“Do Veterans, with PTSD, Receive Benefit from Medical Cannabis?” – Questions a National Study of 10,000 Veterans

According to Enigami Systems, Inc. media relations department a national study to determine the effects of medical cannabis treatment for Veterans’ PTSD begins July 4, 2014. The study is eighteen months long and holds great promise for determining effective treatment of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Denver, Colorado (PRWEB) July 04, 2014

It is the opinion of the study group* that when the Veterans Health Administration (the “VA”) re-establishes effective medical programs, the United States will begin, as a Nation, to honor its commitment to the Veteran community. And further it is the opinion of the study group that currently, the V.A. is failing the Veterans as evidenced by the hourly rate of Veteran suicides.
(CNN, November 14, 2013, 12:08 p.m., http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/index.html)

Acting Secretary Sloan D. Gibson has stepped into an alarming situation where the Administration has failed (according to the study group) to provide adequate oversight of, or solutions to, the debacle the V.A. is calling a premier healthcare system – especially for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). (White House, Office of the Press Secretary, June 27, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/27/readout-president-s-meeting-acting-veterans-affairs-secretary-sloan-gi-0 )

Accompanying the “appointment book cooking,” which is so prominent in the news these days (Time, June 9, 2014, http://time.com/2850879/va-appointment-delays-keep-getting-worse/), the VA has re-instituted failed treatment programs for PTSD (NBC News, June 20, 2014, 9:00 a.m., http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/dod-va-cant-prove-their-ptsd-care-working-study-claims-n136371 ). In the 1990’s, the V.A. learned their specialized inpatient programs were ineffective, and closed them down only to reinstitute them in the last decade (NBC News, June 20, 2014, 9:00 a.m., http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/dod-va-cant-prove-their-ptsd-care-working-study-claims-n136371 ) and according to the study group it may have been to appease the public outcry for effective treatment. That doesn’t make sense. The study group asks, “Why are we funding ineffective programs?”

And so, in the study group’s opinion, a suffering Veteran, maybe one in anyone’s family, commits suicide about every hour because the V.A., and the U.S. as a Nation, has failed to keep their part of the deal – to care for Veteran’s wounds. Some Americans cannot tolerate this situation.

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs spend unbelievably large sums every year to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (NBC News, June 20, 2014, 9:00 a.m., http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/dod-va-cant-prove-their-ptsd-care-working-study-claims-n136371). Collectively they spent $3.294 billion in 2012. But does the treatment help? According to a mandated Congressional report neither the Pentagon nor the VA have a clue about the situation. ( NBC News, June 20, 2014, 9:00 a.m., http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/dod-va-cant-prove-their-ptsd-care-working-study-claims-n136371 )

Adding to the distress and hopelessness Veterans are experiencing, research is impeded or disallowed by the Administration’s bureaucracy. There is a well- established public outcry over a history of “paid for study outcomes” (for “marijuana” research) that are academic nonsense ( Business Insider, August 12, 2013, 4:01 p.m., http://www.businessinsider.com/sanjay-gupta-changed-his-mind-on-weed-2014-4). As recently as this week another promising study, for Veterans suffering from PTSD utilizing Medical Cannabis for treatment, by Dr. Sue Sisley, of the University of Arizona, was blocked by her school administration for advocating research about Medical Cannabis. Dr. Sisley, a heroic academic pioneer, lost her position at the University for advocating the research of a promising treatment option
(Arizona Capitol Times, July 1, 2014, 1:31 p.m., http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2014/07/01/uofa-medical-marijuana-researcher-sue-sisley-fired-claims-political-motivation/)

Enter Enigami Systems, Inc. owner of a number of patent pending technologies they intend to use to address this through a subsidiary, Enigami Medical Cannabis, LLC.

Enigami Systems, Inc. commercial products help Patients determine the appropriate medical products for effective treatment. Their online application helps a patient determine the relationship of “mainstream medications”, medical cannabis products, and “over the counter products” – and the conditions they are seeking relief from. Currently the knowledge of how effective these interventions are, alone, or in unison, is absent from the medical field.

So, Enigami Medical Cannabis, LLC was formed with an eye to support the Veterans and the PTSD issue. Enigami’s commercial product was tailored to a national study, “Veterans, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Medical Cannabis”, put together by a number of clinicians and Veterans advocates.

Harborside Health Center, the largest Medical Cannabis dispensary in the U.S., located in California, and seen on television’s “Weed Wars”, is listed as an Advisor to promote the study. Though Enigami is providing over $300,000.00 in technology services the study still seeks minimal administrative funding.

The introductory website is: http://www.vetptsdstudy.org and the Study Login/Signup is: https://study.vetptsdstudy.org

The study is free for qualified Veterans who will notice only the absolute minimum of personally identifying information being requested for their personal health records. These records constitute the database for the eighteen (18) month long study. In this study, a Veteran registers, then notes the symptoms of PTSD he/she wishes to track, and decides how often email notices are to be sent as a reminder to record symptom status and medication. This information is translated into an easy to read graph showing treatment progress so that the study participant may determine the best medication approach for his or her care. The record is the personal property of the Veteran study participant with the exception of the aggregate de-identified information which will serve as the answer to the study question, “Do Veterans, with PTSD, derive any treatment benefit from the use of Medical Cannabis?” These personal health records are HIPAA compliant. HIPAA Privacy Rules are the national standards to protect individual’s privacy. The study group has taken additional security measures, as noted on the website security notices. As in all legitimate scientific studies, the project underwent, and will undergo, review by an Institutional Review Board.

The study begins registration and participation on July 4th in honor of the Veterans. At the conclusion of the study the aggregate results will be interpreted and submitted to a professional journal for publication.

The Veterans Health Administration, Congressional leadership, and the Administration will be notified of the de-identified study findings.

*The principals in the study are Patients Out of Time, a national Veteran advocacy organization (Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, MSN, former Lt. in U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, President Al Byrne, LCdr, retired, U.S. Navy, COO), Enigami Medical Cannabis, LLC (Clifton D. Croan, MA, LPC, DAPA, FAPA, BCPC, DMAPA, William F. Graf, JD), Health Solutions of Arizona, Inc. (Gary D. Miller, DBH, LMSW, CEO), and Global Health & Hygiene Solutions, LLC (Uma Dhanabalan, MD MPH FAAFP, Founder and CEO).

Euphoria for Recreational Marijuana / Medical Cannabis Not So Much

The marijuana/cannabis field is so interesting in its present development. Let’s take a look at one of the topsy-turvy parts. And you will excuse me as I do so while I use “marijuana” for recreational and “cannabis” for medical.

If you have ever studied, or taught, the history of “drugs” you will recall how some medications were developed in strength but the side effects were so strong the development of the drug went BACKWARDS in terms of its strength (amphetamines were too strong so they were “watered down”. The logical developmental end of heroin was methadone – again too strong. Cocaine became crack – too strong. Wine became brandy etc. ETOH became Everclear etc.)

Currently many people are operating under the belief that “medical grade” should be “the good stuff” meaning it should be more euphoric (“stronger” or “more potent”) in nature. I’ll predict this is not at all what we will wind up with. Medical products aren’t meant to be euphoric in nature – they’re supposed to address ailments. The “high” effect is a sideline in some medications it is not the intent. The ideas we have around CBD are an example. You don’t get high you get medical relief. The idea is to address medical symptoms. I’ll extend the prediction to say many cannabinoid combinations used for medical purposes won’t have an intoxicant effect at all.

If you are involved in producing medical cannabis products pay attention here. “Find a method of identifying what the important cannabinoid combinations are so you may market an effective medical cannabis product!” (the same with recreational marijuana)

Recreational marijuana is supposed to be fun, an intoxicant, a euphoric. What’s wrong with that ? Think about a good scotch (personally not a favorite of mine). Or to take a step further… brandy. Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume. So, in a sense, brandy may be construed as “super spirit”. Recreational marijuana will follow this same path. Instead of being less euphoric in nature (than medical cannabis) the public will demand higher grades of intoxication from recreational marijuana.

I think we can anticipate some interesting developments for medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. If you don’t join in early innovation or early adoption… what will happen to your competitive edge ? Can Ford still market it’s outmoded original products ? No. Not many folk are in the market for a Model A when they want a Porsche performance.

Enigami Systems, Inc. through it’s subsidiary, Enigami Medical Cannabis, LLC, is a big enough believer in this prediction to have taken a patent out on how to discern the cannabinoids use in medical cannabis and recreational marijuana.

At some point in the future we’ll provide the public with the relationships between the cannabinoids and their recreational and medical uses. Stay tuned !

Some US military Veterans are allowed to use cannabis medicinally. Some are not.

Clinical cannabis use is not decided by the military patients need for her medicine but rather where she lives. This practice is of course totally illogical. Considering the source of this decision, the war on drugs mentality, it is not surprising. Realizing that Veterans are not being treated for their injuries properly, is not surprising to me. I’m a Vietnam Veteran and I have seen this all before.

Treatment by geography can be looked on as a win for Veterans, some Vets. Before this protocol was adopted by the Veterans Health Administration, in July of 2010, there was no cannabis allowed medicinally for any service member. The change in policy, VHA Directive 2010-035, allows those Veterans that live in states where cannabis is legally available to use their medicine without fear of losing cherished and earned benefits. They can not possess or use cannabis on federal property and only for symptoms approved by the state of residence. If the Vet lives in an unenlightened backwater state he is not ever to be a cannabis patient that will be cared for by the VA, by us indirectly, and that should embarrass us all.

This leads to another illogical process. A Veteran in Oregon can not use cannabis for PTS(d), while a Vet in New Mexico can. It is not as you may guess that all Vets with PTS live in New Mexico or that Vets in Oregon have no such reaction to war. It’s where they live that matters. It matters because the MD’s of Oregon, those in the VA system, even those in New Mexico have no say in the diagnostic process. The folks that make these decisions have never been to war, hell they have never been to medical or nursing schools. The people that are responsible for granting or denying cannabis to Veterans do not talk across state borders, rely on science or pay any attention to professional health care organizations that universally call for clinical cannabis for all citizens.

Those making these decisions are practicing medicine without a license. They are law enforcement, lawyers and lobbyists. They are not MD’s or RN’s and have no grasp of modern medicine’s discovery of the endocannabinoid system universal to all mammals and essential to life. The Senators and Representatives of the federal level are equally at fault, are equally ignorant of the world wide science concerning cannabis. They apparently have no idea that the soldiers of Czechoslovakia and Israel, allies of the US in Iraq, grow and treat their men and women wounded by PTS or brain trauma with cannabis, with great success. Or they do not care.

Veterans I hear every day are to be supported by all of us. The President says so. The yellow ribbon on your SUV says so, the talking heads say so.

It’s a lie. Veterans are treated for their wounds by geography. That’s the truth.

Al Byrne, for Patients Out of Time

My Uncle

 I have written about cannabis used for ALS, cancer, pain, PTS and other maladies but there is a patient story that needs addressing. For him when you say cannabis he says marijuana, when you say it’s medical he says it’s a farce, when you say endocannabinoid system he says, what?

It’s my uncle (1). He’s sick in the head. No one I know has any one idea of what would cause such a problem. Everybody agrees it is a combination of forces, you could also say pressures that have warped his thinking. I’ve spoken to dozens of cannabis experts in my time and all think the same – my uncle’s lost his mind.

He is such a nationalist. Always talking the good old USA is the only place on earth that has the right data about everything including “all we need to know” about marijuana. For one thing he keeps calling the plant marijuana, which is not it’s real name. The plant is called cannabis and that is why when nursing and medical folks that understand medicine and chemistry and stuff like that or talk or write on the subject they use cannabis. He’ll never change. It makes no difference that in Europe and other backward parts of the world, as he sees it, 23 countries’ doctors use cannabis medically for all sorts of things that go wrong with humans (2). “This is the US,we don’t need frenchies to tell us what’s going on.” I replied that Bayer and Novartis are marketing and distributing medical cannabis products and that huge pharmaceutical companies like that do not screw up. He scowled and said “Europeans are not us.”

He’s crazy about god and that is strange too. I mean it’s god bless America and a lot else, which grammatically of course includes Canada and Mexico when he really means the USA; right or wrong I’m for god and country he says all the time. Then he’ll say god is great and all knowing, at least the Catholic in him will. The I ask him if god is so cool why did she screw up and create the cannabis plant?

He’s militaristic as well. The only way he can even bring up the use of cannabis is by the use of either of two approaches. Both are based on fear. The first is for his friends and those he dislikes and is a message of penalty. It’s a hold over from the Puritans that showed up as weirdos tossed out of Europe and holed up first in Massachusetts. These nuts drowned and burned “witches” with a fierce intensity based on their own self generated stupidity built on a foundation of fear and ignorance. He mimics them. The second ignoble motivator to his point of view is mendacity, a nice sounding word for unreal cruelty. “Screw them all and let god sort it out later” is his motto.

He lies a lot. To me it just is the way he conducts himself. I see it as a huge character flaw that should be embarrassing but he boasts and brags as though he was winning something big time. It’s a total cover up for failure of course.  I’m in control of what is going on he’ll spout at any time regardless of the mess he is standing in or at times wallowing. It happens all the time and is really noticeable when he sends out his “players” or my word, talking-head. Each time they say the same stuff like, we do not smoke medicine or there is no research, or whatever, that the whole world except the people that work in journalism know is a joke.

He has gotten so mad at times in the past few decades that he has actually paid for independent cannabis experts to study everything they could and declare the plant has medical value or not. Of course he figures since he knows everything they would agree with him. None of them did. Not one. Instead each and every study done in the US, including state studies has identified cannabis as a therapeutic agent and extremely safe to use. He buries the reports but I’ve got copies if you want them (3).

He lies about cannabis having no medical value. It’s strange because he lives right next to a couple of federal Senators and across the street from the President and often walks to work with these guys. They walk right by a DC cannabis compassion club and never notice it. I guess they are heavy into discussing how to make a bunch of money that day which my uncle says is what they are there to do. When I brought up the fact that 17 US states have said cannabis is medicine he said it does not matter what they think, I know better.

One really strange contortion is the stretch for not supporting capitalism. I mean his business card has only his name and a title, Capitalist. He loves a free market except if you are talking cannabis used as hemp. “I do not care if it’s not able to affect a euphoric state in humans it’s pot and it’s bad.” My uncle is old, he was in WW11, a paratrooper. I have explained over and over that the US Department of Agriculture gave out hemp seeds to US farmers during that war and begged them to grow hemp, for cloth, for rope, for the straps that held my uncle in his parachute when he dove out over Normandy. It’s a great food and lubricant, fuel, and contains cannabinoid compounds likely helpful to human health but he says that it didn’t happen that way (4).

He hangs around with a crowd that actually stopped their mental progression on purpose beginning in 1988. That’s the year that happened. None of his friends or my uncle “remember” but I do because I was there, well I read a report that was so well written it was like being there. It said that receptors for cannabis compounds had been proven by science to exist, confirmed and codified. Game changed, my uncle had to do something. He consulted his closest 200 employees and they came up with a solution-deny this is real or even exists and above all do not mention this to the press or even attempt to wake them up. Thing is it worked until now. The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is now the hot topic of the health care professions.

I hear he is now running around the country, well his muscle is anyway, with a degree of illogical behavior not seen in medical settings since the docs hitched blood suckers to patients to help them, and removing cannabis from patients in towns and cities that have not seen a federalie tearing down stuff since the Civil war.

And my uncle adores war. He has a war going somewhere all the time, is planning for one or more, and certainly creating conditions to insure a future of war for at least another century in this country against people who chose to use a drug they know works and does them no harm instead of drugs that may help but they always have a problem like making your nose rot off or some such “side effect.”  What he hates to do is admit that his own medical team thinks he is dead wrong about medical cannabis.

It’s the Veterans Health Administration that has said cannabis is medicine and told him in writing. Real doctors and nurses said so in defiance of the boss, my uncle.  This was way different because it was the first time a US employed doctor since 1937 admitted by action he had a set of balls (5). It was also the first time since 1937 that a member of the medical profession (a profession that has abdicated it’s authority on the medical uses of cannabis to cops, lawyers, recovering addicts and other medically uneducated people) challenged the unreal discourse in DC by having the VA declare cannabis medicine. The NY Times printed the story on their front page. My uncle must have burned every copy because no other paper or the Times has ever followed up on the news. I’m not surprised because once you have hung your yellow ribbon up or stated your support for the troops in an editorial that’s enough I’ve come to understand.

His stand on cannabis treatment for Vets is completely tragic. The VA docs did what they could but my uncle insists that it a Vet can only use cannabis medically if he or she lives in the correct zip code. It’s a Vet lottery in the US. Go to war for my uncle, get hurt. You win if you have the right zip code – you will be treated with respect and be able to use cannabis as a medical option in all VA facilities. If you have the wrong zip code you lose, you get nothing.

I don’t like my uncle much either.

I can understand him a little. He’s riddled with hubris, in the pay of lobbyists, is old, delusional and still after over 80 years stuck in a mindset about cannabis that is as pliable as the silver coins dropped in  his/their hands each day. I mean really who thinks rationally that all this technology bragged up daily has not been put to use on the cannabis plant over eight decades ? Only my uncle and his friends.

I know you think just maybe I’m exaggerating some. Naw.

Al Byrne for Veterans for Medical Access, www.Veteransformedicalcannabis.org.


(1)   Sam

(2)   www.medicalcannabis.com

(3)   www.drugscience.org

(4)   Cannabis in Medical Practice, Mathre, 1997.

(5)   VHA Directive 2010-035, July 2010


Medicines Abdication to a Cannabis Conspiracy

             It’s true enough what the US federal wordsmiths of spin roll out about there being a conspiracy to make cannabis available to the sick in the United States. There is such a cabal of cannabis crusaders working to undermine the US governments role in determining what medicine(s) they can use, and when, and how. I know most of these people and let me assure you that they are serious about their goal. (1). I’m one of the conspirators.

Some are half crazy about the wide reach of all governments into their lives, negative as they see it, like Libertarians and the Tea Party stalwarts. Many are politically active, seeing the election of selected politicians the key to a change in the rules of cannabis prohibition regardless of whether they sport a red or blue tie. 21 states their goal, believing just like their adversaries that medical decisions about cannabis are best made by non-medical professionals by opting for constitutional amendments instead of science. The Capitalists have moved into the cabal after surrounding the gathering with a multitude of products to infuse, to eat, to vaporize, to chew, to suck, to rub, to inhale. Their money now challenges the federal governments’ investment in a long running cannabis annihilation project defined by the knowing citizen as a failure.

Some, including me have gone to the courts and demanded a change to the prohibited scheduling of cannabis under the rubric of “The Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis.” It took ten years for this Petition to move through the process, designed to delay and obfuscate a reasonable request. This Petition is part of the conspiracy to bring the ill and dying a better, non-toxic, method of restoring their endocannabinoid deficiency. I admit that.

Ten years of delay seems like another conspiracy at work I also admit. (2).

Patients are in the forefront of the plot to free the cannabis plant from its murderers. Some government accounts list “patients” as the real source of the fire that burns joints to relieve pain in other joints and sustains the blow-back of heat that 18 states and DC have brought to the Keepers of Prohibition in the freest country on earth. Others will claim the patients’ best friend, the nurse, with the leadership role in the rediscovery of the plant and its magic clinical ways with humans. It is the American Nurses Association (ANA), representing the most revered profession – nurses – that has charged all US nurses to become educated about the therapeutic, nutritional and clinical uses of cannabis.

A series of accredited clinical cannabis conferences is part of the plot to undermine the cannabis cops. It’s simple really. All you have to do is take the best cannabis researchers and clinicians from around the world, put them in a room and let them speak to their astonishing discoveries of cannabis receptors in all human organs; the endocannabinoid system; of marvelous healing compounds such as THC and CBD and their acids found in the plant; of the cancer killing; pain deadening; spasticity calming; anti-emetic properties and emotional peace cannabis may provide the ill. There’s been seven of these historic forums each sanctioned by the ANA and the American Medical Association (AMA) as worthy clinical courses meriting attendees coveted CME and CEU credits for professional development. MD’s and RN’s can find the same education on-line and so can you. (3).

I’m writing as a leader of the cannabis conspiracy to brag up my involvement in the plan to “overgrow the government.” I think that honest therapeutic information about cannabis has been around now for at least 20 years, the time frame of the discovery of cannabis receptors becoming known.

What has happened within the US medical community over the two decades has been an abdication of responsibility concerning clinical cannabis use.

While I am pleased that the AMA has “accredited” Patients Out of Time’s clinical cannabis forums for medical doctors to learn of the science that discredits the federal spin, the lack of AMA leadership in this controversy is alarming. As a start at this critique I offer the fact that to my knowledge as I write in November 2012 no medical school or nursing school in the US offers a course on medicinal cannabis uses, it’s nutritional value, its clinical potential and the interface between cannabis plant compounds and our endocannabinoid system.

Considering that all living creatures on earth, canines and sponges, birds and snakes share the common system of endocannabinoid production I used to wonder if some doc somewhere would notice. Then one did. His name is Petzel and he is the leader, a medical doctor, of the Veterans Health Administration. In July 2010 a Directive, VHA 2010-035, was issued under his signature that said clearly – cannabis is a medicine.

Now there is a federal conundrum. The largest health care system in the US, a federal agency run by medical professionals says cannabis is medicine, in writing. The drug czar, a cop, says cannabis is poison.

The news made the first page of the NY Times! All VA facilities began treating Vets that used cannabis legally under state law without a problem. Suicides dropped! (4). Where are the VA doctors in this issue? Is it medicine or not? If it’s medicine for Sgt. Black why isn’t it medicine for Sgt. White?

Answer: Sgt. White lives in Virginia, Sgt. Black lives in Maine.

So where are the VA docs, why are they silent about practicing medical treatment protocols based on geography? “First do no harm” does not apply if you are an MD working for the US federal system? Why is the AMA mute? If it’s medicine for a wounded Vet in Arizona why not in Idaho? Idaho Vets did not measure up? Idaho Vets don’t hurt like guys from other states? Idaho Vets are like Nam Vets so let’s screw them over like we did those guys?

Why is the media such shills for national indecency? Unethical medical practice is ok?  Medicine is doled out based on where the Vet lives not the Vets wounds? This is not news? I know I’m an old guy in a new world but shit what happened? Where are all those young and old journalists that used to give a damn about the world they “report” about?

Why did the docs let cops and lawyers steal their work? When did we start issuing lawyers medical and nursing degrees? When did the law change about who gets to make medical judgments to folks with no knowledge, no license, only the ability to “make laws” and pretend they know what they do? Why does law enforcement sit at a table discussing what type of symptom cannabis can be used for as though some county sheriff is medically enlightened?  Why not put drilling teeth into a Senator’s job description?

As a member of the VFW I was told the VFW has at this point no position on some Vets getting cannabis to treat TBI, PTS, other wounds, pain, while other Vets are denied, prohibited from receiving the same medical protocol.  As a member I could begin a resolution process to see if the VFW would actually speak up about such callous mistreatment of Veterans of foreign war. An estimated three year process. I reminded the VFW representative that while we spoke a Vet blew her head off, and would again and again every 80 minutes. I was told a supervisor would call to help me find another way for the VFW National Commander to reset the balls he left somewhere. That was twelve days ago. No call.

As a member of the American Legion I have written the Legion leadership multiple times requesting the organizations aid in seeking an end to this medical debauchery being practiced on wounded Vets. Never has any staffer ever answered up. They did send a request for dues though. The Legion might have a great baseball program for kids but when they grow up and become soldiers, make that wounded soldiers, the Legion has no program at all to insure equal medical treatment for those they claim to represent.

But dear readers do not be too concerned. Veterans Day is behind us for another year, your plastic yellow ribbon will survive the days to the next, the Virginia Governor an Army Vet will ignore the 800,000 Vets in his state that are denied cannabis a medicine. He wants to be the President you see. Many other governors will as well. Congresswomen, male Representatives and thousands of political staffers will find other more meaningful tasks than unethical Vet care to banter about like fiscal cliffs and hem lines and the demise of Twinkies, but not the death by own hand of the troop that died while you read my essay.

The AMA, the media, the VA, MD’s – what about you?

Al Byrne for Patients Out of Time


1 www.medicalcannabis.com

2 www.drugscience.org

3 www.medicalcannabis.com  has a direct link to the University of California’s School of Medicine, San Francisco and a series of on-line accredited courses on the nutritional, holistic, clinical uses of cannabis and the state of the art science concerning the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) found in all living creatures excepting insects.

4 Institute of the Study of Labor, Bonn Germany, February 2012. WSJ, Shea. (Medical cannabis states in the US report an overall 5% lower rate of suicide, the Bonn study was a range of 5-11% dependent on age group of the deceased).

Do Not Be Jody (1) Again

            Sargent Krawitz can speak for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access I wish to express my personal position as a Vet and Director of VMCA.

The media gathering you attend today is more than the health information you will receive, more than another job another day. You are more than your job you are a citizen with responsibility for your soul. If you have a soul you will repeat the words you hear today without the shrill reply of the US governments professional deniers of truth as “balance.”

No one who enters a warrior world wants to be a burden in any way in service and later. No Vet wants to kill or harm anyone but there is the duty a Vet swore to honor and the honor of being responsible for the care of your country and inhabitants and that brings some to a place called war.

War is not normal and the things a warrior does are not normal except in war.

Those acts in the world you have lived are a burden for a Veteran because churches, laws, morality says do not kill and yet we have. Some of us killed for years as we swore to do, as our country asked us, you asked us, to do.

It is not over for us- war. It is with us every day and night.

Vets need you to understand and to take that knowledge to US citizens that Vets need help with their lives. Talk helps, with the right folks, but we need Vet companions in our lives because our lives were not yours.

You were “Jody”to us in Nam and that can not change but do not be Jody (2) again.

Support Vets like you treat your dog – with unquestioned love. Believe them when they say cannabis helps, not cures, helps, because they say it, because they earned that honor as well.

What do they say, what do I hear from hundreds of them a week – let us use cannabis. I’m a Vet and it is what we need, I need – to live.

I’m young, I’m old, I served, I tried my best, I need cannabis to live.(3)

Al Byrne, Lcdr., USN, ret.


(1)   Jody was the name we gave the guy that took our girl back “home” while we fought in Vietnam.

(2)   It is the female cannabis plant that provides the medicine/the comfort we need.

(3)   Every 80 minutes a Veteran commits suicide.


I never have met Dan’s mother but w have talked on the phone a good bit and by email. It was in one of those first written notes that she got my attention. I was riveted on her words.

“ Al, I gave the Marine Corps a fine young man, eager to serve his fellow Marines and his country and look what they gave me back”.

His mom has a full length cardboard cutout of her son in his full dress blues. It is a picture of the poster Marine, the one chosen to visually exemplify the rest. Sergeant stripes and combat action awards proudly worn. A newer cardboard cutout would show a demoted and fined corporal, racked by prescription drugs.

Pain drives his day from an explosion in Iraq. He is consumed by it. He’s a smart guy I judge from the many phone calls we have shared. He wants badly to work, to share his future life as an equal partner. His wife he credits with helping him adjust to living with PTS(d) and dealing with the non supportive KY facility. They were married in July of 2011 in simple ceremony and with his black Labrador Retriever work together toward their goals.

When the State of Oregon first opened their cannabis door for approved patients 70% of those initially applying wanted cannabis for pain. Trauma pain, arthritis, phantom pain, joint pain such as fibromyalgia, rheumatism, more. Now it hovers near 80%.

His physical pain is in his back. It will be there for his life. The explosion also caused traumatic brain injury (TBI), and as has become increasingly known from studying the history of multiple traumas, Dan has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).

During the recovery period from his physical wounds he found cannabis, used cannabis and it helped him – a lot. He was an active duty Marine subject at any time to a urine test not because he was deficient or had a negative attitude, or that he was acting abnormally for the uptight group but because.

I do not know what else to write about this test on Dan. Just – because – that’s what our country does now. Clinics, test labs, technicians, trucking companies, governments, multiple levels of business, national and international now spend billions of years of labor and dollars checking urine to prove only that the person in question did or did not use some prohibited substance recently. Other than the money flowing through that spigot the whole activity is illogical but it sure does let the worker know he or she is owned, controlled. Pretty close to military life.

He was doing well. Sure he hurt but it was bearable and he had hope- then- that prescription drugs and physical therapy and his youth would bring him to a functioning level or better. A urine test was announced and he told the Marines to save some money because he smoked pot and it helped him. Please help me he said.

He was “written up” for using an illegal substance, fined and demoted. He was placed on chemical drugs all while at a wounded warrior battalion in NC. Here he turned into a chemically induced zombie. Anger, confusion, terror, unconsciousness became his norm. The wounded with him did what you would expect, they protected and watched their buddy closely. They know that world of terror, wanting, needing it all to just go away. They saw the signs. He attempted to shoot himself in the head. The Marines stated that there were no suicides or attempted suicides that year at that command. His mother in KY was called and she and her husband were on the road. They drove straight through the night. Dawn saw them and the Officer in Charge of the wounded arrive.

By noon Dan and his parents were gone from the Marine base, going home to KY. He was not discharged but placed in the care of his family.

Nothing is ever over when you hurt day and night, and the terror inhabits your head. It’s worse when your two tours in Iraq as a rifleman are dismissed as irrelevant to your emotional health by demoting you from earned rank and fining you as though you brought this nightmare upon yourself and you should pay for getting ordered to the wrong place at the wrong time.

Twenty years ago as a Vietnam Vet and combat counselor I lectured in meetings with health care professionals in Virginia where I was educating them about post traumatic stress. I stressed dropping the “D”.

“Please drop the D. I know it is a medical term but it is inappropriate, it’s insulting. These men and women are reacting normally to a completely abnormal set of traumatic experiences. Theirs is a normal reaction and you all must accept that as reality.” Call it a “response syndrome” to trauma. Change the medical terminology so that words “do no harm”.

I also found in those years it was normal for a Vet to use cannabis to calm him, to sleep, to eat, to give up hard drugs, to reduce or end alcohol use. Twenty years have passed and yesterday I spoke briefly with a man, now a senior law enforcement official in NC, who had in the past worked for 5 years in a VA hospital.

“It was everywhere in the hospital. We all knew what they were smoking and why. It was OK with everybody.”

It has not been OK for Dan. The VA hospital in Lexington, KY has refused to prescribe opiate based pain killers to him because of his past cannabis use as an active duty Marine and his continued use. The half dozen, non-opiate based chemicals they did try on him failed.

My call is that the VA system and the Marines failed Dan not the other way around.

It is flat unethical to deny pain medication for anybody let alone someone known to be a severely injured US warrior. That is what has been done without excuse. It’s the hospital policy to deny opiates to known drug addicts an ER MD told Dan two weeks ago. Addict?  It’s right here in your Marine record that you used cannabis and are therefore an addict. I cannot help you.

I co-founded a Veterans service organization, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access for exactly the behavior exhibited by this VA facility. Behavior, aberrant, illogical and demonstratively damaging to another human being I always thought was worth worrying about. Urine testing for such action could be justified but is not in this case. The Commanding Officer who allows this type of judgment, actually a lack thereof to prevail needs the test not a “grunt” in pain.

I have a letter in my possession written by the Undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, dated July 06, 2010 addressed to my co founder of VMCA, in part it reads…

“This is a follow-up response to your letter requesting clarification of the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) policy regarding the practice of prescribing opioid therapy for pain management for Veterans who provide documentation of the use of medical marijuana in accordance with state law.” (State law is an important factor now in treatment for all Veterans regardless of duty period or medical problem. I call it treatment by geography. A completely new medical concept, never tried before in human history, being experimented with on the wounded.)

He continues, “If a Veteran obtains and uses medical marijuana in a manner consistent with state law, testing positive for marijuana would not preclude the Veteran from receiving opioids for pain management in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facility.”

Dan did not in the Marines and does not obtain cannabis legally now in KY.  If KY were to allow cannabis used clinically Dan would be OK.

Who or what do you want to blame for this travesty?  The CO for being a bureaucrat instead of a doctor. Kentucky politicians for being feckless cowards. The ER physician for sending a man in pain out on the street. His case worker at the VA for being a lemming instead of a real advocate. The entire Congress of the United Sates for sending the youth off to war and then abandoning them because they smoked a joint? They all could be stand up humans but are not. Dan stood up and they could treat him as a role model instead they don’t treat him at all.

Dan did two tours in Iraq. He did them both with Larry. The first tour for them physically was a pass. Men died around them, the smell of rot filled their senses, doubt filled their soul, heat, boredom and sudden terror filled their days but they were physically OK. During the second tour the world as they knew it ended forever for Dan and Larry, Marines.

Each was blown up by an IED, what we called in Nam a mine, built out of unexploded bombs from aircraft, or scavenged containers, and scraps of wire and filled with nails and glass and metal pieces and exploded with stolen C4 or old ordinance buried until needed.

They were both returned to duty and continued to patrol as before, but this was before TBI and the resulting potential for PTS was considered a wound.  After returning to the US Dan was treated for PTS and cannabis use at a six week inpatient facility under Marine care.  Months later there was a “failed” urine test, cannabis use, at the VA hospital and without an explosion, instead a mendacious, illogical “policy”, a myth according to the Undersecretary, changed Dan’s life again and again for the worse. No pain control for a Marine in pain. “Support the Troops.” Picture all the yellow ribbons.

Larry was a California guy and returned to his home state after his discharge. He was and is treated in a VA hospital in that state. In California, its citizens voted to allow all residents to use cannabis therapeutically under medical supervision. The VA Undersecretary for Health as you have read has directed that opiate treatment be provided in VA facilities in “legal” states at the discretion and based on the judgment of the individual patients’ needs and the attending physician, NP or PA. Larry is registered cannabis patient and is treated for his pain with opiates. He is attending college.

On the phone Dan said to me, “Al, Larry and I were shot at by the same people. We shot at the same people. We got blown up by the same kind of bomb. The shrapnel I carry in me is the same shit that Larry carries in his body. Why won’t they help me?”

Riveting.                                              Al Byrne for Patients Out of Time

Blowing Off Blown Up Vets

(Al Byrne is a retired Naval officer who gave 24 years service to his country. He served as the Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Operating Officer of “Patients Out of Time” and has been certified by the DEA as a published expert on medical cannabis issues. He served on the Board of Directors of NORML from 1989 until 1994 while also serving as the US Representative for patient advocacy to the International Academy of Cannabis Medicine.)

I’m a therapeutic cannabis advocate so I am biased about the subject of cannabis. I’m a Veteran (1) and I’m biased about those folks as well. I write not of bias but of ignorance, not about doing a job but of not doing what is correct, injustice and collecting money, of yellow ribbons and black souls.

As a Vet who served in Vietnam, for a year of the 24 I wore the US uniform, I joined the VFW- Veterans of Foreign Wars.  As a member of the military that served over several periods of service that encompasses their regulations I joined the American Legion. So did my wife a Vietnam era US Navy Nurse. Ask any wounded survivor of that horror and they’ll tell you about the nurse they fell in love with during the surviving time.

Well I fell in love with my nurse but it wasn’t wounds that brought us together or maybe it was. An invisible wound. I did not bleed in Nam.

The VA determined in 1987 that I suffered from PTS and then hired me and other Nam Vets as peer counselors. We rode the back roads of Appalachia for 5 years looking for Vets, lonely and neglected for decades, paid for by the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, funds from a law suit we took versus our own government and the chemical companies that poisoned us. We won, we spent the money wisely but don’t worry we’ll all be dead soon. End of one problem called Nam Vets.

Am I a cynic, yeah but not by birth or schooling, just life. Is there something wrong in Babylon on the Potomac?  Much. But I’m a cannabis expert and I’ll stay with this issue and the people who speak, as the Native Americans learned was a national game, with forked tongue. People who are blowing me and my brothers and sisters off after some of us got blown up.

That would be the VFW, “No one does more for Veterans” is their mantra and the American Legion also claiming “no one does as much for active duty military, veterans (sic), military retirees and their families as does the Legion.” A pissing contest for your money. The Legion is seeking a “catchy phrase” to market themselves better. Respond by April.

How about “one of two Veteran organizations that failed to live their creed.”

I’m a member, I’m an expert so I do the responsible, I call various offices and officers of the Legion and VFW. Can’t tell the difference as I wiggle through the labyrinth of staff who are not responsible for the non policy that I want to champion. It’s a complaint I want, a loud unceasing wail of displeasure to change stupid into an holistic action from these dwellers of Vet piety without Vet courage.

I should explain that all I want these self appointed ministers of all Vets to say is that the federal government policy of treating some Vets with PTS and TBI and a host of other Vet troubles with cannabis and denying that therapeutic protocol to me and others is wrong.

It’s illogical.

It’s unethical.

It’s crazy.

It’s wrong.

What do you people expect of me? How long must I be your target after being a target? Wounded Veteran medical treatment by geography? That’s Veterans Health Administration policy. I repeat-policy. (2). What the hell is going on?

I’ve had enough of mendacity, of pompous editors of Vet magazines, of political stupidity if not flat out cowardice. I’m appalled that US media seek out and codify dishonest and open flakes, all with zero medical or nursing knowledge as the wisdom we must have to refute the science of a multitude of countries concerning clinical cannabis uses.

Have you as citizens of the US had enough of folks and organizations that spit in the face of some Vets? I have. Is it 1970 all over again?

My  brothers and sisters blow their heads off every 80 minutes and the VFW and the American friggin Legion blow us off every day?

I know one thing after 70 years of life- you do not deserve us, you who propose to lead while you cower in power. Elected or appointed you need to get out of the way.

I will not resign from either group of weak  leaders. We’ve seen that ilk before and some of us lived long enough to see them die in disgrace.

I’d rather continue to be the voice of Vets opposed to these organized charlatans playing ostrich, and try to represent those who need medical cannabis to live and to live well.

So I am one Vet calling you guys out, whoever you are that claim leadership and hide like a Nam REMF. I’m saying that you suck bat shit from cave walls and I will repeat my mantra every chance I get until you remember who you were once and who you could be again.

I’m available to duel at your convenience.

Al Byrne, Lcdr, USN, ret.


(1)   Please capitalize the words Vet or Veteran – they earned it.


Corporate Profit Continues to Define Health Care Reform & the U.S. Race to the Bottom

A former nurse, Michele Swenson has researched and written about the history of women’s health care, as well as religious fundamentalist and gun-centered ideologies. Her book Democracy Under Assault: TheoPolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right is an in-depth examination of the fractured church-state divide, assaults on the independent judiciary, as well as resurgent 19th century science, socioeconomic Darwinism, corporatism, and Christian nativism. The work illumines the subversion of language and the Constitution by unholy alliances on the right.

Huffington Post article published August 28, 2012. Reprint with permission of author Michelle Swenson.

To many, the 2008 election represented a fervent prayer for meaningful change in Washington, for restoration of the people’s democracy and the end of corporate looting of the treasury. The U.S. corporatocracy reigns supreme – corporate profiteering steers most public policy, from finance, war and energy to health care. The system has been grossly polluted by years of the Gingrichian and Rovian practice of selling government to the corporate highest bidder.

Corporate framing prevails in the health care reform debate, as the profit-first insurance-pharmaceutical industrial complex holds the megabucks and the megaphone. “Market-based” health solutions promoted by multi-payer insurances ultimately translate into greater insurance profits, and rising health costs with reduced access for people. After all, haven’t unfettered markets done so much for U.S. health care and financial institutions thus far?

An honest health care reform debate has thus far been short-circuited, as single-payer reform continues to be distorted and declared “off the table” and “politically unfeasible” by corporate “free-market” advocates and some among the political class. The country has yet to hear honest discourse about reform that is not framed by health care profiteers.

Debate about single-payer health insurance was effectively stifled when Colorado convened a Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform for over a year through 2007. Corporate media was complicit, as The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News refused to print anything other than pieces by “free-market” proponents. The business editor of the News, Rob Reuteman informed me that single-payer is “pie-in-the-sky,” asserting he did not want to “confuse his readers.”

The upshot is that many in Colorado still do not know what single-payer health care is, even though it was the only health care proposal of five evaluated by the Lewin Group in 2007 that demonstrated cost savings for the state ($1.4 billion in a year) and the ability to provide comprehensive coverage for all. Indeed, to this day, many in the state cannot tell you what the reform Commission did. The single-payer plan merited just 4 sentences in their final report.

“Free-market” buzzwords, specious arguments and corrupted framing continue to dominate the health care reform debate.

1) Republicans and others protest that health care reform is undoable, as it will require a major expansion of government spending.

Physicians for a National Health Program report: “The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers” that waste health dollars on things unrelated to care – “overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy.” Inflated administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.
Notes PNHP, single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. Savings on paperwork for doctors and others with single-payer financing was estimated several years ago at more than $350 billion annually – enough to provide comprehensive coverage for everyone without paying any more than we already do. Over 20 federal and state studies have demonstrated single-payer savings and the ability to provide comprehensive coverage for all.

2) “Free-market” competition, it is said, will bring down costs and improve health care access.

In “Market-Based Failure…” (2-7-08) Robert Kuttner outlines the perverse incentives of profit-first health care that undermines access and increases costs. Third-party private insurers hold down costs by practicing risk-selection (insuring only the healthy), limiting covered services and payments to providers, and shifting costs to patients, e.g., copays and deductibles that discourage early intervention and result in more costly delayed crisis care.

Profits, not medical need, dictate resource allocation, prompting both extremes of undertreatment and overtreatment. There is an increasing gap between earnings of specialists and primary care providers, as more specialists move to high-paying “boutique” or investor-owned “specialty” hospitals (that often lack emergency rooms and other “high cost-centers”), leaving the least-compensated care to overburdened community hospitals and primary care practitioners. Primary care providers are forced to compensate for stagnating earnings by increasing caseloads and decreasing time spent with each patient, diminishing quality of care. Kuttner and others report that U.S. primary care infrastructure suffers the greatest attrition under profit-centered health care.

Further gaming of the system by “free-market” competition has spawned the insurance sub-industry of “denial management”, employing middlemen solely to game the system for profit by delaying, denying or reniging on insurance claims. They add no health care value, only inflated annual overhead costs of $20 billion.

3) “…you have to give people choice,” argue Families USA director Ron Pollack and others.

Pollack uses the corporate framing of “choice” – choice of insurances – rather than true choice of private/public providers and hospitals, which is only available within a single-payer model of insurance. By contrast, private insurances limit choice to in-plan providers and hospitals, and require change of providers with change of plans, as often as every year.

Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt expressed dismay about the framing of choice in the U.S. health care policy debate that results in Americans giving up the choice of doctors and hospitals, ostensibly so they can instead have a choice of insurance products. Ultimately, the choice of minimum benefit insurances with declining coverages is no real choice at all.

4) Pollack adds, “…you must not ever threaten the coverage that people have.” Most current Democratic reform proposals hold that we must maintain employer-provided coverage, and individual private coverage.

Not many are able to “keep the coverage that they had” even several years ago, whether through employers or otherwise. Ask General Motors employees and retirees, facing possible loss of their promised lifetime health coverage. In 2008, nearly4,200 Lawrence Livermore Laboratory retirees and their spouses lost the group health coverage plan promised them into retirement. Some 2,400 more who took early retirement will also lose group coverage when they become eligible for Medicare at age 65. Such retiree/employee health costs are described as “unsustainable.”

Employer-provided coverage is diminishing – a vestige of a bygone era, before the rate of job loss soared, and continuously escalating health care premiums eroded employer plans and employee wages.

5) A single-payer health care model portends “health care rationing.”

An insidious campaign of spurious stories about “health care rationing” and “long lines” in England, Canada and other industrialized nations is belied by the fact that everyone can get needed health care in those countries; those seeking elective procedures have to wait, just as they do in the U.S. Kuttner notes that the U.S. has the highest rate of de-facto health care rationing of any country, with large numbers of uninsured and underinsured, exclusions for pre-existing conditions, excessive deductibles and copays, and shorter hospital stays and doctor visits. Many in the U.S. cannot even get in line for care.

WHO ranks the U.S. 37th worldwide in overall health care performance. See the movie/documentaries “Sicko” and “Sick Around the World” to understand why we lag. The Institutes of Medicine reported in 2003 that 18,000 U.S. Americans die prematurely each year because they lack access to health care.

Some ultraconservatives assert that Medicare/Medicaid patients have worse outcomes than the uninsured. Significantly, the efforts of the political right to privatize-for-profit Medicare and Medicaid have raised costs and lowered provider reimbursements, thus compromising health care access for recipients. Medicare prescription drug reform of 2003 was a major effort to privatize Medicare, while extending billions of dollars of subsidies and inflated profits to the insurance-pharmaceutical complex.

6) Single-Payer health care should be rejected as “socialized medicine.”

HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle ( Critical: What We Can Do about the Health-Care Crisis) wrote that single-payer is “politically problematic in the United States, at least right now….Even though polls show that seniors are happier with Medicare than younger people are with their private insurance, opponents of reform have demonized government-run systems as ‘socialized medicine.’”

I respectfully urge Sec. Daschle and Democrats to reject false framing; let’s frame the debate for ourselves. The VA is a system of ‘socialized medicine’ with doctors working for, and hospitals owned by, the government – a good system in its own right. However, most state and federal single-payer insurance proposals are ‘public payer, private provider’ models – more like an improved traditional Medicare-for-All, with low overhead costs (3-5%). A government or quasi-government body pays the health care bills, while people maintain free choice of private or public providers.

Even Democrats’ and president-elect Obama’s favored reform – to regulate private insurances and provide an option for a public insurance plan – is as fiercely opposed as single-payer reform by corporate insurers and their lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Theoretically, a parallel public-private plan would establish a level playing field, with the public plan option setting a benchmark as a standard for private plan performance.

Neverthetheless, it has proved virtually impossible to regulate private insurances. When Minnesota passed a statute in the ’90s requiring HMOs to operate as not-for-profit, the response of insurers was reportedly to use “Enron-style bookkeeping” to hide their profits; they soon gained control of the legislature and state regulatory agencies, overcoming all efforts at regulation – further testament to the urgent need to eliminate corporate money from campaigns and policy-making.

Sensing their disadvantage on a “level playing field,” so-called “free-market” Republicans and AHIP are vowing to defeat any kind of parallel public plan, willing to discuss changes only based upon the “existing private insurance industry” – the administratively wasteful, fragmented health insurance that has accelerated the U.S. race to the bottom on most measures of health care outcomes.

The Single Payer model is uniquely suited to overcome a multitude of problems. Kuttner notes that a national system would utilize efficiencies of scale, and save large amounts currently wasted on administration, billing, marketing, profit, executive compensation and risk selection. PNHP reports that in addition to ensuring access for everyone to higher quality care at a reasonable cost, single-payer could realign incentives toward restoration of the declining U.S. primary care infrastructure; provide incentives to control global health care expenditures; reduce ineffective, even detrimental high-tech excesses that drive up costs, while ensuring that beneficial high-tech services will always remain available.

Much money is wasted on a complex U.S. system that erects barriers to health care by dividing people into thousands of different categories of health coverage (e.g., 20 different categories of Medicaid in Colorado alone), exponentially raising administrative costs for qualifying, means testing, annual reauthorizations, etc. It is far less costly to eliminate the redundancies of Auto and Workers’ Comp health care, etc., and to cover everyone in a single-risk-pool insurance that protects all against medical financial ruin.

The current economic crisis begs for a single-payer remedy, to improve the wellbeing of all. Let’s not permit the health care reform debate to be short-circuited with false framing again. As for the many insurance middlemen, let’s retrain them to provide a meaningful contribution to health care.

Politicians Ignore Failed ‘War on Drugs’ at Their (and Our) Peril

Leonard Frieling is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a former judge in Lafayette, Colorado, a defense attorney since 1976, a leader in the bar of the State of Colorado, Board Chairman of Colorado NORML, and member of the NORML Legal Committee

Reprint from the Huffington Post. Approved reprint by author Leonard Frieling, published August 30, 2012

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

With the Party conventions upon us, the issue of the platforms for the two major parties becomes an item of great significance. Platforms should include realistic policy solutions rather than rhetoric justifying policies we know have failed. A good place to start is with a pragmatic approach to drug abuse in this country. Whether seen as a “liberal” issue or as an issue aligned with basic Republican principles, both parties can “do the right thing” while garnering needed votes. Polls show the voting public is ready for reform of our failed “war on drugs.” It’s time the parties provided leadership on the issue and advocated truly treating drugs as a public health problem rather than as a criminal matter.

As a former judge for the city of Lafayette, Colorado and as a criminal defense attorney, I have seen the damage that drugs can do. Substance abuse has destroyed many families and ruined a lot of lives. However, I’ve also seen that as dangerous and destructive as some illicit substances are, the damage they do is magnified a thousand fold by the current war on drugs.

We’ve spent more than a trillion dollars on this war. It’s contributed to the highest incarceration rate in the world and it’s made our society less safe by incentivizing violence and the involvement of organized crime in the drug trade. Each person who has been jailed is a person who forevermore will have trouble getting a job, may not be able to vote, will have issues renting a home or obtaining a mortgage and who would have been better served with treatment than with jail time. The lives of otherwise good people who happen to have addictions are destroyed, while bad people — the violent gangs and cartels running the drug trade — are funded, strengthened and made rich by the “war.”

During my years in court, I saw violent crimes involving drug suppliers increase in both number and severity. But what spawned the crimes was virtually never the drugs themselves but the huge profits created because of their illegality. One dealer would be arrested and ten others would be ready to fill the job opportunity. Many cases would go unsolved because our police were too busy busting petty dealers and users. In 2007, I resigned the bench in protest of these policies and began advocating for the legalization of drugs. Although I had been a cannabis activist for many years, as my eyes opened I realized that “bad drugs” were bad for reasons not addressed by the “war on drugs.” The real problems were exacerbated.

Neither party has acted for reform. Recent polls by Gallup and Rasmussen show that a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana. That number is even higher among Democrats and all-important moderate and independent voters. Nonplussed, both major parties continue to oppose making federal allowances for medical marijuana use that is legal under the laws of an increasing number of states, a virtually uncontroversial issue consistently supported by 80 percent of voters in national polls.

While President Obama made unambiguous pledges to respect state medical marijuana laws during his first presidential campaign, he has overseen an unprecedented Justice Department crackdown on state-legal medical marijuana providers, particularly in California and in my home state of Colorado. This doesn’t seem politically astute at a time when medical marijuana polls better than does the president himself, or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. Obama reelection strategist David Axelrod would do well to familiarize himself with this polling data and recommend that the president reaffirm and act on his earlier position. If not, Libertarian Party candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson could siphon a sufficient number of otherwise guaranteed Obama votes in swing-state Colorado from young people (and increasingly from older constituents dealing with the health issues of aging) to send the state’s electoral votes (and possibly the entire election) to Mitt Romney. That unintended consequence of President Obama’s failure to stick to his guns on medical marijuana would be of tragic proportion to the Democratic Party and its supporters.

History shows that it is often the case that politicians are behind the people in recognizing the need for change. It’s time our political “leadership” provided real guidance for once and prepared a thoughtful plan for ending this failed war. Throwing more money at the war effort has not worked so far, cannot work, and must be abandoned for our losses to be cut.

The leadership could come from either party. Nixon, a Republican, named this war the “war on drugs,” and reinvigorated it. Another Republican, Ronald Reagan, greatly expanded it. But the Republicans have not acted alone. Admitted marijuana user Bill Clinton’s policies proved just as repressive as Reagan’s, and despite paying lip service to change, Obama has shifted the drug war into a higher gear than any of his predecessors.

Opposing the war on drugs is often portrayed as a liberal issue for the human rights violations and racial inequalities it propagates. But it is also a conservative issue for anyone who champions states’ rights, smaller government, more efficient spending, personal responsibility and other classic “republican” values. Ending the war on drugs is a matter for the Right. While Congressman Ron Paul has generated much excitement and has brought new, young voters into the Republican Party with his anti-drug-war positions, where are the Tea Party members protesting the government expansion into individual decisions where drugs are concerned? Why aren’t other fiscal conservatives in Congress decrying the unfathomable amounts being spent on prisons, courts and law enforcement while our nation digs itself deeper into debt?

This election season, I challenge the leaders of both parties to take their positions as legislators as seriously as I took my position as judge, and make the popular and long overdue decision to reform our drug policy once and for all. I challenge them to end the war on drugs. Whether that happens now or after our losses are even greater is up to our leadership. Long term, the war will be lost. No other outcome is possible.

Simply put, President Obama can win for all of us, including for himself, merely by doing the right thing.