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Medical Cannabis Education Since 1993

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It Began With the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics…

By: Alice O’Leary Randall

In 1976 my late husband, Robert C. Randall, secured medical access to federal supplies of marijuana for the treatment of his glaucoma. It marked the first time since the removal of cannabis from the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1942 that a patient was allowed to use cannabis in a traditional physician-patient relationship. His case received significant notoriety and for several years he was literally the only individual in the U.S. with legal, medical access to marijuana for medical purposes.

The federal government did not provide the marijuana willingly. It was only through a series of unique criminal and civil proceedings that Robert procured the medication that literally, and incontrovertibly, saved his eyesight. Told at the age of 24 that he would be blind by the age of 30, Robert’s “accidental” discovery of marijuana’s ability to lower intraocular pressure preserved his vision and he was still able to see at the time of his death in 2001 at the age of 53. That discovery, which he described in our 1998 book Marijuana Rx: The Patients’ Fight for Medicinal Pot, is interesting.

It was a singular moment. I immediately drew the connection between the use of marijuana and the now-absent [elevated pressure]. Indeed, parts of my brain absorbed the connection so quickly and so assuredly that I was certain I must be stoned, which of course I was. I tried to follow the exploding synaptic spasm but was quickly left behind. The thought was too fast, too large and complex to pursue and understand, to place into words. Stuporific, I could do little more than smile at the building delusion. Marijuana beneficial? A delicious thought perhaps, but nothing to hang your sight on.

-Robert C. Randall

In retrospect, with the knowledge that we now have about the wondrous endocannabinoid system (ECS), I believe Robert was describing an awakening of his biology to the benefits of cannabis. The discovery of the ECS was still more than a decade in the future but Robert’s own biology told him, with some certainty, that cannabis was THE substance that could help him. It was only the politics of the time that made him doubt his “discovery.”

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Robert gained tremendous notoriety as “American’s only legal pot smoker.” He took every opportunity to speak out about the medical benefits of marijuana. He appeared on national television shows and gave countless radio and newspaper interviews. We began hearing from others who also needed marijuana for medical purposes and we realized that fate had given us a unique life experience—a real opportunity to facilitate change. We began organizing and Robert became the unquestionable “father of the medical marijuana movement.”

In 1981 we founded the nation’s first non-profit organization dedicated to the issue of cannabis therapeutics. It was a true “mom and pop” organization. We purposefully decided on a small Board of Directors with a large and powerful Board of Advisors. In this way, we reasoned, we would be able to move the issue forward without getting too wrapped up in association politics. Our Board of Directors consisted of Robert, myself, Roger Roffman and Mae Nutt.

We accomplished a great deal. Most notably, with the help of Washington, D.C. law firm Steptoe & Johnson, we drafted the first federal legislation seeking to remove the prohibitions against marijuana’s use in medicine. At one point we had 110 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives but politics prevented the bill from ever having a hearing.

In 1988, again with the help of Steptoe & Johnson, we became the lead party in the court-ordered hearings before the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief administrative law judge on the matter of re-scheduling marijuana. The judge ruled in our favor but once again politics prevailed and the DEA administrator ignored his own judge and kept marijuana in Schedule I.

There were other victories too numerous to mention. In 1995 our efforts were cut short when Robert was diagnosed with AIDS. We were forced to retire. It was around that same time that our friends, Al Byrne and Mary Lynn Mathre, began Patients Out of Time.

So as the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (a non-profit, lobbying organization) began to fade into history a new group, Patients Out of Time (a non-profit educational organization) began to ascend. Robert and I were grateful that Patients Out of Time was there to pick up the standard and continue the battle to re-instate cannabis into the medical armamentarium. Robert was a speaker at the first Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in 2000. It was his last public speaking appearance.

I am now a member of the Patients Out of Time Board of Directors and I am proud to serve as part of this outstanding organization. It has provided a critical service to the medical cannabis community and we are all fortunate to have their presence.

Today, Patients Out of Time is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization of the Commonwealth of Virginia focused solely on the education of medical professionals, organizations, and the general public about the therapeutic value of cannabis.

For thousands of years, cannabis has been used as a medicine by cultures across the world. Physicians in the United States regularly prescribed cannabis formulations before the plant was severely restricted by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This law, opposed by the American Medical Association, effectively ended the medicinal use of cannabis, despite having no grounds in science.

While the history of medicinal cannabis is well known, it is only recently that modern science has uncovered the underlying therapeutic mechanisms. It has been discovered that the major compounds in cannabis have significant neuroprotective, cardioprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam has instigated thousands of studies into how this natural chemical messaging system maintains homeostasis and works with cannabis to promote healing. The results have been nothing short of astounding.

Clinical trials and observational studies have found whole plant cannabis significantly reduces intraocular pressure in glaucoma, mitigates nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, stimulates the appetite of patients suffering from AIDS and wasting syndrome, controls spasticity associated with spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis, reduces intensity of chronic pain, and controls seizures associated with epileptic disorders.

We believe education is the key to increasing access to medicinal cannabis and driving forward research. –Mary Lynn (ML) Mathre, President & Co-founder

To accomplish this goal Patients Out of Time:

  • Brings together leading researchers, scientists, and doctors, to share the latest scientific studies and patient-based results.
  • Offers continuing educational credits to healthcare professionals via our website and national conferences.
  • Works with patients, caregivers, and other organizations to share their firsthand experience of the benefits provided by cannabis.
  • Serves as a hub for numerous organizations including American Cannabis Nurses Association and Society of Cannabis Clinicians.

Patients Out of Time will help re-institute cannabis as a legitimate medicine through its educational activities which integrate doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.

The exciting research of the past decade demonstrates that the medical utility of cannabis is more vast than anyone had imagined. We are constantly seeking members of professional healthcare organizations and other social organizations to formally support access to and research of medicinal cannabis.

The focus of Patients Out of Time is completely on medicinal cannabis. We have no opinion or involvement with other cannabis issues.

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