Medical Marijuana in the News

This week, Canadian medical marijuana patients begin receiving government-grown cannabis; the Alaskan Court of Appeals rules in favor of allowing personal possession of live marijuana plants; a federal judge in California dismisses efforts by local government to halt federal raids on medical marijuana co-ops; and the Dutch begin selling medical marijuana in pharmacies.

August 27 -- The Associated Press reports: Jari Dvorak scored two ounces of pot Tuesday and lit up, but -- unlike in the past -- the deal involved no back alley exchange or hiding from police.

This time, the 62-year-old Dvorak went to a doctor to pick up his supply, making him one of the first patients to receive government-grown marijuana. He paid $245, tax included.

"I just smoked some and it's doing the trick," said the HIV-positive Dvorak, one of several hundred Canadians authorized to use medical marijuana for pain, nausea and other symptoms of catastrophic or chronic illness.

The program announced last month by the federal health department provides marijuana grown by the government in a former copper mine turned underground greenhouse in northern Manitoba.

August 29 -- The Associated Press reports: A law banning Alaskans from possessing any amount of marijuana in their homes has been ruled unconstitutional by a state appeals court Friday.

Friday's decision by the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed the 2001 drug conviction of a North Pole man and ordered a new trial.

The ruling affirms a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court decision that found it legal to possess less than four ounces of marijuana in one's home. That ruling found that the state constitution's strong privacy law superseded legislative attempts to ban marijuana.

Alaska voters approved a law in 1990 that criminalized the possession of any amount of drug in any location. That law had gone unchallenged until David Noy appealed his conviction on a count of sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. A search of Noy's home had turned up five live pot plants, growing equipment and other paraphernalia.

Attorney General Gregg Renkes has said he will petition the state Supreme Court for a review. Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski called the court's ruling "regrettable."

August 31 -- The Oakland Tribune reports: A federal judge has dismissed an effort by the city and county of Santa Cruz and a medical marijuana cooperative to get a court order halting federal raids against California's pot clubs.

U.S. Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose wrote he's "acutely mindful of the suffering" patients have demonstrated, "and of the evidence that medicinal marijuana has helped to alleviate that suffering. As it commented at oral argument, the Court finds the declarations of the Patient-Plaintiffs deeply moving."

But while California voters have approved medical use of marijuana, "the legislative and executive branches of the federal government have a different view, and in a federal system that view is controlling unless the federal government is acting in excess of its constitutional powers."

Such a showing hasn't been made, Fogel said in dismissing the case but leaving the plaintiffs an opportunity to amend and re-file it.

The city and county, along with the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Davenport, had sued in response to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's Sept. 5, 2002 raid upon WAMM. DEA agents seized and destroyed WAMM's plants, but never filed any charges against operators Valerie and Michael Corral.

This lawsuit marked the first time local governments had joined a lawsuit seeking to stop federal interference with California's 1996 medical marijuana law.

September 1 -- The Associated Press reports: Marijuana went on sale Monday at Dutch pharmacies to help bring relief to thousands of patients suffering from cancer, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.

About 7,000 patients will be eligible for prescription marijuana, sold in containers of five grams at most pharmacies. Labelled "Cannabis Flos" and tested by the Ministry of Health, the drug will be covered by health insurance for the first time under a new law that went into effect in March. Canada, Germany and Australia already allow restricted use of medicinal marijuana or its active chemical to a limited extent.

In the United States, 14 states allow medicinal use despite a federal ban on the drug. Dutch patients will be recommended not to smoke the plant, but to use vaporizers or make marijuana tea. It will be prescribed to those suffering from nausea or pain associated with cancer, Tourette's syndrome, AIDS or multiple sclerosis.

Recent studies show a small increase in the number of people in the Netherlands who say they have tried marijuana, but overall use levels remain well below those in the United States despite the drug's widespread availability there.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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