420 Magazine Background




Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferer and veteran medical marijuana
campaigner Cheryl Miller passed away in June, but her husband,
friends, and fellow medical marijuana patients are honoring her memory
in a way she would have liked. On Monday and Tuesday in Washington,
DC, the Cheryl Miller Memorial Project will bring together dozens of
patients and supporters from around the country, not only to remember
Cheryl, but also to agitate, demonstrate, and lobby Congress and the
national Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to move forward on medical marijuana.

Miller and her husband Jim became prominent and highly-visible figures
in the medical marijuana movement in recent years. Bed-ridden, Cheryl
would have Jim push her bed along highways and into state buildings
and congressional offices, as they sought to make politicians confront
the human results of their prohibitionist stances on medical
marijuana. Former US Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), one of the most ardent of
the congressional drug warriors, once ridiculed Cheryl as "a prop"
when she and Jim showed up to challenge him on his position.

But the Millers made sure Barr paid for that remark. Cheryl was
featured in television ads sponsored by the Libertarian Party during
Barr's 2002 primary re-nomination attempt. "Why do you want to throw
me in jail, Bob?" she asked. Barr lost the primary and is no longer a
power in the Capitol.

"Bob Barr called her a prop, but he found she was no prop," said Gary
Storck, a Wisconsin medical marijuana patient and member of Is My
Medicine Legal Yet (IMMLY - Is My Medicine Legal YET?), a pro-medical marijuana
group. "Cheryl was important because she and Jim found so many new and
creative ways to go after the medical marijuana issue," he told
DRCNet. "She set an example of courage and perseverance. She taught us
all a lot."

Storck is one of a four-person delegation from Wisconsin heading for
DC this weekend. "IMMLY founder Jackie Rickert, her care provider, a
patient who wants to be known only as Jennifer, and I are all going,"
he said.

They won't be the only ones. According to Jim Miller, some 20 or so
medical marijuana patients, many of them victims of MS, will show up
for the memorial, including Michael Krawitz (Virginia), Elvy Musikka
(California), John Precup (Ohio), and Jeannelle Bluhm (Oregon). A
caravan is coming from New York state, Miller told DRCNet.

The Millers visited Washington nine times to lobby Congress, Miller
said, and Cheryl's memorial will be an opportunity for others to do
the same. "I saw the power of one patient in those congressional
offices," he said. "Bob Barr could not look Cheryl in the eye and say
medical marijuana has not been proven to work. More people need to
come to Washington," he continued, "and the Cheryl Miller Memorial
Project is dedicated to ensuring that people could coalesce to make
this trip. It isn't easy to travel when you're sick, or cheap to
travel when you have to have a care provider."

The presence of patients on the Hill is crucial, Miller said, but the
movement hasn't figured it out. "The reform organizations haven't
gotten it done, Miller argued. "We need to make these congressmen look
these patients in the eyes. It's very powerful. It opens doors. We are
doing this on less money than it takes to buy one of those full-page
New York Times ads and much less money than it takes to hold one of
those conferences in fancy hotels. We could use more money from the
reform community. The community needs to realize this isn't the Make a
Wish Foundation, this is about getting change accomplished."

The memorial project is targeting Congress, the Supreme Court and the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society this time around, Miller said. "We
see medical marijuana bills like the Barney Frank bill get introduced
each session, but nothing happens, and they are wiped off the table at
the end of each session. We are going to give the patients a chance to
try to make Congress move on this, because, to be frank, it's not
getting done without them," he explained. "We know that a majority
voted against us on the DEA funding in California, and we know that we
might not win, but if the representatives don't like the bill, they
should just vote it down, not keep it from ever getting a hearing or a
vote. That is disrespectful, especially to people like Cheryl, who
suffered because of this failure to act."

The project will seek to push for action on the Frank bill and enlist
new sponsors during visits to congressional offices on Tuesday, Storck
said. "First there will be a joint appearance at the office of a
particularly bad congressman," he explained, "then the patients will
go to lobby various representatives."

The memorial's second target is the National MS Society, a group that
has been especially recalcitrant in recognizing the benefits of
medical marijuana despite a decade-long struggle by the Millers to
educate the society's national office. The MS Information Sourcebook,
produced by the National MS Society lays out the official line: "It is
the opinion of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Medical
Advisory Board that marijuana is not recommended as a treatment for
MS. Long-term use of marijuana may be associated with significant
serious side effects. In addition, other well-tested, FDA-approved
drugs are available, such as baclofen and tizanidine, to reduce
spasticity in MS."

"The National MS Society has effectively stalled research on medical
marijuana for MS for about 15 years," said Miller. "They're the prime
research organization for MS research in all the world, and they say
they can't condone medical marijuana because it hasn't been
researched. But the British MS Society has done research, and the
result is that MS patients there will soon be getting a sublingual
cannabis spray."

That spray is being produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. GW has a different take
on cannabis for MS than the National MS Society: "Collectively, these
studies indicate that cannabis may substantially control the symptoms of
MS, including muscle spasms, ataxia, and bladder dysfunction, and may also
play a role in halting the progression of the disease," the company wrote
after reviewing the literature on MS and medical marijuana.

"Patients will take the opportunity to visit the Washington branch of
the National MS Society," said Miller. "They know we're coming, it's
not adversarial, but this needs to be done to get through to the
national office. Cheryl and I corresponded with them for years and we
protested at MS fundraising walks, but couldn't sway them. Maybe if a
lot of patients show up, they will have to listen. We want them to
acknowledge the medical utility of marijuana, and we want them to do a
national survey of MS patients to see how medical marijuana is working
for them. At the least, they need to put a medical marijuana pro and
con section on their web site."

And the Supreme Court? "We are setting up a memorial table at the
Supreme Court because of its Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Club ruling,"
explained Miller. "Clarence Thomas wrote that opinion, and he and the
majority deferred on the issue of efficacy. He wrote that the court
didn't have to deal with that because in the 1970 Controlled
Substances Act Congress voted that marijuana had no medical value. As
Cheryl pointed out, that was before AIDS. We will be in front of the
Supreme Court because we don't think the court should value a
30-year-old political decision over current science and medicine."

The Cheryl Miller Memorial Project will also see candlelight villages
in towns and cities across the country for activists and patients who
could not make the trip. Candles will flame in Cheryl's memory from
San Antonio to Madison, Sacramento to New York state. For those who
wish to attend the Monday and Tuesday events, including a Tuesday
morning press conference on Capitol Hill, or who wish to contribute to
help make the memorial a recurring lobbying event, visit the Cheryl
Miller Memorial Project web page at Home Page of the Cheryl Miller Memorial Project

Pubdate: Fri, 19 Sep 2003
Source: Drug War Chronicle (US Web)
Contact: psmith@drcnet.org
Website: StoptheDrugWar.org | raising awareness of the consequences of prohibition
Top Bottom