Monday, August 16, 2010

Are you self-medicating?

Some people say that all cannabis use is medicinal.

Is that going too far?

What do you think?

Here are some things to consider.

It has always been the case, for all species, and for all time, that the earth provides everything an individual needs to prosper. Whether that be abundant game for African carnivores, daily sunlight for trillions of plants, or fruit bearing trees, seeds and vegetables for our selves.

Why would the earth not provide an ideal medicine for many conditions which are common for humans? It would be illogical to assume that such a thing is unlikely.

Cannabis is effective in many ways. As a pain reliever, and an appetite stimulant, to be sure. But it’s also a bronchodilator (as in it opens up the air passages in the lungs making it easier to breathe) and cannabinoids have frequently been demonstrated to have a curative effect on several different forms of cancer.

This much is widely known,and is the main impetus behind recent attempts to make this herb available to patients in many of the states of the union.

But there are more studies all the time and the known efficacy of this plant continues to expand.

It is demonstratively effective in slowing the progression of several degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, and MS to name only a few.

It kills the MRSA superbug.

For thousands of years, cannabis has also been used as a mood elevator, and as a way of relieving the effects of stress.

Almost any other substance used for this purpose, whether it be alcohol or prescription drugs or the recreational variety, is ultimately, toxic in sufficient quantities.

Cannabis is the safer alternative to all of these things.

It is absolutely wrong to continue the prohibition of cannabis. It flys in the face of logic. It runs counter to the recommendations of just about every study of cannabis prohibition that has ever been undertaken.

And it denies suffering people access to something hugely beneficial for their well being.

In its present form, cannabis prohibition manifests itself as a racially biased war on the poor. Its effect on poor communities, and minority populations is absolutely dire. It achieves no worthwhile results. The number of problem drug users in the United States continues to increase despite decades of this expensive and ugly war on freedom.

The present arrangement works to the benefit of a very few at the expense of the great many. It is immoral, and corrupted from top to bottom.

Rise up. It is time to end the war.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Doctor knows best? I don’t think so.

The house Health and Government Operations committee working group has reported out a bill that appears to be designed for the purpose of preventing patients from accessing medical marijuana in Maryland.

Dr. Morhaim not only prepared the bill he introduced without any input from patient advocacy organizations, but the working group consulted only with law enforcement and with the representatives of the pharmacists.

The revised bill is written in such a way that it would be late in 2011 (at the earliest) before patients could expect to be able to access a safe supply of medicine. The bill no longer includes protection from arrest for patients who are in compliance with the law. The bill no longer allows patients to grow their own medicine. The bill absolutely excludes any patients under the age of 18.

I think this revised bill is totally unacceptable for all of the above reasons, and I am writing to my Delegates and letting them know that.

I recommend you do so as well.

The medical establishment has spent decades preventing patients from having access to this potent and absolutely non-toxic healing herb. This new bill represents the latest attempt to force people to use dangerous expensive narcotics when a perfectly safe alternative can be grown in anyone’s basement.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Project Vallario

The Public Health Medical Marijuana Bill (HB 712) will not succeed unless the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee allows the bill to come to a vote.

Democrat, District 27A, Calvert & Prince George's Counties
House Office Building, Room 101
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3488, (301) 858-3488
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3488 (toll free)

Message to be sent out to Facebook, mailing lists and via phone calls to EVERYONE:

1 Call (or email) the committee chairman, ask him to bring HB 712 to a vote.
2 Call your friends in Vallario’s district (see below) ask them to call (or email) the chairman.

District 27A
ZIP City County

Here is a precise District Map and here is the same area on Google Maps

Street Action: Collect signatures and identify activists in district 27A

Team A – Sunday afternoon (March 7) with clipboards, posters and postcards. Followed six days later by Teams A & B the following Saturday (March 13)

Please add your name to the list for either or both events by emailing if you are able to participate

Public event to be scheduled at restaurant in Oxon Hill

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Hearing

The last week has been a blizzard of activity, culminating in today’s hearing in front of two committees comprising more than a quarter of the entire Maryland House of Delegates. There were more than two dozen witnesses, and many more written testimonies.

It was a huge gathering of energy, marshaled by Dr. Dan Morhaim, Delegate from Baltimore’s 11th district. And the forces behind Medical Marijuana were so rampant, so overwhelming, that the only harms our side suffered were self-inflicted. But let us not dwell on small things – today went very well for us.

Dr. Morhaim introduced his legislation to the world, and to us, about a month after we sent the legislature our first batch of 600 postcards in support of medical marijuana. The bill, described by Dr. Morhaim as the most restrictive medical marijuana law in the country, was not to our liking for a few reasons, but its absolute prohibition of patient cultivation was simply unacceptable. We did, for a time, consider shelving this objection, but the MMJ patients and activists in Maryland were almost monolithic in their support for the right to grow, and thus we determined to offer only conditional support for Dr. Morhaim’s bill.

When the bill was introduced, with 47 cosponsors in the House, and 10 in the Senate, it is reasonable to assume that part of the reason for the huge number of cosponsors were the 2166 of our postcards (at least one from every single district in the state) which had, by then, been received by the Delegates.

We never met with Delegate Morhaim until yesterday, although our friends at MPP did inform him, and the lead sponsors in the Senate (Sen. Brinkley & Sen. Raskin) that the right to grow was a deal breaker for us. So it cannot have been a surprise to Del. Morhaim that we chose to announce our provisional support, conditional on such an amendment, when we contacted the entire Delegation on Wednesday morning.

Very shortly after receiving this letter, Del. Glenn invited us to a meeting with Del. Morhaim in her office.

Damien called Neill Franklin of LEAP and asked him to come with us. Something about Major Franklin, (Ret). adds a certain gravitas to the crew. Maybe his thirty three years as a police officer in Maryland. Whatever, we introduced ourselves to Dr. Morhaim – he already knew Neill.

The meeting was efficient. Dr. Morhaim told us how he was going to deal with our objection. It was in no way a negotiation – Damien and I barely spoke – and Dr. Morhaim asked us no questions, nor did he even solicit a response – he was perfectly clear - this is what you can have – take it or leave it.

He also said, that removing the prohibition on the right to grow might cost us the bill this year, and if we don’t get a favorable report out of the Judiciary committee, then we will be back in the same position next year. That Judiciary chair Vallario will strangle the bill in committee is a cast-iron certainty, so all we really discovered was that when Morhaim re-introduces the bill next session, the right to grow will be excluded again.

Without the right to grow there is no legal supply of marijuana. Our other objections to this legislation can be dealt with in subsequent years - if we don't start with the right to grow we might never get medical marijuana at all. Such things as protection from arrest, or the inclusion of particular medical conditions can be dealt with in subsequent years, if necessary.

For the rest of the day we made phone calls, collected testimony, and generally prepared for our trip to Annapolis.

We had to deliver 70 copies of the written testimonies by noon. Some of them needed a bit of tidying up when they arrived, but we were in Annapolis at 11:30AM with seven times seventy testimonials, ASA also had a bunch, and there were umpteen witnesses who registered to speak. As the hearing came together in the huge committee room in the Legislative Services building, we were feeling nervously confident.

The TV people interviewed Barry Considine just inside the committee room, and I think there were at least two TV teams, as well as someone from the Gazette newspaper. Lots of the seats were full when Chairman Vallerio asked the bill sponsors -- Delegates Glenn and Morhaim, and Senator Brinkley -- to take their seats at the witness table.

For three hours witness after witness, generally in groups of four, took their allotted three minutes to share their expertise, their suffering, their pleas to the Delegates to please pass this legislation, (frequently saying also with an amendment to allow patients to cultivate). Only two witnesses raised an objection to the bill itself. And both of these based their objection on controversial research suggesting cannabis as a causative agent in schizophrenia. The only cops who spoke, spoke in support.

There were a few Delegates who identified themselves as opponents by their questions – two were openly hostile - they will be getting a few more postcards I expect. Also, I think we might send a newsletter to the rest of the Delegation with respect to the questions that perhaps remain open – and I might look into that schizophrenia thing a bit more. If is true, then Doctors should be made aware of the need to check for a family history of psychosis before recommending cannabis to patients, and if it is junk, then we should point to the research that proves its junk.

In what was one of the most dramatic moments, one of the speakers from LEAP made public a bit of police practice from his past experience. Matthew Fogg explained that his strong objection to the clause excluding felons from jobs in, or ownership of, medical marijuana dispensaries, was due to the fact that narcotics police routinely, and intentionally, made more busts in poorer parts of town, because it was harder for the victims to lawyer up and beat the rap. And because poorer areas are very frequently places with a high concentration of minority groups, this policy was racist then, and to perpetuate it with this exclusion, is racist now. I found this argument persuasive. Delegates who may have benefited more from this revelation seemed otherwise occupied when the point was raised. Perhaps this matter could be further explored in a newsletter to the Delegates.

The committee members will now retire to consider their votes, and to make such amendments to the bill as seem appropriate.

We are aiming to be the victors in the last battle, what has happened so far is just foreplay.

And we keep getting stronger.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Campaign Update

Maryland ASA was instrumental in the introduction of HB1339 during this year's session of the Maryland Assembly.

This bill was not given a vote in the Judiciary Committee due to an existing agreement with the Governor regarding budget constraints. Basically the bill would have cost a few thousand dollars to set up a commission to study the existing law, and that was a deal-breaker.

The bill, however, did get a hearing, and several of us gave testimony before the Judiciary committee. This was a good result for lots of reasons. From the comments and questions, several Delegates revealed either a sympathetic or a hostile position vis a vis medical cannabis. This, and the meetings we had with delegates in Annapolis, whetted our appetite for future legislative battles in Annapolis, and provided us with valuable contacts and useful information.

Our group has undergone some changes this year. The Prince George's county group started weekly meetings in March, but the Montgomery County group folded about the same time so we were a single group in Maryland for most of the year.

WE continued to meet every week, and attendance swayed between six and three participants as we encountered the usual problems a group of self selected volunteers goes through. But we continued to meet every week and we participated in some events, distributing flyers and gathering signatures in the street.

In July we settled on the postcards idea.

We decided that it would be good to have a postcard that people could sign and we could mail to their Delegate. Since people have three Delegates and one Senator in the Maryland Assembly we decided to make four different postcards.

We kicked around ideas for images and slogans, and eventually decided to invite people to submit designs and we would pick the best design, and we would do this four times. We came up with four slogans that defined the themes we wanted to emphasize in our campaign.

We set up a web page.

When we got a bunch of images assembled we put them together with a soundtrack, added a few animations, and another kind of communication became available to us. Check the YouTube video on our site.

We have now extended our contest to include T-Shirts and banners. This way we have maximum participation and stimulate creativity. And we all look cool. Which matters.

We want to mail a few thousand postcards and we aim to cover the whole state.

Because we mail them, we have a record of which member received what mail, and when. This is helpful when setting up meetings with legislators.

Since July we have gathered almost a thousand signed postcards. Our biggest problem at the moment is keeping up with demand. We had a booth at a street festival in Takoma Park (Montgomery County) on Sunday, October 5. We got 500 more signed at that one event.

Some volunteers from elsewhere in the state contacted us through the website, and some people liked the postcards, and some people we met at the various events where we hand out literature and gather signatures. For whatever reason, our little group has blossomed – we regularly have double digit attendance, and this has allowed us to cover more ground.

We have restarted a group in Montgomery County, and there are active volunteers in St. Mary's and Howard Counties who attend our meetings in PG County. WE are confident in continued expansion across the state as we get better at figuring out how to do this.

We have distributed more than 1500 postcards – some volunteers take a stack home with them and enrol their friends in signing the cards. People seem happy to do this. We are confident that we will have a lot of postcards to send to the assembly.

We are now exploring ways that we can use the postcards as a fund-raising tool. It is often the case, that people will chip in a dollar for a postcard if you ask them to do so. We want to expand on this.

We have friendly relations with a whole lot of musicians, and we are hoping to create a fund-raising event/party, and maybe a regular social event for the state. Since each group meets every week, we could all get together once a month and just have a few announcements, maybe a presentation during a meal and a chat.

We plan to meet with lots of Delegates in the upcoming session, and we hope to identify people on the Judiciary Committee who will take up the cause of medical cannabis, and introduce a bill on our behalf. We are working to set up a process whereby this can happen, and we will soon be expanding this process to include other organizations who have an interest in this policy and this legislation.

The present law in Maryland provides very weak protections for patients, and does not even address the issues of safe supply, nor medical research. What it will do, is reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana, if the judge can be convinced of a medical necessity on the part of the patient. It is not much, but given that situation, we think it would be helpful if a lot more doctors and patients were informed about therapeutic cannabis, and the laws pertaining thereto.

We have made it a priority in our campaign to identify health professionals for special attention, whenever they show up, with a view to establishing one or more educational seminars and other resources for medical professionals in the state. We are also setting up an ID program whereby a patient can produce evidence of a doctor's recommendation for therapeutic use of cannabis in the event of an arrest. There is no guarantee, but faced with the possibility of a $100 fine, (and a harassment suit if this is a second arrest) for marijuana possession, we hope most cops would do the smart thing and ignore the cannabis.

Contact one of us.

Prince George's County Damien Nichols

Montgomery County Michael Rigby

St Mary's County David Larose

Howard County Dave Terk

If you are in the county listed email that person, anywhere else in Maryland- email Damien.

We keep a calendar on our website of the upcoming events where you can find us handing out literature and gathering supporters. We would be delighted for you to come by and meet us.

Friday, August 28, 2009

White Slacks Day

I woke up at three o clock this morning. I figured no point in going back to sleep. I was going to be spending the morning in court.

On Facebook a friend sent me a link to The Largest Street Gang in America. I couldn’t watch all of it.

And then I couldn’t get the right outfit, not without waking my housemate for the ironing board, and I eventually settled on a third tier compromise which involved white slacks. And I forgot to take postcards with me, even though I had about three hours to pack. And my hair was sticking up.

The phone rang at eight and I jumped into Bill’s car. The traffic was light, and we arrived fifteen minutes before anything could possibly happen. And then we did a sort of double mission to Starbucks.

I chatted with the lovely Pamela, while Bill’s lawyer, Stephen, interviewed Caren with respect to her testifying on Bill’s behalf. At ten fifteen we assembled in the courtroom.

Stephen asked us if we could accept a request to reconvene at 11:30, and we four ASA representatives left in search of second breakfast.

The atmosphere was far from tense, though I think Bill was considering the possibility of an adverse outcome. For myself I had seen enough of the proceedings to be confident in both the fairness of Judge B. and the quality of the case for medical marijuana use, as a mitigating factor in the sentence for marijuana possession. The freshness of the prosecuting attorney was another factor in our favor, as it happened, but I didn’t think of that while I was sticking a plastic fork into my scrambled eggs.

Tony showed up with a couple of huge yellow buttons that said “FIX MARYLAND’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW”, and I stuck one on the front of my blue shirt, before the four of us sat down, on the front row, for the proceedings.

Caren was first up to testify as to her knowledge of Bill, and she slipped in some good stuff about Bill being an activist and everything. And then, the prosecuting attorney gets to cross examine, and Caren had her for lunch. For real. The best the attorney could do was, “Are you a doctor?”, which was pretty lame. Score like five for the good guys.

And then Stephen challenged a whole bunch of the stuff the state was using for evidence and, as a result the Judge agreed that a whole bunch of stuff be redacted. (The jury said the cops were “testilying”).. And then a bunch of Bill’s property was returned to him.

And then Bill made a statement and took questions from both attorneys. Oh gosh, she made a half a hit with “Do you smoke cigarettes?” which Bill parried with, “I have, on occasion, yes”. Leaving her nowhere to go.

The judge was eloquent in his summation. Before delivering the all but inevitable finding for “medical necessity”, and thus a $100 fine, no probation, the Judge opined that the use of smoked marijuana, in preference to pills, when treating nausea, amounted to common sense.

With this case, Maryland struggles one tiny step closer to justice, sanity and basic human decency. That people with chronic medical conditions are subjected to being beaten up by the police, having that reported as “resisting arrest”, and then have to deal with the expense, and potentially adverse consequences of a jury trial, merely for treating themselves with a God-given healing herb, in the privacy of their own homes is an offense against everything a free person stands for.

We had a late lunch in a very nice Thai restaurant, and everybody was really happy and charged up for whatever.

I noticed, as we left the restaurant, that my white slacks had a sort of yellow coating down one side – looked like pollen, maybe. Something like that. Could have been there all day. (Thank heavens the Washington Post doesn’t have pictures).

There remains the possibility of an appeal. During the case the judge ruled medical marijuana defense inadmissible, except as a mitigating factor at sentencing. This ruling may be vulnerable on appeal, opening the door for patients in Maryland to present the case for medical marijuana to a jury. Having seen some of the relevant documents I dare say this particular ruling is very vulnerable. There are also other precedents that could be established.

Anybody got five thousand bucks?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Money

The Money

My friend is funneling money into the marijuana machine.

His documented, serious medical condition, his two doctors recommendations for medical marijuana, and his California patient's ID card notwithstanding, his brutal arrest & theft of his property, are defended by the operatives of “law and order” in Maryland, to the continuing enrichment of the courts, the lawyers, the police force, the prison guards, and all who profit from these institutions.

Eight hundred and thirty thousand marijuana arrests is a lot of jobs for the boys.

And who pays for this? Well, no problems there, its just evil marijuana smoking scum.

This massive transfer of resources from the aforementioned scum (ie people like me) to the cartel which spans law enforcement, criminal justice and the prison industrial complex, is further enhanced by bribes from other cartels who directly benefit from prohibition – the drug companies, both legal and illegal, the facilities treating marijuana “addiction”, the shallow politicians, moralists and sanctimonious busybodies, and that sinister group who just like to see a lot of poor people in prison.

This is the reason that medical cannabis users are pursued by the state apparatus with such vigor.

Six hundred swat team deployments in PG County alone last year. And how many of those were simple marijuana possession? This is just a training program. Got to keep the teams occupied and their skills up to scratch, who knows what kind of crimes people might be getting up to in the privacy of their own homes. People treating serious medical conditions with a God given healing herb are only one type of evil scum. What about bloggers, or people who owe money to credit card companies?

All people of good heart must join their brothers in resisting this tyranny.