MMJ Dispensaries Should Get on 502 Bandwagon

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Seattle’s medical marijuana stores have been living in a dream. Some have been so complacent as to oppose Initiative 502, the decriminalization measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.

They didn’t want a state marijuana tax. They didn’t want regulation by the Liquor Control Board, and they didn’t want a blood-THC standard for driving under the influence. They had what they wanted, marijuana unregulated and tax-free, protected by the forbearance of liberal politicians.

Now they don’t have it. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has moved to shut down 26 of Seattle’s 145 dispensaries because they are within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or, in the case of a Shoreline dispensary, a public trail.

The DEA spokeswoman says all the remaining marijuana stores are illegal, too. An outspoken Seattle attorney now advises his cannabis clients: “Close, and close fast.”

Closed doors are not what the people of Washington want. More than 58 percent of voters favored medical cannabis 14 years ago, and more people support it now. We believe they are ready for the next step, marijuana decriminalization for general adult use. I-502 is a vehicle for the people to say that. It is a way to push back against the Obama administration, which has been much less liberal on this issue than many had hoped.

Everyone involved in medical cannabis should support Initiative 502. It does not offer unregulated freedom; the people of Washington are not ready for that. We believe they are ready to bring marijuana above ground to license it, tax it and regulate its sale and use. Initiative 502 asks for that. It is a step forward.

Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Published: September 7, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The Seattle Times Company
Contact: [email protected]

N.J. Medical Marijuana Still Faces Hurdles

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Jay Lassiter, a onetime New Jersey politics blogger who would use profanity to drive home a point, texted one word to describe his feelings about becoming one of the state’s first patients eligible to smoke medical marijuana: “Wow.”

“Just registered. . . . Shouldn’t be long now,” the advocacy consultant from Cherry Hill then told his Facebook followers. Lassiter is among the more than 100 people who signed up last month as the state’s long-stalled medical marijuana program advanced.

Lassiter, 40, who previously wrote for the liberal website BlueJersey, wants to obtain marijuana to stimulate an appetite ravaged by HIV/AIDS and the side effects of a cocktail of potent medications. The drug requires a prescription from a registered doctor.

Whether the patient registry is “the sweet victory” Lassiter anticipates or just another step in the program’s bumpy road remains to be seen. There are still hurdles and confusion as the state Department of Health takes a firm stance in checking and double-checking every detail.

No marijuana dispensary has received final approval to open for business, despite years of planning and review. So far, only one – the Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, Essex County – has been licensed to grow the crop.

Greenleaf is expected to begin selling the drug to patients this month “assuming they meet all the criteria,” Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said.

But the government and dispensary seem to have a different understanding about what’s left to be done before Greenleaf opens.

Greenleaf chief executive officer Joe Stevens said his nonprofit company already had harvested the crop and was ready to sell as early as this week, once the state conducts a final inspection of his storefront dispensary and reviewed his security plans. State Health and Agriculture Department inspectors already have checked the plants for mold, pesticides, and other contaminants and found them to be clean, he said.

“Now that patients are registering, we’ve been getting calls as to our opening date. . . . We’re hoping for the first or second week in September,” Stevens said.

But O’Dowd said the inspection of the plants was only preliminary. The marijuana still needs to undergo further inspection and laboratory testing before it can be sold, she said.

Plus, a daylong inspection of the dispensary would include computer and employee training and security checks. “We are asking for security to make sure [marijuana] is not diverted for inappropriate illegal purposes,” O’Dowd said.

Some patients have vulnerable immune systems, she said, and the Department of Health needs to ensure that the drug won’t harm them.

So far, more than 100 patients who have cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV, or other afflictions that qualify for marijuana treatment have begun the registration process. About 8,400 people visited the state’s medical marijuana website the day patients were allowed to sign up.

Stevens said he had cultivated enough marijuana at his 5,000-square-foot facility to serve only 60 patients the first month. Since more than 100 people have registered, he said, he may ask patients to “limit their purchases in the beginning so that everyone who is sick can get their medication.”

Stevens, a former funeral director who will run the dispensary with a childhood friend, Julio Valentin Jr., a former Newark police detective, said he did not expect to have the only dispensary to open in the state.

In March 2011, the Department of Health selected six nonprofit companies to grow marijuana and operate dispensaries, two for each of three geographic areas. The others have been stymied either by local opposition to their businesses or the rigorous state approval process.

Until the others open, registered patients across the state are free to travel to Greenleaf.

Stevens said his company initially had difficulties because “the start dates kept being pushed back” by the state, but now, “if there were differences in the past, there are none now.”

Compassionate Care Foundation, one of two dispensaries chosen to serve South Jersey, has been paying $25,000 a month in rent on a vacant warehouse in Egg Harbor, near Atlantic City, since April.

Chief executive officer William J. Thomas said he did not anticipate that the state background checks of his board members and lenders would take eight months. He had hoped to be ready to serve patients this month, but since the investigations are continuing, he now expects to see a December opening at the earliest.

“We are being held to the same standard as a casino owner,” he said, noting that investigators had asked his associates, doctors, and lenders for three years’ worth of IRS statements, bank accounts, mortgage information, and job history, and for personal interviews.

“We have no revenue, and if it goes on any longer, we’ll just have to walk away from this,” Thomas said.

Some lenders have dropped out because the process is so time-consuming and intrusive, he said.

“We are being treated like a hot potato,” he said.

Thomas said he could not apply for a permit to begin growing until the investigation was complete. Cultivation then takes about three months.

O’Dowd said that Department of Health conducts in-depth investigations to make sure no one associated with a dispensary has laundered money, has ties to organized crime, or has a criminal record.

“This is an illegal operation in the eyes of the federal government, so we want to make sure there are no concerns that would bring into question the integrity of the investors and the board as a whole,” she said.

In other states, notably California, federal agents have raided dispensaries when they discovered the improper sale of medical marijuana to people who were not sick. O’Dowd said she wanted to ensure that New Jersey’s program “will withstand the scrutiny of federal law enforcement.”

New Jersey is one of 17 states and the District of Columbia that permit medical marijuana despite the federal government’s ban on cannabis sales. The Obama administration has issued memos saying it will look the other way when dispensaries follow a state’s regulations.

Ken Wolski, who heads the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, a patient advocacy group, said New Jersey’s program was unnecessarily the strictest in the nation, depriving very sick and terminally ill patients of a drug that could help them cope.

The program has focused more on bureaucratic requirements and less on the suffering of the patients, he said.

Gov. Christie has said that he wants to make sure there are “sufficient legal safeguards so we don’t turn into California and everybody with a headache is going out and getting high.”

Lassiter said that was not why he needed marijuana. “A big part of my strategy for staying well is keeping my appetite robust,” he said. “The alternative is dying.”

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
Author: Jan Hefler, Inquirer Staff Writer
Published: September 4, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Contact: [email protected]

Initiative Or No, Federal Law Trumps State On Marijuana

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Suppose voters decided that they’ve had it with federal drug rules that make marijuana an illegal substance akin to heroin or cocaine, and they change Washington state law to make marijuana legal.

Not in all instances, not for everyone, not at any time.  But for adults, in regulated quantities, for limited uses.

While that might be a fair shorthand description of what Initiative 502 proposes this November, this isn’t just a hypothetical scenario about the future.  It’s also a description of the past.  In 1998, Washington voters “legalized” marijuana for medical uses, even though the federal government said at the time, and still does, the drug belongs on the list of controlled substances that have no legal medical use.

Fourteen years later, state officials still struggle with developing a system to regulate medical marijuana production and sale, while the U.S.  Justice Department continues to prosecute “dispensaries” under federal drug trafficking statutes for selling pot to state-approved medicinal smokers unwilling or unable to grow it for themselves.

Supporters of I-502 — which would allow for the possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana by adults but keep it illegal for minors and anyone operating a vehicle — say it will free local law enforcement and state courts from the cost of marijuana enforcement.  The prosecution, defense, court and jail costs of those cases cost Washington governments more than $200 million between 2000 and 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington recently estimated.

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said the chance to lighten the load on local police and avoid filling local courts and jails makes I-502 a good choice.  While there’s no guarantee what federal drug agents and prosecutors will do, the chance to begin discussions also would be a plus, he said.

“If nobody acts, nothing’s going to happen,” he said.

I-502 won’t stop federal officials from enforcing the law, most concede.  But it will spark discussions on how to shift from individual users to large criminal organizations bringing drugs across state and national borders, said Pete Holmes, the Seattle city attorney and a supporter of the initiative.

“It would take a great deal of hubris to just brush it aside,” Holmes said.

The state’s federal prosecutors won’t even talk about what they would do if voters approve I-502.

“We’re not making plans right now,” said Mike Ormsby, U.S.  attorney for Eastern Washington, adding he’s had no discussions with supporters of the initiative and “I don’t intend to have any.”

Jenny Durkan, U.S.  attorney for Western Washington, hasn’t had any official discussions on what actions federal law enforcement would take if the ballot measure passes, a spokeswoman said.  “We are prohibited from commenting on Initiative 502,” Emily Langlie said.  “It’s possible, between now and the election, the Department of Justice will provide further instructions.”

Last year, Ormsby warned dispensaries in Spokane that they faced federal prosecution if they didn’t shut down.  A letter from Ormsby and Durkan to Gov.  Chris Gregoire prompted the governor to essentially gut a bill that legislators had hammered out to regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana, which was called for in the 1998 ballot measure.

“Growing, distributing and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities,” they wrote in April 2011.

I-502 calls for the state to regulate the production, processing and sale of marijuana — and collect taxes on it — through the state Liquor Control Board.

Holmes believes the passage of I-502 could actually ease the federal pressure on medical marijuana dispensaries.  It was the proliferation of those facilities and readily available “prescriptions” that helped spur the federal crackdown, he said.

“There are a lot of sham users of medical marijuana,” he said.  “The number of dispensaries you see is quite a bit beyond what’s needed for medical marijuana.”

I-502 would likely preclude the need for dispensaries because medical patients could find the drug relatively easily, he added.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is running for governor this fall on the same ballot as I-502, said passage of the measure will create “a serious conflict between state law and federal law.” If state and local officials don’t prosecute marijuana cases, federal prosecutors likely will, he said.

“It’s not a state’s rights issue,” McKenna said: It’s an issue where federal law rules under the Constitution’s supremacy clause.

Like his Democratic opponent for governor, Jay Inslee, Republican McKenna opposes I-502.  If the measure passes, one or the other would be faced with dealing with the fallout, although neither has specific plans.

Inslee’s campaign said simply that he would “work with legislators and stakeholders to implement the new law.”

McKenna said he believes the initiative will fail, so he won’t deal with a hypothetical like how he would deal with the U.S.  Justice Department.  “I don’t want to comment on what could happen on a law that won’t pass.”

Source: Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
Copyright: 2012 The Spokesman-Review
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Jim Camden

Ex-Medical Marijuana Provider Dies in Custody

posted in: Cannabis News 0

MarijuanaA Montana medical marijuana provider with a history of serious illness died Thursday after his transfer to a federal prison that could give him proper medical care was delayed for months.

Richard Flor’s death came weeks after a federal judge denied an attorney’s request to release the 68-year-old Miles City resident while he appealed his five-year sentence. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell wrote in his Aug. 7 order that it was “unfortunate” that Flor’s transfer to a Bureau of Prisons medical facility was delayed, but “it is not factually or legally significant.”

Lovell sentenced Flor in April after Flor pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises. Flor previously was diagnosed with dementia, depression and numerous medical conditions, and Lovell recommended that he be evaluated by federal prison hospital officials to determine what facility would be best suited for him.

Flor had been held at Crossroads Correctional Facility, a private prison in Shelby, while awaiting the Bureau of Prisons’ decision on where he would serve his sentence.

He was removed from the Shelby facility Tuesday and was being temporarily held in a Las Vegas jail Wednesday when he suffered two heart attacks, renal failure and kidney failure, said his attorney, Brad Arndorfer.

Flor was hospitalized and placed on life support while still shackled to his bed, Arndorfer said. His family decided early Thursday to take him off life support.

Arndorfer said Flor’s death was a failure of the federal justice system at all levels.

“I can point the finger at everybody,” Arndorfer said. “The fault is in prosecuting a man like this. The next fault is sentencing a man like this to prison. Then you’ve got the Marshals Service taking him to a place like Crossroads, which has no medical facilities capable of taking care of him.”

Arndorfer said Flor was being held in the Las Vegas jail as a layover en route to a destination that he did not know.

Lovell released a brief statement through his staff Thursday afternoon saying, “I was sorry to learn of the passing of Mr. Flor. Judicial ethics prohibit further response.”

Neither the Bureau of Prisons nor the U.S. Marshals Service returned calls for comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr confirmed that Flor died Thursday in a Las Vegas hospital but said she had no further comment.

The Great Falls Tribune first reported Flor’s death.

Steven Owen, a spokesman for Crossroads owner Corrections Corporation of America, said in a statement that staff there “are firmly committed to the health and safety of the inmates entrusted to our care” and the facility is regularly inspected and audited on its “processes for delivering care.”

Arndorfer asked Lovell in July to release Flor while he appealed his five-year sentence, which Flor believed was too harsh. Flor had fallen out of a bed at Crossroads and broke his clavicle and cervical bones. He also reinjured the ribs and vertebrae hurt in a fall in detention the year before, Arndorfer said.

“He is in extreme pain and still is not being given round-the-clock care as is required for someone with his medical and mental conditions,” Arndorfer wrote in his request. “It is anticipated he will not long survive general population incarceration.”

Lovell denied the request Aug. 7, saying he checked with Bureau of Prison officials and Flor had recovered from the injuries.

“Defendant’s medical requirements have been reviewed by the Bureau of Prisons, which is able to provide any medical care needed by the Defendant,” the judge wrote.

After initially saying CCA did not know of any injury Flor suffered while housed at Crossroads, Owens later acknowledged there was a report from June that Flor fell out of his bunk. He said medical privacy rules prevented him from speaking any further about the fall or Flor’s injuries.

Flor was one of the co-founders of the now-defunct Montana Cannabis, which provided marijuana for about 300 people from locations in Helena, Missoula and Billings, and from Flor’s Miles City home. It was one of the largest medical marijuana operations to be raided by federal agents in March 2011 in a crackdown on large providers.

Three of his former partners are either facing or have pleaded guilty to similar federal drug charges after protesting that they were operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Matt Volz, Associated Press
Published: August 30, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The Associated Press

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Sponsors Legislation

posted in: Cannabis News 0

California Rep. Barbara Lee won’t be spooked by the Justice Department’s aggressive curtailing of medical marijuana dispensaries in her own backyard.

Lee, a top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act in Congress this week, which she says would curb the Obama Administration’s efforts to intimidate state medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop.

“The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and as a result thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes,” Lee says. “We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need.”

The bill will make it illegal for the federal government to seize the assets of medical marijuana business owners, a tactic DOJ has begun using to crack down on pot shops. While DOJ rarely takes legal action against businesses that comply with their local and state laws, Americans for Safe Access, a group that is committed to legalizing medical marijuana says the threat alone has been enough to scare roughly 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of California to close their doors.

The Justice Department has sent roughly 300 letters to landlords in California and Colorado threatening to file lawsuits if they don’t stop operating dispensaries.

“For the price of postage, the Justice Department gets to threaten an entire population of property owners and it is a very effective tactic,” says Kris Hermes, a spokesman with Americans for Safe Access.

Lee announced her legislation just weeks after U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a lawsuit against Oakland and San Jose, Calif.-based medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Clinic. Haag argues the clinics, which serve about 100,000 medical marijuana users, could be violating local laws because of the number of patients they provide pot to.

“The larger the operation, the greater likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need,” Haag said in a statement.

The asset forfeiture lawsuit caused an uproar in the community, with thousands of signatures gathered for an anti-lawsuit petition drive, protests, and political rallies.

“They won’t stop until they have closed every single regulated law-abiding dispensary in California unless people rise up and say enough is enough,” says Steve DeAngelo, the executive director at Harborside Health Clinic. But DeAngelo says it wasn’t always this way.

The federal government’s dogged pursuit of medical marijuana dispensaries has escalated since 2009. On the campaign trail and at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s time in office, medical marijuana seemed low on the administration’s priority list.

“I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate,” Obama said in the Spring of 2008 during an interview with Oregon Newspaper, the Mail Tribune. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws and Americans for Safe Access estimates the Justice Department has carried out roughly 200 raids on dispensaries or growing facilities in nine states.

Hermes fears if the lawsuits persist, patients who need medical cannabis could be forced into the unregulated drug market. “[Rep. Lee’s] law would take the wind out of the sails of the Justice Department to intimidate dispensaries who are serving patients in need,” Hermes says.

Source: U.S. News & World Report (US)
Author: Lauren Fox
Published: August 3, 2012
Copyright: 2012 U.S. News & World Report

MMJ Rescheduling To Be Heard In Federal Court

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Medical marijuana advocates will get their day in court later this year, when they argue the therapeutic value of cannabis.

The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed late last week to hear oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a case that could have major implications for the rescheduling of marijuana out of Schedule I, a category that also includes heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are described as substances that have “a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” Rescheduling can take place either by congressional vote, or through independent action by the executive branch in the presence of new research.

Marijuana policy reformers initially petitioned the DEA in 2002, arguing that the current classification of marijuana was improper. In 2011, the DEA finally denied their request, prompting Americans for Safe Access to file a lawsuit earlier this year. Advocates are excited about the opportunity to present scientific evidence before federal court, and especially optimistic considering the recent release of a report that claims, in the clearest terms yet, that there are medical benefits to marijuana.

From the Americans for Safe Access press release:

The announcement of oral arguments comes just weeks after a study was published in The Open Neurology Journal by Dr. Igor Grant one of the leading U.S. medical marijuana researchers, claiming that marijuana’s Schedule I classification is “not tenable.” Dr. Grant and his fellow researchers concluded it was “not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” The study urged additional research, and stated that marijuana’s federal classification and its political controversy are “obstacles to medical progress in this area.” Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I substance (along with heroin) is based on the federal government’s position that it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, says the court’s decision is long-awaited.

“Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court,” he said. “This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy … What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.”

While marijuana is currently accepted for medical use in 17 states and the District of Columbia, the Obama administration and DEA have been unmistakably hard-nosed in their approach to the substance.

During congressional testimony earlier this year, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart refused to say whether crack or heroin posed bigger health risks than marijuana.

The administration has meanwhile continued an aggressive crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in California.

Oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration are set to begin on Oct. 16.

Source: Huffington Post (NY)
Author: Nick Wing, The Huffington Post
Published: August 1, 2012
Copyright: 2012, LLC
Contact: [email protected]

Medical Marijuana: The Facts

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Christie Administration Has Been Responsive on Issue

I was surprised and saddened to see the editorial Wednesday titled “Med marijuana: What’s the deal?” The Asbury Park Press’ editorial board is typically thorough and factually accurate, but in this instance it couldn’t be more off the mark.

While this program appeared to get off to a slow start, we have seen real, and substantial, progress over the past year, particularly the past few months.

The problem right now isn’t the program or the progress.  The problem is the Press’ lack of factual followup.  The same day the editorial appeared in the Press, an article ran in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Legal for some, pot crops up in N.J.,” highlighting the headway being made in our program.

The same people whom the Press quotes as taking issue with the administration – quotes from months ago – are quoted from the past few days praising the people in the Christie administration and the folks directly running the program.  That is downright sloppy – and ultimately unfair to those of us who have broken our butts to get this program on track and moving forward.

One facility run by the Greenleaf center is already growing plants that are now a foot high.  They should begin dispensing the much-needed medicine to patients as early as mid-September.  A second facility run by the Compassionate Care Foundation hopes to have a crop ready by November.  The claim that none of the centers around the state have begun operating is just plain wrong.

The editorial says the Christie administration is at the heart of the delays, yet the Journal article quotes Bill Thomas, CEO of Compassionate Care, as saying, “We have had complete cooperation with the Department of Health.  They are helping us.” While these two facilities are moving forward, the other four are “searching or in negotiations for locations,” according to the Department of Health.

In my efforts to move this program forward, I have found the administration to be responsive to fair and legitimate questions or issues every step of the way.  John O’Brien, the executive director of the medicinal marijuana program appointed by the governor, and Charlie McKenna, the governor’s chief counsel, have received well-deserved praise from the people legitimately trying to move their operations forward.

My office has reached out to every one of the approved entities.  Some have really engaged and some have completely blown off offers of help – – now having only themselves to blame for their lack of progress.  But no entity at this point can legitimately blame the administration for a lack of progress.

If all of the approved entities don’t begin to move forward, we will at some point have to consider revoking the approvals of those not moving forward, and reissue those rights to other entities.  While the guidelines the Christie administration put in place are strict, it is the high bar set by those guidelines that has given our program here in New Jersey the extremely high level of credibility it has throughout the country.  The programs in California and Colorado are complete disasters by comparison.  The strict regulations in New Jersey destroy the arguments of anyone fear-mongering or casting aspersions on our program or medical marijuana in general.

We all want our patients suffering from illness and chronic pain to get relief, but we also need to make sure we put the right program in place and administer it thoroughly and carefully, to build credibility with a somewhat skeptical public.  The polls show a majority of people favor medical marijuana, but too many folks then turn around and say they don’t want the facilities in their back yard.  The comprehensive, clear, consistent and strict design of our program – a design devised by the Christie administration – should allay any reason for fear.

Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2012 Asbury Park Press
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Declan O’Scanlon

1 in 8 with Fibromyalgia Uses Medicinal Cannabis

posted in: Cannabis News 0

One in eight people with the painful condition fibromyalgia self-medicate with pot and other cannabis products, according to a new Canadian study.

“That is not unusual behavior, in general, for people with chronic medical illnesses for which we don’t have great treatments,” said Dr. Igor Grant, who heads the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California and was not involved in the study.

“People start looking around, they look for other types of remedies, because they need the help,” he told Reuters Health.

The question is if self-medicating with cannabis is really helpful for people with fibromyalgia, researchers say.

Marijuana has been shown to ease certain types of pain in patients with HIV and other conditions. But Grant said he doesn’t know of any research showing the drug can relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia.

And the question of whether it helps fibromyalgia sufferers regain some of their daily functions, such as housekeeping or working, remains up in the air, too.

“We don’t want to just see pain reduction, but an improvement in function,” said Peter Ste-Marie, a pain researcher at McGill University in Montreal, who worked on the new study. “If it’s not helping them get back into a daily life pattern, is it helping them?”

People with fibromyalgia typically experience pain in their joints and muscles and may also suffer from frequent headaches and fatigue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about two percent of adults have fibromyalgia, which remains a mystery to scientists.

The condition can be treated with physical therapy, antidepressants, pain medications and other approaches, although none of them is a cure.

To see how many people turn to marijuana, Ste-Marie and his colleagues collected information from the medical records of 457 patients who came to the pain unit at McGill University Health Center. Their findings are published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

All of the patients had been referred to the clinic for fibromyalgia symptoms, although only 302 of the patients were confirmed to have fibromyalgia as their primary diagnosis.

About 10 percent said they smoked marijuana for medical purposes and another three percent had a prescription for a synthetic form of the active chemical in the cannabis plant.

“The popular knowledge of marijuana being available for pain would tend to demonstrate why 10 percent of patients would give it a try,” said Ste-Marie.

“There really is no miracle drug for fibromyalgia. We definitely understand that patients would try to find something else,” he told Reuters Health.

The researchers couldn’t tell from the study which of the patient had started smoked pot before their fibromyalgia developed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at some point.

The study showed that pot smokers and non-users had the same rates of disability and unemployment. However, patients who had unstable mental illness or had a worrisome use of opioid pain medications were more likely to report using cannabis – a finding that raised concerns with Ste-Marie and his colleagues.

“Before saying herbal cannabis has a future in fibromyalgia, there are multiple things that need to be looked at,” he said.

Newshawk: Konagold
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Author: Kerry Grens, Reuters
Published: July 13, 2012
Copyright: 2012 Thomson Reuters

Medical Marijuana Users Oppose Home Grow-Op Ruling

posted in: Cannabis News 0

Saskatchewan’s exempted medical marijuana users and growers are criticizing a decision by the federal government to stop individuals from growing the plant.

“I will be forced to purchase it from the government and that restricts me because I cannot produce the type that I like and that helps (dull the pain),” said Jason Hiltz, a medicinal marijuana advocate in Saskatoon who received an exemption in 2008 to grow the plants and take the drug.

Health Canada will no longer allow individuals to grow marijuana for medical use by 2014, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told CBC News on Friday.

Aglukkaq was reacting to a CBC investigation this week that Health Canada is ill-equipped to inspect licensed growers. There are also complaints from critics who say sanctioned growers are abusing their permits and often growing far more than they need. The individual grow-ops also attract break-ins, critics say.

The health minister said previously Health Canada wants to tender licences to produce marijuana in a way the same way as conventional drugs – by companies, under tightly regulated conditions. There are around 1,200 patients and 200 growers in Saskatchewan, who are limited to providing medical marijuana for up to two patients.

Shutting down licensed medical marijuana growers will only push people to obtain pot illegally, said Kaylynn Colby, 25, a Regina head shop worker who obtained an exemption after a doctor prescribed medical marijuana for pain.

“All they’re doing is creating demand in the black market,” Colby said.

In her teens, Colby suffered a herniated disc in her back that was never diagnosed. She suffers from severe juvenile arthritis, she said.

“All of the other painkillers they were (prescribing) were causing a lot more damage,” Colby said. “This (growing medical marijuana) was definitely the safer way to go about it. Since then I haven’t taken more pain killers for my condition.”

For Hiltz, two car crashes in 2005 and 2006 left him with a fractured vertebrae and spinal stenosis, which compresses his spinal cord, causing pain and weakness in his neck, shoulder and left arm.

An expert horticulturalist, Hiltz says the medical marijuana he produces is far better at dulling the pain than the government’s medical marijuana he would be forced to access.

Hiltz also says he can grow his own medical marijuana for around $140 per month compared to $540 for Health Canada’s mail-order pot, which is produced by Saskatchewan-based Prairie Plant Systems Inc.

Colby agrees that the medical marijuana produced for Health Canada isn’t as effective.

“I’ve seen it, I’ve smelt it and I would not want anything to do with it,” Colby said. “-I’ve never heard anybody satisfied or happy with it at all. It’s low-grade, poor quality, and it often doesn’t even help the medical condition very much.”

She would like to see the government increase the number of patients licensed growers can provide for.

“By allowing people to grow their own medicine, which is something that hasn’t hurt anyone, that would be a lot more beneficial than more rules and more boundaries and more punishment,” Colby said.

Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2012 The StarPhoenix
Author: David Hutton

1 3 4 5 6