Medical Marijuana, a Casual User's Tale

Medical Marijuana, a Casual User's Tale
Posted by CN Staff on June 10, 2005 at 22:31:39 PT
By Lessley Anderson
Source: New York Times
San Francisco -- I am not one of the "seriously ill Californians" that Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana law passed by voters in 1996, was designed to help. I'm a 31-year-old marathon runner who's generally in peak health, unless I've had a few too many margaritas. But two months ago, I decided to read Proposition 215 to find out just how sick you had to be to obtain marijuana legally.
I made a startling discovery. The state health code listing the conditions for which marijuana can be recommended by a doctor includes migraine right after AIDS, cancer and glaucoma. Every month or so, I get a migraine headache from dehydration or the stress of a deadline. Although I had a hard time believing someone like me might qualify as a medical marijuana patient, there it was in cold print. In the previous few years, some three dozen Amsterdam-style marijuana markets had opened up in San Francisco, their forbidden aromas spilling out from behind closed doors in nearly every neighborhood. I had a perverse desire to sample the wares of my local marijuana shop, the way I shop for a wheel of Brie at my neighborhood fromagerie. This was all before last Monday's ruling by the United States Supreme Court that users of medical marijuana, in the 11 states that permit it, can be prosecuted by the federal government. But neither the State of California nor the City and County of San Francisco has yet announced any plans to change their medical marijuana policies as a result of the decision. Even though a doctor's note won't prevent medical marijuana patients from being arrested by the federal authorities, such prosecutions have been extremely rare. To judge by the laissez-faire attitudes that I encountered - from the health department, to sympathetic doctors, to the marijuana emporiums - little seems likely to change for those seeking access to medical marijuana in San Francisco. And gaining access was remarkably easy. To get in the door of my local marijuana store, the Green Cross, you need a city-issued identification card showing you have a doctor's recommendation for marijuana use. The only person I knew who had ever had one of these "cannabis club cards" was a dialysis patient. But after reading the letter of the law, it looked possible that even I might be entitled to one. I decided to try.I had just switched health insurance providers to Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest H.M.O.'s in the country. The doctor I made an appointment with had never met me before. "I have chronic migraines," I told her. "Mmm hmmm," she said, typing on her computer.I dropped the bomb. "Will you prescribe me pot?"She stared at me with a surprised, slightly titillated expression. "Nobody's ever asked me that before," she said. "I don't know what Kaiser's policy is."After checking with her colleagues, my doctor told me the unofficial policy is to prescribe marijuana only for "end of life scenarios." My migraines did not qualify.I called Medicann, a clinic I'd seen advertised in one of the city's alternative newspapers. I was told I needed to come in for a doctor's evaluation, pay $120 and have a copy of the records describing my migraines. I ordered them from Kaiser. The clinic's anonymous looking storefront was at Sutter and Polk Streets: an area mainly catering to homeless hustlers and their johns. The morning of my appointment, there was a brawl outside, and the streets reeked of urine. Inside, three patients - one with bloodshot eyes, another with long straggly hair and the third wearing a glittering medallion - sat with me in the waiting room. The doctor who called me in had a hoop earring in each ear. In his windowless office, he asked me if I'd tried prescription migraine drugs, and heartily agreed when I complained they felt "too chemical." "Most of those drugs are garbage," he declared. He was once a traditional doctor working in a hospital, he said, until he clashed with his supervisor over recommending medical marijuana. He'd recommended medical marijuana to his patients, he told me, after seeing them become dependent on prescription opiates."I didn't want to be responsible for turning people into drug addicts," he said passionately, handing me a written recommendation for marijuana. He scoffed at the federal laws and never asked to see my records.All I needed to do now, the Medicann receptionist told me, was to take my doctor-signed marijuana recommendation to the city's Department of Public Health, and they would issue me my cannabis club card. I checked the health department Web site and learned that I could take along three people to act as my "primary caregivers." They would get cards entitling them to the same rights and privileges , even though they're not sick. That way, in case I was too infirm to buy my medicine, they could pick it up for me. My real-life primary caregiver, my husband, had failed to grasp the point of my whole experiment, insisting that "pot is basically legal anyway and isn't hard to get." So I took along two good friends instead.The three of us stood in line inside the health department building for a half hour. When we were eventually called into the back office, a city worker photographed us with a camera festooned with a toy gray mouse wearing a top hat, and said festively, "Look at Smokey!" A few minutes later, our laminated cards were in our hands. Next to our pictures, they simply read "Patient" and "Caregiver." Our names were left off, to protect us from being identified by federal authorities, it was explained to me at a city government hearing. Some weeks later one of my caregivers and I visited our local club, the Green Cross. It is on a quiet street lined with Victorian homes between the bohemian enclave of the Mission District and the yuppyish Noe Valley neighborhood. We buzzed the doorbell, and a young man with a long ponytail opened the door. We flashed our cards, and he let us in.Several young men were browsing at a long display case while ambient techno music played. I felt as if I were in a hip clothing boutique. We checked out the line of glass candy jars full of 50 varieties of marijuana. A cheerful young man behind the counter in a T-shirt that read "SF Ganja" asked, "First time?" We nodded, and he offered us a free sample of the baked goods containing marijuana. I selected a vegan brownie. We paid $40 for a few buds of a cannabis strain called "Thai Princess," which the employee said was the shop's top seller. That also got us a gram of "Trainwreck," and for good measure, a gram of "Super Trainwreck." Back on the street with a brown paper bag of drugs, I felt naughty, as if I was walking around in only my underwear. I had to keep reminding myself that everything I'd done was on the up-and-up, at least according to state law. The entire process of legally buying marijuana had been shockingly easy. Concerned that the excitement of our first medical cannabis transaction might trigger one of my migraines, my caregiver suggested that we practice some preventive medicine back at my apartment. "Thai Princess" had excellent therapeutic qualities, and I was pain free for the rest of the afternoon.In fact, our behavior was just what some of the critics of medical marijuana have warned against - that its easy availability opens the door to recreational use and encourages an aura of tolerance, at a time when marijuana abuse is a problem among young people. But I believed that the causes of addiction were more complicated than that. Now, the fact that I might lose the legal rights I'd only so recently discovered I had was causing me some distress. In fact, I could feel a headache coming on.Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Lessley AndersonPublished: June 12, 2005Copyright: 2005 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Medical Marijuana Information Links as Medicine Marijuana as a Schedule II Drug
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Comment #15 posted by PainWithNoInsurance on June 11, 2005 at 09:02:41 PT
Cloud 7: That was so funny !!
That cartoon made me laugh so hard. It reminded me of the crowd of State Police, State Cannabis Enforcement Police, and Sheriff's Department that came to my house, pointing guns at me to bust me for the 2 seedling plants I had.
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Comment #14 posted by goneposthole on June 11, 2005 at 08:55:08 PT
The New York Times actually printed this?
Really?The news that's NOT fit to print is what makes the newspapers.
—Democratic mayor Will Rogers, America's favorite cowboy journalist
911 treason
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Comment #13 posted by jose melendez on June 11, 2005 at 08:40:47 PT
Time for an Oh God 4
Remember the movies where George Burns plays God? I really must thank Russel Barth(1), I can practically see cool old man George sitting behind bars next to Bubba the pen throat rapist(2) in Hotel Geo Group, unable to raise bail for his manufacturing charge.Yes, bunk indeed! - - -1.) http://ssdp.org2.)
Lonely? Meet Bubba at the Wackenhut Motel (Now with hourly rates!)
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on June 11, 2005 at 08:37:25 PT
Pain Man by Mark Fiore
In case others haven't seen this new animation I thought I'd post it again. cloud7 thank you for the toons!
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Comment #11 posted by cloud7 on June 11, 2005 at 07:15:46 PT
No Clause for Celebration
Flush that commerce, it's the feds! if it was posted already
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Comment #10 posted by cloud7 on June 11, 2005 at 06:47:46 PT
2 MMJ cartoons
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Comment #9 posted by Sam Adams on June 11, 2005 at 06:25:11 PT
After flirting with a few reports somewhat friendly to medical MJ, the government-loving NY Times has apparently returned to its roots!  Big, totalitarian, "Liberal" government is their religion. This last Supreme Court case must have really scared them, they realize that medical MJ was almost the catalyst that allowed the states to re-gain some the right to actually decide something beneficial to its citizens.This is pretty much the most damaging article on medical MJ they could have published. I wonder if they've returned to the days of taking "orders" for publicity directly from the Drug Czar? (Remember when their editor in chief was caught taking direct requests for articles from Barry Mcaffrey? The conversations were recorded & leaked)Now, let's see an article where they send someone in to ask for Prozac - I'm working really hard & my kids are stressing me out...can I get Prozac/Zoloft/Xanax?  Or, I can't control my kids, can I put him on Ritalin? Sure! (picture this scenario being repeated 6 MILLION times and you'll get an idea of what's really going on out there).The real criminal in this story is the author - by doing this, even once, she's damaged the ability of people who really suffer to get an effective medicine. Shame on the NY Times! This is a disgraceful action and piece of writing. I"m going to write them an LTE right now.
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Comment #8 posted by charmed quark on June 11, 2005 at 06:13:51 PT
Boy, does this sort of thing piss me off
A true chronic migraine sufferer would not be drinking alchohol. That's a major migraine trigger for most. Nor would they be running marathons. She has no idea what life is like for a chonic migraine sufferer who can't find successful treatment with conventional drugs.So, she abuses a drug, just like someone abusing Oxycontin. What elese is new? And the government uses such examples to restrict drugs for people who really need them.Thanks a lot-CQ
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on June 11, 2005 at 06:00:21 PT:
All kinds of bunk out there
 "Got bunk?" Jose asks.Well, there's lots of different kinds of bunk. The kind that comes out of people's mouths...and the kind that's put in them. Like what Big Pharma likes to produce. Yes, they most certainly do seem to relish throwing all kinds of pricey gelatin encased bunk at people, don't they? Bunk that causes a myriad of nasty side effects even worse than the illness that caused patients to show up at the doctor's office. Bunk that kills...even when you follow the instruction on how to properly take it. Oh, but Johnny Pee says we can trust the pharmaceutical testing procedures of the FDA! As Bill Cosby used to say in his Noah routine: "Riiiiiiight!"Trust the FDA? The very same FDA whose employees were taking remuneration from drug companies? The same FDA that released drugs like Vioxx into the market (at the pharma industry's pressuring) with inadequate testing and killed thousands? The same FDA that tried to throttle our access to natural herbs, vitamins and minerals (again, at the urging of Big Pharma)?"Riiiiiight!" Or as we say today, "Yeah, right."Bunk, indeed. 
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Comment #6 posted by mayan on June 11, 2005 at 05:08:54 PT
That's hilarious!Don't forget that this "God dude" is supporting terrorism also! He definitely belongs in the slammer.
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on June 11, 2005 at 04:49:54 PT
CN AB: PUB LTE: Extra! Extra!
Pubdate: Tue, 07 Jun 2005
Source: Lacombe Globe, The (CN AB)Author: Russell BarthEXTRA! EXTRA! Search warrant out for divine pot growers RE: God And Mother Nature Wanted By Police For Growing Marijuana Canadian law enforcement officials have issued an all-points bulletin for two suspects wanted in the largest marijuana growing operation in world history. The primary suspect, known by the aliases `God,' `Allah,' `Jehovah,' `The Grand Architect Of The Universe,' and many others, is wanted for a number of charges, including possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and cultivation of marijuana--and has even been charged with inventing marijuana with intent to distribute. "Conceiving of, designing and mass-producing a plant of this kind may be a Divine Act, but it is still against the Criminal Code Of Canada," said Const. Balderdash, a spokesman for TRABEDSOC ( The Really Awesomely Big And Expensive Drug Squad Of Canada ). "He also created the Earth, so that is like building a grow-op facility. Contraventions of the act of this magnitude cannot be ignored. We even have written testimony to corroborate these crimes." The written evidence comes from the author Moses, who is also wanted for questioning. In his book of Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 11, it states: "And God said, `Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.' And it was so." 12: "The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Const. Balderdash commented, "Who does He think He is anyway? Decades of Him giving away free sunlight and rain to growers, many of whom are affiliated with organized crime or biker gangs, constitutes trillions of charges of participating in various organized drug crimes--in Canada alone. That is, in the law's opinion, the same as stealing hydro." He continued, "Marijuana grow ops, organized crime, marijuana grow ops, organized crime, marijuana grow ops, organized crime." Balderdash later said, "There is further evidence that The Divine One trafficked in marijuana or conspired to." The evidence in question comes from later in the same book: Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 29: "And God said, `Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.'" "That is an admission of a crime, right there," said Balderdash. "Marijuana grow ops, organized crime, marijuana grow ops, organized crime." God's alleged accomplice is most commonly known by the names `Mother Nature,' `Mother Earth,' or `Gaia.' She is charged with facilitating a crime by providing soil and nutrition for trillions upon trillions of marijuana plants, and also for providing a place for humans to live so they can risk their safety and their freedom to cultivate them. The two fugitives haven't been seen together in public for some time, leading to rumours that they've either separated or divorced. Authorities believe God to be All Powerful and, therefore, very heavily armed. Intelligence indicates He may even have weapons of mass creation. Experts recommend He be approached with absolute caution, but with an open heart. TRABEDSOC isn't sure whether the two have fled together or separately, but even on her own, Mother Nature can be very dangerous and is suspected to have a weather control device. She is also wanted for millions of counts of vandalism. Anyone seeing either of these suspects is to notify police immediately. Jesus and a number of Saints are also wanted for questioning. - -- Russell Barth Educators For Sensible Drug Policy, Ottawa
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Comment #4 posted by mayan on June 11, 2005 at 04:11:28 PT
Aura of Tolerance
Inside, three patients - one with bloodshot eyes, another with long straggly hair and the third wearing a glittering medallion - sat with me in the waiting room. The doctor who called me in had a hoop earring in each ear.And then... We buzzed the doorbell, and a young man with a long ponytail opened the door. We flashed our cards, and he let us in.And...A cheerful young man behind the counter in a T-shirt that read "SF Ganja" asked, "First time?"Oh, my! These people are different! Surely, they must be evil. Those who would use the cannabis plant and not harm anyone else's person or property belong in jail.Lessley Anderson obviously has no problem with downing 
margaritas and she sure seems experienced at doctor shopping! It sounds as if she's lived a sheltered life so it may have done her some good to witness an "aura of tolerance" among folks who live in the real world.
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Comment #3 posted by jose melendez on June 11, 2005 at 03:15:23 PT
cc: rush, sentlte
Editor,In a June 10 letter to the New York Times, Lessley Anderson's claim about how "easy" it was to obtain medical marijuana is debunked by her own words:She switched health providers, was initially declined a prescription and had to rephrase her pitch, explaining to a yet a third health professional that chemical synthetic pain killers were not working for her migraines. With all due respect, that might be considered doctor shopping, which is unlawful.Compare her scenario to what would have happened had she asked for any of the pharmaceuticals advertised like cars or candy on television. My guess is that any of her original doctors would have gladly promoted the sale of overpriced, deadly and defective pills, and gone golfing.Got bunk? (snipped)Jose Melendez
DeLand, FL
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Comment #2 posted by GreenJoy on June 11, 2005 at 02:23:39 PT
"In fact, our behavior was just what some of the critics of medical marijuana have warned against-that its easy availability opens the door to recreational use and encourages an aura of tolerance, at a time when marijuana abuse is a problem among young people." An aura of tolerance...Ohhhhh Nooooo! Not here in The United Hates Of America. Why, next people will be feeling all naughty and...running around in their underwear. What's that guy at the beach with the guttissimo doing in that speedo anyway. And kids in Las Vegas won't want to hang out drinking beer from a funnel and beating the crap out of eachother. Hey, what are you doin tonite. Oh I dunno, get drunk ...kick the livin sh*t outta somebody, especially if they are quiet and gentle and it seems like it will be really easy. Talk about tolerance! That's exactly what this country, this world needs! And easy availability opens the door to easy pain relief.
 Easy availability opens the door to an expanded conciousness. Easy availability opens the door to an open mind and an open heart. Easy availability closes the door on the black market.
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Comment #1 posted by schmeff on June 11, 2005 at 00:01:46 PT
My letter to the NY Times
To The Editor,Lessley Anderson's account of her ease in obtaining medical marijuana is not a cautionary tale. Every day Americans talk their physicians into prescribing a chemical wonderland of dangerous and toxic substances, needed or not. We're being programmed by our televisions to ask our doctors if the botulism toxin is right for us.Attempting to use an incredibly safe and non-toxic natural herb to treat our ills is NOT an indication that the sky is falling. It's a step in the right direction.
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