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Self Experimentation Leads to Modern Medical Discoveries

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James and Linda Burton at Work at the SIMM in Rotterdam, Holland. (2003)

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"There's something wrong if I can't use an herb for my health, grown in my own garden, which is proven medicine for my illness." James Burton ; Founder, Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana ; Rotterdam, Netherlands.  


Various Patients Using Marijuana effectively.

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Various Studies about Medical Marijuana

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  • James Dawson's Freedom Page, an excellent hard hitting site : click here .

  • Excellent site about Ibogaine, Medical Marijuana, at Cures - Not - Wars .

  • Risks associated with all drug use, whether legal or illegal !

  • Medical Versus Non - Medical Use of Marijuana.

  • An official drug policy site in the Netherlands : Click Here.


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Case one - James Burton , Founder ; Institute of Medical Marijuana

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Native Wisconsan, born only a few hours from Canada, Sought Refuge in the Netherlands after the U. S. Government seized his 90 acre farm.
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So, you thought that medical marijuana was just an excuse for "pot heads" to justify their own selfish desire to get high, without the usual restraints or apologies ?

This worn out myth is shattered when one peruses the case histories of medical marijuana patients, many of whom are continually risking imprisonment by telling their stories publicly.

Take the case of the American, James Burton who was born and educated in a small Wisconsin town within hours of the Canadian border. Convicted in America's first medical marijuana jury trial on a misdemeanor charge of simple possession, he spent a year in maximum security federal prison. In addition, his 90 acre farm was confiscated. After his prison experience, James and his wife Linda relocated to the Netherlands, a nation with fairly high unemployment.

In Holland, James recently became a full time legal resident with full work privileges. He had the skills and good fortune to find and hold a full time job over the last 5 years. He and Linda also continue to operate the Institute of Medical Marijuana.

It is absolutely true that when he first smoked marijuana in the 60's, it was probably just for off duty relaxation. He had joined the United States Armed Services, and was introduced to marijuana by some of his shipmates. After enlisting in the U. S. Coast Guard, James was sent to Vietnam to serve on one of the gunboats which operated on the rivers there.

James had (and still has) the eye disease glaucoma, which he inherited from a parent. In fact, all the males on one side of his family tree have this disease, one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. Some of his less adventurous relatives who followed conventional treatment, have already gone blind. (Using conventional legal treatment is also how Elvy Musikka, one of America's legal medical marijuana patients, lost the sight of one of her eyes. She smokes U. S. Government supplied marijuana diligently now ; she doesn't want to loose her remaining eyesight.)

As James was partaking of the "forbidden weed" in the 1960's with his buddies in the service and "getting high", he noticed that his blurred and distorted vision , which he was quite familiar with, seemed to be more normal. He was taking the medication prescribed for glaucoma already, which worked only partially in alleviating the pressure build up of excess fluid in the eye. But the marijuana seemed to help a bit more, for him.

Was he deluding himself ?

The "redness" of his eyes produced by smoking marijuana was an indication that something interesting was happening. The pressure in his eyes was reduced by marijuana more effectively than the medications which had been previously supplied to him.

Note : Because marijuana use may benefit the symptoms of glaucoma in a large number of cases, does not mean that it is good for all cases. Further medical research on this subject is recommended.

It should be noted that many research subjects who tried marijuana accidentally, as unwitting research "animals", may have had very unpleasant experiences just due to their inexperience. It may be true that some persons should not use marijuana, even as an experiment. (We wonder how much of the negative reactions are caused psychologically by the 100 year old "reefer madness" campaign. Some people actually believe that marijuana is evil.)

Many recreational users in Holland have also reported to me that they stopped using marijuana due to unpleasant experiences with it.

Marijuana, as commonly consumed recreationally in Europe, is usually used with tobacco, although there is a growing trend of using it in pure form.

Years later, James became one of the original research subjects at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical School, where his type of glaucoma, "Acute Open Angle Glaucoma", was being studied by Dr. John Merritt in relation to therapeutic use of marijuana.

James was advised that he should continue using marijuana if he wanted to keep his vision. What began as an occasional diversion has became a life long prescription.

James continued to make a good living, legally of course, and his career advanced. James is a specialist in installing and debugging automated factory equipment, especially in the food processing industry.

In October 1993, with the help of his documented medical history and research background, he founded the Dutch Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana. This was the first organization authorized in Holland and Europe, to begin educating the public on the legitimate medical uses of cannabis sativa.

Contrary to previous reports, the Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana is still in operation. For more information, Click Here .

Other organizations have started recently which also supply medical marijuana by prescription only.

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Case Two - Umberto Iorfida - N.O.R.M.L. Canada President (1991-present)

More in-depth biographical information on Umberto Iorfida.

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Umberto, well known in NORML circles since 1974, used marijuana less often than most prior to his accident. He admits frankly to having been a very occasional recreational user from the early 1970's.

"At most, in those days, I used it about 5 or 6 times per year."

"I moved to Vancouver in mid-winter 1972, shortly after the downtown Vancouver Gastown (sometimes referred to as "Grasstown") police riot of late 1971. My primary concern was my job, and improving my economic condition. I've been told I am a "type A" personality. I push myself quite hard, and those around me. Like hundreds of thousands of other young people in those years, I discovered marijuana. I used it once per month at most, usually during a weekend. I was working full time, and attending night school. I didn't have the time to smoke pot very often. I had no criminal record, and still have no criminal record, unless you count 4 arrests and convictions for simple possession of pot." Umberto was first trying marijuana at about the same time that certain Senators in the Canadian Parliament, and U.S. President Clinton have admitted to it. His first job in British Columbia was with finance companies, but he then switched to a garment manufacturing concern.

"I was daily involved in middle management duties, and was earning the equivalent of $3000 - $4000 a month in today's dollars, right out of high school. I have never had to look hard for a job. My resume' speaks for itself".

"I'm from an Italian Catholic background, and believe me, the guilt was already there, even before I smoked pot ! But compared to the occasional beer, I truly felt that marijuana was the lesser vice. Now I have no guilt about marijuana. I joined Canada's first NORML chapter under George Baker who at that time was an M.P. in B.C. in Broadview riding (voting district). I was an early NORML rank and file member. The laws against pot were obviously wrong to practically everybody then. In the early 1970's, the three dominant political parties on the Canadian west coast, and the B.C. Bar Association, were all unanimously in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. NORML was definitely not a "fringe" group. Everybody wanted to get on the bus ."

Did marijuana cause his life to spiral downwards into "self-hate", hard drugs, and moral decay ? Hardly. He worked full time, and earned certificates in "industrial supervision" and "human relations" at night school, then relocated back to the Toronto area in 1977, where he found work at a metal fabrication factory. His hard work and drive got him promoted to foreman in short order. He held this job until his jaw injury in 1979.

When having his wisdom teeth pulled by his dentist, an accident occurred. His jaw bone was cracked, and his Temporal Mandibular Joint (or "TM J") permanently damaged. This is the main "jaw bone joint" near the temples. TMJ problems are usually either inherited, or caused by faulty orthodontics, or damaged or ground down teeth. Umberto's disability was caused by a severe focused blow, which broke bone and dislocated his jaw, which never healed properly. The lower jaw is permanently out of socket. Umberto has no real teeth now, only dentures.

"At about the same time, I had begun to participate more in NORML legalization activities. Terry Parker and I had helped organize the most successful marijuana legalization rally for some time in Toronto in 1979, and I had been nominated to become National Director of NORML Canada. I accepted the position. Terry became assistant National Director of NORML." (More on Terry Parker in the following paragraphs. Keep reading.)

But severe pain began to make his life nearly unbearable. "The doctor prescribed the strongest pain killers available, morphine and Demorol. All my teeth were eventually pulled and replaced with complicated dentures. I began to have difficulty driving my car. Work at the factory was out of the question. My vision would blur and I would experience dizziness just due to the continuous unrelenting pain, and the effects of the prescriptions. I turned in my driver's license in 1981."

"I resigned from NORML in 1981, had no job, and was living on welfare. This was a difficult period. The dentists and doctors were still trying to wire my mouth back together."

"After the accident, I didn't touch marijuana for about 4 months. I had no access to it anyway ! I was completely doped up on morphine from the doctor. The pain was under control, but my jaw was becoming locked in the closed position. I couldn't eat regular food. I could barely even drink  a McDonald's milkshake through a straw. I never dreamed that marijuana would help my jaw muscles relax."

"About 4 months after the accident, a friend stopped by to visit. He was very curious as to what had happened to me. I told him about my jaw, and that I could barely eat. The muscles had atrophied. As I spoke to him, I could feel the muscles tightening up in my face."

"My friend said, 'try this',and handed me a joint."

"That afternoon, I realized to my surprise that there was sensation returning to my jaw. I thought it might be my imagination, but I could definitely eat again ; and with much less pain. Thank God. I was getting sick of milkshakes, if you can believe that. My sleep quality also improved tremendously. And I didn't feel "doped up" or numb such as from morphine."

"I don't believe that marijuana is really a "pain killer" like morphine or heroin. It simply bypasses the pain and relaxes the muscles. The pain is still there. I think marijuana has some sort of aromatic properties similar to herbs like camphor. What's the big deal with it ? Put it in the drug stores with warning labels and a scientific name, and nobody would bother with it much. Who is abusing "morphine" these days ? Heroin is a form of morphine. Go look it up in your dictionary. And morphine is prescribed daily to millions of legal patients in legal hospitals and emergency rooms all over the world. Let the same happen with marijuana". (Ed. note : Drug use is risky , more or less, depending on circumstances. The Lancet, Britain's journal of medicine, has stated, just like U.S. DEA Judge Francis Young  stated, after consulting with medical experts , that marijuana, even when smoked, is among the safest therapeutic substances available to mankind, especially when compared with all the other tens of thousands of synthetic pharmaceuticals routinely dosed daily by children and adults alike. This does not mean that marijuana is safer than all other drugs. All drugs have side effects and risks than may vary from individual to individual. Any drug can be misused.)

From 1979 until 1986, Umberto continued to live on minimal welfare. His doctors continued to prescribe different pain killers , (Demorol, morphine, Percodans, Meprobate, Lorzepam, Chloropromazine, Stellizine, Diazapam, Talwin, Seconol, and others.) which did not relax the jaw muscles very effectively. Due to his marginal economic condition, he could not afford marijuana very often. The government supplied painkillers were free, since all Canadians have government health insurance.

In 1986, Umberto was given full disability status. This was also when he became convinced that marijuana was definitely helping him. He began to seek information about the medical use of marijuana. When he tried to contact NORML Canada for information, he discovered that the organization was no longer functioning.

In 1988, Umberto decided to try and get off the painkillers he had become addicted to. Although his doctor refused to work with him on his marijuana usage, he agreed to supervise his withdrawal from all legal prescriptions. It took months of medical supervision for Umberto to get off of morphine and the other "accepted" pain killers. The process was completed in 1990.

In looking for contacts for medical marijuana information, he located Terry Parker again who had noticed that he no longer had such bad or frequent epileptic seizures under the influence of marijuana. Modern medicine had done little for him. During epileptic seizures in public places, Terry has unfortunately been perceived on too many occasions as a "belligerent troublemaker", and the police have arrested him on numerous occasions. In jail, without any medicine at all, he has had frequent seizures, and sustained head injuries.

In 1986, Umberto Iorfida and Terry Parker began to work together to reactivate NORML Canada.

In 1988, Terry Parker, with Umberto's help, became Canada's first and only "provisionally" legal marijuana user.

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Medical Use versus Recreational Use of Marijuana

So, Can we assume that everybody using marijuana is using it for therapeutic purposes ? Of course not. But absent any behavioral problems, as with accepted alcohol use, the moderate use, and small scale personal cultivation of marijuana, by adults, should not be placed in the "criminal'" category. Nor should society make young persons into permanent "criminals" by their temporal youthful marijuana usage.

Society today has had its value structure warped by the "drug war" mentality. We are faced with the horrible truth that our children, and many of our citizens, have been taught that surveillance, blackmail, and routine cruelty, are normal activities for citizens and governments to pursue. The "drug war'" philosophy is a diversion from real moral values. This is why it has not been successful.

Telling people to "don't do drugs" does not give them any comprehensive moral foundation. The general moral value of "respect life and health" would be far more constructive.

The tendency of blaming all problems in society on drug abuse, is as mistaken as blaming all problems on a specific race, such as the Jews, and leads to the same insanities of genocide.

Since practically any substance, from common glue, to rubbing alcohol, to gasoline and solvents, to wild mushrooms, can be used as a "drug", what is the point of focusing on marijuana and the other 4 or 5 "illegal drugs" to the exclusion of the preferred underlying principle ; that unwise drug use, even legal drugs, can lead to unfortunate results ?

But to say that all drug use is equally damaging simply does not make sense. Marijuana is not Heroin, so it should not be treated the same. Those who drink one or two beers per week, with no problems, should not be imprisoned because some beer drinkers become alcoholics and beat their wives. Why not punish the wife beater for beating his wife, and leave alone the beer drinker who behaves ? Likewise, let's leave in peace the marijuana smoker who is not engaged in crime.

Non - criminal drug users, especially those who are otherwise law abiding and constructive citizens should be given the same respect and rights as any other citizen.

Considering that most of the discoveries of marijuana's medical value in modern times was accomplished accidentally by recreational marijuana users, we should ask ourselves to what extent we wish to punish such activities ?

We should also acknowledge that the human tendency to seek the occasional relaxation through a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a beer, or a joint, should not be equated with crime. Taking a moment to relax, while using such things, may have positive results in the right context. Some research has shown that marijuana smokers in Jamaica were more productive, and lived longer, than their non pot - using counterparts.

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Groups Supplying Marijuana for Medical Purposes Only:

(Warning : these may not be legal sources. You are on your own.)

  • Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana ; contrary to previous reports, the original semilegal source of medical marijuana in Holland is still in operation. tel. 011 - 31 -10 - 479 - 2850 ; Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana (SIMM) ; Postbus 2008 ; 3000CA Rotterdam, Netherlands. Email . For information packet, please send at least U.S. (or equivalent) $10.00 for airmail delivery.

  • (June 1998)Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana Reports Mid Year Finances .

  • James Burton's new site for Medical Marijuana in the Netherlands (and Belgium) : click here . If nothing there, try SIMM .

  • Maripharm ; P O Box 63047 ; 3002JA Rotterdam Netherlands ; tel 011-31-10-42-52-513.

  • Stichting Medi-Wiet. Postbus 51200, 1007 EE , Amsterdam. Connected with Positronics in Amsterdam, the main Dutch proponent of "non commercial" marijuana culture. (Email Netherlands ; 011-31-(0)-20-6797790

The only legal marijuana, in one sense, is that licensed by a government. There is also the possibility of totally unregulated, and not-illegal, marijuana being used medically in nations where marijuana is not prohibited by treaty obligations or laws. pay.

Latest prices quoted by the Stichting are about NL 6 guilders per gram. If James can obtain a greenhouse, he hopes to reduce the price even further, though quality will suffer compared to lamp-only-grown weed.

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  • Marijuana, or Compounds Contained in Marijuana including THC, May Be Effective in Treating Alzheimer's Disease: