Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Earlier this year, Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics
Enforcement Division, held up a patient identification
certificate that users of medical marijuana are issued.

to cover latest
dish on pot

UH staging gathering for doctors
and laymen on marijuana

Cayetano wants federal law changed

By Helen Altonn

Doctors unable to answer patients' questions about marijuana, either as a medicine or abusive drug, can get the latest information at a conference May 30-31 at the Ala Moana Hotel.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry is presenting the conference from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days.

"We know lots of doctors are being asked questions about marijuana by patients," said Dr. David Friar, University of Hawaii assistant professor in psychiatry and board-certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine.

"A lot of them don't have information to answer questions. This conference is a real source for that. My agenda is to get all doctors in Hawaii to be aware of the conference."

Titled "Medical and Social Issues," the talks will address the science of marijuana, including recent scientific findings concerning brain receptors, clinical research, positive and negative consequences of using marijuana, the legal status of medical marijuana and current social policy, including implications for adolescents, the criminal justice system and the medical profession.

National and international perspectives on marijuana use as well as issues unique to Hawaii will be presented.

Speakers will include Dr. Lester Grinspoon, psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School and former director of the Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. A nationally prominent authority on marijuana, he will discuss medical uses and social costs of the current policy.

His book, "Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine," has been published in many languages, and he has testified before legislative committees in many states.

Others will be:

>> Dr. Donald Abrams, assistant director of the AIDS Program at San Francisco General Hospital and professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He is chairman and principal investigator of the Community Consortium's Terry Beirn Community programs for Clinical Research on AIDS. He received the assistant secretary for health's award for outstanding accomplishment in 1990.

>> San Francisco attorney Jonathan Weissglass, co-counsel for the Conant federal class-action lawsuit against Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey is the National Drug Policy Control office director. He, along with other federal officials, is represented by Weissglass on behalf of physicians who recommend medical marijuana and seriously ill patients.

Local participants will include former state Sen. Andy Levin, now with Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim's office; state Public Safety Director Ted Sakai; Dr. William Wenner, Big Island surgeon; Dr. William Haning, physician addiction specialist, and Drs. Ernest P. Alaimalo and David Wolkoff, fellows in the UH medical school's Addictions Psychiatry Residency program.

Levin will help examine the marijuana issue in Hawaii, and Sakai will describe "the balancing act" of enforcing narcotics laws while carrying out a legislative mandate to register patients for medical marijuana.

Wenner, former director of an outpatient heroin detoxification clinic in California, will describe his experiences in prescribing medical marijuana.

Haning, associate professor of psychiatry in the medical school and program director of the Addiction Psychiatry Residency Program, will focus on marijuana dependence and its treatment.

Alaimalo, recipient of the 1999-2000 Residence Research Award, is co-investigator for a study on methamphetamine dependence and also for a study on the cultural differences in reasons for seeking treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence.

Wolkoff, 1999-2001 recipient of the Ginsburg Fellowship, is interested in substance-induced psychotic and mood disorders and cross-cultural and refugee psychiatry.

Friar expects participants from the mainland and other countries. He's hoping for 250 people. Although it's designed for doctors, the conference is also open to nurses, social workers, substance abuse counselors and others interested in scientific knowledge of marijuana.

Although Hawaii and various other states have legalized marijuana for certain medical purposes, it remains an illegal drug under federal laws.

The Conant case in California followed threats by McCaffrey that doctors would lose their drug licenses if they talked to patients about medical marijuana. The result was a permanent injunction saying doctors couldn't be prosecuted for that.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a ruling that a federal law classifying marijuana as illegal has no exception for seriously ill people.

"The Supreme Court decision is not going to be the end of the debate because it is so variant with science and practicality," Frier said.

It raises questions about whether it will have any impact, he said.

Registration fees for both days of the conference, including lunches, is $225 for physicians and $125 for non-physicians. The Hawaii Consortium for Continuing Medical Education has designated the activity for credits. The Hawaii Medical Association is participating in the event with the medical school.

For more information, call Anne Taylor at 586-2904.

Cayetano will seek
Abercrombie’s help

Associated Press

Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday that he'll ask U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie to introduce federal legislation to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes.

The governor said he wasn't surprised at Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding federal laws against using marijuana for medicinal purposes, despite laws allowing it in Hawaii and eight other states.

"The court really just affirmed what we always knew what the law was," he said. "State law cannot supersede federal law."

The question now is how seriously will the federal government enforce the law, Cayetano said.

"I just think it's a matter of time that Congress finally gets around to understanding that the states should be allowed to provide this kind of relief to the people," he said.

"Congress is way, way behind in their thinking," Cayetano said.

The governor said Abercrombie (D, urban Honolulu) "is the one who converted me to the cause of marijuana's medicinal uses" and might be willing to introduce the legislation next year.

"I'm not sure the rest of Congress is receptive," said Cayetano, noting next year is an election year. "Some of these guys probably will not want to be seen as soft on anything, including marijuana."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin