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Scott Imler & the Men From MARS

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Back row, l-r: Scott Imler, Kenny Jenks, Robert, Ezekiel Ramshur. Front row, l-r: Jim Barnes, Alice O’Leary Randall, Robert Randall.

Reverend Scott Tracy Imler, medical marijuana hero and Methodist minister, has unexpectedly died at the age of 60. He passed peacefully in his sleep on August 9, 2018.

I met Scott in the 1990s in Santa Cruz, California where he was successfully orchestrating the passage of Prop A, a local ballot initiative authorizing the medical use of cannabis. Scott would go on to become a co-author of Prop 215, the 1996 history-making ballot initiative that launched the era of state-authorized medical cannabis programs. After passage of Prop 215, Scott would establish the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center which was raided by federal DEA agents in October 2001. Scott would battle charges for the next several years. He was eventually convicted but did not serve any time in jail.

What I will most remember about Scott was his untiring work for Bob and I during the October 1992 display of the AIDS Quilt on the Washington Mall. It would be an unprecedented event with the entire Quilt on display, stretching from one end of the Mall to the other. At that time Bob and I were focused on the Marijuana AIDS Research Service (MARS), an offshoot of our group, the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT). MARS had one purpose: to get AIDS patients legal access to cannabis. We had streamlined the paperwork that would allow AIDS patients to request legal access to federal marijuana. The project was incredibly successful with thousands of AIDS patients completing the paperwork and submitting it to the FDA. The federal government’s response was to shut down the only means of legal access to cannabis. The public’s outrage caught the feds completely by surprise. They expected an uproar from AIDS groups but the outrage spread across the general public as well. It was these events that set the stage for passage of Prop 215 four years later.

But in the Fall of 1992 we were still endeavoring to get federal officials to change their minds and re-open the compassionate access program. When we learned about the Quilt display we quickly arranged for an exhibit booth. We realized we would need lots of help to coordinate our efforts. Tens of thousands of people were expected to visit the Mall and view the Quilt and visit the exhibits. We asked Scott, who was living in Santa Cruz, to come to Washington for several months and help us get everything coordinated. He readily agreed and his help was invaluable.

We arranged for several AIDS patients to travel to Washington and to help us at the exhibit booth. These were our “men from MARS.” They included Kenny Jenks, a recently widowed hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from tainted blood and unwittingly passed it on to his wife Barbra.  They became national heroes when they successfully fought marijuana cultivation charges and then secured legal access to federal marijuana. Jim Barnes was a quiet soul from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His application for federal marijuana was approved but he never received legal supplies.  Ezekiel Ramshur was from Monroe, Louisiana, was also approved to receive cannabis but had not gotten supplies. Soft spoken with the trendy single braid at the nape of his neck, Ezeikiel arrived with his partner Robert who had just been crowned Miss Monroe. “The city, not the star,” he exuberantly exclaimed.

Scott was the like a platoon commander, organizing the men and quickly determining who was capable of what. The opening day of the display was cold and wet but our Men from MARS carried on. The next day dawned with crisp autumn air and the sunlight was dazzling in that way that only autumn sunlight can be.

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Our exhibit table was swamped with people. That night we participated in the Candlelight March, up the Mall and past the White House, ending at the Reflection Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. President George H.W. Bush had talked about “a thousand points of light” and here was tens of thousands of points. But Bush senior had turned his back on AIDS patients and they wouldn’t forget. A few weeks later he was defeated by Bill Clinton.

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Our “Men from MARS” at the Candlelight March. Left to right: Alice O’Leary Randall, Jim Barnes, Robert “Miss Monroe,” Kenny Jenks, Robert Randall, and back row, Scott Imler.

 

Scott is in nearly every photo from that day. He was tireless. And his calm demeanor helped keep everyone focused. It was an event that none of us would ever forget.

Looking at that photo from the Candlelight March I realize that everyone but me is gone. I think of the line from James Taylor’s song, Fire and Rain, “I always thought I would see you again.”  I certainly thought I would see Scott again.

The true cannabis pioneers — the ones who carved the way through the wilderness of the federal prohibition and set the stage for the reform that has come in this Century, are dropping away.  Scott Imler was part of that pantheon and he will be missed. ✦

SantaCruz92002
L-R: Scott Imler, Kenny Jenks, Brownie Mary Rathburn, and Robert Randall — four greats of the medical cannabis movement.

 

 

 

 

 

U.K. Legalizes “Cannabis Derived” Medicines – Rescheduling expected

thThe British Home Secretary has announced that specialized clinicians will be allowed to legally prescribe cannabis by the autumn. The announcement was the result of a two-part review the Secretary commissioned on June 19.

According to the Gov.UK website, “The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) carried out the second part of the review, considering the appropriate schedule for cannabis-derived medicinal products, based on the balance of harms and public health requirements. The ACMD recommended that such products meeting a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.”

This action is rooted in two developments in the U.K.  Firstly, there has been intense pressure from the parents of children with intractable epilepsy. These parents have been routinely traveling to the U.S. to see if their child responds to cannabis-derived preparations like Charlotte’s Web.  Secondly, the British based company, GW Pharmaceuticals, recently received U.S. FDA approval to market their anti-epilepsy drug, epidiolex. The company is awaiting action by the DEA to rescheduled appropriate cannabinoids so the new cannabis-derived preparation can be prescribed. The ACMD, according to the news release, “recommended that such products meeting a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.”

Other forms of cannabis will be kept under strict controls.

This move by U.K. officials will likely be copied by the DEA.

Read more here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cannabis-derived-medicinal-products-to-be-made-available-on-prescription

Politics isn’t the only thing that makes strange bedfellows

BauxiteA recent article from the business newsletter Small Caps really underscores how curious the cannabis issue has become.  The Australian company, Queensland Bauxite, is integrating medical cannabis into its corporate platform and has snagged a plum import/export license from Australia’s Office of Drug Control.

Mining is among the largest sectors in Australia’s economy with coal being the surprising #1 mineral mined. Most coal is exported to China.  Bauxite is the principal ore of aluminum and Australia is the largest producer of alumina in the world.

But Australia is very ecology-minded and it is not surprising that mining companies might want to diversify to protect themselves in the future. Queensland Bauxite has made a dramatic statement of where it sees the future heading.

You can read the complete article here: https://smallcaps.com.au/queensland-bauxite-medical-cannabis-import-export-licences-office-drug-control/

The Battles Ahead

Medical MarijuanaA recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times about the coming release of epidiolex really got me to thinking about the gulf that exists between real life and the lofty realms of “national” organizations.  The article featured quotes from Ayesha Akhtar, director of education at the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago.  Ms Akhtar works on the frontlines of epilepsy.  She said there has been a “flood of inquiries from people who were “ecstatic” about the FDA’s announcement.”  She termed the drug’s approval a “sea change” for epilepsy treatment.

That is quite different from the tepid statement released by the national office of the Epilepsy Foundation (EF) which, in a press release, said they were “pleased.”

It has always seemed to me that a disconnect exists between national offices and their local chapters. The use of cannabinoids in treating epilepsy, particularly Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, has been public since 2011 when the Stanley brothers of Colorado developed Charlotte’s Web for young Charlotte Figi who was five years old at the time and suffering dozens of seizures a day. The cannabis cultivar developed by the Stanley brothers was rich in cannabidiol (CBD) and it stopped Charlotte’s seizures, for the most part. When the story was featured in the CNN special entitled “Weed” it was truly a watershed moment which was capped by Dr. Sanjay Gupta apologizing for turning a blind eye to the medical potential of cannabis.

It’s impossible to know how many parents of children with intractable epilepsy turned to  CBD but it is safe to say thousands. Local chapters of the Epilepsy Foundation were inundated with questions and the national office began taking steps by encouraging research and rescheduling.  And there is an excellent web page at the EF website.  But there is still a reticence to embrace the issue fully. Indeed, when the American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) requested a booth at the annual meeting of the Epilepsy Foundation in 2017 they were denied.

Somehow I think the Chicago chapter of the EF would be happy to have an ACNA exhibit table.

Some parents are concerned that the release of Epidiolex will result in a crackdown and curtailment of products like Charlotte’s Web. Others are concerned that epidiolex is an isolate, not a true plant derivative. They point to the “entourage effect” and express concern that the FDA-approved medication will be “too pure,” perhaps providing relief for a period of time but eventually failing.

These are the battles that are ahead of us. I’ve got a pretty good idea which side of the argument the EF will come down on.

My Friend Liz & MS

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Elizabeth Brice and Robert Randall in London, October 1994.

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Wellcome Trust Library in London and review the archives of Elizabeth Brice and the UK chapter of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT). A history student from Bristol University alerted me to the existence of these archives. He was writing his undergraduate dissertation on the role of patients in changing the attitudes toward medical cannabis in the United Kingdom so it is no surprise that he focused on Elizabeth. For much of the 1990s Liz was THE face of medical cannabis in Britain. She was a powerful voice for the issue and she was also an MS patient.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is quite prevalent in Britain. At one time there was a theory that MS tended to cluster in cold climates. Whether that is true or not I don’t know but it does seem to me that most MS patients I have had the pleasure to know have been from northern climes. Elizabeth read that cannabis could help her MS and after some careful trials she determined that it was, indeed, very helpful. She set out to help others and almost single-handedly turned the tide of public opinion. She also became friends with a fellow named Geoffrey Guy who would establish GW Pharmaceuticals in England.  Dr. Guy was determined to establish a cannabis-based medicine that would be available through the conventional channels of doctor-patient-pharmacist. He succeeded in developing Sativex. Liz was among the first to use the drug and found it quite helpful.

Sativex has been controversial but a recent study in Italy found it to be helpful for MS patients. Here is the link: https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/2018/06/29/sativex-relieves-pain-multiple-sclerosis-italian-study/.  Liz would be happy to read this report. Unfortunately she died in 2011 at the age of 54, the same age as Robert was when he died (in 2001).  These heroic patients get too little credit for today’s booming green rush. I’ll be writing more about Elizabeth and the other brave souls who were the true pioneers of medical cannabis.

The “First Lady of Medical Marijuana” Alice O’Leary-Randall tells the story of how her husband Robert Randall became the first medical marijuana patient.

Monte Content is a Denver-based company that creates 2-3 minute educational videos on various topics relating to cannabis. Those videos are then put onto a kiosk that can entertain patients and customers as they wait to be admitted into a dispensary. While in Denver recently Monte Content asked me to sit down for an interview on the history of the medical cannabis movement. You can see the results here. Feel free to share and if you own or are affiliated with a dispensary consider contacting Monte Content about their product.

Senate Hearings Reveal Drug Agencies’ Strategies for Medical Cannabis | Cannabis Now

On July 13, Dr. Weiss testified before the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, part of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the topic of  “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana.” Laying aside what seems like an inappropriate subcommittee to hear testimony on the science of cannabis (the focus is crime and terrorism), the testimony did release some interesting tidbits.

Read more at: Senate Hearings Reveal Drug Agencies’ Strategies for Medical Cannabis – Cannabis Now

Terror in the Present and the Past|Huff Post (07/01/2016)

 

Terrorists

World got you down, bunkie? 

There’s good reason. Terror and unrest seem to abound. Brexit threatens to isolate the U.K., casting it back to the 1950s. Donald Trump wants America to return to that time as well, with his nativism and clearly racist comments. And then there is Orlando—the slaughter of 49 innocent souls, most in the prime of their lives, murdered by a deranged man who had as much to do with ISIS as Lee Harvey Oswald had to do with Communists. Don’t get that connection? You need to learn your history.

 

Source: Terror in the Present and the Past

Buds & Brushes: The Art of Healing | Cannabis Now (06/27/2016)

The use of cannabis by those experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is well known, but cannabis doesn’t cure PTSD. In fact, there are many who feel that PTSD can never be cured since the underlying problem is memory of psychological trauma that can never be fully erased. PTSD, like grief, must be assimilated into […]

Source: Buds & Brushes: The Art of Healing | Cannabis Now