One Doctor’s Answer to the Beer Summit
Saturday, September 5, 2009
When a white cop handcuffed a black professor outside his own home we had a beer summit in the name of better race relations. That summit addressed the number one social problem in this country since 1619 (the date the first African slaves were sold in the U.S.).
I’m calling for a marijuana summit. This summit will benefit the health of millions, while saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
The federal government must concur with what we the people already know. In the Obama Transition Team’s own online poll, respondents overwhelmingly selected legalizing marijuana as our country’s number one priority. This May, even a Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative O’Leary Report found 52 percent of American voters in favor and only 37 percent opposed to legalizing (and taxing) marijuana.
I call on Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to have a frank discussion with doctors and researchers on medical cannabis and the efficacy of various routes of administration. Sadly, Kerlikowske seems to be using the same illogic as his predecessors in the drug office. He recently cited a University of Washington treatment program as the information source for his position that cannabis is bad stuff. Why? Because people who had a choice between treatment and going to jail chose treatment. Duh. I am disappointed in Kerlikowske. I expect more from a former Seattle police chief and Obama appointee.
The chief administrative law judge of the Food and Drug Administration, in a 1988 decision, found that cannabis is one of the safest therapeutic agents known to man. The FDA in 2005 said that liquid marijuana (Sativex) is safe enough to test on humans, cancer patients in fact. The government needs to look at the types of cancers that cannabis has been shown to treat. Chief Kerlikowske has said he wants to hear from the doctors on this.
When he does he’ll find that we have a national organization, the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine (AACM), which will give him the real dope on the medical utility of cannabis. We can tell him of the benefits that our patients have received. I have incredible, compelling stories. There is the 85-year-old ex-Marine cancer survivor who was dying from starvation and used cannabis as an appetite stimulant and mood elevator. The 26-year-old hemiplegic woman with intractable epilepsy that was well controlled by cannabis. The Vietnam vet who got surgery to remove shrapnel, due to intractable seizures, and as a result of the surgery got double vision and headaches. Cannabis allows him to productively participate in civic affairs. And the examples go on and on, including paraplegics with intractable pain, patients successfully treated for gastrophoresis , post-traumatic stress disorder, cyclic vomiting syndrome. I’ll tell him about the productive lives of my patients. They include the principal of a high school, the mayor of a small city, a deputy sheriff, an assistant DA, a counselor at a drug treatment program, a very famous movie director, and lots of people with everyday jobs in construction, medicine, education—contractors, developers, doctors, nurses, professors.
Kerlikowske has tried to mitigate his earlier statements by saying he only meant smoked marijuana. He was recently quoted as saying that “the FDA has not determined that smoked marijuana has a value, and this is clearly a medical question that should be answered by the medical community.” Speaking as the vice president of the AACM, let me assure the drug czar that cannabis is medicine whether smoked, vaporized, sprayed sublingually, dropped sublingually, drunk in beverages, made into tea, eaten, or used topically.
Kerlikowske is wise to say he will listen to the doctors. If he had a medical background I don’t believe he would say it’s okay to have intractable seizures, excruciating migraines, phantom limb pain, or to suffer with the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, or to die of malnutrition. Like thousands of American physicians, he would see the medical efficacy of cannabis. I have literally hundreds of patients with those conditions and a thousand more with chronic pain, cancer, and failed back syndrome who have benefited from the medicinal use of cannabis, smoked or otherwise.
The drug czar is on a listening tour. Let’s give him an earful. It is not marijuana that is dangerous, but the laws that restrict research on it and make it difficult for people to use it therapeutically. That is real risky. We need to get the federal government out of the way, to honor the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution limiting the federal government’s authority, and to affirm that the 1925 Linder decision—recognizing the right of states to regulate the practice of medicine—still means something. It is time for the drug czar to listen to America. It is time for the marijuana summit.
David Bearman, M.D., physician, founder of the Isla Vista Medical Clinic, former Goleta Water District boardmember, and current Goleta West Sanitary District boardmember.