Medical Marijuana

Israel Moves Toward Expanded Medical Marijuana Law

November 25th, 2009 37 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Yesterday, Israel’s Ministry of Health was ordered to finalize within four months a detailed bill that would regulate the production and marketing of medical marijuana in that country.

Additional measures recommended by a government health committee included making sure that medical marijuana remains affordable for patients and implementing safeguards to prevent the drug from reaching illegal users and merchants.

Once again, Israel’s government has shown a desire to promote the wellbeing of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana—something our federal government continues to avoid.

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Medical Marijuana

Marijuana and Young ADHD Patients — the Dialogue Continues.

November 25th, 2009 56 Comments Kate Zawidzki

My  recent post about medical marijuana and  young patients got picked up by the folks over at And that prompted writer Katherine Ellison, whose New York Times story I’d taken issue with to post the following response:

a couple corrections for you

Hi, Bruce —

For the record, my byline is Katherine, not Kathy. And I guess I can understand your frustration at not having a story that reflects your advocate’s view of marijuana as a safe , cure-all drug, appropriate for all ages. However, I stand by my reporting, which I think was a responsible effort to bring awareness to an increasing problem of irresponsible doctors given way too much leeway with an untested drug on adolescents.

– kathyellison November 25, 2009 10:28AM

Oh dear. I generally don’t like to get into fights with reporters, but I’m grateful that Opposing Views allowed me to post the following response:

First, Katherine, I apologize for using your name as you signed it on your emails to me rather than as published in your byline. Nevertheless, I find it frustrating that you appear to be deliberately misinterpreting both what I’ve written here and what I said on the phone during our lengthy conversation.

You know full well that I don’t consider marijuana a cure-all and that I do not expect you to endorse my opinions in print. I do expect you, in reporting a scientific issue, to actually address the relevant science in a way that will enlighten readers.

Your story failed to explain meaningful scientific evidence provided to you by both me and Paul Armentano suggesting a positive effect of marijuana on ADHD as well as the biochemical basis for such an effect being plausible. You included a scientifically nonsensical quote from Stephen Hinshaw calling marijuana for ADHD “one of the worst ideas of all time” because marijuana disrupts attention and memory in normal people. But we know that the brains of ADHD patients don’t work like those of normal people — which is why stimulants like Ritalin have a calming effect, the exact opposite of their effect on most of us. Did you even bother to ask Hinshaw this obvious followup question?

You also included a cavalier quote from Edward M. Hallowell claiming that marijuana use “can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else” — without bothering to note that this so-called “amotivational syndrome” has been debunked again and again. One example that I sent you, and which you apparently ignored, was the 1999 Institute of Medicine report commissioned by the White House, which states on pages 107-108, “When heavy marijuana use accompanies these symptoms, the drug is often cited as the cause, but no convincing data demonstrate a causal relationship between marijuana smoking and these behavioral characteristics.” Many other expert reviews have come to the same conclusion.

I am not asking you to agree with me or to tout marijuana as a cure-all, which it manifestly is not. As a longtime health journalist myself, all I am asking is for you to do your homework as a reporter.

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Medical Marijuana

Israeli Hospital Accommodates Medical Marijuana Patients

November 24th, 2009 21 Comments Kate Zawidzki

While many American authorities continue to drag their feet on medical marijuana issues, one of our closest overseas allies is taking another step to help patients for whom marijuana is a safe and reliable treatment.

Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer recently became the first hospital in Israel to administer medical marijuana to qualified patients. After a successful pilot program, the new hospital policy allows medical marijuana patients to use their medication either in smoking rooms or in private rooms with an open window. To further accommodate these patients’ needs, the Israeli Association for the Advancement of Medical Cannabis is now raising money to purchase vaporizers—five of which are already in use at the hospital.

This is just the latest example of Israel and other countries outpacing the United States when it comes to providing seriously ill patients with safe and reliable access to medical marijuana.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana and Young Patients

November 23rd, 2009 24 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Lately there has been a small burst of media fascination with what by most accounts is a rare occurrence: Use of medical marijuana recommended by a physician by patients under 18. Any psychoactive drug, including marijuana, should be used with caution in children, but there is no reason that these infrequent cases should be shocking. Indeed, they should be taken as signposts on the road to urgently-needed research. Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Support for Marijuana Legalization Growing Rapidly

November 23rd, 2009 23 Comments Kate Zawidzki

There is a great article in today’s Washington Post about the momentum behind marijuana policy reform. You can read the full version on their Web site.

We need to encourage the media to produce fair and balanced coverage of this issue — something they haven’t always done but are slowly beginning to. Please share this article with your friends and family or vote for it on

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Sacked UK Science Advisor Sounds Off Again

November 20th, 2009 33 Comments Kate Zawidzki

David Nutt, removed as chair of the British government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for daring to speak the unwanted truth that marijuana is safer than alcohol, is speaking out again, this time in the pages of The Lancet, one of the world’s top medical journals. Unfortunately, you can read only the first few lines of Nutt’s column unless you pay for full access (correction: you have to register but don’t have to pay — thanks to Just Legalize It for pointing this out), but he makes a critical point that many politicians surely won’t like: “The control of cannabis use through regulation rather than criminalisation has proved safe and effective in the Netherlands, and was indeed suggested in The Lancet as far back as 1963.”

Maybe someday governments will base policy on facts and data. It sure would be nice.

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Do You Feel Safer Yet?

November 19th, 2009 53 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Customs officials seize $2.6 million in bongs and pipes at Los Angeles Harbor. Yes, this is really how they’re spending our tax dollars.

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Medical Marijuana

More Misinformation From The DOJ

November 19th, 2009 20 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Another Justice Department Web site with a cute name is hanging on to misinformation about the American Medical Association’s position on medical marijuana.


The American Medical Association has rejected pleas to endorse marijuana as medicine, and instead has urged that marijuana remain a prohibited, Schedule I drug, at least until more research is done.

It’s false, and it needs to change. Please join me in sending an e-mail to and asking them to update this language.

Also of note is the relative silence from the drug czar’s office. You would think the Office of National Drug Control Policy would have something to say about a new marijuana position from the nation’s largest medical association, right? Wouldn’t that warrant a press release or blog post? It certainly has whenever the AMA said something negative about marijuana.

I guess they’re showing their true colors. The drug czar’s office isn’t about bringing you up-to-date, factual information on drugs and drug policy. Their job is to make sure you don’t question the laws we have in place — even when it puts them at odds with reality. So when the nation’s largest group of doctors breaks from the government talking points, all we hear is silence.

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More Good News on THC and Cancer

November 18th, 2009 38 Comments Kate Zawidzki

For some time we’ve been pointing out the massive pile of evidence that THC and other cannabinoids have potential as anticancer drugs. A new study out of Thailand demonstrates that THC can fight cholangiocarcinoma – cancer of the bile duct. This is a rare but deadly form of cancer, with only 30 percent of patients still alive after five years, according to the  Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. Based on these new lab results, the Thai researchers conclude, “THC is potentially used to retard cholangiocarcinoma cell growth and metastasis.”

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Medical Marijuana

Why Does the DEA’s Web Site Matter?

November 18th, 2009 18 Comments Kate Zawidzki

We’ve been updating readers this week about the American Medical Association’s new position on marijuana and the DEA’s response. Last night, the DEA removed a number of AMA-related talking points from its Web site. This may seem like a very small, almost meaningless step, but it’s important to remember how influential the AMA really is.

Striking this language from the DEA’s Web site is a manifestation of something larger and more abstract: the gutting of our opponents’ most effective talking point.

I know everyone reading this blog has sent a letter to their member of Congress and asked for medical marijuana reforms (If you haven’t, you can here), and I’m willing to bet a lot of you have received negative responses. Think back to that response … did it mention the AMA’s opposition? Chances are it did.

When marijuana prohibition was first debated in 1937, one of the first questions was “What is the AMA’s position?” This line of thinking has been pervasive ever since. In every state where MPP has fought for patients, in every congressional office in Washington, and in countless media debates, prohibitionists have used the AMA’s opposition as their flagship talking point. That they can no longer do so is a major development.

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