Monday, April 26, 2004
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Tuesday , April 20, 2004 (Fox News)
As a California pediatrician and 49-year-old mother of two teenage daughters, Claudia Jensen says pot might prove to be the preferred medical treatment for attention deficit disorder (search) — even in adolescents.
"Why would anyone want to give their child an expensive pill … with unacceptable side effects, when he or she could just go into the backyard, pick a few leaves off a plant and make tea for him or her instead?" Jensen asked the Drug Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee earlier this month.
While some wonder whether Jensen was smoking some wacky weed herself, the clinician for low-income patients and professor to first-year medical students at the University of Southern California (search) said her beliefs are very grounded: The drug helps ease the symptomatic mood swings, lack of focus, anxiety and irritability in people suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders like ADD and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (search).
"Cannabinoids are a very viable alternative to treating adolescents with ADD and ADHD," she told Foxnews.com. "I have a lot of adult patients who swear by it."
Under California state law, physicians are allowed to recommend to patients the use of marijuana to treat illnesses, although the federal government has maintained that any use of marijuana — medicinal or otherwise — is illegal. The federal courts have ruled that physicians like Jensen cannot be prosecuted for making such recommendations.
Jensen said she regularly writes prescriptions recommending the use of marijuana for patients —particularly those suffering pain and nausea from chronic illnesses, such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and arthritis.
She has also worked with one family of a 15-year-old — whose family had tried every drug available to help their son, who by age 13 had become a problem student diagnosed as suffering from ADHD. Under Jensen's supervision, he began marijuana treatment, settling on cannabis in food and candy form, and he has since found equilibrium and regularly attends school.
But not everyone is so high on the idea of pot for students with neurological illnesses. Subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder, R-Ind., who invited Jensen to testify after reading about her ideas in the newspaper, was hardly convinced by her testimony.
"I do believe that Dr. Jensen really wants to help her patients, but I think she is deeply misguided when she recommends marijuana to teenagers with attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity," he told Foxnews.com. "There is no serious scientific basis for using marijuana to treat those conditions, and Dr. Jensen didn't even try to present one."
Dr. Tom O'Connell, a retired chest surgeon who now works with patients at a Bay Area clinic for patients seeking medical marijuana recommendations, is working on it. He said cannabis not only helps pain, but also can treat psychological disorders. He is currently conducting a study of hundreds of his patients, whom he said he believes have been self-medicating with pot and other drugs for years, and he hopes to publish a paper on the subject soon.
"My work with cannabis patients is certainly not definitive at this point, but it strongly suggests that the precepts upon which cannabis prohibition have been based are completely spurious," O'Connell said. Worse yet, he added, the prohibition has successfully kept certain adolescents away from pot who now turn to tobacco and alcohol instead.
Jensen, who said she believes Souder invited her to testify to "humiliate me and incriminate me in some way," suggested that a growing body of evidence is being developed to back medical marijuana chiefly for chronic pain and nausea. She said it is difficult, however, for advocates like herself to get the funding and permission to conduct government-recognized tests on ADD/ADHD patients.
"Unfortunately, no pharmaceutical companies are motivated to spend the money on research, and the United States government has a monopoly on the available marijuana and research permits," she told Congress.
Studies done on behalf of the government, including the 1999 Institute of Medicine's (search) "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," found that marijuana delivers effective THC and other cannabinoids that serve as pain relief and nausea-control agents. But these same studies warn against the dangers of smoking marijuana and suggest other FDA-approved drugs are preferable.
"We know all too well the dangerous health risks that accompany (smoking)," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the subcommittee, who like Souder, was not impressed by Jensen's arguments.
"It flies in the face of responsible medicine to advocate a drug that had been known to have over 300 carcinogens and has proven to be as damaging to the lungs as cigarette smoking," added Jennifer Devallance, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Drug Control Policy (search).
The government points to Food and Drug Administration-approved Marinol (search), a THC-derived pill that acts as a stand-in for marijuana. But many critics say there are nasty side effects, and it's too expensive for the average patient.
On the other hand, Jensen and others say cannabinoids can be made into candy form, baked into food or boiled into tea. They say that despite the FDA blessing, giving kids amphetamines like Ritalin for ADD and other behavioral disorders might be more dangerous.
"Ritalin is an amphetamine — we have all of these youngsters running around on speed," said Keith Stroup, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (search).
"Although it flies in the face of conventional wisdom, it's nevertheless true that cannabis is far safer and more effective than the prescription agents currently advocated for treatment of ADD-ADHD," O'Connell said.
Stroup said if Souder's intention was to harangue Jensen, he was unsuccessful in the face of her solid and articulate testimony on April 1.
"It was a good day for her, and a good day for medical marijuana in Congress," he said.
Nick Coleman, a subcommittee spokesman, said Souder doesn't "try to humiliate people.
"But to promote medical marijuana for teenagers with ADD … he does not feel that is a sound and scientific medical practice," Coleman said.
While the issue of treating adolescents with medical marijuana is fairly new, the idea of using pot to treat chronically and terminally ill patients is not. Nine states currently have laws allowing such practices. A number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have added that they want the states to decide for themselves whether to pursue medical marijuana laws (search).
Among those lawmakers are Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a physician; Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.; and Barney Frank, D-Mass.
"(Rep. Paul) believes there are some legitimate applications," like for pain and nausea, said spokesman Jeff Deist. "But the real issue is that states should decide for themselves."
Monday, April 19, 2004
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Clifford Thornton Jr, leader of US drug policy reform group Efficacy and US NORML board member, spent eight weeks over summer touring Aotearoa talking about racism and the drug war. Thornton brought with him the experience of life in a country where the drug war is primarily racist and has become a mighty economic failure collapsing under the weight of imprisoning of so many people. During his time here, Cliff traversed the country and saw that we too are heading down the same destructive road. Like the States, drug policy is being enforced in a discriminatory way with Maori being disproportionately arrested and imprisoned. During his two months here, Cliff met a host of MPs including Nandor Tanczos, Tim Barnett, John Tamahiri, Parkura Horomia, Pete Hodgson, Leanne Dalziel, Don Brash, Nick Smith, Tony Ryall, and Rodney Hide (who urged ACT to taking a stronger line in ending drug prohibition), and United Future's Marc Alexander. Cliff also met with Police Association President Greg O'Connor, NZ Race Relations Conciliator Joris De Bres, Bruce Logan from the Maxim Institute, Waitakare Mayor Bob Harvey and Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner. Cliff got some excellent media coverage - he was interviewed on radio stations all around the country and appeared on Linda Clark's Nine 'Til Noon show., repeating his message that marijuana should be legalised and other drugs including speed, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin medicalised.
Hot on the heels of Cliff's visit is a tour by LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), an organisation of more than 50 speakers based in the US, Canada and Britain. All of them are former "drug warriors" - police, prosecutors, judges, parole, probation and corrections officials who now speak out in opposition to the drug war. En route to the International Harm Reduction Conference in Melbourne, three key LEAP speakers are stopping off in New Zealand for ten days to talk about the harms of drug prohibition with rotary groups, MPs, the media and other interested parties. Jack Cole was Detective Lieutenant for the New Jersey State Police; Eleanor Schockett a former Florida judge, and Eddie Ellison the former chief of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad. They couldn't have arrived at a more appropriate time considering the recent scandal over in police corruption, and the publication of an old photo of Police Association President Greg O'Connor enjoying a joint. Jack Cole is a founding member and executive director of LEAP. From 1964 to 1991 he was a police officer in New Jersey, with 12 years spent undercover in the Narcotics Bureau. At one point he directed a three-year investigation of a Columbian cocaine trafficking organisation. Cole told the Sunday Star- Times that he doesn't want to tell the New Zealanders how to run the country but he does want to warn of the consequences the current law might have. He also offers alternatives which will lower drug crime and addiction. Cole also warns that drug testing at school and in the workplace should stop because it does more harm than good. He said testing converts cannabis users to stronger drugs (like P) which are more difficult to detect, and that employers and school principals would be kidding themselves to think that such a switch might not happen. Eddie Ellison is LEAP Director for Great Britain, and as the former head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, saw the change from bulk importation of cannabis in the 70s to bulk importation of heroin and cocaine. His experience in the field of drug control made clear the futility of relying solely on prohibition to lessen the effects of drug abuse on the community. He is a firm believer that drug legalisation presents a far greater opportunity to reduce the impact of drug use and the crimes associated with that use. Eleanor Schockett, a former Florida judge, became interested in drug policy when she wrote her senior paper on the administration of US drug laws and knew something was terribly wrong. As a Judge for the Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County in Florida she saw the havoc wrought by a failed drug policy. The erosion of personal liberties particularly concerned her and she vowed to speak out on the issue. Schockett has already appeared in the Listener warning that the result of New Zealand's increasingly tough stance on drugs will only be growing violence and drug use. That's exactly what happened in the US when the American government took the same approach. Image captions: Eddie Ellison Jack Cole Eleanor Schockett
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Images (and tour summary) available at http://mildgreens.com/leap
Sunday, April 04, 2004
"There's another solution. We didn't have a drug problem until we passed the laws and created it."
The message for New Zealand? Don't fall into the same trap.
Back to list of Dissenting Opinions
Also see http://www.norml.org.nz/article450.html
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Mild Greens say that aside from the glaring natural injustice, it is significant that the medicinal cannabis was not being smoked, since avoidance of that potentially damaging mode of use highlights the practice of harm reduction which is supposed to be underpinning New Zealand's official National Drug Policy.
Press Release: Mild Greens 01/04/04
Bogus prohibition highlights "Mode of Use" anomaly
An elderly Waimate couple have fallen victim to debased "harm reduction" policy under Helen Clark and the so-called progressive Labour government.
Dawn Sarah Willis, a 68-year-old caregiver, was convicted for cultivating and preparing cannabis into bread and cakes for her sick husband, and has received a sentence of 100 hours community service for her 'crime'.
Mild Greens say that aside from the glaring natural injustice, it is significant that the medicinal cannabis was not being smoked, since avoidance of that potentially damaging mode of use highlights the practice of harm reduction which is supposed to be underpinning New Zealand?s official National Drug Policy. Government medicines watchdog, Medsafe, say smoked cannabis could never be prescribed, and that the Minister of Health is awaiting British development of a cannabis spray Sativex before legal prescription is possible.
But why is eaten cannabis not considered as a "SmokeFree" way forward by our stupid government?
Is it too obvious that in moderation this is a safe and user-friendly mode of use?
The Mild Greens say the Willis case (amongst many, many others) is about a gross failure in duty of care, and weak leadership in NZ, pandering to a global War on Drugs protection racket."It is an abomination to deny people in daily need of the social lubrication and medical efficacy of cannabis, and to punish those most vulnerable for what is an everyday activity for tens of thousands of ordinary Kiwis."
"Politicians and Police need to take on board the simmering discontent of a significant proportion of the population who realise the draconian prohibition and enforced black-marketeering of cannabis is devoid of any integrity or credibility (c.f. the NZ Police undercover programme)".
Community leaders also need to heed the advice of the 2003 Health Select Committee who recognised medicinal availability of marijuana should be prioritised, along with formulation of the most appropriate legal status for general widespread use in the community (a task which the HSC found itself incapable of, despite this being its 3-year brief).
And Health Minister Annette King needs to explain, without lying (if that is possible with Labour Ministers), why 'Mode of use' was deleted from the statutory evidence based criteria for classification of substances she passed into law in the year 2000.
Perhaps the Minister could also explain the ongoing suppression of a certain cost-effectiveness investigation into prohibition methods required by the Ministry of Health under National Drug Policy development in 1996. The evidence clearly shows that prohibition of drugs is notorious for incentivising distribution networks, corrupting governments and law enforcement, and rendering drugs completely uncontrolled and subject to the most dangerous methods of use.
"Unfortunately, Police, Judiciary and the majority of Parliamentarians have self-servingly ignored the gross deficiencies of their policy which divides and dyfunctionalises New Zealand."
Regarding the 100hr community sentence dished out to Dawn Willis, (given there were 80 plants seized - ordinarily warranting a stiff jail sentence), Mild Greens ask should the public of NZ be grateful that the system has moderated its bad behaviour so that we don't notice or complain too much? Late last year, Christchurch businessman Ian Jackson walked free on the basis that he was able to demonstrate the medical efficacy of the cannabis he was cultivating and heavily consuming, while still running a highly successful company. Meanwhile, it is understood that another South Island cannabis enthusiast, who produces and gives away 'cookies' to people in need, is up before the Christchurch District Court this week, no doubt facing more contradictory and typically hypocritical and posturing, so-called 'justice'.
And as an aside, the Mild Greens ask New Zealand to consider how many criminalised young Maori receive 'preferential' Police services and are herded through the courts and prisons on false charges based on the bogus and unsubstantiated cannabis law and the criminality it engenders?
MildGreens commend Dawn Willis for her initiative and fully support the exoneration of her, and her husband - and demand that the Government make amends for the forfeitures and persecution of all Victims.
"We also support the prosecution of Ministers and Officials who have conspired to fraudulently maintain dangerous and unjust prohibitionist policies."