Friday, March 10, 2006

TRUE GRIT AND COURAGE OF IND PATIENTS, “PATIENTS OUT OF TIME”

Barbara Douglass, George McMahon, Corrine Miller, and Irvin Rosenfeld have more than one thing in common. They not only receive legal pot from the U.S. government, but all four of them are on the Board of Directors of the Virginia-based medpot advocacy group, Patients Out of Time.

Their personal stories of courage in the face of suffering are truly inspirational. You can read all about them and Patients Out of Time on the organization’s website, at http://www.medicalcannabis.com/.

A Florida stockbroker, Irv Rosenfeld has smoked over 220 pounds of government-supplied marijuana during the last 23 years. He suffers from chronic pain. The program under which he is allowed medicinal marijuana is called the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 1978, Robert Randall filed a lawsuit demanding that the U.S. government acknowledge the medical necessity of cannabis therapy for his glaucoma. The Carter administration subsequently launched the IND program, and Randall was one of the few individuals who were supplied with government-grown marijuana. He smoked it for 23 years, before he died of AIDS-related complications.

George McMahon suffers from a very rare neurological condition, Nail Patella Syndrome (NPS). He was operated on 19 times and has been prescribed countless medications. He was rushed to hospital six times because of the side effects of the harsh drugs he was given. He was so drugged, that he couldn’t function normally, and his stomach refused to accept food, without feeling nausea.

George obtained marijuana illegally for 20 years, before he was admitted to the IND program. Now he can smoke it legally in any one of the fifty states. The beneficial cannabinoids in cannabis help to control the symptoms of his disease, and have enabled him to eat normally once again.

Looking like a banker in his three-piece suit, the 50-year old McMahon describes himself as a “regular family man who has had to make wide adjustments because of the propensity for illness.” His wife, Margaret, credits therapeutic cannabis for his survival. “If he did not receive the marijuana, George would probably be dead by now from all the other narcotics he would be taking for his pain.”

The reason IND patients remain active in the fight to decriminalize medical marijuana, is because they recognize their privileged position. George McMahon’s website refers to Todd McCormick, who received compassionate pot according to the laws of California, but was imprisoned by the federal government, regardless of his status as a cancer survivor with four fused vertebrae.

McCormick worked for Peter McWilliams, who was a New York Times best-selling author. Judge George King ordered both men off their medical marijuana, allegedly causing the death of McWilliams. During the trial, these men were instructed not to talk about medical marijuana and the state guidelines they were following.

The quality of the federally supplied marijuana is so poor, that a number of IND patients have had to supplement their supply from “private sources.” This weed is grown at the University of Mississippi, and is packaged and distributed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).

In 2001, Ethan Russo, MD’s Missoula Chronic Cannabis Use Study subjected four IND patients to a rigorous testing of all their bodily systems, and came to the conclusion that prolonged marijuana use had no adverse effects.

The Missoula Study also examined the quality of the federally supplied marijuana, and found that “a close inspection of NIDA supplied cigarettes reveals them to be a crude mixture of leaf with an abundance of stem and seed components.”

The IND patients are also involved in the effort to have Washington reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug, instead of the Schedule I classification where it was placed under the Nixon administration in 1970.

The Controlled Substances Act, which was passed that year, put cannabis in the same category as heroin and LSD, claiming that it has no accepted medical uses and has a potential for abuse. By contrast, morphine, cocaine, and metamphetamine are Schedule II, and Marinol is Schedule III, acknowledging their potential medical benefits.

Being reclassified would allow marijuana to be legally prescribed according to federal law, in the eleven states that allow medpot. Among thirteen other such organizations, the Illinois Nurses Association passed a Resolution in 2004 to “support legislation to remove criminal penalties including arrest and imprisonment for bona fide patients and prescribers of therapeutic cannabis.”

The national spokesperson of Patients Out of Time is another IND patient, Elvy Musikka. She suffers from glaucoma, and has made some wrong choices about surgeries. As a result, she is now blind in one eye. She finds that medpot helps ease the pressure in her functioning eyeball. “For 25 years, it has been the most efficient, reliable, and the safest part of my treatment.”

Musikka is passionate about her cause. “Millions of Americans use cannabis daily, thus I suspect that we are the largest minority in the United States. We come from every segment of society and every financial background. We are for the most part, responsible adults who maintain occupations, families, and contribute to our communities. (Still we arrest 700,000 people yearly, for choosing a ‘Wiser Bud.’) We consider hemp/cannabis/marijuana prohibition a blasphemy on the Creator’s work.”

Patients Out of Time is organizing the Fourth National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Santa Barbara, California on April 6-8, 2006. The previous conference held in 2004 in Virginia, was attended by 250 health professionals, caregivers, and patients and featured the world’s finest cannabis researchers.

This year, the topics scheduled to be discussed include the use of cannabis in pain management and palliative care; the current status of cannabis research in Israel, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; treating MS and AIDS with cannabis; cannabis and mental health; therapeutic cannabis use in pregnancy; and the experiences of patients with medical marijuana.

Accredited by the University of California, San Francisco, hosted by the Santa Barbara City College, and co-sponsored by the California Nurses Association, this high-powered conference will once again challenge the U.S. government claim that cannabis has no medicinal value.

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