Coffee With... Gary Storck

Coffee With... Gary Storck
Posted by CN Staff on September 29, 2005 at 09:33:05 PT
By Nathan J. Comp 
Source: Core Weekly 
Wisconsin -- Medicinal marijuana has very little to do with getting stoned, yet it is difficult to separate the issue from the broader push for legalization. But perhaps the strongest argument for marijuana reform is its potential benefit to medicine. Because few comprehensive studies have been done on marijuana's medical efficacy, what is known is largely anecdotal. This isn't to say one should be skeptical, however. On the contrary, testimonials to the virtue of cannabis as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and nausea queller are abundant enough that you'd think further studies would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, they aren't.
In spite of marijuana's well-documented, 4,500-year history as a natural medicine, the federal government refuses to explore the plant's pharmaceutical potential. According to the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C., at least 27 medicines containing marijuana were made by well-known pharmaceutical companies prior to 1937's prohibition. The American Medical Association at the time opposed the prohibition, arguing correctly that it "would ultimately prevent the medicinal uses of marijuana."Three decades later, in 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act, which placed all drugs into one of five categories, or schedules. Marijuana was placed along drugs like heroin and LSD in Schedule I, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no medical value.It's unlikely there is a Madisonian who disagrees with this more than Gary Storck. On Oct. 3, 1972, Storck, then a 17-year-old Waukesha resident, smoked a joint with his friends. Born with glaucoma, Storck's eyes often retained extra fluid, which put extra pressure on the optic nerve, causing pain. To his surprise, his eyes relaxed after smoking the joint. Weed had eased this troublesome symptom, something conventional medicines had failed to do.Incidentally, Storck met later that day with his doctor, who also was stunned by the improvement. Storck didn't tell his doctor about the illicit source of his relief until 1979. The doctor said that if it were legal, he would prescribe marijuana. So, during the late-'70s and early-'80s Storck lobbied for a failed medical marijuana bill in the state Legislature, before moving to California, where he would spend the next decade.In 1995, he moved from Berkeley to the Berkeley-of-the-Midwest - Madison. He underwent his third open-heart surgery two years later. His recovery was complicated by the staph infection that ran wild after doctors removed the staples that held together the incision. Just weeks after surgery to replace a heart valve, Storck was opened up again, this time to remove infected tissue from his groin.Storck, 50, describes what followed as the most excruciating pain he's endured. The morphine drip did little to quiet the fury of his wounds. That didn't happen until a friend snuck in food with a marijuana ingredient.If this experience confirmed Storck's belief in marijuana as a weapon against his conditions, it was a woman named Jacki Rickert who inspired Storck to become more aggressive in the medical marijuana movement. Around the time Storck was discharged from the hospital in 1997, Rickert, who suffers from bone and muscle diseases, had set out from Eau Claire to Madison to kick-off her Wheelchairs for Justice Campaign supporting a medical marijuana bill sponsored by then Assemblyperson Tammy Baldwin. Along with 10 other wheelchair-bound individuals, Rickert arrived at the Capitol to great fanfare and media coverage on Sept. 18, 1997.In the subsequent years, Storck and Rickert, who met that day at the Capitol, became friends, and in early 2000 they established the patient-rights group Is My Medicine Legal Yet? A tireless advocate for the cause, Storck has penned more than 200 letters and guest columns for local and national papers. In 2000, IMMLY? raised enough money to commission the Chamberlain Research Group to conduct a statewide poll to gauge public sentiment on the medical marijuana issue. The poll showed that 80 percent of Wisconsinites favor legislation allowing medical marijuana.Storck also established the local and state chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Last April, he and Rickert were given NORML's Peter McWilliams award in San Francisco for "outstanding achievement in advocating the cause of medical marijuana, access to safe and effective medicine and equity under the law."McWilliams was an AIDS-stricken author and medicinal marijuana advocate who died in 2000.Storck will speak this weekend at the 35th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, along with a troupe of other movement notables, like local activist Ben Masel and State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison). The festivities begin Friday night with a 7 p.m. fund-raiser at the Cardinal Bar, followed by a Saturday rally on Library Mall and a march up State Street to the Capitol on Sunday.Storck recently sat with coreweekly to discuss why marijuana is better than other medicines, why the feds are reluctant to legalize it and whether he expects major reform in his lifetime.CW: How can people make sense of the competing claims regarding marijuana's therapeutic elements?GS: You've got to go to the science. Go to websites like Medical Marijuana Pro and Con and compare view points there. Patients Out of Time has a lot of websites. They have a list of groups that have supported medical marijuana over the years, like the American Nurses Association and the nurse associations of 14 states, including Wisconsin. There's a lot of groups, locally, nationally and internationally, that support medical marijuana. The DEA claims that no groups support it, but actually it's a pretty strong number.CW: What's the sticking point?GS: It's that the politicians haven't caught up to the public's will yet. They're so caught in this reefer madness thing or don't want to appear soft on drugs and a lot of times they really don't get it until cancer strikes home with them. Like Rep. Underheim had a bout with prostate cancer. Sen. Arlen Spector is suffering from Hodgkin's disease, and suddenly he's coming out for a U.S. Senate medical marijuana bill. People see it as abstract until it strikes a loved one and then you'd do anything you could to help that loved one. I've seen it with Jacki. I'd been up to her house a month or so earlier and she started crying out in the middle of the night and I went in and she was in this horrible pain. I didn't know what to do. I was really scared. But with the help of a little cannabis, I was able to get her to calm down enough to start taking her standard medications. It was a godsend, because I didn't know what else I could do to alleviate the suffering. I really feel for all the people with cancer and chronic pain crying out in the middle of the night. We can radiate people, fill them with harsh chemicals, we can give them drugs that will rot their liver, but we can't give them this nontoxic herb given to us to help treat so many things and help make our lives better and more bearable.CW: Is "medical marijuana," like the DEA claims, really just a red herring effort to advance broader legalization?GS: No, I don't see that at all. But the thing is, is that the DEA is wrong about marijuana and the prohibition is indicative of this. My friend, Richard Cowen, publisher of, calls it a "counterproductive fraud." I mean, everything the DEA says about marijuana that is bad, prohibition has made worse. They say, 'Well, pot today is so much stronger.' Well, that's because it's more valuable than gold. Prohibition has made it this way. So no, it's not a red herring, but on the same toke, the only way that cannabis, and Lester Grinspoon, a long time advocate for cannabis said this too, the only way it will reach its full potential is through full legalization. That way it can be studied and made available to patients so they don't have to jump through these hoops. In California, in the Bay Area, where they have lots of cannabis dispensaries, unfortunately people who don't have recommendations see these places and they get held up now and again. And sometimes these robberies are pretty violent. It's a two-tiered system, people see all of this medicine available and they want some too, and I think if it were fully legal, there would be no more likelihood of a robbery of a cannabis dispensary as there would be a liquor store. It's the forbidden fruit thing.CW: What is the problem with Marinol or other medicines doctors say are more effective and safer than marijuana?GS: For one thing, Marinol is just tetrahydrocannabinol, which is just one of the cannibinoids in cannabis. It's the most psychoactive one. Not only that, but it's synthetic and in capsule form. So, if you take it you have an effect in a half an hour or in two hours. You may get too stoned. It's the thing in pot that gets you high. People get dysphoric from taking too much Marinol. But in cannabis, there are about 60 cannabinoids. One of the big ones, CBD, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and pain reliever. It's essential for MS patients. I know MS patients who have pretty much arrested the progression of their disease by medicating with cannabis. There is medication that has been developed by GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain. They've been working on this for a number of years. They grow cannabis plants at a greenhouse in southern England that they've standardized, so each plant grows the same. And they grow high CBD ones and high THC ones. They extract a liquid from these and turn it into a spray and the spray is now available to MS patients in Canada. With just these two cannabinoids, for MS patients, they've regained the ability to walk sometimes. It's miraculous. And while Marinol helps people, it doesn't have all the benefits of real cannabis. There are a lot more possibilities for relief than just THC. Plus, if you're sick and throwing up and you need to eat a pill to quell your nausea, you may not be able to keep it down. And by the time it works you may be too impaired. But with cannabis, if somebody needs to eat or something, they may be able to take a couple hits of pot and it would allow them to eat. You can control the doses, puff by puff.CW: It seems like marijuana advocates take small, but consistent victories at the local and state levels of government. Why are the feds more difficult to persuade?GS: It's political and, in a way, the power of pharmaceutical companies, because all of the money and drugs in their market are directly threatened by cannabis. For me, cannabis helps my glaucoma, arthritis, chronic pain, it lowers my blood pressure, which is easier on my heart. If I had to take just a standard pharmaceutical for each of these conditions, not only would I be spending a lot of money, but I probably also wouldn't be lucid and not able to function as well and my body would be damaged by these drugs. Cannabis has the potential to reduce or eliminate the use of so many drugs and the pharmaceutical companies definitely don't want to see that happen. It's amazing the federal government has hit such a brick wall on this, and I've been running up against it for 30 years now and I just can't understand it. It's political and it's ignoring the science.CW: Do you expect to see major reforms in your lifetime?GS: Yeah, I sure do. It's been incremental and the federal government has been dead set against it but I've seen 10 states now pass medical marijuana laws and I hold part-time residency in California so I've seen the cannabis clubs first hand. And I've seen how it works. Patients are getting their medicine and society hasn't collapsed. The message is that we can get along with this. We can have it here and go on living as things are. It may take 20 or 30 states to get Congress to do the right thing, but I think we're slowly moving there. Every year for the past few years there has been a vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would forbid the use of federal funds to target medical marijuana patients and providers in states that have legalized it. Now, it's consistently gotten 150, 160 votes every year. It only needs 55 more to get the bill passed in Congress and I think it's headed that way.CW: How hopeful are you that the next generation of medical marijuana advocates will be as aggressive has the current leaders of NORML and other drug reform groups, many of whom are aged?GS: I'm very hopeful. I've been able to attend the conferences of some of the reform groups and there are a lot of younger people getting involved, a really bright, younger generation that is applying for grants, doing research and projects all over the country and taking the initiative to get stuff done. I'm hoping that the generation coming in will finally make this change. I've got a brother who is 10 years older than me and I thought his generation was going to make the change, because they were the ones who basically started initiating cannabis in the late-'60s. But we've seen people like Bill Clinton and George Bush basically turn their backs on it even though they used it themselves. I think the younger generation is going to go off this stuff and it is coming. I just hope that it comes soon. Newshawk: Gary StorckSource: Core Weekly (Madison, WI)Author: Nathan J. Comp Published: September 29, 2005Copyright: 2005 Core WeeklyContact: ncomp coreweekly.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Sites:Wisconsin NORML Policy Project My Medicine Legal Yet? Ready for Medicinal Marijuana Legislator To Lead Push
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Comment #1 posted by ekim on September 29, 2005 at 12:52:05 PT
anniversary of United States dark age
It's unlikely there is a Madisonian who disagrees with this more than Gary Storck. On Oct. 3, 1972, Storck, then a 17-year-old Waukesha resident, smoked a joint with his friends. Born with glaucoma,
1937: 1ST AMERICAN ARRESTED INDEX68 years since Oct 2 1937 Federal Prohibition of Marihuana
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