Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jun 2001
Source: Oakland Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Author: Jean Whitney
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SAN MATEO COUNTY -- The first shipment of marijuana arrived in the
county from the federal government Wednesday for use in a
ground-breaking medical study at the San Mateo County Health Center. 

"We are ready to start now," said Jonathan Mesinger, a hospital
management analyst for the county's medicinal marijuana study. 

Doctors and researchers will tap 60 AIDS patients for the landmark
clinical trials that will test the process of dispensing marijuana for
treatment of disease symptoms, including lack of appetite, limb pain and
nausea from other medical treatments. A secondary phase of the study
will examine marijuana's effect on chronic diseases. 

The Mississippi-grown pot arrived at San Francisco International Airport
Wednesday and was sent to a special refrigerator at the county hospital
pharmacy for safekeeping. 

Security concerns blocked the release of any further details concerning
the long-awaited drug's arrival, according to hospital officials. "We've
been waiting for a long time," said County Board of Supervisors
President Mike Nevin. 

Nevin was instrumental in bringing about the clinical trials at the
county hospital. 

After three years of negotiations, the county is set to begin the study
with medicinal marijuana, despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May
that made it illegal to possess marijuana for medical use. The federal
government and law enforcement agreed to partner with the county for the

"I see this as a milestone -- a first step -- toward the day when this
drug will be available for doctors to prescribe for people who are
suffering great pain," Nevin said earlier this year. 

Nevin said he was spurred to push for the research by the testimony of
the county's former Deputy Director of Health Services, Joni Commons. 

"Marijuana was the only effective product that relieved the pain she was
suffering from the treatment of breast cancer," Nevin said. Commons
later died. 

Local health officials ordered the 300 marijuana "cigarettes" from the
National Institute for Drug Abuse in early April. Only HIV-positive
patients who admit to using marijuana in the past are eligible for the

Doctors will, in effect, prescribe the pot for patients, dispense it and
track patient use of it through interviews and written logs. Patients
will be expected to smoke the drug and return unused portions. 

"This is innovative research using a controlled substance," Nevin added. 

Patients will meet with doctors twice a week when they pick up the drug.
A maximum of 30 doses a week will be supplied to each patient, according
to Mesinger. 

The initial shipment of pot to the County is a two-month supply,
Mesinger estimated. The study spans a year and a half. 

County health officials have identified 10 patients so far who are
eligible for the study. The County treats some 530 AIDS patients a year
at its Edison Clinic. 

The hospital chief of staff and chief research officer, Dr. Dennis
Israelski, will head up the $500,000 study. 

For information about joining the project, contact Clinical Research
Coordinator Mark Traves at 573-2748.
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