« Epistemology, Irony, and a Paradox | Main | Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons »

May 02, 2009

Is the Lynch case the Ultimate Drug War Sell-Out?

I’m now nearly certain that within the past two weeks, the Obama Administration has been quietly signaling its intention to continue the federal war on medical marijuana in California through Attorney General Eric Holder's failure to answer the request of an obviously distraught Judge George Wu for direction in the sentencing of Charles Lynch. For me, it is both a sickening development and a clear sign that, for all his bright promise, Barack Obama is just another politician.

For those still unfamiliar with the case, Lynch was running a squeaky clean pot dispensary in the coastal community of Morro Bay when he was arrested by the (Bush) DEA in 2007 with the collusion of his local sheriff. The case is well summarized in a video narrated by Drew Carey. What I hadn’t emphasized when reporting it here was that the underage patient featured in the video is such an unequivocal example of the medical benefits of cannabis and the sentencing of Charles Lynch to prison such an unequivocal example of drug war dishonesty that I could not support any government that would excuse it.

The lesion leading to amputation in the case was almost certainly an osteogenic sarcoma, a relatively rare, but well-known form of bone cancer that typically affects teens and often presents as a broken leg following minor trauma, as it did here. During my medical school and surgical training, most such cases died shortly after amputation because tumor cells were already present in one or both lungs when the diagnosis was made. During my senior year in college a popular young fraternity brother broke his leg before Thanksgiving, returned in February minus the leg, but full of hope, but soon had to go back home when he began coughing up blood. News of his death shortly before Graduation in June had been the shocking finale.

That sequence remained typical of osteosarcomas in young people throughout my next several years in medical school, surgical training, and military service. However, just as I was entering private practice in the early Seventies their outlook was greatly improved by adding two aggressive new therapies to the standard amputation. One was what would normally be lethal chemotherapy to treat the invisible spread to the lungs, followed by a “rescue” agent to keep the patient alive. Because some lung lesions did survive, a tight schedule of follow-up x-rays and prompt removal, by multiple operations if necessary, was added. Although controversial when first advocated, those aggressive additions were deemed justified by the youth and generally good condition of most patients, and overall survival rates quickly increased from a dismal 5% to over 50% after they became the standard. One of my more gratifying cases in early private practice was just such a patient, treated at about the same time as Senator Ted Kennedy’s son Teddy.

Thus I know multiple aspects of this particular case from personal experience: the therapeutic ordeal, the unique benefits of cannabis, the amazing dishonesty of the drug war in justifying the conviction of Charles Lynch, and the outrageous courtroom behavior federal prosecutors routinely get away with in these cases.

The sequence of events in the Lynch case suggests Holder has already embraced what is clearly a desperate and despicable new DEA strategy; whether Obama knew those details or has simply accepted them as his staff’s best judgment is unimportant. Right now the only chance of keeping it from becoming a humanitarian disaster for the cause of Medical Marijuana and a political disaster for the Obama Administration would be a prompt course reversal by the Attorney General.

I’m not holding my breath.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 2, 2009 02:56 PM


Dr. Tom,
I hope you are wrong, but it is an observable fact that when people get in the office of the President they change for the worse the actions on cannabis.

Obama demonstrated this phenomenon when he got into office and made an almost 180 reversal of what he said on the campaign trail.

I sure hope (theres that word again) he will look to the angels on his left side and not the devils on his right side.

BTW the font on your blog is really hard to read for us old farts. I recommend you use verdana, calibri font style and at least 10 but better at 11 size.

Posted by: Tom at May 5, 2009 04:11 PM