Pubdate: Fri, 26 Sep 2003
Source: Drug War Chronicle (US Web)
Author: Phillip S. Smith, Editor
Sponsors: a more complete list is at
Bookmark: (Cheryl Miller)


The Cheryl Miller Memorial Project hit Washington, DC, this week, with
more than 20 patients, along with friends and supporters, holding
press conferences, demonstrations and doing lobbying in memory of
longtime Multiple Sclerosis patient and medical marijuana activist
Miller, who died of complications from MS in June.

Highlights included a Capitol Hill press conference addressed by Reps.
Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), respective sponsors of the
States Rights' to Medical Marijuana Act (H.R. 2233) and the Truth in
Trials Act (H.R. 1717), along with patients and medical experts.
Moderated by Jim Miller, husband of Cheryl, the press conference was
emotional and powerful.

"This was one of the most moving press conferences I have ever
attended," reported Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy
Foundation ( "While I have heard several of the
patients speak before, many of those who spoke I had never met or
heard. Their straightforward presentations of their struggles and the
value of cannabis in relieving their conditions were extremely moving."

"How many more people must suffer and die before Congress does the
right thing?" asked Wisconsin patient Gary Storck, referring to the
lack of movement on the Frank and Farr bills. Storck traveled to DC
from Wisconsin, along with Jackie Rickert, founder of Is My Medicine
Legal Yet (, her caretaker and another patient.

"I would not be here today were it not for medical cannabis," Rickert,
uses marijuana medicinally to treat debilitating symptoms of
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, told the
full-house audience in the House office building. She had once been
able to obtain medical marijuana through a federal government program,
she said, but that program had been shut down. Now she buys it on the
black market. Other patients, including Jeanelle Bluhm of Oregon, Jay
Howell of Washington, Joan Legospi of Washington, Beckie Nikkel of
California, Darrell Paulson of Minnesota, John Precup of Ohio, and
Lisa Rasmussen of California, told similar tales.

But the Cheryl Miller Memorial Project had more on its mind than a
press conference. Participants also took advantage of their time in
Washington to visit congressional offices and lobby the National MS
Society, Miller told DRCNet. "We started out visiting Congressman
Frank Pallone (D-NJ). It turned out to be an acrimonious visit,"
Miller laughed. "We took up the medical marijuana issue with Pallone
back in 1991, and his office promised they would not vote against good
bills but just adopt a neutral position. But then he voted against the
Hinchey amendment [to bar the DEA from raiding medical marijuana
providers] instead of abstaining. I picketed outside his house last
Sunday, so I can understand they're not too happy with me, but he
could stop all this by having a 20 minute discussion with us on the
record. That was the goal, to get an appointment, but so far they're
saying that won't be possible."

Pallone wasn't the only congressman who heard from patient lobbyists
that day, said Miller. "One of the patients and I went to my
congressman, Jim Saxton (R-NJ), and we had a better time with him. We
didn't get him to cosponsor, but he was patient, and we've got the
door open." Other patients visited their representatives and even came
back with some promises of cosponsorship, particularly from
congressmen who had sponsored one bill but not the other. "That was
empowering for the patients. They come to DC for the first time, and
are able to get a response," Miller said.

And then there was the National MS Society, which much to Miller's
frustration has shied away from embracing or even seriously
researching the efficacy of marijuana in addressing the symptoms of
MS. "That was the best part of the whole trip for me," said Miller,
"we really made a lot of progress there." The visit was not
confrontational, Miller explained, but part of an effort to educate
the groups' local chapters. "Seven or eight MS patients came and met
with Washington office head Jeanne Angulo, and she was absolutely
stunned by what she heard," he said. "She looked absolutely befuddled
that she didn't know this already."

Miller and the patients are asking the National MS Society to engage
in a dialogue with patients over medical marijuana and MS -- "they've
never even asked us what we know" -- to address the incidence of
"treatment failure" with cannabis, and to turn its attention to work
done on cannabis and MS in England, where patients will soon be able
to purchase a sublingual cannabis spray. The "treatment failure"
request, Miller admitted, is a ploy to get the society to finally
notice all the cases where cannabis actually helps relieve symptoms
for MS patients.

Miller's hope is that Angulo, and other local society heads who are
about to be visited by energized patients, will begin bothering the
society about the issue. "We'd like to see this end up with a visit
with National MS Society director Dr. Steven Rheingold," said Miller.
"We need to make this personal with him."

Miller praised the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws ( for both its financial backing and its
organizational assistance in Washington, and held out special kudos
for Wisconsin patient Storck. "Gary was the hub of this," said Miller,
"it couldn't have happened without him." The Project was also assisted
by the Drug Policy Alliance's press office and a grant from the Tides
Fund for Drug Policy Reform.

As for concrete results, Miller pointed to exposing a new group of
powerful activists to the inner workings of the Capitol. "This was
very empowering, they will be back, perhaps in smaller groups, but
they will be back," he said. "And let's see if this resulted in any
changes of mind or new sponsorships. We opened a lot of doors, but we
need to see action. You don't know how well you did for awhile."

Visit to learn more about the Cheryl
Miller Memorial Project. View pictures from the two days at and
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake