Opinion : Medical Cannabis Unity - by Tom Kujawski

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February 20, 2013

Medical Cannabis Unity

by Tom Kujawski

An HIV-positive medical marijuana patient seeks legalization.

Tom Kujawski
Tom Kujawski
The advent of the Affordable Care Act and personalized medicine hold great promise for the1.2 million Americans living with HIV. Advances in HIV research, care, treatment and diagnostics yield dramatically improved health outcomes for today’s HIV-infected people in comparison to the late 1980s, when I began working in the HIV/AIDS field. While science and medicine make vital progress, they are still held hostage by politics and politicians that cloak the truth from the public at large. The big conspiracy? The federal war on science that proves medical cannabis has therapeutic benefits for millions of Americans.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, an independent arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report that irrefutably supports the efficacy of medical cannabis as a therapeutic agent. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies not only disregard the scientific findings, but also enact policies that criminalize and marginalize people who use medical cannabis for peripheral neuropathy, nausea, glaucoma, anxiety and a host of other symptoms.

The U.S. government disregards its own scientific findings about a plant that’s been used medicinally for millennia, misclassifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug that has no therapeutic value and further chooses to imprison patients who use cannabis for relief from the symptoms of chronic illness. And our tax dollars fund this opprobrium. Yep, that’s right. The oppressed actually fund the oppressors. Ridiculous, right?

In 2007, Americans for Safe Access, the country’s largest advocacy group for medical cannabis patients, and the National Association of People With AIDS, conducted an informal survey of more than 450 HIV-positive people. Over 45 percent of survey respondents indicated that they use medical cannabis on a regular basis to address symptoms associated with the virus and HIV treatment.

If the trend is accurate, that means over 540,000 HIV-positive patients need regular access to their medicine to assist them in managing their pain, weight, nausea, anxiety and depression. Half a million tax-paying U.S. citizens are in jeopardy of being incarcerated because they are doing their best to manage their disease. Now imagine the number of people living with cancer, multiple sclerosis or chronic pain. We are a multi-million-member movement fighting for patients rights. And, tragically, many are literally dying for access to their medication.

As an American, I refuse to be characterized as an outlaw for my therapeutic use of cannabis and am incensed that my tax dollars directly fund federal agencies that disregard scientific proof that cannabis is medicine.

As an HIV advocate, I am incensed that so many HIV-positive people who benefit from medical cannabis must do so at risk of incarceration, loss of housing, loss of employment, ineligibility for federal programs, etc.

As an HIV-positive medical cannabis patient, I personally attest to my right to attain the best possible quality of life through using medical cannabis and to fight the tyranny of ignorance that allows politics to prevail over sound public health.

As a board member of Americans for Safe Access, I ask you to join us and use your voice at the first National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference in Washington, DC, from February 22 to 25.

Recently, more than a dozen members of Congress introduced legislation that would reclassify cannabis for medical use and provide federal defendants the right to use state law compliance as evidence in medical cannabis trials, a right they're currently denied.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D–Ore.) authored H.R. 689, the "States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," which calls for the rescheduling of cannabis and will allow states to establish their own public health laws without undue interference by the federal government. H.R. 689 will also remove current obstacles to cannabis research in the United States, which places us far behind other countries in assessing the full therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Rep. Sam Farr (D–Calif.) authored H.R. 710, the "Truth in Trials Act," which seeks to overturn the prohibition on medical marijuana evidence in federal court.

Both bills were introduced in anticipation of the National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference, during which hundreds of advocates will meet with their congressional representatives to urge passage of these important bills.

Congress has a unique opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy for medical cannabis, and to do what the Obama administration has been afraid or unwilling to do. With our collective strength, patient advocates can push Congress to take heed of the scientific evidence on cannabis, and to act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue deservedly receives.

Even if you don’t join us in DC, you can still contact your member of Congress to let him or her know that science, truth and compassion must triumph over politics. We’ve made great strides and have achieved great progress, but we need you to join us in shaping and enacting effective, compassionate public health policies.



Tom Kujawski is an active board member of Americans for Safe Access and an HIV-positive medical marijuana patient who has spent the last 25 years advancing effective public health and HIV/AIDS policy through his affiliations with groups like the National Association of People with AIDS.

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  comments 1 - 15 (of 19 total)     next > >>

Frederick Wright, Coachella Valley, 2013-03-18 18:30:07
Raymond I think is wonderful that your against Pot, and do not do it. I am against to much sugar and think sugar should be illegal in many states for I have seen it cause massive damage to ones health and has caused our medical cost go through the roof, and try my best to stay away from large amounts. So we are kinda on the same page, but I do think people should have the choice to make their own purchases and would not suggest that people that abuse sugar go to jail, maybe a ticket.

Brett Lee, Burbank, 2013-03-14 17:19:44
I am offended when I hear ignorant commentary devoid of fact. The Truth is that any drug can be abused.It is sad when that occurs but to demonize Medical Marijuana because someone you know abused it, in my view is just ignorant. The truth in my case is that Medical Marijuana helps my Neuropathy,Nasseau,Anxiety and most importantly Wasting all while reducing the amount of Pharmaceurticals my already fatty liver (caused from Pharmaceuticals & HIV not lifestyle) has to process. Educate yourself.

Raymond Hilerio, Bethlehem, Pa., 2013-03-06 00:37:16
I am against the use of the so call medical marijuana. I have lived my entire live around people who have smoked it for long periods of time. I have seen first hand the misery with which they live. They get sick a lot and believe me I have seen the damage that it does to their brain. They ususally stop funtioning the way they used to. I think that those who are in favor of it, don't know much AS TO WHAT IT DOES IN THE LONG TERM. You and others who are in favor of it, don't know much about it.

Frederick Wright, Coachelle Valley, 2013-03-02 15:33:02
I for one am for the legalization of Pot and have used it for years and years both recreationally and medically. I have been arrested after opinion from my doctor and forced to fight to stay free. Yes, stop the madness of this herb to destroy people's lives. On the other hand, I over used it too in an attempt to not deal with HV realities. I've seen semi-legal Pot in California being used as good medicine/bad medicine, just like oxytocin. (remember Rush Limbaugh) Make it legal and transparent

William White, Salt Lake City, 2013-02-24 19:23:55
There is no perfect drug and cannabis is no exception. It does relieve my neuropathic pain but it makes me stupid. Had researches been able to study it, we might have selected those cannabinoids that relieved our pain without turning me into a turnip.

robertallen69, dallas, 2013-02-24 16:22:27
enjoyed th article ...its about time for our gov. t o get smart and make th right move..stop demoralizing people who need this product

Antonio Davis, Philadelphia Pa, 2013-02-23 21:01:54
I totally agree with you Mr. Kujawski Patience living with HIV and other chronic illnesses can benefit from cannabis THC. As we continue to grow as a nation we continue to find and Fight new challenges. Moreover, when there is evidence base studies that is proven Legislators need not to criminalize nor marginalize Individuals who could benefit from these finding. Even more so is cost effective Is individual states Use it as a source of revenue.

drbob Melamede, Colorado Springs, 2013-02-22 22:53:52
People with AIDS are awakening to the increase of Kaposi Sarcoma that has begun as longterm survivors are developing drug resistance. Fortunately, the word is also spreading as to the efficacy of cannabis for treating Kaposi. It's time for the medical marijuana and HIV communities to unite to help end the insanity.

ATL Poz Woman, Atlanta, 2013-02-22 12:00:56
As a PWHA for 29 years, I've found that without smoking cannibis, my weight drops like lead. I weigh less now than ever in my adult life and wish that GA was more accepting. I don't drive buzzed, I don't drive drunk. Smoking also helps with the pain associated with my degenerative disk disease and peripheral neuropathy. I only wish that my budget allowed me to keep it on hand always.

Thomas Trescone, Chicago, 2013-02-22 10:41:36
I've been positive for over 24 years. My longevity with this disease is largely due to marijuana use. It calms nausea due to medication, it increases appetite, and most importantly it quiets the acute anxiety that accompanies having this disease.

R Torres, hudson, FL, 2013-02-22 04:41:44
I too am an HIV-positive cannabis user who also lives with chronic peripheral neuropathy of the lower extremities. I have over a doz implants in my spine and I would say that at least %60 of the times, I find much more relief from my extreme pains by smoking a joint together with my pain meds. I have been so lucky to have found a pain management doctor that feels that cannabis should be legalized. Thank you for all you do. PLEASE keep me posted of any up-coming movements that I may attend & help

kristie jackson, kearney, ne, 2013-02-21 21:13:34
im hiv positive living in and smoke medical grade marijuana and benefit from my usuage for the anxiety and nausea and depression. please legalize this soon.

robert baldwin, Tampa, 2013-02-21 19:53:05
i feel that people with hiv should have the right to smoke pot;i have hiv for 29 years and i love to smoke pot.it helps with the hiv.i agree make it legal

Jeff, , 2013-02-21 18:50:46
I can personally attest to the benefits of pot. I suffer from severe peripheral neuropathy in my feet. A couple puffs from a bowl, and the pain is barely noticeable. I rarely smoke more than that. Just enough to take the edge off...

Adam O, 34655, 2013-02-21 15:40:46
Cigarettes are legal and they kill people everyday . Alcohol, kills people everyday .. It is Legal . Marijuana is ILLEGAL and It has healing property's .Pain killers , other pill's an other pharmaceuticals are DRUGS .. and they are legal . What is the difference ? I think that overall.. the financial cliff that our country is on could do some healing from the legalization of this .

comments 1 - 15 (of 19 total)     next > >>


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