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Legal Medical Marijuana in 13 States

Aired October 24, 2009 - 16:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Jamie Neisman (ph) counsels kids who have been on reality TV. He told me children need the ability to be safe and to have boundaries. Parents whose kids are brought up in front of a camera have an agenda. It means keeping kids safe becomes secondary.

Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Marijuana, pot, weed, cannibus; if used for medical purposes legally in your state, no longer will federal prosecutors come after you and make a case. This week, the US attorney general announced a mellowed approach to medical marijuana sales and use in some states.

Is this a good idea? What's next? Might this lead to the decriminalization of street drugs? And where is the medical marijuana coming from anyway?

Lots of questions we'll uncover this hour.

Right now, 13 states allow the use of medical marijuana to help people with a variety of ailments, from glaucoma to tumors. We've got an incredible panel of guests right now. Let me introduce you to all of them.

Dr. Eric Voth, internist, chairman of the Institute on Global Drug Policy, Dr. Allan Frankel of Green Bridge Medical, who writes recommendations for medical marijuana patients, Deborah Pottle, a medical marijuana user, and former correctional officer, Brad Senesac, the spokesman for Berkeley Area Dispensary, which has been in business for almost ten years now, and Ron Brooks, with 35 years of law enforcement experience in California, he is the President of the National Narcotics Officer Association's Coalition, and State Representative Kenny Yuko, of Ohio, who wants to legalize medical marijuana in his state.

We'll talk to all of our panelists in a moment.

But, first, California is one of those states where medical marijuana is OK. It's legal. In L.A. County alone, there are 600 dispensaries. Medical marijuana stores, where patients, like Ron Cabera, with chronic back pain, go for their prescriptions. He shows us how it's done in this i-Report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RON CABERA, MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENT: I'm 30 years old. I'm a political science graduate from UCLA. After graduating from UCLA, I joined the U.S. Army. In infantry school, I fractured my lower vertebrae. When I returned home, I was given a recommendation by a doctor to smoke cannibus, which greatly relieved my pain and helped me resume my normal daily activities.

We're on our way to the cannibus club. It's called the Sunset Shop. It's in West Hollywood. It's one of the first cannibus clubs in California, one of the most prominent.

About to go into the Cannibus Club. I feel pretty safe because it's been pretty much legalized for people who have medical recommendations. As you see, there's a police officer right there. He knows that there's a cannibus club right around the corner. He doesn't appear to be sweating me. He doesn't appear to be looking at me or anything. So we're going to go inside now.


WHITFIELD: OK. We're going to go back to that i-Report later on in the hour so you can see exactly what happens when Mr. Cabera goes inside the dispensary. And what do you find when you go in there, anyway?

Let's begin our dialogue. What is so wrong with medical marijuana? He says that he felt perfectly safe being out on the streets, talking about getting ready to go into a dispensary.

Doctor Eric Voth is back with us now. He's the chairman of the Institute of Global Drug Policy. So what's the matter with this? He was very relaxed and comfortable. He says, you know what, he uses this medical marijuana to relieve his back pain.

DR. ERIC VOTH, INSTITUTE ON GLOBAL DRUG POLICY: Well, you know, the unfortunate problem is here that there may very well be some perceived effects of marijuana, but it's very difficult to tease those out for the intoxicating effects of marijuana.

And the real over-arching issue here that these dispensaries, and the whole medical excuse movement is really making an end run on the FDA. Thus, they're making an end run on consumer protection. They are really taking this whole process for smoking dope for some medicinal applications, and turning it into medicine by popular fiat.

WHITFIELD: So let's break that down a little bit further. No FDA regulation on the marijuana that is being prescribed, or doled out to people who have the OK from their doctors to use it for medical purposes?

VOTH: Not at all. And that's really the scary part of this thing. People don't have any idea if they are getting two percent THC or 15 percent THC or 20 percent THC.

WHITFIELD: So it means there's no standard, you're saying, at all these dispensaries? They can -- A, where are they getting a lot of their marijuana from? We can address that a little bit later in the hour. But the marijuana that they do get, that they are able to sell, you are saying that the potency can vary and that too is dangerous from a medical treatment point of view, in your view?

VOTH: Well, sure. In our country, we try very rigorously to standardize medications. We have a very rigorous process. We know when you get a dose of medicine that you get a specific dose of medicine. In the cannibus clubs, in the dispensaries, they are essentially functioning like pharmacies, but without any kind of regulation. Do we don't about not only the percentage of THC, but contaminants and things like that.

WHITFIELD: The third thing I heard you say that you were concerned about, didn't like about it, is that his is medicine by popular demand. Meaning, if people feel like this is making them feel good, and by popular vote -- because all of these states that have it, the 13 states, people most likely went to their polls to vote in favor of it on a ballot initiative. And you're saying there is something wrong with that picture?

VOTH: Absolutely. And the FDA has steadfastly taken the position that they do not support that kind of process for getting medicine out in the hands of people, because there is really no standardized scientific medical research process to do that.

WHITFIELD: OK. Our Josh Levs has been listening in on a lot of people who have sent in their comments and their questions via blog, Facebook, you name it. What was interesting, Dr. Voth, is that -- Josh and I talked -- the majority of people who are weighing in actually like the idea of medical marijuana being made available.

What else are they saying, Josh?

JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, I'll tell you -- all our viewers -- throughout this hour, we're following your blog posts. We're following you on Twitter and Facebook. Mr. Voth, we have a bunch of questions for you. We're going to be asking you throughout this hour.

Fred is absolutely right. By far, the people writing us support medical marijuana. A lot of them saying it should go beyond that, legalizing marijuana in general. We have a lot of arguments on that side. We are hearing a little bit on the opposite side, too.

Let me show them the graphic of where you will be able to weigh in throughout the hour. You have us at Facebook and at Twitter, and or /Fredricka. It will get you to the same place. Go ahead and finish your thoughts and your questions.

Mr. Voth, we're going to be talking to you this hour, sharing some of the questions from our viewers and seeing what you say about those. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Very good. Josh, Dr. Voth, thanks so much. Of course, a lot of variety of concerns and questions about marijuana. And, guess what, medical marijuana, it's not just dispensed in the smoke form. But there are a variety of ways in which people can ingest or benefit from the THC in this marijuana.

You're looking at a case right there in a dispensary. Aren't you curious to know what else are you going to find when you go to a dispensary? Well, apparently, you can find Rice Crispy Treats. You can find brownies. Even butter, all laced with marijuana.


WHITFIELD: Mellowing on medical marijuana; what does it mean? You heard this week from the US attorney general that now there are going to be fewer federal prosecutions of people who are using medical marijuana in states, 13 states, where it is perfectly legal to do so.

Now there are a lot of expressed concerns about will this open up the gateway for the decriminalization of street drugs?

Here are some of the worries that you expressed on the street.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a good idea. I have a friend that's using right now. She's going through cancer treatments. It's helping her immensely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm definitely against it. But I don't think the government can enforce the rules. It's going to go on. I think it's going to broaden out. It's going to get out of hand. I just don't think it's a good move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It make absolute sense to me. We waste a lot of resources prosecuting victimless crime like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't think it's a good idea. I think that there might be a misuse of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think if the federal government steps back, it may actually allow other states to be less fearful of repercussions, and so look more into the research that's available for medical marijuana use.


WHITFIELD: All right. We're hearing from you as well on my blog and on Facebook. We'll get to some of your questions and comments, and pose them to some of our invited guests. Right now, let me reintroduce to you Dr. Allan Frankel, who writes recommendations for patients for medical marijuana. Good to see you. And Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition. Good to see you as well.

Dr. Frankel, let me begin with you. A lot of folks still unclear about why would I want marijuana in a medicinal way? What kind of ailments are we talking about being treated by medicinal marijuana?

DR. ALLAN FRANKEL, OWNER, GREEN BRIDGE MEDICAL: Well, in my practice in Rina Del Ray -- to begin with, the patients that I see have an average age of 48. And I don't see anyone under 21. So that helps the practice a lot.

The types of patients I see are often referred, about a third of the cases, referred from physicians in the West Los Angeles area, internists, psychiatrists, neurologists, pain doctors, rheumatologists. And I'm working closely with a lot of the doctors in the area.

Patients that come in generally are not feeling great. If they were feeling terrific from typical pharmaceuticals, they generally wouldn't be coming in.

WHITFIELD: And we're talking about in the form of pain relief. We're not saying that medical marijuana is being prescribed or recommended as -- for healing purposes or as of treatment, but instead, really, in most part, for pain relief?

FRANKEL: Well, pain relief is certainly a major use for it. But in my practice -- and actually I brought a sample, cannibus in tincture form is the way that I --

WHITFIELD: Can you hold that up?

FRANKEL: Is that better?


FRANKEL: It's a little bottle that's not very scary. It has a liquid in it that was first made 3,000 or 4,000 years ago.

WHITFIELD: How would that be applied or ingested?

FRANKEL: This is sprayed or dropped underneath the tongue in a homeopathic manner, because smoking is not the type of medication use that I encourage my patients to do. It doesn't mean that nobody smokes. But people can use medications correctly or they can use medications incorrectly.


FRANKEL: One of the beauties here is that even if they use it incorrectly, they will not get addicted, or at least not get addicted, worst case, more than a caffeine type of withdrawal, which is a very -- and it's very safe.


FRANKEL: There's never been a reported death, and there never will be, because cannibus doesn't affect our ability to breathe or keep our heart going.

WHITFIELD: Ron Brooks with the National Narcotics Officers Association, explain to me what your concerns are. Because it's not that you want to argue whether it does have medicinal properties or not. Instead, you're talking about public safety. Your concerns go along the lines of, what about those who are not using? How safe are they around people who are using? RON BROOKS, NATIONAL NARCOTICS OFFICER ASSOCIATION: Well, that is exactly the issue. First of all, there is always the discussion that nobody has ever died from marijuana. But if you look at emergency room admissions, as studied in the Don Study, which looks at targeted cities, emergency room admissions for marijuana has tripled over the last eight years. In fact, 120,000 admissions, exceeding those for heroin.

And there's the highway safety aspect. We know in America that at least 8,000 Americans are killed by drug drivers, not drunk drivers. And another 500,000 are maimed or injured.

WHITFIELD: So your concern -- if you're someone who is using marijuana for medicinal purposes, you get behind the wheel or you're operating some sort of machinery, et cetera. You're concerned that their judgment is impaired, their ability is impaired? Doctor, what is the response to that? Surely, you've heard that a lot. Your patients, who are being recommended this drug, have heard it a lot.

FRANKEL: Well, I think there's one extremely basic point under cannibus -- medical cannibus, cannibus legally, that very few people understand. There is -- people I think in general understand cannibus, but it is Indica cannibus, to be a very sedating medication. It helps with sleep and severe pain. That's not the type of cannibus I generally recommend to my patients.

We deal primarily with sativa strains. In ancient Sanscrit, sativa is daytime, indica is nighttime. If you use a nighttime, like a sleeping pill, to go drive, you're going to be in trouble. If you use a sativa -- although most people are not familiar with, it's I think beyond any question -- you become focused, alert. It helps substantially with pain.

And you don't have to smoke. You can dose it or drop it at a time, or a spritz at a time, under your tongue. And after seeing over 2,500 patients, and all of them using tinctures at some point or another, this is a medicinal way to use cannibus.

WHITFIELD: I wonder, Ron, does it matter to you how it's administered? If it weren't smoked, if it were applied in these other ways, like with the a dropper, would that, in your view, make a difference in terms of the ratio of the use? More people are actually using it with the drops than would be those smoking it for medicinal purposes? Make a difference to you?

BROOKS: The problem is that people are smoking it. Most people are smoking it. And it goes back to the Doctor Voth's point. We have now regulated the use of medicine at the ballot box. If we were going to do that -- those of us old enough to remember Laotrill (ph). Fourteen states regulated peach pits for the treatment of cancer. And we found that there was simply no efficacy.

We're making decisions relative to people's health at the ballot box, based on emotion, and not based on science and education. The 1999 Institute of Medicine study clearly showed that, while there may be some beneficial components of cannabanoids, there certainly will never be a benefit to smoking or otherwise using crude marijuana. You can't control the dose. You can't control the impurities. And we can't control the intoxicating effect.

And, lastly, with all due respect, and I think the Doctor Voth, as a scientist could weigh in on this, this difference between Sativa and Indica is hogwash. It doesn't exist. Marijuana is marijuana.

WHITFIELD: At this point, we're not necessarily going to be arguing whether it's effective or not, because at this point there are 13 states that already say they've given the green light to it. But now with this federal lifting, or mellowing of regulations on pursuing people in a prosecutorial way, this really might mean that more states might get more serious about considering joining the bandwagon of those 13.

I wonder, Ron -- Doctor, I know you've probably seen this before -- Ron, if you're familiar with the journey of going to a dispensary. I saw this for the first time when looking at this i-Report and reading about people who are going to these dispensaries. At the top of the show, we showed this one young man, Rob Cabera. He talked about how at ease he felt about going to a dispensary to get his marijuana to alleviate his back pain.

And let's now revisit his journey into the dispensary, and see what happens once he goes inside. Let's take a peek.


CABERA: Security is very important at the cannibus clubs. When we go there, they have what is called a manhole. Depending on if the camera is watching you or not, you might have to push a button, which is essentially a door bell.

Thank you very much.


CABERA: This is where they put all the samples. There's basically two different kinds of cannibus, sativa and indica, depending on your needs. If you have pain or trouble sleeping, you're probably going to want an indica. They have them labeled as such. They come in different varieties, just like anything else. Different flavors, different effects.

Right there is a breath strip. You put it on your tongue and it melts and it will provide your medication to you.


WHITFIELD: That was Ron Cabera's journey into a dispensary there in L.A. County. Ron, I don't know if you're seeing that for the first time or seeing what that is like to go to sort of like a pharmacy for marijuana. What concerns you about that, and whether or not more dispensaries might find their way into jurisdictions across the country? BROOKS: Well, what concerns us in law enforcement is the fact that most dispensaries are not following the law. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has said that none of the dispensaries in his county are following the law. And Attorney General Jerry Brown here in California has found that the vast majority of dispensaries don't follow our laws.

So Attorney General Holder's guidelines are going to have little impact here in California on the ability of the DEA to continue to enforce federal law, and California state law enforcement to continue to enforce California law.

In fact, I think that now, with clear guidelines, you're going to see an increased investigation and enforcement against these dispensaries, because most of them are shams. They are really not, you know, interested in patient health. They are interested in making an illegal dollar.

WHITFIELD: OK. Good. We're going to talk about that some more, because we do have someone who is a spokesperson for a dispensary, who is going to joins us later on in the hour. We'd love to hear from him whether, indeed, he expects increased enforcement, or if some don't have legitimate products at hand.

Josh Levs is also with us. He's got questions, comments coming from you at home. What do you have?

LEVS: Yes. I want to start with one for Mr. Brooks. A lot of people writing us their stories, their comments. I want each of you to respond to one of these here. I know we get caught up talking a little about the chemicals. But to most of our viewers, it's a really simple question. Either medical marijuana should be legal or it should not?

Let's zoom in here. This is something we got from Nina on Facebook. She said her brother had cancer. He had a regular prescription for medical marijuana that was in pill format, and was for the nausea of the cancer drugs. He died. Anything that can alleviate his suffering was OK with me. Everyone else is going to get their illegal drugs any way.

Mr. Brooks, your response?

BROOKS: Well, I -- there certainly are a lot of different pill forms or drug forms, things that can help with those conditions. But, you know, again, we have not -- the FDA, the AMA, the infectious disease docs, the MS Society -- there is not a credible association that believes that we ought to be using smoked, crude marijuana, something with 50 to 70 times the hydrocarbon level of tobacco, something that is carcinogenic, something that causes -- according to the Yale School of Medicine, can cause schizophrenia, according to Dr. Dupont, a premier researcher on the subject, can move people to bipolar disease, increase ADHD.

LEVS: OK, Mr. Brooks, I just want to understand. Are you saying you don't have a problem with what Nina's brother went through there, getting from a doctor a certain form of legalized medical marijuana?

BROOKS: I don't have a problem about anybody getting Marinol, which is a prescription form, as opposed to marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, still under Attorney General Holder's guidelines, still is illegal.

WHITFIELD: Let me toss to one more here. I want to show this from Brian. This is interesting, because Brian is on the opposite side here. Also Facebook. Brian says, "the crime is only victimless if your kids' bus driver isn't doing while doing; think heavy equipment operators, airline pilots, soccer moms in over-sized SUVs too. You'll end up perverting the entire medical community."

Mr. Frankel, what Brian's talking about here, when he talks about this medical community, is his concern that making legalized medical marijuana available at all will lead to a lot of recreational usage, a lot of doctors out there who aren't following the rules, who are prescribing at times that they should not. What do you think about that?

FRANKEL: Are you speaking to me?


FRANKEL: OK. Um, well, I think recreational use of -- sadly -- of all drugs is real. After practicing medicine for 31 years, I've seen excellent use and abuse and problems with pretty much everything. It's still been my experience that cannabis, by far, is the safest.

I'd like to add that dismissing the difference between sativas and indicas I believe to be extremely wrong. I've spent the last two and a half years working with gas chromatography machines, mass spectrocity (ph) machines, patients whom we know exactly what is in, at least THC, CBD, CBM, the most common cannaboids.

It turns out the differences between sativa and indica are primarily due to the Turpines in the plant. It's clear we need a lot more study, and we've been stopped from doing studies.

WHITFIELD: Hold it right there. We'll talk more about where the study of medical marijuana is going. We're also going to delve a little bit more into the potential I guess pit falls from the legalization of such. Right now, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana. Might other states be soon to follow?


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. We're focusing this our on mellowing medical marijuana. We heard two very distinctive -- distinctively different things from US Attorney General Eric Holder this week. One, on Tuesday, the message was, we won't federally prosecute people using medical marijuana in states that consider it legal. And then, two days later, Eric Holder made this announcement of a huge crackdown on a drug cartel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC HOLDER, US ATTORNEY GENERAL: This operation has dealt a significant blow to La Familia's supply chain of illegal drugs, weapons, and cash, flowing between Mexico And the United States. We have seized more than 32 million dollars in United States currency, more than 2,700 kilograms of methamphedamine, nearly 2,000 kilograms cocaine, approximately 16,000 pounds of marijuana, and 29 pounds of heroin.


WHITFIELD: All right. Huge drug bust, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana. At the same time, relaxing federal restrictions now in certain states where medical marijuana is legal. Can you have it both ways? We're delving into this topic right now.

We've got with us, bringing back Dr. Eric Voth. He helped to recommend -- I'm sorry. He is also helping to regulate this. He is apparently big on drug policy, as well. Ohio Representative Kenny Yuko, he wants to legalize medical marijuana. And also Ron Brooks is back with us again, with the National Narcotics Officers Association.

OK. So, I wonder, gentlemen, can you have it both ways? Dr. Voth, we haven't heard from you in a while. But we've got two very different messages from the attorney general this week. Going this way forward, are we sending a mixed message or is a mixed message being sent by the federal government?

VOTH: Absolutely, there's a mixed message going on here. And one of the big messages is, on one hand, we want consumer protection and we want federal preemption for consumer protection with other drugs. But yet we're rolling over on marijuana. We're saying, states, whatever you want to do, we'll stay out of your hair. That's a problem.

If you look at the research, there's only one thing that cannabis have really been shown to do well, and that's help nausea. Yet states like California are allowing it for many different kinds of applications that have zero science behind it. That's a problem.

WHITFIELD: OK. Representative Yuko, you are hoping that your state just might become the 14th state that would say, across the board, medical marijuana OK. Why?

KENNETH YUKO (D), OHIO STATE HOUSE: Basically because a lot of people have come to our office and explained to me, point blank, that their quality of life would be greatly improved if they had the ability to use a drug that would ease their pain, ease their nauseousness that they have in their stomach, ease the pain of glaucoma. And what we're going to do is look into different ways, learn from what the preceding states have done, and move forward from there.

WHITFIELD: I don't know if you heard Mr. Ron Brooks earlier talking earlier about the concern about regulating the dispensaries. If Ohio were to legalize marijuana, medical marijuana, would there be dispensaries just like you see in California? And Mr. Brooks was saying, there isn't a really good stringent regulation of the dispensaries. You don't really know all the time where it's coming from. A lot of people are breaking the law.

Have you thought about how we actually enforce the safety of these dispensaries, if Ohio were to legalize marijuana?

YUKO: I have thought about it. And basically my thoughts are that we would not have dispensary. It would strictly be by the recommendation of doctor and probably a mail-in order form.

WHITFIELD: Where would be people get it from? Mail-in strictly?

YUKO: More than likely, yes.

WHITFIELD: How do you regulate that? Don't you still worry that perhaps someone's supply -- there's some huge disparity between one person's supply versus the next patient in your state, and that they are actually getting different stuff?

YUKO: It's kind of interesting that this week on the news there was a story about a shipment of Viagra that wasn't actually the real thing. Does that mean we should outlaw Viagra? It might make a lot of men very unhappy if we do so.

We have law enforcement that will make sure that what we do and what we say we are going to do -- that we're actually abiding by the law. And those who break the law will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

WHITFIELD: Ron Brooks, what be your recommendation to Representative Yuko and the rest of Ohio, if indeed that state collectively said, you know what, we like the idea of medical marijuana? What would you want to see in place?

BROOKS: You know, my recommendation would be not to go down that path. It's reckless and it's irresponsible. You know, we have all lost friends due to our two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We've all seen people destroy their lives, their careers, their family, their hopes and their dreams. That's what happens with marijuana as well.

Sixty five percent of all kids in treatment, 12 to 17, in treatment for drugs or alcohol, are in treatment for marijuana. Another 11 percent are in treatment for alcohol and marijuana or other drugs.


BROOKS: It's a devastating drug and it needs to -- people need to realize that it's not a benign drug. It's a dangerous and addicting drug.

WHITFIELD: We're hearing a lot from people via social networking. Josh Levs is here back us. I'm getting a quick glance at my blog. This from Liberty Man, who says "mellow is good. About time people in this country have become aware of the insanity of criminalizing medications."

What else are we hearing?

LEVS: Fred, I'll tell you and our guests, what I try to do through the hour is I try to balance it a couple ways, get questions to each side, but also really represent what we're getting. And 99 point something percent of what we're getting is in support of legalizing medical marijuana. Just what we happen to be hearing today.

I'm going to start off with a question for Mr. Voth. I told you earlier this hour I had something for you. This is from Ryan, who says, "there are hardly crimes due to marijuana. How many people do you hear of smoking it, then driving and crashing, versus how many DUIs?"

That's not the only example of people pointing to alcohol, saying there are all these horrible that happen when people have alcohol. Why put these kind of restrictions on medical marijuana. by comparison to what happens with alcohol? Mr. Voth, your response?

VOTH: You are mixing several issues there. But I will tell you, as far driving under the influence related traumas, marijuana is the most common represented drug outside of alcohol. And in some cases, like Boulder County, for instance, it's the most common problem.

That is an additional issue for physicians that make recommendations, to be sure that patients are tuning that if they smoke or use marijuana, that it might impair their driving.

LEVS: My ear piece dropped out for a second. Did you say it's the most common problem beyond DUI?

VOTH: Yes. Beyond alcohol.

LEVS: Beyond alcohol?

VOTH: As far as trauma, yes.

LEVS: Well, in terms of leading to trauma. But it certainly doesn't happen more often than that.

VOTH: In some counties, such as Boulder County, it is more common than alcohol. And it's highly represented, like 60 percent of traumas.

LEVS: OK. But you're still -- talking about mixing issues there. This would be about medical marijuana. So if you just look at people who had medical marijuana, and then in the cases -- I don't know if there are many cases of people in those cases going and driving, versus alcohol, which anyone can go drink, legally. This is what people are pointing to. They're saying, wait a second, that's where it seems to be a disparity.

VOTH: But you're mixing legal issues there. You're mixing legal alcohol use for intoxication versus marijuana for medical purposes. LEVS: Let me try to clarify. This is the point that a lot of our viewers are drawing right now. What they are saying is right now, legally, people can go and drink a lot of alcohol. The issue today is about medical use of marijuana. So if only people who had a medical right to use marijuana were having it, and that were legal, would that really endanger people on the streets? Would it really cause more problems?

VOTH: Let me give you a different parallel. If I prescribe Valium, I have the responsibility to tell my patients, if you take this, don't go out on the street, because it could impair your driving. I would have that responsibility with marijuana as well.

WHITFIELD: Hold it right there. We're going to pick up again on that conversation, because we're up against a hard break right now. We are going to talk some more about that, the risks involved, and these dispensaries. We've been talking about them. Some of us are seeing them for the first time. But guess what, L.A. County, there are something like 600 of them. So it's fairly common place these days.

What happens when you go inside? What kind of products will you see?


WHITFIELD: All right. So we're talking about mellowing on medical marijuana. So your doctor says to you, you know what, to help alleviate that pain, I'm going to prescribe or recommend to you medical marijuana, and you live in any one of the 13 states where it's perfectly legal, medical marijuana that is. So now what? What do you do?

Apparently, in some states, they have dispensaries. And when you go there, you not only have an I.D. card that says I'm a legitimate patient who is allowed to use this marijuana for medicinal purposes, but you also have a selection. Take a look at this i-Report filed by Rob Cabera, showing us what happens once he went inside.


CABERA: Cookie bars. We have sugar cookies. We have be apple pies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, caramel corn, popcorn, cheese cake on a stick, coco pageants -- these are basically Rice Crispy treats and brownies, carrot cakes, milk chocolate coffee bars, peanut butter cups, and just plain old butter. So you put it on your toast, put it on your pancake. You can mix it in with your food.


WHITFIELD: So lots of ways in which to ingest marijuana, as you see right there in that one dispensary that's actually in the L.A. County. So we've invited a couple of people who are very familiar with a dispensary. Deborah Pottle is one. She's a former corrections officer. And she is a medical marijuana user. She is joining us. Good to see you. And Brad Senesac -- I was afraid I was going to mess up your last name. I hope I got it right this time. He is a spokesperson for a Berkeley area dispensary. Good to see both of you.

Deborah, let me begin with you. You were a corrections officer for eight years. And then I think you had a back injury. Is that correct?

DEBORAH POTTLE, MEDICAL MARIJUANA USER: Yes, ma'am. I was injured at work.

WHITFIELD: OK. It was recommended to you, then, medically that marijuana would be the best thing for you?

POTTLE: Actually, how this all happened is I became allergic to all medications as far as pain meds. So I can no longer take medications. And I go through such extreme directions with pain medications that I had to look at another option, because I am permanently nerve damaged from someone opening my spine.

I didn't have a choice. It's either that or no meds at all. I choose live.

WHITFIELD: We saw the variety of methods you can choose from when it comes to medicinal marijuana. You choose not to smoke it. And perhaps of what you just said, your intolerance to a lot of things. But instead you take marijuana in edible form. How do you know that you're getting the right kind of potency, based upon what your doctor prescribed to you?

POTTLE: Well, actually, it's got to be a self-adjusted medication. I know this sounds kind of bizarre. But a person that is using medications knows exactly where they are headed or what the response is once they've ingested it. So it's their personal responsibility to adjust that medication, to not go over the edge and not push it that far.

WHITFIELD: So what does this mean to you, to hear the U.S. attorney general say this week that, at this point forward, there will be no aggressive federal prosecutions of people who are using medicinal marijuana, particularly in those states where it's perfectly legal? Did that bring you some sense of relief? Did it matter to you one way or another?

POTTLE: I think it takes some pressure off. It really needs to. Most people that use medical marijuana, even into the HIV/AIDS realm, they have enough to worry about. And so just trying to keep their food down and keep their life going one day to another is important. And pressure off is pressure off.

WHITFIELD: OK. Brad, Let me bring you into this. Because we heard from Ron Brooks earlier. And he he mentioned that one of the big problems with the dispensaries is no one is really regulating them. And a lot of them are breaking the laws. How do you respond to that? And how do you know that you're following all the -- or your dispensary that you're a spokesperson for is following all of the rules?

BRAD SENESAC, BERKELEY PATIENTS GROUP: Sure. First of all, I represent Berkeley Patients Group in Berkeley, California. And there are guidelines that the state has set. And you hope that everyone follows them. You hope that for anything in the medical industry, you hope that it's being followed.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. We at Berkeley Patients Group consider ourselves to be a role model for a dispensary. We're very concerned with our patients' wants and needs. We're very concerned with our city's wants and needs. In Berkeley, there's a good neighbor policy, which we adhere to whole-heartedly.

And we are actually celebrating our ten-year anniversary on October 31st. And the city of Berkeley is declaring it Berkeley Patients Group Day.

WHITFIELD: Quickly, do you concern yourself know that there will be kind of a blossoming of dispensaries now that we're hearing this relaxation from the federal government? Does it concern you?

SENESAC: No. I think if the cities are doing their due diligence, in terms of looking at the legalization, and having people adhere to the policies and procedures that are put forth, like Berkeley Patients Group follows -- and we adhere to those 110 percent. I think you do have, as you will with any industry, people who just want to -- aren't going to follow the rules.

And that's in any case. That's whether it be someone serving a minor alcohol or -- but we're talking medical. People have a need for this product.


SENESAC: And we have a spokesperson here who currently uses the product. So there are wants and needs.


SENESAC: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

WHITFIELD: We're just running out of time. We're going to continue this conversation after this short break. But I've got to take a short break. Brad Senesac and Deborah Pottle, thanks so much. When we come right back, we're also going to be talking about what is next for those states where marijuana is legal. What about taxing that medical marijuana?


WHITFIELD: Mellowing on medical marijuana, that's what we've been talking about all hour long. Right now, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana. Other states want to jump on board as well. We're continuing our conversation. Back with us now, we have Representative Kenny Yuko. He is an Ohio -- Ohio is thinking about putting that on the ballot. We've also got Ron Brooks, as well as we've got Brad Senesac back with us as well.

Let's talk about what this might mean. Let's look at California, for example. If indeed taxing medical marijuana were an option, just how much money are we talking about? Can we see that full screen real quick? Do we have it? We're talking about 1.4 billion dollars in revenue, especially for the state of California, cash strapped. Representative Yuko, is this encouraging to you in the pursuit to try to get medical marijuana on the books for Ohio? Do you need that kind of revenue?

YUKO: In the state of Ohio, we need every penny we can get. Right now, I think we're looking at the tax issue, although it is certainly a possibility. And it could be a great selling point to get support from my colleagues.

WHITFIELD: And let's take a look right now. We've got 13 states that have legal marijuana. Legal marijuana. But there are a number of other states who would like to be on board as well. Ohio, you're one of them. Look at the other pending legislation there. Minnesota, we've got New Jersey. It's hard for me to see. I know it is for you, too. New Hampshire as well. A host of other states.

Ron Brooks, you were talking about, this is a detriment to law enforcement. But when you have so many states, such as those, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight nine -- it looks like nine states there who are thinking about putting it on the ballot -- is this a defeat for you in law enforcement or not?

BROOKS: No, I don't think this is a defeat. We have clearly turned back that movement in many other states. People need to realize this isn't medical marijuana. The AMA, the FDA, the Congress, nobody has said that marijuana is a medicine. There's not a single credible group that believes it's a medicine. This is a political issue. It's funded by people with a political agenda.

And the public needs to realize that even in the states where you have medical marijuana, marijuana is not legal. It's against federal law. In many cases, the dispensaries are operating outside of the state laws, as they are here in California.

WHITFIELD: OK. Perfect segue to Brad Senesac, because he's a spokesperson for a dispensary in the Berkeley area. Let me show you this graphic too. We talked about a Gallup poll, and the popularity -- the support for legalizing marijuana; 44 percent actually favor it. And that's an increase, up 31 percent since the year 2000. Brad, are you surprised that the idea of dispensaries, the idea of legalizing marijuana has gained momentum?

SENESAC: I definitely think it shows what education can do.

WHITFIELD: Do you think it is a reflection of how those dispensaries are even operating perhaps in California?

SENESAC: No, I don't think so. I think one of the things we have to do is we have to work with the government to self-regulate the industry. We have to regulate how medicine is distributed. And actually, currently, right now, Berkeley Patients Group, as well as several other Bay Area dispensaries are trying to form -- we actually have a nonprofit called the Medical Cannibus Safety Council to help self-regulate the industry.

We know it's important. We know that we need it for the future of medical marijuana. We need to have regulations in place to make sure that people are following the guidelines and supporting what state rules would be, and then hopefully future federal rules would be. We're for that.

WHITFIELD: We've only got a couple more minutes until the top of the hour, which means we're going to take a short break and we'll have some final thoughts on mellowing medical marijuana right after this.


WHITFIELD: Mellowing on medical marijuana, the focus of the past hour. Some final thoughts now. Josh Levs has your sentiment.

LEVS: Man, are they weighing in on this? Just like we knew people would. I'm going to show you some stuff, and then I'll show you how you can join the discussion after the show. It keeps going.

Let's zoom in over here. Let's check over on Twitter, where people have been sending a lot of Tweets. I got some right here. We got two ready. MB Bennet wrote us, "since medical marijuana is legal, it needs to be regulated and taxed, like other drugs, not grown in neighborhood pot houses."

Kind of the conversation you were just having, Frd.

Steven on Facebook, "by making marijuana legal, we can send a crippling blow to marijuana drug cartels."

A lot of people making that argument. That's something we'll keep looking into on future days.

Patty writes about medical usage. She says, "they are so far- reaching so many diseases, unlike alcohol." She also says, "I don't ever hear people overdosing on marijuana."

It's a good selection of what we're getting. Here's how you can weigh in. We got a graphic for you. The blog is going to keep going. Keep them coming, or /Fredricka. Also, And Fred has a Facebook too. In all those places, people are weighing in, discussing, and, fortunately, listening to each other, which I like to see.

WHITFIELD: And we have hear from so many people. So much so that we're also going to share some of those comments tomorrow in the 4:00 pm Eastern hour. This from Bernard C, real quick. He says, "it would see to me that the government could serve its primary role of protecting society much better than by persecuting those in the pot culture."

So we really are hearing an incredible sentiment from a lot of folks. As you said, that Gallup poll, 44 percent say they're in favor of medical marijuana. We'll have more on this topic tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern time. And thanks to Dr. Eric Voth, Dr. Allan Frankel, Deborah Pottle, Brad Senesac, Ron Brooks, State Representative Kenny Yuko, and Josh Levs, as well. Thanks to you and thanks to you at home for participating in the conversation. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Don Lemon right after this.