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.

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July 16, 2009 – There’s quite a bit of smoke blowing over the title in the trailer for the movie Shrink, starring Kevin Spacey as a “pothead” Picture 6psychologist to the stars, which opens on July 24 in selected theaters.

Spacey, most will remember, played a middle-age man who rediscovers life after smoking marijuana in 1999’s American Beauty. His pot-smoking shrink is one of a series of mass-media psychotherapists who smoke the leaves of the Tree of Knowledge.

In last year’s The Wackness, Ben Kingsley lights a bong and has his own midlife renewal while trading his psychoanalyst services to Luke Shapiro for pot. (Kingsley also puffed a hookah as the Indian major/caterpillar in a 1999 version of Alice in Wonderland.)

In a 2006 episode of Showtime’s erstwhile series Huff, Angelica Houston passes a joint to her BMW-driving psychotherapist colleague (Hank Azaria), before guiding him on an Ecstasy trip/therapy session. (That intelligent series was canceled in favor of the unenlightened Weeds.)

Bette Midler imbibed pot in shamanic style as Mel Gibson’s therapist in What Women Want (2000), but you won’t see that part of the scene on TNT, where it is censored. Midler returns to turn Meg Ryan on to pot in The Women (2008), but you’ll have to watch the deleted scenes on the DVD to hear Ryan say, “I’m really stoned.” After this scene, her character finds her way to her center. (The Women was based on a 1939 Clare Booth Luce play; Luce took LSD and liked it but didn’t think it was for the masses.)

All of this begs the question: Is it fundamentally human to alter one’s consciousness in order to gain insight into the nature of man? And if so, can people be happy without that experience?

Psychedelics have been used since the dawn of mankind, in adolescent initiation ceremonies and religious gatherings like the ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries.

Getting a glimpse of the other side of reality can be a profound, life-changing experience. Oftentimes, the shaman would be the one imbibing, and then sharing his or her insight with the patient. The Oracle of Delphi inhaled sacred fumes before she divined the future. But the Romans closed all that down after the Adam-and-Eve myth made munching anything mind-expanding a sin.

Dr. William C. Woodward of the American Medical Association testified at the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearings that cannabis hemp could unlock past memories, doubtlessly helpful in psychotherapy. Despite Woodward’s objections, the U.S. made marijuana (and hemp) illegal, driving underground a potentially useful psychiatric tool and ending most meaningful research into its uses.

In 1955, Drs. Timothy Leary and Frank Barron collaborated on a study of 150 psychoneurotic patients presenting themselves for treatment. About one-third of those in therapy got better, one-third saw no change and one-third got worse: the same ratio as those who had no therapy at all. Then Leary discovered psychedelics, conducted the Harvard Divinity School experiments (which proved entheogens can cause profound spiritual awakenings) and reduced prison recidivism and alcoholism through LSD therapy.

Thanks to the hard work of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, clinical trials are now taking place on the use of MDMA (aka Ecstasy) for post-traumatic stress disorder and end-of-life anxiety. But MAPS failed to win approval for U.S. researchers to study cannabis that isn’t the schwag grown by the government in Mississippi. Instead, European researchers are making remarkable findings about cannabinoids, finding they can halt the progression of illnesses such Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) and cancer.

By unanimous vote in November 2007, the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association approved a statement supporting legal protection for patients using medical marijuana and calling for more research on the topic. Studies out of Britain have reinforced a possible link between cannabis use and schizophrenia, although the question of whether the condition preceded the use remains open. But what can we say about cannabis use for relatively healthy people looking for a spiritual side to life in a world gone mad?

Thousands of Californians are reportedly puffing legal medicinal pot for mood disorders and anxiety. San Francisco psychiatrist Philip Wolfson has some sound advice on his Web site about it: “Marijuana is best used thoughtfully, with awareness of the effects on self and others, and non-compulsively. Compulsive use blunts marijuana’s utility and creates a sense of sameness of experience instead of uniqueness and learning. Marijuana can be a tool for healing, learning, love, sensuality, sexuality, growth and spacious mind and is best used as part of an overall approach to goals for personal development that include wellness, spiritual, psychological and community practices.”

Richard L. Miller, Ph.D., says of his 50 years as a psychologist: “During that time, our government has suppressed university research into certain psychoactive drugs including, but definitely not limited to, LSD, THC and MDMA. In addition, when I met with high-ranking Israeli scientists a few years ago, I was told that the United States suppresses research in Israel and other countries as well.

“I host a radio program on a National Public Radio affiliate. If I, or one of my guests, speak certain words on the air, the station can be fined an amount so great that the station ceases to exist.

“Freedom to do research and freedom of speech are core values of our democratic republic, and we have lost these freedoms. The future of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is in jeopardy. It is imperative that we organize, at the grassroots level and work to regain our lost freedoms.”
By Ellen Komp. Source.