Medical Marijuana, Research

Truth Free America

July 11th, 2008 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

I mentioned Drug Free America Foundation’s Calvina Fay earlier this week, but here’s another whopper from her group, Save Our Society, regarding a North Carolina resolution to study medical marijuana:

“Those that seek the legalization of marijuana often site [sic] the American College of Physicians paper as being in favor of ‘medical’ marijuana, however that is not accurate. The ACP supported research into cannabinoids such as THC, but they specifically stated ‘The ACP encourages the use of non-smoked forms of THC that have proven therapeutic value.'”

There’s actually plenty that’s objectionable here: That SOS is so scared of North Carolina lawmakers even discussing medical marijuana shows what kind of small-minded fear addicts we’re dealing with.

But if you actually read the ACP’s statement – and you should if you really want to piss SOS off – its position is clear:

“ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.”

Really, though – read it. Don’t take my word for it, and definitely don’t take the word of the likes of Calvina Fay.

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Medical Marijuana

Marijuana for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

July 3rd, 2008 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Could marijuana be helpful for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? The possibility is raised by a newly published case report in Cannabinoids, the journal of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine. Doctors from the Heidelberg University Medical Center in Heidelberg, Germany, report on an adult ADHD sufferer who exhibited classic ADHD behavior — pushy, impatient, having trouble focusing or responding to questions appropriately — and who had not been helped by Ritalin, a standard ADHD treatment, but whose symptoms essentially disappeared after smoking marijuana. The authors also discuss animal research that suggests cannabinoids may be effective against ADHD, as well as a human study suggesting that moderate marijuana use may have helped ADHD patients with cocaine dependence stay in treatment.

Some studies have found an association between marijuana use and ADHD symptoms, often drawing the inference that marijuana is worsening ADHD, or that ADHD sufferers are at risk for “drug abuse.” But what if they’re self-medicating and — in at least some cases — actually helping reduce their symptoms?


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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana on TV

July 3rd, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

A New York cable station, Regional News Network, will air a half-hour discussion on medical marijuana in the state tonight at 8 p.m. EST.

The show, which streams live at, will feature advocate Glenn Amandola, a medically retired New York City police officer who suffers from chronic pain after being injured on the job, and Rep. Richard Gottfried, who sponsored a medical marijuana bill that passed the Assembly this year, 89-52.

The show will also feature a discussion that allows phone calls and e-mails from viewers, so be sure to make your opinion known. Just be nice!

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Argument in Washington — Litigation Coming?

July 2nd, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Medical marijuana patients in Washington state are allowed to have a 60-day supply of medicine. A process to define what that means in practical terms, overseen by the state Health Department and based on expert input from doctors, researchers, and patients, was going just fine until Gov. Christine Gregoire stepped in, apparently trying to override science with politics. Having tossed out science-based recommendations in favor of a political compromise, it now seems the mess is only worsening and may even lead to a lawsuit. Why must it be so hard to base health policy on facts and data rather than posturing?

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Medical Marijuana

More Potency Nonsense

June 30th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

A newspaper in Texas essentially rewrites a recent White House press release about the horrors of increased marijuana potency. Reporters who take time to do some actual research can quickly learn that scientists consider these alarming claims completely unproven. One really does get tired of having to repeat this stuff, but repeat it we must — and will. 

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Medical Marijuana

News Flash! Cannabinoids Have Medical Value!!!

June 30th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

A smattering of news outlets, including Wired, have picked up on a recent study showing that a cannabinoid in marijuana called beta-caryophyllene may have all sorts of useful medical properties and doesn’t make the user high. But this is nothing new: A number of cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) have similarly broad medical potential and no psychoactive side effects. Here’s a link to one recent scientific article about CBD.

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Medical Marijuana

Why I Do What I Do

June 26th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Whenever people find out that I work for the Marijuana Policy Project the first question I’m asked is…well, forget the first question, it’s usually pretty inane.  The second question I’m generally asked is, “How did you get into that?” or “Why’d you decide to work there?”

I have a few reasons.  One of them is social justice.  Rarely do I find myself getting fired up so much as when I talk about the outrages suffered by people of color in the name of the War on Drugs.  Though most of us will never experience it, systematic racism is alive and well throughout America.

But, there is another reason–one that’s only gotten my attention in the last year or so.  Basically, it boils down to the lack of compassion and understanding for medical marijuana patients.  The recent case of Tim Garon, a Seattle patient who was denied a liver transplant for having used doctor-recommended medical marijuana is just one example of a number of similar situations. Brilliant, now we’re turning patients back into victims.

Check out the news clip from his story below, but be advised, it can be hard to watch:

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Medical Marijuana

Adjournment Brings No Relief

June 25th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

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.

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Medical Marijuana

Side Effects of Cannabinoid Medicines & Deliberate Effects of Government Obstructionism

June 24th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

A systematic review and accompanying commentary in the June 17 issue of CMAJ, the medical journal published by the Canadian Medical Association, look at the side effects of cannabinoid medications. The results are generally reassuring.

Researchers reviewed published studies of various cannabinoid preparations, including Marinol, the THC pill, and Sativex, a marijuana-based oral spray (but not, unfortunately, smoked or vaporized whole marijuana). They found no increase in serious or life-threatening reactions to the drugs as compared to placebo. The less serious side effects that did occur were just what you’d expect — dizziness, for example. But the commentators expressed concern over the relative lack of data on smoked marijuana and on long-term use of other cannabinoids.

We could have such data if the U.S. government wanted us to. The Feds have been giving medical marijuana to a small number of patients for over 30 years in a program closed to new enrollment in 1992, but have never published any data on these patients, of whom only four now survive. And back in 1999 the Institute of Medicine raised the possibility of doing “n-of-1 studies” (for example, by reopening that closed federal program) in order to collect data while allowing access to medical marijuana for patients in great need. The suggestion was ignored.

Once again, our government is doing everything it can to avoid knowing that medical marijuana is safe and effective.

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