Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Medical Marijuana: The Voters Have Spoken

The stories are heartbreaking. Young mothers fighting to survive the ravages of breast cancer and the nausea of chemotherapy; seniors struggling with the tremors of Multiple Sclerosis. Illness has touched all of our lives in one form or another. Whether it is cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, or even Alzheimer’s, we have all seen people live in pain. I am not talking about minor “ouchies”–this is chronic pain: debilitating headaches, inability to eat, swallow–pain that makes the one suffering just want to curl up in a ball and die.

Doctors have an arsenal of drugs to try to help those patients, medications like OxyContin, Vicodin, Valium, and Morphine–powerful drugs that come with serious side effects like addiction. These drugs often don’t even work to erase the pain, leaving the patients in a hazed out prescription cloud.

As a society, we have all become very well versed in caring for our bodies. Eat healthy, exercise, watch your red meat, a glass of red wine is okay, as is dark chocolate. We’ve even become more open to alternative medicine such as acupuncture or homeopathic remedies, which are now are seen as real options. But not, it seems, when it comes to the use of medical cannabis – otherwise known as therapeutic marijuana.

Why do people have so much trouble with therapeutic cannabis? Many people see their mission in life is closing down cooperative after cooperative, collective after collective, and dispensary after dispensary. What’s worse, these people are our community leaders–elected officials, city councils, small town mayors. It’s mind-boggling, frankly.

California voters spoke in 1996 when they approved Proposition 215 allowing for therapeutic use of cannabis. The people have spoken, and yet their voices go unheard. The political nonsense doesn’t even end there. The government itself has acknowledged the benefits of therapeutic cannabis. Yep. None other than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took out a patent based on research done by the National Institute on Health. Patent number 6,630,507 states unequivocally that cannabinoids are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including auto-immune disorders, stroke, trauma, Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, HIV dementia.

So, the voters have voted and the government has acknowledged that patients can get relief and yet the courts are clogged with the day-in, day-out state/federal war over this issue. Give me a break. Isn’t there a better project for a city or county to worry about than therapeutic cannabis? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting every farmacy is legit. But how about some standards, regulation, or at least some recognition for the people that do play by the rules?

A better example of the rub and constant governmental shut down than a case in the little city of Temecula in Riverside County. Despite the California law enactment in 1996, and an additional Senate amendment passed in 2004, Temecula unilaterally decided to ban dispensaries in the city of Temecula in 2006. Per the report that was done at the time, city staff members justified their ban by saying that there is nothing in state law that requires Temecula to allow dispensaries within its boundaries.

Doug Lanphere, tireless advocate, and the force behind Cooperative Patients’ Services, or CPS, in Temecula, is insistent on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. He has carefully studied all of the Department of Justice requirements and prides himself on CPS’s undisputed class act collective. He is happy to oblige in insuring patients can be treated, and the city’s concerns dealt with. He has voluntarily submitted himself to various law enforcement agencies to walk through, and approve the collective, as well as offered time and time again to meet with city officials, and police representatives in order to work together in the mutual interest of serving their community.

Colleen is a member of Doug’s cooperative and she is what keeps him awake at night–trying to figure out how to keep his doors open despite legal attack after legal attack by the city of Temecula. For Colleen, and every other suffering patient, I say give them the choice to do what the California legislature allows. Let them have access to the therapeutic cannabis. If it can help, who are we to remove that chance for some relief, and perhaps even some quality of life.

CPS has an important function in Riverside County. Unlike Los Angeles, San Francisco or other areas known for “lax” drug rules, Temecula serves a small desert community where many people move to the dry heat specifically to assist in their health matters. Patients like Colleen, a nurse, who has found cannabis the only way to beat back the agony of her ruptured spinal discs. From her morphine haze she called cannabis the only treatment that gave her some sense of quality of life, something opiates could not.

So I ask you; isn’t time to listen to the voters and let those who are ill be comforted with the therapy that works?

To stay up on CPS and therapeutic cannabis follow on Twitter at @coop420cps

photo credits: Goodnight London and harminder dhesi photography


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. However the opposing view is valid too - that it's very easy to get a prescription for medical marijuana even if you technically don't qualify and thus abuse the system. I myself know a few people who suddenly developed a "mysterious chronic back-pain" to get into a program.

The real solution would be to simply re-classify marijuana to the same level as alcohol and stop wasting government resources on a fight that benefits nobody and serves no purpose.

Anonymous said...

The voters have spoken? Didn't Proposition 19 fail? Second, Temecula is not a small desert community where many people move to the dry heat specifically to assist in their health matters. That's like saying Agoura is a desert community or that everyone in the Inland Empire uses methamphetamine. Third, If a city wants to create zoning restrictions that is completely different than law enforcement shutting down a facility. Zoning restrictions are just as legal as the laws allowing for medical marijuana. Finally, without commenting on any specific dispensaries, don't assume that just because law enforcement shuts a place down, it is without cause. Not all dispensaries comply with the law. Many people are running these places for profit. Law enforcement has a duty to enforce the laws. While medical marijuana should be available to those who need it, the medical marijuana laws should not serve as a means of conducting illegal sales of marijuana under the guise of a dispensary, collective, or other designation.

A Voice of Sanity said...

"Why do people have so much trouble with therapeutic cannabis?"

It's hard not to conclude that Americans hate each other and that this is another club they use to beat each other up with. I'm sure many will disagree.

Guantes DE Nitrilo said...

Nice article, really we have to consider these matter and make sure they should be under control.