Source: Philidelphia Gay News
Pubdate: 07 Aug 1998
Author: Timothy Cwiek PGN Contributing Writer


AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya believes so strongly that marijuana is
helping to keep him alive, he has agreed to be the named plaintiff in a
federal class-action lawsuit that seeks to end the federal ban on

The case is known as Kuromiya vs. the United States of America.

In an interview last week, Kuromiya said he's prepared to go to the U.S.
Supreme Court to ensure that medicinal and therapeutic use of cannabis
is permitted in America.

"It's my constitutional right to use naturally growing medicine that
will save my life," he said. "It's absurd to arrest people for taking
their medicine. The federal ban [against cannabis] is stupid and unfair
- - and it needs to be overturned."

Kuromiya, 55, has been diagnosed with AIDS since 1988, and said he
smokes marijuana on a regular basis to deal with nausea, wasting
syndrome and other problems.

"I know that marijuana is a life-saving medicine for myself and many
millions of others around the country," Kuromiya said. "Cannabis has
been used therapeutically for over 5,000 years. It's been used all over
the world, and it grows everywhere. Every cultures knows it has
therapeutic value."

Kuromiya is executive director of Critical Path AIDS Project, and a
world-renowned AIDS-treatment expert and author.

Kuromiya is among 164 co-plaintiffs named in the suit, who say that
millions of Americans could benefit from using marijuana
therapeutically, according to court documents.

The co-plaintiffs contend that cann-abis is helpful for a range of
ailments, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis,
migraine headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle spasticity, and
gastro-intestinal disorders.

Their attorney, Lawrence Hirsch, told PGN that marijuana should be
supplied by the federal government for medicinal and therapeutic use.

"You can get up to life imprisonment, without parole, for possession and
distribution of cannabis," Hirsch said. "It's absurd. The government
should be helping sick people, not making them paranoid about taking
their medicine."

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno is named as the defendant in the case.
Her attorney, Gail Levine, declined comment.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz. A hearing
has been scheduled for Oct. 21 at the U.S. Courthouse, 601 Market St.

Kuromiya said he helps many people access therapeutic cannabis through a
buyers' club, known as Transcendental Medication. He said many local
doctors refer clients to the club.

He said Marinol, a pill form of cannabis, is not effective for himself,
nor many other people with severe ailments.

Dr. Mark Watkins, a local physician with a large PWA clientele, said he
supports the therapeutic use of cannabis by PWAs, when needed. He
supports the lawsuit, with qualifications.

"I would support the suit, as long as there are regulations, so that
cannabis is dispensed appropriately by a licensed professional," he

Hirsch said it's wrong for the federal government to classify marijuana
as a dangerous narcotic.

"Cannabis is a wonderful herb that should be available to everyone who
needs it," he said. "We have faith that the lawsuit will be successful,
so that sick people will be helped."

AIDS activists questioned about the lawsuit said they had mixed

"I'd like to see marijuana legalized for medical use," said AIDS
activist Michael Marlowe. "But I wouldn't want a doctor to prescribe it,
unless all other options have been exhausted. It should be done as a
last resort. And if the patient has an addictive personality, the doctor
should use even more caution."

Kuromiya said there is no evidence that cannabis is addictive.

"It's not addictive and it's relatively harmless, as opposed to many
substances that are perfectly legal, such as cigarettes and alcohol," he

Kuromiya also said he would welcome more research on cannabis' efficacy
with specific maladies, but he said the federal government has resisted
such studies.

1998 Timothy Cwiek
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Checked-by: willtoo