Pubdate: Sat, 23 May 2015
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2015 The Palm Beach Post
Author: Jeff Ostrowsk
Page: B6


Doctors, advocates at conference say cannabis is a safe, effective
drug that should be widely available.

WEST PALM BEACH - Pro-pot activists and physicians offer a simple
prescription for cannabis: Make it an easy-to-buy, over-the-counter

"Marijuana should be available like aspirin," weed activist Jon
Gettman said Friday during an event at the Palm Beach County
Convention Center. "It is safe, it is effective.Cannabis needs to be
cheap and widely available."

Gettman, a professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University in
Virginia, was one of the pot researchers who traveled to West Palm
Beach for a medical marijuana conference hosted by the nonprofit
Patients Out of Time.

Doctors and nurses at the event echoed the aspirin sentiment.
Marijuana, they said, has been proven to help patients while creating
almost no side effects - but they acknowledged that among their
professional peers, they're in the minority.

Most doctors went to medical school when cannabis was considered an
evil rather than an elixir.

"It's hard to unlearn what you've been taught," said Dr. Jeffrey
Block, an anesthesiologist in Miami.

Among the experts at Friday's event was Dr. Donald Abrams, a
researcher at the University of California San Francisco who has
conducted federally funded studies of marijuana as a treatment for the
effects of HIV and cancer.

"It is always a challenge to do medicinal cannabis research," Abrams
said. "Cannabis has been demonized, stigmatized and

Abrams said he had to jump through many hoops to win federal and state
permission to study marijuana's effects in patients with sickle cell
disease. He was scrutinized by the National Institutes of Health, the
National Institute on Drug Abuse and a California state agency, among

Even if a researcher wins permission to study cannabis, scientists are
limited to the low-quality weed grown by the federal government at its
farm in Mississippi, Dr. Sue Sisley of Phoenix said.

Other nations have proven more open to cannabis-based drugs. Sativex,
a treatment for multiple sclerosis, has been approved in Europe but
not in the United States.

Friday's proceedings were strictly a pro-pot affair; no critics spoke.
More than 20 states have approved medical marijuana, and Colorado and
Washington state have approved recreational pot.

Last year, 57.6 percent of Florida voters said yes to a medical
marijuana measure, short of the 60 percent the amendment needed to
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MAP posted-by: Matt