Pubdate: Thu, 07 Oct 2010
Source: Daily Bruin (UCLA, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2010, ASUCLA Student Media
Author: Thomas Standifer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


A large sign jutted off the roof of the building, affixed with a neon
green marijuana leaf. I had arrived.

The Westwood establishment belonged to Dr. Michael Morris, a physician
who specializes in medical marijuana recommendations. I wondered if he
would write one for me.

I have nothing that would qualify as a serious medical condition, but
it's common knowledge that when it comes to garnering a medical
marijuana recommendation, nobody is checking. My goal was to see how
easy it really was to get access to legal bud.

Anxiety seemed like a good excuse, I thought. It is something nearly
every college student deals with, and I could make it sound really
serious if I had to.

We had the consultation in Morris' office. Inside the room was a
weight scale, a blood pressure machine and the walls were covered with
pictures of dogs and horses.

I told him I had anxiety, and it sometimes made it so I couldn't
sleep. I said it was a recurring problem I'd been dealing with for

"Have you ever been to a party where someone introduced themselves to
you, and you immediately forgot their name?" Morris asked.

I nodded yes to the question.

He told me I have attention deficit disorder.

My heart started racing. A doctor had never diagnosed me with that
before. Yet Morris reassured me that 80 percent of the people who come
and see him suffer from ADD, himself included.

He verified my ADD with a few more questions.

I'm sometimes awkward at parties, mix up my rights and lefts, and I'm
not the best driver.

These answers pointed Morris straight to ADD-land and I wasn't even

As I was debating in my head whether or not I could really have a
hyperactivity problem, I found out that I also have dyslexia.

Morris gave me a passage of dense poetry to read, and I took too long
to get through it. He then tried to ease my fears, adding that he,
too, had the condition.

I had some serious issues, Morris said. Cannabis would help with a
few, but not with all of them. Specifically, he said the drug would
help with sleep and anxiety. I needed a larger cocktail of medication
to deal with the complete ADD condition -- his recommendation were
focus-inducing stimulants Adderall and Ritalin.

Morris recommended the use of medical marijuana to combat my newly
discovered web of issues through a large loophole in Proposition 215.
The passage is reprinted on his website, as the legal framework that
allowed him to issue recommendations so broadly.

The proposition states that marijuana can be used in the treatment of
serious conditions like cancer and AIDS, but also includes an
open-ended clause stating it can be used for "any other illness for
which marijuana provides relief."

After finding out I really did not have anxiety or insomnia -- that I
had made the whole story up, Morris said it was very hard to account
for people who are lying.

"You have to treat every patient just like you would any other
patient," Morris said. "I can't do a lie detector test on everybody."

Requiring his patients show their medical records was out of the
question, too. He said he is an old-fashioned doctor who is able to
diagnose patients without the help of others.

Donald Tashkin, a professor emeritus at the David Geffen School of
Medicine, agreed that marijuana can and should be recommended by
physicians in cases of serious medical conditions where other options
have been fully exhausted.

Tashkin said he felt many patients were likely misrepresenting
themselves, much like I did to Morris, in order to get access to the
drug for purely recreational use.

Curtis Chen, a fourth-year business economics student, said the
process is flawed on both the patient's and doctor's end.

He said during his experience getting a marijuana card that his
answers to the doctor's questions were manipulated to fit the laws.
Through leading questions the doctor got him to state that his
insomnia led to a decrease in the ability to perform basic life
functions, including going to work, he said.

The situation is complicated, Tashkin admitted.

He said many of the conditions in which patients would benefit from
using cannabis have no cost-effective test, like chronic pain. Thus,
he said, patient accounts are usually the type of information that
doctors rely on. 
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