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February 2005



More on the Bush Wead tapes

Be sure to check out Joe Conason’s take on the tapes.

…The Texas politician couldn’t reassure his friend that he hadn’t used cocaine, let alone marijuana, but as governor he was imprisoning young men and women unlucky enough to be arrested in possession of those narcotics, often for draconian mandatory-minimum sentences. He always cherished his […]

Medical Marijuana roundup

While I’ve been pretty wrapped up in the Illinois medical marijuana effort, it’s important to note that some other efforts are ongoing around the country… “bullet” D’Alliance shares a nice editorial about Senate Bill 795 in New Mexico, and also reports on how it did in committee:

Our medical marijuana bill unanimously passed the Senate […]

Wead smokes Bush

[Thanks to Casey for the inspiration, and thanks to Roger Ailes for the headline.]

A lot has been made today of the revelation of tapes of George W. Bush prior to becoming president, secretly recorded by Doug Wead, a former Assemblies of God minister who was acquainted with the President. Personally, I don’t think it’s so much a case of startlingly frank admissions secretly recorded, as it is an indication that strategies had already been discussed and established for the George Bush presidency.
First, I don’t think anyone seriously doubts (or has doubted) that Bush used marijuana and coke along with his early alcohol “youthful indiscretions,” so the marijuana admission is not big news, but what is interesting is the notion of establishing an approach where “truth” is considered improper.
Check out the recording as reported in the NY Times:

Mr. Bush, who has acknowledged a drinking problem years ago, told Mr. Wead on the tapes that he could withstand scrutiny of his past. He said it involved nothing more than “just, you know, wild behavior.” He worried, though, that allegations of cocaine use would surface in the campaign, and he blamed his opponents for stirring rumors. “If nobody shows up, there’s no story,” he told Mr. Wead, “and if somebody shows up, it is going to be made up.” But when Mr. Wead said that Mr. Bush had in the past publicly denied using cocaine, Mr. Bush replied, “I haven’t denied anything.”

He refused to answer reporters’ questions about his past behavior, he said, even though it might cost him the election. Defending his approach, Mr. Bush said: “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”

He mocked Vice President Al Gore for acknowledging marijuana use. “Baby boomers have got to grow up and say, yeah, I may have done drugs, but instead of admitting it, say to kids, don’t do them,” he said

Now check out a drug policy approach that was promoted by Bush’s drug czar a couple of years later:


Don’t Worry If It’s A Lie, Parents Told

Note to boomer parents: It’s OK to lie to your children about your youthful drug use, the federal drug czar said Thursday in New Orleans.

“They’re your kids, not your confessors,” said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.æ “Don’t treat them like your peers.æ Treat them like your children.” [emphasis added]

Sound familiar?
The Drug Czar’s specific guidance received very little positive press, so it was quickly dropped (the current line is “It’s not your father’s marijuana”), but the notion of avoiding “truth” as an approach has been a hallmark of the national drug policy under Bush.
Update: Good discussion in the comments regarding the key issue here. MSNBC contacted me Monday about appearing to talk about this blog entry, but the segment got cancelled at the last minute. So close… However, they seemed interested in a possible future appearance. I’d love to get in a good debate on the drug war.

Welcome Libertarians

I had a great time speaking before the 2005 Libertarian Party of Illinois convention this afternoon. Thanks for your warm reception and welcome to the new visitors to my blog. Come back regularly — the site is always changing. For first-time visitors, here’s a few stories you may want to check out — some based […]

Compassionate medicine?

Despite the real risk of heart damage and death from drugs such as Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx…

…federal advisers, after three days of meetings last week, said the drugs offer enough benefits to let a patient and his doctor decide on their use…

The advisers from the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee, oddly […]

Irvin Rosenfeld and the Compassionate IND — Medical Marijuana Proof and Government Lies

Irv Rosenfeld’s appearance at the Illinois medical marijuana hearings has drawn quite a bit of attention and interest. People have been asking me questions about him and the program, so I thought I’d go into more detail.
But first… Steve at decrimwatch was also at the hearings yesterday and provides a fabulous perspective on the detention of Irv Rosenfeld.

“The government does give marijuana to patients. I’m living proof,” he told reportersæduring a press conference. “I’m also living proof that it works well. I’m also living proof that the government doesn’t want to know how well it works. If they want to do research, all they have to do is contact me.”

He brought a tin can full of marijuana cigarettes that he picks up at his pharmacy each month and showed them to a room full of astonished state legislators during the hearing. Shortly after his presentation, he found himself surrounded by four burly state security officers…. [read the rest]

You see, Irv Rosenfeld is one of a small group of patients who actually gets medical marijuana legally from the federal government — yep, that same federal government that sends storm troopers to arrest California patients doing the same thing. He is part of the Compassionate IND (Investigational New Drug) program and gets about 300 marijuana cigarettes in a metal tin prescribed to last 25 days.
He was a real hit at the Illinois House Committee hearing yesterday. The press was particularly fascinated by the notion that someone could be legally carrying around a tin of marijuana in the State Capital. (seen here examining Irv’s tin and supporting letters)

And no surprise. It’s not common knowledge. The federal government doesn’t want people to know. They don’t deny the existence of the program, but they sure avoid talking about it.
How did Irv become a federal medical marijuana patient?
It all started in 1976 in a fascinating case…

U.S. v. Randall
In 1976, a Washington, D.C. man afflicted by glaucoma employed the little-used Common Law doctrine of necessity to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation. On November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled Randall’s use of marijuana constituted a “medical necessity.” In part, Judge Washington ruled:

While blindness was shown by competent medical testimony to be the otherwise inevitable result of defendant’s disease, no adverse effects from the smoking of marijuana have been demonstrated…. Medical evidence suggests that the medical prohibition is not well-founded.

Judge Washington dismissed criminal charges against Randall. Concurrent with this judicial determination, federal agencies responding to a May, 1976 petition filed by Randall, began providing this patient with licit, FDA-approved access to government supplies of medical marijuana. Randall was the first American to receive marijuana for the treatment of a medical disorder.

Randall chose not to be silent about his victory, and started organizing others, which led to:

Randall v. U.S.
In 1978, federal agencies, disquieted by Randall’s outspoken opposition to the medical prohibition, sought to silence him by disrupting his legal access to marijuana.
In response, Randall, represented pro bono publico by the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson, brought suit against FDA, DEA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health, Education & Welfare.
Twenty-four hours after the suit was filed, federal agencies requested an out-of-court settlement. The resulting settlement provided Randall with prescriptive access to marijuana through a federal pharmacy located near his home.
The settlement in Randall v. U.S. became the legal basis for FDA’s Compassionate IND program. Initially, this program was limited to patients afflicted by marijuana-responsive disorders and some orphan drugs. In the mid-1980’s however, the Compassionate IND concept was expanded to include HIV-positive people seeking legal access to drugs which had not yet received final FDA marketing approval.

Irv Rosenfeld met Randall, who convinced him to go after the same legal arrangement, which he successfully did (around 1983). Irv has a rare degenerative bone disease called multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, a painful bone disease.
More patients joined the Compassionate IND program, but in the 1980s, it looked like it would grow significantly because of AIDS. So The George H.W. Bush administration shut it down in 1991.
Again, from

The Compassionate IND program was closed because too many people were asking for access to medical marijuana supplies. In order for marijuana to be classified as a prohibited Schedule I drug it must not have “accepted medical use in treatment” in the United States. The federal government knew that hundreds of approved Compassionate INDs would quickly undermine that criteria and marijuana would have to be rescheduled. Rather than respond in an honest and open way, the federal government closed the Compassionate IND program for marijuana.

The existing patients were grandfathered in because it would require public and embarrassing court cases to deny them medicine at this point. The AIDS patients in the program died (this was prior to the AIDS cocktails that could prolong life). And finally, Randall died, making Irv Rosenfeld now the oldest living legal federal marijuana patient.
Seven are alive, two of which remain anonymous.
They continue to get their marijuana on a fairly regular basis. They have to work with a pharmacy that’s been approved by NIDA and that has a secure safe. Then usually a five month supply is shipped at once, and the patient is informed so they can pick it up. The marijuana is grown on a farm at the University of Mississippi, mostly from seeds of Mexican origin, rolled and packaged at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina under the supervision of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Irv’s current supply was grown in 1997, and frozen until needed. It’s low grade marijuana with very low levels of THC, which explains the large amount that must be smoked to serve the medical purposes.
The patients have no other contact with the federal government. There’s no ID card or official paperwork — only some decades-old letters and phone numbers of the pharmacy and an old DEA friend that keep him out of trouble when he’s detained (as he was yesterday).
Irv gets animated and almost angry when he talks about the federal government’s complete and utter lack interest in him over the past 22 years that they’ve been supplying him with 10-12 joints a day.
He notes that they’ve had a perfect opportunity to do a full scale study on long-term controlled use of medical marijuana, and they aren’t interested. They don’t even want to know. All the talk about not having sufficient evidence, about not having controlled scientific studies. Total crap.
“Go ahead, study me!” he exclaimed.
So some of the patients got involved in their own study (excerpts from the study by Ethan Russo, MD are available at CannabisMD). They received MRI scans of the brain, pulmonary function tests, chest x-ray, neuropsychological tests, hormone and immunological assays, electroencephalography (brain wave recording), P300 testing, history, and neurological clinical examination. The results? Other than their original condition for which they were taking marijuana, there was nothing wrong with them. No significant adverse affects from smoking 10-12 joints a day. Irv even had 108% lung capacity. That’s after smoking marijuana for over 30 years, 22 years for the federal government. That’s over 80,000 federal marijuana cigarettes.
This is medical marijuana, the drug that the federal government declares to be too dangerous to be used as medicine, and yet that they supply to 7 patients every month.
Irv Rosenfeld is grateful that he gets his medicine, but finds it extremely unfair that others cannot, so he feels that it’s his responsibility to help spread the word. He was riveting on the Montel show, and was a hit yesterday at the hearing. He single-handedly made numerous people in the room realize how much of a liar the drug czar is (although unfortunately that was not enough, as the Drug Czar carries significant political clout).
Irv’s a real dynamo. He’s a successful stockbroker working in a fast-paced industry while smoking marijuana every day. He’s an outstanding public speaker, and the entire room is drawn to him. He’s a terrific asset to the medical marijuana movement — not only as a good speaker, but because in the end, when the drug warriors claim that medical marijuana is dangerous, Irv stands in front of them proudly and strongly and demands:

“Explain me!”

The truth about medical marijuana:
In the end, it’s really quite simple. Here’s what you say to those who would deny medical marijuana.

When they say there’s no proof that it works, ask them to explain that directly to a medical marijuana patient.
When they say that marijuana is dangerous, ask them to explain Irv Rosenfeld.
When they say they’re worried about the message that’s sent to children, ask them to explain the fact that in states that have passed medical marijuana, recreational use by teens has dropped.
And finally, ask them: “Why do you want to throw sick people in jail for following the advice of their doctor?”

Speaking engagement

This Sunday, I’ll be speaking on the drug war to the 2005 Libertarian Party of Illinois Convention. It’s a particularly great honor, since their only other guest speaker is U.S. Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik.

Quick Takes

“bullet” Via TalkLeft and NORML — a bad drugged driving bill passes in Ohio that will punish sober drivers who smoked pot weeks ago. “bullet” An interesting interview with Marijuana Policy Project’s Rob Kampia at the Drug War Chronicle. [thanks, Scott] “bullet” Drug Policy Alliance has a brief report on Mark Souder’s anti-harm-reduction hearing on […]

Illinois Marijuana Lectures still in violation

Since I now know that those responsible for the Illinois Marijuana Lectures website read Drug WarRant… And since you’ve had the time to add material to the site today talking about the hearing in Springfield… And since you won’t even put contact information on your website… Note: Removing the improper use of the GLATTC logo […]

They brought out the big guns!

Drug Czar John Walters descended on the Illinois Legislature this morning to argue against Illinois’ medical marijuana bill in the Human Services Committee hearing.
It was a bit of a circus with about 120 in the audience with only 100 chairs — mostly supporters of the bill, but also such opponents as Judy Kreamer of Educating Voices and an entourage that she brought (including kids). The end result was unfortunately a 4-7 vote against moving the bill out of committee. We’ve got more work to do, but Illinois is definitely going to have a medical marijuana bill eventually.
Of course, there was tons of misrepresentation and some outright lying. There were also some incredible moments and testimony.
Here’s my report, giving an overview and selective moments (I got better pictures of the proponents because they were at the press conference afterward.)
John Walters: Walters started out by invoking Lincoln, no less, in an outrageous effort to cover the fact that he was invading Illinois. He talked about Lincoln’s statements about the importance of following the law and that failing to follow the law would be destruction from within — an offensive statement that implied that Illinois’ law would be a destruction of law.
He then said he was not here to “improperly influence legislation.” Right.
He talked the usual stuff — standards of efficacy and safety, always using the words “smoked marijuana,” essentially denying the existence of other methods of ingestion. He used his standard “well, crack cocaine would probably make you feel better, too” line, and inferred that medical marijuana supporters were trying to “fool [patients] into alleviating their problems” with marijuana. He talked about the IOM study from his perspective without mentioning the other parts. He mentioned Marinol.
Then he used his traditional big guns. He said that marijuana is the drug that most suffers from ignorance about it, mentioned that “it’s not your father’s marijuana.” Then the big lie. “More teenagers are seeking treatment for marijuana use than any other drug.” That is a complete fabrication. The teenagers are not seeking treatment — they’re being referred there by criminal justice and schools and such.
Anyway, he went on for about 45 minutes, along with answering some questions from committee members. One response that struck me, is that he was talking about all the new drugs that are being developed all the time that negate the need for medical marijuana, including some new derivatives of opium! Instead of marijuana, use opium???
Rep. Connie Howard came out with a strong statement in support of the bill, talking about the need to do something to deal with the pain, and brought up the point about Vioxx being approved by the FDA and causing deaths, so why was Walters talking about the only way to go being through the government process?
Representative Mary Flowers took Walters to task for his Lincoln quote, noting that he is addressing the body responsible for crafting the law and making the best possible laws and that process shouldn’t be considered a destruction of the law. Rep. Flowers also talked about the fact that many things can be abused — sugar, alcohol, etc. She mentioned that lots of people cannot take aspirin or other drugs, where marijuana might help, but with marijuana you have the danger of going to jail. She asked “How do you ask us to allow a dying person to suffer when there is another way that can be medically controlled?” “Can’t we carve out certain exceptions for medical use for certain people?”
Peter Bensinger: There was a momentary distraction during the Drug Czar’s presentation when Peter Bensinger’s cell phone went off. Peter Bensinger? Yes, the former head of the DEA was also there to testify, a doddering white haired old fool, who repeats himself and spouts absolute nonsense, including the “fact” that the bill that allows 12 marijuana plants and 2 1/2 ounces would somehow allow someone to have or produce 280,000 joints! I didn’t take many notes during his presentation (which was at the end) except “What a tool!”
Here he is, sitting next to Judy Kreamer, who seemed not only to be a close personal friend, but also to be there to make sure he didn’t drool.
Proponents of the Bill
By the time The Drug Czar was done, he had taken up so much time that the proponents were told to rush through their presentations. This made the following segments a bit disjointed.
Representative McKeon: Representative McKeon, who sponsored the bill mostly deferred to the other speakers, but jumped in now and then to focus on a point, and did a pretty good job in the press conference afterward.
Dr. Bruce Doblin: Dr. Doblin gave a good informational presentation, although a bit dry as he read from his paper. He mentioned that he works with hospice patients and that 50-70% of cancer patients do not receive sufficient pain medication. He also mentioned that studies from around the world supported medical marijuana (he specifically talked about the IOM study and the report from the New England Journal of Medicine).
Dr. Edward Lack: A Chicagoland area physician who has worked with 300,000 citizens, including 1,000 patients with cancer (very personable man). In 2002 he was diagnosed with cancer himself. He noted that one of the biggest problems that cancer sufferers face is the fact that chemotherapy is so horrible, that many of them don’t continue with the treatment that could save their lives. And yet marijuana makes it bearable. He noted that he could get marijuana easily from his son in college if he wished, but why should he have to do it that way. “Why are people so afraid of this plant that they would deny me relief?” “Do not put the fears of an ambivalent society on the backs of sick people.” He was asked a number of questions about details in the bill and replied that his job was to help the sick, and that it’s the legislators’ jobs to craft the bill.
Julie Falco: Wonderful testimony from a woman with multiple sclerosis who takes her marijuana cooked in brownies. She talked in detail about how it helped with her stiffness, pain, and even the excessive sensory stimulation that is part of MS. For more about her, read Steve Young’s excellent article in the Reader.

Julie Falco’s breaking the law, and she doesn’t care who knows it.æ Every morning, Falco isn’t ashamed to say, she eats a small marijuana brownie to deal with the effects of multiple sclerosis.æ

Every couple of weeks she bakes a new pan of brownies, each pan containing about 14 grams ( half an ounce ) of marijuana.æ According to Illinois law, possessing 10 to 30 grams of pot is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.æ The law doesn’t make any distinctions for medical marijuana use.æ

Irvin Rosenfeld: This is the Ft. Lauderdale, FL stock broker who is one of the remaining 7 patients in the federal government’s compassionate marijuana program. (He appeared on Montel a while back.) He’s a dynamo, and it’s very impressive to see him show off his legal marijuana shipped to him by the federal government in tins — enough for 10-12 marijuana cigarettes a day. He talked about the fact that the government has specifically NOT been interested in studying him or the other 7 — that they don’t really care about the truth.
Very strong points – outstanding testifier. And the press really loved this guy and everyone was impressed by seeing the can full of marijuana cigarettes in the state capital. However, two State Capital police were unimpressed and detained Irv after the hearing until he could convince them (he had them call the DEA) that his marijuana was legal. Representative McKeon was livid over his treatment.
Matt Atwood: Finally, Matt Atwood testified, and he was there to provide the nuts and bolts and deal with the specifics of the bill, but unfortunately by this time nobody was listening, and he was being hurried through it, so he got a couple of good details out, but not enough.
Representative McKeon made it very clear at the press conference that happened at noon (the opponents didn’t stick around for it) — medical marijuana is not going away and it will be passed. Several of the Representatives who voted “no” did so while stating that they are sympathetic with the overall viewpoint, but merely disagreed with language or implementation. So there’s plenty of reason to hope. He also mentioned how impressed he was that the federal government was scared enough to send a cabinet official (drug czar) at taxpayer expense all the way to Illinois for a mere House hearing.
Walters’ appearance did appear a bit last minute. I kind of wondered — did my take-down of Andrea Barthwell make her damaged goods (she wasn’t there and was being kept up to speed by cell phone)? Maybe they had to call up the Czar at the last minute to come on down? That’s probably all it would take. After all, these people have this nice little incestuous network.
When Judy Kreamer of Educating Voices left the building, I overheard her remark that she hoped her car hadn’t been towed or ticketed. “Oh well,” she said, “if it is, I’ll just call John Walters — get an intercession.”