Marijuana Tug o' War

This week, the Canadian Justice Department drops marijuana possession charges against 4,000 people who were arrested during a 26 month period when the law was in limbo; a Colorado medical marijuana patient finds himself at the center of a power struggle between state and federal law enforcement after a local judge orders the feds to return his plants; and Irv Rosenfeld marks his 20th anniversary as one of the few federally supplied medical marijuana patients.

December 9 -- Canada's Globe and Mail reports: Ottawa is making it a green Christmas for 4,000 people -- it plans to stay thousands of charges of pot possession as a result of legal battles over medicinal marijuana.

The decision will apply to every person in Canada charged with possession of marijuana between July 31, 2001, and Oct. 7, 2003, Justice Department spokeswoman Pascale Boulay said yesterday. The Justice Department intends to cease prosecutions on the cases because of an Ontario court ruling in 2000 that found medicinal-marijuana users had the right to possess less than 30 grams of pot. The judge delayed that ruling's effect for one year in the hope the federal government would introduce a medicinal-marijuana law.

But the government did not. Instead, the cabinet issued regulations for access to medicinal marijuana one day before the year-long grace period ended 2001.The Ontario ruling created a legal loophole, effectively invalidating Canada's marijuana possession law as unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exemption for medical use.

December 9 -- Colorado's Steamboat Pilot & Today reports: A Hayden resident who uses marijuana for medicinal purposes should have growing equipment and 2 ounces of the drug that were seized in a search returned to him, a county judge ruled Monday. The decision, which had to account for conflicting state and federal drug laws, may set an important precedent, Routt County Judge James Garrecht said.

"Obviously, this case has the potential of going a whole lot further than just this court," Garrecht said after giving his decision. "This may be a precedent-setting case a whole lot further down the road."

Several ounces of usable marijuana, three marijuana plants and growing equipment were taken during a GRAMNET search of 57-year-old Don Nord's home in mid-October. GRAMNET, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, is a federal task force made up of local officers.

Deputy District Attorney Marc Guerette, who represented GRAMNET, had no comment on the judge's decision and said he wasn't sure whether he would pursue an appeal, which would go to District Court if it was filed.

December 10 -- Boca Raton News reports: With a slow exhale, a plume of smoke escapes from his marijuana cigarette. Dressed in a gray business suit, Irv Rosenfeld is the most unlikely person you'd expect to be lighting up during a quick lunch from his job as a high profile stockbroker.

But Rosenfeld, who handles accounts in Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale, is not your stereotypical pothead.

Diagnosed with a rare bone disorder at the age of 10, he is one of seven people in the United States who receives medical marijuana from the government. The "compassionate use" program, which began in 1978, was cancelled in 1982, but Rosenfeld was "grandfathered in."

"I was told I would not live to my teenage years, I'm very fortunate," said Rosenfeld, who couldn't even go to school when he was younger due to excruciating pain. "I can take my medicine without having to worry about breaking the law." This November marked Rosenfeld's 20-year anniversary surviving a somewhat 'normal' life, thanks to the cannabis.

As for the rest of the people forbidden to use the drug for medical purposes, Rosenfeld says he's tired of the government making criminals out of sick people. The stockbroker says he will continue to campaign for the hundreds of people who suffer needlessly because they are not granted the use of medical marijuana.

He is one of four patients in the United States who underwent extensive testing in 2001 to determine the side effects of using cannabis. Neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo conducted the extensive study, which included M.R.I's scans, chest x-rays and blood work, in Montana. Russo said he was amazed that there had never been any government studies detailing the positive and negative effects of using medical marijuana.

The tests, said Russo, showed "very few adverse effects in the patients," no brain shrinkage, no hormone problems and no immune damage were evident.

Their higher executive functions were fully intact, which, he says, is easy to prove in Rosenfeld, since the South Florida resident is a highly successful stockbroker who handles major accounts, despite a high intake of cannabis each day.

"The truth is cannabis is very effective for a wide variety of medical conditions including pain, spasms, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma," said Russo, who has been practicing for 20 years. "Irv's functioning has gotten better over time, not worse, as what you might expect in someone with his condition."

Registered nurse and founder of Patients Out of Time, Mary Lynn Matre, says she's tired of excuses from the government. "The government's big 'out' is that no research supports it, but for the most part they forbid research," said Matre, who says her program is dedicated to educating health care professionals and the public about the medical use of cannabis.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.


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