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Multiple Sclerosis Patient Arrested at Medical Marijuana Protest in Congressman's Office


March-April 1998

On March 30, Cheryl Miller, severely disabled by multiple sclerosis, used medicinal marijuana in the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Rogan (R-CA). Because Cheryl cannot move her arms, her husband and caregiver, Jim Miller, fed her the marijuana. Both were arrested for marijuana possession in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience (Press Release, "Multiple Sclerosis Patient Arrested," Marijuana Policy Project, March 30, 1998; Jacqueline Fox, "Rogan at Center of Medicinal Marijuana Controversy," Glendale (CA) News-Press Leader, April 3, 1998).

About a dozen demonstrators -- including another patient and a doctor -- joined the Millers' protest against House Resolution 372 (H.Res. 372). The resolution, which the House is expected to consider soon, states that the U.S. House of Representatives is "unequivocally opposed to legalizing marijuana for medicinal use" and "urges the defeat of State initiatives which would seek to legalize marijuana for medicinal use."

Rogan voted for H.Res. 372 in the House Judiciary Committee. On March 4, during the debate in committee, Rogan explained that his first cousin had been diagnosed with cancer in 1980 and given six months to live. His physician told him to get illegal marijuana but said he would deny he said it. The cousin used marijuana for his cancer and lived ten years. While serving in the California legislature, Rogan voted in 1995 for allowing medicinal marijuana.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) helped organize the protest initiated by the Millers. Chuck Thomas, director of communications for MPP, said, "Patients nationwide are angry and beginning to target hypocritical members of Congress with direct action. ... Patients are ready for civil disobedience. Patients will target not only the congressional leadership, but everyone who supports laws that criminalize patients for using medicinal marijuana." MPP also helped organize protests at the Orlando office of U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum's (R-FL) (the sponsor of H.Res. 372) on March 19 and at Rep. Rogan's district office on March 30 in Los Angeles (Philip Booth, "Grass-roots effort," Orlando Weekly, March 26-April 1, 1998, p. 10; Hugo Martin, "Medical Pot Advocates Take Aim at Lawmaker," Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1998).

Cheryl Miller, age 51, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971. She and her husband live in Silverton, New Jersey. Cheryl has taken all of the standard prescription drugs for her condition. In 1992, Cheryl's neurologist prescribed Marinol®, which consists of THC, marijuana's primary psychoactive ingredient. "The THC pill helps, but not as much as eating marijuana," said Cheryl Miller. "My doctor told me that he would prescribe marijuana if it were legal, but he was afraid to put anything in writing. I need marijuana to treat my pain and spasticity." She added, "Every day, I live in fear that my husband and I will be arrested and imprisoned. ... But we can't let this awful resolution pass. I was arrested today so that some day, other patients will not have to be."

Denis Petro, M.D., a neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis treatment, attended the protest to discuss the scientific evidence of marijuana's efficacy in treating pain and spasticity. Marijuana contains cannabinoids other than THC which have anti-spasmodic properties. Dr. Petro's research finding that marijuana is a useful medicine has been published in peer-reviewed journals (D. Petro, "Marihuana as a therapeutic agent for muscle spasm of spasticity," Psychosomatics, (1980), vol. 21, pp. 81-85; D. Petro and C. Ellenberger, Jr., "Treatment of human spasticity with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol," Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, (1981), vol. 21, pp. 413S-416S).

On April 20, at their arraignment in D.C. Superior Court, marijuana possession charges against the Millers were dropped (Press Release, "Charges Dropped Against Multiple Sclerosis Patient," Marijuana Policy Project, April 20, 1998; "Pot Protest," Roll Call (Washington, DC), April 23, 1998, p. 40).

Marijuana Policy Project - P.O. Box 77492, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. 20013, Tel: (202) 462-5747, Fax: (202) 232-0442, E-mail: <MPP@MPP.ORG>, Web: <>.