Iowa Board Backs Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Source The Iowa Pharmacy Board voted unanimously Wednesday (Feb. 17) to recommend the Legislature legalize marijuana for medical use in Iowa.

In a 6-0 vote Wednesday, the board also called for lawmakers to change the classification of marijuana to a Schedule II drug.  Such drugs have the potential for abuse but also have accepted medical uses.

The board’s action makes it the first in the nation to take such a stance on marijuana.

There are now 14 states in which medical marijuana is legal.

The board originally rejected the idea out of hand, but a judge ordered the board to take a closer look.

After several public input meetings (read testimonies here) held around Iowa, the board met to make its final recommendation. Some board members said earlier in the day that they were not convinced of the arguments supporting legalization, but the final vote was 6-0 in favor of recommending legalization.

The recommendation could lead to doctors in Iowa being able to prescribe marijuana to some patients.

Board members said they don’t expect the Legislature to take immediate action during a shortened session that likely will end by late March.

From the Des Moines Register:

Iowa pharmacy board opens door for medical marijuana

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously this afternoon to recommend legislators reclassify marijuana in a way that could open the door to medical uses.

The board recommended that legislators reclassify the drug from Schedule I, for which there are no permitted uses, to Schedule II, which could allow medical uses.

The board also recommended the state set up a broad task force, including patients, medical professionals and law enforcement officers, to come up with a way to safely implement a medical marijuana program.

Marijuana proponents cheered after the vote was taken, but they acknowledged that hurdles remain before the drug could become available to patients.

“This is a big thing. This is momentum,” said Carl Olsen, one of the measure’s main Iowa proponents. He said he didn’t expect legislators to consider the matter until next year’s legislative session.

The vote came after a morning of discussion in which the six board members appeared split on whether medical marijuana would be a good idea.

Vice Chairwoman Susan Frey, a Villisca pharmacist, said marijuana clearly has benefits for some patients. But she said current pharmaceutical medications based on marijuana offer the same benefits. She raised the specter of problems in California and other states that have let people smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes. “I think without adequate controls, we would have mayhem,” she said.

Board Chairman Vernon Benjamin, a Fort Madison pharmacist, said he doesn’t believe marijuana is more likely to cause addiction than alcohol or prescription narcotics can. He also said the attraction of marijuana to young people probably is enhanced by the fact that it’s illegal.

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released this week found that 64 percent of Iowans support allowing patients to use marijuana if their doctors approve.
The Pharmacy Board previously expressed reservations about medical marijuana. But proponents sued, and a judge ruled last year that the board had to consider the matter.

The board last fall held a series of hearings around the state, at which most speakers spoke in favor of medical marijuana.

Board staff members noted a decades-old section of Iowa law giving the board authority to set up rules allowing medical uses of marijuana. But several board members said they thought the Legislature or a broad advisory panel should decide the matter.

Medical marijuana bills in the Legislature are considered dead for the year, but proponents hope the pharmacy board’s vote will give the issue momentum next year.

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll released this week found that 64 percent of Iowans support allowing patients to use marijuana if their doctors approve.

From Radio Iowa:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is recommending state lawmakers reclassify marijuana for medical use. With one member absent, six members of the board voted unanimously to ask legislators to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule One drug, for which there are no permitted uses, to a Schedule Two drug, which allows for medical uses.

Board chair Vernon Benjamin, a pharmacist from Fort Madison, says declaring marijuana legal for medical purposes may help researchers determine the healing effects of the drug.

“It’ll change it into an acceptable medical use so that places that do need to do the research on it are going to have the capability of getting the product and not feeling like they’re going to be breaking the law,” Benjamin said. The Pharmacy Board is asking the legislature to create a task force — that would include patients, medical professionals and law enforcement officers — to come up with a way to safely put in place a medical marijuana program.

Today’s decision follows a series of four public hearings last fall. Around 90% of the people who spoke at those public hearing or sent emails to the Pharmacy Board said they support medical marijuana. Benjamin says that testimony was convincing. “We’re just saying that the medical and scientific evidence that was put forth in those meetings and all the literature we received…that there was a basis for changing the drug so that further research could go on,” Benjamin said.

It’s unlikely the legislature will take action this session. The medical marijuana bills introduced this year died in committee.


The Government conspiracy to prevent medical marijuana research

(Source: Stop the Drug War)  It’s impossible to rank in order of severity the numerous lies that have long formed the foundation of the federal government’s position on medical marijuana. But one of the most calculated and audacious deceptions deployed in this debate is certainly the manufactured myth that insufficient evidence exists to demonstrate the drug’s medical efficacy.

That’s why this NYT article should be required reading for anyone in the habit of expressing opinions on the scientific merits of medical marijuana.

“Marijuana is the only major drug for which the federal government controls the only legal research supply and for which the government requires a special scientific review.

But federal officials have repeatedly failed to act on marijuana research requests in a timely manner or have denied them, according to a 2007 ruling by an administrative law judge at the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

What an impressively cynical and corrupt political strategy it is to literally block research while simultaneously citing the absence of said research as an excuse for prohibition. The whole situation is so maliciously dishonest that it’s disturbing to think how many government agencies were complicit in manufacturing it.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana’s enemies condemn state-level reforms by reflexively insisting that the ballot box is not the place to formulate health policy. Our response is pretty straightforward:

“The more it becomes clear to people that the federal government is blocking these studies, the more people are willing to defect by using politics instead of science to legalize medicinal uses at the state level,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of a nonprofit group dedicated to researching psychedelics for medical uses.

We did what we had to do, and it reflects well on the American public that this issue has been so well understood despite a massive federal conspiracy to make it confusing.

Cops Are Not Doctors, Pot Should Not Be a “Last Resort”

(Source: Drug Justice)  As Los Angeles grapples with the uncontrolled proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries, drug warriors continue to rely on the laughably weak argument that “just anyone” can get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana, and that the majority of medical users “just want to get high.”

Here are some good talking points to use when you hear this garbage:

1. Cops are not doctors. Practically every news report I can find about marijuana dispensaries quotes some dim-bulb prosecutor or cop (yes, there is another kind) making a comment like, “Everyone I see coming out of the dispensary looks young and healthy.” For examples, look here, here, and here. Yes, the journalist will often qualify the statement with an “according to” or an “Officer Smith claims,” but why are these quotes even being included in the first place? What makes journalists think their readers  need to hear the medical opinion of a drug cop with no education? I mean, the last “drug interdiction specialist” that pulled me over became a cop after his career as a long-haul trucker didn’t work out. He actually told me that.

It’s already bad enough that we take some of society’s least developed minds, screen out the ones with high IQs, teach them to take pleasure in the suffering of others, and give them guns and the authority to ruin good people’s lives. Now we have reporters turning to them for medical opinions?

2. Insomnia is a serious illness. Anyone who scoffs at medical marijuana patients who cite chronic insomnia as their malady has obviously never gone for months (or even days) at a time without rejuvenating sleep. As someone who suffered from insomnia for 25 years, I speak from personal experience. Night after night I laid awake, angry that tomorrow would be another miserable, heavy-eyed, day. The only nights of sleep I got were the result of total exhaustion from several preceding nights of agony. I would watch the clock obsessively, knowing that if I wasn’t asleep by a certain time, there would be no hope.  I tried to cure it with variations in my schedule and habits. I tried prescription sleep aids, which, as anyone who uses them knows, provide low-quality sleep and leave the user feeling lethargic during the day. I also tried melatonin and tryptophan supplements to no avail.

Lack of sleep very directly causes low productivity, depression, mental fatigue, and lots of other excruciating conditions that drug warriors would probably consider “minor” (see #1). Insomnia must be dealt with, but since prohibitionists fancy themselves medical experts, they will quickly retort that there is no need to treat it with cannabis because there are many legal medications available.

Let me share a list of some side effects of mirtazapine, one of the “approved” drugs I tried (source: suicidal thoughts, hypertension, hypotension, anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, hostility or aggressiveness, engaging in unusual or dangerous activities, restlessness, inability to sit still, extreme elation that may switch back and forth with a depressed or sad mood, other unusual changes in behavior, hallucinations, fast heart rate, chest palpitations, difficulty sleeping, sore throat, fever, infection, unexplained rash, hives, itching, unexplained swelling, wheezing, difficulty breathing or swallowing, dry mouth, increased appetite, high cholesterol, constipation, weight gain, weakness, dizziness, high triglycerides, fever, chills, abnormal dreams, abnormal thinking, tremors, muscle pain, frequent urination, confusion, back pain, fluid retention, sensitivity to the sun, migraine headaches, canker sores, hypothyroidism, weight loss, urinary tract infections, seizures, hiccups, asthma, hair loss, loss of sex drive, impotence, ejaculation problems.

This list is incomplete. It doesn’t mention the brutal electric shock sensations I would get randomly throughout the day and the fact that every fifth night or so, I could not sleep because I had an agonizing sensation that my knee and elbow joints were locked up and an urge to dislocate my limbs. Oh, and if I wanted to get out of bed before 2:00pm, herculean effort was required.

During that 25 years, I suffered from an even worse illness: ignorance. A total buy-in to D.A.R.E. generation government anti-drug propaganda. I naively believed that government had my best interest at heart and that cops were there to protect me. Worse, I believed that only “bad” people became associated with marijuana.

3. Cannabis doesn’t need FDA approval because it’s not a drug. Invariably, drug warriors will scream that cannabis cannot be a safe and effective medication because it has not undergone the “rigorous” FDA screening process. Let’s put aside the fact that it’s actually the ONDCP and the DEA, not cannabis’ lack of merit, that prevent this from happening, and consider the implication: the government doesn’t care whether something actually makes you healthier – only whether it has determined that something makes you healthier.

Of course, the real culprit is the fact that anyone can grow pot and the FDA exists to serve the pharmaceutical industry. An FDA endorsement of cannabis will only happen if big drug companies find a way to monopolize the market. We don’t need Pfizer to make cannabis for us, and that’s downright scary if you’re Pfizer and word gets out that cannabis can replace a bunch of your products.

We already know that the commission President Nixon hired to discredit marijuana returned the opposite result, recommending that prohibition end. I mean, Nixon hired this commission specifically to legitimize his propaganda and it still couldn’t find a reason to ban the herb. Despite access to sound science on the subject, Nixon could not bear to see those dope-smoking hippies protesting his war on Vietnam. With this knowledge publicly available, why does anyone trust the government’s position on anything? Think about it. Government is the original source of everything anti-marijuana in today’s culture, and we know that the government spat in the face of scientific evidence to bolster today’s federal drug policy. We don’t need to look to that same government for “approval” of the things we put in our bodies. You know, the one that approved a hair loss drug that shrinks users’ genitalia.

4. When neighbors complain that dispensaries attract “unsavory characters” to their neighborhoods, they’re actually talking about young males. Let’s face it. There is no way to convince your average “community member” that gets quoted in the local media that being a 20-something male – maybe with long hair, tattoos, or even, God forbid, corn rows – does not make a person a criminal. I won’t go into too much detail about the underlying racial implications of these oblivious statements.

I wonder if anyone who complains about dispensaries ever bothers to count the number of liquor stores in the area or within [arbitrary number] feet of a school, church, McDonald’s playground, or residence. I wonder if they would change their minds and support full legalization if they were informed that the crime associated with cannabis is caused by its high price, which is caused by prohibition.  I wouldn’t hold my breath on that. D.A.R.E.-induced ignorance is a very serious illness that is difficult to overcome. Ironically, medical marijuana really helps with that.


“Obama entrapped me” – medical marijuana provider mounts a novel criminal defense

Originally published 12.22.09

Barack Obama asked Americans to take a stand. Now a California pot provider is putting the candidate’s rhetoric on the stand.

Obama entrapped me

(Photo by David Rolland)

(Source: San Diego City Beat)  More than most citizens, James Dean Stacy feels betrayed by the candidate for whom he voted for president.

Up and down the campaign trail, from Los Angeles to Medford, Ore., then-Sen. Barack Obama and his spokespeople pledged that he would end the aggressive raids by the U.S. Department of Justice of medical-marijuana dispensaries operating legally under state law. The candidate said it was a waste of resources that would be better dedicated to fighting terrorism and prosecuting violent crime. Obama said he didn’t see any meaningful difference between marijuana and prescriptions such as morphine and that providers should be protected, excepting those who blatantly use medical-cannabis laws as a shield for otherwise dubious drug trafficking.


When he assumed office, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder echoed the sentiments during several meet-the-new-DOJ appearances in California and New Mexico—“You will be surprised to know that the Justice Department will be acting in a manner consistent with what [the president] said during the campaign”—and, in October, Holder formalized the policy in a set of guidelines distributed to U.S. Attorney offices.

Stacy opened the medical-marijuana collective, Movement in Action, in the space adjacent to his martial-arts dojo in Vista in June 2009 after Holder made the verbal commitment but before he put it in writing.

“I’m the most follow-the-rules kind of guy around, so I thought I was the perfect guy to do it,” Stacy tells CityBeat. “When the collective was open, I’d have days where we’d turn away as many as 10 people who didn’t have the proper paperwork.”

In a Dec. 10 court motion, Stacy says he did the due diligence: He researched the prosecutorial policies articulated by Holder, hired a lawyer to walk him through the process and corresponded with the California Secretary of State’s (SOS) office on how to file for “public benefit” status, the technical term for a California nonprofit. The SOS even provided him with a copy of the state Attorney General’s guidelines for running a collective. Unlike many of the other collectives where the San Diego Regional Narcotics Task Force ran stings, Stacy opted for a low-profile model because, he says, “I didn’t want people who didn’t need to know to have it in their face.”

Stacy told undercover officers that they could provide labor to the collective in exchange for medicine and invited them to a “farmers market,” where patients could buy directly from growers—practices he felt were in keeping with the spirit of the California AG’s guidelines. Nevertheless, on Sept. 9, after four months in operation, he was arrested after his collective and 13 others were raided.

Now, Stacy is one of only two collective operators who have been charged in federal court as a result of the raids. He faces one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, one count of manufacturing marijuana and one count of possession of a firearm while committing the other crimes—a handgun was found in the locker where he kept the collective’s supply.

The other federal defendant, Joseph Nunes of Green Kross Collective, pleaded guilty to his charges earlier this month. Stacy, however, says he’s not giving in to the prosecution.

“I quote my wife: ‘I’m not going to let you plead guilty to something you didn’t do,’” says Stacy, who uses marijuana to treat pain from martial-arts injuries and to relieve the nausea he’s suffered since losing his gall bladder. “They threatened life-imprisonment at both of my bail hearings…. This is nothing but a terrorist attack against the medical-marijuana community.”

Instead, Stacy is mounting a novel defense: The statements by Obama and Holder constitute entrapment by estoppel, defined as when an official tells someone that something is legal, then busts them for it. Put plainly, Stacy would not have formed the collective if the government hadn’t assured legal collectives that they wouldn’t be prosecuted.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not comment on pending cases, and Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman whose pro-medical-marijuana statements were directly cited in the court filing, did not respond to inquiries.

The entrapment defense draws from a “fundamental notion of fairness: The individual must have fair warning of what conduct the government intends to punish,” Stacy’s attorney, Kasha Castillo of Federal Defenders of San Diego, writes in the recent motion. Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz has agreed to hear the motion—which includes a request that the case be dismissed or, alternately, Stacy be allowed to present the entrapment defense in court—on Feb. 3.

When CityBeat first posted a summary of the motion on its blog,, and linked it from the Huffington Post, some commentators wrote it off as a gratuitous and foolish attempt to claim that a candidate’s campaign promises are as good as laws passed by Congress. However, defense attorneys say it isn’t just a novel approach; rather, it’s a potential groundbreaking solution to a longstanding paradox in federal medical-marijuana cases.

San Diego County Deputy Public Defender Juliana Humphrey explains that, historically, medical-marijuana patients and caregivers have been barred from saying they were acting in good-faith under California law because it has not been considered a legitimate defense under federal law.

“Most of the time, the common thought is that trial defendants are getting some kind of advantage because everything is sterilized for the defendant’s benefit,” says Humphrey, who chaired the city of San Diego’s Medical Cannabis Task Force in 2002. “But in this case, it completely keeps from the jury the truth of the motivation of the person that possesses or provides the marijuana for the benefit of the government.”

Last month, a San Diego jury in state Superior Court acquitted Jovan Jackson, the coordinator of Answerdam Alternative Care, of all marijuana-related charges; the foreman told the press following the verdict that California’s laws are too vague to determine whether Jackson’s collective wasn’t in compliance.

Jackson’s trial lawyer, K. Lance Rogers of Turner Law Group, cautions that each case’s circumstance are different—not to mention each jury—and that Jackson’s verdict doesn’t indicate how the federal court will rule on Stacy’s motion. Plus, unlike in Jackson’s case, when the prosecution had to prove he committed the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden will be on the defense during the hearing to show that Stacy was within the law.

“The issues and the challenges that will ultimately come up with Mr. Stacy’s hearing are all of the same issues that came up in Jovan’s case,” Rogers says. “It’s not enough to say, ‘I knew about this information before I set up my collective.’ In my opinion, he needs to show some evidence that he knew the government’s public advisory.”

Stacy’s testimony may be enough, Rogers says, but his communication with the Secretary of State’s Corporations Division and the fact he hired a lawyer to advise him may prove the most compelling.

More than the entrapment defense, Rogers is interested in another argument Stacy’s attorney makes: The federal government violated the 10th Amendment protection of states’ rights by enlisting San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies to enforce a federal law that contradicts state law.

“The federal government can’t commandeer state law enforcement to implement federal policies, and the keyword is ‘commandeering,’” Rogers says. “This is a fundamental principle of federalism and American jurisprudence. That’s a fascinating argument that has not been decided to my knowledge.”

Until it is decided, Stacy is keeping his nose (and his pipe) clean. He believes he has the right to continue using marijuana for medical purposes but has switched to Marinol, a synthetic THC pill, until the court gives him explicit permission at his next bail hearing.

“I did not, I do not and I will not break the law,” Stacy says.

Write to and

Writer’s Note: In the fourth paragraph of this story, I initially wrote that the Movement in Action collective had been in operation for five months when US Attorney General Eric Holder released formal medical-marijuana guidelines. While there was five months between the collective’s formation (June 2009) and the guidelines announcement (October 2009), MIA ceased operation in September after it was raided and its operator, James Dean Stacy, arrested. Therefore, the collective was only in operation for a total of four months. The story has been amended.


Marijuana could alleviate symptoms of PTSD

An Israeli study finds that the cannabinoids in cannabis provide anxiety relief, could affect emotional memory and may enhance PTSD treatments.


Photo courtesy of Yossi Zamir/Flash90
In pill or drug form, cannabis could be used alongside exposure therapy to stymie the effect of trauma.

(Source)  Back in the early Sixties when the Flower Children were getting high, parents in the US government were consulting Prof. Raphael Mechoulam from Israel about the effects of pot smoking on their teens. Mechoulam, an organic chemist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was the first to isolate the psychotropic element THC in the cannabis plant. He dubbed its active chemical components ‘cannabinoids.’

Ever since his discovery, the medical community has recognized and lauded the importance of cannabinoids in alleviating chronic pain and nausea in cancer patients and modulating the symptoms of HIV/AIDS. A new study, this time at Israel’s University of Haifa, has found a reason to legalize the use of cannabinoids, assuming that its benefits outweigh the potential risks.

According to the study by Dr. Irit Akirav from the Department of Psychology at Haifa University, cannabinoids may relieve the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a debilitating disorder that strikes 10 to 30 percent of people who suffer from a traumatic event such as war, a car accident, rape or a terrorist attack.

In her study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Akirav used an animal model and a synthetic form of marijuana that didn’t induce psychotropic effects, to measure the compound’s efficacy at reducing the effects of PTSD.

Relieves stress in rats

In the first part of the study, Akirav and her students examined how long it took rats to recover from the trauma of electric shock without the drug. Some of the traumatized rats were exposed to a series of procedures intended to stress them even further, while another group of rats was exposed to both stress and trauma but also received a dose of cannabinoids directly to the brain – into the amygdala region. The amygdala is known to be connected to emotional memory, which is linked to PTSD.

Researchers concluded that rats that received the drug experienced hormonal changes and consequently their brains didn’t release an increase of the stress hormone that the body normally produces as a reaction to stress. People with PTSD are found to have abnormal levels of this stress hormone.

“The results of our research should encourage psychiatric investigation into the use of cannabinoids in post-traumatic stress patients,” Akirav, who hopes that if enough animal studies are conducted in this area, sufficient evidence will be provided to convince clinicians to initiate trials on humans, tells ISRAEL21c.

There is already talk in Israel about conducting clinical trials on soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces to investigate the effects of cannabinoids on PTSD, but Akirav says she will continue to work at present with animals. She believes that in the case of PTSD, the cannabinoids, which seem to be a perfect fit to cure many disorders and diseases in our bodies, have an effect on emotional memory.

Weighing risks and benefits

“In the case of people with PTSD, it could be a good solution to take marijuana, but we still don’t know the possible negative effects of the drug,” she cautions. “For PTSD sufferers, where their situation is terrible, something like marijuana has other effects – an effect on anxiety, and we are trying to pinpoint brain areas that are involved.”

But more than providing anxiety relief, cannabinoids could affect emotional memory and enhance PTSD treatments by modulating the emotional memory component, she argues. Akirav believes that in pill or drug form they could be used in combination with exposure therapy to stymie the effect of a trauma. And since cannabinoids are already widely used and in some cases prescribed as cancer therapies, they could potentially pass through regulatory hurdles quickly as a drug to treat PTSD.

“As opposed to other drugs, one wouldn’t need to adjust it, because people use it already as a chronic therapy for HIV and it helps them,” she says. However, she concludes, in the case of PTSD, more extensive studies are still needed to ensure that the benefits of taking cannabinoids would outweigh the risks.