------------------------------------------------------------------- Cannabis Club Re-Opens To Sell Hemp Products (The Orange County Register notes the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, shut down by a federal judge pending its appeal, has reopened at 1755 Broadway to provide hemp goods and such services as photo identification cards that protect medical marijuana patients from prohibition agents.) Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 14:58:22 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US CA: Cannabis Club Re-Opens To Sell Hemp Products Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: John W. Black Source: Orange County Register (CA) Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.ocregister.com/ Copyright: 1998 The Orange County Register Pubdate: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 CANNABIS CLUB RE-OPENS TO SELL HEMP PRODUCTS The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative says it will reopen Monday, offering hemp products, not medical marijuana. The group, which dispensed marijuana to about 2,000 member-patients, was closed by a federal judge. Closure was sought by the U.S. Justice Department, which said the distribution of medical marijuana, authorized by a 1996 California initiative, violated federal drug laws. The cooperative is appealing U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer's order. Meanwhile, it has obtained permission from Breyer to reopen for patient services as long as no marijuana is on the premises. Also scheduled to open is the cooperative's Hemp Store, which will sell products made from hemp, the fiber of the cannabis plant.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Pot Club Says It Will Reopen In Oakland (A slightly different San Francisco Chronicle version) Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 20:55:17 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US CA: Pot Club Says It Will Reopen In Oakland Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: firstname.lastname@example.org (Frank S. World) Pubdate: November 28, 1998 Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA) Page: A26 Copyright: 1998 San Francisco Chronicle Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/ POT CLUB SAYS IT WILL REOPEN IN OAKLAND The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative says it will reopen Monday, offering hemp products, not medical marijuana. The organization, which dispensed marijuana to about 2,000 member-patients from its downtown location on Broadway, was closed last month by a federal judge. Closure was sought by the Justice Department, which said the distribution of medical marijuana, authorized by a 1996 California initiative, violated federal drug laws. The cooperative is appealing U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer's order. Meanwhile, it has obtained permission from Breyer to reopen for patient services as long as no marijuana is on the premises. The services will include counseling and educating members about the medical use of cannabis as well as ``cultivation meetings,'' the cooperative said. With the shutdown of the cooperative and most other marijuana clubs in the area, patients whose doctors recommend the drug can get it legally only by growing it or obtaining it from a caregiver. Also scheduled to open is the cooperative's Hemp Store, which will sell products made from hemp, the fiber of the cannabis plant, and books about medical marijuana.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Cannabis Buyers' Co-op To Reopen, But Not Sell Pot (The Associated Press version in The Los Angeles Times) Date: Sun, 6 Dec 1998 17:46:15 -0800 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MAPNews) To: email@example.com Subject: MN: US CA: Cannabis Buyers' Co-op To Reopen, But Not Sell Pot Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Reply-To: email@example.com Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Copyright: 1998 Los Angeles Times. Fax: 213-237-4712 Pubdate: 28 Nov 1998 Author: Associated Press CANNABIS BUYERS' CO-OP TO REOPEN, BUT NOT SELL POT Courts: The group will offer hemp products as it appeals a judge's order barring the sale of marijuana. OAKLAND--The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative says that it will reopen Monday, offering hemp products, not medical marijuana. The organization, which dispensed marijuana to about 2,000 member-patients, was closed last month && federal judge. Closure was sought by the Clinton administration's Justice Department, which said the distribution of medical marijuana, authorized by a 1996 California initiative, violated federal drug laws. The cooperative is appealing U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer's order. Meanwhile, it has obtained permission from Breyer to reopen for patient services as long as no marijuana is on the premises. The services will include counseling and educating members about the medical use of cannabis as well as "cultivation meetings," the cooperative said. With the shutdown of the cooperative and most other marijuana clubs in the area, patients whose doctors recommend the drug can get it legally only by growing it or obtaining it from a caregiver. Also scheduled to open is the cooperative's Hemp Store, which will sell products made from hemp, the fiber of the cannabis plant, and books about medical marijuana.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drug Push Is On (A letter to the editor of The Omaha World-Herald, in Nebraska, from Susie Dugan, the director of PRIDE-Omaha, reiterates a patently false but widely repeated drug-warrior lie promoted by the DEA, that there are "10,000 studies" showing marijuana to be harmful.)Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 21:28:36 -0500 To: DRCNet Medical Marijuana Forum (email@example.com) From: Richard Lake (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: You can respond to PRIDE LTE: Drug Push Is On Reply-To: email@example.com Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Our DrugSense webmaster, Matt Elrod, passed me the following page, where you can tell PRIDE about the lies of their 'Executive Director' in Ohama (see article below). http://www.pride.org/feedback.htm The old 'red herring' about the papers at the University of Mississippi, growing just like the nose of Susie, struck a raw nerve, so a quick check in our news database (great search feature, Matt!) and I found the following from a PUB LTE that sums up the truth well: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v98/n266/a06.html .. mistake was relying upon information taken from the Drug Enforcement Administration Web page. The DEA has its own agenda -- and it doesn't include providing accurate information regarding marijuana. For example, the DEA claims, "There are over 10,000 scientific studies that prove marijuana is a harmful addictive drug.'' According to Beverly Urbanek, research associate of the University of Mississippi Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, the "10,000 studies'' claim is simply not true. The institute maintains a 12,000-citation bibliography on the marijuana literature. Ms. Urbanek explained, "Many of the studies cited in the bibliography are clinical, but the total number also includes papers on the chemistry and botany of the cannabis plant, cultivation, epidemiological surveys, legal aspects, eradication studies, detection, storage, economic aspects and a whole spectrum of others that do not mention positive or negative effects.'' "However, we have never broken down that figure into positive/negative papers, and I would not even venture a guess as to what that number would be. You cannot provide a list of 10,000 negative studies,'' she said. *** Newshawk: email@example.com http://www.fairlaw.org/coverpage.html Pubdate: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 Source: Omaha World-Herald (NE) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.omaha.com/ Copyright: 1998 Omaha World-Herald Company. Author: Susie Dugan, Executive Director, PRIDE-Omaha 'DRUG PUSH IS ON' John Cronin (Nov. 22 Pulse) missed the mark when he criticized a World-Herald editorial on marijuana as "medicine." How many medicines do Americans take by smoking? I can point to more than 12,500 independent scientific studies housed at the University of Mississippi. Not one of those studies gives smoked marijuana a clean bill of health. The voters in five states who declared marijuana to be medicine were responding more to the millions of dollars poured into the drug legalization movement by billionaire George Soros than to Cronin's foggy governmental conspiracy. Too many adults are ignoring the thundering approach of legalized drugs on demand in America. Sadly, though, children are listening. Too many are being swayed by this national campaign to normalize marijuana use as beneficial. Use of marijuana by Nebraska teens is skyrocketing. How bad will the drug epidemic among children have to be before we realize that society can't have it both ways? We can't showcase drug promoters like Soros and Cronin and then bemoan the fact that children are using those same drugs. Susie Dugan, Omaha Executive director, PRIDE-Omaha
------------------------------------------------------------------- Political, Social, Religious Aspects Of The Rasta Life (The San Jose Mercury News tries to explain the Rastafarian religion. Leonard E. Barrett, author of "The Rastafarians," estimates there are 800,000 Rastas worldwide, more than 2 million if one counts followers of the lifestyle but not the faith. No one has tracked the growing number of Rastafarians in the United States. It was second-generation converts in Jamaica who instituted dreadlocks and ganja.) Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1998 08:37:58 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US NY: Political, Social, Religious Aspects Of The Rasta Life Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Marcus/Mermelstein Family (email@example.com) Pubdate: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.sjmercury.com/ Copyright: 1998 Mercury Center Author: Julia Lieblich POLITICAL, SOCIAL, RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF THE RASTA LIFE `BEWARE of the imposta' Rasta.'' So warned Dave Simon, 25, who said it takes more than dreadlocks and ganja to make a Rastafarian. ``You can grow your hair and not live the life of a Rastaman,'' said Simon, sitting in the back yard of the Olive Branch, the West Indian restaurant in Queens where he works. ``I'm bald and I'm a Rasta Rastaman,'' he said. ``It comes straight from the heart.'' Since the 1960s, many Americans have been quick to adopt the trappings of the Rasta life -- from the hair to the reggae -- while forgetting that for hundreds of thousands of followers, it's more than a fashion. It's a religion. Now Rastafarians and the scholars who study them report a resurgence of interest in both the music and the faith. From New York to Miami, people are hailing the ``Lion of Judah,'' the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as a living incarnation of God. ``He's the father,'' said Simon, ``He's the emperor. All the time he's in my heart.'' Leonard E. Barrett, author of ``The Rastafarians,'' estimates that there are 800,000 Rastas worldwide, more than 2 million if one counts followers of the lifestyle but not the faith. No one has tracked the growing number of Rastafarians in the United States, he said. But reggae singers such as Capleton and Sizzla have helped bring young men and women into the fold with songs calling for racial harmony and a return to religion. And some of the new Rastas are mixing a tradition of rebellion with decidedly traditional Christian teachings. Origins in Ethiopia The movement began in the early 1930s when Prince Tafari Makonnen of Ethiopia was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I, a self-proclaimed descendant of King Solomon of Judah and the Queen of Sheba. Some Jamaicans, followers of Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, saw Selassie as the messiah who would redeem all black people by bringing them back to Africa. They formed a religion combining the word ``Ras,'' or prince, with the emperor's first name, Tafari. The early movement was particularly popular among the poor ``suffarahs,'' Jamaica's under- and unemployed, Barrett said. It was the second-generation converts who instituted dreads and ganja and increased their opposition to Western political and economic domination (``Babylon'') through street marches and defiance of the police, said University of the West Indies anthropologist Barry Chevannes. It wasn't long before the Caribbean migration -- and reggae icon Bob Marley -- brought Rastafari to the United States. The movement appeals primarily to young Caribbean immigrants, writes sociologist Randal L. Hepner in an essay published in the recently released ``Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader.'' But it's also attracting, he said, ``a growing number of Africans, African-Americans, Native Americans and white Americans.'' ``It's for everybody,'' said Paul David, 33, an owner of the Olive Branch, who joined Simon and four other Rastas for a smoke behind his restaurant. A veteran with waist-length dreads, David guides the younger Rastas, playing devotional reggae on a boombox and showing videos on a television in the stockroom. That afternoon he was showing documentaries about Haile Selassie's life in honor of the emperor's July 23 birthday, which they would be celebrating that evening. There's no initiation for newcomers, David said, and no required reading except the Bible. He tries to help instill in young people a sense of pride in the African heritage and a desire to free themselves from racial and economic oppression. He warns them to get their lives together ``before they have to face the king himself,'' Haile Selassie, whom they view as a living manifestation of God. Rastas, said David, envision the coming of a golden age on Earth for the pure of heart. The movement, Barrett said, sees Ethiopia as the promised land where black people will be repatriated though an exodus from Western countries. The timing, many believe, awaits the decision of Haile Selassie and the details are secret. Will anyone go to hell? ``I wouldn't know about that,'' said David. ``I think so positive. I think about freedom.'' He gestured toward the boombox to bring the point home. ``Soon we will be free,'' the singer chanted while a young man lit another joint. ``We smoke a lot of pot around the Twelve Tribes,'' said David Miller, 22, referring to one of the most influential and mainly middle-class Rastafarian sects, which has a local headquarters nearby. Ganja (marijuana), said David, is not a drug; it's a religious sacrament. ``Drugs to me is cocaine, heroin. Herb is the healing of the nation. Herb heals people from glaucoma and diabetes.'' The Rastas, said Barrett, ``have their men who pick up their ganja and sell it in their cars.'' Still, Hepner reports that his research doesn't support the common conception that Rastas are heavily involved in drug trafficking. Rastas, he said, are adamantly opposed to the use of narcotics and alcohol. Some don't smoke at all. Weed and worship Weed or no weed, any gathering that invokes Haile Selassie is worship, said Simon, including their backyard meeting. Most American Rastas, Hepner said, do not attend formal churches, gathering instead in homes, clubs and smoking yards. Larger congregations hold Bible study, Sunday school classes and courses in African history and the roots of the back-to-Africa movement. Some Rastas, said University of North Carolina philosophy and religion professor Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, have reinterpreted the idea of repatriation to mean a voluntary relocation to Africa or a symbolic return to cultural values. Attitudes toward Christianity have also changed, said Barrett. The early Rastas were hostile to Christians, who vilified Rastas in Jamaica. The Twelve Tribes, however, believe that Jesus Christ is a manifestation of God just like Haile Selassie. Today that rebellious side of Rastafari religion in the United States is expressed primarily through reggae, and in some cases a refusal to work in mainstream jobs. But the rejection is often moot, noted Miller, given the lack of good jobs available for young black men. At 6 p.m., David and his friends gathered at the local Twelve Tribes headquarters to celebrate Selassie's birthday. The only identification on the building are two small lions on the front gate -- the Lions of Judah. Otherwise, the church is a nondescript shingled house with a well-manicured yard and the kind of church van that takes seniors to potlucks. ``We're a family,'' said a longtime Rasta who claims that police do not bother Rastas who smoke at the church. ``Rastas are just Christians who seek repatriation.''
------------------------------------------------------------------- Double Standard on Drug Sentences (Atlanta Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker writes in The San Francisco Chronicle that the United States is no better off for a shameless double standard that celebrates the privileged athlete, actor or businessman who licks his drug habit in a ritzy sanitarium, while imprisoning the crackhead too broke to afford drug treatment. That policy guarantees a permanent underclass.) Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1998 08:29:38 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: US: Double Standard on Drug Sentences Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: email@example.com (Tom O'Connell) Pubdate: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 Source: San Francisco Chronicle Page: Editorial Page (A 24) Copyright: 1998 San Francisco Chronicle Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle/ Author: Cynthia Tucker Note: Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor of the Atlanta Constitution. AS I SEE IT by Cynthia Tucker DOUBLE STANDARD ON DRUG SENTENCES THERE ARE forgotten neighborhoods in America where the holiday season imposes a distinct and peculiar ritual: Mom and the kids, or Grandma and the grand kids, pack up a few goodies in tin plates and paper bags, carefully wrapped in foil. They set out early for a visit preordained to be brief and circumscribed, its joy Iimited by the setting. They go to visit relative in prison. The places in America already decimated by poverty and economic collapse - the black and brown inner-cities - are also places where many of the young men are out of circulation. They cannot become taxpayers or decent parents or reasonable prospects for marriage. They will leave prison with criminal records that guarantee them limited job opportunities. Lacking decent incomes, they will never marry the mothers of their children. And that, in turn, will guarantee another generation of children who have had little contact with their fathers. America has succeeded in locking up more of its citizens than any other country on the planet. The state of California alone has more inmates than France Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the Netherlands combined, according to a report of Eric Schlosser in the December issue of the Atlantic Monthly. We have incarcerated violent, dangerous felons as well as nonviolent drug abusers. We have created laws designed to keep the streets safe. And we have designed laws whose only result is to ensure that entire neighborhoods regularly send their young men off to prison. And we have confused the one with the other. Let's make some distinctions. Many convicted felons are thugs and punks. Some of them practiced their violent tendencies on their families and friends first beating a girlfriend, robbing a neighbor, abusing a child. They deserve to be in prison. But a substantial portion of the 850,000 black Americans behind bars are there for non-violent drug offenses. Marc Mauer of the Washington, DC.-based Sentencing Project estimates the number at 216,000 - about one fourth. With drug treatment of the sort routinely available to drug-addicted actors and athletes, or to white-collar employees with good health, insurance, many of them would become taxpaying citizens, able to support a family, own a home. To avoid being labeled "soft" on crime, even politicians who know better have refused to acknowledge a simple truth: We waste money, as well as lives, when we lock up non-violent offenders. "Among those arrested or violent crimes, the proportion are African-American men has changed little over the past 20 years. Among those arrested for drug crimes, the proportion who are African-American men has tripled. Although the prevalence of illegal drug use among white men is approximately the same as that among black men, black men are five times as likely to be arrested for a drug offense," Schlosser wrote. We ought to be able to talk about alternative sentences for non-violent drug abusers - free drug treatment, with participation a condition of probation, for example. The streets may be safer because we have succeeded in locking away for good many of the most dangerous predators, the gangbangers and serial killers, the robbers and rapists and carjackers. But the country is no better off for a shameless double standard that celebrates the privileged athlete, actor or businessman who licks his drug habit in a ritzy sanitarium, while imprisoning the crackhead too broke to afford drug treatment. That policy guarantees a permanent underclass.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Prof 'Masterminded' Pot Operation (The Victoria Times-Colonist, in British Columbia, recounts the prosecution of University of Victoria sociology professor Jean Eleanor Veevers, 55, who pleaded guilty Friday to cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. Sentencing was delayed by Justice Dean Wilson of the provincial Supreme Court.) Date: Sun, 29 Nov 1998 08:31:07 -0800 From: email@example.com (MAPNews) To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: MN: Canada: Prof 'Masterminded' Pot Operation Sender: email@example.com Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Organization: Media Awareness Project http://www.mapinc.org/lists/ Newshawk: Alan Randell Pubdate: November 28, 1998 Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (Canada) Contact: email@example.com Author: King Lee, Times-Colonist Staff PROF 'MASTERMINDED' POT OPERATION Crown counsel Ernie Froess sees UVic sociology professor Jean Eleanor Veevers as the mastermind of a sophisticated and elaborate growing operation. Defence lawyer Mel Hunt likens the debt-ridden Veevers to a cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, forever trying to outfox the Roadrunner and failing. Veevers, 55, pleaded guilty to cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and was to be sentenced Friday by Justice Dean Wilson in B.C. Supreme Court. Wilson heard arguments over the issue of a jail term or a conditional sentence which Veevers could serve at home. The sentencing is to continue next Friday. Froess said an RCMP drug squad raid on April 18, 1997 netted 122 marijuana plants and 8.6 kilograms of marijuana. He described the grow operation as sophisticated and elaborate, including carbon-dioxide generators and dehumidifiers. Froess told the court Veevers, a sociology professor at UVic since 1980 wanted to retire at age 55. She earned $88,000 at UVic, he said, "And she still finds it necessary to grow marijuana." Froess said the police found evidence Veevers had been growing marijuana since 1981 and expected revenues of $90,000 a year from the operation. In written evidence seized during the raid, a summary of Veevers' assets included $386,000 for her house, $195,000 in RRSPs and $250,000 in a UVic pension. Hunt agreed his client's home had an assessed value of $386,000. He said she paid $317,000 for it and it was currently valued at between $279,000 and $289,000. He said Veevers had debts of $33,000, owed $7,200 property taxes and paid $3,000 or $5,000 to B.C. Hydro for electricity she stole for the grow operation as well as paying them $600 a month to satisfy a $9,000 bill. Hunt said Veevers was "dreaming in Technicolor" and compared her with Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner. "The dream goes on as long as the Acme Co. keeps sending devices." Hunt agreed with the length of sentence suggested by Froess - three to six months - but said it should be a conditional sentence served in the community with no curfew, some community service and drug and alcohol counselling as directed by the probation officer. "Where is there any factor of deterrence?" Wilson asked. "Even if there was a curfew, what's changed in her life?" Veevers's lawyer said that the punishment to her was having a criminal conviction.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Illegal Medicine - Kitchener Organization Dispenses Marijuana to Chronic Pain Sufferers (A feature article in The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, in Ontario, focuses on 23-year-old Jeannette Tossounian of Kitchener and her club, MUM - Marijuana Used for Medicine - which dispenses the illegal herb to about 50 registered members.) From: "Starr" (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: "mattalk" (email@example.com) Subject: Illegal medicine Date: Sat, 28 Nov 1998 22:35:58 -0500 Source: The Kitchener-Waterloo Record firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Saturday, November 28, 1998 Written by: Philip Jalsevac Section: Weekend ILLEGAL MEDICINE KITCHENER ORGANIZATION DISPENSES MARIJUANA TO CHRONIC PAIN SUFFERERS After starting out with little more than high hopes last April, Jeannette Tossounian of Kitchener now has a small office for her club, Marijuana Used for Medicine, and about 50 registered members to whom she sells the illegal drug. The 23-year-old crusader operates one of only four such clubs in Canada; the others are in Vancouver, Toronto and London. In the process, she risks criminal prosecution. Staff Sgt. Kevin Chalk said in an interview Waterloo regional police are aware of the club and are obliged to charge anybody selling marijuana, even for medical purposes. However, Chalk said, "I can't tell you we're hunting down these people... We have to prioritize what we do and that would be at the low end of the scale." In the Canadian magazine Cannabis Culture, Tossounian is portrayed as a "modern-day Florence Nightingale," dispensing marijuana to patients who register by having their doctor verify their medical condition. Most of the 50 members live in Waterloo Region, with a handful residing in Guelph, Stratford and Hamilton. "This is a start," Tossounian said during an interview in her spartan office in Kitchener. BELOW STREET PRICES She has two supplies who sell marijuana to her at below-street prices. A gram that might cost $15 on the street can be sold to club members for $5 to $10, with one gram providing somewhere between three and five joints. Tossounian sells the marijuana in small amounts, mostly to ensure it is not used or resold for recreational use. Not that she's opposed to recreational smoking of marijuana, but that's not the purpose of her club, which she tries to manage in a professional manner. "My suggestion would be to have you talk to your doctor," she tells one caller who's had difficulty getting the necessary paper work completed. "If I don't have any confirmation from the doctor, unfortunately, you can't be part of the organization." Then she adds: "I'm sure it's just a little mix-up. It just needs a simple phone call." Tossounian says she gets by on odd jobs and occasional work as a graphics artist and is studying to be a herbalist. ALL WALKS OF LIFE Her clients include patients from all walks of life suffering a variety of ailments like epilepsy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, hepatitis, migraine, arthritis and cancer. According to an article in the Oct. 26 issue of Law Times, after hearing expert witnesses in a recent court case, Ontario provincial court Judge Patrick Sheppard concluded marijuana has a therapeutic effect in the treatment of those ailments. As for MUM, local doctors sign forms saying: "I have discussed with my patient what I am aware of in terms of the health benefits and risks of marijuana. I would consider prescribing it if I were legally able to do so." Sometimes, the doctor's assistant or secretary will verify the form was legitimately filled out, but often Tossounian talks to the doctor directly. "I find most doctors are supportive," she says, although some are "totally afraid to sign the form." While marijuana may ease the afflicted, Tossounian concedes it can pose risks to otherwise healthy people under certain circumstances. CONFLICTING VIEWS Recent studies present conflicting opinions. But from Tossounian's point of view, "the negative side-effect would be psychological" rather than physical. The problem arises when people use marijuana as a form of escapism and it becomes "a mental addiction so that they don't have to deal with the rest of their lives," she said. "That happens, and those people should get some kind of counseling." She tries to get to know her members' smoking habits to help gauge their condition and need. They usually only have a few puffs," she said. "Nobody seems to be abusing it." As well, she said, "a lot of them are lonely and they need some contact. So, I stay for a while and talk to them." The personal touch, however, sometimes leads to a struggle to remain detached from their suffering. On occasion, she'll drive a member to see a doctor or help with other chores. "I found myself almost becoming a social worker, but I try not to be," she said. "I'm trying my best to discipline myself, because it wears me out." TEACHER SAYS HE BREAKS THE LAW TO STAY HEALTHY Smoking grass can help you get off drugs. The notion may seem contradictory, but that's the view of local people who told the Record about their use of marijuana for medical purposes. In interviews, they also said if there is such a thing as "reefer madness," it prevails among society at large for outlawing any use of marijuana. "I'm probably one of the most law-abiding citizens you could find and do a lot of community work. But, in order to stay healthy, I have to break the law," said Bob, an area teacher. "It doesn't seem fair." Bob, 48, relies on marijuana to control his epilepsy, which conventional prescription medicine cannot do because he's allergic to it. "I almost lost my life with this epileptic medication," he said. His doctor had no reservations about him switching to marijuana, he said. "She told me it was the smart thing to do." Bob and two others interviewed are members of the Kitchener club Marijuana Used for Medicine (MUM). Like the others, Bob didn't want to be identified because of the legal risk and social stigma. But all three said marijuana either replaced or helped them cut back the prescription drugs they were taking. It wasn't necessarily easy. Steve, 34, of Kitchener, went through a night of the shakes and vomiting when he tried to kick his addiction to pain-killers, including morphine, Demerol and codeine. Helping him through the ordeal was Jeannette Tossounian, the 23-year-old head of MUM, who refers to members as "my patients." "She actually helped me kick the pills," said Steve, a driver who suffers from nerve damage and a ruptured disc. Steve's been off prescription medication for about five months now and relies on marijuana -- after working hours -- to help control his pain. "I'll have a couple of puffs to help me settle down and get to sleep," he said, adding that "you don't wake up the next morning feeling hung over." He found that after years of taking prescription drugs, "my organs inside were just rotting away," and he developed stomach ulcers. Nowadays, he said: "I'm off everything. The only pills I take now are vitamins." He feels healthier, sleeps better and is more physically active. "Now, I can't attribute all that to smoking dope," he said, "but I can attribute it to not having pills inside my body." Doctors referring patients to MUM did so confidentially and were unavailable for interviews. But Steve claimed his doctor knows he was substituting marijuana for prescription drugs, and "he thought it was excellent." Laurie, 40, has cut back significantly, but has been unable to totally eliminate her use of drugs. That's largely because she has severe pain from a rare illness called arachnoditis. Medical literature describes it as an inflammatory and sometimes agonizing disease involving membranes of the brain and spinal canal. Laurie's troubles began when she was a 12-year-old sprinter and suffered a ruptured disc while training. A series of questionable surgical procedures and now-outdated tests -- involving a risky type of myelography or dye injection -- led to the development of the arachnoditis. She said she also suffers from sciatica, nausea, bowel and bladder problems. Her condition became more serious in 1978, while she was studying social services at Conestoga College in Kitchener. During one operation, "something horrifically went wrong," she said. Her life hasn't been normal since, and she said she has taken prescription drugs, mostly morphine, for 20 years. She spends most of her time in a small Kitchener apartment equipped with a wheelchair and hospital-type bed. At the best of times, she can walk short distances. Photos of loved ones sit near an old television set, which helps her while away the night when she can't sleep. Before joining MUM, Laurie occasionally tried to obtain marijuana on the street. But she paid high prices for what was often poor-quality grass and she didn't like the drug dealers. Now she gets a more regular supply of good marijuana through MUM. The marijuana she smokes daily eases her pain, helps her sleep, induces appetite and alleviates nausea, she said. Most significantly, she's not adrift in a cloud of narcotics. "Since I gained access to marijuana, I have decreased my intake (of prescription drugs) at least by half," Laurie said. Said Tossounian: "When I first met her, she wasn't as coherent. Now I see her hopping into the wheelchair and going to the mall. She's been happier. She's been more with it and not on the heavy drugs." As for the law that makes her use of marijuana illegal, Laurie is incredulous: "If you're on the heaviest opiates on the market, excluding heroine, what's the threat? That just boggles my whole mind, that marijuana versus narcotics (argument)." Is the grass strictly medical? "I'm not going to lie," Laurie said. "There are times when I just want to get high. But those times are few and far between.' To get the most benefit from its pain relief, she said "you have to combine it with meditation and visualization" -- techniques she learned in pain-management clinics. In her meditation, she employees a personal "form of praying, but not really asking anything." The aim is simply "to be in the moment and listen to whatever, the universe and God. And that's a very difficult place to get to." -------------------------------------------------------------------
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