Welcome to the Medical Cannabis Resource Center News pages
In this issue:   XS+Med*Fest A Success  |   STOP BLOCKING MARIJUANA RESEARCH  |   PROPAGANDA Alert ! Doc Pans Pot  |   No Justice  |   Reefer Resolutions  |   DAVE CAVES  |   News of the a.b.N.O.R.M.L.  |   Case for Med MJ  |   FEDs -vs- MEDs  |   News Links  |   Its a Fact!  |
Click here for a printable MERCY News Report with this story.   Click here for current XS Med Fest status updates.  

XS+Med*Fest A Success
Next In Eugene on 4/20 (Hopefully!)

The first XS+Med*Fest - a sharing of medical cannabis for those in need - was hosted by MERCY on Saturday January 8, 2005 in Salem, Oregon from High Noon through 4:20. They gave out medicine to some 125 people, servicing the public until the very end. It appears to have been a success.

''I just wanted to send a huge THANK YOU to the Mercy Center for even attempting the XS Med Fest. Because of you over one hundred people slept well, ate, felt less pain. Because of your work the world was, just for a moment, a better place. Thank you Mercy Center. p.s. I was unable to attend this year, but who knows maybe next year!?" e-mailed Troy, a Newport-area cardholder following the event.

Well, Troy, the MERCY Team is being optimistic and not only planning to do several XS+Med*Fest a year but take them on the road. Next is 4/20 in Eugene, if they can get a place. Other possibles are Southern Oregon (Medford?), Bend area and Coast. They are grouping their contacts by geographic area and attempting to organize them somewhat to better team them up and with them.

There are a number of contacts in the Lincoln City-area, for example, and MERCY is attempting a Meet Up at a local OMMA-Friendly establishment (not necessarily allow smoking, but will allow their posters, banners and some space to meet) which they hope will lead to Meeting in private place (someone's garage?) where they can do things like combining business and activism.

At private meet places, for example, they could have a Letter-to-the-Editor contest in combination with a "glass-ware" party. Have a local head-shop send a rep with samples of medical cannabis delivery devices. A couple could be donated as prizes for best LTE and the host/hostess usually gets a gift. Win-Win-Win.

So bat the idea around over there in your 'hood and keep in touch. Remember, we shall overgrow this prohibition as they are few and we are many strengthen by the truth and justness of our cause.

About the Fest

The XS+Med*Fest - which stands for Excess Medicine Festival - came about due to the high number of contacts to MERCY on the issue of lack of available medical marijuana, an issue brought to the forefront by the OMMA/2 "Dispensaries" initiative, Measure 33. The campaign raised awareness of the medical cannabis issue and enrollment in the program has increased even as the measure was defeated. Ironically, some of the people now clamoring for medicine may have failed to support the OMMA/2 campaign or even voted against it. In any case, the numbers are going up and now the need is even more acute. See > more about MERCY contacts and Issues Lists.

The Patient members of MERCY suggested sharing from the communal medicine chest. 3 months ahead all the PaRTe (Patient Resource Team) members - basically all the cardholders working the in garden system - made the commitment to expend and expense to produce extra medicine. They then made the announcement and carried it out.

Some of MERCY's objectives for these kinds of action items are to help out, build networks and direct people to self-sufficiency and action, for themselves and others. For example, there are changes pending as well as basic monitoring to be done of the OMMP - Oregon's Medical Marijuana Program. See > MERCYs Notes on the OMMP.

So MERCY is building Networks by Issue. The top issues from the many contacts they have received are overwhelmingly for (1) a need for medicine {new to the program}, (2) need a Doc, (3) need a Grower {see (1) }. See > more about MERCY contacts and Lines Of Communication.

Further, MERCY advocates long term, big-picture action items including registering voters and like minded activism. So, one of their strategies is to make space available for all interested parties to come and display their information about the resources and services available in the medical cannabis community at large. They seek to set up scenarios where people and groups gather and share news, information and, yes, green medicine. Therefore, other groups, including non-cannabis, are invited to attend their events and communicate their issues as well. For example, some food bank literature was brought and put out at the Med*Fest.

The Day

"Volunteer staff began showing up at eight in the morning" recalls MERCY Secretary Jayce Jones. "It was a crisp January day, one of those really cold ‘is it going to snow and mess up the roads for driving?’ mornings. "

"I mean brrrr" adds Kelly, MERCY staff member, "Thank goodness we were donated heat for the event."

"Yes," smiles Ms. Jones, recalling, "our first task was to fire up the three propane heaters we had begged and borrowed from friends and family for the occasion. Not only had they come through with the heaters, the fuel tanks had also been filled for us."

Once their fingers had thawed out, they ran around sweeping floors, putting up partitions, setting out the chairs, making signs, establishing a check-in desk, reviewing security protocols, and generally just trying to get ready.

The all-volunteer crew was fueled by strong coffee from freshly ground beans, sugar, real and artificial, and French Vanilla creamer. Cookies, medicated and not, were presented in brown paper sandwich bags, labeled and set out on the table in the concession area. Camraderie abounded.

"We had fun setting up, even if it never did get warm."

First arrival at 10:30. Not just anxious, but way early due to bus schedule. This hi-lights MERCYs plans to network people into car-pools by home region. See Network Planz; Mapz, etc. > Crowd gathers and line starts to form about 11:30am. The volunteers are at the table to make sure (a) everybody's paperwork was in order, (b) their medicinal needs and (c) ability to support was surveyed.

"We thought we were ready. It has ten minutes to High Noon, and we opened the doors." Ms. Jones continues.

"At first only a couple of people came in. They lined up at the check-in desk. The first one gave my partner and me their OMMP card and driver’s license to verify identification and eligibility while they filled out the sign-in sheet. "

"We had processed a couple of people, it was almost High Noon now, and I looked up. There were 20 people in line. Just a few minutes later, at High Noon itself, I looked up again, and there was a line stretching from my desk across the room and all along the showroom window to the far doors of Robbie’s building. There must have been fifty people standing there."

"After the initial rush, it seemed like that line never shortened, no matter how many people we processed, no matter how many id’s were verified and how many tickets were passed out, the line was always just as long as it was before."

"We appreciate everybody's patience with our process."

Ms. Jones describes the process: "After indicating yes or no to the questions - (1) Were they able to make a donation at this time? and (2) Did they wish access to the excess medicine donated by the community? We fill out the “No Consideration” slips, sight verify the donation amount as they put it in the donation can, and the cardholder signs the slip. Each slip states:"

Donation is for the Organization. By Law, There is NO Consideration for the Medication

"Then we give the cardholder his ticket. The ticket grants access to the Medication Room - where networking occurs - and is used to notify the cardholder when their distribution is ready at the Green Window of Opportunity."

In the back offices dedicated to storage, packaging, and distribution of the medicine, volunteers struggled to keep up.

"I was working like a dog. 25/30 bags set up and gone. Set up another 30. Fooom!, gone. And still a line out there, I was told. Seemed to stay like that til the end" states Dave, another volunteer MERCY Staffer and PaRTe member.

"I did get a chance to poke my head out every now and then. Looked like lotsa happy people out there."

"About 2:30, word came from the Green Window of Opportunity….excess medicine was almost accessed out, we would try to supply everyone still in line. I didn’t see how it was done, but no one else joined the line, and no one left. By 2:50, the line was down to a couple of nervous looking, but very nice, stragglers. We processed them, and I got a chance to sit down. Which I promptly did, then and there. I was worn out. It was a lot of work!" states Ms. Jones.

MERCY was only able to have one set of vols at most stations so the volunteers were barely able to break the entire duration.

"I took a break in the Medication Room." Ms. Jones remembers "After I got my strength back, I stayed at my desk, and ‘held down the fort’ . "

At the same time other MERCY volunteers worked the crowd in line passing out newsletters, registering voters, answering questions and generally connecting with the people. Line around the room until 3, then down to a small rush.

Still the MERCY crew also managed raffles (1) for a chess set at 2:10, another, at 4:20, was for one of MERCYs unique, colorful T-shirts. Tickets were offered at the door, no charge required. A "Thanx!" to prize donors and to those who scrounged and printed to make all the literature available.

Statistics & Stuff

"In processing, I noticed lots of new cards, people who recently joined." reports Kelly, MERCY staffer.

As far as promotion of the event, most apparently heard about it through Oregon Green Free (a MERCY flyer at a meeting, then thru their web forum), The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation (their TV show), the MERCY web, newsletter or other medium.

"Quite a few walk-in's people who walked or drove by and our signage." Kelly notes.

The MERCY PaRT (Patient Resource Team prepared packages that contained a half-ounce of "shake" (A to AA grade), a few grams of AAA grade "bud" and some baked goods. They were designed to weigh less than an ounce for the patients travelling sake. Also, they made what special accommodations they could for those with higher needs, for one reason or another. They quickly ran out and assembled as many more as they could from what was on hand.

"We originally thought we would get around 50 people", she continues. "Then, through the door they came, over a hundred people. The donations we had brought for our patients didn’t even come close to the amount of people that needed help, so we divided it up as best we could, made sure everybody got something. Even though not many people had any resources we were able through networking and sharing to help everyone that needed help."

"In some cases those who arrived earlier gave up their allocation of medicine for latecomers - a beautiful thing to see."

Per law, no consideration was accepted in exchange for medicine, all was free - not even admission was required for this event. All financial contributions MERCY does accept goes towards organization administration such as meeting facility costs. A net loss as far as money goes, but they did not plan this as a fundraiser anyway - was specifically for those in need.

"It was great to see people coming in stressed, worried, broke and then to leave with the same stresses but a huge smile on their faces as they walked out the door." recalls volunteer Kelly. "Nice that people had their paperwork in order and ready and patiently waited."

"We would like to get some help from the people who can so we can have another chance to make people smile."

Lots of networking, putting people together, Contacts and ideas exchanged. See > Webster's group note. As Ms. Jones reports: "There were chairs placed near my desk - for some of the patients in line, there near the end, they were tired of standing - and one really nice lady came and sat by me. We talked about some of the problems cardholders have in common. One of our volunteers came along, stacked up the chairs, and chatted for a while."

Ms. Jones recalls one walk-in case in particular, "So I’m sitting there, watching the fort. It was three something something. No one else was in the showroom at the time. A lady walks in. A little old lady who appeared to be on some serious DSM9 psychiatric drugs. She had that tremor associated with Cogentin or a lack of Seraquil. And she was suspicious. She had written the date on her calendar and hopped on a bus to get here, but she didn’t quite remember what or why. "

'What’s going on here?' she said, 'What’s going on back there?'

She was a cardholder, and her id was good, although she was not able to make a donation. So I did the paperwork and let her into the Medication Room."

"About twenty minutes later, she walks out smiling, relaxed, and happy. She had her little brown paper sandwich bag clenched in her hand and just the biggest grin stretched across her face. She said 'Thank you, thank you so very much', and left.

"That’s what it was all about."

MERCY signed several new members. See > More About MERCY. Basically it allows cardholder MERCY members availability to private areas established by MERCY at meetings and events where they may have access to excess medicine. They get access to the Window Of Opportunity after public meetings held last Thursday of the month, for example.


Next XS+Med*Fest in Eugene on 4/20 prior to Eugene's Cannabis Television (ECTV) - all factors and variables willing.  Plan is to get some film footage, maybe interviews for the ECTV show that night.  As of this writing MERCY has not yet secured a place.   Suggestions appreciated ... See > our XS+Med*Fest page to communicate yours.  

MERCY wishes to say "Thank You" to all the patients for showing their patience with the Mercy Centers program. Thanks to those who brought stuff - heaters and propane, chairs, food, even lighters! Thanks to the volunteers who then did the work of promoting, setting up, working and clean up. Many Thanx to the Patients and DPCs of the PaRTe who worked extra and special thanx to the MERCY patients who consigned their meds to the effort.

And a big, special thanx to the building owner, Robert Gray.

"It’s been over 4 years since the day that Robbie Gray said - 'Let’s help some people out' ”, recalls MERCY co-founder William "Sonny" Watkins.

"On this day Robbie sits in prison by himself with no medicine and no hope for any soon."

"Meanwhile 124 plus staff card carrying O.M.M.P. patients and caregivers came to “his” building with nothing, and left with smiles and some meds as well as baked goods. This is a very small number of people in this state, but, if I could have got some help….. I could have gotten a bus to pick up 4 or 5 more people just in the Lincoln City area. Of course then all these other locations like Bend, Sister, etc… the number would have been a lot more."

"Still Robbie’s in prison," Mr. Watkins continues, "Mercy Centers is helping patients and caregivers throughout the state. All because a man, Robert T. Gray cared enough about others to step out from the shadows and stand up like a real man and help those who cannot help themselves. But yet still deserve the good quality of life that comes with the use of what God left for us, Cannabis."

"I would like to thank my brother Mr. Gray for all he has gone through up to now and even for those things which he hasn’t had to go through yet. I believe we chose the right thing in helping others. In the process some of us are going to lose more than our freedom, some will lose their lives. Our hope is to those who need it most will find their way to the Mercy Centers in Salem the capital of the state of Oregon. Where Robert Gray is doing his part and more."

"Also, thanks to ALL my family and friends who did their part. Without them I could not have done my part to make this all happen." Mr. Watkins concluded.

If you would like to drop Mr. Gray a line and let him know how things are going out here, click here.  

To see more about his story, click here.  


MERCY is a true grassroots, not-for-profit group made up of patients, their family and friends, medical cannabis law reformers and plain ol' concerned citizens. Members of political parties and organizations involved with equal civil rights and pork-barreled boondoggles - laws and programs aimed at getting a specific groups of citizens at the expense of we, the people.

MERCY monitors and works with the maintenance of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP). Patient Resourcing and Action Items. Handing out medicine and helping people with the program. Watchdogging the program and legislature while working to improve it.

Also educating special interest groups as well as the the public at large thru the MERCY OMMP Presentations. Networking people by area or issue.

MERCY Membership & Access to Excess Medicine. Basically permits Access to cardholders only area following meets and at special events where resources may network and access to excess medicine is available. It allows cardholder MERCY members availability to private areas established by MERCY at meetings and events where they may have access to excess medicine. A cardholder only area is established and available medicine is divided up - as best as people can - and distributed by MERCY. At the same time people and groups are encouraged to bring their own and help out, especially as MERCYs resources run out. Access to the area is restricted to members who have paid their $50 yearly dues to support the effort. Access may be granted to non-member cardholders for a one-time, non-refundable, non-accumulative $10 use-fee. They get access to the Window Of Opportunity after public meetings held last Thursday of the month, for example.

To Do

During event discussed various projects & tasks and what people can do in general - such as registering and voting as well as getting everybody they know do so also.

Networking. See > Network Plans for details. Public and private action levels - teachers, and doctors, and lawyers - oh my! Protocol for public figures and people in vulnerable positions.

The Salem area. Self-sufficientcy, de-centralized knowledge-bases and action centers (patients in the 'hood). Salem area bizness (OMMA-friendly) survey is an important task.

Lobby Day and Delivery Service. Lobby list/s (network/s) and legislative watchdawgs group.

OMMA-Friendly (O/F) websters and Such

Met w/ several members of other orgs. Was especially intrigued by meeting the websters for several groups. > Idea: let's have e-list, possibly phone tree, certainly meetup for all websters - and wanna be's! - working on OMMP related websites. Also > overall tech group (C'Nerds!) and > other special forces in the medical cannabis liberation army (security, electricians, farmers, etc.).

- Associate Members, Interest Groups and Related Lists. .  More contacts and special focus ideas.  Ie- Cannabis, Spirituality and Religon >  List O/F Churches > see O/F Surveys.  Grower groups, info for people too.  Pat needs groups; ie- Grower.

Go to see MERCYs About pages >
Go to see more about the XS+Med*Fest idea (do it yersef!) >
More about PaRT and Pat Rsrc'g (other Srcs) in genl. >


More News and ANN's

-Orgs, Links & other Resources - MERCY survey & promo

--ie- EMPOWER;

-         Lobby Day

-         needs webster.


--ie- CLS and Eug area net / rsrcs.  See also DataBank idea >

Eug area survey item #1 - place -

-         to do XS-Med-Fest and things like it

-         other levels / support items

no supp, just list.






ken b.




*HomeGrown; current


-OMMP chgs

--Fees Reduced

--Program Manager




*Libry; history & archives




*MAPinc newsFeeds


*(Other)  MCC-Friendly Media; Local, Natl, Intl


*Links & other Resources


other Features and Functions:


The State-wide Calendar of Events-

-Ev pg ! Input




----Tell Us Where!!




actn (cat) items

-         lobby day

-         lobby deliv svc

-         lobby list/s (net)

-         legis watchdawgs group (net)

this grp on site {off} -v- onl lobby-list




The Agencies That Can Give Permission to Conduct Research into Medicinal Marijuana Are Most Hostile to That Research


Oregonians have made clear, in elections and in public opinion polling, that they favor careful use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. They also made clear, in the 1998 Ballot Measure 67 and the 2004 Ballot Measure 33, that they are uninterested in going beyond current state law to legalize marijuana for nonmedicinal purposes.


It will be hard for medicinal marijuana to be properly evaluated and applied if legitimate researchers can't get legal supplies for human studies to assess the health effects of the drug and unless versions of the drug can be standardized for sale if recommended by doctors.


It is our strong impression that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is conducting a rear-guard action against useful research efforts. This occurs despite two federal court actions in 2003 that, in effect, affirm that the federal Controlled Substances Act doesn't trump state medical marijuana laws or allow federal agents to revoke the licenses of doctors who legally recommend marijuana.


The delay continues also despite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's recent advice in Ashcroft v. Raich that patients seek Food and Drug Administration approval for marijuana as a medicine. But for the FDA to approve marijuana, researchers would need to test marijuana identical to what would be sold to patients -- from the same source, the same genetic strain and grown under the same conditions.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse is the only legal source for marijuana for research, but NIDA's marijuana is available only for research, not for distribution -- leaving scientists with no way to test the same product that would be sold. An effort by the University of Massachusetts to solve this problem by establishing a facility to grow marijuana specifically for research aimed at developing it as a prescription drug was blocked by the federal DEA on Dec. 10 (www.mpp.org/pdf/DEA.pdf).


The bottleneck for legitimate researchers is that the agencies that are hostile to medicinal marijuana are the gatekeepers of its supply. Two suggestions:


Federal agencies such as the DEA should stop blocking legitimate research that is conducted with proper security.


Until the agencies stop erecting unreasonable barriers, the Supreme Court and federal appeals courts should recognize that FDA approval is not currently a viable option, so patients need to be afforded full protection of their states' laws.


URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n033/a07.html

Pubdate: Fri, 07 Jan 2005

Source: Oregonian, The (Portland, OR)

Website: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregonian/

Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)




PROPAGANDA Alert ! A Top Doctor at a Major Drug Testing Company Refutes the Efficacy of Medical Marijuana


Stuart Hoffman does not believe in the medical use of marijuana -- at least, not the kind you grow in your backyard or buy off the street.


And he'd feel that way, he says, even if he wasn't the chief medical review officer for the drug testing services at ChoicePoint, with clients ranging from the U.S. Government to large national retail chains. Born and educated in Minnesota, he was a private oncologist -- a cancer doctor -- with a thriving practice in Downey, California, for 35 years, and had plenty of patients who used pot to relieve symptoms. And while he agrees marijuana does relieve symptoms -- dulling chronic pain, reducing seizures, stimulating the appetite, controlling nausea -- he's seen it surpassed by better drugs.


And that, he says, is where the pro-medical marijuana people go wrong. It's not that the feds don't want to relieve suffering of people like Angel Raich, the 38-year-old with a plethora of chronic conditions who has taken her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's that the medical establishment has studied pot and found it lacking.


"Angel Raich is being used by a group of people, in my opinion, who are struggling to make marijuana legal across the board," says Hoffman, "and they use all sorts of arguments that are sort of half-truths." He spoke to CityBeat not in his capacity as an officer of ChoicePoint -- he cannot speak officially for the company -- but as a doctor who couldn't let those "half-truths" lie. -Dean Kuipers


CityBeat: At ChoicePoint, do you test people who use medical marijuana? Dr. Stuart Hoffman: Constantly. We do about four million drug tests a year here. Approximately five percent are positive for all sorts of things, and marijuana is probably 75-80 percent of those. A few people have prescriptions for Marinol, pure marijuana: perfectly legitimate, recognized by the federal government. People who are on medical marijuana present a very different problem for us because there are only about 10 or 11 states that currently accept medical marijuana. And it is the employer's individual policy which determines whether we make it a positive or negative.


So a Wal-Mart store in California will fire someone for using medical marijuana?


A Wal-Mart store anywhere in the world will not recognize medical marijuana, even though some states say that it's legal. It's their decision. It's title 49, part 40, U.S. Department of Transportation. [Hoffman pulls out thick printed book of regulations.] That's the bible for the federally regulated tests, and it's been challenged in court many times. Nobody's ever beaten this thing. As an oncologist, you treated people who used marijuana. Have your attitudes about it changed?


No, my attitudes about it have always been the same. I treated many people with chemotherapy who became very nauseated, who were dying of cancer, losing weight and couldn't eat. Before it was legal, many of my patients would go out and get street marijuana. At the time, there were drugs called Compazine and Thorazine, which were also tranquilizers but had a fair anti-nausea effect. These drugs were on a par with marijuana, and none of them was very good, but they were better than nothing. About seven or eight years ago, a whole new class of drugs came in including things like Ondansetron and two-to-three others, which were anti-nausea medicines that just revolutionized chemotherapy. These were superb. There was no question, it was better. There were still a few people who would request marijuana because it was the mystique of the forbidden fruit.


Yes, but Ondansetron is expensive, and homegrown pot is free. Sure. It's not cheap. But Ondansetron is given intravenously at the time of the chemotherapy, so insurance covers it 100 percent.


Uninsured people don't get chemotherapy, because they can't afford it -- so cost isn't really a factor.


What about appetite stimulation?


It's been known for years that marijuana will stimulate your appetite a little bit. But they've found that massive doses of progesterone, one of the female hormones -- the substance is marketed under a trade name of Megestrol -- is a superb appetite stimulant. Far better than marijuana.


Why not give seriously ill people whatever they want? Isn't it a societal goal to relieve suffering?


There's a lot of things that the general public does out of guilt or what they feel is compassion, but which really doesn't jive with reality for the people actually on the stuff. I had a huge cross-section of the population in my practice -- they didn't want it. Any more than they wanted opium or opiates for pain relief. They fought it. But, nonetheless -- if they did want it, that's fine. When it comes to pain relief, the right dose of morphine is enough.


Whatever that is. The first goal is to prolong life. The next goal is to relieve suffering.


Sounds like you agree that marijuana could be good for that.


They can have Marinol. Now, there are many physicians in the state of California, particularly in Northern California, who have marijuana practices. We see the medical marijuana prescriptions coming in here. I called one of these physicians and talked to her at some length.


She told me that she has limited her practice to the treatment of conditions that require marijuana. She has about 500-600 patients. I asked, "Well, what kind of diseases are you treating?" I thought: HIV, cancers, and things. [She said,] "I treat chronic anxiety, low back strains, tension headaches, degenerative arthritis." A bunch of things that the preponderance of physicians in this country would not treat with marijuana. I said, "Well, do you monitor them?" "Oh, yes.


If these patients don't come in to see me once a month, I don't refill their prescription." This, to my mind, is immoral.


Why? She's relieving their suffering in some way. But she could prescribe it for 90 days. She's doing this for the money.


Isn't that true of all doctors? People take drugs for arthritis or back pain or depression and never stop. Every time they go in to see the doctor, the doctor gets paid.


Sure, there are doctors who do that. Valium, Vicodin. But, in these areas, the state Medical Board of Quality Assurance does step in. I told them about this doctor, and they said she was doing nothing illegal. But there are people getting thrown out of the profession every single month for doing that.


You've given me a pile of photocopies showing that the government still allows research on the medical effects of marijuana. But the FDA and DEA have claimed for years that they cannot reschedule marijuana to allow for medical use because there's no research. Are they just ignoring it?


No. There's no research supporting street marijuana as medicine. If you listen to Americans for Safe Access, it says: These people are dying because they can't get access to marijuana. That's baloney.


They can have Marinol. Your body can't tell the difference if you take it in that form or whether you smoke a joint. The federal government recognizes that there is a medical purpose for marijuana and a use. What they don't recognize is a medical purpose for marijuana grown in your back yard or bought off the street, because it conflicts with the societal objective of keeping the community safer by allowing less people to be impaired by it.


So you disagree with the idea that people ought to be able to medicate themselves. That's true: That I disagree with, because you are taking a substance that can impair you and there's not some medical oversight. I'm not a policeman. I'm not a judge. I really believe that society is better off without medical marijuana. Sure, some people are going to benefit -- poor people who cannot afford health insurance, for example. I have heard some very cogent arguments stating that we should completely decriminalize drug abuse and make it an illness. But sometimes when you get conflicting benefits and non-benefits to society, you say, okay, which is the greatest good for the greatest number?





LOS ANGELES -- A US Border Patrol agent has been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking after authorities found 750 pounds of marijuana in his squad car following a high-speed freeway chase, according to a criminal complaint filed in San Diego. The agent, Luis Francisco Higareda, has pleaded not guilty to the charge. (Reuters)





In Salt Lake City in November, federal judge Paul G. Cassell, remarking that mandatory-minimum sentencing laws gave him no choice, sent a 25-year-old, small-quantity marijuana dealer to prison for 55 years (because he had a gun on him during two of the transactions). Two hours before that, in a crime Cassell described as far more serious but not subject to the same mandatory minimums, he sentenced a man to 22 years in prison for beating an elderly woman to death with a log. [New York Times, 11-17-04]

There's No Justice in the War on Drugs


January 11, 1998


STANFORD -- Twenty-five years ago, President Richard M. Nixon announced a "War on Drugs." I criticized the action on both moral and expediential grounds in my Newsweek column of May 1, 1972, "Prohibition and Drugs":


"On ethical grounds, do we have the right to use the machinery of government to prevent an individual from becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict? For children, almost everyone would answer at least a qualified yes. But for responsible adults, I, for one, would answer no. Reason with the potential addict, yes. Tell him the consequences, yes. Pray for and with him, yes. But I believe that we have no right to use force, directly or indirectly, to prevent a fellow man from committing suicide, let alone from drinking alcohol or taking drugs."


That basic ethical flaw has inevitably generated specific evils during the past quarter century, just as it did during our earlier attempt at alcohol prohibition.


The use of informers. Informers are not needed in crimes like robbery and murder because the victims of those crimes have a strong incentive to report the crime. In the drug trade, the crime consists of a transaction between a willing buyer and willing seller. Neither has any incentive to report a violation of law. On the contrary, it is in the self-interest of both that the crime not be reported. That is why informers are needed. The use of informers and the immense sums of money at stake inevitably generate corruption -- as they did during Prohibition. They also lead to violations of the civil rights of innocent people, to the shameful practices of forcible entry and forfeiture of property without due process.


As I wrote in 1972: ". . . addicts and pushers are not the only ones corrupted. Immense sums are at stake. It is inevitable that some relatively low-paid police and other government officials -- and some high-paid ones as well -- will succumb to the temptation to pick up easy money."


Filling the prisons. In 1970, 200,000 people were in prison. Today, 1.6 million people are. Eight times as many in absolute number, six times as many relative to the increased population. In addition, 2.3 million are on probation and parole. The attempt to prohibit drugs is by far the major source of the horrendous growth in the prison population.


There is no light at the end of that tunnel. How many of our citizens do we want to turn into criminals before we yell "enough"?


Disproportionate imprisonment of blacks. Sher Hosonko, at the time Connecticut's director of addiction services, stressed this effect of drug prohibition in a talk given in June 1995:


"Today in this country, we incarcerate 3,109 black men for every 100,000 of them in the population. Just to give you an idea of the drama in this number, our closest competitor for incarcerating black men is South Africa. South Africa -- and this is pre-Nelson Mandela and under an overt public policy of apartheid -- incarcerated 729 black men for every 100,000. Figure this out: In the land of the Bill of Rights, we jail over four times as many black men as the only country in the world that advertised a political policy of apartheid."


Destruction of inner cities. Drug prohibition is one of the most important factors that have combined to reduce our inner cities to their present state. The crowded inner cities have a comparative advantage for selling drugs. Though most customers do not live in the inner cities, most sellers do. Young boys and girls view the swaggering, affluent drug dealers as role models. Compared with the returns from a traditional career of study and hard work, returns from dealing drugs are tempting to young and old alike. And many, especially the young, are not dissuaded by the bullets that fly so freely in disputes between competing drug dealers -- bullets that fly only because dealing drugs is illegal. Al Capone epitomizes our earlier attempt at Prohibition; the Crips and Bloods epitomize this one.


Compounding the harm to users. Prohibition makes drugs exorbitantly expensive and highly uncertain in quality. A user must associate with criminals to get the drugs, and many are driven to become criminals themselves to finance the habit. Needles, which are hard to get, are often shared, with the predictable effect of spreading disease. Finally, an addict who seeks treatment must confess to being a criminal in order to qualify for a treatment program. Alternatively, professionals who treat addicts must become informers or criminals themselves.


Undertreatment of chronic pain. The Federal Department of Health and Human Services has issued reports showing that two-thirds of all terminal cancer patients do not receive adequate pain medication, and the numbers are surely higher in nonterminally ill patients. Such serious undertreatment of chronic pain is a direct result of the Drug Enforcement Agency's pressures on physicians who prescribe narcotics.


Harming foreign countries. Our drug policy has led to thousands of deaths and enormous loss of wealth in countries like Colombia, Peru and Mexico, and has undermined the stability of their governments. All because we cannot enforce our laws at home. If we did, there would be no market for imported drugs. There would be no Cali cartel.


The foreign countries would not have to suffer the loss of sovereignty involved in letting our "advisers" and troops operate on their soil, search their vessels and encourage local militaries to shoot down their planes. They could run their own affairs, and we, in turn, could avoid the diversion of military forces from their proper function.


Can any policy, however high-minded, be moral if it leads to widespread corruption, imprisons so many, has so racist an effect, destroys our inner cities, wreaks havoc on misguided and vulnerable individuals and brings death and destruction to foreign countries?

More on Prohibition from the website:





Busted: Americas War On Marijuana

One Judges Attempt At A Rational Discussion


"...judges must be cautious in speaking out on matters of public policy, on the other hand, judges have an obligation to speak out when their work gives them a perspective on a particular issue that others do not have. In the matter of drugs, legislators and executive branch officials see the issue from an overall policy perspective, but influenced, and properly so, by public opinion and public fears. Professors and other researchers see drug issues from the vantage points of their various disciplines, and those involved in various advocacy groups see the issue from their particular points of view.

"Lawyers and judges who participate in drug litigation, however, see the drug issue on a case-by-case basis, and when they see enough of those individual cases, they should begin to see a mosaic .... judges see both sides. I think all of these perspectives are important in helping us analyze the problem, but I fear that up to now the analysis has not been sufficiently informed by the judicial perspective." Page 2.

Has the drug war been a success? Is it cost-effective? How do policies involving legal and illegal drugs compare?

"The challenge is to devising a rational drug policy is to find least-cost solutions to the problems created by the age-old fact that some human beings take more of various mind altering substances than is good for them. . .

"A superficial overview of the facts and statistics I have quoted leads me to conclude that the tremendous investments made by the government in law enforcement efforts in the war on drugs have resulted in rather modest gains when compared to the relatively insignificant educational investments made by the government to discourage tobacco and alcohol use, and the reductions in use resulting therefrom. That would lead me to conclude that when it comes to reducing drug use the government gets more bang for the dollar from education than from enforcement. A second preliminary conclusion that I reach is that there appears to be some correlation - correlation, not necessarily causation - between increases in violent crime and more vigorous enforcement of prohibition. Lastly, I conclude that although there appear to be societal costs for tobacco and alcohol use of more than two times that of using illicit drugs, government spending related to the use of illegal drugs is twice that spent for tobacco and alcohol abuse. A parallel analogy is that although there are ten times more tobacco and alcohol users than users of illegal drugs, government spending on users of illegal drugs is twice the amount spent on tobacco and alcohol users." Pages 10-11

Can effective law enforcement be counterproductive?

"Even assuming that effective interdiction could be achieved as well as successful crop eradication in source countries, the resulting squeeze in the supply of drugs available to the U.S. consumer would be counterproductive. It would merely cause the price of illegal drugs to rise. As a result, addicts would have to commit more crimes to acquire the needed cash to pay for drugs at a higher price, and more criminals would have an incentive to enter the drug trade because the opportunity for higher profits would be greater." Page 13

Is public health served by prohibition?

". . . drug use, legal and illegal, is principally a health problem which is best dealt with not by driving it underground with prohibition tactics, but by having it out in the open to allow for treatment end education . . . It is difficult to understand why illegal drug addiction should be treated differently from alcoholism or nicotine addiction: all are basically public health problems." Page 14.

". . . treatment is seven times more cost effective than prohibition. One dollar spent on treatment of an addict reduces the probability of continued addiction seven times more than one dollar spent on incarceration. Unfortunately, treatment for addicts is not now available for almost half of those who would benefit. Yet we are willing to build more and more jails in which to isolate drug users even though at one-seventh the cost of building and maintaining jail space, and of pursuing, detaining and prosecuting the drug user, we could subsidize effective medial care and psychological treatment." Page 17

Does the drug war make organized crime wealthy and increase corruption?

"Because the sums of money generated by the illegal drug trade are so large, prohibition has placed tremendous economic power in the hands of organized crime. This economic power is the result of both the large amounts of drug generated money and the fact that there is an unregulated market of illegal products. This power allows the corruption not only of law enforcement officers, but also of all levels of public officials, and related politicians." Page 16

What are the constitutional implications of prohibition? Is it fairly enforced?

". . . prohibition's enforcement has had a devastating impact on the rights of the individual citizen. The control costs are seriously threatening the preservation of values that are central to our form of government. The war on drugs has contributed to the distortion of the Fourth Amendment wholly inconsistent with its basic purposes. Particularly in the areas of search and seizure we have seen major changes in the law brought about by Congress' and the courts' zeal to support the enforcement of drug prohibition. . . " Page 22

" . . I am also struck by how much of the penalties for drug trafficking are imposed on others than those most culpable. For example, the importation and selling of drugs is controlled by one set of people, but it is implemented by quite another - - the so-called "mules," often poor people, conscripted to smuggle or sell drugs by powerful organizations . . . the fact is that these people, who have little information to trade to the prosecutors, end up with heavy sentences, while in the scheme of things the "'big fish,' if caught at all, are able to work out deals with the government which may leave them with light sentences or even without any prosecution. This is something that goes beyond mere injustice in the inequality of treatment, it is essentially an immoral outcome which tarnishes our entire judicial system." Page 22.

What should we do?

"1. There is a mountain of conflicting evidence and views about the course to be taken. This demonstrates the imperative need for an objective multidisciplinary study to independently assess the facts, and recommend courses of conduct to be followed. This study should be carried out by a commission that is bipartisan, is appointed jointly by Congress and the Executive, and is composed of persons of unquestioned prestige. . . As part of this process there must be a truly national debate about this subject to create a conscience and consensus about these problems. Most important, there is a need to keep an open mind about these issues.

"2. There is a need for pilot tests of some types of limited decriminalization, probably commencing with marijuana, and obviously not including minors. . .

"3. Chronic abuse of illegal drugs should be treated in a fashion similar to other chronic diseases, like alcoholism, and countermeasures appropriate to such health problems should be implemented to a fuller extent.

"4. Pending the definitive study proposed, there should be a shift in the funding of enforcement efforts toward an intense educational campaign at all levels. The availability of funds to escalate treatment levels aimed at rehabilitation should also be greatly increased." Pages 25-26.

NORML: Reefer Resolutions for 2005


As many NORML supporters may already know by now on the first day of 2005 I assumed the leadership position at NORML as executive director.


Thanks to all the many citizens, lawyers and especially activists who№ve provided me the education, spiritual support and trust to lead NORML after the retirement of my friend and mentor Keith Stroup. While you№ll be regularly hearing from me in the future I want to briefly apprise you of FIVE important projects and new directions I№m pursuing to advance and hopefully hasten cannabis law reform in the United States:


1.) NORML and the drug policy law reform movement is too white and male to succeed in substantial social and legal reforms; NORML and the drug policy law reform movement must successfully reach out to women, African Americans and Latinos if we are to achieve genuine social change and law reform measures;


2.) NORML needs to better employ emerging technology communication innovations, principally through the internet, which will make it more private, secure, cheaper, easier and faster to increase the size and influence of the organization;


3.) NORML needs to increase the financial and in-kind support the organization receives from small businesses and like-minded business professionals;


4.) According to national polling data, 26% of the country knows who NORML is and the issue for which the organization serves as chief advocate. For the successful passage of state and federal legislation ending cannabis prohibition, many more millions of Americans in the next few years must discover NORML№s important advocacy work. I believe the fastest and most efficient way to іspread the good wordІ about NORML is through a series of small, but sustained regional advertising campaigns;


5.) Decriminalization and or legalization bills must be regularly introduced at both the federal and state level. It appears unlikely to me that the courts or executive branches are going to end cannabis prohibition anytime soon, leaving the legislatures as cannabis law reformers№ most obvious target. However, these legislative efforts will fall upon deaf ears if cannabis consumers and concerned citizens are not part of an active and robust lobbying campaign.


In the Њchicken and egg№ game that is often played out in Washington, DC, elected officials and their staff must first be convinced that their constituents support cannabis law reform measures before they№ll get behind most pro-reform legislation. Often, in the twenty or so states that allow them, binding (and non-binding) state initiatives are a good way to demonstrate public sentiment.


While NORML simultaneously manages dozens of cannabis law reform projects on an annual basis‹the five above listed projects are NORML№s top-tier for 2005.


-Fun and easy project for all cannabis consumers in 2005-


There is one more project that you and your like-minded friends and family can have a definitive role in making a success and that is by making plans to attend the 2005 NORML conference. Stay tuned! Details for this year№s conference will be emailed to NORML№s supporters later this week.


Input from NORML№s supporters is crucial for the national office№s staff, NORML№s 115 chapters, the 350 lawyers who comprise NORML№s National Legal Committee and me to effectively represent the interests of cannabis consumers and the general public. I invite you to communicate directly with my immediate staff and me by emailing to: director@norml.org


Again, thank you for all the help and support which you generously provide NORML/NORML Foundation. These organizations№ important work, and cannabis law reform on the whole, is not possible without the care and charitable support of cannabis consumers and liberty-loving citizens like you.


Please make a Њreefer resolution№ and start 2005 off with a donation to NORML/NORML Foundation:



Better yet, next time you consider consuming some cannabis, consider taking a brief moment and let your elected policy makers know exactly how you feel about cannabis prohibition:



Thanks again and I hope your 2005 is a safe and very hempful year,


Allen F. St. Pierre

Executive Director






Drug reform takes political courage. Anyone got some?


Believe it or not, I'm one of those people who could pass a drug test hands down -- or pants down, as the case might be. Give me a cup and I'll fill it with 100% drug-free personal product. No trace of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, acid, goofballs, angel dust, crystals, leapers, mescaline, snappers, white lightning, yellow jackets or even alcohol. I'm clean, man. Have been for years.


So the lack of sensible drug policies does not affect me. Society can burn druggies at the stake and the worst I'll suffer is getting too warm as I walk by. We can pack our prisons with drug offenders and all it means is that folks like me must pay higher taxe -- hey! -- I guess I am affected, after all.


Self-interest aside, there are ample reasons to oppose the massively stupid and cruel war on drugs. That members of a culture that prescribes a pill for every ill should turn to substances for pleasure or pain relief is at most a public health problem, not inherently criminal behavior.


Madisonians grasp this better than most. In 1977, voters here overwhelmingly approved Madison ordinance 23.20, which decriminalizes public possession and allows private possession of specified amounts of marijuana and hashish; it was also the first law anywhere to legalize medical marijuana with a doctor's note. Last year, the Common Council backed a local medical marijuana awareness week. And the public has consistently favored politicians who promise to pursue less punitive drug policies.


In fact, our current mayor, Dave Cieslewicz, backed the legalization of marijuana during the 2003 campaign, trumping rival Paul Soglin's weak-tea support for legalizing just medical marijuana. Candidate Cieslewicz also vowed to rethink the city's harsh penalties for employees who test positive for drugs.


But, as mayor, Cieslewicz has disappointed voters gullible enough to believe him.


Like other municipalities, the city of Madison is required by federal law to subject employees who drive vehicles to pre-employment, random, for-cause and post-accident drug and alcohol testing. But it is the city's own decision to fire workers who test positive more than once per year or thrice per career. (Madison Metro employees get just two strikes and they're out.) Since 1995, 39 city employees have lost their jobs due to drug testing.


Two-thirds of the positive results are for marijuana. That's in part because pot can remain in a person's system for months, while harder drugs like heroin and cocaine flush out in a few days. Workers subject to testing who want to get high would be well-advised to use these harder drugs. How messed up is that?


This fall, when a city streets worker who tested positive for pot for the second time in ten years sought to hold Cieslewicz to his campaign pledge, the mayor used the opportunity to again pander to his progressive base. He told Isthmus he was no fan of drug testing and was inclined "to back off of the penalties." To this end, he asked interim Human Resources director Roger Goodwin and City Attorney Michael Mays to "look into the penalties and give me some recommendations about what we can do." What a guy.


To close observers of city hall, however, the mayor's call for a staff review was suspicious from the start. "Generally, that's what you do when you want something to go away," reflects Ald. Austin King.


Indeed, there was never any doubt what the report would recommend, since Goodwin is a big fan of the current policy. Released in the dead zone between Christmas and New Year's, the report (see thedailypage.com under Document Feed) claims that relaxing penalties would increase the city's liability, if an employee impaired by drugs or alcohol were to cause an accident.


Yet the report notes only one lawsuit involving a city employee who tested positive following an accident -- and, in that case, the jury never learned that the driver evidently used marijuana "several days" prior. Goodwin concedes that all but a handful of city workers, including this one, have tested clean in post-accident tests.


So why not ease up on the penalties, as Cieslewicz has said he would like?


The report notes that Metro drivers had far fewer positives than other drivers, and speculates this is because Metro drivers face sterner penalties. Therefore, it opines, "any attempt to reduce sanctions for non-Metro drivers...will result in an increase in the [percentage] of tests coming up positive." Hence, the report recommends staying the course.


This thin reed gave Cieslewicz the cover he sought. "The mayor," asserts chief of staff Janet Piraino, "believes our current policies are reasonable and is not inclined to propose any changes at this time."


Cieslewicz is certainly not the first politician to give lip service to saner drug policies while doing little to bring them about. There's good reason for his reticence.


Whatever else you might say about it, the war on drugs is emphatically not a failure. Rather, it has succeeded spectacularly at its clear if unstated goal: Generating oodles of cash for law enforcement and many thousands of bodies (especially nonwhite male ones) for the booming prison industry.


Thus the war has powerful advocates eager to oppose any who would stand in its way. Witness the drubbing dished out recently by Scott Favour, president of the Madison police union, when Progressive Dane dared question a case in which the cops searched a man's home after nabbing him in a traffic stop with an amount of marijuana less than the threshold for criminal charges. Favour, in a published letter, went ballistic, accusing the group of being anti-police and pro-crime.


No doubt the police union would do the same to Mayor Cieslewicz if he ever put any political might behind his belief that marijuana should be legalized. Of course, maybe that was just something he said to get elected.

Your Judicial News Update

News of the a.b.N.O.R.M.L. - Attorneys Branch, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.


The Oregon Court of Appeals today decided two significant decisions interpreting the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act today, giving, taking away (in a mostly historical ruling) and partially taking away.


In Washburn v. Columbia Forest Products, the Court held that a disabled person’s legal medical use of marijuana does not disqualify the individual from the protection of the Oregonians with Disabilities Act. An Oregon employer must provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability even if the employee uses medical marijuana to relieve the symptoms of the disabling condition.


Full text of opinion and attorney Phil Lebenbaum's Press Release are at: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/A116664.htm


In State v. Miles, the Court upheld the trial court's decision denying the patient the affirmative defense and the choice of evils defenses of the OMMA. As to the affirmative defense, the problem was that his attending physician statement in support of his registry application was signed by Dr. Leveque, who had not examined him. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge's ruling that Dr. Leveque was not an 'attending physician' as that term is defined in the OMMA.


This ruling is of largely historical significance as we are rapidly approaching the statute of limitations on cases which pre-date the OMMP's issuance of administrative rules which require 'attending physicians' to actually examine patients. When Dr. Leveque was approving applications without seeing patients no such rule existed.


The Court of Appeals also upheld the trial court's ruling denying the patient's Choice of Evils (justification) defense. At issues was whether there was sufficient evidence that it was 'necessary' as an 'emergency measure' for the patient to cultivate and use without registering. The evidence included an assertion by the patient that he was able to go without marijuana for three months.


Leland R. Berger

Attorney at Law

3527 NE 15th Ave., #103

Portland, OR 97212-2356


503-287-6938 (fax)

503-504-4298 (cell)



Lee Berger is a member of the NLC (NORML Legal Committee) and  OCDLA (Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association), among others.


The Governments Case for Medical Marijuana

By Jeff Scott


Someone once said “You raise your voice when you should reinforce your argument.” and Greg Lewis’ recent OpEd on Medical Marijuana spends a great deal of time proving just how accurate that phrase really is. Rather then beat my chest or shout some new thought-terminating-clichй I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.


In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge ruled after a lengthy hearing into the rescheduling of Marijuana that it was “One of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man” and that “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious [for the DEA] to find otherwise.” The result? The DEA rejected there own findings, lost at appeal a few times but eventually won and kept marijuana a schedule 1 drug.


While the hearings, appeals and zero tolerance policies were in full swing at the DEA the US government was quietly supplying medical cannabis to a handful of patients in its Investigational New Drug program. These patients receive a large tin filled with hundreds of machine rolled joints grown and processed at NIDA’s pot farm at the University of Mississippi every month. Each patient receives over 6 pounds of cannabis a year for free and this program is over thirty years old. Each patient also carries a government ID card that protects them from local and federal arrest in the US – even aboard aircraft after September 11th. These patients are ostensibly in a federal research program but no government research has been done on them to discern either the harmful effects of long term smoking or the beneficial effects of cannabis on their various conditions. Private research done by Dr Ethan Russo (available at http://www.maps.org/mmj/russo2002.pdf) into the health of these individuals has shown them to be remarkably well. Most lead productive lives despite their disabilities and one is even a successful stock broker- the antithesis of the couch bound stoner we so often see parodied and propagandized.


There is more to Cannabis then THC – the “active” psychotropic ingredient banned and demonized by bureaucrats and demagogues alike. The Jerusalem Post reports that an acid derived from Cannabidiol “code named HU-320, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. HU-320 is comparable to the known drug indomethacin, but without the known and considerable gastrointestinal side effects caused by that drug.” The Israeli Defense Force has begun experimenting with cannabis as a treatment for soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PharmosCorp, also located in Israel, has begun marketing Dexanabinol for treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury – just in time to fill the void after steroids (until recently used to treat TBI’s) were found to increase the death rate in TBI patients by 20%.


Vioxx, Celebrex, Naprosyn, Ibuprofen and Bextra are all anti-inflammatory drugs that have been used for years and which have all either been pulled off the market by the FDA or issued strident new warnings about side effects as serious as a heart attack. This compares to Cannabis which has no known toxicity level, is slightly less addictive then caffeine and has yet to kill anyone. But don’t take my word for it; check out the actual addiction studies by Dr. Jack E. Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco. Read DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young’s report online and look at the research other countries are doing before making an informed decision on the topic.


Note: The write is a Husband, Father, Business Owner, Honorably Discharged Naval Hospital Corpsman and decorated Desert Storm Veteran



A little-known law may finally challenge the feds' 30-year stall in recognizing medical marijuana. But it also raises a big question: Who decides what is medicine?


By now, America has heard a lot about Oakland, Calif., medical marijuana patient Angel McClary Raich. In arguments Nov. 29 before the U.S. Supreme Court, Raich--possibly the most sympathetic party to ever come before the High Court, a 38-year-old mother of two with a list of ailments including an inoperable brain tumor, wasting syndrome, uterine fibroid tumors, scoliosis, paralysis, endometriosis, and more--got her chance to nail outgoing U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft et al. for trying to take away the only medicine that has helped her. Her case has pitted California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized limited medical use of marijuana, against the federal Controlled Substances Act, under which all marijuana is illegal. For Raich, cannabis is the only treatment (out of 35 medicines tried) that has allowed her to keep her weight up, and her doctor says that losing it would be a death sentence.


The case is a mighty test of states' rights, which this court has favored, but the barrage of questions with which the justices peppered Raich's lawyer, Boston University professor Randy Barnett, revealed more than the possible end of their so-called "federalist revolution." They revealed the interior machinations of a kind of regulatory fever dream in which no government agency will confront the increasingly embarrasing mass of scientific evidence in favor of pot's accepted use as medicine.


Justice Stephen Breyer highlighted the problem in his questioning, suggesting this wasn't a matter for the courts. If Raich et al. were unhappy with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration kicking down their doors and throwing them in jail, possibly to die, he argued, why didn't they go to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "and take marijuana off the list... that would be the obvious way to get what they want." In other words, it should be left to the regulatory agencies. "Isn't medicine by regulation better than medicine by referendum?" he quipped.


"They don't let you answer any of the questions in any detail, so I basically pointed him to our amicus brief, which chronicles the obstructions that the government has put in the way of medical cannabis research," says Barnett. Holding up both this and a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, commissioned by drug czar John Walters at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which goes into some detail about marijuana's therapeutic effects and the way research has been stymied for political reasons, Barnett stood in the courtroom and stared at an impossible tautology: the courts don't want to rule on medical pot because it should be a regulatory matter, and the regulatory agencies refuse to review it, forcing it repeatedly into the courts. Meanwhile, the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens hang in the balance.


For more than 30 years, activists and federal regulators have been locked in a slow and outlandishly tortuous legal struggle over the medical use of marijuana and who, if anyone, has the authority to change marijuana's status under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act from a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it has "no accepted medical use," to one of four less-restrictive categories. Even


though comments like Breyer's make it seem as though there is a clear procedure for this, and a DEA judge even ruled in 1988 that it would be illegal not to reschedule given the preponderance of evidence, the DEA has dug its heels in and--defying logic, science, and, apparently, the law--mutely refused to budge.


Three months ago, however, a new challenge to this chronic obstruction was filed under a little-known 2002 law called the Data Quality Act (DQA) that may turn out to be the pry bar that gets the feds to act. The act is designed to force regulatory agencies to base decisions on the best available science. Although it's not part of the Raich case and has received relatively little notice in comparison, it may turn out be her salvation.


"I hope that what this does is wake them up to doing a fair review of the current [rescheduling petition]," says Hilary McQuie, campaign director for Americans for Safe Access, who filed the Data Quality Act petition. "Because I don't feel like I should have to take a regulatory agency to court. I feel like they should do a full scientific review.


"When everyone's saying the FDA should just do this, do they not know that the DEA is in the way of the FDA doing this?" adds McQuie. "It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't be law enforcement agencies that make medical scientific decisions. But right now it is set up that way."


"Their gimmick is that they won't let researchers have cannabis for research," says Barnett. Though the FDA's recommendations regarding drugs can allegedly force the DEA to at least consider rescheduling marijuana, the two agencies work together to make that impossible. Every potential avenue is only a loop. No legal pot, no research; no research, no legal pot. "That's the game that's played: if you object to the regulatory process, they say, 'Yeah, but there's judicial review.' If you get to judicial review, they say, 'Oh, well, look back at the regulatory process; they're the experts, not us.'"


Signed by President Bill Clinton on his way out the door as part of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the DQA was a corporate gimme that was meant to help industries fight meddlesome regulations. Written by former U.S. Office of Management and Budget head Jim Tozzi and backed by a load of big-tobacco money, it was meant to thwart or delay decisions that cost industries money. Manufacturers, for example, could use the DQA to delay environmental regulations that were based on the Precautionary Principle, protecting people before the scientific testing of toxins or whatnot were complete, which could take years. The act was designed to risk public health while it saved industry a lot of hassle and money.


But the idea that regulatory agencies can only act on the best science, which made many environmental and consumer groups nervous, was also easily turned to activist purposes. In 2003, Americans for Safe Access began studying the law for the potential to force the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)--the FDA's parent agency--to change its statements about pot having no accepted medical value. The group filed its petition with HHS on Oct. 4 and, by way of press conference, staged a civil disobedience at the doors of the HHS building on Oct. 5, where 14 patients and advocates chanted


"Schedule I to Schedule III, cannabis is helping me" and promptly got arrested.


"It certainly seems like a novel approach," says Paul Armentano, spokesperson for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "In theory, it presses all the right buttons. But when you're talking about marijuana, there's 'in theory' how these things should work and then there's 'in practice' how they do work. But I believe it's the first time that the DQA has been used in such a manner."


The Data Quality Act's key provision, which makes it an improvement on the Administrative Procedures Act that predated it, is that the DQA is time-limited, so there's less foot-dragging allowed. HHS has 60 days from the date of filing to give an answer, or at least file for a limited extension to make a decision. That date was Dec. 6. It also provides for judicial review--yes, 'round and 'round and then back in the courts. But this time, it's back to the ASA's home court, the 9th Circuit in California, which is perceived as a friendly court.


This is the court that ruled in favor of Angel Raich, and that made medical marijuana legal--again--in California.


At least, that's what they think will happen. No one's really totally sure. No Data Quality Act case has ever gotten that far.


A Legal Quagmire


The Dec. 6 deadline came and, as expected, HHS asked for a 60-day extension, which is evidently the most they can get before the legal wrangling begins. Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer met with representatives for HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, and was informed of the extension and that the petition is under review by the FDA in consultation with National Institute of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).


Spokespersons for both the FDA and NIDA declined to comment, saying they hadn't been briefed on the petition. Activists say that NIDA's involvement is a bad sign, however, as the petition didn't ask for a refutation of pot's potential for addiction (which is what NIDA monitors), and NIDA has been one of the most active agencies trying to keep pot on the list of the most dangerous drugs.


It's a stall, but under the DQA, the stall can only last so long. Frustrating though it may be, this slog is infinitely speedier than any of the attempts at rescheduling that have come before.


Consider the first petition, filed in 1972. Only two years after marijuana was lumped with LSD, heroin and mescaline in Schedule I, NORML filed the first petition with the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the predecessor to the DEA, which stalled for three years, and then denied to hear the petition. A court forced them to hear it, then the DEA (formed in 1973) killed it without any hearings.


A higher court of appeals again forced them to hear it, but it was easily killed off once more. Finally, in 1986, after another exhaustive, grinding court fight, the DEA caved in and assigned the investigation to its own DEA administrative law judge, Francis L. Young.


Young spent two years hearing the testimony of scores of scientists, doctors, medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers, agents, corrections officials and the like, and in 1988 came back with a stunning verdict. In one of the most celebrated documents in the history of pot activism, Young issued a 100-plus-page ruling, saying not only that the DEA must move pot to Schedule II, to have controlled medical use like cocaine and opium, but that "the evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence of this record."


"And he's one of them!" cries Joe Elford, staff attorney for Americans for Safe Access, the chief author of the group's DQA petition. "Anyone who does administrative law generally thinks of it as a kangaroo court. It's one of their boys ruling on one of their issues, and you basically expect to lose, and hopefully you might get some relief from a real court down the line. But it was absolutely astounding that a DEA administrative law judge would make such findings and certainly to make 'em so forcefully."


Of course, the DEA swept it all under the rug. It decided that Young had applied the wrong standard, that the testimony of doctors and patients didn't show "a currently accepted medical use." The record had to show controlled scientific testing--which neither the FDA nor the DEA would allow by law.


That decision went through five appeals before it was finally dead, in 1994, 22 years after the petition had been filed. But the movement to reschedule marijuana saw cracks in the feds' armor and picked up steam. Dr. Jon Gettman, then the director of NORML, filed a new rescheduling petition in 1995. This was finally denied in 2001--it only took seven years this time--but the reasons why it was denied were more specific and attackable. The phrase "arbitrary and capricious" began to resonate. It's a magic set of words among lawyers, epecially those fighting regulatory agencies. The FDA, for instance, has to set criteria to define "currently accepted medical use," and if it departs from them, it has abused its discretion, which is against the law.


That's where the DQA comes in. The new petition filed by Americans for Safe Access invokes the DQA to charge that the FDA abused its discretion on three of its five criteria in denying Gettman's 1995 rescheduling petition. Whenever the FDA deviates from its own criteria, it seems they made an arbitrary and capricious decision. That's the legal basis for the case. Plus there's more.


"That process requires, by statute, a full and scientific medical review," says Gettman, who now has a new rescheduling petition before HHS as part of a coaltion. "That review is supposed to cover both the scientific evidence in the petition and everything else that's relevant. Now, what ASA is doing with the Data Quality Act, as I understand it, is that they're arguing that HHS's review of this 1995 petition of mine was inadequate and that it didn't cover all the available information."


For instance, how could the FDA have reviewed the 1999 Institute of Medicine study, which found marijuana useful "for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation," and still deny accepted medical use? It's the White House's own study. Not to mention the massive--and growing--raft of other medical evidence available before 2001, like the discovery of the receptor sites in the brain that show exactly how tetrahydrocannabinoids work to relieve pain.


If the FDA is shown to have abused its discretion, this should require the DEA to consider a new rescheduling procedure.


At least, in theory. "It gets complicated, and the trouble is that the courts are still sorting it out," says Elford. "The law's only a couple of years old. There have been, at this point, only a handful of published decisions dealing with this case."


Indeed, in a ruling that came down on Dec. 3, a U.S. District Court judge found that Data Quality Act challenges were not judicially reviewable.


Publishing on that ruling, Sean Moulton, senior policy analyst at good-government group OMB Watch, says, The activists "are facing an uphill battle at this point. It's not outside the realm of possibility to get a precedent overturned, depending on where they're going to file. But I think that a lot of the points that [this judge] made about standing would apply to many other DQA cases that might get filed in court."


Joe Elford knows he's in for a long fight. He expects both HHS and the DEA will try every available dodge. It will take months. There's no set procedure for judicial review. But if it all goes through, it could go to the 9th Circuit.


"We're going to get a much better shake in the Northern district of California," he says a little dreamily. "And from there to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and then... from there, possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. But I'm certainly not holding my breath."


Scheduling the Rescheduling


With another month to stew while the FDA and NIDA look at their petition, Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer says they'll be turning up the heat, trying to keep this moving, badgering members of Congress, running a nationwide sign-on campaign to join the 7,000 doctors who've already endorsed ASA's effort. You might want to look at that number of doctors again: 7,000. That's a potential blizzard of prescriptions. Sherer, who's recently been working Capitol Hill relentlessly, can feel HHS beginning its long stall.


"The bureaucrat's favorite game is the stalling game," says Sherer. "And we don't have time for that. We have patients who are facing jail; we have patients who are living in fear of arrest. If they're not going to accept the petition, they need to deny it quickly so we can move on to the next step." "Just delaying it doesn't help anybody," says the ASA's McQuie.


"It's particularly ironic after Justice Breyer's comment that this should be in the hands of regulators, and that Angel Raich should have just taken this to the FDA and then challenged them in court if they denied it. That's exactly what we're trying to do, but they just make it as difficult as possible."


The government players: Who's who?


Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)


Agency that has the final say on whether marijuana has acceptable medical use. Researchers wanting to test the medical validity of marijuana must first get permission from the DEA--which is rarely granted. For example, in December, the DEA rejected University of Massachusetts Amherst Professor Lyle Craker's 2001 request for a license to grow marijuana for FDA-approved research.


Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)


Arm of the government responsible for writing up the opinions that tell the DEA which drugs should be considered controlled substances. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


An HHS underling agency whose Center for Drug Evaluation and Research runs clinical studies to determine which drugs are "safe and effective" for consumer use. CDER has said it supports independent research into the medical benefits of marijuana, but that those researchers must go to the NIDA to obtain that marijuana.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


The go-to place for supplies of marijuana to be used for research.


Unfortunately, researchers claim that NIDA provides low-potency marijuana and is prejudicial in its decisions on whom to dole it out to. And if researchers want to grow their own marijuana, they must get permission from the DEA (see above).--


For The Latest News Check Out:

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Americans For Safe Access

Media Awareness Project

Drug Reform Coordination Network


Medical Marijuana News Update

Marijuana is medicine for millions of patients around the US. Click here for medical marijuana news. Federal opposition persists in spite of successful medical marijuana programs in several states. States, cities moving to allow medical use by those in need.


For more information on medical marijuana and other drug policy reform issues, check out the Common Sense for Drug Policy. For the facts about medical marijuana, check out Drug War Facts: Medical Marijuana, and this CSDP public service ad on medical cannabis to learn more.


Marijuana Is Safe, Effective Medicine

Cannabis, or marijuana as it is often called when referring to the drug form of the plant, is an effective medicine that is relatively safer than many commonly-used pharmaceutical products. In the last several decades US doctors and patients have been denied legal access to this substance. Click here to read this well-researched article about the medical benefits of cannabis and learn more about its uses.


Get Informed!

Get the facts about medical cannabis from Drug War Facts.
NORML's website provides a great deal of useful medical cannabis information. California NORML maintains this list of CA medical cannabis resources. Access hundreds of articles on medical cannabis from the popular press.


Get Active!

Help make sure that patients can access medical cannabis safely and legally. Americans for Safe Access maintains this terrific Take Action page on their site to help you decide what actions you can take. Common Sense for Drug Policy also maintains this organizers' toolkit on their website.


Stand Up!  Speak Out!
Tell Your Congressperson To End The War On Medical Marijuana!

Because there is no federal medical necessity exemption, juries cannot take all the facts into consideration when hearing a case involving medical marijuana. The US Justice Dept. is forcing hundreds of seriously ill patients, who rely on these support groups, to turn to the streets and black market in order to obtain their medicine while providers face long prison terms for their compassion. Contact your Congressperson and let them know how you want an end to the Federal assault against medical marijuana.


Medical Marijuana FACTs

Courtesy of Drug War Facts, a project of Common Sense for Drug Policy.

1.      Since 1996, ten states have legalized medical marijuana use: AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ME, NV, OR, VT and WA. Eight of the ten did so through the initiative process, Hawaii's law was enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor in 2000, and Vermont's was enacted by the legislature and passed into law without the governor's signature in May 2004.

Source:  National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), from the web at http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3391, last accessed Oct. 9, 2004.

2.      The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana stated, "The accumulated data indicate a potential therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

3.      The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana examined the question whether the medical use of marijuana would lead to an increase of marijuana use in the general population and concluded that, "At this point there are no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data are consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential." The report also noted that, "this question is beyond the issues normally considered for medical uses of drugs, and should not be a factor in evaluating the therapeutic potential of marijuana or cannabinoids."

Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

4.      In the Institute of Medicine's report on medical marijuana, the researchers examined the physiological risks of using marijuana and cautioned, "Marijuana is not a completely benign substance. It is a powerful drug with a variety of effects. However, except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."

Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

5.      The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on medical marijuana examined the question of whether marijuana could diminish patients' immune system - an important question when considering marijuana use by AIDS and cancer patients. The report concluded that, "the short-term immunosuppressive effects are not well established but, if they exist, are not likely great enough to preclude a legitimate medical use."

Source: Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A Benson, Jr., "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999).

6.      "Conclusions: Smoked and oral cannabinoids did not seem to be unsafe in people with HIV infection with respect to HIV RNA levels, CD4+ and CD8+ cell counts, or protease inhibitor levels over a 21-day treatment."

Source:  Abrams, Donald I., MD, et al., "Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection - A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial," Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 19, 2003, Vol. 139, No. 4 (American College of Physicians), p. 258.

7.      "This study provides evidence that short-term use of cannabinoids, either oral or smoked, does not substantially elevate viral load in individuals with HIV infection who are receiving stable antiretroviral regimens containing nelfinavir or indinavir. Upper confidence bounds for all estimated effects of cannabinoids on HIV RNA level from all analyses were no greater than an increase of 0.23 log10 copies/mL compared with placebo. Because this study was randomized and analyses were controlled for all known potential confounders, it is very unlikely that chance imbalance on any known or unknown covariate masked a harmful effect of cannabinoids. Study participants in all groups may have been expected to benefit from the equivalent of directly observed antiretroviral therapy, as well as decreased stress and, for some, improved nutrition over the 25-day inpatient stay."

Source: Abrams, Donald I., MD, et al., "Short-Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection - A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial," Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 19, 2003, Vol. 139, No. 4 (American College of Physicians), p. 264.

8.      "Nevertheless, when considering all 15 studies (i.e., those that met both strict and more relaxed criteria) we only noted that regular cannabis users performed worse on memory tests, but that the magnitude of the effect was very small. The small magnitude of effect sizes from observations of chronic users of cannabis suggests that cannabis compounds, if found to have therapeutic value, should have a good margin of safety from a neurocognitive standpoint under the more limited conditions of exposure that would likely obtain in a medical setting."

Source:  Grant, Igor, et al., "Non-Acute (Residual) Neurocognitive Effects Of Cannabis Use: A Meta-Analytic Study," Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (Cambridge University Press: July 2003), 9, pp. 687-8.

9.      In spite of the established medical value of marijuana, doctors are presently permitted to prescribe cocaine and morphine - but not marijuana.

Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.

10.  Organizations that have endorsed medical access to marijuana include: the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians; American Bar Association; American Public Health Association; American Society of Addiction Medicine; AIDS Action Council; British Medical Association; California Academy of Family Physicians; California Legislative Council for Older Americans; California Medical Association; California Nurses Association; California Pharmacists Association; California Society of Addiction Medicine; California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; Colorado Nurses Association; Consumer Reports Magazine; Kaiser Permanente; Lymphoma Foundation of America; Multiple Sclerosis California Action Network; National Association of Attorneys General; National Association of People with AIDS; National Nurses Society on Addictions; New Mexico Nurses Association; New York State Nurses Association; New England Journal of Medicine; and Virginia Nurses Association.

11.  A few of the editorial boards that have endorsed medical access to marijuana include: Boston Globe; Chicago Tribune; Miami Herald; New York Times; Orange County Register; and USA Today.

12.  Many organizations have favorable positions (e.g., unimpeded research) on medical marijuana. These groups include: The Institute of Medicine, The American Cancer Society; American Medical Association; Australian Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health; California Medical Association; Federation of American Scientists; Florida Medical Association; and the National Academy of Sciences.

13.  The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five categories, or "schedules," into which all illicit and prescription drugs were placed. Marijuana was placed in Schedule I, which defines the substance as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. To contrast, over 90 published reports and studies have shown marijuana has medical efficacy.

Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.; Common Sense for Drug Policy, Compendium of Reports, Research and Articles Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Medical Marijuana, Vol. I & Vol. II (Falls Church, VA: Common Sense for Drug Policy, March 1997).

14.  The U.S. Penal Code states that any person can be imprisoned for up to one year for possession of one marijuana cigarette and imprisoned for up to five years for growing a single marijuana plant.

Source: The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.

15.  On September 6, 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, ruled:
"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known....[T]he provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

Source: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22] (September 6, 1988), p. 57.

16.  The DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death. Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care."

Source: US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Agency, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22], (September 6, 1988), p. 57.

17.  Between 1978 and 1997, 35 states and the District of Columbia passed legislation recognizing marijuana's medicinal value.
States include: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, IA, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, and WI.

For additional research on medical marijuana, see this excellent analysis of medical marijuana research by Common Sense for Drug Policy President Kevin B. Zeese and this update from Common Sense for Drug Policy, as well as the Drug War Facts section on marijuana.

You can also visit:  Coalition for Medical Marijuana  --  American Alliance for Medical Cannabis   --   Americans for Safe Access   --   Angel Justice   --   Angel Wings Patient OutReach, Inc.   --   California NORML   --   CannabisMD   --   Cannabis Action Network   --   Cannabis Consumers Campaign   --   Change The Climate   --   Common Sense for Drug Policy   --   DRCNet   --   Drug Policy Alliance   --   DrugSense   --   Green Aid   --   Human Rights in the Drug War   --   Patients Out of Time   --   Safe Access

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