What this country has become is a mockery of the principals it was founded on. One can read over the information of this, or any legal dispute, and watch as conniving practitioners of the law dance around the point of issue while using the law to distort what can and can’t be used. In the following days of this hearing, one will see the government’s lawyers lean heavily on one particular point, and then claim the very same kind of information does not meet certain rigorous standards. It is unsettling to say the least to watch while everyone on the courtroom, including the judge, knows that the government’s representatives intentionally ignore information, plead ignorance or distort clinical evidence simply to make their point, or not allow the defense to make their’s. All the while making it quite obvious that everyone in the room is aware that cannabis is not harmful, unless you’re the top one percent. Just come out and say it United States Government! “We as the Government of the United States, personally and individually stand to lose money that we have invested in endeavors that stand to lose profit with the rise of cannabis, we know it isn’t harmful, we have always known, however, we are still going to argue our case.”
The third day of the hearing began with an interesting change. The government’s representation at times seemed to concede if not agree that cannabis had medical benefits. Assistant US Attorney Richard Bender, while cross-examining Dr Philip Denney, chose not to rebut Denney’s testimony that cannabis had great success treating chronic pain. Instead Bender used it as a segue to sell the product Marinol (synthetic THC taken orally in pill form) that the government no doubt is supporting. Bender attempted to show a marginal benefit to the product compared to plant form cannabis and seemed to get rather carried away. Denny used the line of questioning to direct everyone’s attention to a study that showed that both cannabis and Marinol proved effective in treating chronic pain but that Marinol lasted longer. Bender then asked, “So, both smoked marijuana and oral THC were effective, but Marinol was a little better because it lasted longer?” Denney answered yes, and Bender continued, apparently unaware that he had just admitted that cannabis has medical value.
What appeared to cause the greatest damage to the government’s case that day was a lapse of attention by the prosecution. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg started a line of questioning that delved into the nature of the US government’s Investigative New Drug program (IND) where US patients would receive free tins of government-grown cannabis each month to treat severe illness. Bender, seeming to be lost in thought, regained awareness and raised objection to the questions, but it was apparently too late. Calling the objection “belated,” Judge Kimberly Mueller overruled it. This blunder proved crippling for the prosecution, as Gilg was then able to elicit further testimony from Denney about the IND program, and in particular the results of a study conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo and others in 2002. These studies showed remarkable long-term success treating severely ill patients who had proven resistant to traditional therapies, and with a minimum of undesirable side effects – all at the behest of the US government.
It is apparent that the government is aware of the medical benefits of cannabis while using the plant in their very own programs, as previous testimony shows. Dr. Denney simplified the day perfectly in one statement, “I am perplexed,” he testified, “as to why there’s even a debate. Cannabis does have medical value.”
Fiery exchanges between NORML lawyers and the government’s only expert witness were the pinnacle of the day. The word ‘medicine’ and its definition was at the heart of the day’s debate. Dr. Bertha Madras, who has a PhD in biochemistry and served as an addiction adviser to the George W. Bush presidency, boldly stated that while other substances may have demonstrable therapeutic benefits, only drugs which met extremely strict standards promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration could properly be called ‘medicine. This seems odd while recalling the previous day’s testimony in regards to the government-run program (IND) where severely ill patients were given cannabis for what, recreation?
Zenia Gilg began attacking the doctor’s expertise in regards to cannabis immediately. Pointing out that she never actually treated patients or directly observed the effects of cannabis on humans. Madras then retorted weakly that she gained all of her expertise entirely from “reading the literature” on the subject, which they have shown in previous days to be quite selective. When compared to the defense’s expert witness’ (Dr. Carl Hart and Dr. Philip Denney) who both based their testimonies on first hand experience with the plant, (Dr. Hart directly studies the effects of cannabis on human subjects in his laboratory, and Dr. Denney attended to over 12,000 patients in his career as a physician) Madras seems drastically unqualified. At times, her lack of firsthand knowledge became painfully obvious, especially when she claimed that the THC potency of cannabis found in dispensaries could be “between 1 and 30 percent.”
The classic style of the government is to talk out of both sides of their mouth. Condemning a study one moment to be unclear, and then using the very same study to later make their point. An example of this was apparent in the day’s testimony by Dr. Madras. Gilg questioned Madras about a study co-authored by Dr. Hart which showed that plant cannabis and Marinol were found to be equally effective in treating the symptoms of AIDS wasting syndrome. Madras argued that the design of the study wasn’t sufficient and that she’d “like to see how they did the side effect profile.” Then just a few minutes later, when attempting to once again plug the superiority of the drug Marinol, she referred to the very same study, with a satisfied smile, claiming that it, “shows that single-chemical extracts can be just as effective. That’s a good take-home lesson.” It is odd that the limitations of the study were not regarded as important when supporting her arguments.
The end of the day came and Madras’ cross-examination was unfinished and would continue Friday. As Dr. Madras stepped down from the witness stand and approached the prosecutions table, Assistant US Attorney Richard Bender was overheard asking the Madras, “Is your brain in the mood to be buzzed?” What can only be taken as an invitation to share some drinks, or ironically, maybe something else.. Madras declined.
The fifth day of the hearing was to be the last but was not without its counterpart’s side stepping and contradiction. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg managed to expose more of the researcher’s apparent biases. Madras claimed that cannabis had a high potential for abuse in part because of the sheer prevalence of its abuse in absolute numbers, citing the annual NSDUH survey, which she declared one of the most authoritative data sets available to researchers studying US population trends. But when Gilg pointed out that the NSDUH survey actually showed that the number of diagnoses of cannabis use disorder remained flat from 2002 to 2012, Madras began to speak in an evasive manner, insisting that one had to also look at a separate study showing trends in adolescent use. But Gilg presented her with the very study she cited, and asked her to read the numbers showing that adolescent admissions for cannabis use disorder treatment had fallen over the same ten-year period. Madras continued to protest, insisting she still needed to see “alternate numbers.
[quote]“Gilg lunged for the jugular. “So five minutes ago,” she demanded forcefully, “these were great data, but now they’re not good numbers?” “I do not question the veracity of these numbers,” Madras finally admitted, calling them “solid surveys.”[/quote]
Judge Kimberly Mueller announced an end to five days of federal evidentiary hearings on the constitutionality of cannabis’ Schedule I status, requesting extensive briefings from the parties which realistically could delay her ruling by two months or more.
One can only hope that the obvious lack of negative evidence and the equal amount of positive proof will lead Judge Muller to the appropriate decision. This will open the door for many new cases to appeal and hopefully free some unfairly imprisoned so-called “criminals” from incarceration. All must be ready to be the herald of this change and spread it to all who continue to disbelieved.
Follow the change, be the change.