Plans Underway for National Medical Marijuana Day

Summer 1994 Vol. 05, No. 1 Politics and Protocols: In Search of a Balance

Download this article.

Take note, National Medical Marijuana Day is November 15, 1994. The objectives for this day are to communicate the message that the U.S. government should stop and listen to what a growing number of citizens are saying: medical marijuana is an issue that deserves attention. Under the umbrella organizations of the Emergency Coalition for Medical Cannabis and Cannabis Action Network, a range of efforts are being planned both in Washington, D.C. and all around the country.

The slogan that rallies ECMC is "stop arresting sick people!" This cry for compassion will culminate with a civil disobedience event in Washington, D.C. designed to turn heads and open hearts. Patients with legal access to marijuana for medicine (there are only 8 such people in the U.S.) will smoke side by side with patients who do not benefit from the remnants of the Compassionate Investigative New Drug (IND) program, which was abruptly halted in 1992 and which the Clinton Administration has refused to reopen. An excellent Medical Marijuana Background Packet (90 pgs) has been compiled by the organizers of ECMC.

Under the banner "Plant the Seeds of Healing," the Cannabis Action Network (CAN) has declared a six-month grassroots lobby campaign to make marijuana immediately available for medical use. The projects include registering voters, getting postcards to the White House, and organizing local events to synchronize with the demonstrations in the Capitol. So far this summer, CAN has collected 100,000 postcards destined for the the president’s mailbox! For the purpose of training citizen-lobbyists, CAN is planning a day- long session at Harvestfest in Madison, Winsconsin on October 2.

MAPS is trying to inform the efforts of these two umbrella organizations with updates on the status of FDA-sanctioned research with marijuana. One objective of this medical marijuana initiative is to raise money for research to study both the benefits of marijuana and the risks involved with its use. Dr. Donald Abrams’ UC-San Francisco study comparing the effectiveness of smoked marijuana v. the oral THC capsule in enhancing appetite and promoting weight gain in patients suffering from the HIV-related wasting syndrome is the first step. Should the study support the anecdotal reports about marijuana’s usefulness, an expansion of this study will be undertaken in order to establish a solid body of research to submit to the FDA in support of marijuana’s prescription use. Controlled studies for other indications (glaucoma, spasticity, arthritic pain, etc.) are also possible.

It is important to remember that a crucial aspect of research is to study the risks involved with the inhalation of marijuana, and to learn how to minimize them so as to protect the health of those in need of marjuana’s healing properties. MAPS’ water pipe/vaporizer filtration study has already been fully funded, with results expected in six months.

Should the public come out strongly in favor of research, the government agencies under whose jurisdiction medical research falls will hopefully get the message and start supporting these much needed yet expensive studies. Please consider attending a National Medical Marijuana Day event on November 15, and show support for this crucial agenda!

Efforts to educate the press (and thus the public) about the facts in all their complexity are growing. Parade magazine, the most widely distributed magazine in America, featured a front page story about marijuana on June 12. On July 31, Parade announced that a telephone call-in poll of its readers found that 89% supported the medical use of marijuana, and over %75 supported legalizing marijuana. When someone smirks that medicinal marijuana is just a front for a well-financed pro-drug culture lobby, they are trying to dodge the issue of medical marijuana. Though some of the main people and organizations supporting the medical use of marijuana do support marijuana’s legalization, the medical use of marijuana is a separate issue to be judged on its own merits.

When people insist that marijuana smoke is harmful, they deserve to hear some facts about harm reduction. When they dismiss the plant and say there’s a "pot pill" (Marinol), the truth about the comparative benefits of smoked marijuana vs. oral THC needs to be explained. It is up to each and every one of us to arm ourselves with honest information and let our voices be heard.

Organizers for media events, benefit concerts, rallies, and teach-ins who haven’t yet started planning with a local group are urged to contact either Cannabis Action Network (CAN) at 2560 Bancroft Way #46, Berkeley, CA 94704, phone: (510) 486-8083, or NORML/ECMC at 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 1010, Washington, DC 20036, phone: (202) 483-5500.

If you want to get directly involved in this issue, being a local organizer would be an excellent way to do so. A starter package for local organizers is available for $25 from Cannabis Action Network. It contains information about how to organize a local event, background information about the issue, a video, and a copy of Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine by Dr. Lester Grinspoon. The Medical Marijuana Background Packet is available from ECMC/NORML for $15. These materials are rich in resources for people who want to be successful advocates.

Get ready to put aside other agendas for the day, to concentrate on the medical applications of marijuana! This will be an opportunity to come together to educate people about this plant, and find common ground with those who might not support legalization but who can understand the importance of marijuana as a medicine.