinol which is a synthetically produced version of the main chemical in marijuana that gets you high and relieves pain — that chemical is THC. In fact Marinol is the only legal “medical marijuana” available in the U.S. that is approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Still, patients like Timmons said they tried Marinol and found that it doesn’t work as well as real marijuana. Patients said Marinol takes up to three hours to begin working, whereas taking one toke of a joint provides instant relief. Those patients also said marijuana can be ingested into the body without smoking it. In most medical marijuana dispensaries in California, patients can buy baked goods and candy made with pot. Joel Marcus said the jury is still out on the effectiveness of those types of delivery methods for medicinal marijuana but he’s keeping an open mind on the subject. “I’m all in favor of finding out new methods of controlling symptoms,” Marcus said. “We’re all about quality of life and improving quality of life, and if a study of the medicinal properties of marijuana in a butter form or a liquid form or in some other way that isn’t carcinogenic could provide relief for or patients, I’m all for it.” Until science can prove pot is medicine patients like Timmons say they will continue to break the law to get the medicine they need. “If I can break the law as many times as I possibly can to help someone else that’s in a similar situation escape the pain and actually function and become a part of the procession of life, then heck man, I’m all for breaking the law,” he said. Source.

November 23, 2009 – Patients with a doctor’s recommendation can legally possess and smoke marijuana in California for medical purposes. But where do they get their pot? The recent crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in San Diego has raised questions about legality of growing it and selling it.

California law says patients and caregivers can form collectives or cooperatives to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. And that’s what Josh Bilben said he’s doing. He said he’s providing a place for patients, who don’t grow, to get medication from people who do.”

“One of the big concerns that communities, city planner, everybody has is where is this coming from,”said Bilben. “And what I’m able to say is this is coming from right here. No other place.”

Bilben is the director of Delta Nine Therapy, a medical marijuana collective in San Diego. He spoke as he pushed aside a metal cage door and unzipped a plastic sheet, that covers the inside of a seven by seven foot room containing 24 marijuana plants. The room is one of two locations where his collective grows product. Banks of lights hover over the plants. A fan keeps the air moving and a humidifier puts out a stream of vapor. Bilben says he’s growing a variety of plants.

“Now the Indica, the Purple Kush… when you take that it basically, in stoner terms, is called a couch lock,” said Bilben. “You sit on the couch. You don’t get up. You don’t really think about a whole lot. Like I said, the purple Kush is really good for chronic pain.”

The collection of plants doesn’t look like very much. But Bilben hopes, once the plants reach their flowering apex, they will provide ten pounds of smokable buds for him and three other patients. The collective charges its members 18 dollars a gram for Purple Kush to cover the cost of production.

In September, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced raids on 14 medical marijuana operations. She accused the dispensaries of earning a profit and selling to anyone who came in the door, both of which violate state law. Dumanis and police chief Bill Landsdowne went on to say they knew of no medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego that were following the law.

But Josh Bilben believes he is following the law. Will Johnson does too. Johnson is director of the Kind Gardeners Collective, which grows plants in several San Diego locations.

“We have somebody’s patio. Somebody’s spare bedroom. We have an area in a commercial office. And this next month we’ll have the basement of a residential home,” said Johnson.

Johnson speaks from the patio of his Kensington home, located on the same street where the San Diego mayor resides. The growth of the medical marijuana business has raised concerns that dispensaries have gotten marijuana from illegal sources. Johnson says that’s certainly possible.

“Is there a loophole where the cartel can come in and join the collective, and then start supplying the collective? I can imagine that,” he said. “But think about that. Because we’re not talking about Mexican pot being brought up here, because no dispensary is going to sell Mexi. It’s crap.”

The tussle over medical marijuana in California heated up last week when the District Attorney of Los Angeles said his office would prosecute any collective that sold marijuana. In September, San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis said patients who need medical marijuana should grow their own.

But while state guidelines require marijuana operations to be non-profit, they do not say sales are illegal. Josh Bilben points out his marijuana collective generates state sales tax. Alex Kreit, the chairman of San Diego Medical Marijuana Task Force, adds that the law makes no requirement that patients just grow their own. He makes the comparison between a marijuana cooperative and a food coop.

“Anyone who’s been a member of a food cooperative knows, it’s not like everyone who’s a member has to come in and grow their own turnips and grow their own radishes,” said Kreit. “I think that is just not consistent with what is meant by a collective and cooperative, and what the law contemplates as a collective and cooperative.”

The task force is writing recommendations to the San Diego City Council as to how medical marijuana businesses should be permitted and regulated. By Tom Fudge. Source.

At the Peace in Medicine Healing Center in Sebastopol, the wares on display include dried marijuana — featuring brands like Kryptonite, Voodoo Daddy and Train Wreck — and medicinal cookies arrayed below a sign saying, “Keep Out of Reach of Your Mother.”

The warning tells a story of its own: some of the center’s clients are too young to buy themselves a beer.

Several Bay Area doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients said in recent interviews that their client base had expanded to include teenagers with psychiatric conditions including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It’s not everybody’s medicine, but for some, it can make a profound difference,” said Valerie Corral, a founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance forMedical Marijuana, a patients’ collective in Santa Cruz that has two dozen minors as registered clients.

Because California does not require doctors to report cases involving medical marijuana, no reliable data exist for how many minors have been authorized to receive it. But Dr. Jean Talleyrand, who founded MediCann, a network in Oakland of 20 clinics who authorize patients to use the drug, said his staff members had treated as many as 50 patients ages 14 to 18 who had A.D.H.D. Bay Area doctors have been at the forefront of the fierce debate about medical marijuana , winning tolerance for people with grave illnesses like terminal cancer and AIDS. Yet as these doctors use their discretion more liberally, such support — even here — may be harder to muster, especially when it comes to using marijuana to treat adolescents with A.D.H.D.

“How many ways can one say ‘one of the worst ideas of all time?’ ” asked Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley. He cited studies showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, disrupts attention, memory and concentration — functions already compromised in people with the attention-deficit disorder.

Advocates are just as adamant, though they are in a distinct minority. “It’s safer than aspirin,” Dr. Talleyrand said. He and other marijuana advocates maintain that it is also safer than methylphenidate (Ritalin), the stimulant prescription drug most often used to treat A.D.H.D. That drug has documented potential side effects including insomnia, depression, facial tics and stunted growth.

In 1996, voters approved a ballot proposition making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Twelve other states have followed suit — allowing cannabis for several specified, serious conditions including cancer and AIDS — but only California adds the grab-bag phrase “for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”

This has left those doctors willing to “recommend” cannabis — in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of medical marijuana, they cannot legally prescribe it — with leeway that some use to a daring degree. “You can get it for a backache,” said Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Nonetheless, expanding its use among young people is controversial even among doctors who authorize medical marijuana.

Gene Schoenfeld, a doctor in Sausalito, said, “I wouldn’t do it for anyone under 21, unless they have a life-threatening problem such as cancer or AIDS.”

Dr. Schoenfeld added, “It’s detrimental to adolescents who chronically use it, and if it’s being used medically, that implies chronic use.”

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said she was particularly worried about the risk of dependency — a risk she said was already high among adolescents and people with attention-deficit disorder.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, however, patients and doctors have been reporting that marijuana helps alleviate some of the symptoms, particularly the anxiety and anger that so often accompany A.D.H.D. The disorder has been diagnosed in more than 4.5 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers have linked the use of marijuana by adolescents to increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia for people genetically predisposed to those illnesses. However, one 2008 report in the journal Schizophrenia Research suggested that the incidence of mental health problems among adolescents with the disorder who used marijuana was lower than that of nonusers.

Marijuana is “a godsend” for some people with A.D.H.D., said Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist who has written several books on the disorder. However, Dr. Hallowell said he discourages his patients from using it, both because it is — mostly — illegal, and because his observations show that “it can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else.”

Until the age of 18, patients requesting medical marijuana must be accompanied to the doctor’s appointment and to the dispensaries by a parent or authorized caregiver. Some doctors interviewed said they suspected that in at least some cases, parents were accompanying their children primarily with the hope that medical authorization would allow the adolescents to avoid buying drugs on the street.

A recent University of Michigan study found that more than 40 percent of high school students had tried marijuana.

“I don’t have a problem with that, as long as we can have our medical conversation,” Dr. Talleyrand said, adding that patients must have medical records to be seen by his doctors.

The Medical Board of California began investigating Dr. Talleyrand in the spring, said a board spokeswoman, Candis Cohen, after a KGO-TV report detailed questionable practices at MediCann clinics, which, the report said, had grossed at least $10 million in five years.

Dr. Talleyrand and his staff members are not alone in being willing to recommend marijuana for minors. In Berkeley, Dr. Frank Lucido said he was questioned by the medical board but ultimately not disciplined after he authorized marijuana for a 16-year-old boy with A.D.H.D. who had tried Ritalin unsuccessfully and was racking up a record of minor arrests.

Within a year of the new treatment, he said, the boy was getting better grades and was even elected president of his special-education class. “He was telling his mother: ‘My brain works. I can think,’ ” Dr. Lucido said.

“With any medication, you weigh the benefits against the risks,” he added.

Even so, MediCann patients who receive the authorization must sign a form listing possible downsides of marijuana use, including “mental slowness,” memory problems, nervousness, confusion, “increased talkativeness,” rapid heartbeat, difficulty in completing complex tasks and hunger. “Some patients can become dependent on marijuana,” the form also warns.

The White House’s recent signals of more federal tolerance for state medical marijuana laws — which pointedly excluded sales to minors — reignited the debate over medical marijuana.

Some advocates, like Dr. Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard University, suggest that medical marijuana’s stigma has less to do with questions of clinical efficacy and more to do with its association, in popular culture, with illicit pleasure and addiction.

Others, like Alberto Torrico of Fremont, the majority leader of the California Assembly, argue for more oversight in general. “The marijuana is a lot more powerful these days than when we were growing up, and too much is being dispensed for nonmedical reasons,” he said in an interview last week, bluntly adding, “Any children being givenmedical marijuana is unacceptable.”

As advocates of increased acceptance try to win support, they may find their serious arguments compromised by the dispensaries’ playful atmosphere.

OrganiCann, a dispensary in Santa Rosa, has a Web site advertisement listing the “medible of the week” — butterscotch rock candy — invitingly photographed in a gift box with a ribbon. OrganiCann also offers a 10 percent discount, every Friday, for customers with a valid student ID. Source.

Medical marijuana laws are having an odd effect on many employers: They’re dazed and confused about their obligations to workers who use pot for health reasons.

Employment lawyers say employers are unsure about how far they have to go to accommodate medical marijuana users. Many question whether they’re even required to tolerate medical marijuana use, which is now legal in 13 states. Another six additional states, including New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, are considering medical marijuana bills.

Adding to employers’ concerns is the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement last month that it would no longer prosecute medical marijuana users, which leaves such matters in the hands of state and local governments.

“It has really come onto everyone’s radar screen,” said Danielle Urban of the Denver office of Atlanta’s Fisher & Phillips. “I’m getting calls from employers saying, ‘I have an employee who tested positive for medical marijuana. What can I do? Can I fire that employee?'”

Her answer? It depends.

Urban said that under federal law, employers are not prohibited from taking adverse actions against someone who tests positive for marijuana. But Colorado permits medical marijuana, and another state law says it’s illegal for an employer to fire someone for engaging in legal, off-duty behavior.

And then there’s the Americans With Disabilities Act to consider. Under the ADA, an employee fired for using pot for health reasons could file a discrimination lawsuit.

“It’s a gray area to know what you can do,” Urban said. “But I think it’s still risky to just fire someone for using it.”

Richard Hurford of the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., office of Ogletree Deakins, has spent the last several months fielding calls from employers inquiring about Michigan’s new medical marijuana law, which went into effect in April. Since then, more than 5,000 Michiganders have registered as medical marijuana users.

He said a key issue for employers is what to do with their zero-tolerance polices. “Those zero-tolerance policies, particularly if someone has been prescribed marijuana, will obviously need to be modified if doing so is deemed a reasonable accommodation by a court or a jury,” Hurford said.

To date, no one has challenged Michigan’s law, Hurford said. But courts elsewhere, he noted, have favored employers in medical marijuana cases.

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that even in states with medical marijuana laws, an employer can refuse to accept medical marijuana as a reasonable explanation for a positive drug test. Then in 2005, the high court ruled that the federal government may enforce the Controlled Substances Act’s prohibition on medical marijuana against those who use the drug under state laws.

In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers can fire workers who use medical marijuana under the state’s Compassionate Use Act—even if they are off duty and even if job performance is not affected—because it’s illegal under federal law.

“Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and duties of employers and employees,” wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdeger. “Under California law, an employer may require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions.”

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