MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Celebs, Politicians and Activists Protest Federal Policy
Celebrities, health officials and members of Congress signed letters addressed to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala yesterday to protest a new U.S. medical marijuana research policy for "lacking compassion and being 'too cumbersome,'" the Boston Globe reports. Critics charge that the conditions under which studies involving marijuana can be conducted are "so stringent as to make the research virtually impossible." Additionally, they allege that the policy "fails to allow a sufficient number of medically approved patients to receive marijuana through 'compassionate use' programs." Actors Susan Sarandon and Woody Harrelson, comedians Richard Pryor and Bill Maher, Harvard University scientist Stephen Jay Gould, rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and former Reagan administration official Lyn Nofziger, as well as members of Congress signed the letters. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, medical marijuana activists are reorganizing efforts to put the issue on the state ballot. Although organizers failed to get the 60,000 signatures necessary, President and Chair of MASS CANN/NORML (the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Bill Downing said, "We know the people of Massachusetts really support doctors' ability to prescribe marijuana." Massachusetts activists also are upset that the federal research policy has prevented the state Department of Health from receiving legal access to marijuana for testing purposes. Deputy public health commissioner Paul Jacobsen said that the policy "basically doesn't provide us with an approvable source [for the drug]. We have our program. It's up, it can run, but without a source, it's a moot point" (Kong, 11/30).
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The Baltimore Sun describes the struggle of one medical marijuana user who goes against the marijuana-proponent stereotype. Darrell Putman, who is suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, has used marijuana as a means to gain weight necessary for his treatment. Putman -- a Green Beret, a registered Republican and horse farm owner in Howard County, MD -- has been campaigning to see marijuana decriminalized for medical purposes. He said, "Baby boomers, those are the people who I want to reach. These are the people who must think I am something left over from the '60s. Some draft card-burning, flag-burning hippie" (Atonelli, 11/27). Meanwhile, the AP/Atlanta Journal Constitution explores the obstacles that remain in front of Initiative 692 passed in Washington state to allow medical marijuana. Although physicians and law enforcement officials now are developing guidelines, they face opposition from the federal government (George, 11/28).