This is Leslie's summary of the NORML conference that was held in Washington, DC from Thursday, February 3rd, to Saturday, February 5th. I took excellent notes and was as attentive as possible, but I cannot promise that my interpretation of each panel will be the same as any one else.
The conference began promptly at 9 am on Thursday, free breakfast if you show up at 8 am. So, of course to get all the free food I can bum, I was there early, at 8:15 to mingle and network before the first panel started. The first speaker was Dan Viets, who is on the NORML Board of Directors. He and Keith Stroup gave opening remarks. Dan discussed our personal power and rights. He reminded us that we should never say anything to a police officer, and that we are never under any obligation to confess or inform. He said we should always practice our constitutional rights: never give permission to a search, make sure the officer is fully aware that you do not consent to the search, always ask for a lawyer, and keep asking for a lawyer until they bring you one. Dan then went on to discuss the most current drug policy reform issues since the last conference, in November 1998. NORML has filed an official complaint in the FCC against the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) because of their recent bribery of the entertainment programming organizations, such as the American Broadcasting Corporation. (GO NORML!) He mentioned the Higher Education Act, which was a bad law passed in 1998 that permanently takes away all eligibility for federal student assistance, if a person is ever charged (not convicted) of a drug offense. There is legislation pending to reform that law and it has spurred a lot of support with student organizations across the country. Dan mentioned certain steps that can be taken within communities to begin marijuana decriminalization: circulate petitions to require misdemeanor charges of possession to be dealt with in city or municipal courts. Many steps can be taken at the local level of government, if you will get involved. Dan talked about the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, which is in Congress right now. This evil bill states that it would provide for criminal penalties for the distribution of information regarding the manufacture or use of Schedule 1 controlled substances or paraphernalia. This directly violates the first amendment for freedom of speech, and is so absurd that it would make NIDA information illegal! Dan also mentioned the drug-testing hysteria that is spreading like a disease throughout the American workplace. Drug Testing is ineffective and expensive and has nothing to do with safety or productivity. It could lead to harder drug use, since Meth and Coke don't stay in the body as long as pot. The last subject Dan talked about was this recent mythology that today's pot is significantly more potent than it used to be. It's a scare tactic to get parents to lie to their children about the dangers of marijuana.
The next speaker was Keith Stroup. He is the Executive Director of NORML and lives and works in Washington DC. He began by citing some statistics: that between $7.5 and $10 billion was being spent per year to bust pot-smokers. This has been a 30 year upward battle because of the disconnect between legislators and constituents. He used the third rail analogy: that the drug war was like the third rail in politics, touch it and your career is over. Governor Johnson of New Mexico and Governor Ventura of Minnesota are helping end that stereotype. Medical marijuana initiatives passed overwhelmingly in six states so far, plus the Washington DC initiative that was silenced by Congress, and at least two more states will be added to that list this year. So, undoubtedly a majority of people oppose the criminalization of marijuana. We need to bridge the gap between public opinion and public policy, because politicians right now think that if they are soft on drugs they will be replaced. Keith said we need to find ways to give a voice to middle-class citizens, who are frequently pot smokers. We need to make the end of marijuana prohibition mainstream so that it is widely acceptable to oppose it. We should convert this from a drug issue to a consumer issue. We need to demonstrate that this culture is willing and able to be involved in politics by expanding our educational and advertising efforts to exploit the reservoir of support for this issue. The ONDCP is making us look bad with their false propaganda, so we need to stress the theme that we should stop arresting non-violent pot smokers. Over 72 million people have tried pot, and 19-20 million are relatively regular smokers. Marijuana is the third most popular drug, behind alcohol and tobacco. At least 32% of the population acknowledges having tried marijuana, and these people are not criminals. They're not dangerous. Society should distinguish between use and abuse. With our current policies, we are wasting resources, clogging up our judicial system, crowding prisons, and destroying the lives and careers of over 600,000 people a year. This is a fairness and personal freedom issue, not a drug issue.
Then the next speaker was Nadine Strossen, who is a law professor at NY Law school and the president of the ACLU. She had plenty to say also. ACLU is a valuable ally in the fight against the War on Drugs. The WOD is a fundamental evil in our society. It makes the term "criminal justice" an oxymoron. Our first amendment rights are eroded completely by the lack of freedom of speech, the attempt to censor information, but we already know that. We need to stop criminalizing personal private behavior that does no harm. She compared this to the Bowers vs. Harwick case in 1986, where the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to prohibit sodomy. The government likes to abuse its coercive power, and sometimes judges make mistakes. It comes from our puritanical / moralistic backgrounds. Can the majority's view on morality be translated into sweeping legislation? They seem to think so. But the ACLU says government cannot prevent conduct that does no harm based on someone's view of morality. All people are equal with certain fundamental rights. The government's job is to protect and secure those rights. Then she went into a brief history lesson. Nadine reminded us that the original constitution was printed on paper made from hemp. Marijuana was used by George Washington to relieve pain. William Randolph Hearst introduced the word "marijuana" to further prejudice against Mexicans. Prohibition violates the relationship between government and individuals. We must fight to make actual law and actual policy reflect attitudes. She expressed Civil Libertarian principles, such as the belief in the right to "inhale inject insert anything we want, wherever we want" on our own bodies. We need to restore the fundamental libertarian precept: to restore individual rights to make choices about our own bodies and our own minds. She (and I) recommends a book by Lynn Zimmer and John Morgan called "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts." She then goes on to discuss certain ways our rights of privacy have been grossly eroded this century, including wire-tapping equipment, thermal imaging, etc. The government is using fancy equipment to witness our crimes, since there are no victims to testify in victimless crimes. The government is depriving us of our privacy and denying sovereignty over our own bodies. We have the right to be left alone! And the right to make choices without interference by government. To change this we need to minimize the role of government in our lives. The casualty of war is the lives of innocent victims, disproportionately minorities and poor people. We need to come up with constructive strategy for advancing our rights. She mentioned several litigation and legislative victories, and the need for much more public awareness, public good information, and education. Each person should maintain reasonable expectations of privacy and educate others about their rights. The War on Drugs can be won with a good Public Relations Campaign. Government should not define the morality of the people, that is the job of spiritual leaders.
The first panel, after the opening speakers then a short 420 break, was titled "The Challenge of Reporting Objectively on the Drug War." The first speaker is Dick Cowen, who runs the marijuananews.com website. (He is a really great guy, and was born in the same hospital as me!) Dick said that the media just simply does not know how to report on marijuana. The information is all out there, it is just not in the right hands. The public doesn't necessarily see important events in the War on Drugs because newspapers suck. He criticized the reporting of many journalists and went on to explain why. The drug czar, who is head of the ONDCP, was caught red-handed lying on several occasions. This psycho who manages this War on Drugs, Barry McCaffrey, directly lied to the Dutch about their own crime statistics and has gotten a formal diplomatic complaint filed against him by the Netherlands Embassy. Government propaganda has unlimited resources and is lying to the middle class, to protect children? They are telling middle-aged parents that today's marijuana is more potent, and that today we know a lot more about the dangers of marijuana, which are both complete lies. Even the New York Times and the Washington Post has reported dishonestly, which Dick Cowen calls "Bad Journalism." However, progress is being made by the media, he urges everyone to write letters to the editor. The Internet will have a significant role in disseminating truthful information.
The next speaker on this panel was Mike Gray, who is the author of a book, which I also recommend, called "Drug Crazy." He agreed with Dick Cowen, saying that our opponents in this war are absolutely insane. 100% of all scientific evidence about marijuana supports our position. It's all kinda based on religion. Mike Gray said that the only reason we ever made it to the moon was because no religion has anything against anti-gravity. Anyway, he talked about a lot of the same information as Dick.
He third speaker on this panel was a reporter from "USA
Today" named Dennis Cauchon. He swears that there
is no conspiracy! Reporters are not lying; they are reporting
what they were told. Reporters get their information from the
government (who notoriously produces bad info) and public interest
groups, which are available for comment. The problem is that they
are getting their descriptions of drug users from policemen. It
is totally un-random sampling of quotes. The people who provide
information are biased. There are no pro-legalization activists
to quote when someone gets busted, convicted or sentenced. However,
timing and placement is as important or even more important then
coverage. He gave us some tips on dealing with journalists: be
persistent and polite and never be confrontational. Protests don't
usually get a lot of coverage; there are a lot of special interest
groups protesting a lot of issues. He offers a suggestion to call
each newspaper and leave a voicemail for any reporters describing
who you are and what organization you belong to and what your
opinion is. Leave your phone number, and they will contact you
if they want to write about it. This is a lot more effective in
a small town. The last speaker in this panel was Steve Bloom,
who works for "High Times," the monthly stoner publication.
He reminded us of all the pro-pot opinion in modern TV shows and
"That 70's Show," "The Simpsons," and many others. He went on to distinguish the difference between a reporter and a journalist. I didn't get much from him. So I left early to get stoned and avoid the annoying question and answer session.
Then there was lunch and David Boaz, and author and representative of the Cato Institute. I was too busy talking to the Loonies and Jeff Jones to pay any attention to what was being talked about. I did pick up on him discussing our civil liberties and how the all the powers of the federal government are enumerated in the constitution. The 9th amendment retains all rights not specified in the constitution granted to the individual, and the 10th amendment gives all rights not specifically granted to the federal government to the states. Sorry I didn't report more, I had the munchies.
After lunch was a panel titled "Marijuana Prohibition: A Parent's Perspective." Which I thought, like the same panel at the last conference, what a joke! At least this year, the requirement was that you have kids. At last year's conference, the speakers didn't even have kids! The first speaker was Marsha Rosenbaum, who I have tons of respect for. She warned of the propaganda to talk to your kids about marijuana. She demands that parents stop pretending they didn't inhale. "Just say know" is her motto. Fully inform your children, and be careful not to deplete your credibility.
The second speaker in this panel was Chuck Blitz. He suggests we avoid the topic rather than accept or forbid it. Drugs, like marijuana and others, should remain a taboo subject between parents and children, similar to the topic of sex. He recommends honesty because it is almost inevitable that your children will probably experiment with marijuana.
And the last speaker in this panel was Gara LaMarche, from the Open Society Institute. She claims that the most dangerous thing about drugs to teenagers is the risk that they will get caught with them. The risk of arrest is a scary thing to parents with teenagers. She claims that there were 65,000 teenagers arrested for drugs in 1995. At least 50% of 12th graders have smoked pot within the last year. She also agreed that it is almost inevitable that your kid will at least try marijuana and that puts them at risk of being criminalized by our judicial system. She points out that since many parents have zero tolerance toward drugs, their kids go outside of the home, in a more dangerous environment, to get stoned and hang out with friends. This puts them at the most risk. Teenagers view driving around smoking or sitting in public smoking is safer then staying at home to do it, and that's not true. Although it is unknown what the legal and liability issues are, she recommends that parents express to their kids that if you are going to do it, stay here. She also brought up the issue of children's civil liberties. In public schools everywhere, children are getting illegally searched, falsely imprisoned, and subject to entrapment from narcs. I related to her last comments about false treatment, sending teenagers to rehabilitation for marijuana use. It is detrimental to the whole treatment process for everyone else there.
The rest of Thursday was excellent! There was a break, and I went to go get stoned and forgot to make it back to the last panel, which was "Race and Marijuana Prohibition." I am fully aware that the drug war has adverse impact on minorities and the whole subject is depressing. Debra Small from the Lindesmith Center spoke, and I saw her speak at a conference 2 months ago. So I skipped out on this panel because I am a stoner was slacking off. (What can I say'? it was 4:20!)
Then the last panel Thursday was titled: "Environmental Hazards Presented by Fusarium Oxysporum, the Anti-Marijuana Fungus." Wow, it sounded so scientific and technical and I was so stoned that I skipped out on this one too. Sorry I couldn't report more. I found new love this day.
Wow!! Friday morning came a bit earlier than Thursday and I was not quite early enough to get free breakfast. I did get one cup of free coffee before they took it away, though. Friday was focused on drug testing, which I think is applicable to the things I learn in business school. But a lot of other people at the conference were bored out of their minds Friday. But I took good notes, like the over-achieving studious stoner I am.
The first speaker was Barbara Ehrenreich, an author and historian and on the NORML Board of Directors. She praised this new report issued by the ACLU called: "Drug Testing, a Bad Investment." I had already read the report and used it to pass out to other students. She quoted from this report and summarized that random drug-testing programs cost employers way too much and decrease productivity 29% because they lower morale. The size of the drug-testing industry was over $1.2 billion in 1993. Freedom of speech is eroding in the workplace. Freedom of assembly never existed (I'm not sure I believe that) and false imprisonment is allowed, especially in union shops. There are numerous violations of the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulation requiring a break to urinate "within an appropriate time frame." There have been no recent advances in worker's rights. Management is frequently allowed to search employees' personal belongings. She claimed that over 2/3 of large employers use electronic means to monitor employees! It is very typical for the company to monitor all web traffic and email. Supposedly, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, 6-10% of employers do genetic testing, and the National Center for Workplace Rights is conducting an investigation. Drug Testing requires prospective employees to list out all prescription or non-prescription drugs they take. Employers can use this information to exclude people who might potentially cost the company, such as people on anti-depressants or lots of blood pressure medication. So the important question why do employees so willingly give up their workplace rights? Because unions are weak and declining, and people just simply get used to common civil rights violations. Usually nobody even notices! We need a new civil rights movement for the 21st century workplace. Individual defiance vs. collective resistance.
Then the panel titled: "Drug Testing: Is it a False Promise?" Beginning with Dale Gieringer, from California NORML. Dale says that judging people by the chemistry of our urine is ridiculous! He introduced John Morgan, co-author of the book "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts." He says that the argument of false tests or inaccurate results is weak. The technology of drug-tests are ever increasingly improving and that a second, confirmation test is almost standard. It is a shame that pregnant women who are in labor frequently get drug tested. Testing is currently viewed by mainstream America as being a sanitation device, to make a safer workplace. Does elimination of drug-using employees improve productivity or safety? Outcome studies are desperately needed but not done, for whatever reason. NIDA refuses to fund outcome studies probably because they are afraid to find out drug-testing programs don't work. There is no evidence that drug testing improves safety or productivity of the workplace. There is a myth among employers and companies that if your competition drug-tests and you don't, then they will have the competitive advantage because all the drug-using unproductive workers will then come work for you. This is not true!
I found it fascinating that there was a study called the "Firestone Study," which has been quoted in several of my business management and human resources textbooks. It was a so-called outcome study by the Firestone Tire Company on the results of their drug-testing program. The results said all this horrible statistics: recreational drug users had 2.5 times more absences and were 3.6 times more likely to be involved in an accident, etc. These numbers are being taught in business schools all across America! When the study was being hunted down, it was discovered that it had never existed. Those results had come from the company's assistant in the Employee Assistance Program, and were from people with drug problems who had turned themselves into the EAP. Everything had been completely made up! But yet, the results to this study are still being circulated with credibility! The National Institute on Drug Abuse, AKA NIDA, is the propaganda ministry in the War on Drugs. 1984 has arrived and big brother is watching. Believe everything you're told and you will be safe.
The next speaker on the panel was Ed Sheherd. He is an economics professor in Syracuse. He presented the results to a drug testing and productivity study, which is available online at the Lindesmith On-Line Library. The study was a done out of uncertainly on preventative impact of drug-testing programs. They were also studying for the relativity of drug use to productivity. If drug-testing programs are effective, they would have had to prove that 1.) Drug testing has a positive effect on productivity 2.) If drug-testing has a preventative effect and 3.) That drug use is negatively related to productivity. Instead, the results of the study showed that drug testing has a negative effect on productivity, that it has no preventative effect, and that drug use has no effect on employee productivity. Actually, drug use can actually enhance productivity, depending on the person. The substitution effect was also shown: that since employees were being randomly tested they tended to use harder substances to get them out of their system faster. They also found that drug testing significantly decreases morale by creating a negative and untrusting work environment. The companies in the study that had pre-employment drug-testing programs averaged 19% lower average productivity and the companies that had random drug-testing programs had 28% lower average productivity.
Then Dale Gieringer came back and talked about the National Highway Safety Study in the Netherlands. It showed alcohol was the largest cause of accidents and marijuana only has an effect on accidents when mixed with alcohol. Marijuana was never shown to effect the possibility of an accident in this study. It is recommended that if employees in extremely safety sensitive occupations must undergo impairment testing, that saliva tests are much better. Saliva tests can shown intoxication/impairment but do not show use in the last 30 days. Saliva Tests also check for alcohol. Dale pointed out that, like the polygraph tests, drug-testing technology is not scientifically proven. It is not FDA approved.
After that panel was a break, and then another panel on drug-testing, this one titled: " Drug-Testing Technology: What works and What Doesn't." The first speaker was John Morgan, who is also the Director of Pharmacology at CUNY Medical School. I was off getting stoned again and was late to the start of this panel, so I came in as John was ending and Loren Siegel, the Director of Education for the ACLU. She believes in switching energy to public education. The National Academy of Science has a book that contradicts the government's position on drug testing and the effects of drugs on the workplace. It shows that drug use has no effect on performance or absenteeism. It also showed that drug testing has no effect on drug use or increased safety. She suggests we get labor unions involved and professionals in Fortune 500 companies need to take a stand and get executives to reconsider their policies.
Kevin Zeese was the next speaker. He began by reiterating that drug testing violates our civil rights, but that civil and human rights violations occur everywhere, all the time. He gave us a history of drug testing from limited and expensive programs in the 1970's to an expansion of technology and zero-tolerance policy establishment in the 1980's. Inmates and probationers all require drug testing. This leads to military drug testing. This created a constant demand and cash flow for the drug-testing companies. The problem is that these companies employ departments full of sales people, whose job is to go out and find new people to subject to drug testing. The private industry, where "employment at will" is the standard, and where the power of the employer is dominant, pre-employment drug testing programs easily lead to random drug-testing programs. Currently, almost all safety sensitive occupations and all government contractors are required to drug-test their employees. His only suggestion was to train managers to look for abuse and to have employee assistance programs to divert problem employees to. He also made the point that since the technology and the market is established, drug-testing programs are not going away.
The next speaker on the panel was Graham Boyd, who works for the ACLU. He began with a brief history lesson. Protection from unnecessary search and seizure came from the colonists not wanting the British troops to storm in looking for contraband to pay taxes. It is similar to drug testing, in that both are mass suspicionless searches to check to see if maybe you are doing something wrong. Drug tests are phony products, he said. There is a $1.5 billion industry out there right now to sell drug-testing products. Sales people are giving out free samples and selling the drug test lie. It has a lot to do with the prison-industrial complex. Drug testing tests for the metabolites of drugs in your hair, nails, urine, etc. Welfare recipients are being required to take drug tests in order to get money or food stamps. A woman in South Carolina was jailed and had her children taken away for failing a urinalysis. This will make women not get necessary pre-natal care. Boyd claimed that pretty soon, everyone will have to piss in a cup to get a driver's license, a tax return or to interact with any bureaucracy. Only Public opinion will change drug-testing policies. That was the end of the drug-testing panels. There were other speakers, but I didn't hang around and bore myself to tears, I went and got stoned again.
I was late to the next panel again. It was titled: "Federal Roadblocks to Legal Hemp" and was started by Don Wirtshafter from the Ohio Hempery. He was giving a history of hemp production in the US. Laboratory tests can easily tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. Tests can determine the number of parts per billion. The current legal limit for hemp products imported into the country is .01%. Don mentioned a fiberglass alternative that can be made with hemp that is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Ford will be using hemp-based dashboards in its next three model years. Don also repudiated the claim that you could grow marijuana in the middle of a hemp field. Canada is currently allowing cultivation of industrial hemp because to them hemp = jobs, not hemp = drugs. There is much confusion between hemp and marijuana. Telling kids lies and showing them false propaganda sends them a worse message than wearing and using hemp products. Don said that of the millions of dollars spent to eradicate marijuana crops in the US, 98% of those were ditchweed. He mentioned the hemp embargo, where the US Customs agents seized 53,000 pounds of sterilized hemp seed being imported by a bird seed manufacturer. Our current situation for the hemp industry is in Limbo! The DEA wants to seize any products with any trace of THC! This will keep hemp from becoming a mainstream product. Companies need a license from the DEA to import controlled substances. 22 states have initiated legislation legalizing industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity, and seven states have recently passed such initiatives. But yet, the DEA still wants to stop all shipments. Since the ATF controls all labels for beer and wine, HempenAle and some hemp wine manufacturers are getting in trouble for having reference to hemp on their label! I was disappointed that Don only briefly discussed the successes in Hawaii. Hawaii planted a field of hemp December 15 for research, sponsored by a beauty product manufacturer. Yeah, Hawaii! Don said the Department of Agriculture should be regulating hemp, not the DEA.
The next Speaker was David Frankel, an environmental business lawyer. He started off by talking about the seized shipment of hemp birdseed that occurred last fall. And somehow ventured into discussing seven things that cause continuous ecological harm. They are: cars/trucks, meat/poultry, non-organic agricultural products, household appliances, lighting and air conditioning, sewage, and construction. David said we should look at the economics aspect. We ought to demand to know how much money was spent to keep hemp from the economy and compare that to the opportunity costs. What I got out of this that was useful to me is that the hemp seizure was a violation of the WTO and NAFTA, and if here is another seizure, there will be a formal complaint filed by major trade organizations.
That was the end of Friday. There were many parties to attend and lots of very tasty high quality high-grade cannabis abundant. It was the best Friday I have had in months! I fell head over heels in love today.
Saturday morning began with Dr. Lester Grinspoon discussing the "Pharmaceuticalization of the Marijuana Issue." Dr. Grinspoon told us that if aspirin had to get FDA approval today, that it wouldn't get approved. Aspirin kills over 2,000 people a year. Similarly, we should not expect the FDA to approve smoking pot. There has been an anti-smoking movement, spurred by society with the help of government. The solution? Pharmaceuticalization of medical cannabis. What we're seeing and what will be available in the future is synthetic cannabinoids and derivatives. There will be products such as a skin patch, an inhaler, suppositories, more Marinol. Pharmaceutical companies are going to make and expand the market for synthetic cannabinoids. The future legality of whole smoked cannabis, according to Dr. Grinspoon, is questionable. Most likely, where states have passed initiatives, a 2-part distribution system will form. One will be the conventional pharmaceutical channels and the other will be distribution of alternatives and herbal medicines. There are two forces colliding: growing acceptance of medical marijuana and growing movement against inhaling combusting materials, or smoking.
The first panel on Saturday was titled: "What the Lack of Legal Supply does to Patients Lives." And to be honest, I didn't pay to much attention. I know what the lack of a legal supply does to my life and I don't need to sit through a seminar to learn that it sucks. But I will tell you about the panel anyway. First speaker was Valerie Corral, an epileptic patient. She claims that a lack of a legal supply isolates her and people frequently believe she must not be sick because she looks healthy. She had a communal distribution system in California system where people withdraw only what they need and contribute what they can. The second speaker on this panel was Greg Scott. I don't know what's wrong with Greg, I missed that part. But he is a medical user in Fort Lauderdale and he claims that the lack of a legal supply has a psychological and physiological toll. The fourth speaker was Stormy Ray, who has multiple sclerosis. Then there was Christina Hines, who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome and sometimes feels like a guinea pig for pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Grinspoon came back up and talked about cannabis as treatment for bi-polarity and I skipped out of the questions and answer session again to go smoke pot.
The second panel on Saturday was perhaps the most useful to me. It was titled: "What Have We Learned about Making Marijuana Available as a Medicine?" The first speaker was my friend Rob Raich from Oakland, California. Rob is the attorney in a Federal Appeals Court Case. The "medical necessity" standard was established by a decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. There are four factors to a "medical necessity." 1.) The patient has a serious medical condition. 2.) If the Patient does not have access, then they will suffer imminent harm. 3.) The cannabis alleviates the medical condition, or symptoms of the condition. And, 4.) There are no other legal alternatives because the patient has tried other alternatives and found them ineffective. This basically means that since the court ruled there is medical necessity, patients can legally have access to cannabis. The cities of Oakland and San Francisco all openly support patient's rights to have access to medical cannabis. Rob went on to explain how Janet Reno, the US attorney general petitioned for a rehearing in a case that the Californian attorney general had specifically requested her not to do. This was a slap in the face to all Californians, Rob said. The state level establishments understand the voter's support on this issue and are siding with us! Where do we stand now? According to Rob, doctors across the country should feel free to openly discuss the use of medical cannabis as an alternative medication since the medical necessity defense has been established. Rob ended with an inspiring, excited reassurance that change is happening! The truth is on our side!
The next speaker was Bill Panzer, who I recently met and meant to speak to more than I got the opportunity to. Bill is also an attorney in California. He fights individual cases and warns us that change doesn't come easily. The Women's Liberation movement and the Civil Rights movement all took decades to begin and minds still have not changed even 30 or 50 years later. Just because we change laws doesn't mean we have changed people's minds. There are still many ignorant people, including Judges. Bill discussed the differences between a doctor's recommendation and a doctor's approval and I think Proposition 215 allows recommendation without necessarily having approval. He says that to keep yourself out of trouble, keep excellent medical records. Don't just go see one doctor one time and get verbal approval and think you're safe. You should have regular visits to keep your medical records well documented and up-to-date.
The next speaker was John Sajo, from Portland, Oregon. He talked about the problems involved in the wording of medical marijuana initiatives. The concept of buyer's clubs doesn't go over too well for politicians. The Oregon Initiative specifically excluded buyers' clubs. There was a law-enforcement concern: how do they know if people are patients or not? They solved this through a state registration ID card system. The ID cards establish legitimacy, since the state government issues them. The Oregon initiative passed and has been in law for a year now. Police have not harassed or had problems with a single cardholder! John went on to explain another major important part of the Oregon initiative: the Caregiver Provision. Some, or even most people can not grow their own medical cannabis. For whatever reason, a lot of people need to designate a caregiver. This one specified person is allowed to grow, obtain, and possess the medical cannabis for the use of that patient. In Oregon, patients or caregivers may possess 7 plants in their home, or three dried ounces. They may carry up to one ounce. The distribution system that has been established involves networks of caregivers that share resources and give away medical cannabis. It is against federal law to distribute or sell marijuana. So by simply giving it from one caregiver to another, they are not breaking any laws. There has been an explosion of volunteerism and activism due to the passage of various state initiatives. Patients are feeling political and active and motivated to put pressure on the federal government to conform to what the people want. He says we need lots of grass-roots organizations around the country because we are up against a lot of ignorance!
The next speaker was Dave Fratello, from the Americans for Medical Rights. To be honest at this point it starts to get a little repetitive. It always is at these conferences. He talked about how there will soon be a transdermal patch for THC. The federal opposition is looking bad because there is an incredible disconnect between public opinion and public policy. We need more education and truth not propaganda. The victories from the six state initiatives in the last couple of years have brought some very interesting allies. Interestingly enough, Dave points out that the federal judges have not yet overturned any state initiatives on supremacy. There are guidelines to attract the fed's interest. He quoted a letter from the federal government which said that they can't afford to devote prosecutor's interest" in certain medical marijuana cases. Basically, the federal government retains the power to solve problems but lacks the power to stop the movement.
The fourth panel on Saturday was titled: "The various non-medical uses of cannabis." I think Andy and Kristin Looney could more accurately describe this panel because they were all into it and I was paying attention to other things. I know all the things that marijuana helps me do. Everybody is different and I saw this panel as a waste of time because everybody finds their own uses of the plant. There no such thing as an expert on this subject.
There was more to write but I am tired of writing about it. I hope you like it, and if you have questions, email me at Leslie@wunderland.com
Sorry this was two months late, but ummmmm.... you know....