Pot Laws Pain Some Elders

Pot Laws Pain Some Elders
Posted by CN Staff on April 27, 2005 at 19:59:20 PT
By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer
Source: Los Angeles Times
Seattle -- Betty Hiatt's morning wake-up call comes with the purr and persistent kneading of the cat atop her bedspread. Under predawn gray, Hiatt blinks awake. It is 6 a.m., and Kato, an opinionated Siamese who Hiatt swears can tell time, wants to be fed.Reaching for a cane, the frail grandmother pads with uncertain steps to the tiny alcove kitchen in her two-room flat. Her feline alarm clock gets his grub, then Hiatt turns to her own needs.
She is, at 81, both a medical train wreck and a miracle, surviving cancer, Crohn's disease and the onset of Parkinson's. Each morning Hiatt takes more than a dozen pills. But first she turns to a translucent orange prescription bottle stuffed with a drug not found on her pharmacist's shelf: marijuana.Peering through owlish glasses, Hiatt fires up a cannabis cigarette with a wood-stem match. She inhales. The little apartment  a cozy place of knickknacks and needlepoint  takes on the odor of a rock concert."It's like any other medicine for me," Hiatt says, blowing out a cumulus of unmistakable fragrance. "But I don't know that I'd be alive without it."With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to soon rule on whether medical marijuana laws in California and nine other states are subject to federal prohibitions, elderly patients like Hiatt are emerging as a potentially potent force in the roiling debate over health, personal choice and states' rights.No one knows exactly how many old folks use cannabis to address their ills, but activists and physicians say they probably number in the thousands. And unlike medical marijuana's younger and more militant true believers, the elderly are difficult for doubters to castigate as stoners.Their pains are unassailable. Their needs for relief are real. Most never touched pot before. As parents in the counterculture '60s, many waged a generation-gap war with children getting high on the stuff.Now some of those same parents consider the long-demonized herb a blessing.Patients contend cannabis helps ease the effects of multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis. It can calm nausea during chemotherapy. Research has found that cannabinoids, marijuana's active components, show promise for treating symptoms of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's, perhaps even as anti-cancer agents.A recent AARP poll found 72% of people age 45 or older believe adults should be allowed to use cannabis with a physician's recommendation. (The poll found a similar proportion staunchly opposed to legalizing recreational pot.) Even conservative elders such as commentator William F. Buckley and former Secretary of State George Shultz have supported marijuana as medicine.Betty Hiatt and those like her are "more and more the face of the marijuana smoker," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates treating cannabis like alcohol: regulated, taxed and off-limits to teens."There's this sense that when you get old enough, you've earned the right to live your own life," Nadelmann said. "The mantra of the drug war has been to protect our kids. But the notion of a drug war to protect the elderly? That's ludicrous."Stories of suffering elders are not lost on John Walters, President Bush's point man for the war on illegal narcotics. But as he beats the drum for psychotropic abstinence, the drug czar doesn't mince words."The standard of simply feeling different or feeling better" does not make pot safe and effective medicine, said Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. People who abuse illegal drugs such as crack cocaine feel a similar burst of euphoria, he noted, "but that doesn't make crack medicine."Snipped:Complete Article: Los Angeles Times (CA) Author: Eric Bailey, Times Staff WriterPublished: April 27, 2005Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles TimesContact: letters latimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Medical Marijuana Information Links Older Americans Attitudes on Medical Marijuana Examines Medical Marijuana Support 
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on May 10, 2005 at 14:22:49 PT
Drug Policy Alliance Press Release
Older Americans Have Stake in Medical Marijuana StruggleTuesday, May 10, 200572% of Americans age 45 and over think marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes with a doctor's recommendation, according to a poll commissioned by AARP, the nation's leading organization advocating on behalf of older people. Health concerns loom as we age, and the number of older Americans is poised to increase dramatically in the coming years - from 12.3% of the population in 2003 to 20% in 2030. That translates to a large number of people who stand to face the potential chronic pain and illnesses associated with age without a full array of treatment options, thanks to continued resistance by the White House to the very concept of medical marijuana. 
The Office of National Drug Control Policy continues to maintain that smoking marijuana has no medicinal value. In a recent Los Angeles Times article, drug czar John Walters goes so far as to liken the effect of marijuana to that of crack cocaine. By failing to acknowledge marijuana as an alternative to traditional prescription drugs, the ONDCP is stranding people who have allergies to medications, want to avoid dependency on opiates, or simply do not find relief with their current prescriptions. 
The fact that the aging population deserves access to the cannabis alternative is starting to come to the attention of the rest of the U.S. - the Los Angeles Times article, which has since run in newspapers across the country, gives a glimpse into the range of ailments older patients alleviate with marijuana and into the difficulties encountered by elderly medical marijuana users because of the government's war on marijuana.
 As yet there has been no large scale organized movement by older Americans to demand access to medicinal marijuana- AARP originally intended to publish the article that ran in the Los Angeles Times, but changed its mind, apparently in response to a pressure campaign by fanatical anti-drug groups. As patient advocates, reformers must work toward a broad discussion of medical marijuana that addresses the needs of older people. The government's criminalization and stigmatization of medical marijuana affect a broad swath of the population, and the position of those who work for reform grows stronger as more - and more varied - voices join in demanding change. Thousands of Alliance supporters took an important step in that direction by asking AARP to run the article earlier this year, and the Alliance will continue to look for ways to acknowledge the relevance of the medical marijuana fight to older people.
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Comment #18 posted by FoM on May 01, 2005 at 15:38:17 PT
Two More Published LTE from The LA Times
Witnesses to Pot's Medicinal ValueMay 1, 2005In my own medical marijuana consultant practice, I see many older folks who benefit from marijuana's varied physiological effects  pain reliever, sleep promoter and appetite stimulant, as well as anti-anxiety, anti-nausea and anti-spasmodic relief, just to start at the top of the list. The article quotes Walters as saying "the standard of simply feeling different or feeling better" is not proof of being safe and effective. The article then says, "Walters argues that there is not a whiff of clinical proof qualifying smoked pot as medicine." This is simply not factual. True, there are no double-blind studies because such studies have been blocked by federal law. However, there are countless published case reports proving the medical value of cannabis. The federal government is willfully avoiding the truth that cannabis is safe and effective. Cannabis does not cause death or organ damage. It is one of the safest drugs in that way, safer than aspirin, which kills thousands every year. It is time for the people to demand that their government get in line with the truth, and allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes.William S. Eidelman MDLos Angeles*In 1982, my grandfather was diagnosed with throat cancer. In less than a year, he weighed less than 100 pounds from being well over 190 and fit. He couldn't keep anything in his stomach. Not food, not his medicines. My grandmother was of Native American ancestry and knew that a person needed to eat to heal. Finally a doctor told her to try marijuana. I can still hear the desperation in my grandmother's voice the day she called me looking for some marijuana. I was 25 and quite shocked. After the shock wore off and she had explained the reason, I understood. The next phone call from my grandmother is just as memorable. This time it was the excitement in her voice that I remember. She said, "Get some more! Grandpa has eaten five times and not thrown up once!"  her exact words. Thank you for printing this story. It brought back some very special memories.Meril DraperBrinnon, Wash.Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles Times
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Comment #17 posted by FoM on May 01, 2005 at 08:09:01 PT
Related Published LTE
Witnesses To Pot's Medicinal ValueMay 1, 2005Re "Pot Laws Pain Some Elders," Column One, April 28: As a three-time cancer survivor living on sheer determination, I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy. Drug czar John Walters wants to compare pot with cocaine and thinks they are similar in a burst of euphoria? In my 20s, I tried cocaine and did not like its effect on me, so I quit immediately. I have smoked marijuana at times through my 20 years of battling cancer, and found it to be comforting and mostly helpful against nausea and other ill effects from chemotherapy.It's time this administration gets a clue on certain aspects of suffering, and legalize marijuana for the people who need it medically. As pointed out in your article, adults stricken with disease should be able to make decisions that alleviate suffering.Spencer ShiffmanCalabasasCopyright: 2005 Los Angeles Times
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Comment #16 posted by afterburner on May 01, 2005 at 00:00:45 PT
The War between Labor & Management Has Traumatized
The fragmented soul of industrialized humans is a result of the overspecialization of the industrial workplace, the need to do mindless, repetitive tasks. Even those who specialize in brain work are stunted because they don't get as much of a chance to develop their bodies. Contrast this with pre-industrial tribal societies or the rugged individualism of farmers and craftspeople. On Spaceship Earth (R. Buckminster Fuller), in the Global Village (Marshall McLuhan), people relearn the social cohesion and individual belonging and fullness that industrial society denied. We developed control of machines that magnify our physical power, using fossil fuels and electricity as our servants. Now, through the electronic media (radio, TV, cable, satellite, wireless, computers, the Internet) we are learning to control the mind of civilization. The media can be used to brainwash, micromanage, and dominate people through fear; or the media can be used to share, to inspire, to teach, to discover, to dream, to invent. Cannabis helps to complete people, opening our minds to repressed possibilities, softening our tough shells, breaking down barriers between people.
Who was Marshall McLuhan -
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Comment #15 posted by afterburner on April 30, 2005 at 08:49:57 PT
E_J and Sam
I totally agree on the Great Depression & WWII, trauma link. I had an uncle who served in the Pacific Theater, among the first troops to land, Marine Amphibious Unit. He *never* spoke of his war experiences and became a nervous wreck, unlike his childhood persona. He eventually drove himself to death with extreme tobacco addiction. I have met several people who are healing their tobacco and/or alcohol addictions with medical cannabis. Isn't tobacco yesterday's productivity fuel and alcohol the antidote, the chemical stress and pain reducer. However, the side effects of overindulgence in either or both greatly damage the health, as we now know. But they are addictions. I have seen cancer victims who have lost their voice boxes, trying to smoke tobacco cigarettes through the tracheotomy hole in their throats.Some say the Great Depression was engineered and that some of the Robber Barons were flush with cash when the great stock market crash of 1929 decimated investments and employment. They were able to snap-up a bunch of bargains. Talk about crowd control!
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Comment #14 posted by Sam Adams on April 28, 2005 at 15:54:35 PT
EJ you're totally right, the most vets told everyone, even their own spouses & kids, to never ask them about the war.  Breaking down or getting choked up wasn't acceptable for men in those days. So I'm sure some of them drank a lot of booze & took it out on their families. I can't judge those men - who can say what would happen to any of us if we had to kill a bunch of guys, and/or watch our friends getting killed.
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Comment #13 posted by runderwo on April 28, 2005 at 15:25:50 PT
Well, I must say he knows how to appeal to the uninformed. After all, it would be easy to believe that cannabis and cocaine have similar effects if one has never used either and never studied the scores of information available on each. He is attempting to imply that the euphoria distracts the user from pain - therefore, nothing is being treated, the person is just distracted from the pain by intoxication. But that simply doesn't match up with the accounts of medical cannabis users, of whom some specifically complain about euphoria as an undesirable side effect in preparations like Marinol - in contrast to raw cannabis prepared for that purpose where the euphoria is proportionally low to the level of pain relief.You really have to admire their expert propaganda tactics. If only their ethics and logic were as much on the mark. Cannabis activists tend to have solid ethics, and more well-formed logic than the average drug warrior, but our emotional appeal doesn't seem to be up to their level. How can we change that so our purpose can appeal to people on every level? As distasteful as it is, emotional appeal seems to be the only way to get through to people these days; it seems to be fashionable to cynically reject any system of ethics besides a self-centered one; a logical or objective approach makes people's brains hurt - and sometimes the conclusions that are reached offend their religious beliefs. 
Maybe we need our own form of propaganda. Not in the sense of blatantly lying and taking advantage of ignorance, but in the sense of promoting associations between cannabis and good things, rather than cannabis and bad things. I liked the "Better Sex? Try Marijuana" public transportation ads as an example of what I mean here.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on April 28, 2005 at 13:57:16 PT
Just a Comment
I really appreciate this thread. I never looked at any of this quite this way. Thanks.
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Comment #11 posted by Greenjoy on April 28, 2005 at 13:41:00 PT
Yes To That
 My Dad was a WWII vet and your assessment seems quite on the mark EJ.-Sam. He was a red state in and of himself. He hated Elvis...the Beatles, and everything that happened in the 60's. 
 I could scarcely get away with listening to rock music, much less smoke pot. So I left home at 15. GJ 
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Comment #10 posted by E_Johnson on April 28, 2005 at 12:46:17 PT
They didn't have a great time
Maybe one reason why we see them as belligerant or lording it over people is that was a very traumatized generation and they didn't have the benefit of today's feminist outlook that makes it acceptable, even laudable and courageous, for a man to confess to deep emotional pain.
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Comment #9 posted by Sam Adams on April 28, 2005 at 11:31:47 PT
Very interesting interpretation, it makes a lot of sense to me. One might even replace your characterization of "traumatic outlook" to "belligerent" or "arrogant".  Further simplifying it, the militaristic tough guys had such a great time in WWII that they wanted to keep it going for the next 2 generations.Or maybe there were 2 groups, those traumatized by serving in the war, and those that loved the whole experience. How many men came back to their small towns in the 40's and 50's and spent the rest of their lives lording over those who DIDN'T serve, constantly telling hero stories and putting down the guys who didn't serve. I think that's always been the attraction of war to the common man. In war, soldiers get all the women, and get no attitude from teh women. In war, soldiers move to the top of the pecking order among local men. Hey, I'm forever thankful to the people that defeated Hitler, but I don't think their sacrifice gives them the right to trample over whomever they don't like.One way or another though, there's no question that the American experience in WWII totally transformed our society & way of life, into 2005 and beyond. Many, many things changed after WWII. The movement to the suburbs, mass production and corporatization of food and other goods. Consumer culture came out of the 40's and 50's. The de-powering of religion, and re-focussing the common man's dreams and aspirations toward material success and fulfilment, not spiritual fulfillment.
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Comment #8 posted by Truth on April 28, 2005 at 11:23:52 PT
Here's a great article from C. C.
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Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on April 28, 2005 at 10:56:16 PT
afterburner we're still in the shadow of WWII
I know this sounds weird but this is my theory based on my own experience.WWII was a horrible war, but the results were so beneficial to freedom and democracy that the men and women who suffered kept their suffering locked inside for the better of society.But their suffering came out in other ways -- alcoholism and domestic violence, excess fear, traumatic, drama-ridden ways of looking at the world, and a controlling attitude towards the planet.Post traumatic stress doesn't just produce discomfort -- it alters one's worldview so that one is onstantly scanning the horizon for the next threat. I think this is WHY we had the cultural shakeup of the sixties with so many young people refusing to go along any more with the traumatic outlook of the Depression and WWII generation, and this is why those young people turned to pot in a big way.Pot is a natural anti-traumatic.But people who have converted the American political system into a shrine to their traumatic outlook on the world would take great offense at a generation that refused to worship at that shrine.That was in essence the generational conflict regarding Vietnam and marijuana in the sixties and seventies.People who live their lives in a state of traumatic fear can feel threatened and even deeply offended and disrespected by people who are not tied up in the same trauma drama.This is the essence of our conflict with the DEA. They have fought drugs and become traumatized by the violence of their own war -- and now, they have built a shrine to their own trauma and they call if DEFENDING AMERICA AGAINST THE POTHEADS.Because in their own exaggerrated traumatic outlook -- we reresent the same traumatic threat to them as a Mexican drug lord guilty of torture and murder.They're all tied up in their own trauma and the trauma of the WWII generation that found marijuana users offensive and shocking in the sixties.But who are the people using pot? I think most hard core "recreational" pot users are using it as an anti-traumatic, to cope with the trauma they suffered, either from domestic violence or parental abuse or just the collateral damage from living in a nation at war with itself.I have seen reports that show about half of all young black men between the ages of 18 and 35 suffer from diagnosable chronic PTSD.Between Hitler, the Depression, Vietnam and the damage done by America's long history of racism, this is a nation where our whole political system at time runs with a traumatic psychology, both on the left and the right.And now we have Iraq, to mess people up even more.THis is why Americans have become so obsessive and controlling towards their children. That's my opinion.
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Comment #6 posted by mungojelly on April 28, 2005 at 10:40:16 PT:
cocaine as medicine?
"People who abuse illegal drugs such as crack cocaine feel a similar burst of euphoria," he noted, "but that doesn't make crack medicine."Well, disregarding the various other levels of dishonesty & misdirection in this quote, there's one particular glaring error: Cocaine is Schedule II. It IS a legal medicine in the United States. (I've heard it's used as a topical anaesthetic for eye surgery.) 
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on April 28, 2005 at 09:15:42 PT
Just think of the Native Americans - many of them had rites of passage where, at age 14, you were specifically prevented from eating for 4 or 5 days, sent off into the woods to hallucinate & try to find food. Then, after the 4 days of starving, they'd force a spike with a rope on it through your chest, and tie the rope to a wood frame & let you sit there & hallucinate some more.I think it was a called "vision quest". Age 14 seems about right to me. Let them decide what to do that point. Keep going to school, work, smoke a bowl, whatever. Suffer, prosper, who knows, within a few years of independence they'd make mistakes & figure things out. I think teen angst would disappear completely within a few years.But then we'd have adults that were trained to think & fend for themselves. And we don't want that! They might start focussing their lives on something other than consumption, and they might even start paying attention to the political class which is slowly making them into slaves.The property tax issue is really starting to interest me. It really shows how the political class is emboldened and getting away with murder at all levels, right down to local government. A town near mine, already famous for ridiculously high property taxes, recently laid off 3 teachers, 2 custodians, and a phys-ed staffer. In the same budget, they hired a special administrative consultant for the superintedent's office for $90/K per year! If the schools are being down-sized, how can they need more admin staff??? The real question is, how can people put up with this blatant robbery by the political class? Where talking about a town where a 3-bedroom, 2-floor house already pays $5-$7K per year in property tax. I see this as the exact same problem as cannabis prohibition. Flagrant, brazen abuse of authority, and ultimately, tyranny over the citizens.  Apathy is the root cause.  When 50 or 60% of your net productivity is being taken by the government (in taxes), are you still free? Who are you working for every day?
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 28, 2005 at 08:01:53 PT
Just a Note
I haven't found any news to post on the front page but I will keep looking. This is the time of year news starts to slow down because of spring but we still have Angel's case and hopefully we will hear something soon.Have a great day everyone!
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Comment #3 posted by afterburner on April 27, 2005 at 21:00:47 PT
Grow Up, America
I've been thinking for a long time about this mantra of "save the children, protect the children." Of course, responsible citizens want to shelter children to allow them to grow and develop and to be the people they were meant to be. But just as children must be protected and nurtured, they grow up and become adults. When we treat adults, and especially adolescents who were children and are becoming adults, as if they are still children, we are condescending, paternalistic, smothering. We have to let go, to allow adolescents to make their own choices, have their own experiences, make their own mistakes, so that they can become their own people. "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." (Korean proverb) --Tree Proverbs, International Tree Proverbs
 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." --Proverbs 22:6 King James Version (KJV) Bible Gateway
 We have to trust our adolescents if we want them to trust us. Treating adults as if they are children is insulting, an abuse of good governance. Treating grandparents as if they are children is an attack on their dignity and on the wisdom of the elders. The Drug War is a fraud, perpetrated by little minds with hidden agendas, full of double-speak and malicious intent.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on April 27, 2005 at 20:54:45 PT
LA Times
This is a good article, it seems that only a few years ago the LA Times was staunchly prohibitionist.Just once though, I'd like to see a reporter say something like "John Walters says there's not a whiff of clinical evidence....., but a quick search of the medical website Pub-Med shows dozens of clinical studies showing clear benefits for a variety of maladies" or something like that. They always give him his due, and he doesn't deserve it. Everything he says needs to be questioned, given his obvious penchant for blatant lying and propaganda.This is a great article though, I hope Clarence Thomas is reading.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 27, 2005 at 20:31:33 PT
Thank You Eric Bailey
For such a fine article.
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