Medical Marijuana: Still an Outlaw?

Medical Marijuana: Still an Outlaw?
Posted by CN Staff on February 12, 2006 at 22:47:35 PT
By Clynton Namuo, Pacific Business News
Source: Pacific Business News
Hawaii -- Five years after Hawaii adopted its medical marijuana law, 3,000 people have registered to use the drug but only a handful of doctors -- most of them on the Big Island -- are certifying their need to be treated with it. Eight physicians, each currently certifying over 100 patients each, account for nearly 80 percent the people who have registered to use marijuana. There are currently 164 doctors who have registered with the state as certifying their patients' need for marijuana.
Patients interested in using marijuana to treat pain and other effects of serious illnesses have begun to flock to this small group of doctors, in many cases sidestepping their primary-care physicians. The majority of Hawaii's medical community, including the Hawaii Medical Association, remains opposed to using marijuana as medicine. "Everyone they had contact with in the medical field on their island was unwilling to process the paperwork," said Gary Greenly, a Honolulu osteopath who said he has certified hundreds of patients from across the state. "I think I've signed up most of the participants in the program on the island of Oahu." Under the state law enacted in 2001, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana but they can recommend that a patient use it as part of their medical treatment. Along with the doctor's certification, the patient sends in a $25 fee to the state Department of Public Safety and receives an identification card. A patient in the program can legally buy marijuana, but the person they get it from cannot legally sell it, one of several catches in the law. The eight doctors who have made the majority of certifications have attracted the scrutiny of state investigators, but none has been accused of wrongdoing. The death in November of one of the most active doctors, Bill Wenner of the Big Island, prompted the state to send letters to his patients requiring them to find a new doctor by Feb. 1 or risk losing their certification. Medical marijuana advocates say the state has done little to support the program and that the ideal situation, in which a patient's primary doctor recommends using the drug, has been elusive in the face of opposition by the medical association. Many doctors remain leery of legal complications and unconvinced that marijuana actually helps patients. "It's the failure of other physicians to step up to the plate," said Pamela Lichty, president and co-founder of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. "It would help to do some more public education." Keith Kamita, who oversees the state's medical marijuana program and wrote the letter to Wenner's patients, said the law needs to be rewritten to allow increased oversight of doctors and to make sure the program is administered correctly. The law needs to be tightened up or a mechanism [created] where this can be looked into," Kamita said. "One of our concerns is if you have a ridiculous amount of patients are you doing doctor-patient treatment." The state has said it cannot release the names of doctors certifying marijuana use. Both sides agree the law needs to be fixed, but for different reasons. Kamita said all he can do is ensure that paperwork is filled out truthfully, but the larger question of whether or not patients have exhausted other avenues of treatment before using marijuana cannot be independently verified. Lichty said the best way to help the program would be to educate doctors about certifying marijuana for medical use and moving the program into the state Department of Health. Patients and doctors are troubled by having to go through a police agency to obtain medical marijuana certifications. Greenly, the Honolulu doctor who is one of the eight who have dispensed the most certifications, said he serves a growing community of people who are beginning to recognize the positive effects of the drug and he has no qualms about signing them up. But he concedes that some people come to him with exaggerated claims of illness simply so they can be certified to use marijuana. After seeing too many unqualified people show up for treatment, Greenly said, he began checking each patient's medical records closely to ensure they were suffering from a "debilitating medical condition," as the law requires. State officials are troubled by the recent arrival of an Oregon-based organization that began sending doctors to Honolulu about once a month to certify patients to use marijuana. Doctors with the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation of Portland began seeing patients in Honolulu last September and expected to see 2,000 people in its first year of operation here. But the number of patients interested has fallen short of expectations and now the group believes it will issue only 500 certifications in the first year. Part of the reason may be that the foundation charges $250. In its three trips to Honolulu, foundation doctors have certified only 80 patients. "Over time, it'll pick up," foundation President and Executive Director Paul Stanford told PBN. The Hawaii Medical Association is especially troubled by the fly-in doctors, saying such superficial treatments undermine the doctor-patient relationship, said association Executive Director Paula Arcena. Those who use marijuana for medical purposes often say it has changed their lives. Jim Lucas is a 50-year-old HIV patient who has used marijuana to defeat the side effects of the virus since 1998. "It's like a miracle drug," he said. Lucas said he has used marijuana to help alleviate the discomfort of wasting associated with HIV, as well as pain caused by a nerve illness. Questions about the effectiveness of medical marijuana, particularly for the treatment of glaucoma, also have kept doctors away. "One of the reasons physicians stay away from this is because they don't feel comfortable that this as a legitimate treatment for disease," HMA's Arcena said. Note: Handful of doctors certify thousands of patients.Source: Pacific Business News (HI)Author: Clynton Namuo, Pacific Business NewsPublished: February 10, 2006 Print EditionCopyright: 2006 American City Business Journals Inc.Contact: cnamuo bizjournals.comWebsite: Policy Forum of Hawaii Hemp and Cannabis Foundation Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #13 posted by Dankhank on February 14, 2006 at 09:29:15 PT
MS studies
Thanks for the info ...will check 'em out ...
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Comment #12 posted by charmed quark on February 13, 2006 at 16:44:06 PT
Double-blind study references above are for Sativex, which is, of course, a whole cannabis extract in a sub-lingual spray. However, the versions they used for the studies had a 3/1 to nearly a 50/50 ratio of THC to CBD, something that you won't see with most commercial cannabis but can find with medical versions.The 2nd link has the summaries of most of the MS studies, including the spasticity study. The original study noted that the patients subjectivly noted an improvement in spasticity but it could not be verified objectivly. But a follow up study did find objective reduction after a longer period of use. Rigidity, spasticity, etc., were all found to be reduced in MS patients after a year (link #9). There was even some indication that the drug was slowing down the progression of their MS.I use Marinol for my spasms at night. Unfortunately, the side effects are too great for me to use as much as I should to fully control the spasms. Also, it is believed that CBD is very important for spasms. Even so, I get nearly as much relief from the Marinol as I do from my other presciptions for spasticity, such as Valium, which have even worst side effects than the Marinol.
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Comment #11 posted by Dankhank on February 13, 2006 at 13:05:26 PT
double-blind studies
Charmed Quark ...Are there links to these studies?Seems that they would be very good for the Cannabis Research Library ...hope so ...Peace to those who have the truth ...
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Comment #10 posted by konagold on February 13, 2006 at 12:50:13 PT:
improving Hawaii's med pot law
AlohaI was the first patient Dr. Bill Winner recommended pot for and one of the last to be renewed by him. He is greatly missed.I made a complaint with the office of the Ombudsman in Hawaii for the unwarranted letter that Administrator Keith Kimita issued telling Bill's patients that their recommendations were "not valid", and when pressed for the rationale behind this the report is that Mr. Kimita said it was because Bill's FEDERAL license to write prescriptions for narcotics expired upon his death. First it is a recommendation not a prescription and second it is a State law not a federal one that Mr. Kimita is duty bound to enforce and thirdly if a Dr. wrote a prescription with a number of refills they would still be refillable after the Dr.'s death.This brings me to the improvements needed in Hawaii law.First; it was the original wording of the bill that had the Department of Health administrating the program, and because of the moral cowardice of the bureaucrats in the Department of Health that a last minute switch was made to the Department of Public Safety, Narcotic Enforcement Agency of which Mr. Kimita is the administrator, in other words he is Hawaii's highest ranking Nark. Talk about the fox and the hen house, Mr. Kimita even went to the effort of as a 'citizen' [thus avoiding law which prohibits public servants from lobbying for any bill] delivering a 10 page testimony against the pot bill in various committee hearings over a period of three legislative session before the bill was finally passed.Mr. Kimita in the past has made up 'details' resulting in the persecution of patients; famously coming back to bite him in the butt when $30,000 was paid to a family who was raided because three patients were in the same residence and did not 'individually' label each of the 21 plants they collectively grew at their residence [they were in compliance with the law as is plainly understood]. since no such ‘individually labeled’ requirement is in either the law or the administrative rules they received this settlement.So change number one would be to transfer the administration of the program to the Department of Health where it rightly belongs.Number two would be to increase the number of plants allowed.Currently patients are allowed 3 'mature’, and 4 immature plants.This is simply inadequate.This is my 30th year of being a Macadamia nut farmer in Captain Cook Hawaii. I have hundreds of plant species on my 5 acre farm therefore I have 'some' expertise in the growing of plants. Ever since I received my med pot card from the state in 2001 I have attempted to get an 'adequate supply' [as this is the stated reason contained in the law for the existence of the grow your own solution to the supply problem] from 7 plants and it has not been possible. Because Cannabis flowers relative to the length of the day there are two outdoor harvest periods a year at the 20th parallel [changes in latitudes]. These we refer to as long and short season. Even adding artificial light to sunlight only helps stretch plants through the short season so that they don’t bud out at two inches in December. It is much harder to control the dark during the summer.  This results in a short fall of supply during the summer.Thus nature dictates a greater number of plants per patient.It should be increased to a minimum of 14 plants allowed [24 would be better], and an increase in the amount of dried pot allowed from three OZ to 12 OZ to allow for a stash to get through the 'dry' period before the long season harvest.Third change needed is for long-term chronic pain patients or MS, etc. [cases not likely to go away in a year] to have longer terms between renewal. Given the scarcity of Doctors willing to write recommendations this would save system resources on all levels.Forth would be to allow for nonprofit collectives to be able to supply the needs of patients who ‘suddenly’ find themselves in need. The new cancer patient who receives notice on say a Monday that they need chemo immediately beginning the next day does not have the 120 days [or so] to grow a plant to maturity to alleviate the nausea so soon to befall them.Aloha
Rev. Dennis ShieldsPS: please visit my additional web page, to find out about ocean motion power and our attempt to evolve oil independence
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Comment #9 posted by charmed quark on February 13, 2006 at 10:02:43 PT
Of course, I can answer my own question
Partly, the doctors hear the same propaganda everyone hears. And one take-away they get is that marijuana is assoicated with drug abuse.If the "marijuana pharamcies" could send the doctors to exotic locations (although one wonders where you go if you are already in Hawaii) for "seminars" on the benefits of the drug and give the doctors lots of free merchandize branded with the official cannabis logo, things might change.But I feel it is the duty of a good doctor to keep up with the literature. Apparently they don't do that without the freebies.
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Comment #8 posted by charmed quark on February 13, 2006 at 09:53:08 PT
Why won't the MDs look at the studies?
There are number of very good, double-blind studies showing that whole cannabis is effective for MS-type spasms and neuropathic pain. And the anti-nausea and appetite enhancement properties are well known.At least noone has yet gone after the doctors who will recommend it.
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Comment #7 posted by sam adams on February 13, 2006 at 07:55:29 PT
Dr. Weil
Yes, I wish there were more like him. I like those comics mbc!
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 13, 2006 at 07:36:03 PT
Sam Adams 
One famous doctor believes in herbal medicine. His name is Dr. Andrew Weil. 
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Comment #5 posted by mai_bong_city on February 13, 2006 at 06:59:33 PT
these are kinda' fun
i saw these this morning and thought y'all might enjoy.....
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on February 13, 2006 at 06:41:54 PT
nothing new
Part of this is reefer madness, but part of the problem is also the stigma on herbal medicine. How many Western doctors think any herbal medicine works?
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on February 13, 2006 at 05:30:14 PT
She just won't go away...For the Love of God, Can't you Make him Stop?! - By Cindy Sheehan:
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Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 13, 2006 at 04:10:53 PT
Let Me Get This Straight
The patients have to try every other pharmaceutical before they receive a recommendation for marijuana. Why do they have such a strict standard for marijuana, and not for the more dangerous and deadly pharmaceuticals?
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on February 12, 2006 at 23:12:35 PT
Picture from The Above Article
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