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Activists Demand Legal Marijuana

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Activists Demand Legal Marijuana
Posted on Monday, October 23 @ 16:02:33 MST
Topic: Drug War Casualties
October 23, 2000
By JENNIFER MICALE, STAFF WRITER

NEW BRUNSWICK: Elvy Musikka had her medication on hand as she protested in
front of Al Gore's George Street campaign office Sunday.

The plastic orange prescription bottle held a dozen marijuana cigarettes.
But Musikka wasn't worried when she lit a joint, even though two New Brunswick police officers calmly watched the rally supporting the legalization of marijuana from across the street.

The California resident is one of only eight patients in the country authorized to smoke marijuana for medical reasons. Every month, she receives 300 joints of freeze-dried marijuana from the federal government to treat her glaucoma.

She has already lost all vision in one eye with traditional treatment and faced the prospect of going blind until her doctor suggested she try marijuana.

Jacki Rickert wasn't as fortunate. Neither were Cheryl Miller or Edward Smith. At yesterday's rally, organized by the Cheryl-Heart Project and The Legalize Marijuana Party, they and other activists shared both their stories and their rage over the government's long-standing designation of cannabis as a controlled dangerous substance.

According to Chuck Thomas of the Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C., Gore is a particular focus because of his uncompromising stance on the issue.

Fellow presidential candidate George W. Bush, on the other hand, said the issue should be left up to particular states, while the Libertarian and Green parties support the legalization of cannabis. Even reform party candidate Pat Buchanan, known for his right-wing leanings, feels that the
issue should lay between doctor and patient, Thomas said.

For several of yesterday's activists, the nation's drug policy has become a matter of life or death. They include the wheelchair-bound Rickert, who suffers from Ehers-Danios Syndrome and was originally included in the
federal government's limited roster of patients authorized to receive marijuana.

But the Madison, Wis., resident no longer qualified for the program when the federal government closed out new applicants in 1992. Since then, she has self-medicated herself with marijuana to relive her chronic condition, only to have her home searched in March.

"I felt like Al Capone for a month," she joked sadly.

Smith, who comes from Kentucky, suffers from both terminal cancer and AIDS.
Marinol, a prescription medication that contains the active ingredient of marijuana in pill form, didn't help because he was too nauseated to keep the pills down. He's made it a mission to push for the legalization of
marijuana, going so far as to smoke a joint in Gore's Austin, Texas campaign office.

"I'm dying of two terminal illnesses," he pointed out. "What the hell can they do to me to make it any worse?"

In front of the dozen activists, Jim and Cheryl Miller of Toms River engaged in "civil disobedience" as Jim fed his wife marijuana-laced chocolate to ease her multiple sclerosis. Cheryl has had multiple sclerosis for the past 30 years, and can only move her head.

"Did anyone get hurt?" Jim Miller implored.

Dr. Steven Fenischel, a physician with a practice in Absecon, said he has urged New Jersey doctors to support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but to no avail.

"I think a lot of physicians today are more interested in investing in pharmaceutical houses," he said.

Unlike Musikka, college professor Julian Heicklen wasn't authorized to light the "torch of freedom," as he called it. He wasn't even sick. Heicklen, who is the Libertarian candidate for attorney general in Pennsylvania, started smoking a joint every Thursday afternoon 2 =BD years ago to protest the war on drugs, which he considers antithetical to a free society.

"I've been arrested 15 times and imprisoned five times," said the elderly man, holding a brightly colored protest sign. "Based on my arrest record, I'm the most dangerous man in America." Jennifer Micale: (732) 246-5500,
Ext. 7217. E-mail: jmicale@thnt.com from the Home News Tribune

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