cannabisnews.com: Medicinal Marijuana on Trial





Medicinal Marijuana on Trial
Posted by CN Staff on March 28, 2005 at 16:45:07 PT
By Dan Hurley
Source: New York Times
Medical marijuana is now legal in 11 states, and bills to legalize it are pending in at least 7 more. The drug is also at the heart of a case being considered by the United States Supreme Court. Yet there remains much confusion over whether marijuana in fact has any significant medical effect.
"People subjectively report benefits," said Dr. Joseph I. Sirven, an epilepsy specialist and associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Ariz. "There's a whole Internet literature suggesting what a wonderful thing it is. But the reality is, we don't know."In an editorial last year in the journal Neurology, Dr. Sirven pointed out that the best studies of marijuana's effects on humans have so far shown little objective evidence of benefit in patients with epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. And a growing body of research indicates that, at least in teenagers, heavy marijuana use over a period of years significantly increases the risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia. In the Supreme Court case, two California residents, Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson, brought a suit against federal officials in October 2002 to defend their use of marijuana after six of Ms. Monson's marijuana plants were seized and destroyed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The federal government, which considers marijuana illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Court of Appeals ruling that supported the two women. Oral arguments were heard just after Thanksgiving, and a ruling could come any day. Ms. Raich's physician, Dr. Frank Henry Lucido of Berkeley, Calif., asserted in an affidavit that Ms. Raich risked death if she was denied the marijuana to treat nausea, anorexia, severe chronic pain and other disorders brought on by a variety of illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma and an inoperable brain tumor. On a Web site created on her behalf, www.angeljustice.org, Ms. Raich says she joined the lawsuit "in order to save my life." While little scientific evidence supports such a lifesaving role for marijuana, many studies have found modest benefits in patients' subjective measures of pain, sleep, nausea, appetite, tremors and muscle spasms. "There's nothing better for nerve pain than marijuana," said Phillip Alden, 41, a writer in Redwood City, Calif. Twice a month, he spends about $200 to buy a half ounce of high-potency marijuana from one of San Francisco's medical marijuana buyers' clubs.He smokes it three or more times a day to treat pain from a back injury, and to improve his appetite and reduce nausea associated with AIDS and the antiviral drugs he takes for it. It has even checked the progression of his peripheral neuropathy, he said. Two recent surveys, also published in Neurology, have documented widespread use of marijuana among Canadian patients and a widespread belief in its benefits.The first survey, of 220 patients with multiple sclerosis, found that 36 percent had used marijuana to treat their symptoms, and that 14 percent were using it at the time of the survey. The second survey, of 136 patients attending the University of Alberta Epilepsy Clinic, found that 21 percent had used marijuana in the previous year. Just over two-thirds of the active users said it decreased the severity of their seizures and slightly more than half reported a decreased frequency of seizures. But the lead author of the epilepsy study said it proved only that some patients believed in marijuana, not that it or its active ingredients, called cannabinoids, actually worked."There's not been a randomized, controlled trial demonstrating that marijuana or any cannabinoid is any more effective in controlled seizures than a placebo," said Dr. Donald W. Gross, director of the University of Alberta's adult epilepsy program.Although doctors may now prescribe marijuana in Canada for certain disorders, including epilepsy, Dr. Gross said he had never done so. "It's terribly complicated from a physician's standpoint, and somewhat frustrating," he said. "We have a product that has been legitimized without any evidence of efficacy."A large body of research in test tubes and animals supports the view that cannabinoids have anticonvulsive properties. But while a 2003 study of 657 patients with M.S. published in the journal Lancet found significant improvements in subjective reports of muscle spasms and pain, it found no improvement by objective measures after 15 weeks. A follow-up report on the same group of patients did show modest benefit after 12 months, but the researchers said that the results should be interpreted cautiously, because the study had been intended to test only short-term benefits. Dr. David Baker, a professor at the Institute of Neurology in London, has found beneficial effects of cannabinoids in mice who have an artificially induced type of multiple sclerosis. But, he said, "Showing clinical benefit in humans has been an elusive beast." "At best there is a narrow therapeutic effect before the side effects become unacceptable for many people," he said. " What is clear is that there have been no dramatic improvements overall." Dr. Kenneth P. Mackie, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Washington, has devoted 15 years to studying the brain's response to cannabinoids through specialized brain receptors called CB1 and CB2. "There's a whole bunch of theoretical reasons suggesting there would be a benefit for marijuana on a variety of conditions relating to pain and neuroinflammation," Dr. Mackie said. "But the clinical studies just aren't there."Far stronger evidence exists for a harmful effect of marijuana in teenagers who use it early and often. "We know that cannabis is a contributory cause of schizophrenia," said Dr. Robin M. Murray, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and the co-editor of a new book, "Marijuana and Madness: Psychiatry and Neurobiology." In a 2002 study published in the British medical journal BMJ, Dr. Murray reported that New Zealand teenagers who started smoking marijuana before age 15 and continued doing so on a daily basis raised their risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia from about 2 percent to as much as 10 percent. The study, he said, ruled out the possibility that the teenagers who used marijuana were also those who were more likely to develop schizophrenia, whether or not they used the drug. Still, "You have to take a lot to go psychotic," Dr. Murray said. "But with five joints a day for five years, an amount that is increasingly common in Europe, you're seriously increasing your risk of schizophrenia." He added that even so, the risk dropped sharply as people aged, so that most chronically ill people who used marijuana for medical purposes were unlikely to experience psychosis as a result. Research in the United States has been greatly hampered by legal restrictions.In 1997, Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist and assistant director of the Positive Health Program at the University of California at San Francisco, became the first doctor authorized by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to receive marijuana to conduct research to determine if it provided medical benefits.Now more than a dozen California researchers are studying it under the auspices of the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. "Cannabis has a 5,000-year history of medical use," Dr. Abrams said. He said he had completed three studies in patients with H.I.V. that showed no negative effects on their immune systems or on the functioning of the protease inhibitor drugs they were taking. He is now trying to show that marijuana has a beneficial effect on immune functioning, he said.The patients were brought into the hospital to smoke marijuana under medical supervision. Source: New York Times (NY)Author:  Dan HurleyPublished: March 29, 2005Copyright: 2005 The New York Times Company Contact: letters nytimes.com Website: http://www.nytimes.com/ Related Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft Newshttp://freedomtoexhale.com/raich.htmI Really Consider Cannabis My Miraclehttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread20078.shtmlMedical Marijuana vs. The War on Drugs http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread19932.shtml 
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Comment #20 posted by Max Flowers on March 29, 2005 at 22:32:33 PT
AOLBites
Didn't you hear? It's a Patriot Act thing... the cops now raid the house across the street from houses they bust, and check the toilets for drugs...Har har, just kidding, the guy with the pot in the toilet was the grower, who evidently lived there but rented the house across the street to grow in. Not too smart, and he obviously wasn't too smart about AC power either. Got a great laugh out of your reaction though! That was funny.
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Comment #19 posted by AOLBites on March 29, 2005 at 18:53:48 PT
wha?
what were they doing in the toilet of the guy across the street?
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Comment #18 posted by gloovins on March 29, 2005 at 17:21:49 PT
bummer man
Tuesday, March 29, 2005Burning house was filled with marijuana plantsBy Jane Prendergast
Enquirer staff writerPolice say a house on Madison Road was being used as a marijuana farm. The grow lights apparently caused a fire.MADISONVILLE - An Easter fire led police to find more than 100 pounds of marijuana, with some plants described as the size of Christmas trees.When firefighters responded Sunday to a house in the 5000 block of Madison Road, they discovered the fire was caused by a pot-growing operation that filled the entire vacant house, officers said.Members of District 2's Violent Crimes Squad found 110 pounds of marijuana, almost all of which came from a dozen large plants and almost 90 smaller ones, Officer Tom Rackley said. They also found another pound that was processed and ready for sale, he said.Officers arrested John Tytus, 38, who lived across the street from the house. In his house, they found some marijuana in the toilet they say he apparently tried to flush.Tytus was charged with cultivation of marijuana and trafficking in marijuana - both first-degree felonies because of the quantity. He also was charged with drug possession. Police also found some cocaine.Tytus was released from jail Monday after someone posted 10 percent of his $3,000 bond.Officers said the larger plants were heavy enough that it took two officers to carry them.Two officers to carry them???!! This sucks - hope them fiefighters stayed away & didn't get "accidentally medicated" ;)
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Comment #17 posted by unkat27 on March 29, 2005 at 16:59:34 PT
Hypocrites Deny the Truth
 "There's a whole Internet literature suggesting what a wonderful thing it is. But the reality is, we don't know." Duh? Millions of people can testify that cannabis has positive health effects and these idiots 'just don't know' ? Give me a friggin break. This is just another example of big pig hypocrites selfishly protecting their own interests by promoting complete denial of the truth. Give me a friggin break.
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on March 29, 2005 at 13:09:40 PT
Related Article from Join Together
High Court Case Puts Spotlight on Medical Marijuana Claims March 29, 2005 
 
 
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on a pivotal medical-marijuana case, experts say that hard evidence about medical use of the drug remains elusive, the New York Times reported March 29."People subjectively report benefits," said Joseph I. Sirven of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, who last year published an editorial on medical marijuana in the journal Neurology. "There's a whole Internet literature suggesting what a wonderful thing it is. But the reality is, we don't know." Eleven states have legalized medical marijuana use. The Supreme Court case pits two California medical-marijuana users against the federal government, which seized and destroyed their drug supply in 2002 despite a California medical-marijuana law. The government is appealing a Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the women.Some studies have shown that marijuana modestly benefits pain patients. And the drug has many vocal supporters. "There's nothing better for nerve pain than marijuana," said Phillip Alden, 41, a writer and AIDS patient in Redwood City, Calif., who spends $400 monthly at a medical-marijuana buyers' club to dull the pain from a back injury and spark his appetiteMedical use of marijuana is fairly common: a study in Neurology, for example, found that 36 percent of multiple-sclerosis patients in Canada had used to drug to treat their symptoms. Another survey, of epilepsy patients, also found widespread use of medical pot. Canadian doctors are legally permitted to prescribe marijuana for epilepsy and other disorders. But Donald W. Gross, director of the University of Alberta's adult epilepsy program, says he has not done so. "There's not been a randomized, controlled trial demonstrating that marijuana or any cannabinoid is any more effective in controlled seizures than a placebo," said Gross. "It's terribly complicated from a physician's standpoint, and somewhat frustrating. We have a product that has been legitimized without any evidence of efficacy." Kenneth P. Mackie, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Washington, adds: "There's a whole bunch of theoretical reasons suggesting there would be a benefit for marijuana on a variety of conditions relating to pain and neuroinflammation. But the clinical studies just aren't there." The dearth of research is partly due to legal restrictions, at least in the U.S. The first medical-marijuana study in the U.S. didn't get under way until 1997. http://www.jointogether.org/sa/news/summaries/reader/0%2C1854%2C576557%2C00.html
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on March 29, 2005 at 12:47:48 PT
BGreen
I know I sure missed EJ too.
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Comment #14 posted by BGreen on March 29, 2005 at 12:36:43 PT
It's good to see you back, E_Johnson
You were missed and many here were worried about your extended absence.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #13 posted by PainWithNoInsurance on March 29, 2005 at 12:20:32 PT
How Low can it go
If the Supreme Court doesn't side with the sick and dying here, I would look for an order from congress to appoint a special committee to look into the value of used walkers, wheel chairs, and other seized items they could make money on from the sick and dying.
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Comment #12 posted by E_Johnson on March 29, 2005 at 12:19:37 PT
Daniel Okrent in the NYT public editor
Here's his web page, go for it.http://www.nytimes.com/top/opinion/thepubliceditor/index.html
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Comment #11 posted by E_Johnson on March 29, 2005 at 12:18:15 PT
Write to public nytimes.com
The Public Editor is the person to complain to when the NY Times once again gets its facts substantially wrong or shows bias or profound lack of will to investigate an important story as thoroughly as the story deserves.
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Comment #10 posted by runderwo on March 29, 2005 at 10:21:12 PT
There's one thing to remember
about the proposed cannabis->mental illness link. The hypothesis is that cannabis use increases the risk (and therefore the incidence in a population) of mental illness. In small studies, this hypothesis has been supported as long as you consider people's self-diagnoses to be accurate. But the real question is, while something like 75% of ages 20-25 in the UK have used cannabis, why isn't there an epidemic of mental illness following that trend?To me, that suggests there is something wrong with the research, not that we are going to have a tidal wave of cannabis-invoked mental illness in young people crashing down any moment. Usually along with this research is mentioned "new potent strains" of cannabis. Well, in the UK, hashish has been around for at least 50 years, so I don't see what the big deal is.The research that points to a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia is much more convincing to me. Cannabis is implicated as a huge risk factor here, but clearly people develop schizophrenia without the influence of cannabis, so it is only one of many risk factors that could trigger the illness in these people.So to me, this is just scare scare scare. I won't deny that it is possible for anyone to "freak" under the influence of cannabis, and certainly many first time users do so. But like the claim "Cannabis impairs your short term memory", there is a missing qualification: the effects disappear when the user is no longer high! To me, that suggests only that people should be careful when trying a mind altering substance they are not familiar with (hey, how about alcohol?), and not that users should be put in jail.
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Comment #9 posted by Druid on March 29, 2005 at 09:11:48 PT:
Focus Alert #305
NEW YORK TIMES CRITICIZES MEDICAL CANNABISPLEASE COPY AND DISTRIBUTEDrugSense FOCUS Alert #305 - Tuesday, 29 March 2005Today's New York Times includes an article titled "Medicinal Marijuana on Trial" by Dan Hurley. Please read it here:http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n523/a02.htmlAnd it is currently on line at the New York Times website (registration may be required) here:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/29/h...icy/29mari.htmlReaders who have been following medical cannabis issues will have a hard time calling it fair and balanced. The spin against medical cannabis is clear, even though a few lines give lip service to the positive.We find this website among those useful for research to help respond to points in the article: http://medicalmarijuanaprocon.org/The Ottawa Citizen's senior writer, Dan Gardner, wrote a column 'How Science Is Skewed to Fuel Fears of Marijuana' that covers some of the issues of the New York Times article. See http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n474/a07.htmlPlease consider writing a letter to the editor to the New York Times. Email it to letters nytimes.comThere are many potential ways you could write a LTE. You need not focus just on the negative spin. You could elaborate on the positive in the article. Whatever you send, we suggest you keep your letter short, under 200 words, and focused on only one or two points.Thanks for your effort and support.It's not what others do it's what YOU doAdditional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center:http://www.mapinc.org/resource/Or contact MAP Media Activism Facilitator Steve Heath for personal tips on how to write LTEs that get printed.heath mapinc.orgPLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTERPlease post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlte mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to heath mapinc.org if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts.Subscribing to the Sent LTE list (sentlte mapinc.org) will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts.To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list seehttp://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on March 29, 2005 at 08:41:44 PT
Boy do these people need us!!!
Here's yet another story that shows America needs weed far more than it needs prohibition. Everyone who uses medical marijuana knows that one of the side effects is a full night of restful sleep.**********************************************Americans Too Sleepy for Sex, Poll FindsWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Many Americans are so sleepy that they are having problems in their marriages, making mistakes at work and even going without sex, according to a report released on Tuesday.The poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 75 percent of adults frequently have a symptom of a sleep problem such as frequent waking during the night or snoring. But few believe they have a sleep problem and most ignore it."Half of the country sleeps pretty well -- the other half has problems," Foundation chief executive Richard Gelula said in a statement.What is to blame? The survey of more than 1,500 adults found that 87 percent usually watched TV in the hour before going to bed, 47 percent usually had sex and 64 percent read."Only about one-half of respondents are able to say on most nights, 'I had a good night's sleep'," the Foundation, which issues regular reports showing Americans do not get enough sleep, said in a statement.Nearly a quarter of those in a marriage or relationship said they had sex less often or had lost interest in sex because they are too sleepy.The Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night but the survey found that Americans get an average of 6.9 hours.Of those surveyed, 60 percent of drivers admitted to having driven drowsy in the past year and 4 percent said they had an accident or near-accident because they were tired or dozing while driving.Almost 30 percent of employed adults said they had missed work, made errors or missed some activity because of sleep-related issues in the past three months. 
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Comment #7 posted by Taylor121 on March 28, 2005 at 23:07:35 PT
Pete at the DrugWarRant's take on article
New York Times Writer Can't ReadDan Hurley's article tomorrow in the New York times is a strange, unbalanced article about medical marijuana, giving a lot of space to opponents, and then claiming there isn't enough "clinical" evidence to support medical marijuana.
The problem is that he can't even read his own article.Take a look first at some of the "problems" he mentions (or quotes):Yet there remains much confusion over whether marijuana in fact has any significant medical effect. ... But the reality is, we don't know. ...While little scientific evidence supports such a lifesaving role for marijuana ... There's not been a randomized, controlled trial demonstrating that marijuana or any cannabinoid is any more effective in controlled seizures than a placebo ... We have a product that has been legitimized without any evidence of efficacy. ... researchers said that the results should be interpreted cautiously, because the study had been intended to test only short-term benefits ... Showing clinical benefit in humans has been an elusive beast. ... But the clinical studies just aren't there. ...
Boy, you'd really get the notion that clinical studies haven't supported medical marijuana, wouldn't you. But then he says:In 1997, Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist and assistant director of the Positive Health Program at the University of California at San Francisco, became the first doctor authorized by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to receive marijuana to conduct research to determine if it provided medical benefits. Now more than a dozen California researchers are studying it under the auspices of the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. [emphasis added]
Isn't the big story here why the federal government has restricted studies? Can't you read your own article, Dan?There are plenty of problems with this ignorant article, including presenting the questionable (and controversial) schizophrenia study without noting that the study did not, in fact, diagnose any schizophrenia or psychosis.Come on, you can do better than that, NYT.http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/2005/03/28.html
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on March 28, 2005 at 20:35:59 PT
About This New York Times Article
Why don't they do some research and see how Cannabis has helped people? I can't help but feel that no matter what research says it will never be enough to make them say cannabis is good medicine. Cannabis has never killed anyone like some approved drugs have in more then one case. How can they fast track some drugs and yet an ancient tried and true herbal medicine just doesn't have enough evidence to stop putting people in jail over.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on March 28, 2005 at 20:15:50 PT
Reefer Madness: From The Guardian Unlimited UK
They've proved that cannabis makes you aggressive. Yeah, right, says Marc Abrahams. Tuesday March 29, 2005The Guardian Lock three men in a room, make them smoke cannabis, and then try to provoke them into being hostile. Thirty years ago a team of American doctors actually conducted this daring experiment. They then described it in a report called Marijuana and Hostility in a Small-Group Setting.
The conventional wisdom at the time said that cannabis would make people less hostile, that it would tend to quieten aggressive behaviour even in people who tended to be pugnacious. Such was the widespread belief among cannabis smokers, and also among people who knew cannabis smokers, which included a large proportion of the American population.But conventional wisdom is not always right. Several aggressive political figures voiced with certainty that cannabis had pernicious, vicious effects, and that directly or indirectly its use led to hostility, violence and worse. Several medical eminences agreed. This experiment was an attempt to settle the question.Carl Salzman and Richard Shader were co-directors of the Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Together with a colleague, Bessel A van der Kolk, they recruited 60 brave volunteers, all healthy men between the ages of 21 and 30, all with prior experience of smoking cannabis.The men were divided into groups of three. Half the groups would be smoking real cannabis. The others would smoke placebos.The doctors asked each group to perform a series of actions. First, the group met for 10 minutes, looking at a card with a picture on it and trying to concoct a consensus description of the picture. Then each individual thoroughly smoked one cigarette. The cigarette in some groups did, and in other groups did not, contain THC, the most famous psychoactive constituent chemical in cannabis.Each group was then told, with cold hauteur, that its picture description was "inadequate". This, the doctors explain in their report, "was conceived of as an experimental frustration stimulus". The group then tried to reach consensus on a new, better description of the picture.The results were largely as expected. Upon being frustrated, the general hostility levels of the non-cannabis smokers went up, and those of the cannabis smokers went down.But there was one, quite specific, surprise. The doctors' report puts it plainly: "Marijuana produced a small but statistically significant increase in sarcastic communications."Cannabis-enhanced sarcasm may seem a wispy thing to notice or worry about. But to public policymakers charged with leading the large, sometimes fractious American populace, it seems to have seemed a danger. This apprehension may not exist in the UK, where public politicians hone and pride themselves on an ability to ignore sarcasm.(Thanks to Kelly McLaughlin for bringing this to my attention.) Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly magazine Annals of Improbable Research -- http://www.improbable.com -- and organiser of the Ig Nobel Prize Copyright: Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,9830,1446912,00.html
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Comment #4 posted by ekim on March 28, 2005 at 18:42:49 PT
Posted by Richard Cowan 
Supreme Court Decision On Medical Cannabis Expected This Week. Prohibitionist Propaganda Organization Makes Itself “Available for Comment” – Will The Media Check Their Track Record? Here It Is. 
Posted by Richard Cowan on 2005-03-28 16:20:00 
http://www.marijuananews.com/“Drug Free America Foundation is … committed to exposing the distortions and misrepresentations of legalizers and their deceptive tactics, including medical fraud marijuana.”
http://www.marijuananews.com/
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on March 28, 2005 at 18:22:56 PT
Confusion?
Yet there remains much confusion over whether marijuana in fact has any significant medical effect.The only people confused are those who listen to the government's propaganda. Even the elderly are beginning to realize the numerous benefits that the versatile cannabis plant has to offer! SHADOW OF THE SWASTIKA: The Real Reason the Government Won't Debate Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp Re-legalization:
http://www.sumeria.net/politics/shadv3.htmlunrelated...Sightsee by day, party by night in Amsterdam:
http://www.newsobserver.com/24hour/travel/story/2263689p-10438812c.htmlMarijuana Scented MP3 Player:
http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/portable-media/flash/marijuana-scented-mp3-player-037370.phpTHE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11:
http://tinyurl.com/43fwyFlight 11 never made it to Boston:
http://www.team8plus.org/forum_viewtopic.php?6.10We're all paranoid:
http://www.sfbg.com/39/25/cover_conspiracy.html
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Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on March 28, 2005 at 18:13:07 PT
Tired of the mental illness crap
"In a 2002 study published in the British medical journal BMJ, Dr. Murray reported that New Zealand teenagers who started smoking marijuana before age 15 and continued doing so on a daily basis raised their risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia from about 2 percent to as much as 10 percent. "I have seen this study debunked enough already, yet the major media continues to mention it. I see the methodology as being essentially flawed.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 28, 2005 at 16:47:58 PT
New York Times
I'm glad for an article in such a big paper.
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