Chapter 3 - (2nd Edition)



Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya
[ Sept. 20, 1933 - May 20, 2007 ]
Following the passage of California's Prop-215, people all over the state were calling cannabis clubs to report that their doctors—many of whom had expressed their approval of marijuana previously—would not give them a written “letter of diagnosis” entitling them to join a club.   These people would very often be given the name and phone number of Tod Mikuriya.   Thus Mikuriya became the doctor of last resort for thousands of California patients.

Unfortunately, not all harassment of physicians, by the narcotics police, is general in nature; SOME DOCTORS are selected for “Extra Special Treatment"; Probably the best known example being that of Dr. Tod Mikuriya.

[ In the interest of not re-inventing the wheel, the following wording has been taken almost exclusively from a series of articles written by Peter Gorman [4] and Fred Garnder, [2] [3] used here with their permission.   For the sake of brevity, bit’s and pieces from the two authors have been mixed together and heavily edited.   Note that there was good reason for the narc’s to go after him. ]

"In Nov. 1996, the voters of California passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act.   That law permitted patients throughout the state to use, possess and grow cannabis—and their caregivers to possess, grow and provide cannabis—on the recommendation of a physician.

In response . . . on Dec. 29, 1996, then-Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey held a news conference to discuss the new law, during which one of his props was a large flip-chart.   At the top of the chart was printed: Dr. Mikuriya’s Medicine, and below it was long list of ailments for which Dr. Tod Mikuriya, a respected Berkeley, CA psychiatrist and co-author of Prop 215 was alleged to have claimed cannabis would be beneficial.   Included with such ailments as glaucoma, cancer and AIDS were a couple of ringers like “Recovering Forgotten Memories,” and “Writer’s Cramp,” that made the whole list suspicious, and allowed McCaffrey to sound legitimate when he commented, “This isn’t medicine.   This is Cheech and Chong medicine.”

That Dr. Mikuriya had never recommended that cannabis might be good for either “recovering forgotten memories” or “writer’s cramp” didn’t matter to the Clinton White House.   To the Drug War warriors, deception is typical and justified.

That press conference was the first public salvo in a war waged against the new California law, patients and their caregivers, and the doctors who wrote their recommendations.   Chief among their medical targets was Dr. Tod Mikuriya. . . .
As one can tell the Drug czar didn’t like Dr. Mikuriya that much and once more with good reason.   His whole life seems to have been one of opposition to (what he and many of us considered) a great injustice.

. . After getting his medical degree [Temple U.] and internship, he went on to specialize in psychiatry.   In 1967 he became director of non-classified marijuana research for the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Narcotics and Drug Abuse.   He left the position after several months, he said, “When it became clear they only wanted research into damaging effects, not helpful ones.”

. . For decades Mikuriya was the only M.D. among the small group of activists and scholars who collected the bottles and labels and sought to unearth and publicize the history that our educational system had erased so systematically. [5]   Mikuriya lamented to a UCSF medical student interviewing him in 1996.
“Western medicine has forgotten almost all it once knew about the therapeutic properties of marijuana,” “Hemp-based tinctures and preparations were prescribed for myriad purposes—analgesic and hypnotic; appetite stimulant; anti-epileptic and antispasmodic; for the prevention and treatment of the neuralgias, including migraine and tic doloreux; antidepressant and tranquilizer; oxytocic (to induce uterine contractions); topical anesthetic; withdrawal agent for opiate, chloral and alcohol addiction; intraocular hypotensive; childbirth analgesic; hypothermogenic.”

Cannabis is also an anti-asthmatic and antitussive (cough suppressant), Mikuriya told the med student.   It went out of favor with doctors in the early decades of the 20th century “NOT because it was deemed toxic or dangerous but because alternatives came on the market—injectable opiates and synthetics such as aspirin and barbiturates— that were quicker-acting and offered more consistency in dosage and patient response.”
When the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club (was launched) at the start of the ‘90s, Mikuriya saw “a unique research opportunity.”   He began interviewing club members in an attempt to confirm or add to descriptions in the pre-prohibition literature.   When Prop 215 was being drafted, Mikuriya contributed to it’s wording, his face also (through the pro-Prop 215 TV Ad’s) soon became the public face of the Medical community. ---- ALL OF WHICH, obviously did not go unnoticed by the narcotics police, who were now beginning to see him as a threat to their very jobs.


“The duck that sticks its head out is the one who has it chopped off”
– Chinese proverb

With Dr. Mikuriya’s background, it becomes apparent why the Drug Czar’s Office chose him for (extra special) ridicule during the Dec. 1996 press conference.   But soon even more sinister actions were in the works--- Dr. Mikuriya was to be targeted directly.

It took them over six years and who knows how many millions of the taxpayers dollars to do it, but in 2003 they finally got him. Here are the facts the way we see them:
  • After many years of failed (criminal) investigation by various narcotics officials – all of them coming back negative.   The narc’s embark on a new tactic; they will go after his professional licensing instead.   Their vehicle, the California State Medical Board, the very agency that issues doctor’s licenses and also has the power to revoke or suspend them.

  • On October 28, 1997, Senior (California) Deputy Attorney General, John Gordnier— sent out a notice to all law enforcement personnel and county District Attorneys in the state that included this request:
    “If your jurisdiction has received recommendations signed by either Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld or Dr. Tod Mikuriya, please notify John Gordnier at. . . ”
    Thus without question, Dr. Mikuriya was being targeted.

  • By 2003 the narc’s were finally ready to make their move.   Their main problem was that the licensing board (composed of appointed doctors and law enforcement officials), simply couldn’t get any of Dr. Mikuriya’s patients to physically make a complaint let alone testify against him in court.   And as the normal course of events is to have disgruntled patients or their loved ones, or other physicians launch the initial complaints --- this was now turning into a big problem for them.   But no matter, the narc’s had a way around this situation also.

  • Despite years and years of established policy, the initial complaints against him were NOT (in this case), launched against him by grieved patients, nor fellow medical doctors.   But instead by Law Enforcement officials, -- In Mikuriya’s case, ALL complaints were made against him by rural police, narcotics officers and a county district attorney.   Despite their best efforts none of his patients could be coerced into creating such a complaint.

  • The Medical Board now officially starts its investigation and quickly goes off on a fishing expedition, subpoenaing many of Dr. Mikuriya’s medical records – all of them dealing with his patients.

  • Eventually official complaints of incompetence were made in the names of 17 of his patients.   The funny thing was that none of these 17 patients ever had anything bad to say about their doctor, and many of them (those who were physically/financially able to do so) spoke out in his defense during the trail. -- But all that meant nothing to the narcotics police, --they were out to get him, End of Story.

  • The presiding trial judge (Jonathan Lew) during the hearing was also stacked against him.   Example: Judge Lew was a board member of the Powerhouse Ministries of Folsom, Texas.   The group's Web site has a section on substance abuse stating:
    "Nobody likes slavery. And no one wants to be a slave. Yet, every day in our community people 'awake' to find out that they have become enslaved to some substance. For some it’s marijuana…”
    Obviously not the worlds most neutral individual to play Judge during the trail.
Thus with all the board members (and everyone else) stacked against him, the outcome of the trial was never in doubt.   However, (looking back at it) it is amazing just how far Dr. Mikuriya’s defense team was able to go: Examples:

  1. DURING THE TRIAL:  Not only did none of the patients whose records were being used by the prosecution testify against him, but nine of them even testified on Mikuriya's behalf.   Every one said the doctor carefully reviewed their medical histories and dispensed caring advice during his 15- to 20-minute exams.   According to hearing witnesses, many were visibly sick and brought records from other doctors confirming their illnesses.   All were self-medicating with cannabis when they came to see Mikuriya. One said “Mikuriya was the only doctor he’d ever had who took the time to thoroughly discuss his illness.”

  2. They were able to establish that the states star medical witness, Kaiser HMO Psychiatrist Laura Duskin, who stated that she had concluded that Mikuriya had failed to:
        - Conduct adequate physical exams,
        - Specify treatment plans,
        - Order tests
        - Keep adequate documentation.
        - etc.
    Yet as the trail went on, it turned out that she herself had NOT EVEN MET NOR TALKED to the patients herself.   Had never ordered any kind of medical tests on them. Had never . . . .   Boy, talk about the kettle calling the pot black, it seems that she not only embarrassed herself, but many of the narc’s at the time as well.

  3. The defense team was able to establish that it was the Attorney Generals office NOT the Medical Board that had authorized an undercover agent sent to “get the goods on Dr. Mikuriya.”   Thus establishing for a fact that Dr. Mikuriya was actually “TARGETED” by the narc’s for extra-special-treatment.

  4. That back in 1997, the California Attorney General's office had sent out a notice to all law enforcement personnel and county District Attorneys in the state that included this request:
    “If your jurisdiction has received recommendations signed by either Dr. Eugene Schoenfeld or Dr. Tod Mikuriya, please notify John Gordnier at. . . ”
    Thus there was no question, Dr. Mikuriya was being targeted.
    [NOTE: In California it is against the law to selectively target (go on a fishing expedition) against anyone.

  5. At the trial, Mikuriya’s lawyers presented the summary of an investigative report on the 17 patients made by Sgt. Steve Mason of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Task Force Office.   Part of the summary read as follows:
    “The recommendations were issued not for a medical purpose but as an excuse for their otherwise criminal possession, transportation and/or sale of a Schedule 1 drug.”
    Thus even the narc’s admitted that the case had NOTHING to do with medical practices.

The hearings began on Sep. 3, 2003. Mikuriya was charged with negligence, incompetence and furnishing dangerous drugs without prior examination.   The only unexpected thing about the trial is that it took the narc's so long to find him guilty.   As Fred Garnder wrote:
“The Feds finally got their pound of flesh, when Dr. Mikuria began serving a 5-year period of medical practice probation ordered by Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Lew, in an action brought by the Medical Board of California before it’s Administrative Court.   The terms of Mikuriya’s probation include paying $75,000 for the cost of his prosecution, no longer being able to see patients in his home—something he’d been doing for 30 years—paying a second doctor to review his patient records, having his records spot checked by the California Medical Board, not being able to do telephone follow-ups with patients, and requires that he disclose his medical marijuana recommendations to his patients’ primary physicians.”


“We care not if we are loved, as long as we are feared”
– Ancient Roman Proverb

But for the narc’s, it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory.   The whole idea of targeting selected doctors was to spread fear and send a clear message to the medical community. Recommend Medical Cannabis to your patients and we will go after you.   And to some extent it did work, no doubt many physicians (in fear of losing their medical licenses) did indeed STOP.   But by adapting the tactics of Ancient Rome the Narc’s also greatly damage their own cause by showing everyone in the medical community just how shallow their case against Medical Cannabis really was.
  • Where were their (anti-Cannabis) scientific studies?
  • Where were their (anti-Cannabis) technical experts?
  • Where were their (anti-Cannabis) safety reports?
  • Where were their (anti-Cannabis) . . . . etc.?
The best the narc’s could come up with was some technicality that the paper work had not been filled out properly (Their excuse to go after Dr. Mikuriya ) and everyone in the medical community knew it.   Thus the narc’s made themselves look like, (dare we say it) “Cheech and Chong Law Enforcement.” --- Even in defeat, Dr. Mikuriya won.

------------------ Dr. Mikuriya
Reflections on Moral Courage:

All of the above begs a question – Why did Dr. Mikuryia do it.   Why didn’t he do like most of us and take the road of least resistance --- the answer is somewhat complex, and subject to various interpretations.   In one person’s opinion, he was greatly affected by what was happening around him.   Perhaps the Peter McWilliams case serves as a good example: Here was a case where someone literally lost his life because of court ordered, “Lack of Access to Medical Cannabis.” Tod, was not about to allow this to happen again.   To quote a popular expression at the time; “Not on my Watch Its Not”.

The author for one feels that to a physician like Dr. Mikuriya, the death (many of us would use the word murder), of Peter McWillians at the hands of our justice system had a very deep impact on his life.   A much greater impact than anyone could have realized.



But even before the murder of Peter McWilliams at the hands of the Narc’s, he was active in correcting such injustices.   One can only wonder how many people would now be dead were it not for him. Example: Within a period of five years (1997-2002) following the passage of California’s Prop-215 (legalizing Medical Cannabis). Dr. Tod Mikuriya was reported to have written around 7,000 prescriptions for Medical Cannabis.   Which begs the question -- WHY SO MANY?

The answer is very simply, because so many of the other physicians were under extreme duress at the time.   At a press conference (held by then Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey) in response to the passage of Prop-215: -- the drug czar also made it clear that ANYONE writing a physical prescription will AUTOMATICALLY LOSE their federal license to write ALL prescriptions.   In addition, then H.H.S. Secretary Donna Shalala announced that doctors who recommended marijuana risked having their Federal DEA licenses to prescribe controlled drugs revoked. More than that, Ms. Shalala also stated, “they (also) risked criminal prosecution and being excluded from Medicare” Etc.   During his trial in (2002) Dr. Mikuriya stated,
“I write a lot of recommendations because I have a lot of patients,” . . . “About 40% of them are recommended to me by their primary physicians, who either know nothing about the benefits of medical marijuana, or are too scared to write recommendations themselves.”
In addition, it must be taken into account that Dr. Mikuria (while a regular physician), did specialize in and was well known for his knowledge of Medical Cannabis.   He had even appeared on numerous television ad’s in favor of Prop-215. Thus (for good or for bad), in the early days after Prop-215, he became a magnet for patients throughout California who needed Medical Cannabis.
NOTE: TECHNICALLY they were Medical Recommendations (not prescriptions) – this was done as a way to get around the fact that ACTUAL PRESCRIPTIONS were still licensed and under the control of the Federal Government.
Then there were his prescriptions for Marinol (a synthetic form of Cannabis) an FDA approved drug.   Thus any physician is allowed to prescribe it for any of their patients who has a medical need. BULL, if you believe that one, you believe in the man on the moon; Just ask Dr. Mikuiya?   Below are just a couple of case examples:

Case: [name withheld] Six years before the passage of California’s Prop-215., the patient had just gotten out of jail (on a Medical Cannabis charge) and was now on probation.   Problem, she had a medical need for Cannabis, but Cannabis was illegal. Solution, Dr. Mikuiya prescribed Marinol for the patient.   Problem, she was on probation and had to undergo mandatory drug testing at the time.   As Marinol acts as a masking agent for Medical Cannabis, she did not have to undergo testing for it.   Which did not make the narc’s all that happy. --- It is believed that this is how he first got on the radar scope of the narcotics police.

Case: [Steve kubby] – Mr. Kubby who worked tirelessly to pass Prop-215 and (who believe it or not) for a time was in political asylum in Canada for his activities).   But at the time he was in jail and was in very bad shape --- Solution, although Medical Cannabis would have been ideal, due to jail regulations that would have been impossible.   Thus Dr. Mikuiya not only prescribed Marinol but personally hand delivered it to the inmate.   Boy did the narc’s get mad about that.

But Dr. Mikuriya DID come under scrutiny for his actions.   Prescribing MARINOL to his patients (who were obviously in a medical need) was at this point only second nature to him.   After all, wasn’t he a doctor, weren’t doctors suppose to treat their patients?   And Damn the consequences.

Dr. Mikuriya died in 2007, but he left a legacy
. . . Mikuriya liked to use the slogans “Grandfather it in!” and “Back to the future!” in discussing the legalization of cannabis for medical use.   The generations of Americans who discovered cannabis in social settings in the 1960s and the decades that followed had no idea that it had been widely used in this country between the Civil War and the Great Depression, with tinctures manufactured by Eli Lilly, Parke, Davis and other major pharmaceutical companies available by prescription.

Death statistics

"First they ignore you”,
                    “Then they ridicule you”,
                              “Then they fight you,”
                                        “Then you win."
                                                                              --- Mahatma Gandhi

In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Mikuriya donated (more than just a little bit of) money to this museum.   In addition he was also the originator of the museums FDA Grandfather Clause petition, which at this time is still circulating somewhere within the hulls of the FDA. And yes, the author did know him personally.
[2]—“Oakland Hearing to Decide Fate of Pot-Prescribing Doc” By FRED GARDNER
[3]-- “Oakland Hearing to Decide Fate of Pot-Prescribing Doc” By FRED GARDNER
[4]—“Dr. Tod Mikuriya: Shrink Rapped” by: Peter Gorman
[5]— MUSEUM NOTE: Some of the original Cannabis Bottle pictures shown on the museums website [] were from Dr. Mikuriya’s collection. In addition we must concur in sadness that the History of Medical Cannabis has been scrubbed clean by the Reefer Madness era and it’s aftermath – see our sister museum -- .

Due to space / download time considerations, only selected materials are displayed.   If you would like to obtain more information, feel free to contact the museum.   All our material is available (at cost) on CD-Rom format.