Archive for the 'HempTherapy' Category

Doc Says Pot Pill No Good

October 6, 2008

Michigan — There’s a key reason why some groups want to make it legal for some seriously ill patients to smoke marijuana to ease vomiting and nausea.

Although there is a pharmaceutical version of marijuana called Marinol that comes in pill form, it doesn’t work, according to Dr. Elaine Chottiner. She serves as section head of hematology and oncology at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, which runs the Saint Joseph Mercy Woodland Center in Genoa Township.

“If Marinol worked, nobody would care about legalizing marijuana,” Chottiner said.

On Nov. 4, Michigan voters will decide the fate of the medical use of marijuana ballot question. Under Proposal 1, there would be specific guidelines to using marijuana.

A physician would need to approve marijuana use for a patient with a debilitating medical condition, and patients would receive an identification card. Patients would only have protected use in their home and could not smoke it in public places.

Chottiner said Marinol was approved because it was shown in clinical trials to alleviate vomiting and nausea caused by certain kinds of chemotherapy. It contains a synthetic form of THC, the major active substance in marijuana, which helps relieve nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and stimulates appetite for AIDS patients.

However, Chottiner said few patients have found the pill to be effective and usually don’t seek refills. She said absorption is probably one reason the drug doesn’t work as well, since it takes longer to digest something than smoke it. Also, Marinol contains only one of marijuana’s 66 compounds.

Chottiner said a few people have asked her about smoking marijuana to ease their symptoms, and a few patients have told her they’re smoking marijuana to ease their nausea and vomiting. In general, Chottiner said only a very small percentage of patients have chronic nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. She said most chemotherapy does not cause those symptoms. She also said there are excellent medications available — and that work — to prevent those symptoms.

Chottiner, who indicated she was neutral on the ballot question, said there are pros and cons with the proposal.

She said the most important issue is helping patients.

“We want to do everything we can for our patients and alleviate their suffering,” she said. “If this is something that can be used for this purpose, it would be helpful to find a way to provide it.”

However, Chottiner said she feels much more comfortable prescribing drugs that have gone through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process. She said the FDA conducts rigorous clinical trials so doctors know what’s in a drug, a proper schedule and dosage for a particular drug. She said it would be difficult to prescribe marijuana because there are no standards.

Chottiner said she doesn’t prescribe herbs because “you never know what you’re getting.”

Source: Livingston Daily Press

Important! Vote Yes on Proposal 1 for Medical Marijuana

October 6, 2008

Michigan — Marijuana has proven benefits in limiting pain and reducing the side effects of other medicines used to treat certain illnesses. Proposal 1 would allow the use of marijuana for these limited medical purposes. Voters should say yes to Proposal 1.

Proposal 1 would legalize doctor-prescribed marijuana. The Detroit News has reported that upwards of 500,000 Michiganians with “debilitating medical conditions” — HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis and the like — will qualify. It can be useful, for example, in controlling nausea during chemotherapy in cancer treatments.

Anyone found to be lying about their medical condition or distributing marijuana to friends would be barred from future participation.

The proposal contains other safeguards. If voters accept Proposal 1, the Michigan Department of Community Health would create a state medical marijuana registry, and each user will be given an identification card. Anyone without such a card, debilitating illness or not, is still subject to state law. And Michigan law is harsh on marijuana. The penalty for possession is up to one year of imprisonment and up to $2,000 in fines. Dealers risk $10 million in fines and imprisonment for up to 15 years — and these are for first offenses. None of that would change with Proposal 1.

Proposal 1 would also protect the over-21 primary caregivers who handle marijuana for and administer marijuana to sick family or friends. Users are protected from the threat of prosecution and the possibility of losing custody of their children due to smoking medical herbs.

The law would no longer view primary caregivers administering marijuana as drug dealers. And compassionate doctors will no longer have to risk their medical licenses and livelihoods every time they prescribe marijuana to ailing patients.

There are also standards for registered users. All the normal laws apply to smoking in public. No one will be permitted to smoke in public places or near schools or prisons, and “drugged driving” will still be illegal.

Employers won’t be forced to allow use of medical marijuana in the workplace. Insurance providers can decide for themselves whether to cover it.

Twelve states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The record is that it can be properly administered as one more part of the mix of medicines available to physicians.

Proposal 1 seems to have been written to anticipate and address concerns that it is a backdoor route to full-blown legalization. The standard for obtaining a registry card is high and the penalty for misuse is steep.

Proposal 1 won’t make pot any more publicly visible or available than it already is; all it will do is allow doctors, primary caregivers, and most importantly patients another option in managing serious and painful illnesses. Vote yes on Proposal 1.

Source: Detroit Free Press

State Rule Clarifies 60-Day Supply of Marijuana

October 6, 2008

Seattle, WA — A new rule determining how much pot constitutes a 60-day supply for medical-marijuana users was finalized on Thursday, a decade after Washington voters passed an initiative legalizing marijuana for people suffering from terminal and debilitating illnesses.

The new state rule, which goes into effect Nov. 2, sets the supply limit at 24 ounces of usable marijuana plus 15 plants. Those who need more marijuana to manage their pain will have to prove they need it — though how they would do that remains unclear.

While the new, 60-day-supply rule is meant to clarify the law and help police officers determine legitimate amounts, medical-marijuana advocates say the amounts are unreasonable — especially the 15-plant limit — and put patients at risk of criminal prosecution.

In King County, though, that’s not going to happen, said Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, who has met with local law-enforcement officials and created an office policy that looks upon medical-marijuana cases “with a very lenient eye.”

“Having this rule, having some amount … is helpful, but it’s not the end of the analysis,” Satterberg said. “If you’re in King County and you’re dying of cancer, we’re not going to prosecute you if you have 15 plants or 30. If somebody is legitimately ill, we’re not going to prosecute that case, period.”

In 1998, Initiative 692 legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Passed by 59 percent of Washington voters, the initiative said patients with valid certification from their doctors could possess a 60-day supply — but never said how much pot that was. The confusion and uncertainty led to conflict between police and patients.

Last year, the Legislature ordered the state Department of Health to spell out an acceptable amount. An early recommendation put the limit at 35 ounces of usable pot plus 100 square feet of growing space. That proposal was changed after Gov. Christine Gregoire’s policy analysts urged the health department to get more input from law-enforcement agencies and medical experts because the amounts appeared to be on the high side.

Earlier this year, the draft rule was changed to 24 ounces of usable pot, six mature plants and 18 immature ones. The new rule finalized Thursday, however, doesn’t differentiate between mature and immature plants.

The rule also drops a requirement included in the earlier draft that patients get a doctor’s note if they need more marijuana than the determined 60-day supply. The department opted “for more general wording” to better reflect what is written in state law, said Health Department spokesman Tim Church.

During a public hearing in August, many patients argued that their doctors were unlikely to write them a note because of the controversy surrounding supply limits, he said.

The department didn’t come up with an alternative to a doctor’s note because that wasn’t their task from the Legislature. While Church acknowledged that the new language muddies the waters some, he said it will now “be up to patients and the courts to determine what medical necessity is” and how to prove it.

Gregoire’s spokeswoman, Laura Lockard, said Thursday the governor “wanted the department to have a solid sense of wide-ranging opinions and information to develop the best possible rule. She feels they have done that.”

But doctors and patient advocates say the new 60-day limit is woefully inadequate and could have a chilling effect on physicians if they have to go to court to defend their medical opinions.

“I’m disappointed. I think it’s more politically driven — they used politics rather than science” in determining amounts, said Dr. Greg Carter, a clinical professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington. Carter was one of the first researchers to report marijuana’s effectiveness in treating the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“The state is really not operating in the best interest of sick people who require this medicine,” Carter said.

Steve Sarich, the executive director of CannaCare, an advocacy group that provides patients with starter plants, said the health department “has set up a law you can’t possibly follow.” He said the rule doesn’t take into account marijuana’s growing cycle, which exceeds 60 days, or the fact that someone would need to plant 60 plants in the hope that 15 or 20 of them might reach maturity.

Alison Holcomb, the drug-policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the new rule “is a step in the right direction,” even though it doesn’t begin to address the practical matter of accessing medical marijuana.

“Twenty-four ounces and 15 plants is a heck of a lot clearer than ’60-day supply,’ ” she said. “It gives an average law-enforcement officer a very quick and easy way to determine if they’re in compliance, move on and leave that patient in peace.”

But Douglas Hiatt, an attorney who represents medical-marijuana patients, disagrees. He said he plans to file a lawsuit to have the limits thrown out.

“No one I know is in compliance with the number of plants. No one,” he said. “We will drown in cases if we can’t get this rule stopped and keep it out of the hands of law enforcement.”

Satterberg said that, at least in King County, he’s advised law-enforcement officers not to confiscate patients’ pot supplies on the spot, even if they seem questionable.

Essentially, Satterberg’s policy says, growers — including cooperatives — won’t be prosecuted unless prosecutors believe the operation is a front for distributing marijuana to those who are not ill. He said Thursday that his office hasn’t yet encountered any such illegal operation.

Satterberg said he’s told local police agencies and the sheriff’s office that “If there are any questions [about a patient’s legitimacy], officers should take a small sample and some photos and give us a call.”

Source: Seattle Times

How Much Pot Is Too Much?

October 6, 2008

Seattle, WA — The state Health Department on Thursday defined a two-month supply of medical marijuana as 24 ounces of usable pot and up to 15 plants, a limit designed to end a decade of confusion over how much patients are allowed to have.

But patient advocates criticized the limit as arbitrary and insufficient, saying it could leave sick people in danger of going to jail, and they threatened to sue to prevent the rule from taking effect.

“We looked at what appears to make sense for most of the patients in the state,” said department spokesman Donn Moyer. “There will be some who don’t need as much, and there may be some who need more.”

Washington was among the first states to approve the medical use of marijuana to treat AIDS, cancer and other debilitating illnesses. The law, passed in 1998, allowed patients a 60-day supply of marijuana, but didn’t say how much that was. Over the years, several patients with a doctor’s authorization to use marijuana have been arrested by police who deemed them to have more pot than necessary.

Patients who need more marijuana than allowed by the new rule can make that argument to a judge if they’re arrested.

The limit adopted Thursday takes effect Nov. 2, and nearly matches the rule used by Oregon, which allows 24 ounces plus six mature plants and 18 immature ones. Some California counties allow more marijuana, but many of the dozen states with medical marijuana laws allow much less than Washington’s new rule – just an ounce or two, in some cases.

The Health Department decided against using a mature immature plant distinction largely because it didn’t want police to have to determine what constituted a mature plant.

Instead, officials went with a limit of 15 plants at any stage of growth.

Law enforcement officers “really just want a line in the sand,” Moyer said, and the 15-plant limit allows patients flexibility to decide how to grow them.

Patient advocates scoffed at that. Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle attorney who represents patients, noted that only female marijuana plants are usable as medicine, and about half of all plants growing from seed grow to become male. So to get to 15 usable plants, a patient or provider might have to plant 30 – in violation of the law.

“No patient I know of anywhere in the state is in compliance with that number,” Hiatt said.

And, he said, the 24-ounce limit for dried bud might work for patients who smoke marijuana, but not for those who eat it. He called the limits “completely nonscientific.”

“We all know this is a political decision that doesn’t have anything to do with the reality of patients’ lives.”

The Health Department initially considered setting the limit at 35 ounces plus 100 square feet of plant canopy. But Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire found those numbers too high and urged officials to get more input from law enforcement and doctors.

The Health Department did so, and cut the numbers accordingly. Law enforcement had worried that drug dealers could use a higher limit to conceal illicit marijuana growing operations.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ policy director, Joanna Arlow, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. But she previously called the 24-ounce limit “reasonable.”

Steve Sarich, a patient and advocate from Kirkland, said he would go to court to seek an injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect. He argued that it was arbitrary, and he took no comfort in knowing that patients could try to prove in court they need more than the limit – something that would likely require a doctor’s testimony.

“How is the doctor going to prove you need more plants? Is the doctor going to prove you’re not very good at growing,” he said. “Where is the clarity this rule was supposed to provide?”

Source: Associated Press

Yes on Prop 1: Allow Relief Marijuana May Offer

October 4, 2008

Michigan — If people who are seriously or chronically ill can convince their doctors that using marijuana will make them feel better, the State of Michigan should not stand in the way.

Proposal 1 on the statewide ballot Nov. 4 would allow Michigan residents to cultivate and possess small amounts of marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor’s approval. Voters should say yes to this proposal, which was placed on the ballot by a petition campaign that collected almost 378,000 signatures.

This is not about drug use. It’s about compassion. The initiative would amend Michigan law to allow seriously ill people to seek authorization from a doctor to grow up to a dozen marijuana plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of the weed, strictly for personal use. The continuing, regulated sale of alcoholic beverages poses more of a problem for society than will passage of this law.Voters in five Michigan cities — Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint, Ferndale and Traverse City — and a dozen other states have already approved similar statutes without the dire consequences forecast by federal drug-control authorities who fear the start of a slippery slope toward broad drug legalization.

While there are other prescription drugs available to control the pain or anxiety that afflicts the seriously or terminally ill, some such patients find more relief with less loss of control and fewer side effects from marijuana. These are not people who will start peddling the products of their little pot gardens to neighborhood kids. They won’t have that much and will need all of it for their own use. And such sales would still be illegal under the proposed law.

Last month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a national survey showing Americans rank marijuana well behind other illicit drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol among substances that pose a threat to society.

The national Marijuana Policy Project, which provided nearly all of the $1.1 million spent to put this question on the Michigan ballot, acknowledges a larger goal of replacing “marijuana prohibition with a sensible system of regulation.” But that may be a long way off, if, indeed, it happens at all. Meantime, Proposal 1 is about helping sick people feel better.

Sidebar: Proposal 08-1

A legislative initiative to permit the use and cultivation of marijuana for specified medical conditions. The proposed law would:

• Permit physician approved use of marijuana by registered patients with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, MS and other conditions as may be approved by the Department of Community Health.

• Permit registered individuals to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility.

• Require Department of Community Health to establish an identification card system for patients qualified to use marijuana and individuals qualified to grow marijuana.

• Permit registered and unregistered patients and primary caregivers to assert medical reasons for using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.

 

Source: Detroit Free Press 

Governor Vetoes Job Security for MMJ Users

October 4, 2008

Sacramento, CA — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill sponsored by medical marijuana advocates that would have protected most employees from being fired for testing positive for pot that they used outside the workplace with their doctor’s approval.

The measure, AB 2279 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would have overturned a state Supreme Court ruling in January that allowed employers to punish workers for using medical marijuana that was legalized by a state ballot measure in 1996.

Under Leno’s measure, the only workers who could have been fired for using medical marijuana would have been those in safety-related or law enforcement jobs.In its 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court said the initiative, Proposition 215, exempted medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from state prosecution, but wasn’t intended to limit an employer’s authority to fire workers for violating federal drug laws.

Schwarzenegger used the same rationale in his veto message Tuesday.

“I am concerned with interference in employment decisions as they relate to marijuana use,” the governor wrote. “Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996.”

Medical marijuana supporters disagreed.

 

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Activists Cite Support for Medical Marijuana

October 2, 2008

Michigan — Support appears to be deep and widespread for a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would allow for the medical use of marijuana in Michigan.

If approved, cancer chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea and vomiting would be able to use marijuana to ease those symptoms. Other patients who might seek this treatment would be those with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

Former state lawmaker Dianne Byrum said a recent poll showed 67 percent of voters statewide support the ballot measure.

“I think it speaks to the compassion that this proposal is about,” said Byrum, spokeswoman for the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care. The organization obtained 500,000 voters signatures to get it on the November ballot.

Currently, five Michigan communities — Ann Arbor, Flint, Traverse City, Ferndale and Detroit — have local ordinances that allow for medical marijuana use. There are 12 states in the United States which permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“There have been no law enforcement issues on it,” Byrum said, referring to the five Michigan communities.

Under the proposal, a physician would need to approve marijuana use for a patient with a debilitating medical condition.

Byrum said patients would receive an identification card. She also said they would only have protected use in their home and could not smoke it in public places.

The measure would only permit limited quantities for private use.

Organizers do not have figures on how many patients might seek this approach, but it’s been estimated to be between 10,000 to 35,000 in the state.

Byrum said physicians would remain an essential part of the treatment process.

“This is an option that they would be able to use when other medicines aren’t working,” she said.

Byrum said there is a pill that contains a synthetic form of one of marijuana’s 66 compounds that can be prescribed.

However, she said, a pill isn’t going to work for patients with severe vomiting because they can’t keep it down.

Byrum said certain medicines and treatments work for some people and not others.

“It’s just saying this could be a treatment option that your doctor would recommend to you,” Byrum said.

Source: Livingston Daily

Thousands Celebrate Medical Marijuana at WAMMfest

October 1, 2008

Santa Cruz, CA — Thousands of medicinal marijuana patients and supporters attended WAMMfest to celebrate and learn about the herbal medicine Saturday.

Though medical marijuana patients were able to smoke their medicine at the event that featured music, crafts and speeches, that portion of the festivities was in question until this week. After failing to muster the votes to lift the city smoking ban in parks in a prior meeting, the council Tuesday agreed to do so. Only those with a medical marijuana identification card were allowed to smoke in a specially-designated tent Saturday.

Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana co-founder Valerie Corral said the event is an opportunity to normalize the use of medicinal marijuana and bring its members’ stories to the public eye.

“Almost 200 of our members have died in the past 15 years since our inception,” said Corral. “We do this work for a lot of reasons and for all aspects of illness. We get to be with people at the most important time in their lives when they are facing death. We are here to take care of each other and to be by their bedside and it takes you to places you can’t even imagine.”

WAMM is a collective of patients and caregivers that offers free medical marijuana to seriously ill patients with a doctor’s recommendation and aims to, provide hope and build community.

Santa Cruz police reported that there were no problems during the event, and that the festival provided its own security.

Organizers began setting up the celebration of the herbal drug at 6 a.m. Saturday and said by the end of the day they expected to see 2,500 visitors.

Colorful tents filled San Lorenzo Park with vendors offering a range of organic hemp soaps from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps to bright tie-dye shirts and jewelry. Plastic marijuana leaf tiaras were also for sale in addition to sunglasses and hemp bags.

Councilman Tony Madrigal, who spoke at the event, said he was happy the council was able find a compromise that allowed patients to use their medication in a controlled, confined and secure area, while still taking part in a community event.

“This is an example of the community working together with the local government to find a solution for many of the problems the city faces,” Madrigal said. “People are loyal to WAMM and come to celebrate the good work that WAMM does.”

A newly expanded children’s area was moved to the front of the park to invite members of the community to the family friendly event said WAMM member Babianna Mince.

“It’s a family affair here. My husband is working security and I am in charge of the kids area,” Mince said. “We have had about 20 kids come by since noon, which is more than we have ever had.”

A survivor of uterine, bone and breast cancer, Mince said that being a medicinal marijuana patient has allowed her to participate in events such as the festival and get through 40 surgeries within the past five years.

“I feel like after that I can get through anything,” Mince said.

A small memorial for WAMM members who have died was set up by the medicinal marijuana tent, featuring their names and faces.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Aging With a Drug Habit

October 1, 2008

USA — It has been four decades since the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but aging baby boomers haven’t stopped turning on.

The federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released earlier in September, finds that as boomers move into their 50s in large numbers, drug use among older adults in the United States has hit its highest point ever.

In the government’s latest report — reflecting drug use in 2007 — 1 in 20 Americans ages 50 to 59 told researchers they had used illicit drugs in the last month. More than one-half of these older users still like their street drugs, including marijuana and cocaine.

But as older users contend with the aches and pains of aging, they are adding prescription drugs to their mix, according to the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

By contrast, the new, younger generation of drug users isn’t waiting to reach middle age to add prescription drugs to its portfolio of abuse, the report says.

Among teenagers and young adults ages 12 to 25, one-third of those who use illicit drugs say they recently have abused prescription drugs — including painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants.

Among kids 12 to 17, 3.3 percent had abused prescription psychotherapeutic drugs in the last month. And among 17- to 25-year-olds, 6 percent had abused prescription drugs in the same period.

These generational trends are driving a significant change in the landscape of American drug abuse. After years of declining use of street drugs — cocaine, hallucinogens and marijuana — prescription medications have begun moving front and center as the nation’s drug of choice.

The result, according to the latest federal drug-use survey: Last year, Americans who began abusing prescription drugs outnumbered those who took up smoking marijuana.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, says the report underscores a “paradigm shift” in drug abuse and, hence, in its treatment.

Though addiction to prescription drugs is not new, the current generation of teenagers and young adults has grown up around widespread medical use of prescription drugs, Volkow says, and is inclined to view them as “safe” because they are prescribed by doctors.

“That comfort level,” Volkow says, “facilitates the abuse” of these medications.

Because of the high from such drugs as narcotic pain relievers, she adds, young users are at high risk of becoming addicted.

Peter S., 26, a recovering addict from New Jersey, says the ubiquity of prescription drugs in American homes is reassuring to kids eager to take a controlled risk or dull the emotional challenges of being a teenager.

“You don’t have to go to the drug dealer or even leave the house,” says Peter, who spoke on condition that his last name not be used. “You can just go upstairs to mom’s medicine chest and boom! You’re locked and loaded … People feel like, ‘Wow, how bad could it be? It came from our doctor. And I’m not doing street drugs — cocaine or mushrooms. I’m doing what mom has in her medicine cabinet.'”

Many parents, whose images of drug abuse may be dominated by street drugs, “just don’t realize,” Peter says, that the leftover pain pills from mom’s back spasm or the unused anti-anxiety pills prescribed for dad during a rough patch at work may furnish a kid’s first chance to experiment with drugs.

Parents “take one and feel better and put the rest up there in the medicine chest,” Peter says. “They just don’t know.”

Volkow adds that a shift toward prescription drug abuse also may make it harder for the new generation’s drug users to “age out” of their habit, as many baby boomers have done. Users of street drugs, Volkow says, frequently quit as they find that unpleasant side effects become more pronounced with age and prolonged use.

But users of prescription medicationstend to build tolerance to the effects over time, prompting them to use more, not less, and more often, Volkow says.

Researchers with the federal substance abuse agency said they remain uncertain if boomer drug users continued to do drugs into adulthood or, rather, returned to a youthful habit as they aged.

John P. Walters, the nation’s drug czar, expressed surprise that young Americans are turning away from cocaine and methamphetamine, but use of such street drugs continues among their elders.

Jim Steinhagen, executive director of the Hazelden Center for Youth and Families in suburban St. Paul, Minn., says that for young people, experimentation with prescription drugs only appears “safer” than their parents’ drug forays.

“We’re seeing kids coming to the treatment center more acutely addicted than we ever have before, so the degree of detox we need is more extensive and takes a longer period of time,” says Steinhagen, 32, a practitioner of addiction treatment.

“The kind of substance use that goes on today is like extreme sports for this generation — quicker, faster, a more dangerous thrill-seeking experience.”

The recent government report comes on the heels of a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University showing that 19 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds believe prescription drugs are easier to get than cigarettes, alcohol and street drugs.

The new report also underscores the ease with which abusers of prescription drugs can get controlled substances. More than one-half of those who reported they had recently taken prescription drugs for nonmedical uses said they got the drugs from a friend or relative for free, and almost 20 percent got them from a physician. About 1 in 10 who took prescription pain relievers said they bought or stole them from a friend or relative.

Drug-enforcement officials have long known that teenagers and young adults widely trade, sell and steal stimulant medications, heavily prescribed among student populations to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Fewer than 5 percent told interviewers that they had turned to a drug-dealing stranger to acquire prescription drugs, or logged on to an Internet site selling prescription drugs.

Peter S. says his initiation to prescription drugs came from the medicine chests of his — and a friend’s — parents.

“I had found Vicodin and Percocet and had heard about them and Xanax and Valium — the benzodiazepams — and took a couple,” Peter says. “I reached up in that medicine chest and took a couple and thought, ‘Oh this is fun.’ It made me feel floaty … It was fun in the beginning.”

The government report, which also tallies Americans’ mental-health status, makes clear that illicit drug use is frequently a form of self-medication.

Among 12- to 17-year-olds, roughly 2 million had experienced a major depressive episode in 2007 — about 8.2 percent of that age group’s population. Illicit drug use was roughly twice as high — 35 percent — among youths who had experienced depression than among those who had not.

Note: Kids prefer prescription drugs to their parents’ street drugs.

Source: Daily Press

Mixed Bag Over Support of Medicinal Marijuana

September 30, 2008

MI — Michigan voters will decided whether or not to legalize medicinal marijuana in a state wide ballot initiative this November. Although polls show there is growing support for the move, getting people to speak openly about the subject can be bit more difficult.

According to a September poll by the Michigan Resource Group of Lansing, 67 percent of voters said they would support the proposal, while 29 percent said they opposed it.

If passed, the law would permit physician approved use of marijuana for patients with “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, as well as other conditions approved by the Department of Community Health.

Those patients permitted to use marijuana would be given an identification card and the right to grow marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility. The last portion of the law would also permit care givers and patients the right to used medical reasons as a legal defense in marijuana prosecutions.

Joshua Snider, a 30-year-old Petoskey resident, advocated for the use of marijuana as medicine for a variety of medical conditions. Snider said his own mild temporal epilepsy was improved with occasional use of marijuana.

Besides working as a pain killer and an appetite stimulant, Snider asserted that marijuana also has antispasmodic qualities.

“It works a lot better than any other prescribed medicines,” he said. “A lot of them can make you pretty sick, they mess with your stomach.”

Snider is an outspoken advocate for marijuana and helped collect signatures to get the measure on the statewide ballot, he said it is not uncommon for people to shy away from speaking about marijuana in public.

“All of it is fear,” Snider said. “Right now it’s dangerous to use it under the current law.”

While the current ballot initiative would allow patients with glaucoma to use marijuana, Dr. Tim Jarvi, an ophthalmologist in Petoskey, is not convinced that marijuana is better other pharmaceutical treatments already on the market. While marijuana can reduce ocular pressure, Jarvi pointed out that it also decreases blood pressure and therefore makes it more difficult to pump nutrients into the eye through the optic nerve.

“It’s impractical,” he said. “Even if it was legal we wouldn’t use it.”

Dr. George Wagoner, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist in Manistee, admitted that he had no scientific experience with marijuana. But during his wife’s unsuccessful battle against severe ovarian cancer in 2007, he said they turned to the illegal drug and found it helped her cope with the pain better than anything else.

Wagoner said his wife developed intractable nausea and vomiting during her chemotherapy and that other pharmaceutical drugs were ineffective.

“When my wife inhaled the smoke twice, she said the nausea was gone,” he said. “It took practically none to be effective. I think everyone in her situation should be allowed to do this legally.”

However, there are those, even with a personal knowledge of cancer, who do not support the current ballot initiative’s scope.

Bob McCullough, a 74-year-old Petoskey resident, is in remission from multiple myeloma and said he understands the need for medicinal marijuana, but was uncomfortable with people being given the legal right to grow it. He said that would open up the possibility of people selling it illegally for profit.

“There is such a strong desire for this stuff, I think it needs to be done through a pharmacy,” he said. “I would like to see it made available, but only a month’s supply at a time. That way a doctor would know if you are starting to abuse it.”

Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, and classified as a schedule I drug, 12 states have passed medicinal marijuana legislation. In 2005, Traverse City passed a city ordinance to make the prosecution of medicinal marijuana cases the lowest priority. However, both the offices of the county and city prosecutors referred requests for comment to one another, preferring to stay mum rather than weigh in on the taboo subject.

Charlevoix County Sheriff George Lasater deferred a request to comment to his successor, Don Schneider, after admitting he was not familiar with the ballot language. Although Schneider had yet to read the language, he said his first reaction was that legalization of medicinal marijuana would compound the issue of prescription drug abuse and marijuana use further.

“I think there’s always the potential for it to be grossly misused,” he said. “There are some doctors, although they are few and far between, that lack integrity and will give a prescription for anything.”

Source: Petoskey News-Review