California Cannabis Research Medical Group


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Autumn 2005
Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group

Dear Mr. Reiter,

Thank you for meeting with me to discuss implementation of the California Medical Marijuana I.D. Card Program in Shasta County scheduled to begin June 1, 2005. I appreciate your willingness to solicit my input.

As we discussed my major concern is patient privacy. The federal government’s lack of recognition of California law is, I would argue, irrelevant, but does pose a very real threat to legitimate patients and demands an absolute assurance of privacy. It is not at all certain the system proposed for Shasta county meets this need.

I would propose that the Shasta County Department of Mental Health destroy all patient identifying information once the I.D. card is issued, keeping only the unique patient identifying number and expiration date for law enforcement verification. This is the process used currently by the city and county of San Francisco and seems to be working well. Unfortunately, I do not believe Shasta County is able to keep patient information out of reach of the Federal government.

I have additional concerns about the law enforcement response to these cards. If in fact the I.D. card is respected, then it will be valuable indeed; however, my experience is that law enforcement has been completely unwilling to accept medicinal cannabis and are likely to use the I.D. card system to identify patients for harassment and persecution. Police officers and prosecutors have been very quick, in my experience, to use the power of office to further their own personal political agenda and to subvert the will of the voters on this issue. In short they have been utterly untrustworthy.

I have also reviewed the Shasta County Alcohol and Drug Program’s Draft “Position Statement on Medical Marijuana.” The conditions outlined appear to be intended to make it virtually impossible for an otherwise lawful cannabis patient to receive drug or alcohol treatment in Shasta County. The inherent bias in the statement regarding cannabis —“a known addictive substance”— makes it impossible to recognize the appropriate use of medicinal cannabis in this setting.

In addition, I believe the draft position statement to be legally flawed in that it attempts to alter a statute by administrative fiat. The constitution of California provides that a statute enacted by the initiative process cannot be changed by the legislature, the courts or an administrative agency. The law can only be changed by another initiative. The current proposed policy denies treatment to lawful patients by demanding they meet criteria not enunciated in the statute. There is simply no reference in the law to IOM or CMA criteria.

The California Supreme Court addressed the medicinal use of cannabis in People v. Mower and stated that as long as its criteria are met the statute demands cannabis be treated “ any other prescription drug.” Do you deny treatment to patients prescribed opiates, anxiolytics or stimulants when they are not the drug of abuse? What about patients addicted to legal substances such as nicotine? Do you make exceptions for them?

In summary, I believe the I.D. program will not be supported by patients because of privacy concerns and a deep mistrust of law enforcement. I cannot in good faith recommend that my patients participate in this voluntary program until these issues are adequately addressed.

As to the Position Statement on Medical Marijuana, I believe it is deeply flawed and likely illegal. At best it is discriminatory and biased. Perhaps an approach which recognizes cannabis as a unique harm reduction substitute would be more appropriate for many patients.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns.

Philip A. Denney, M.D.

O'Shaughnessy's is the journal of the CCRMG/SCC. Our primary goals are the same as the stated goals of any reputable scientific publication: to bring out findings that are accurate, duplicable, and useful to the community at large. But in order to do this, we have to pursue parallel goals such as removing the impediments to clinical research created by Prohibition, and educating our colleagues, co-workers and patients as we educate ourselves about the medical uses of cannabis.
The Society of Cannabis Clinicians (SCC) was formed in the Autumn of 2004 by the member physicians of CCRMG to aid in the promulgation of voluntary standards for clinicians engaged in the recommendation and approval of cannabis under California law (HSC §11362.5).

As the collaborative effort continues to move closer to issueing guidelines, this site serves as a public venue for airing and discussing these guidelines.

Visit the SCC Site for more information.