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Media > Newsletter: October 8, 2004



MAPS News 10/8/04: A time to celebrate!

Greetings MAPS members and friends,

We've just returned from MAPS fantastic "Body Electric" fundraiser event, which brought over 200 people to Manhattan to eat, converse, and dance through the night at visionary artist Alex Grey's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. We were thrilled that so many people joined us to support and celebrate MAPS! More on the benefit below -- here are a few recent news items we have to celebrate:

1.MAPS-funded MDMA cancer/anxiety protocol nears final hurdle at Harvard Medical School
2. Dr. John Halpern awarded $1.8 million, five-year NIDA grant for MDMA neurocognitive study
3. Dr. Donald Abrams' medical marijuana vaporizer study enrolls first two subjects
4. MAPS files amicus curiae brief for Angel Raich's upcoming Supreme Court case
5. Media mentions: Wired Magazine, Salt Lake City Weekly, Reuters, Boston Phoenix
6. New MAPS Bulletins in the mail
7. An electric event: Hundreds celebrate at MAPS benefit party

And the details:

1. MAPS-funded MDMA cancer/anxiety protocol nears final hurdle at Harvard Medical School

On October 2, the oncologist reviewing Dr. John Halpern's MAPS-sponsored protocol evaluating MDMA psychotherapy as a treatment for anxiety in advanced-stage cancer patients completed his of the study. Now, Harvard's McLean Hospital Institutional Review Board (IRB) will make its decision. If that IRB approves the study, the protocol will go to the Lahey IRB, and finally to the FDA and DEA. Because these agencies have already given approval for the MDMA/PTSD study in South Carolina, we believe that after the IRBs, we will have passed the biggest hurdles for this study. If all goes as we anticipate, this study should be fully approved in three to four months.

2. Dr. John Halpern awarded $1.8 million, five-year NIDA grant for MDMA neurocognitive study

In late September, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) formally awarded Dr. John Halpern $1.8 million over five years to continue his study of MDMA's effects on memory and other aspects of neurocognitive function. MAPS provided the initial seed money for this project as well as access to a unique subject population of people who had used MDMA but virtually no other drugs. This study demonstrates that both MAPS and Dr. Halpern are interested in being at the forefront of researching the risks associating with MDMA as well as the benefits.

3. Dr. Donald Abrams' medical marijuana vaporizer study enrolls first two Subjects

On September 21 and 29, the first and second subjects were enrolled in Dr. Donald Abrams' FDA-approved study comparing subjective effects, cannabinoid blood levels and carbon monoxide levels in subjects who smoke marijuana or inhale the vapors of the same amount of marijuana from a vaporizer. MAPS and CaNORML funded the laboratory research into the constituents of the vapors produced by the Volcano vaporizer that Dr. Abrams submitted to FDA as part of his application to conduct this pioneering human clinical study.

The study requires subjects to live on an in-patient ward for six days, with each day involving either smoking marijuana or using the vaporizer. The research involves the use of three different marijuana cigarettes, one with 1.7% THC, one with 3.5% THC and one with 7% THC. The cigarettes are cut in half (making six half-cigarettes) and used one-half per day in a randomized, double-blind manner, with half of each cigarette being smoked and the other half unrolled and the marijuana placed in the vaporizer.

The start of clinical research with vaporizers represents the achievement of one of the two prerequisites that we believe are necessary before we can initiate a full-scale FDA-approved drug development research program with marijuana. The second prerequisite involves breaking the government monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can be used in research by obtaining our own independent source. This later prerequisite is being actively blocked by DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and is the subject of a lawsuit that MAPS filed against DEA on July 21, 2004. So far, we have received no response to our lawsuit.

4. MAPS files amicus curiae brief for Angel Raich's upcoming Supreme Court case

The US Supreme Court will soon be hearing the most important medical marijuana case ever, Raich v. Ashcroft. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has previously ruled that there is no interstate commerce involved when a patient or a caregiver grows marijuana for medical use in a state that has approved the medical use of marijuana. Therefore, the Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional in these circumstances, and federal authorities such as the DEA have no right to intervene. Attorney General Ashcroft appealed this case to the US Supreme Court, which accepted the case for review.

On April 30, 2003, MAPS, in association with the Marijuana Policy Project and Dr. Ethan Russo, filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the Ninth Circuit case (see http://www.maps.org/mmj/). On October 13, 2004, we will file an expanded version of the brief to the US Supreme Court. The expanded brief builds on MAPS' July 21, 2004 lawsuits against DEA and HHS/NIH/NIDA. The brief outlines the many ways in which the federal government has obstructed MAPS' efforts to conduct an FDA-approved drug development research program aimed at developing marijuana into a prescription medicine. The goal of the brief is to educate the Supreme Court justices about the lack of any viable alternative for medical marijuana patients to obtain legal access to marijuana other than through state initiatives and legislative processes. If the Court decides that there is interstate commerce and that the federal agencies such as DEA can arrest medical marijuana patients, we hope the Court will at least take note of the federal obstruction of FDA-approved research and clear the way for MAPS to obtain our own independent source of supply.

5. Media mentions: Wired Magazine, Salt Lake City Weekly, Reuters, Boston Phoenix

On September 27, Wired Magazine's Kristin Philipkoski reported on the "Long Trip for Psychedelic Drugs". The article discusses the return of psychedelictherapy and includes quotes from Rick Doblin, Dr. George Greer, and Dr. Charles Grob.

The Salt Lake City Weekly ran a feature story entitled "Ecstasy and Therapy" on September 30. The focus is on both underground therapy with MDMA andMAPS' struggle to legitimize MDMA therapy aboveground.

On September 30, the Reuters wire service sent out an article entitled "SF Scientists say Europeans Lead in Medical MJ," summarizing a discussion at a biotechnology conference about medical marijuana vs. medicine using cannabinoids. Discussion participants included Rick Doblin, Dr. Donald Abrams and Billy Martin, Ph.D.

On October 7, the Boston Phoenix published a long article by Mike Miliard about MAPS, entitled, "This is your brain on drugs: Rick Doblin thinks pot, ecstasy, and other psychedelics could unlock the human mind and he wants to bring them to Harvard, the FDA, and a doctors office near you."

6. New MAPS Bulletins in the mail

You should be receiving your MAPS bulletins later this week or next week. If you don't receive yours by the end of next week, please let us know! (International members, please allow more time.) This is a special themed issue, "Rites of Passage: Kids and Psychedelics." We welcome your feedback on this controversial and powerful topic.

7. An electric event: Hundreds celebrate at MAPS benefit party

The MAPS "Body Electric" benefit, held Friday, Oct. 1, was a great success, hosting nearly 200 people for dinner and even more for dancing, at Alex Grey's incredible Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. The event was organized by MAPS staffer Valerie Mojeiko, and catered, decorated, and set up by the NYC party crew Citizens of Utopia. Speakers at the event included Rick Doblin, Dr. Charles Grob, Dr. Michael Mithoefer, Dr. John Halpern, Valerie Mojeiko, and Brandy Doyle. After an informal Chinese food dinner and a tour through the Chapel led by Alex Grey, the speakers'presentations gave way to a full night of DJs, musicians, and performers. Many participants stayed to share a light breakfast before heading out into early morning New York City.

Now were back to work. With your continued support, we will keep progressing onward...so we can keep celebrating, too!

Best wishes,
Brandy
--
Brandy Doyle
MAPS Projects and Communications Director

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