Day Two of Scheduling Hearings: Drs. Carl Hart and Philip Denney Take the Stand
October 28 - Dr. Carl Hart (right) left the witness stand as unscathed as Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner following his masterful testimony on cross-examination by US Attorney Gregory Broderick yesterday. Read more.
He was followed by Dr. Philip Denney, a retired medical cannabis practitioner who had offices in Sacramento, Redding and Lake Forest from 1999 to 2010. US Attorney Richard Bender opened amicably, noting that he and Dr. Denney had attended the same high school in Maryland. After that, Bender got down to business establishing that Dr. Denney was not a specialist or researcher, but general practitioner; that he was a former member of NORML, attended meetings of AAMC, and had been an early member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians; and that he had made some $200,000 per year in cash-only payments from his practice.
Denney offered curt "yes" and "no" answers scattered with terse factual corrections as Bender attempted to discredit him. Grilled about provocative remarks he had made in the past ("I think cannabis is safer than aspirin," "Marijuana has a benign side effect profile," "I don't see any problem using cannabis medically or recreationally," etc. ) Dr. Denney didn't back down, but added the caveat "My position is much more nuanced."
Bender quizzed Denney closely about how often he saw patients (at least once year, sometimes frequently) and how often he followed up on their conditions; what dosages he recommended (highly variable); how often he contacted the patients' primary physician (5% of the time); and what advice he gave them about smoking (use vaporizers) and driving (don't drive until you're familiar with the drug's effect).
Bender proceeded to undermine the government's own case by quizzing Denney about a New England Journal of Medicine survey in which 76% of doctors said they would recommend marijuana for a woman with metastatic breast cancer. Denney had cited the study in his testimony as evidence that the value of medical cannabis is widely recognized by the medical profeesion. Bender asked whether that the doctors' responses might not have been influenced by the likelihood that the woman had a terminal disease. Denney correctly replied that the study still shows that doctors think cannabis has medical value. Left unstated was the salient fact that the government makes no allowances for terminal patients in classifying drugs as Schedule One.
Cross-examination of Dr. Denney is resuming today (Tues Oct 28) in Sacramento; he will be followed on the witness stand by Chris Conrad. The government's witness, Dr. Madras, will appear on Wednesday.
- Dale Gieringer