Hermosa, South Dakota — “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” That statement by the late Hunter Thompson could well have been referring to something that happened after his death. In April Canada OK’d prescription distribution of cannabis.
Little has been weirder in U.S. public policy than its political proclamation that “marijuana” (a political word for the plant, “cannabis”) has “no medical use,” in the face of dozens of medical studies, several publicly-funded, that reached contrary conclusions.
Cannabis experts have long thought that one of the reasons for governmental intransigence about cannabis has been the pressure from pharmaceutical companies, because they couldn’t patent and profit from a God-given herb. The development and distribution of “Sativex” supports this suspicion. British drugmaker GW Pharmaceuticals developed the whole plant extract and, through Canadian partner Bayer Healthcare, will promote Sativex “for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis” (although prescription application is not limited to treatment of MS). In a further weird twist, GW and Bayer have retained Dr. Andrea Barthwell as a lobbyist to grease the skids for FDA approval in the United States.
Barthwell was until recently an attack thug for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, who said of cannabis last fall: “It is not a medicine. You don’t know what’s in it. If there were compelling scientific and medical data supporting marijuana’s medical benefits that would be one thing. But the data is not there.”
Sativex is a tincture – essentially the whole cannabis plant reduced to a concentrated stew, containing all its cannabinoids and other synergistic compounds. This is the same plant Barthwell demonized until she saw she could make more money promoting it. It will be sold in a spray bottle, to be misted under the tongue for quick absorption into the bloodstream.
Is the argument now over? Have we won? Unfortunately, no, for several reasons.
First, in order to gain FDA approval for Sativex in the United States, we need regime change. Congress and the Bush administration will not say, “We were wrong.” They will continue for years to search for validation for 75 years of cruel denial of cannabis’s medical benefits.
Once FDA testing is under way, it will still be several years before the possibility of approval for preliminary prescription trials. Until then, people in agony south of the Canadian border will still have the choices they have now: suffer or become criminals to obtain cannabis on the street.
There is no need for this delay. We have begun circulation of the petition to initiate changes in South Dakota law, which will remove the state’s barriers to cannabis therapy for those who need it most. When we have obtained the signatures of 17,000 South Dakota voters, the initiative will be certified to appear on the ballot in November of next year as “The South Dakota Safe Access to Medical Marijuana Act of 2006.”
There isn’t an eighth-grader in the nation who isn’t at least somewhat aware of the therapeutic qualities of cannabis. Yet, every day kids go to schools that dare not teach them either of the history of cannabis in this nation or of the nutritional benefits of hemp seed and hemp seed oil, let alone the tens of thousands of uses for the hemp plant in every area of our lives. A school whose teachers are forced politically to avoid any discussion of therapeutic use, and, in fact, are forced to state to young people who know they are lying that “Marijuana has no medical use.”
The Medical Marijuana March this afternoon will be comprised largely of student-aged people. Why? Because most of the folks who bother to read editorials in Saturday’s paper don’t give much thought to the fact that we systematically lie to our children about the reasons we put people in jail. I suppose that’s a realistic lesson to teach children, but I doubt its moral defensibility.
You’re invited to join us. We welcome your participation. Our petition will be there for you to sign.
For those who maintain that we are cynically piggybacking marijuana legalization on the backs of sick people, I’d invite them to spend a day in the pain that many people who could benefit from cannabis therapy suffer, then ask me why I want the law changed.
The Medical Marijuana March gathers at 3:30 p.m. at the bandshell at Memorial Park, with the march beginning at 4:20.
Those who show up will be there to make one statement only: The therapeutic qualities of cannabis are undeniable; it is immoral to deny a medicine, easily available and safer than aspirin, to those who need it.
Note: Bob Newland publishes www.hemphasis.net magazine