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I have worked for many years with sick and dying patients across the country. I appreciate the Washington City Paper’s efforts to acknowledge our efforts in the fight for safe access to medical cannabis. Though I liked the article by Patrick Tracey (“Toking a Stand,” 3/31), there were a few issues I had with what he wrote.
1. I have a problem with Tracey’s labeling patients “lame and weak.” For this comment, I would like to refer to the American Disabilities Act. It is not OK to belittle people with disabilities and label them “lame and weak.” I take this comment very seriously—and expect an apology for the overall insult.
2. I further took insult at Tracey’s colorful attack on Patients Without Time Director Steve Pardieck: “A person with AIDS whose weight loss suggests that he may not have unlimited time to fight prohibitions on pot.” Although Pardieck has AIDS, he is in good health; in fact, he is about to ride in an AIDS marathon. It has been through medicating with cannabis that Pardieck has been able to keep his weight on and stay healthy and alive.
4. ACT UP/DC will provide patients with means of establishing a medical-necessity defense under current D.C. law and court rulings (see United States vs. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club, et al., CV. No. 98-00088 CRB, Sept. 13, 1999), and the law of the District of Columbia (see United States vs. Randall, 104 Wash. Daily L. Rep. 2249; D.C. Superior Court, 1976). Patients will be screened by ACT UP/DC and then meet with patients’ advocates who will help them set up a medical-necessity defense with their physicians and then refer them to a patients advocate group such as Patients Without Time. A patient should call (202) 547-9404 to set up an intake appointment.
5. Furthermore, the article states that Pardieck “knows nothing” about my informal distribution system. This is just not true. Pardieck, as executive director, oversees all activities of Patients Without Time advocates. However, Pardieck has no physical involvement in marijuana distribution or cultivation.
6. I felt as if Tracey’s description of vaporizing did not give this life-saving technology justice. The device used is not some toy or pipe at the end of a soldering gun. Here is an excerpt from the Patients Without Time packet that outlines the science and politics of vaporizing:
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…Delta 1,9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, is a resin that vaporizes at 155 to 157 degrees centigrade (311-318 degrees Fahrenheit) which is lower than the combustion point of cellulose/veggie matter (451 degrees Fahrenheit). When cannabis is burned it does produce byproducts, some of which have been shown to produce cancer in laboratory animals. Any plant material when burned will produce harmful smoke, including carbon monoxide and a variety of compounds that collectively are called “tar.” In short, burning creates dangerous chemicals that do not exist in the plant naturally.
Fortunately, technology can help the situation to a large degree. By vaporizing the THC within cannabis with an electric heating element, all of the dangerous chemical products of incomplete combustion can be eliminated as well as carbon monoxide. Electrically vaporizing cannabis adds to medical safety when THC is desired, by giving a more pure product and eliminating the burning problem, carbon monoxide, and “tar” drawbacks. Any way to decrease exposure of the throat and lungs to products of burning reduces harm to the cannabis user. Our present vaporizer model works quite well. We feel that a temperature-control vaporizer will make using cannabis safer than smoking.
The current complaint by the drug czar is that smoking cannabis is bad, but smoking cigarettes is legal! The Cannabis Delivery System takes care of that concern, and due to the antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids, has other medical use as an anti-tumor drug! (See Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 35, No. 3, September 1975.)
Twelve Angry Men?
“O’Toole”‘s statement, “There’s not a jury in the city that would convict me,” in reaction to the possibility of getting caught using, distributing, or cultivating marijuana (“Toking a Stand,” 3/31) suggests that he takes juries for granted in two ways—one, that he will have a right to one, and two, that jurors won’t follow the court’s instructions as to the current law.
Since 1994, District law no longer gives people a right to a jury trial for possession of any controlled substances (the maximum penalty for which is now 180 days in jail). Although 69 percent of District voters may have voted for the medical-marijuana initiative, O’Toole’s reported actions remain illegal. If he is charged, gets a jury, and gets to put on a “medical-necessity” defense, those 12 jurors might acquit him. But he shouldn’t take their verdict for granted. That’s a good way to get a guilty verdict.
As reported in the Ward 2 Democrats’ newsletter, on March 7, 2000, Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Sandy Allen, and Kevin Chavous introduced the Misdemeanor Jury Trial Act of 2000. If passed, it will restore the right to a jury for those facing multiple misdemeanors and a total of more than 180 days in jail. It’s a step in the right direction. Patrick Tracey’s marijuana article mentioned proposed legislation by Councilmember Harold Brazil. If Bill 13-240 is enacted, making marijuana distribution—including passing a joint in a circle of friends—a felony, O’Toole will have even more reason not to take a jury’s verdict for granted, especially since Congress has commanded the D.C. Council to abolish parole for felonies committed on or after August 5, 2000.