Medical marijuana patients in California won a victory Monday when the Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would prevent patients from being denied organ transplants.
The Associated Press reports:
The Democratic governor
announced Monday that he signed AB258 by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael.
Supporters say some patients who use medical marijuana have been denied life-saving organ transplants because they are treated by doctors as drug abusers. Marijuana is often prescribed to cancer and other patients to help with pain and side effects of treatment.
Levine's legislation ensures that medical marijuana users have the same right to access organ transplants as other patients by prohibiting a hospital or doctor from disqualifying a person solely because of medical marijuana use.
One such patient was Norman Smith, a Los Angeles resident who succumbed to liver cancer after being denied a transplant. You can learn about his story here.
State Department’s Top Drug Warrior, William Brownfield, Says Federal Government Must Tolerate Making Marijuana Legal
According to Reason, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, called for flexibility in interpreting anti-drug treaties.
“How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”
When asked about the federal government’s position on the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Brownfield described a clearly prescribed policy:
“The deputy attorney general's words were that the federal government will not intervene in the application of the laws of Washington and Colorado on marijuana legalization, but will monitor and hold them responsible for performance in eight specifically designated areas.... We have a national interest to ensure that this does not cause undue harm....”
“The United States of America reserves the right and can at any time it chooses enforce the law against marijuana and cannabis cultivation, production, sale, purchase, and consumption in Washington state and Colorado. The deputy attorney general in a public document has asserted that for now we will not do that unless it crosses the line in eight specifically identified categories in those two states.”
Although there is a long way for the federal government to go in terms of completely eliminating its prohibitionist attitude, those associated have been compelled by the political circumstances in the U.S. to accept that there is value to alternative policies. This is a good sign for countries that have been pressured by the U.S. to mimic and help enforce American prohibition.
The Chicago Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards is considering a proposed ordinance by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Edward M. Burke that would restrict the location of medical marijuana dispensaries to manufacturing zones in Chicago.
Seriously ill patients should not be relegated to areas normally limited to manufacturing businesses and industry. The proper location for medical marijuana dispensaries should be no different than any pharmacy. This proposal would create an additional burden on patients by requiring many to travel extra distances to potentially dangerous areas just to obtain their medicine.
This isn't the only proposed regulation that is making patients upset. The state also wants applicants to undergo strenuous background checks and relinquish their right to own a firearm.
A national poll released this week by Reason Magazine found that a majority of adults want to see marijuana reform, and that they want the federal government to respect state laws concerning marijuana.
Some highlights, courtesy of Katie Hooks:
- 72 percent of Americans say the federal government should not arrest marijuana users in states like Colorado and Washington that have legalized the drug.
- 68 percent of Americans say the federal government should not arrest marijuana growers in states that have legalized the drug.
- 64 percent say the federal government should not arrest marijuana sellers in states that have legalized the drug.
- 53 percent say they agree with the statement that "marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol."
- 49 percent say they oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use and 47 percent support legalizing it. That finding is within the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.8 percent.
It is important to note the discrepancy in these last two results. Often times, when people hear the word “legalize,” they assume that this means making marijuana legal with no regulations or systems in place to govern the distribution and use of the substance. This could easily explain why more respondents agree with treating marijuana like alcohol than with “legalizing marijuana.” Fortunately, every serious effort to make marijuana legal in states around the country has been careful to include provisions that would establish a well-regulated cultivation and distribution system.
The infamous school drug-education program known as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) may be removing marijuana from its curriculum. D.A.R.E. officer Mike Meyer of Kennewick, Washington explains that program’s materials for December make no mention of the substance, though he says he does not know why.
If true, this is a welcome step, although eliminating D.A.R.E. altogether would be preferable. All credible studies of the program, including a report from the Government Accountability Office, have failed to find any decrease in drug use connected with participation in D.A.R.E. Officials with the organization have apparently been slow in admitting this, however. In a libel suit brought by D.A.R.E. against Rolling Stone magazine, Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that allegations printed in the magazine, including that D.A.R.E. had actually tried to suppress scientific research critical of the program, were “substantially true.” D.A.R.E. appealed the decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court upheld the ruling.
Although D.A.R.E. officials admitted their failure in 2001 and proposed a new, less hysterical curriculum, research since then has still failed to demonstrate any success. The “new” curriculum, as it is described on the website, does not seem to involve any increased commitment to facts, but rather now involves “role-playing sessions” and “discussion groups.” The summary of the new program, revealingly, makes insinuations that drug use is connected to terrorism, and in place of facts, explains that officers will be using “stunning brain imagery” as “tangible proof of how substances diminish mental activity, emotions, coordination and movement.”
Although they have possibly abandoned the anti-marijuana crusade in their school curriculum, D.A.R.E. still disseminates dishonest information on their website. An ironically named “fact sheet” repeats claims that marijuana “has a high potential for abuse,” and although it is short on the details or prevalence of this abuse, it does claim that marijuana can weaken the immune system and cause insanity and lung disease. The “fact sheet” categorically denies the medical benefits of marijuana, suggesting that it causes only “inebriation.” At the same time, it admits that THC, which the page describes as “the psychoactive [in other words mind-altering or “inebriating”] ingredient in marijuana,” has medical benefits. It implicitly denies the countless cases of experiences of medical marijuana patients who tried conventional treatments without success, claiming simply that “existing legal drugs provide superior treatment for serious medical conditions,” and “the FDA has approved safe and effective medication for the treatment of glaucoma, nausea, wasting syndrome, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.” The page even quotes the Institute of Medicine study, “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,” the very same study which confirms the medical usefulness of marijuana and refutes claims that it poses a major proven risk of addiction or lung cancer, or that it causes brain damage, amotivational syndrome, suppression of the immune system, use of other illicit drugs, or premature death from any cause. The study further points out the shortcomings of existing legal medications for the relevant medical conditions, including the slow and unreliable action of synthetic THC pills.
According to Mike Riggs at Reason, D.A.R.E. headquarters has neither confirmed nor denied any shift in policy.
Medical Marijuana Activist and Cancer Patient Angel Raich Thrown Out of Hospital for Vaporizing Marijuana
Well, it doesn’t get much more despicable than this. Yesterday, a registered medical marijuana patient with terminal cancer was forced to leave UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco because she was using a vaporizer to ingest her medicine.
A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that use of the vaporizer violated their non-smoking policy. First of all, vaporizing is NOT smoking!
Then, the hospital claimed that even marijuana in vapor form can damage the lungs of other patients. I challenge the hospital to deliver evidence of this, especially considering that a recent study shows marijuana, even smoked marijuana, has little effect on long-term pulmonary function. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data showing any second-hand effects from vaporized marijuana.
This patient happened to be none other than Angel Raich, a long-time medical marijuana activist who battled the federal government in the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her incurable brain tumor.
Marijuana is an accepted medicine in the state of California. For a state university hospital to threaten a terminally ill patient with arrest and federal prosecution, instead of making accommodations so that the patient could use her medicine, is inexcusable.
Just to give you another example of people being denied treatment simply because they use marijuana to treat their conditions, here is a video from our friends at Reason about a man who was taken off a kidney transplant list because he used a legal medicine that his doctor recommended.
What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?
This week has seen a sudden explosion in DEA raids of medical marijuana businesses, leaving patients, caregivers, and activists reeling.
On Monday, 26 medical marijuana businesses throughout Montana were raided by task forces comprised of federal and local law enforcement. As usual, some arrests were made and anything of value seized as evidence under sealed warrants. Interestingly, these raids began within minutes of a vote that stalled the bill to repeal Montana’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Patients and employees of medical marijuana businesses have been mobilizing with the help of Americans for Safe Access to respond to these strong-arm tactics.
This travesty was repeated Tuesday when the DEA and local law enforcement raided two West Hollywood dispensaries. This occurred shortly after a measure to tax medical marijuana businesses in Los Angeles passed, adding even more legitimacy to the industry there. (A video about the raids is at the bottom of this post, courtesy of ReasonTV.)
It should be noted that the Justice Department “Ogden Memo” instructs federal law enforcement not to spend resources going after medical marijuana businesses as long as they are following state law. Of course, the Justice Department thinks all these businesses were violating state law, but is that for them to decide, or the states?
From all accounts, the California dispensaries that were raided were model businesses. Unfortunately, Montana’s medical marijuana law is vague when it comes to dispensaries, but there are several bills currently being considered by the state legislature that would establish their legality and a system of tight controls. For the DEA to go in now like angry thugs, when the exact extent of the law is in a state of flux, is unacceptable.
The manner in which these raids are taking place is equally unacceptable. These businesses are trying to follow every law and pay their taxes like any other legitimate business. Yet, when their compliance is in question, the federal government attacks them with threats and violence, taking money and destroying property. Where else does this happen? If an automobile manufacturer accidentally miscalculates its taxes or unintentionally steps outside of an unclear law, charges are filed and the issue is dealt with in court peacefully. Federal agents don’t kick down the factory doors, destroy all the cars on the lot, or sell off the factory equipment. They don’t handcuff the autoworkers and force them to lie on the ground with guns in their faces.
This aggression toward medical marijuana businesses must stop.
Please click here to ask President Obama to stand by his promises and end the raids.