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.

Severe chronic pain is usually treated with opioid narcotics and various synthetic analgesics, but these drugs have many limitations.

December 3, 2009 – Opioids are addictive and tolerance develops. The most commonly used synthetic analgesics – aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen -are not addictive but they are often insufficiently powerful. Furthermore they have serious toxic side effects including gastric bleeding or ulcer and in the long run a risk of liver or kidney disease. Stomach bleeding and ulcers induced by aspirin and other NSAIDs are the most common serious adverse drug reactions reported in the United States. These drugs may be responsible for as many as 76,000 hospitalizations and more than 7,600 deaths annually. Acetaminophen is increasingly prescribed instead because it largely spares the digestive tract, but it can cause liver damage or kidney failure when used regularly for long periods. Medical researchers have estimated that patients who take one to three acetaminophen tablets a day for a year or more account for about 8% to 10% of all cases of end-stage renal disease, a condition that is fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Given the limitations of opioids and non-addictive synthetic analgesics, one might have expected pain specialists to take a second look at cannabis, but the medical literature again suggests little recent reconsideration. Cannabis may be especially useful for the kinds of chronic pain that people who survive catastrophic traumatic accidents have to live with the rest of their lives.

Martin Martinez is such a patient:
High school friends of mine made a daily springtime habit of smoking marijuana just outside the principal’s office windows, purposely blowing in billows of pungent smoke on the afternoon breeze. Being chased out of the yard by irate school officials heightened the drug’s effects as young hearts raced to join their buddies bursting with laughter. An outsider among outsiders, I was not fond of such games. Nor was I interested in the use of pot for purely social or recreational uses. Marvelous insights captivated my mind when stoned. As I grew older my use of cannabis developed beyond intuitive meditation and became the catalyst of many profound mystical experiences. Later in life I found that the moderate use of cannabis did not interfere with demanding physical tasks and skills such as building construction and home remodeling. While a large dose of marijuana would tend to make me feel less active, a smaller dose invigorated my vitality. I also rode a motorcycle in my youth. I felt that a small dose of marijuana actually increased my motor skills. By the age of 27 I had driven many thousands of miles while mildly stoned and had never caused an accident. Then one night a reckless driver swerved into my lane and crashed into me at a combined speed of 60 miles per hour. I was not expected to survive.

I suffered dozens of severe injuries in the crash, including 25 orthopedic fractures and massive skull fractures which severely crippled several cranial nerves. Two months after the crash I lay in bed a crumpled mass of pain. My IV fed me up to 10 milligrams of morphine every 7 minutes, 24 hours a day, but still I had trouble sleeping because the pain was so intense. I was told that I was not going to recover mobility and that I would spend the rest of my life connected to a medical facility. I could barely speak due to the nerve damage to my voice and throat. The constant pain in my eyes was excruciating. I was given morphine and other narcotics which incapacitated me, but did not reduce the pain in my eyes. Swallowing was a challenge which often resulted in choking and coughing fits lasting many minutes. As the weeks went by I began to suspect that the medications I was given were actually contributing to my neurological impairments by inhibiting concentration and depressing neurological responses. In addition, I was painfully aware that narcotics had a disastrous effect on my intestines.

One day I was visited by an outpatient who had AIDS. He told me a little about the medical uses of marijuana and he gave me a joint. I waited till late at night when the nurses were busy elsewhere. I smoked the joint in secret and my heart raced so much I feared that I might burst the scars of my recent surgery. But then the contraband was gone, the scent was dissipated, and outraged nurses still had not discovered me, so my heart rate slowed to a comfortable purr. I felt relaxed and at ease, but not stupefied. I could still sense the deep scars of my damaged nerves, but I was somehow mentally distanced from the pain in a way that morphine did not offer. I slept that night more soundly than I had since the crash.

I left the primary hospital as soon as I could talk my doctors into releasing me. I returned to my hometown and became an outpatient at a facility there. I continued to use narcotics and other pain medications prescribed by my doctors, but over the months and years I gradually replaced several prescription medicines with the use of cannabis. Nearly all of the drugs I had been given by doctors seemed to depress my mind and body, and the addictive quality of narcotics created numerous unpleasant psychological effects. Unlike narcotics, cannabis use imparted positive mental and physical stimulation, called euphoria, that encouraged my rapid recovery.

With the use of cannabis replacing sensory-depressive narcotics, I found myself recovering far beyond the expectations of my first 27 doctors. Five years after the crash I took some college courses and then began to work again. By the time I was well enough to maintain a full time carpentry job I was smoking hundreds of dollars worth of cannabis per month. Ten years after the crash, having spent in excess of $10,000 per year on unreliable qualities of cannabis, I was arrested for growing my own.

In my trial the prosecution proved that I was growing what they considered to be a “huge” amount of marijuana. The fact that I had possession of 88 plants was assumed to be evidence that I was a drug dealer. I proved that I had a legitimated medical necessity for the use of marijuana and that I also had a very substantial income in real estate development which precluded a profit motive. Using the harvest estimates of the Drug Enforcement Administration agent who testified against me and the consumption estimates of the physician who testified for me, the amount of cannabis seized might have lasted me up to two years and saved me up to $20,000. Eight of the jurors in my trial were sympathetic and voted to acquit me on the grounds of medical necessity. Four of the jurors agreed with the State’s contention that I had intended to sell my medicine. A mistrial was declared and I remained free.

Two months later police officers returned to my home. They held me and searched the premises without a warrant, discovering a much smaller cannabis garden than they had seized the year before. A vindictive State prosecutor arrived at my house and intentionally confiscated confidential communications to and from my attorneys. I spent a second birthday in a row deathly sick in bed after having been released from jail. Physically, emotionally, and economically bankrupt, unable to afford the enormous cost of another trial, and unable to obtain a public defender due to my ownership of severely over-mortgaged real estate, I accepted a “no jail-time” plea bargain deal which was broken the day before sentencing. The medical affidavits of Dr. Grinspoon and four additional physicians had no apparent influence on the imperious court. I was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the criminal act of cultivating cannabis for my own medical use.

I was on the brink of catastrophe, about to begin the second worst three months of my life, when a marvelous thing happened. Hundreds of people, including doctors, medical marijuana activists, other medicinal cannabis users, and other concerned citizens, started an organized telephone, fax, and letter-writing campaign which forced the State to review and reevaluate its disposition of my case. Thanks to the sincere efforts of numerous concerned persons all jail time was then commuted to 240 hours of community service and the imposition of urine analysis testing was waived. Although the criminal actions against me cost me two years of terrible hardship, at least the State eventually decided not to further endanger my health. By: Martin Martinez. Source.

November 21, 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. Health Canada grants access to marijuana for medical use to those who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses and those with chronic conditions. Medicinal-Marijuana.ca helps connect qualified patients with designated growers across Canada, providing information, support and resources to all Canadians who would like to access the medical marijuana program of Canada. Visit online today. 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.

October 6, 2009 – Montana – Deni Llovet, a family nurse practitioner, organized River City Family Health’s first medical marijuana clinic after a patient with chronic back pain committed suicide.medmarijuana1

“Two and a half years ago, I had a client who was really suffering,” Llovet said. “We had tried everything and finally I said, ‘You know, I hear that marijuana could help.’” When the patient asked if it was legal, Llovet said no. She did not know about the state’s exemption.

“She bought cannabis from her 27-year-old son and it worked wonders,” Llovet said. “But her family did not approve, so she killed herself because her pain was so great.

“I should have known it was legal. That’s when I realized that I was missing the beat.”

Nearly 700 medical studies of cannabis and its derivatives are published each year that confirm their useful medical properties, said Tom Daubert, who led the campaign to establish the Montana law and later founded the patient support group Patients and Families United.

In 2002, adjunct University of Montana professor and local neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo researched the long-term effects, positive and negative, of smoking marijuana as a medical treatment.

Russo’s team, which included a UM grad student, evaluated four remaining members of the FDA’s Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. Though the program no longer accepts new patients, the remaining four are provided with four to eight ounces of government-grown, cured marijuana each week as treatment for serious illnesses such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

“The Missoula Study,” as it was nicknamed, concluded the medical use of marijuana relieved pain, muscle spasms and intra-eye pressure. The researchers recommended that the program be reopened or that states develop laws to accommodate patients in serious need.

“While some 13 American states allow medicinal use of cannabis for
 certain conditions, it remains illegal under federal law,” Russo said. “One possible
 solution to this situation would be FDA approval of a cannabis-based 
medicine so that it could be prescribed. Because of the side effects of smoking and variability in herbal
 cannabis without standardization, it is extremely unlikely that it could
 attain FDA approval.”

Most recent research delves into the relationship of phytocannabinoids found in marijuana plants, such as THC, and endocannabinoids, their counterparts produced in the human body. When a medical marijuana patient takes a dose, most of the phytocannabinoids engage with cells of the nervous system in conjunction with the endocannabinoids already present to produce a variety of effects, including pain relief.

Russo continued to research and synthesize these cannabinoids as senior medical adviser for GW Pharmaceuticals to help develop a cannabis-based oral spray. The product, called Sativex, is approved in Canada to treat cancer pain and multiple sclerosis.

But until it is approved in the U.S. or the cost of similar cannabis-derivatives decreases, physicians such as Llovet say they will continue to recommend the leafier medical counterpart.

Llovet said she prefers to recommend marijuana over opiate painkillers because it does not have the side effects, physical addictions or overdoses commonly seen among patients prescribed morphine or Oxycontin, for example.

“If you wanted to kill yourself with cannabis, you would have to smother yourself under bales of it,” Llovet said. “Overdose is easy with prescription pain killers.” Using medical marijuana or its pharmaceutical derivatives in conjunction with other painkillers can provide superior relief and reduce the risk of developing a tolerance to opiate prescriptions, Russo said.

Sitting at Food For Thought, Llovet was wrapped up in her excitement. Her coffee grew cold as she talked about the clinics where she works with others to identify the best treatments, sometimes including medical marijuana.

Contrary to what she expected, Llovet said the clinics don’t see recreational users looking for a loophole.

“We see the little old ladies, the old man living out in the woods and once we went out to a car to help a quadriplegic. We are seeing people who haven’t seen a health care practitioner in 30 years,” Llovet said. “We really are providing a public service. Our job is to make sure they really do qualify, and we want to give them suggestions on how to improve their health, whether that includes medical marijuana or not.”

At River City Family Health, visiting the clinic costs $200 for the patient, who must also register for an appointment and submit medical records in advance, though qualifying individuals without records are also allowed to attend.

When a prospective patient arrives at the clinic, a nurse gives him a physical before passing the chart to Llovet, who speaks with each individual for at least 15 minutes about his medical history and suggests all possible treatments. The person and chart then move to the final stage for a consultation with Dr. Michael Geci, who may sign a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana if he believes the patient legally qualifies and the treatment seems appropriate.

After receiving a physician’s recommendation, the person applies for a patient registry card with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services and can designate one person as a caregiver. Each patient is allowed to grow six plants for their medicine and possess one ounce of usable marijuana, and if they name a caregiver, that person can tend six plants and hold one ounce for each patient they assist.

“We are not affiliated with caregivers,” Llovet said. “We do recommend you enter into a relationship with a caregiver you trust.”

Daubert said many people designate a spouse or close friend as a caregiver, but often it is difficult initially because most people do not have experience growing cannabis.

“These are the only patients in the world growing their own medicine,” Daubert said. “Contrary to what a lot of people think, growing medical marijuana is not so simple. It takes months to grow a plant.”

In February, Daubert led a group of patients, caregivers, and activists to the state capitol, where they sought to improve the law’s functionality through Senate Bill No. 326, which died in a House committee after passing Senate.

“The House legislature was evenly divided (between parties) and a lot of bills couldn’t make it out of committee,” Daubert said. “It’s some part political fluke and partly because it was brand new information to many of the representatives. We got more support than I’d expected, however.”

The bill, created by Daubert and other PFU associates, sought to expand the law’s list of qualifying illnesses, allowing patients to obtain medicine from any registered caregiver, establish inventory audits under certain conditions, increase the amount of medical marijuana a patient and caregiver can possess and alter the definition of a mature plant to make it easier for patients to maintain a steady flow of medicine.

“We’ve likened our law to being allowed to have six tomato plants, but only one tomato and needing one in the fridge tomorrow to guarantee your medicine,” Daubert said. “Let me see you grow the plants and follow that rule. That’s what we are asking them to do.”

And for people who choose not to grow themselves, or who need larger amounts for relief, they rely on their caregivers to provide consistently as they, too, abide by the tomato rule.

Sometimes, an even flow of medicine cannot be maintained for other reasons.

Daubert said there is one con artist who travels the state persuading people to fund a large grow operation that he promises will yield large profits, then walks off with the money. He’s also heard complaints about caregivers who charge exorbitant prices or don’t deliver the medicine to patients as promised.

Because the law does not include provisions for punishing negligent caregivers or reasonable oversight that would limit the opportunities of con artists, one anonymous Missoula cardholder said many patients like himself are left without a legal source of medicine and no guarantee of justice.

“There are a lot of people taking advantage of new patients,” he said. “There is no database of reliable caregivers.” Source.

September 12, 2009 — Endocannabinoids occurring naturally in the human body are closely related to the active ingredients of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has been used for thousands ofPicture 13 years, for example to treat chronic pain. However, the fact that the endocannabinoids produced by the body itself can also be involved in the origin of pain is the astonishing result of studies by a Zurich research team.

The first mention of cannabis as a medicinal plant was in the Chinese book of medicinal plants “Shennong bencao jing”, which is almost 5000 years old. The Chinese emperor Shennong is said to have recommended cannabis resin as a remedy for various illnesses. After the use of its active ingredients for thousands of years to alleviate chronic pain, a study by the research group led by Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer, Professor at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at ETH Zurich and the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich now shows that the endocannabinoids produced by the body itself can lead to pain sensitization in certain types of pain. Their study was recently published in the scientific journal Science.

Short-circuit in the spinal cord
Pain and touch are conducted to the brain through the spinal cord via two different systems. This enables the brain to distinguish between pain and simple touch. However, because the two systems are interconnected via nerve fibres in the spinal cord, simple touches can also be perceived as pain, for example as a result of a “short circuit”. Such faulty circuits can occur if inhibitory chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the spinal cord are absent or blocked. Zeilhofer says, “This happens in various illnesses and can even be triggered by intense pain stimuli themselves.”

The body’s own endocannabinoids play a considerable part in the biochemical processes taking place in this, as the study by Zeilhofer and his team shows. In particular, the release of endocannabinoids in the spinal cord seems to be responsible for the fact that, after an initial pain stimulus, pain sensitivity spreads beyond the area originally stimulated. Even slight touch in this area is then perceived as painful. The endocannabinoids thus cause a “short circuit” between the touch signals and pain.

The scientists tested the theory that endocannabinoids released in the spinal cord during intense pain stimuli are responsible for this short-circuit. It actually became apparent that activating the endocannabinoid receptors on isolated spinal cord reduced the release of pain-inhibiting neurotransmitters. Animals that had developed the expected oversensitivity to slight touching after a pain stimulus behaved normally again after their cannabinoid receptors in the spinal cord were blocked.

Endocannabinoid inhibitors relieve pain
The fact that these processes also occur in humans was shown by experiments on healthy volunteers carried out in the Anaesthesiology Department at the University of Erlangen. Pain receptors in the volunteers’ skin were locally stimulated with an electric current, after which the size of the area hypersensitive to pain was determined. In the next step, half of the volunteers received a placebo for ten days, while the others were given Rimonabant, a substance that blocks certain cannabinoid receptors. The experiment was then repeated. Zeilhofer says, “The painful area formed in the test subjects whose endocannabinoid receptors had been blocked was about fifty percent smaller than in those who had taken the placebo.”

Helpful to the pharmaceutical industry
However, further experiments also showed that other forms of pain, e.g. those occurring as a result of nerve injuries, developed normally in mice that lacked endocannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoids seem to play no major pain promoting role in this case. Zeilhofer says, “In the next step we want to find out which pain patients might possibly benefit from blocking the cannabinoid receptors. At any rate our findings should be of great interest to drug companies who are working with this pain model to develop new analgesics.” Source.

August 16, 2009 – Editor’s note: There are millions of regular pot smokers in America and millions more infrequent smokers. Smoking pot clearly has far top-ten-goldfewer dangerous and hazardous effects on society than legal drugs such as alcohol. Here is High Times’s top 10 reasons that marijuana should be legal, part of its 420 Campaign legalization strategy.

10. Prohibition has failed to control the use and domestic production of marijuana. The government has tried to use criminal penalties to prevent marijuana use for over 75 years and yet: marijuana is now used by over 25 million people annually, cannabis is currently the largest cash crop in the United States, and marijuana is grown all over the planet. Claims that marijuana prohibition is a successful policy are ludicrous and unsupported by the facts, and the idea that marijuana will soon be eliminated from America and the rest of the world is a ridiculous fantasy.

9. Arrests for marijuana possession disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics and reinforce the perception that law enforcement is biased and prejudiced against minorities. African-Americans account for approximately 13% of the population of the United States and about 13.5% of annual marijuana users, however, blacks also account for 26% of all marijuana arrests. Recent studies have demonstrated that blacks and Hispanics account for the majority of marijuana possession arrests in New York City, primarily for smoking marijuana in public view. Law enforcement has failed to demonstrate that marijuana laws can be enforced fairly without regard to race; far too often minorities are arrested for marijuana use while white/non-Hispanic Americans face a much lower risk of arrest.

8. A regulated, legal market in marijuana would reduce marijuana sales and use among teenagers, as well as reduce their exposure to other drugs in the illegal market. The illegality of marijuana makes it more valuable than if it were legal, providing opportunities for teenagers to make easy money selling it to their friends. If the excessive profits for marijuana sales were ended through legalization there would be less incentive for teens to sell it to one another. Teenage use of alcohol and tobacco remain serious public health problems even though those drugs are legal for adults, however, the availability of alcohol and tobacco is not made even more widespread by providing kids with economic incentives to sell either one to their friends and peers.

7. Legalized marijuana would reduce the flow of money from the American economy to international criminal gangs. Marijuana’s illegality makes foreign cultivation and smuggling to the United States extremely profitable, sending billions of dollars overseas in an underground economy while diverting funds from productive economic development.

6. Marijuana’s legalization would simplify the development of hemp as a valuable and diverse agricultural crop in the United States, including its development as a new bio-fuel to reduce carbon emissions. Canada and European countries have managed to support legal hemp cultivation without legalizing marijuana, but in the United States opposition to legal marijuana remains the biggest obstacle to development of industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity. As US energy policy continues to embrace and promote the development of bio-fuels as an alternative to oil dependency and a way to reduce carbon emissions, it is all the more important to develop industrial hemp as a bio-fuel source – especially since use of hemp stalks as a fuel source will not increase demand and prices for food, such as corn. Legalization of marijuana will greatly simplify the regulatory burden on prospective hemp cultivation in the United States.

5. Prohibition is based on lies and disinformation. Justification of marijuana’s illegality increasingly requires distortions and selective uses of the scientific record, causing harm to the credibility of teachers, law enforcement officials, and scientists throughout the country. The dangers of marijuana use have been exaggerated for almost a century and the modern scientific record does not support the reefer madness predictions of the past and present. Many claims of marijuana’s danger are based on old 20th century prejudices that originated in a time when science was uncertain how marijuana produced its characteristic effects. Since the cannabinoid receptor system was discovered in the late 1980s these hysterical concerns about marijuana’s dangerousness have not been confirmed with modern research. Everyone agrees that marijuana, or any other drug use such as alcohol or tobacco use, is not for children. Nonetheless, adults have demonstrated over the last several decades that marijuana can be used moderately without harmful impacts to the individual or society.

4. Marijuana is not a lethal drug and is safer than alcohol. It is established scientific fact that marijuana is not toxic to humans; marijuana overdoses are nearly impossible, and marijuana is not nearly as addictive as alcohol or tobacco. It is unfair and unjust to treat marijuana users more harshly under the law than the users of alcohol or tobacco.

3. Marijuana is too expensive for our justice system and should instead be taxed to support beneficial government programs. Law enforcement has more important responsibilities than arresting 750,000 individuals a year for marijuana possession, especially given the additional justice costs of disposing of each of these cases. Marijuana arrests make justice more expensive and less efficient in the United States, wasting jail space, clogging up court systems, and diverting time of police, attorneys, judges, and corrections officials away from violent crime, the sexual abuse of children, and terrorism. Furthermore, taxation of marijuana can provide needed and generous funding of many important criminal justice and social programs.

2. Marijuana use has positive attributes, such as its medical value and use as a recreational drug with relatively mild side effects. Many people use marijuana because they have made an informed decision that it is good for them, especially Americans suffering from a variety of serious ailments. Marijuana provides relief from pain, nausea, spasticity, and other symptoms for many individuals who have not been treated successfully with conventional medications. Many American adults prefer marijuana to the use of alcohol as a mild and moderate way to relax. Americans use marijuana because they choose to, and one of the reasons for that choice is their personal observation that the drug has a relatively low dependence liability and easy-to-manage side effects. Most marijuana users develop tolerance to many of marijuana’s side effects, and those who do not, choose to stop using the drug. Marijuana use is the result of informed consent in which individuals have decided that the benefits of use outweigh the risks, especially since, for most Americans, the greatest risk of using marijuana is the relatively low risk of arrest.

1. Marijuana users are determined to stand up to the injustice of marijuana probation and accomplish legalization, no matter how long or what it takes to succeed. Despite the threat of arrests and a variety of other punishments and sanctions marijuana users have persisted in their support for legalization for over a generation. They refuse to give up their long quest for justice because they believe in the fundamental values of American society. Prohibition has failed to silence marijuana users despite its best attempts over the last generation. The issue of marijuana’s legalization is a persistent issue that, like marijuana, will simply not go away. Marijuana will be legalized because marijuana users will continue to fight for it until they succeed.

Source.