Change We Can Smoke?
February 11, 2009
By FRED GARDNER
The day after it was written here that California cannabis producers and distributors would have to live in fearful confusion until the new President’s new Attorney General appointed a new DEA Administrator, the White House provided reassurance that the incoming DEA head would implement a hands-off policy. As reported by the Washington Times, Feb. 5: “The White House said it expects [DEA] raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers. ‘The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,’ White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said…”
In a related development, the “final” DEA decision issued in the case of Craker v. DEA might not be final after all. Craker is the UMass-Amherst botany professor who applied in 2001 for a DEA application to grow marijuana for use by FDA-approved medical researchers. After a three-and-a-half-year runaround he was turned down on the grounds that the nation’s one licensed grower, Mahmoud ElSohly of the University of Mississippi, was meeting all the researchers’ needs. Craker appealed and after a few more years won -in the opinion of the Administrative Law Judge who heard the case- but after another year-plus of “review,” as the Bush gang was exiting stage right, an interim acting DEA Administrator, Michele Leonhart, issued a “final” rejection of Craker’s application.
Craker, with legal help from the ACLU and Julie Carpenter of Jenner & Block (working pro bono), filed a “motion to reconsider” that could extend the life of the case until Obama appointees are giving orders at DEA. Caren Woodson of Americans for Safe Access convinced Rep. John Oliver (D-MA, whose district includes Amherst) and 15 co-signers to send a letter urging AG Holder to grant the motion to reconsider. Leonhart, perhaps sensing a shift in the political winds, then gave Craker’s lawyers additional time (till March 11) to file a response to the “final” ruling.
The best-case scenario, according to Craker’s longtime backer Rick Doblin, would be that in response to political pressure, “DEA decides to reverse its final ruling and give Craker the license, before April 1 when the current Final Ruling becomes effective.” Worst case? “We fail to gather sufficient political pressure and we end up having to sue DEA in the DC Court of Appeals, which could take years, cost lots of money, and give the Obama Administration a reason to do nothing until the litigation is completed… Unless there is a political decision to let research take place, we could bounce back and forth between DEA and the Court of Appeals for Obama’s entire first term.”
Doblin adds, “I’d say the worst case is more likely, but that our odds for the best case are improving. It’s encouraging that the White House has put out the statement about Obama wanting the DEA raids in California to stop… DEA is on the defensive and needs a new strategy.”
The news about the raids brought a huge, collective sigh of relief from medical cannabis growers and dispensary operators in California, but the Prohibitionists, i.e., Big Pharma, will not fold. Expect a reactionary move by the medical establishment in the name of “practice standards.” Doctors who learned nothing about cannabis in medical school and who have abjured and opposed its use throughout their careers will draft “guidelines” telling the clinicians who have monitored cannabis use by hundreds of thousands of patients how to do it properly. Or my name isn’t Cassandra Jones.
How Safe Are Your ‘Nads?
The March 15 issue of Cancer will include a study suggesting that marijuana use might increase the risk of testicular cancer. The journal released the study, “Association of Marijuana Use and the Incidence of Testicular Germ Cell Tumors,” by Janet Daling, et al, to the media Feb. 9.
“Marijuana Testicular Cancer Link” was the BBC News streamer. Could you devise a headline better suited to dissuade young men from smoking? The BBC story ended with a perspective-restoring comment from Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK: “As the researchers themselves point out, this is the first inkling that there is any association between chronic marijuana use and testicular cancer. But the researchers only interviewed a relatively small number of men . So before we can reach any firm conclusions about whether this is a cause-and-effect relationship, rather than a statistical blip, the result needs to be replicated in a much larger study.”
C Notes asked California cannabis clinicians if they were seeing an inordinate number of testicular cancer patients. First to respond was Terrill Brown, MD, of Fresno: “2,750 patients, one only with history of testicular CA, smoked after diagnosis, with very rare recreational exposure before mid-20’s diagnosis.”
This from Robert Sullivan, MD, of Carmichael: “I’ve seen a few patients among the 5-6,000 new patients over the past five years with a history of testicular cancer (usually already treated), but have not kept records according to diagnosis. Anecdotally, I’ve observed nothing to rouse my suspicion of a causal relationship. Naturally, formal research needs to be done here.”
Dr. Sullivan notes that “given the Drug War propaganda about the adverse effect of cannabis on sperm count, it might be good to allay fears by mentioning that the observed drop is not statistically (or functionally) significant.”
And this from Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD, of Sebastopol, ” Though I’m skeptical of the design, it raises questions that should be studied. As usual ‘bad’ news about cannabis travels much better than the good… In my recent run through my stats I found four testicular cancer patients out of 126 malignancies in a patient population of 1700.”
Another Reason to Boycott Kellogg’s
Michael Phelps’s world-famous bong hit prompted the Kellogg Corporation to cancel his endorsement deal. Several marijuana reform groups promptly announced a boycott of Kellogg’s. Their calls for inaction focused narrowly on Phelps being a victim of the drug war. Typical was this line from a group called DRCNet:
“Our criticism of Kellogg’s… is that they are effectively supporting a drug war that victimizes thousands of people every day. Michael Phelps’ private substance use choices should be his business and his alone, and the same goes for everyone else. If the government chooses to persecute drug users, that doesn’t mean that Kellogg’s… should go along with the hysteria.”
Right on, right on, right on… But would it be too far “off-issue” to also publicize Kellogg’s purchase of salmonella-laced peanut butter and paste from the corrupt Peanut Corp. of America? Products that Kellogg’s has had to recall include Austin and Keebler brand Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, and some Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies.
The two “issues” overlap. The other day I happened to be in an East Bay dispensary when a pastry chef delivered 100 items filled with cannabis-infused peanut butter. The dispensary operator questioned the vendor about the source of the peanut butter. (It was good old organic Adams.) We have reached the point where some entrepreneurs in the medical cannabis industry are enforcing stricter safety standards than the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration!
Tighter Controls on Pain Specialists
Gardiner Harris of the New York Times understands the magnitude of Big Pharma’s perfidy, so the assertion he made Feb. 10 was startling: “Most of the drugs withdrawn over the last 20 years… were taken off the market because doctors c
ontinued to use the medicines in ways that the F.D.A. warned against.” I thought most of them had been withdrawn because they turned out to be f—in’ toxic, and have asked Harris to support his generalization.
The article in which he made it -“FDA to Place New Limits on Prescriptions of Narcotics”- described a program to monitor and control doctors who prescribe Schedule 2 drugs. The program director, Dr. John Jenkins, says its goal is “to ensure that physicians prescribing these products are properly trained in their safe use, and that only those physicians are prescribing those products.” All those in favor of moving cannabis to Schedule 2 say “Uyh.”
Fred Gardner can be reached at plebesite.com
This online political newsletter examines the possibilities around the DEA/Craker lawsuit and what the courts and Obama Administration might do. MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD discusses the best and worst scenarios for the political and legal outcomes.