National Medical Marijuana Day

Of all the hypocrisies of the War on Drugs, the most absurd and barbaric is the practice of arresting sick people who have turned to cannabis for relief of their pain and suffering. Organizations including the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Cannabis Action Network, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies have joined under the auspices of the Emergency Coalition for Medical Cannabis to declare November 15th to be National Medical Marijuana Day, and to mark the day with protests in Washington D.C. and nationwide.

National Medical Marijuana Day will feature a noon protest at Lafayette Park, on the north side of the White House, in which some patients who use cannabis medically, with their physicians in attendance, will publicly demonstrate their use of marijuana in an act of civil disobedience. This will be preceded by a national press conference featuring such prominent citizens as Richard Brookhiser, senior editor of the National Review, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School professor, and Dr. John P. Morgan, City University of New York Medical School professor, as well as legal and illegal medical marijuana patients.

Some highlights of the upcoming regional protests include a four day march across Michigan, ending at the State House in Lansing on the 15th, and protests at the DEA regional headquarters in Cleveland and the Los Angeles County Courthouse. Numerous other events have been planned; to find (or plan) one in your area, contact either

Debby Goldsberry
Cannabis Action Network
(510) 486-8083O

or

Allen St. Pierre
NORML
(202) 483-5500


The Patients

Jacki Rickert of Mondovi, WI, and Scott Hager of Santa Cruz, CA, are two of the "illegal" medical marijuana patients who will be in attendance at Lafayette Park on Tuesday. The following background info is excerpted from NORML's recent press release:

Jacki Rickert, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy, was one of numerous medical patients in the country who had applied and been accepted into the federal government program entitled Compassionate Investigative New Drug (IND) program. Unfortunately, both the Bush and Clinton administrations have shutdown the program for medical marijuana patients. Only eight Americans can legally consume marijuana as a medicine. Jacki Rickert is not amongst those fortunate few that receive "compassion" from the federal government.

Ms. Rickert even approached President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore (then candidates Clinton and Gore). They promised her, if elected, they would do everything possible to help resolve her legal and medical quandary. They claimed to understand her dilemma.

Since their ascension to the highest office nearly three years ago, neither man has done anything to ease Jacki's pain and suffering. Jacki, along with her congressman, Steve Gunderson (R-WI), have written the Clinton administration urging them to keep their word to Jack and the other medical patients confronted with this terrible Hobson's Choice.

The Clinton administration's response...this past July the administration refused to reconsider opening the Compassionate IND program, even for those that had been approved and denied access.

Scott Hager was arrested September 14 after an anonymous tip to law enforcement and charged with cultivating four marijuana plants. Mr. Hager is a 33-year-old quadriplegic.

Hager, a wheelchair athlete and Para-Olympic Bronze Medalist, uses marijuana to control the violent muscle spasms associated with the paralysis caused by a 1982 swimming accident.

This week, Mr. Hager filed a civil law suit against the Santa Cruz police and other government agencies for the seizure of his medicine. Scott Hager will travel from California to Washington for NMMD to confront those that would condemn him to a life without dignity, of unyielding pain.


Organizing Groups

NORML
1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 1010
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 483-5500 or (900) 97-NORML
(202) 483-0057 (fax)
E-mail: natlnorml@aol.com

CAN
2560 Bancroft Way, #46
Berkeley, CA 04704
(510) 486-8083

MAPS
1801 Tippah Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 358-9830
(704) 358-1650 (fax)
E-mail: st.maps@cybernetics.net


Personality Feature: Rick Doblin

One of the movers and shakers in the drive to expand our medical options is Rick Doblin, president and founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). During college, Rick became fascinated with the remarkable healing potential psychedelic substances had shown during early studies. He wanted to pursue a career as a psychedelic psychotherapist, but graduate programs were uninterested in an area in which the U.S. government had so far been unwilling to permit research.

Rick realized that political change was necessary before this kind of research could happen. In 1986 he founded MAPS, to "assist psychedelic researchers around the world design, obtain governmental approval, fund, conduct and report on psychedelic research in humans."

Political change has come, albeit slowly. The FDA is now willing to approve studies involving marijuana and the psychedelics, and MAPS' mission is now becoming a reality. MAPS has funded basic research into the safety of MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or Ecstasy) and has opened a Drug Master File for MDMA at the FDA. Marijuana studies have also been approved, but have been blocked so far by the lack of a legal source (see What You Can Do, below).

Rick is currently a PhD student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, was married last year and is now awaiting the arrival of his first child, in December.


State Laws

35 states have passed laws allowing the medicinal use of cannabis, most recently Massachusetts, in 1992. California would have become number 36, when in August the legislature passed a bill that would have allowed physicians to prescribe marijuana. The bill was vetoed by Governor Wilson, who also vetoed a bill that would have allowed legal clean needle exchange for addicts.

Michigan medical marijuana activists suffered a setback with the passage of SB 234 last summer, increasing penalties for marijuana offenses. Provisions exempting medical marijuana use were removed from the bill by the state Senate. In 1982, the Michigan House and Senate passed a resolution favoring medical marijuana (Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 473), with Governor John Engler (then a Senator) one of the resolution's sponsors.

Undeterred, Michigan medical marijuana activists are planning an ambitious demonstration to draw attention to their cause. Beginning on Friday, November 11th, supporters will begin a 100 mile walk, starting at the home off of the United Medical Marijuana Smokers of Michigan (UMMSOM) in Taylor, culminating on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing on the 15th.

See The Nation's Harshest Law, for what you can do in Lansing on November 16th.


What You Can Do

Popular opinion and the legislatures of 35 states are on the side of medicinal availability for cannabis. Now is the time to up the pressure on the federal government to stop blocking the progress of medicine. You can help make marijuana medically available by doing the following:

  1. Write to Secretary Donna Shalala. Ask her to support the reclassification of cannabis as a schedule II prescription drug and to instruct the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to provide legal marijuana to researchers for scientific studies of its medical uses, starting with Dr. Donald Abrams' FDA-approved study of AIDS Wasting Syndrome.

    Dr. Donna Shalala
    Secretary for Health
    Dept. of Health and Human Services
    200 Independence Ave. SW
    Washington, DC 20201

  2. Ask your representative to write to Dr. Shalala with the same requests, and to sponsor legislation for making marijuana legally available. (See Federal Legislation, for info on contacting your representative.

Want to do more? NORML and the Cannabis Action Network have projects for ambitious medical marijuana activists. Call or write for details.


From The Activist Guide, Issue #4, November '94, DRCNet Publications section, A Guided Tour of the War on Drugs home page.

The next article is: DRCNet in Action; Jan Pleas Gets Mixed Results.