Herb Pharm

Herb Pharm
Posted by CN Staff on September 24, 2007 at 07:35:44 PT
By Henry Garfield
Source: Bangor Metro
Maine -- Eight years after medical marijuana became legal in Maine, getting relief through smoking "weed" still poses a crop of obstacles.Is marijuana medicine? In November of 1999, a definitive 61% of Maine’s voters said “Yes.” The Maine Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law by then-governor Angus King and took effect on December 22 of that same year—an early Christmas present to patients suffering from nausea, seizures, and muscle spasms for which more conventional medications offered little relief.
But nearly eight years after its implementation, medicinal marijuana in Maine remains cloaked behind a smokescreen of controversy. No one knows how many patients are using the drug, because there is no central clearinghouse for information. Under the law, doctors do not “prescribe” marijuana, and there is no legal distribution system. Instead, patients with written documentation from a physician are permitted to grow and possess a limited amount for their own personal use. And Maine’s law, like similar laws in 11 other states, is superseded by federal statutes and therefore, technically, illegal.Advertisement“The feds have made it extremely difficult,” says Dr. Eric Brown, a faculty family physician at Eastern Maine Medical Center’s family residency training program, who also teaches addiction medicine. While Brown has not recommended marijuana to any patients, he says, “I certainly have patients who use it.” Marijuana use is common among AIDS patients experiencing nausea and loss of appetite, he says. “Many of them see it as a treatment for depression. They say it makes them feel better, makes their lives better.”Depression, however, is not among the qualifying medical conditions specified in the law. Permitted use falls under four categories:1) Persistent nausea, vomiting, wasting syndrome, or loss of appetite as a result of AIDS, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment;2) Heightened intraocular pressure as a result of glaucoma;3) Seizures associated with a chronic, debilitating disease, such as epilepsy; and4) Persistent muscle spasms associated with a chronic disease, such as multiple sclerosis.Dr. John Woytowicz, a family physician practicing in Augusta, sees approximately 15 patients who use marijuana under the provisions of the law. “Using marijuana is not where we start,” he says. He points out that the legislation requires “a bona-fide physician-patient relationship.” Woytowicz says he recommends marijuana only at the patient’s request, and only for symptoms, such as seizures, that do not respond to other treatment.“I don’t want to do it without having an ongoing relationship with the patient,” Woytowicz says. “I tell them that if I’m not their primary care doctor, I want to see them at least every six months.” He admits that he has had “a couple patients disappear on me.”The law does not allow physicians to prescribe marijuana or to assist in supplying it to patients. And it sets strict limits: Patients must either grow their own marijuana or have a designated caregiver grow it for them. Only six plants are allowed, of which only three may be flowering at any one time, and possession is limited to 2.5 ounces of harvested marijuana.“Most people can’t grow enough of it,” Woytowicz says. But the law specifically protects physicians whose patients violate its limits. “I’m limited to reviewing the request and determining whether it’s appropriate within the law,” he says. “When people do things wrong—if they grow an extra pound and keep it in the back room—that’s not my problem.”“The law is written in such a way that it puts all the responsibility on the patient,” says Hans DeWitt, a 39-year-old western Maine resident who uses marijuana to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy. A colon cancer patient, DeWitt says he consumes approximately four grams of pot a day—an ounce a week—either by smoking it, or, more frequently, using a vaporizor. “I also make a mean cup of tea,” he says. DeWitt claims the drug “gives me a quality of life I once had when I was healthy.” He has tried Marinol, a synthesized form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but says it does not suppress his nausea and stimulate his appetite as well as marijuana does.“Some patients feel that Marinol is as effective, and others say that marijuana works better,” Woytowicz says. “I think there is reasonable science to suggest that, in some cases, there are more benefits than there are risks.”David Bunn, 53, of Brownville Junction, a marijuana activist and medicinal marijuana user, says the various pills he has taken over the years for persistent muscle spasms have caused damage to his liver and kidneys. He says the law offers patients a degree of protection that was unavailable to them prior to 1999. “Now, when I go into the hospital, the doctors have to acknowledge my marijuana use and prescribe around it,” he says.Medicinal marijuana laws vary from state to state. According to Julie Gadapee of East Corinth, Vermont, marijuana may be used there to treat chronic pain. The law, unlike Maine’s, does not spell out a limited number of specific conditions that may be the cause of the pain. Gadapee, 40, suffers from brittle bone disease and fibromyalgia. “I’d rather be addicted to pot than to Percocet or Oxycontin,” she says.Despite legal protection, many physicians are reluctant to recommend marijuana to their patients, Woytowicz says. “I think it’s hard for people to find a physician who’s willing to do it.” A proposed new bill, LD 1418, “An Act to Provide Patients with Their Medication,” would change “physician” to “practitioner,” meaning that anyone legally empowered to write prescriptions, such as a physician’s assistant, would be allowed to recommend marijuana. The bill would also create a legal distribution network similar to California’s, which has run afoul of federal authorities. The state legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services heard testimony from proponents and opponents of the bill in April, but voted against passage.Patients and their suppliers, meanwhile, continue to live under a cloud of criminal prosecution. Dan Christen, 54, of Madison, who grows pot for his cancer-stricken wife and another patient who has appointed him as a caregiver, faces a 14-month prison sentence and two years probation for aggravated marijuana trafficking and aggravated cultivation, even though he was arrested for growing 13 plants—one over the allotment for two patients. “It should be at most a $200 misdemeanor,” says Christen, who contends that he is being singled out for his outspoken advocacy of legalization. Christen is the founder of Maine Vocals, a pro-marijuana organization.Dr. Eric Brown cautions that marijuana, like many other herbal medicines, delivers other substances into the body besides the ones targeted to the patient’s symptoms. “One of the problems is that marijuana smoke, just like cigarette smoke, contains hundreds of chemicals,” he says. And because most of the supply comes from unregulated, illegal sources, “I can’t tell the patients what they’re going to get.”Another problem, according to Brown, is potentially harmful side effects, particularly for people suffering from mental disorders such as paranoia and schizophrenia. “People need to be sanguine about the fact that it does have side effects,” he says. “I really think there are other medications that are better.” Roy McKinney, head of the Maine Drug Enforcement Task Force, agrees. “The evidence (for marijuana as medicine) just isn’t there yet, and certainly not with smoking it as a delivery system,” he says. “I know of no other medicine that’s delivered that way.”Others disagree. Writing in The Boston Globe, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Harvard Medical School professor and drug researcher, says, “Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe—safer than most medicines prescribed every day.”Dr. Woytowicz sees little sense in denying patients legal access to a substance that has the potential to help them. “We don’t know everything,” he admits, “but if you’re suffering, why not try it? Over time, we’ll learn more.” Source: Bangor Metro (ME)Author: Henry GarfieldPublished: September 24, 2007Copyright: 2007 Bangor Metro, Inc.Website:  mwellman bangormetro.comCannabisNews Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #5 posted by paul armentano on September 24, 2007 at 16:47:31 PT
Record Pot Arrests Highlight Even Bigger Pot Lies
From today's Armentano| BIO | I'M A FAN OF THIS BLOGGERRecord Pot Arrests Highlight Even Bigger Pot LiesPosted September 24, 2007 | 06:22 PM (EST)
If I had a dime for every time a law enforcement officer claimed that busting petty pot offenders wasn't their priority, then I might have enough loose change to compensate each of the 829,625 Americans arrested for marijuana violations in 2006.YOU CAN READ MY FULL COMMENTARY HERE: PERHAPS FOM WILL POST.
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Comment #4 posted by paul armentano on September 24, 2007 at 13:17:03 PT
Pot Arrests Hit All-Time High
A troubling 'milestone,' indeed:Marijuana Arrests For Year 2006 – 829,625 Tops Record High...Nearly 15 Percent Increase Over 2005September 24, 2007 - Washington, DC, USAWashington, DC: Police arrested a record 829,625 persons for marijuana violations in 2006, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report, released today. This is the largest total number of annual arrests for pot ever recorded by the FBI. Marijuana arrests now comprise nearly 44 percent of all drug arrests in the United States."These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 38 seconds in America.FULL PRESS RELEASE AT: 2006 UCR REPORT IS ONLINE AT:
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on September 24, 2007 at 11:19:40 PT
That's different but I don't understand the smiley faces mostly.
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Comment #2 posted by Dankhank on September 24, 2007 at 11:13:32 PT
unspinning positions on the Iraq war ... to be a good thing, this chart ...
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on September 24, 2007 at 09:15:37 PT
Spinning a Failed War on Drugs
By Bruce MirkenMonday, September 24, 2007
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