Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dr. Tod Mikuriya: The Lost Interview, Berkeley, California, 2004.

Transcript of the video interview
made by Paul J. von Hartmann

California Cannabis Ministry,
Between the Dreams Productions


Considered the "grandfather" of the medical marijuana movement, Dr. Tod Mikuriya was the first physician to start writing medical prescriptions for marijuana.

Dr. Tod Mikuriya

The use of Cannabis goes into antiquity, as probably everybody knows, but what is not known, or what is not appreciated, is the fact that it was clinically available for roughly a hundred years in America and Western Europe for a variety of therapeutic uses. It was called "Cannabis."

And the term 'marijuana' was described as a "mongrel word," that was applied to the Mexican use of Cannabis, that very few agencies within the federal government at the time back in 1937 understood that it was the same as Cannabis, so they thought that marijuana was really a separate plant, a separate material. And didn't connect it with the medicinal uses.

Well, in 1937 they had hearings before the Ways & Means Committee about marijuana, which then produced the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. And they imposed an additional regulatory scheme and tax on physicians for using Cannabis. This was more or less the death nell of the medicinal uses of Cannabis that were lost until just recently.

Many years ago I was smitten by an attack of idle curiosity during my sophomore year in medical school during the pharmacology course. I happened to unintentionally read a chapter on Cannabis in Goodman & Gilman, which described the medicinal uses and described also, fairly Draconian punishment for its use. This was consistent with what social attitudes existed back then in 1959.

Well, this ilicitude needless to say, whetted my curiosity. I realized that I should really keep this to myself, that this was not something I would submit to any department for a research project because it would surely have been the end of my medical career.

So, I read up on what was available at the library, and then that summer went down to Mexico, and across the border where it is technically illegal, but available. So I used some slang words for it and the street dealer that accosted me upon my arrival immediately understood.

He then got me ten joints. that I paid for and I said "Okay, come with me. I took him up to my hotel room and, at random, picked one of the hand-rolled marijuana cigarettes out and said, "Okay, light it up, take a few puffs." He showed no hesitation, so I at least realized that it was no t poisonous. So then I embarked upon my personal bioassay experience.

I put this down after a while, having no one to communicate with and no source, until 1964. At which time, during my psychiatric practice training up in Oregon I became aware of it.

I finished my psychiatric residency in Mendocino State Hospital in California and sought to find out more about it by forming a Socratic relationship with somebody who was in the biz of psychedelic drugs. So, went to serve a brief preceptorship with Dr. Humphrey Osmond, back at the New Jersey Neuropshychiatric Institute. This is 1967.

I then was headhunted by the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Narcotics and Drug Abuse Studies, with the specific assignment of research into marijuana. Needless to say, this seemed to be right up my area of interest. And left New Jersey for the psychosis inside the Beltway.

First stop was at the National Library of Medicine, where I ran across many more medicinal papers and pharmaceutical papers that motivated me to assemble what I felt to be the 'creme de la creme' and put it into a book, "The Marijuana Medical Papers :1839 to 1972."

I'm about to embark upon an update with a new introduction based upon my personal clinical research that I've been able to achieve since then.

It's unite a number of years between 1972 and today, 2004. I was at the National Institute of Health in 1967. Another one of my assignments was to spy on the communes in California because at the height of the fear of the Viet Nam War, the year of the Tet Offensive, and the total embroilment in the conflict in the United States as well as in Viet Nam. They were fearing the fall of civilization as manifested by certain rebellious behaviors, principally on the West Coast.

This all then intertwines with the policy on drugs, because at this time LSD was not completely illegal, and it was getting wide play. Marijuana was being used socially and as a notable part of the anti-war movement needless to say the people inside the Beltway wanted to know as much as possible because of the realizations that things weren't going well, and possibly falling apart.

The Pentagon Papers had not yet been published, Lyndon Johnson's Presidency fell as a result of the embroilment and the conflict and anti-war movement. Frankly I was aghast at being part of this machine back in D.C. that could be so blind and mean-spirited.

Their take on marijuana was "How can we suppress it and prevent it?' because this is something that promotes that dangerous trait of critical thinking." Because it was linked with the rebellion of the anti-war people against the military machine, the military industrial complex.

So, basically I defected. I came to California and left federal government and went into private practice.

Excuse me for interrupting, but you were told not to find any positive result in your research, is that true?

Correct. They were interested in finding anything toxic, anything that could be used to dissuade the use of Cannabis. But at the same time they recognized, although it couldn't be admitted, that it was relatively benign. The big problem with dealing within the federal bureaucracy -- or I suppose any bureaucracy -- is the compartmentalization that restriction on the flow of information.

For example I was told not to speak officially to anybody, unless I get it cleared with my supervisors and they authorize who's making the inquiry as to what could be said. And if one didn't go through the chain of command, then it just would not happen.
And this is the kind of thing I initiated to try to get harm-reduction types of information about drugs publicized over the FM, New York media, which was really leading public opinion in many ways. And set up a meeting with 'Murray the K' and other name DJs, but the meeting was scrubbed because it didn't have upper-echelon approval.

So you were censored.

Oh yeah.

I was hoping you could fill us in on your roll with the Schafer Commission.

I was simply a consultant. My specialty, and it still is, was the history of medical Cannabis and medicinal uses of it. Documenting and chronicling how much it used to be used and what it used to be used for.

Can you talk about what happened to that report?

This was part of the Nixon administration's distraction and palliation of the scientific and medical communities, as he put together the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, that classified Cannabis as having no medicinal redeeming importance and being Schedule One, highly dangerous, to be avoided, which was a total lie.

But this is the way it is today. That federal law still is driven by this insanity, put together by the Nixon Justice Department aparatchiks.

What was the conclusion of the Schafer Report?

The conclusion of the Schafer Report was that medicinal uses needed much more, further study and that it should be de-criminalized.

And what was Nixon's response to that?

It was D.O.A. ("Dead On Arrival") when it got to the White House. But then the whole distractive exercise of hearings and soliciting expert input was just a sham, as he worked on developing the Controlled Substances Act, and that totally insane scheduling system.

How do you see your part in the puzzle?

Here I though it was going to get easier. Here I thought, once we spoke as voters, once we'd gotten the law passed, the people sworn to uphold the law would implement it and make sure it was complied with. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Within a month after we passed the law back in '96, there was a meeting at McCaffery's office in the White House, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, where they hatched schemes to nullify the state laws, either directly in court or through other means. And the other means would be to go after both the patients and the physicians.

There was an injunctive decision protecting us with Conant vs. McCaffery and Conant vs. Walters, but that doesn't seem to dissuade these operatives in the DEA to both imbed themselves with local authorities as well as specifically initiate complaints of physicians identified with doing recommendation and approvals for medical Cannabis.

On top of that, we've got the collaborators in the Attorney General's Office that were not only opposed to Prop 215 before it passed. But had dedicated themselves to blocking it and suborning it.

This includes the prosecutors in my case with regard to the Medical Board. These are subordinates to John Gordonier Senior Deputy AG who was part of the list of invitees at the wine-in at Barry McCaffery's. So he and other high-ranking California Department of Justice officials were in on the conspiracy.

Interestingly, I'd found out about this meeting taking place, and tried to get myself on the list of attendees. I had Ron Dellums office -- and at the time Ron Dellums was the Chair of the Armed Services Committee, so not exactly a pussy with regard to political power inside the Beltway -- but his office was rebuffed.

When I saw the list of attendees that Pat McCartney, an investigative journalist, got through FOYA I knew why. There were representatives from the non- governmental agencies the Partnership For A Drug-Free America, and others of their ilk.

Who funds the Partnership For A Drug-Free America?

Oh, a bunch of corporate sponsors, that include, I'm sure the alcohol and tobacco people... (laughs)

...the pharmaceutical industry...

Yes, and representatives from the prison-industrial complex, our domestic version of the military-industrial complex. These are the subversives that are imbedded in the civil service system. This who we've run up against in California. The California Narcotics Officers Association, that believes that medical

marijuana is a hoax, and have sponsored and organized statewide meetings within the criminal justice system for orientation and training, in actuality laying out templates of ways for blocking it.

Back to the situation here in California, where we have the end run around Conant vs. McCaffery and Walters...

How is this effecting the patients and caregivers and physicians ?

Well, the marching orders came from the wine-in at Barry McCaffery's, so right down the chain of command we had involvement from the top levels of the Attorney General's Office and plays out with imbedding with the DEA agents in different communities that have ratted out other California physicians to the Medical Board initiating complaints.

Dr. Carol Woolman was an example of this in Fort Bragg. And Dr. Mollie Fry was the victim of a home invasion by the inter-agency task force in, I believe, Placer County, with the DEA and the local sheriff's department.

PvH How would you characterize that raid?

SWAT team holding a family at gun-point. Children ages 8 to -- I guess -- 14, terrorized; medical records confiscated and run-off with, like 7,000 medical patient's files. Then the records were turned over to the Medical Board, that initiated this set of complaints from the DEA to the Medical Board.

And so Dr. Frye at this time is in Amsterdam trying to avoid further persecution, because her husband and she were furnishing clones to some of the patients. This is looked upon by the Chief Dragon in the U.S.Attorney's Office, Nancy Simpson, in the Eastern District as a very evil thing warranting forfeiture and long prison terms.

So we have a very serious set of situations. Oh yes, and in my case, an undercover agent from Sonoma County with supposedly formerly duel- certification was sent to infiltrate a clinic of mine that I was running. Not even bothering with the niceties of the Medical Board, filtering and embellishing it, went directly to the AG's office -- Jane's Act Simon and Larry Mercer, proteges of John Gordonier who was at the wine-in.

So over these eight years, there's been this clique of opponents who are doing their damnedest to hurt the physicians and dissuade participation in the law. The California Medical Association, which at first opposed 215, has gradually been coming around to realizations of the danger to California physicians in general, by this playing fast and loose with getting ahold of medical records, and arbitrarily complaining to the Medical Board.

So we've been going to the Medical Board meetings over the last couple years and have learned more or less about their style of disfunction. We've learned that the Attorney General's office really writes policy that was supposedly put together by a joint committee with the California Medical Association and the Medical Board. That at the last minute was hijacked by the AG's office and rewritten so that recommendation and approval of Cannabis is functionally equivalent with writing a prescription.

That may seem like kind of a minor distinction, but in the legal world it's a significant factor, because this means that the physician can be held accountable for general management of the patient's continuing condition & diagnosic, and following up on any kind of pathology that was either noticed or not noticed.

Now, there's no way to prescribe Cannabis yet because there are no pharmacies that carry standardized preparations.

And it's still Schedule one isn't it?

That brings up another question about federal law and state law which is heading to the real clash with the Angel Raich decision over the question of commerce -- is this non-remunerative growing or clearly private kinds of contracting within the commerce clause.

Continuing interest is that the right-wingers are always making a big deal out of state's rights when it suits them but if they want to repress somebody's civili rights, federalism then holds. I mean,this is a perfect example of Ashcroft and his assault on California physicians.

You'd think that one of the first acts of suppressing or protecting against terrorism is to be unifying and bringing people together and putting resources to this focus. But no...(laughs)

What does he do? but goes and hits the L.A. Cannabis buyer's co-op and does the same in San Francisco, just to make a point of it.

...and in Santa Cruz, WAMM...

...and WAMM, right. And so these kinds of ill-directed, divisive, mean-spirited, moralistic, incompetent acts in his role, this is one of the continuing problems. The behavior of the 9,000 pound psychotic gorilla from inside the Beltway and their realities, clashing with our forces of pro-active structuralism.

Which are good efficacy of the medication and the growing demand in the market and the cash economy, which can't be controlled.

And also securing our civil rights. For example, it occurs to me that the federal government protects our freedom of religion, theoretically, in this country; And I know for a fact that there are people who derive tremendous spiritual benefit from this plant and recognize Cannabis as a legitimate...

Dr.T ...a sacrament!

Exactly. Can you talk to that dimension of your client's use of Cannabis?

Cannabis definitely causes alterations in perception. For somebody who's dealing with a chronic condition, it really is part of a healing process; or it's a way of action.

Because perception of illnesses is critical to the market that the special interest groups and the potion peddlers wish to have the locus of control outside the person, in some undefined place. The implication being, 'take the potion and counter-act the external demon' as-it-were, this is a very medieval kind of perception which is alas terribly remunerative.

As compared with, widen one's self-perception and apprehend things holistically. This is what Cannabis enables, this is what Cannabis facilitates.

It permits one to accept and own one's source of discomfiture, which in a way is therapeutic, because with so many different kinds of conditions, the discomfort, the pain triggers a train of thinking where the source of discomfort takes on a life of its own, and becomes larger than life, dominating ones awareness and consciousness.This then drives the obsessional thinking and worsening of the perceived pain.

Well this is what Cannabis interdicts beautifully. This is why I describe Cannabis as an "easement." It doesn't suppress anything it doesn't numb. In the usual sense it's not a narcotic. It enhances a certain kind of perception and permits a certain alteration in the relationship within the individual in dealing with the source of chronic pain.

Would you say that the actual act of growing the plant is a art of that?

Dr.T (laughs) Well there are many growers who seem to bond with their plants...yea, the act of caring for the plant is a functional expression of...of love. I suppose you could characterize it that way. The Cannabis plant takes on a place in that person's life, an object of thought and attention, feeling positive towards the plant.

Who knows? Maybe that somehow alters the 'set' that the person has when using the material. It's kind of like a very animistic, primitive rite of ingesting the body of the dead. Or the source of adorati, or...Jesus Christ...(laughs), if you really want to formalize things.

Cannabis is in fact a unique drug. Pharmacologically, besides alcohol it's the only product that is soluble in fat and not soluble in water. Cannabis is soluble in alcohols and fats, but not in water.

It goes through a totally different chain within the body, being picked up by the fatty portions of the blood, the phospholipids and transferred to the nervous system as well as other tissues that have a sensitivity to these materials.

The chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol and other cannabinoids, resembles precursors to the prostaglandins, a system that expresses the activity of the immune system throughout the body and that this unique level of action that goes both simultaneously to the central nervous system, above the hypothalamus, down the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, as well as to these peripheral sites, have Cannabis as a unique medication. Because all the others are water-soluble and have a much higher toxicity ratio as compared with the cannabinoids, which are so non-toxic that it's hard to measure. It's a factor of about 40,000 to the usual five- to ten-times the effective dose, that is usual a lethal dose in the water-solubles; maybe twenty-times the [effective] dose in very safe water-solubles, but Cannabis being far less toxic.

The Cannabis also functions differently from opiates (or several similar acting skeletal muscle relaxants), like diazepam, Valium, Adovan, that are really just kind of non-specific sedatives. Not withstanding what the pharmaceutical companies want you to think. They try to construct all these very specific kinds of applications for the benzodiazepines, that are just about as illegitimate as their efforts to do it with opiates, saying, "This opiate is different from that."

The reality is they all have the same kinds of effects and adverse effects. Cannabis on the other hand does not have these kinds of adverse effects at all. One of the things in managing chronic conditions is the absence of side-effects as being the critical factor.

Cannabis has a remarkable profile compared with any of the others; the opiates and the benzos, and other non-specific sedatives. In fact it really enhances both quality of life and rehabilitation. Since Cannabis both modulates and activates certain kinds of very positive healing functions of the body.

Number one, the normalization of gastrointestinal functioning, the promotion of peristalsis. Instead of slowing it up as the opiates do, or paralyzing it in some ways, that Cannabis facilitates it. Facilitates evacuation as well as the regularization of functioning of the small intestines and the stomach. No other medication can make that claim.

The other thing is the increased mobility and motility of people, of the chronically ill. With both the opiates and the benzos, the sedatives, it really discourages mobility, and actually enables and facilitates disability by causing depression and slowing down of both motor function and gastrointestinal function. As compared with Cannabis which lifts spirits if anything, and will improve mobility and motility

Would you say the nutritional benefits of the seed would be an adjunct to therapy, because of the therapeutic effects of eating Cannabis seed?

This is quite separate, the seed and the nutritional elements. This is unique also in that it has all of the essential amino acids, not just a few dominant ones.

Could there be synergistic effect between the nutritional dimensions of the plant and the herbal therapeutic dimensions of the plant?

Dr.T Well, I'm sure that a certain tribe in a remote section in Nepal would concur with that. They're so poor they have nothing except the Cannabis plant for all their nutritional needs.

...or so rich..

They use Cannabis as cooking oil, in addition to eating the seeds themselves. So they both get the benefits of the THC, because apparently what they cultivate is psychoactive. This was all described by Barry Bishop who was on assignment for the National Geographic back in the 1970s.
So the answer is yes, there are indications that this exists.

What about the spiritual orientation of that culture toward the plant, is that part of their spiritual...?

Gee, I don't know. There are so many animistic ways of looking at this or working it into the perception of their world or the mythology, and the symbolism of their world. Like, Shiva was a proponent of Cannabis. But Shiva was a devotee of other poisons as well. That's why Shiva's depicted with the blue throat, for his enjoyment of these kinds of experiences -- godly experiences.

He survived all this, and I don't know exactly where bhang falls into the celebration of Shiva's birthday, but I know it's definitely an integral part of at least the Brahmans in India. When I was in Katmandu in 1969 I had a Brahman prepare some bhang for me with the original traditional recipes.

There's an interesting paper written by an unnamed sihdhi in India by a physician in 1952 who described two segments of the society, the Rajputs and the Brahmans. The Rajputs were the alcohol-loving caste that consumed their alcohol very much like cocktail hour in the nineteen fifties in the United States, of doing things to excess, doing brave and violent active things as compared with the Brahmans , who regarded this type of behavior with great distain and would never ever think of intoxicating themselves on the alcohol, and chose to consume bhang on Shiva's birthday.

What was your experience with the bhang?

It was like a brownie. It was described in O'Shaughnessy, as well as different confections, back then in 1838...

                             Dr. Tod reading from his book, "The Marijuana Medical Papers"

"The oldest work in which hemp is noticed is a treatise by Hassan who states that in the year 658 in the Mohamadan era, the sheik Jaffar Shirazi, a monk of the order of Hiater, learnt from his master the history of the discovery of hemp. Hiater, the chief of aesthetics and self-chasteners lived in rigid privation on a mountain between Mishibor and Roha where he established a monastery of fakirs.

"Ten years had he spent in his retreat without leaving it for a moment. "till one burning summer's day, he departed alone to the fields. On his return, an air of joy and gaiety was imprinted upon his countenance. He received the visits of his brethren and encouraged their conversation. On being questioned he stated that being struck by the aspect of a plant that danced in the heat as if with joy, while all the rest of the vegetable creation was forfeit. He had gathered and eaten of its leaves.

"He led his companions to the spot. All ate and all were similarly excited. A tincture of the hemp leaf in wine or spirits seems to have been the favorite formula in which the sheik Hiater indulged himself. An Arab poet sings of "Hiater's emerald cup" an evident allusion to the rich green color of the tincture of the drug. The sheik survived the discovery ten years, subsisting chiefly on this herb. And on his death, his disciples by his desire, planted it in an arbor about his tomb."

And that was in William O'Shaughnessy's paper in 1839. The first case of severe depression relieved by Cannabis.

I probably have about three hundred patients who have switched from being Rahjputs to Brahmins, who have made the cultural transitions, and gotten their lives back.

(Holding up an antique bottle of Cannabis tincture)
Neither Cannabis nor human physiology have changed since this was on the market back in 1940. Neither the physiology nor the composition of the drug, so this crap about it being a new drug, by the FDA, is just pure propaganda, and this is what we're dealing with.

We're about to see Cannabis become available again pharmaceutically through GW Pharmaceutical Company in Great Britain. Its success will lead to pressure by the American pharmaceutical interests to make pharmaceutical Cannabis again available.

What do you think about our fundamental human right to a safe and effective herbal therapeutic? Rather than considering Cannabis as a drug, to recognize it as a safe and effective herbal therapeutic?

Well, I think that it really is a drug. (laughs)

Except that you can make a drug out of an herb, but you can't make an herb out of a drug; and there's no drug on Earth that produces viable seed. Making the distinction between an herbal therapeutic and a drug, moves Cannabis completely out of the jurisdiction of the court.

Well, again, I want to see Cannabis defined as an easement, which is not a narcotic, not a psycho-stimulant, not a hallucinogen...

Yes, but historically, we have the right to herbal products in the Bible. The first thing that God says is that "I have given you every herb bearing seed..."

Well, I think the pharmaceutical companies and special interest groups wouldn't let you get away with that kind of heresy. Being an apostate to the monomolecular mercantile madness.

Listen, the reason they resist getting involved with this is there are no patent opportunities available. All the active THC and cannabinoids are there in public domain. No matter how you're going to try to depict different kinds of products they're not going to get away with it. Because it's in the scientific body of literature already.

What we need is to restore Cannabis to the formulary of provisions under the grandfathering for the FDA. We need to have public hearings as to why it was taken off the market in the first place.

But visit my website, www.mikuriya.com and read my ten point proposal that I made to the Republicans a few years ago, when Tom "The Bag Man" DeLay from the Congress sent out a fundraiser.

Good luck on your quest...

PvH Thank you very much.