05/11/14 Donald Abrahms

DTN reporter Doug McVay from Portland Oregon: Welcoming attendees to the Cannabis Therapeutics Conference. Patients Out of Time President Mary Lynn Mathre,Doctor Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Guest: 
Donald Abrahms
Organization: 
Doctor
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Century of Lies May 11, 2014

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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DOUG McVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network, and is brought to you through the Pacifica network's radio station KPFT-fm in Houston, Texas. Find us on the web at drug truth dot net, where you can find past programs and you can subscribe to our podcasts. You can follow me on Twitter, where I'm at drug policy facts, and also at doug mcvay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on Facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends.

Before we start, I want to say hello to a few of the stations out there that carry Century Of Lies, including KOWA-LP 106.5 FM in Olympia, WA; WIEC 102.7 FM in Eau Claire, WI; KRFP 90.3 FM in Moscow, Idaho; and WERU 89.9 FM in Blue Hill, Maine. You can also hear Century Of Lies via 420 Radio dot org on Mondays at 7am, Tuesdays at 10pm, and Saturdays at 2am. If you're listening via any of our affiliates or 420 Radio, thank you!

I spent the past few days at the Patients Out of Time conference here in my home town of Portland, Oregon. It was an amazing event, so many exceptionally talented and informative speakers. Many people from the general public attended, however much of the content was aimed at specific audiences. The Patients Out of Time clinical cannabis conference offers continuing education credits for physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and this year for the first time to attorneys. There was so much great material. Today and over the next few weeks we'll be presenting you short selected segments of the conference. The full conference audio and video will be made available through Patients Out of Time and in fact doctors and attorneys can still earn credits, go to the Patients Out of Time website at http://medicalcannabis.com for full details.

Here then, welcoming attendees to the conference on opening day, is Patients Out of Time President Mary Lynn Mathre. She's followed by Doctor Donald Abrams, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco:

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MARY LYNN MATHRE: I apologize for the delay here but the good news is this is a wonderful full house. We finally love to see this.

Welcome to the 8th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. It’s the 8th. Patients Out of Time started this series in 2000. It’s 2014 and things are looking much better today than when we started.

When we first started this conference series about 20% of the American public thought cannabis should be medicine so we have really flipped that. It is at least 80 to 85% now. The people get it. Everyone understands where we are.

My name is Mary Lynn Mathre. I’m the president and one of the co-founders of Patients Out of Time. Normally people see my husband here, Al Byrne. That’s what it says on the program. Unfortunately because of some family issues he is not able to be with us. He is at home in Virginia.

I guess you might as well know the family issues. We are very close. Our family are pets. We have three Golden Retrievers and we travel to every conference with our animals. We’ve lost one Monday – our older girl. Her 10-year-old son is now suffering from cancer. He has hemangiosarcoma. We’re hoping for the best. We’ve been given no hope because it has metastasize. It went from the spleen and metastasized to the liver. There is no hope and we’re using the medicine we believe in.

We are waiting and seeing. What we understand is he should have been dead by now. Al is home playing nurse and I’m here.

One of the things that Al is very in to doing is keeping us on time. It is a bit late because the crowd has been overwhelming. The registrations just didn’t stop. Normally right before the conference we kind of dwindle down. This is an excellent sign. We are so happy to see so many of you here. We have more than doubled health care professionals than ever before. We are just getting out. More people wanted to come than we had room for.

I want to turn this over to Donald Abrams from UCSF, our co-sponsor who grants us the continuing education credits and we’ll get back on time.

DONALD ABRAMS: I’m Donald Abrams for those of you who don’t know me. I’m a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. I’ve been involved with doing research with cannabis, the plant medicine, since my first study began in 1997. After a brief hiatus I’m happy to say that cannabis research is resuming again.

We are about to start a study of a CBD/THC plant in patients with chronic pain, secondary sickle cell disease. A colleague, basic scientists from the University of Minnesota, Kalpna Gupta, came to me a few years ago and said she had a mouse model of sickle cell disease that is responsive to cannabinoids with regards to pain, disease progression and markers of inflammation. She asked if I would write the human correlative study so she could submit a large grant to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

We did that and she got a very good score so we are about to start this trial. My DEA schedule license lapsed for a while but it’s back now and we are just waiting to enroll our first patients.

On the other side of campus we have a study ongoing that we are about to start on children with epilepsy using the GW Pharmaceutical’s CBD product to see if that could be of use so we’ll have 2 studies of cannabis medicines going on at the same time at UCSF – pretty historic.

UCSF is granting the continuing education credits to people who are asking for those and that’s my job to welcome you on behalf of the University of California, San Francisco.

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DOUG McVAY: The Patients Out of Time clinical cannabis conference offers continuing education credits for physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and this year for the first time to attorneys. We're only able to present you small portions of the program. The full conference audio and video will be made available through Patients Out of Time and in fact doctors and attorneys can still earn credits, go to the Patients Out of Time website at http://medicalcannabis.com for full details.

The conference this year was held in Portland, Oregon. The state's medical cannabis program was established in 1998, the state currently has more than 59,000 officially registered patients. The state legislature in 2013 passed a measure to set up a licensing and regulation system for dispensaries. The system is now up and running. The director of that new state dispensary system is Thomas Burns. He was the luncheon speaker at the conference on Friday. Here he is, first he'll be introduced by Sandee Burbank, the founder and chairperson of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse.

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SANDEE BRUBANK: Just so you all know...I’ve been doing this since 1981. I went to my first cannabis conference in 2002 when the 2nd conference was held here in Portland. We’ve been involved with it ever since.

MAMA is a group that does drug addict education – all drugs. We’re absolutely delighted to finally be able to use our drug consumer safety rules to evaluate cannabis because before the first rule is, “What is a chemical?”

Thanks to a lot of people here we can actually begin to say what are the chemicals, how do the affect us, where do they affect us in our body and what are the kind of doses that we need. We’re getting there. We are a long way from being able to tell people everything they need to know but we’re getting there and you guys keep working as hard as you can – doctors, nurses – you’re working with the people on the ground and you’re way behind – most of you. They polled the information from you for years.

I’m really delighted to be here. I’m delighted to see so many people here. The next conference I expect more people as it becomes more and more legal.

Now, here in Oregon, in March we are finally able to purchase cannabis if we’re legally registered patients. We no longer have to grow our own.

[applause]

Of course it’s been a very complicated process and when I heard that Tom Burns had been appointed to do the process and put it all in place I went, “ewww...Tom was from pharmacy...ewww.”

We all knew cannabis wasn’t a pharmaceutical drug. I wondered. I worried. I wondered if he had any idea of what he was getting into and probably not but I’ll tell you this guy has a lot of integrity. He came with certain attitudes that were a little bit apparent to some of us but I’m happy to say we’ve watched him meet people, work with people in very difficult circumstances and at least get some dispensaries out there and open and they are still working on the rules.

Tom is here to tell you all what he has been doing, where it has been going and if we have time at the end we’ll take a few questions. Please join me in welcoming Mr. Burns.

[applause]

THOMAS BURNS: Thank you, Sandee. Not only was I from pharmacy but I was from big pharma. For 20 years I worked for big pharma which allowed me to retire 8 years ago and try to go sit on the beach at my place on the ocean. My family wasn’t ready for that and so I didn’t duck quick enough when a couple of politicians asked me to come work for them and I ultimately ended up working in the Oregon Health Authority where I do all the prescription drug work for the state.

I missed a cabinet meeting in the Health Authority where they were talking about this new bill that was coming up called “Dispensaries” and they said, “Isn’t that what Burns does? Doesn’t he work with dispensaries?”

So because I wasn’t there I got this program.

[laughter]

It has been very interesting. The program was assigned to me in August of last year when the governor signed the bill. It has been an interesting ride. I sat at a table and was asked, “So...what do you think about marijuana as medicine?”

I have to say officially I am absolutely neutral on that subject because that is not my job but I also am going to tell you a little story.

I have a large number of friends who died of AIDS. I’m old enough to remember “life before AIDS” and “life after AIDS.” I watched too many people die in the early 80s. I will tell you Wasting Disease and pain was absolutely treated by marijuana. Let me rephrase that...were absolutely addressed by marijuana. I can’t use the word “treated” because the FDA might yell at me or something like that because it has to be proven that it worked but it is something that I saw and it is something that I recognize definitely helps people.

So I’m now at the ripe old age of 60 and the data in the state of Oregon says that I am right in the prime years of people who should have an Oregon medical marijuana card. 55 to 65 are where the most number of our cards are. I do wake up every morning and I wonder, “I am wondering if my aches and pains have reached the point where it is time for me to recognize that I may need a little more help than that Insaid [sic] which does terrible things to my stomach or the other drugs that I could get out there.”

I haven’t got there yet but I still have an open mind.

I’m glad to be here. I believe that your Oregon medical marijuana card is actually paying for your lunch today. Am I right, Todd? Aren’t we?

Yes, OK, good. You have a couple of advisory members from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program so you want to make sure that you say thanks to them. Sandee...Todd...Oh, I see Jim back in the corner. They are the advisory members for our Oregon Marijuana Program...Where’s Cheryl? I’m sorry I didn’t see you standing there.

They are the advisory committee and they are the ones that have for years toiled in trying to make this program work and work effectively and it does. I had wonderful slides. I apologize that we don’t have them up but you guys all know what diseases are. We have about 60,000 card holders in this state. They are card holders that have identified that there is a disease that they need treatment for. They are card holders who have been working with a program that was passed by the voters in this state in 1998 by a fairly large margin – 55 to 45 – and we’ve been issuing cards since May 1999.

There is a couple things that are important and I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I have the mic and do a little lecturing today because I think everybody in this room is a true advocate for the program and I absolutely think that is wonderful and I think you need to advocate for the program but I do think you want to be perhaps a little more visible and visible in the right way. I’ll come back to that.

A couple things that the program does not do. The program does not allow the engaging of medical use of marijuana in a public place. I put that out there for all of you who are advocates for the program. The law in Oregon says you can’t use it publically.

Now, I know...there’s a lot of people who do. There’s a lot of other things that are worse in the public but I really do caution you to be aware that the general public doesn’t understand this drug or this disease or what the benefits of the drug are but what they see is it being used publically and they equate it with public intoxication that they see on the street corners of downtown Portland and I don’t think that is productive for you and I think you ought to be careful of that.

The other thing that is important is the original law did not authorize for the consideration or payment to an individual or by an individual who has possession of the card which meant Sandee over here who has a great growing program couldn’t be compensated for her product. That subsequently got changed. The law got cleaned up. We addressed that as we went further on.

We also have something that is relatively unique in Oregon it is the patient who owns the product. It is the patient who authorized the growers. That’s going to be a problem and I already see that as a problem in our dispensary program. If it’s the patient that owns the product and the patient says to Sandee, “Sandee, you can take my excess product and give it to Todd or sell it to Todd’s dispensary” that means I control Sandee and the work that Sandee does. That’s a problem and it has to be addressed in our current dispensary law.

The program has grown since it was passed. We’ve now entered a number of other diseases. In 2008 we entered Alzheimer’s and in 2014 we entered PTSD. We now have a program that covers, I think, every disease that I am aware of across the nation that people are using cards for. Obviously if there are other diseases the legislature can add those.

So, as I said, there is 59,000 card holders, 30,000 care givers and 44,000 grow sites in the state including the state office building in downtown Portland. That’s another story but we do have a grow site registered.

I think if I look around this room mirrors are statistics and 61% male and 39% female and as I said people between the ages of 55 and 65 are predominant users.

Let’s talk about our dispensary program. It’s relatively new. I think in order to understand it, in order to understand the help that you need to provide if we want to continue this program moving forward as why the legislature did what they did as noted in other states and definitely occurring here in Oregon we started seeing businesses popping up on street corners, near schools, near each other that were dispensing product and those were unregulated businesses and there was no authority by which anybody other than law enforcement and law enforcement wasn’t willing to go after it – those businesses were allowing consumption on premise, were not keeping minors out, were too close to each other so you had a street here which had three of them within one block – you had essentially an unregulated business growing here.

So the legislature stepped in and said, “We don’t find that acceptable. Not only do we find it unacceptable from the public perception of what’s going on in the business but from the patient’s point of view.”

When the patient walked into one of these businesses they knew they were getting some product but had that product been tested to assure there was no pesticides, molds or mildew on that product? Had that product been tested for the amount of THC or CBDs or any of the other chemicals that were in it? Did the patient know what they were getting?

So that was one of the reasons that we needed to do here. We needed to protect both the patient and the public from unlicensed and unregulated businesses. If I had the slides I would show you two slides here which are the quintessential what we don’t want to see.

One is an individual standing at a bar smoking a pipe - consumption in public places. The other one appears to be a private club but operating in manners that raises questions along the line of coffee shop or there appears to be a pool table in this. I’m not saying those businesses are bad what I am saying is the legislature did not think it was appropriate for that to be the public face of the medical marijuana program so the legislature decided to step in and put the program in a box.

It said, “Oregon Health Authority you will...” I don’t have a choice, “You will license these businesses if they meet five or six conditions. One, they cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school. It’s a problem. I’m discovering there is a whole lot of schools in this state that I didn’t know existed and, unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of schools that are impacting a whole lot of businesses.

For those of you who are advocates remember the US Attorney General said they won’t mess in Oregon if you keep dispensaries away from places where children congregate. Well, we don’t go quite that far because you could argue parks but we are going for schools.

The other thing is they can’t be within 1,000 feet of another dispensary. This came directly from some problems we had. If you haven’t discovered Oregon has a wonderful lottery program. Those of you from out of state please find our lottery program sheets and leave money. It also allows quasi-legal video poker – not my term – it’s a lottery term. We discovered that a number of businesses were setting up right next door to each other because you could only have a certain number of video poker machines in each business and they were about 10 feet wide and 10 feet long and they had 10 machines in it and they were right next door to each other and they were maxing out other businesses. So they said no dispensaries within 1,000 feet of each other.

They must be zoned in certain areas. We do not want them in residential areas. I will tell you business owners if you are here you really need to be sensitive to that. I understand what the law says and the law says if the piece of property that is being licensed is a commercial license I have to approve it but I will tell you it will come back and haunt you if that particular business is next door to a family home where there are children. Now I cannot control that but you can and I think it is important that you do that.

The business has to have a security system. I’m sorry somebody said, “No cash. No stash...” I can’t remember the exact quote but the point is these businesses are a prime target for people who want to take them down so we require a security system. It doesn’t have to be a great security system. It’s a security system that a lot of people didn’t like but it is a security system designed to protect the patient when they walk in the door and protect dispensary owners from having problems with outside people.

And, as I said, it has to be tested for pesticides, mold and mildew. The other thing is the person responsible for the facility must not have a criminal Schedule I or II for drugs in the past five years. Whether you like that or not that is the law and I think it’s a great law for those of you who advocate this. Why do you allow people who are convicted of a drug crime to be in this business when the general public considers this a drug? That’s a rhetorical question. I don’t have any authority over it but I would encourage you to have that conversation with yourself.

So what does it do? This allows protections to businesses who want to have in their possession large quantities of marijuana and who want to sell and dispense that marijuana to patients. Law enforcement may not use a possession argument for closing them down. If you have more than 24 ounces and you have one O and P card...you don’t even need an O and P card in this state. You don’t need a card in order to run one of these businesses. I could run one without a card.

Law enforcement can’t come in and say, “You’ve got too much product. We are going to close you down.”

So it allows those protections.

It allows for reimbursement. Again, up until recently, there was no way for Sandee to get compensated for the pot that she spends a hard time doing except for her relationship with the patient. Now she can come out and provide her surplus product to the dispensary, be compensated by the dispensary, the dispensary can be compensated by the patient and, believe it or not, that is a free market system that is going to help everybody in the system.

There’s one other thing that’s important here and that is...I’ve mentioned the whole issue of kids...I’m sorry but I find it personally offensive to find something called Gummies (sorry if any lawyers represents that company) in the dispensaries that look just like the Gummi Bears that my child grew up on. You need to police yourselves on that.

I understand the need. I tried to say there would be no edibles. Everybody in the state will understand. I said no edibles because I don’t know how to distinguish the cookie that I ate out here versus the cookie that my next door neighbor’s son brought home from a dispensary. It looked just like it and a child can’t distinguish the difference. Obviously it wasn’t going to work. I learned a lot about that with marijuana and the sugar need and how bitter it is and the fact that a lot of people can’t inhale and they need the ability to swallow. I get it but please, please, please recognize that if we see marketing to kids it’s going to haunt your businesses.

As of last Friday there are 79 approved dispensaries in the state. There are 135 dispensaries that are provisionally approved – that is they have this location, they meet the background check for the owner, they are all set to go but they have to build up their security system.

We have 50 dispensaries that are waiting. They are sitting under one of the provisional licenses and, again, because of the 1,000 foot rule if the provision gets approved they won’t.

We have returned 52 applications because they were incomplete. We have denied 39. We have 28...We had this week 10 new people apply for a new dispensary so clearly there is a demand. We had 18 duplicates. You can guess where they are. Portland has the vast majority – 166 of them followed by Eugene, Bend, Corvallis.

The other thing that I find interesting is despite the fact that lots of local government got very upset in discovering that dispensaries were going to be open most of...We had 140 cities in the state say, “We don’t want a dispensary. We’re putting a moratorium in place.”

It impacted exactly 11 dispensaries so it’s not like all these cities who feared they were going to have an illegal activity show up in their backdoor and people were going to be doing drugs on the street. It’s not true. There’s no demand for the product in that area and there is no demand for the business in that area so the moratorium makes little sense.

I think at that I will stop. I will be happy to answer any questions about the medical marijuana program in Oregon, about how we built the dispensary program or any other question that you want.

Sandee, you’ve got a watch going?

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DOUG McVAY: The Patients Out of Time clinical cannabis conference offered continuing education credits for physicians, nurses, other healthcare professionals, and this year for the first time to attorneys. We're only able to present you small portions of the program. The full conference audio and video will be made available through Patients Out of Time. Doctors and attorneys can still earn credits, go to the Patients Out of Time website at http://medicalcannabis.com for full details.

That's it for this week. This has been Century of Lies. Thank you for listening. You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website drug truth dot net, where you can also check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, where I'm @ Drug Policy Facts. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on Facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends. Spread the word. Remember: Knowledge is power.

We'll be back next week. For now, for the drug truth network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org