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Medical Marijuana

Fall/Winter 1997

A national news story on January 5 reported that Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Dr. Phill Lee said that the ban on medical use of marijuana, imposed by the Bush administration, was being reviewed. In fact, the review has been ongoing for months, but no decision has been made; Dr. Lee was not saying anything new. We do not have the text of his statement, but have heard that he told a meeting on healthcare reform that the review had been delayed by the controversy over former Attorney General Elders' statement that legalization of drugs should be considered. A reporter may have taken Dr. Lee's remark out of context, resulting in a national media frenzy when actually there was no news.

The Department

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has received many letters on medical marijuana, almost all supporting access to the drug. They also received many phone calls on the drug-legalization controversy, almost all from conservatives opposing legalization. The two issues are very different.


What would help most on the medical-marijuana issue would be letters from persons with late-stage illness (cancer, AIDS, or others) to their representatives in Congress, with a copy to DHHS, on their personal experience with medical marijuana, for problems such as weight loss, nausea, chronic pain, or muscle spasms. Congress needs to hear from people who, working with their physician, first exhausted the legal prescription medications for these conditions - who found that none of those worked for them, and that smoking marijuana did. A letter from their doctor would be helpful, too.


The problem is that people are understandably afraid to write about marijuana use, especially while they are still using it; physicians are also reluctant to write these letters. We do not know much real risk is involved, although it is probably minimal since the government has lost medical marijuana cases in court and does not want more losses.

Action Items

Possible ways of addressing this issue are:

  1. Finding people who are willing to take the risk;
  2. Not actually saying that one has taken marijuana, but only describing the failure of the conventional treatments, as a kind of national code;
  3. Finding an organization to tear the names out of letters before submitting them;
  4. Relatives and friends describing the value of marijuana for patients who are deceased; or
  5. Probably most important, press coverage of individual patient, who can remain unidentified if they want.


For those who are willing to write, here are addresses for any member of congress. For your representative in the House, write Washington, DC 20515. For each of your Senators, write to: The Honorable ---, US Senate, Washington, DC 20510. Or you could write to them at their local offices.

Also send a copy to : Dr. Philip Lee, Assistant Secretary for Health, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave. SW, 7th floor, Washington, DC 20201.

Legal in California

medical Marijuana is legal in the State of California through the passing of proposition #215. However, if you need marijuana to relive symptoms of illness there are certain things you should be aware of. The Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers' Club provides safe and affordable access in a safe and supportive environment.

Rights & Responsibilities

If confronted by the police, know your rights. It is your responsibility to inform them of your medical requirements for marijuana. Above all, be polite and tell the truth.

  • Officers are instructed to look for the following:
  • Patients must be California residents
  • Patients must be seriously ill.
  • The patient's physician must have determined that the specific patients health would benefit from marijuana as a treatment for the specific illness.
  • The patient must not be engaged in behavior that endangers others.
  • The patient must not be involved in any non-medical usage of marijuana
  • Patients cannot cultivate or posses amounts greater than necessary for their personal medical needs.
  • Each written or oral approval or recommendation from a physician must be specific to that patient.


To become a member of the LACBC call: 213.874.0811, or e-mail:, or write to:

    7494 Santa Monica Blvd. #215
    West Hollywood, California 90046

If you are a member of the LACBC, carry your membership card and doctor's note at all times. Do not medicate in public, or before or while driving or operating heavy machinery. Be polite and tell the truth at all times. If arrested, call the LACBC for your legal defense.

In San Francisco, call C.H.A.M.P at 415.861.1040 and join the club.

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
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