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War On Marijuana Unconstitutional, Doctors Testify In Federal Court Monday

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War on marijuana unconstitutional, doctors testify in federal court Monday
Posted on October 21, 2014 at 11:23 am by David Downs



The federal government tries to justify its war on marijuana Monday

The U.S. government claims marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug with no medical benefits. But that claim will be up for debate Monday in California when a federal judge is scheduled to hear testimony from doctors that conclude the opposite.

Doctors Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, retired physician Phillip Denny, and Greg Carter, Medical Director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington will testify Monday that marijuana — real name, “cannabis” — is not the demon drug the federal government makes it out to be. Accepted science does not justify the listing of cannabis as a dangerous “Schedule I” substance, many say.

t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”

This is an unprecedented hearing, writes cannabis law reform advocate Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.

“This is the first time in recent memory that a federal judge has granted an evidentiary hearing on a motion challenging the statute which classifies cannabis to be one of the most dangerous illicit substances in the nation.”

Attorneys Zenia Gilg and Heather Burke write that “In effect, the action taken by the Department of Justice is either irrational, or more likely proves … [that] marijuana does not fit the criteria of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.”

Testimony for the evidentiary hearing of United States v. Pickard, et. al., should last three days.

Government witness Bertha Madras, former White House Drug Czar deputy director under George W. Bush will defend the Schedule 1 designation. Madras states cannabis has no accepted medical use and is unsafe.

Madras states she supports the pharmaceuticalization of THC and CBD, while criminalizing the use of the plant they come from.

“Although more than 30% of current therapeutic drugs are plant-derived, no one currently eats or smokes foxglove plants to treat a heart condition, chews cinchona bark to alleviate malaria symptoms, or eats opium poppies to relieve post-surgical pain,” Madras writes.

In places where medical marijuana is legal, folks have moved on from smoking it to vaporization, edibles, tinctures, and topicals. About one in 20 California adults are estimated to have used medical marijuana for a serious illness, according to the most recent survey data. Ninety-two percent of them are estimated to believe cannabis was helpful for their condition.

Critics of Madras note the government has actually patented cannabis for use in stroke therapy.

Smoked or eaten cannabis also has no overdose level. Conversely, “medically accepted” prescription pills will kill about 22,114 people from drug overdose this year.

President Richard Nixon placed cannabis in Schedule 1 in 1970, overruling the recommendations of his own National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, which found “little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis.”


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t is my considered opinion that including marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act is counter to all the scientific evidence in a society that uses and values empirical evidence,” Dr. Hart declared. “After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”



Smoked or eaten cannabis also has no overdose level. Conversely, “medically accepted” prescription pills will kill about 22,114 people from drug overdose this year.



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Why Today Is a Historic Day for Cannabis Policy
By: Jeremy Daw October 27, 2014

Why-Today-is-a-Historic-Day-for-CannabisOne of the most important lessons I learned in law school concerned how to win an argument. And regardless of whether the argument is made in a court of law or in the court of public opinion, one timeless principle will always apply: whereas amateurs try to direct an argument’s logic, professionals work to control its terms – while true masters of the art take the principle one step further and control its underlying facts.

To see a brilliant example, look no further than some of the greatest masters of this art: the public relations professionals who work for the tobacco industry. In the 1950s and 60s, when the earliest research about the deadly harms of tobacco began to come to light, the industry’s PR machine transformed the terms of the national discourse (“More doctors smoke CAMELS than any other brand of cigarette!”); but quickly, as the evidence kept mounting, the industry had to step up their game and seize control of the facts. That’s why they began sponsoring their own research, then began promoting their contrary findings to establish that there was a “debate” among the medical community as to whether smoking tobacco caused health problems.

The strategy worked brilliantly, and the industry was able to go on profiting off the deaths of half a million Americans per year without anyone going to jail.

It may seem odd to open a discussion of the significance of a federal hearing on cannabis with a story from the tobacco industry, but I thought that a little context was required to appreciate the three days of federal hearings on the constitutionality of cannabis’ continuing Schedule I classification beginning today in Sacramento, California – and to understand why these historic hearings are a very, very big deal.

“This is Where the Light Is.”

A man walking home from work late at night happened upon an unusual sight: another man, looking somewhat disheveled, scouring on his hands and knees the narrow circle of light thrown down onto the sidewalk by a street lamp above. There was obviously nothing there but concrete and dirt, so the man asked the other what he was so fervently seeking.

“My keys,” came the reply.

“One glance can show you they’re not here,” said the bewildered man. “Why don’t you try searching somewhere else?”

“Because,” said the other, resting on his knees. “This is where the light is.”

The story in the joke sounds absurd, but in a very real sense, this is how courts of law operate in the United States. With only one, very narrow exception to the rule (look up “judicial notice” if you’re feeling extra wonky), courts weighing the outcome of a case are not permitted to even look at any facts except those in the established evidentiary record of that case – in other words, where the light is.

While the rule sounds impossibly esoteric, its application has very real consequences. So, for example, when the Supreme Court decided in 2013 to finally terminate a petition to reschedule cannabis, it did so only with the benefit of evidence gathered in two separate hearings – one conducted in 2002 and the other all the way back in 1986. Thus, even though a huge amount of research on the medical efficacy of cannabis had been published in the decade before the Court made their decision, they were not allowed to consider it at all when making their decision. That’s not where the light is.

That’s why today’s hearing is a very big deal. By finally taking updated testimony from eminent experts – including Dr. Carl Hart, Dr. Phillip Denny, and the Leaf’s co-founder Chris Conrad – the federal court system will permit itself to know what almost every American already knows: that the Schedule I classification of cannabis is bogus. And those facts will be binding for the entire duration of an appeal, even it if goes (as it likely will) all the way back to the Supreme Court.

Schedule I classification requires, by the way, a rational and scientific determination that a drug lacks any currently accepted medical value in the US; that it also has a high potential for abuse; and that there is no safe way to administer it, even under a doctor’s supervision. This rational determination is required to be made, according to the language of the Controlled Substances Act which established the schedules, both intrinsically and comparatively, meaning that each drug must be evaluated not only on its own merits but also in comparison to drugs in the same schedule as well as other schedules.

Thus the government’s expert witness, Dr. Bertha Madras, has the unenviable job of explaining (under cross-examination) why cannabis belongs in the same category as heroin, but that cocaine (Schedule II) and crystal meth (Schedule III) should be less restricted. (In 2012, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart stumbled badly when trying to make a similar case before Congress.) And if Judge Kimberly Mueller finds that there is no rational basis for the continued scheduling of cannabis according to these metrics, she will strike down the classification as unconstitutional.

To be sure, such a move will certainly provoke an appeal; but the damage will have been done because the facts will have already been established. All later appeals courts will be bound by the same factual findings that cannabis doesn’t belong in Schedule I — because that’s where the light will be.

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Federal Prosecutors Appear to Concede Cannabis’ Medical Benefits
By: Jeremy Daw October 28, 2014

Federal-Prosecutors-Appear-to-Concede-CaAssistant US Attorney Gregory Broderick stumbled badly in his cross-examination of Dr. Carl Hart in federal evidentiary hearings to determine the constitutional basis of the federal Schedule I classification of cannabis, appearing at times to even tacitly endorse the idea that cannabis has medical value. In hearings conducted on October 27th by the Hon. Kimberly Mueller in the federal Eastern District of California in the matter of US v Schweder, attempts by US Attorneys to paint Hart – who teaches neuroscience at Columbia University and sits on an advisory board to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) – as a researcher blinded by his personal biases blew up, at times embarrassingly, in their faces.

In one dramatic example, Broderick asked Hart about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association and contains a definition of “substance use disorder” (AKA addiction) which has been regarded as definitive by courts. Noting that the substance abuse standard promulgated by the 4th edition of the DSM (the DSM-IV) results in an oft-quoted 9% rate of dependence among lifetime users of cannabis, Broderick requested Hart’s comment.

But Hart appeared to stun Broderick with his response that the newest version of the DSM, the DSM-V, explains that tolerance and withdrawal from cannabis are “normal symptoms to be expected of legitimate medical cannabis use” in states where it is legal. (This point was later expanded upon by the testimony of Dr. Philip Denny, another expert witness for the defense.)

Broderick tried to recover by bringing up some of Dr. Hart’s family history in an apparent attempt to show bias. Asking about the legal troubles of his adult son and other members of his family, Broderick tried to insinuate that these troubles had spurred Dr. Hart on to some kind of personal mission to legalize drugs. “I’m a black man in America,” Dr. Hart replied. “You’d be hard pressed to find someone like me who isn’t closely connected to someone” who has been through the penal system.

Nevertheless, Dr. Hart brushed off these and all other attempts by Broderick to make Dr. Hart’s testimony about Dr. Hart. In response to questions of whether certain propositions accorded with his opinion, Hart repeatedly and emphatically replied no: “It’s not my opinion,” the scientist said. “It’s what the evidence indicates.”

Broderick’s attempts to discredit Dr. Hart’s credentials backfired even worse. At one point, the prosecutor asked why Hart was an expert in medical matters when he doesn’t hold an M.D. (Hart’s PhD is in neuropsychopharmacology). “I teach at Columbia’s medical school,” Hart replied. “I train doctors.”

Soon after, when Broderick brought up the fact that the American Medical Association had released statements calling cannabis a “dangerous drug,” Hart replied: “Think about what you just said. The AMA committee reads research, such as what I conduct, to form their positions. So why would I go to them for their opinion?”

The intellectual mismatch between the two adversaries became so painfully apparent that at one point Broderick attempted a joke to relieve the tension. “I was a political science major,” Broderick protested. “Not neuroscience.”

But the joke was on him later in the examination when Broderick appeared to misunderstand some of the nuance of Hart’s explanations of NIDA operations. “I thought you were a political science major,” Hart retorted, as laughter exploded in the courtroom.

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“Medicine” On Trial In Cannabis Scheduling Hearing
By: Jeremy Daw October 30, 2014


Medicine-On-Trial-In-Cannabis-SchedulingCompeting definitions of the word ‘medicine’ clashed in the fourth day of hearings over the federal scheduling of cannabis, a day which witnessed fiery exchanges between a NORML lawyer and a government expert.

Dr. Bertha Madras, the only government expert witness to take the stand in the evidentiary hearings scheduled by Judge Kimberly Mueller in the Eastern District of California for October 24-30, boldly asserted that while other substances may have demonstrable therapeutic benefits, only drugs which met extremely strict standards promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration could properly be called ‘medicine.’ The question is central to cannabis’ continued classification as Schedule I under the federal Controlled Substances Act, because it is the only one of the five schedules reserved exclusively for drugs lacking any medical value.

NORML attorney Zenia Gilg wasted little time attacking Dr. Madras’ expertise, pointing out within the first five minutes of her cross-examination that Madras, who has a PhD in biochemistry and served as an addiction adviser to the George W. Bush presidency, had never actually treated any patients or directly observed the effects of cannabis on humans. Instead Madras, who also teaches at Harvard Medical School, testified that she based her cannabis expertise entirely on the fact that she had “read the literature” on the subject. This experience directly contrasts with that of Dr. Carl Hart and Dr. Philip Denney, both expert witnesses for the defense who based their testimony in opposition to continued Schedule I classification on a combination of literature review and actual clinical experience (Dr. Hart directly studies the effects of cannabis on human subjects in his laboratory, and Dr. Denney attended to over 12,000 patients in his career as a physician). At times, her lack of firsthand knowledge became painfully obvious, especially when she claimed that the THC potency of cannabis found in dispensaries could be “between 1 and 30 percent.”

height.200.no_border.width_.200.jpgDespite lacking any firsthand knowledge of the human effects of her opinions, Dr. Madras confidently testified that plant-based cannabis was simply not medicine – although her definition of the term bordered at times on the tautological. For example, when Gilg questioned Madras about a study co-authored by Dr. Hart which showed that plant cannabis and Marinol (synthetic THC in pill form) were found to be equally effective in treating the symptoms of AIDS wasting syndrome, she quibbled about the study design, complaining that she’d “like to see how they did the side effect profile.” Even so, just a few minutes later, when attempting to explain the supposed superiority of single-ingredient medications over plant-based medications, she referred again to the Hart study, claiming with a winning smile that it “shows that single-chemical extracts can be just as effective. That’s a good take-home lesson.” Curiously, she made no mention of any supposed limitations of the Hart study the second time she discussed it.

Madras held steadfastly to her assertion that single-ingredient medications were categorically superior to plant-derived therapies, applying the logic even to the individual compounds found in cannabis resin. In particular, she called the promise of the therapeutic benefit of cannabidiol (CBD) “tantalizing,” even while calling plant cannabis “completely different” on the basis that “the interaction of cannabinoids is different than the action of individual cannabinoids,” an apparent reference to the entourage effect, the process by which the various components of cannabis resin apparently work together synergistically in a way that’s more effective than the sum of their individual parts. Indeed, she went so far as to admit that the entourage effect is “helpful,” yet continued to insist that only single-ingredient drugs could be medicine. At this point, Gilg appeared to catch Madras in a contradiction, eliciting testimony in which the professor said that she “wanted to see more studies of the individual cannabinoids” on the basis that some of them seemed to have “promise” as single-ingredient isolates. Yet when Gilg addressed Madras’ attention to about a dozen studies researching the very individual cannabinoids the witness had said she wanted to see, Madras was forced to admit that although she was aware that the studies in question existed, she had never actually read them.

Gilg attempted to rebut Madras’ claim that no adequate studies showing the medical benefits of cannabis existed by showing her the results of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials – which Madras herself called the “gold standard” of medical research – which revealed significant improvement for cannabis patients in various ways. Nevertheless, Madras dismissed nearly all of them, complaining that only experienced cannabis smokers had been recruited for the majority of the trials and insisting that because those studies hadn’t also included “naive users” in the drug population, their results were invalidated for everyone. “Does that mean,” retorted Gilg, “that the FDA only approves a drug if it believes it is useful for a majority of people?” Madras stumbled and stammered noticeably before explaining that she only meant to say that she would have preferred a more stringent study design.

At the end of a contentious afternoon session Madras’ cross-examination remained incomplete, and the parties adjourned to resume Thursday morning for the hearing’s final day. Dr. Madras stepped down from the witness stand and, as she approached the prosecutor’s table, Assistant US Attorney Richard Bender could be overheard asking the professor, “Is your brain in the mood to be buzzed?” – an apparent invitation to share alcoholic drinks.

Madras, true to form to the very end, declined.

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right... i had to google it T...


more interesting news on this topic..



NORML, Feds Agree On Benefits Of Cannabis
By: Jeremy Daw October 29, 2014

NORML-Feds-Agree-On-Benefits-Of-CannabisThe third day of hearings on the constitutionality of cannabis’ federal Schedule I status presented further bizarre twists, as both federal prosecutors and NORML’s defense team appeared at times to agree on the medical benefits of cannabis.

In one early incident, Assistant US Attorney Richard Bender, in continued cross-examination of Dr. Philip Denney, failed to rebut Denney’s testimony that plant-based cannabis effectively treated chronic pain. Instead, Bender attempted to show a marginal benefit to using dronabinol (AKA Marinol, which is synthetic THC taken orally in pill form) compared to cannabis and at one point seemed to get a little carried away with his line of questioning. Directing Denney’s attention to the results of a study which showed that both cannabis and Marinol proved effective in treating chronic pain but that the effects of Marinol lasted longer, Bender asked, “So, both smoked marijuana and oral THC were effective, but Marinol was a little better because it lasted longer?”

Denney answered yes, and Bender continued, apparently unaware that he had just admitted that cannabis has medical value.

Later in the same cross-examination Bender slipped again, making a similar admission in a more humorous way. Asking Denney about research showing the ability of cannabinoids to protect brain cells from damage during traumatic injuries, Bender asked, in a somewhat mocking tone, “So, if you’re going to have a traumatic brain injury, you’d better do it under the influence of marijuana?” Denney responded with an emphatic “yes,” provoking laughter in the courtroom.

But perhaps the greatest damage to the government’s case came as a result of an apparent lapse of attention on the part of the prosecution. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg managed to elicit numerous responses from Denney on the nature of the US government’s Investigative New Drug (IND) program, under which US patients receive free tins of government-grown cannabis every month to treat severe illnesses, before Bender seemed to stir, stand and state a valid objection.

It was apparently too late. Calling the objection “belated,” Judge Kimberly Mueller overruled it.

This blunder proved crippling for the prosecution, as Gilg was then able to elicit further testimony from Denney about the IND program, and in particular the results of a study conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo and others in 2002 which showed remarkable long-term success treating severely ill patients who had proven resistant to traditional therapies, and with a minimum of undesirable side effects – all at the behest of the US government.

Because the hearing also concerns the question of whether the medical use of cannabis is “currently accepted” in the US, Denney also testified regarding polls conducted of physicians about their professional opinions of cannabis. While Bender quibbled over details of a poll by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showing 76% approval of a medical marijuana recommendation in a hypothetical patient, he left entirely uncontested testimony about another physician poll conducted by WebMD which showed 69% support for the medical use of cannabis – again apparently conceding a point which is logically central to the question of whether cannabis belongs in Schedule I.

Leaf co-founder Chris Conrad also took the stand as an expert witness, cross-examined by prosecutor Samuel Wong, who attempted to contradict the notions that cannabis had a known and reproducible chemistry and that it could be subjected to quality controls. Evoking the use of pesticides and other chemicals, Wong tried to suggest that use of such chemicals would lead to cannabis patients inhaling toxic substances. But Conrad pointed out that that was not necessarily the case, as many such sprays were designed to break down over time. Wong erred even worse when he tried to imply that quality control standards for cannabis didn’t exist, which opened the door for Conrad to introduce the medical cannabis quality control standards recommended by the American Herbal Pharmacopeia.

Still, it was ultimately Dr. Denney who most succinctly summarized the tenor of the day. “I am perplexed,” he testified, “as to why there’s even a debate. Cannabis does have medical value.”

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