In the world of cannabis medicines, there are some stars that shine with pure light.
These beacons are selfless people who study and promote medical marijuana without profit motivation or delusions of grandeur.
Among the constellations are Al Byrne and Mary Lynn Mathre, a long-married power pair who founded Patients Out of Time, an organization dedicated to legalizing medical marijuana and assisting patients who needed it.
Byrne and Mathre live in a mountaintop history house high above what was once a mighty river in the Eastern United States. Their home and acreage are guarded by three, very large, weapons-qualified, pedigreed dogs, which often bring back remnants of anti-pot crusaders, and chipmunks- critters that seem to be living in dark holes near the couple’s property.
In the dog days of summer, 2002, as glaciers melt elsewhere, the fabled river is bone dry, victim of global warming and its resultant drought, population growth and water suckers who steal from it millions of gallons per day.
Byrne, who looks like a cross between Albert Einstein and Wild Bill Cody, is a former military commander who still speaks with authority and blunt honesty.
Mathre, who looks like a Playboy bunny but without the large rabbit ears, is a lauded nurse and counselor who has fought for decades to gain respect for marijuana among her peers at a conservative Southern university.
In the mid-90’s, Byrne and Mathre were on the executive board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
They have plenty to say about what they experienced during their tenure, which ended when “curious” legal decisions, and matters of principal, ended their membership on the board. Suffice to say that they believe that NORML, which barely survived several financial mishaps during the 90’s, was not open to their message or leadership.
For the sake of unity in the marijuana movement, this article will not report what Byrne and Mathre experienced, but their testimony, and that of others, is available on the Internet for anybody who digs hard enough to find it. The NORML history, facts and opinions found therein are entertaining, shocking, controversial, and depressing. One wonders what would have happened if Mathre and Byrne had been allowed to remain at the helm.
In May of this year, Byrne and Mathre organized their second annual “National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics.” The first one was held in Iowa two years ago. This year’s conference was in Portland. The US drug czar visited Portland just before the conference, and reportedly told journalists that medpot advocates were “terrorists.”
Byrne, who served his country faithfully during many years as a naval officer, says that terrorism is when the government arrests people for using a harmless healing herb that will relieve pain, improve eyesight, fight depression, and ameliorate a plethora of other medical conditions.
While counseling Vietnam veterans who were traumatized by their experiences in one of America’s earlier undeclared wars, Byrne found that medical marijuana helped scarred veterans recover from war wounds, alcoholism and drug addiction, and mental illness.
As with the Iowa cannabis conference organized by Byrne and Mathre, the Portland meeting featured the heavy hitters in the world of cannabis research and medicine, including England’s Dr. Geoffrey Guy, of GW Pharmaceuticals, who is likely to be the first businessman in the modern era to patent and market raw cannabis medical extracts.
Also at the conference was a familiar and welcome cannabis genius face: neurobiologist Dr. Ethan Russo.
Russo is a diminutive Montana powerhouse whose tireless work on behalf of marijuana is frighteningly effective, energetic, and relentless.
The mild-mannered doc in the last two years has authored a novel about shamanistic healing plants (The Last Sorcerer), created and edited the much-praised Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, and also edited or written three other excellent books: Handbook of Psychotropic Herbs, Cannabis Therapeutics in HIV/AIDS, and Cannabis and Cannabinoids.
He and Mathre also helped supervise a study of the majority of patients who receive government-provided medical marijuana as part of an “Investigational New Drug” (IND) program. Russo says that patients who consumed even the schwaggy bogweed provided by the government’s grubfarm were provably benefiting from using marijuana instead of other treatments, such as chemical drugs and surgery.
If the government grew better pot, or at least allowed patients access to high potency superweed and hashish available on the black market, the IND patients would have had even better health, Russo argues.
Russo does all this work on behalf of “cannabinology” while raising a family of exemplary children, running an organic farm, treating patients, and arguing boldly for medical marijuana legalization nationally and internationally.
The doctor just returned from Morocco, where he analyzed the effect of hashish on eyesight. According to preliminary test results, people who smoked kif (a relatively pure form of cannabis resin glands), saw improvement in their vision. Russo would not comment on whether the test subjects also saw visions, but if you have ever smoked kif, you know that they probably did.
Also visionary is Russo’s work on Salvia divinorum and a rainforest plant that might have cannabinoid receptor usefulness.
Russo’s journal and books, although scientific and factoid-filled, contain much information useful for recreational and medical marijuana users.
If you visit the online bookstore, www.amazon.com, and do word searches for entheogens, marijuana and medical pot, you will find Russo’s books, Mary Lynn Mathre’s fine book, Cannabis in Medical Practice, and a fantastic, detailed list of pot books authored by Cannabis Culture executive editor and Pot-TV star Dana Larsen