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Medical Marijuana: The U.S. hundred years’ war

“So, if a stranger walked up to you and poured pebble like seeds into your hand and then said, “plant them and your harvest can be made into rope, cloth or paper; it could help the sick or intoxicate.  What would you say?  Would you keep the seeds or chuck them away?”  

Lisa Ling, National Geographic Extreme – Marijuana Nation

Indoor Plants

Growers attempt to hide their crops by growing inside. – photo from patwrec

Proposition 19 brought to the forefront the issue of legalizing marijuana for personal use in the state of California last year; however, the reading and implementation of the law for legal uses has continued to cause problems for patients, providers and physicians around the state.

Local physician Kourosh Bagheri gives his view on current medicinal laws in California and his opinion on the implementation of those laws.

“I can write a prescription for marijuana right now and send you to CVS to pick it up,” Bagheri said.

Bagheri is referring to Marinol, the pill form of THC, which can be prescribed by any physician.  He said the pill form provides some of the relief and has the same side effects that are found when smoking marijuana.

The issue is the cost and ability of the patient to consume a pill for treatment of already painful and uncomfortable symptoms, Bagheri said.  He also had concerns about how it is being prescribed under current state regulations.

See the full interview here.                                                                                             

Local Impact

Recent reports in San Luis Obispo County highlight the legal complications associated with the California laws on medicinal use of cannabis products.  The New Times Article by Matt Fountain focuses on the follow-up of the case against Peter Miller of Paso Robles.  Miller was arrested in a raid of his medical marijuana growing collective at his home.

The problem is a debate between the defense and prosecution on the definition of the law and how it is applied in this instance.  The judge in the case has said he wants to let the jury make the decision.   The case is pending to review new evidence from the San Luis Obispo Narcotics Task Force.

But this isn’t the only legal snafu in the local news lately.

Image from Cafe Vale Tudo - click on image to visit their web Site.

Morro Bay city council recently tabled a vote on a decision to allow two dispensaries in town.

The council is withholding a decision for the time. According to meeting minutes there is a concern with the uncertainty of the Sheriff’s position and discrepancy between state and federal laws.

Morro Bay residents voted against banning dispensaries in the city last November.  Morro Bay was also the town involved in the controversial Lynch case a few years ago.

Across the nation questions about how to legally use and dispense medical cannabis are being sorted through the system at the cost of taxpayer’s dollars.

A Brief History

  • Hemp was George Washington’s main crop at Mt. Vernon
  • Medicines with cannabis base sold in U.S.
  • Marijuana was originally listed on the U.S. Pharmacopoeia
  • California was the first state in the U.S. to prohibit marijuana use in 1913.
  • Anslinger declares war on marijuana 1930
  • Dupont chemists discover polyester and nylon
  • Tax Stamp Act of 1937, AMA is against government plans
  • Nixon’s War on Drugs, DEA is created
  • California passes Compassionate Use Act in 1996
  • Today more than 15 states have medical use laws in place
  • Obama administration steps back in federal prosecution in states with medicinal laws on the books.

California state law on medicinal use

DEA and marijuana

This documentary looks at the history of marijuana and provides a debate to both sides of the issue of legalizing marijuana socially.
 The war on drugs has cost 600 billion since 1971 according to the documentary Marijuana: A Chronic History from the History Channel in 2010.

Opponents

Those against the use of marijuana medicinally are largely concerned with the impact socially.  Their fear is that it makes it more available and more acceptable to society at large.

A report from the Office of National Drug Policy states, “Use of marijuana has adverse health, safety, social, academic, economic, and behavioral consequences.  And Yet, astonishingly, many people view the drug as harmless.”

And there are health concerns about inhalation of the smokable forms.  Kari Parnell works in the medical field in California. She said she doesn’t completely oppose it medicinally, but she is worried about future health problems for patients who smoke their medicine.

“Medical studies will eventually show it causes neck and throat cancer,” Parnell said.

And there are many who don’t believe there are any medicinal purposes to be found in marijuana.  The FDA stated that there aren’t studies to verify a benefit from the use of marijuana as a medicine for any illness in 2006.

And then there are the personal testimonies to the contrary.

Personal Stories

“My doctor called me the poster child for medical use.”

Hollianne Valentine of Redding, CA began using medical cannabis after years of trials on pain medications for an injury which caused Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. TOS causes ongoing pain, numbness and tingling in the neck and shoulders.  In addition, she was later diagnosed with a condition similar to fibromyalgia.

“I had years of medical records to back me up,” Valentine said of her initial visit to receive a doctor’s recommendation.

Valentine attended college full-time and maintained a 4.0 while using medicinal marijuana to alleviate her pain. Her only issue was the atmosphere in most dispensaries she went to obtain her prescription.

“It made me feel like a stoner,” Valentine said.

Valentine and many others find the access to marijuana to be a bigger issue than the fight over medicinal uses.

Dispensaries vs. Pharmacies

“Why are there so many shops that look like anything but a pharmacy?”

Sarah Williams understands why people have a hard time taking the issue seriously when dispensaries look much like the common head-shop around town. 

“These things make a mockery of the medical marijuana business,” Williams said.

Williams said the neon signs and questionable atmosphere add to the stereotyping of medicinal users.

Kate Browne of Oakland is one of the people trying to change that image.  She not only  uses the plant medicinally, she also grows for herself and a local dispensary which supplies 215 people with their prescription marijuana.  She knows the concerns some people have, but believes the benefits outweigh them.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreen’s do not carry any form other than Marinol because they are licensed by the DEA and fall under federal laws.  They are only allowed to distribute Class II-Class V drugs.  Marijuana is Class I along with cocaine and heroine.

Valentine said she wants to see that change so she can feel more comfortable about picking up her prescription.

Boiled down

There may still be some kinks in the system of the Compassionate Use Act and subsequent Senate Bill 420, but there is a also definite change occurring in society regarding marijuana in general.  Depending on the jury in the Miller case, we may see precedent set in San Luis Obispo County soon.

According to polls conducted by Gallup in 2010 Americans are increasingly supporting the legalization of marijuana.  From 30 percent in 2000 to 46 percent last year.  In the West approval jumps 12 points to 58 percent, and among Liberals approval is 72 percent.

The truth is, no matter what your position is politically or socially, medical marijuana is prescribed by more than just those doctors who charge $150 and see you for two minutes, Bagheri said.

“It is, and has always been, legal to prescribe marijuana in the United States,” Bagheri said.

YouTube Playlist – View the documentaries from National Geographic and the History Channel on my channel.

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