Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

2014: The Year for Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

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Gov. Mark Dayton

Is Gov. Mark Dayton – thankfully – softening his irrational opposition to medical marijuana? It appears as though that might be the case. Yesterday, ECM reported that Gov. Dayton will allow staff to work with patients and advocates on the issue of medical marijuana. He even expressed interest in researching the issue himself. While we still “don’t know where he stands,” according to Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Carewith your help, we can educate the governor’s staff and demonstrate just how ridiculous law enforcement’s “blanket opposition” to medical marijuana really is.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C. all have workable medical marijuana laws protecting seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation. Why should Minnesotans suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, Dravet syndrome, PTSD, ALS, MS, and other enumerated conditions be forced to break the law in order to have a better quality of life? Ask the governor to listen to patients and providers and be skeptical of the “chicken little” opposition with which certain members of law enforcement provide him.

Obama’s DOJ: A Disaster for Medical Marijuana Patients

Once again, Obama’s DOJ shows no sympathy for medical marijuana patients.

Last April, 12 HIV/AIDS activists were arrested outside of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office as they protested funding cuts to HIV/AIDS and needle exchange programs in D.C. The protesters were offered the standard “Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” requiring them to stay away from the Cannon House Office Building for six months, perform 32 hours of community service, and test negative in three drug tests. If they were able to meet these requirements, the charges against them would be dropped.

Within three months, all of the protestors had completed their community service hours, and 10 of the 12 successfully produced negative drug tests. And this is where the story gets complicated

Two of the protestors, Antonio Davis and David Goode, used medical marijuana, recommended by their physicians, to deal with pain and other side effects caused by their HIV/AIDS treatment regimens. And though both men submitted letters from their doctors verifying their need for medical marijuana and, moreover, were assured by a judge that marijuana would not be screened for, the U.S. attorney for the District refused to honor the original deal spelled out in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

Now, the case has been transferred from one prosecutor to another and yet another, with each new prosecutor setting new conditions and requiring more community service time from the protestors. All of the protestors are now being required to complete a third 32-hour stretch of community service … or go to trial.

But because of failed drug screenings, medical marijuana patients Davis and Goode don’t have this option. They must go to trial and could face up to six months in jail. Meanwhile, Davis has stopped using his doctor-recommended marijuana and is suffering both mentally (worrying about possible consequences of a conviction) and physically (losing 20 pounds) because of it.

It’s insane that federal prosecutors are treating these medical marijuana patients so harshly. Marijuana has continually been shown to reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by HIV/AIDS and by the various medications used to treat HIV/AIDS. Observational research has found that by relieving these side effects, medical marijuana improves the likelihood that patients will adhere to life-prolonging treatments. Furthermore, clinical trials have shown that marijuana can significantly reduce a specific type of pain that often afflicts patients with HIV/AIDS — neuropathy, a painful nerve condition for which there are currently no FDA-approved treatments. (Visit the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research website to view more studies on marijuana’s therapeutic value.)

The story here is just another piece to add to the very puzzling pattern of the Obama administration burying its head in the sand. In the past several months, the administration has cracked down on patients and providers, refused to let a clinical study proceed, and continued to ignore medical evidence … evidence that medical marijuana actually helps sick people! The story here is but one glimpse into the suffering caused by federal obstinance in regard to medical marijuana, and as the old saying goes, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

 

 

 

World Leaders, Senate Report Say U.S. Drug War is a Failure

Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international organization consisting of high level current and former heads of state and policy experts, released a report suggesting world governments give up the war on drugs and consider more rational harm-reduction policies, including removing all criminal penalties for the possession and use of marijuana. The Commission, which included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, among many others, urged leaders to consider alternatives to incarceration for drug use to shift their focus toward treatment of drug abusers, rather than punishment and interdiction for recreational users.

“These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana’s status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy.”

This study comes as Portugal enjoys the tenth year of its experiment with decriminalizing all drugs. Since making the bold policy move in 2001, Portugal has seen crime, use rates, addiction rates, overdose deaths, and blood-borne disease all decrease significantly. The study released last week suggests that a similar model could be adopted successfully elsewhere. It also stresses the damage that prohibition policies do to society, including massive government expenditure, enrichment of criminal organizations, and interference with treatment and prevention of diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Today, reports issued by several Senate subcommittees stated that America’s massive spending to fight the drug war in Latin America has not stopped narcotics from entering the U.S., nor has it affected use rates.

So what exactly is the justification for this continued insanity?

UPDATE: The Marijuana Policy Project’s Robert Capecchi talks about the Global Commision on Drug Policy report on FOX9 in the Twin Cities.


Case Closed: Marijuana and Neuropathic Pain

While some medical uses of marijuana remain controversial, a new study of marijuana and HIV-related neuropathy published online in early August by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology closes the case regarding one important indication: neuropathic pain. 

Neuropathic pain — pain from damage to the nerves — can be caused by any number of conditions, including HIV (as in this study), diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. And it is notoriously resistant to conventional pain drugs, as the article notes. The patients in this study, conducted at UC San Diego, still suffered significant pain despite being on a variety of pain drugs. Two-thirds were taking opioid narcotics and still suffering. Continue reading

Adjournment Brings No Relief

The New York Senate adjourned yesterday, effectively ending this year’s legislative session, but that will come as no relief to seriously ill New Yorkers who rely on medical marijuana to ease their suffering.

The senators went home without considering a bill that would have allowed people like Burton Aldrich, a Kingston quadriplegic who needs medical marijuana to control his spasms and constant pain, to use the drug with a doctor’s recommendation without fear of arrest.

It’s difficult to explain the lack of enthusiasm in the Senate for protecting patients who wish to use a proven safe, effective medicine to ease their suffering after other options had failed.

It shouldn’t have been fear that voters would disapprove of their compassion and common sense: 76% of New Yorkers said they supported a medical marijuana bill in a poll conducted in 2005. The Senate’s counterparts in the Assembly didn’t appear to suffer any political catastrophes after passing a similar bill last week, 89-52, or last year, 92-52.

The press, with several notable exceptions, often appeared more interested in the horserace aspects of the bill’s chances rather than its merits. Paradoxically, members of the press often saw the Senate’s reluctance to take the bill seriously as a reason not to take it seriously themselves. I was told more than once by reporters that as long as it appeared unlikely that the Senate would take up the medical marijuana bill, their editors weren’t inclined to give it much coverage.

The real story was the patients who were counting on the Senate to protect them. Many of them risked their health to advocate for the bill, going to Albany to talk to their senators, writing letters to their local papers, and granting interviews to the media.

I don’t know if their efforts ever got the attention they deserved, so I’d like to thank some of them here: Bruce Dunn of Otsego County, who suffers chronic pain from a vehicle accident in 1988; Barbara Jackson, a cancer survivor from the Bronx who was arrested for using marijuana to treat dangerous appetite loss; Richard Williams of Richmondville who has battled HIV for 20 years and also has hepatitis C; Joel Peacock of Buffalo, a Conservative Party member who suffers chronic pain from a 2001 car accident; Glenn Amandola, a medically retired New York City police officer who suffers from chronic pain and a seizure disorder after being injured on the job; Jeannine Zagiel of Oneonta, who was disabled in a work injury in 2001; Dr. Kevin Smith, a Saugerties psychiatrist who suffers from a painful genetic defect that causes his immune system to attack his spine and hips as though they were foreign bodies; and Sherry Greene of Cedarhurst, who suffers from fibromyalgia.

There are many, many more.

They will spend this next year as they spent the last: in pain, frustrated by a ridiculous law that makes them criminals if they try to get better. Even so, many will be back next year to fight for their right to make their own health care decisions with their doctors.

Some, however, won’t be around to fight next year. For them, the Senate’s lack of urgency will mean spending their last days in avoidable pain.

Then again, many of New York’s senators may not be back next year either. Like the suffering patients they ignored, they too may find themselves on Election Day wishing they’d had the courage and good sense to pass this bill when they had the chance.