Weed Wars Still High On The Agenda

Weed Wars Still High On The Agenda
Posted by CN Staff on November 29, 2007 at 10:51:04 PT
By Angela Bacca, Staff Writer 
Source: Xpress Online
San Francisco, CA -- "This culture is so afraid of pleasure, of hedonism," said Claire Burch, an 82-year-old filmmaker and author from Berkeley. She has been working to promote the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use through her documentary work.Burch, along with other marijuana advocates and users, promotes marijuana as a natural and healthy alternative to costly and sometimes dangerous prescription medications.
“Marijuana is not going to turn your kids into bums who don’t do their homework,” Burch said. Patients facing depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, chronic pain, and other ailments in California have chosen to defy orders by the federal government and use marijuana as an alternative to taking legal medications that are habit forming or have too many side effects. Despite federal laws prohibiting marijuana usage, medically or otherwise, some Bay Area patients and SF State students continue to use marijuana medically and recreationally. “I'm old, but I am still here," said Burch, who credits marijuana with not only helping her cope with pain but also improving her overall quality of life. She added that whether the drug is used medically or recreationally, the government’s war on drugs is inherently wrong.“I have ran into a lot of people who could have used marijuana if it were legal,” she said.Burch recently released a documentary titled, “The California Chronicles of Medical Marijuana,” which follows the work of her friends and other associations in California that have worked to defend medical patients and the rights they believe they deserve. When asked if she has ever faced opposition from law enforcement for her work, she said that a police officer once said to her, “If you get mugged in a dark alley lady, don’t call us.” In the opening scene of “Chronicles” is a speech about the federal war on drugs given by “Brownie Mary,” who gained notoriety in San Francisco in the 1980s for baking marijuana brownies and taking MUNI around the city to distribute them to AIDS patients. “The federal government be damned!” she yelled in the speech. “This war on marijuana is bullshit!”California was the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for medical use. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana supersede state laws allowing it.Under the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Raich in June of 2005, the federal government ruled that California’s Proposition 215, which allowed the use of medical marijuana, was unconstitutional. The court referred to the constitution’s “commerce clause,” writing that the medical marijuana industry violates federal laws regulating the sale of drugs. Burch’s documentary addresses the federal raids that ensued after the ruling on growers and distributors in the Bay Area. “The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has no representation in the constitution,” said Casey, an international relations major who declined to state his last name. He said that he has been smoking marijuana recreationally for seven years, and that he smokes marijuana on campus. According to Sgt. Renee Wilson with SF State University Police, students who possess a medical marijuana card are still not allowed to use medical marijuana on campus. “It’s ridiculous. The government should not have that much control over our lives,” Casey said. He admits, however, that smoking marijuana regularly can make him forgetful and unmotivated. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the potent chemical in marijuana (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC”) works in the brain by binding with natural receptors called “cannabinoid” receptors. NIDA states that the short-term effects of marijuana include distorted perception, difficulty thinking, problem solving, loss of coordination and increased heart rate. The long-term effects of marijuana are similar to the effects on the body and brain from other addictive drugs. Discontinuing use of marijuana has strong withdrawal symptoms. Although Casey admits that smoking marijuana causes him to become unmotivated, he said he still feels it has healing qualities. Although he does not have a medical marijuana card, he uses it to help with nausea, headaches and hangovers. “I’m very disappointed that of all college campuses in the country, SF State does not have a single drug policy reform student organization on campus,” said Raphael, a card-carrying patient, activist, and student who also declined to state his last name.Raphael said that marijuana is essential to his health and well-being. He uses marijuana to combat glaucoma and anxiety. He was prescribed eye drops that he said were painful to use and had side effects he would rather avoid. For Raphael and other patients, the side effects of marijuana are insignificant and feel it is the clear natural alternative to their prescribed medications. Rev. Randi Webster, who has been a marijuana patient since 1980, has arthritis, cardiovascular disease and is missing cartilage in her knees. She says that her doctors had prescribed her codeine to cope with the pain, which spiraled into a serious addiction. “I was jones’n it,” she said. She began taking diet pills to balance the effects of the codeine, furthering her addiction. “I was over-the-counter speedballing,” she said. Now Webster only uses cannabis to treat her problems and works with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to help educate and reform the public on medical marijuana. According to Joe Connolly, the Treasurer of Americans for Safe Access (AFSA) in San Francisco, Californians continue to defy federal law openly and through legislation to uphold not only their personal views on the drug but also the state’s stance on it. “We have here what is called the ‘lowest priority law,’” he said. “That means if a cop sees a guy using hard drugs sitting next to a guy smoking weed, he will arrest the drug user…and to the guy smoking weed, he’ll say ‘that sure smells good’.”Newshawk: fight_4_freedom Source: Xpress Online (CA)Author: Angela Bacca, Staff WriterPublished: November 29, 2007Copyright: 2007 Xpress Online Contact: abacca Website: Medical Marijuana Archives
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