Posts Tagged ‘Medical marijuana

17
Oct
10

Defining change

I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite film of the past few months is a glacially slow, uber-dreary Romanian film by Corneliu Porumboiu, Politist Adjectiv.  Well, okay, that’s not entirely true.  I know what it says about me; it says that I’m exactly the sort of overeducated liberal elitist that the teapartiers have been complaining about.  Oh yeah, and I’m probably corrupting the youth of America with my radical marxist and/or fascist agenda, too.  Infecting them with my fact-and-reason based ideology. Sorry about that.

 

Yup, lots of shots of this guy, standing and looking sad. Romanians really know how to sell a film.

 

I can’t really recommend a film that reaches its dramatic climax when one guy reads dictionary definitions to another guy, though.  As much as I approve of dialectics in the classroom, it doesn’t make for the most exciting cinematic experience.  By all means, though, look it up if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, I don’t think I’m going to be giving too much away by describing the film.  Just in case, though, spoiler alert:  It’s all about a cop who doesn’t want to arrest a kid for smoking a joint.  As he points out to his bosses, the marijuana laws in Romania are a little anachronistic.  For all intents, simple possession has been decriminalized all across the more liberal countries in Europe.  The cop in this story points out that people smoke openly in Prague and Paris, and he complains that the 3-7 year prison sentence that the kid will receive is going to weigh too heavily on his conscience if he goes through with the arrest.  He keeps repeating his opinion that the draconian marijuana laws in Romania are on the cusp of being changed, but his bosses disagree.  More importantly, though, they disagree with his underlying belief that he has the right to consider his own views and feelings.

If that sounds familiar, that just means you’ve been paying attention.  Eric Holder’s recent statement to former DEA directors on the hopefully/potentially immanent passage of just that sort of decriminalization in California has been getting a lot of press coverage lately.   Holder isn’t really saying anything surprising when he asserts the DOJ’s strong opposition to Prop 19.  Just like it isn’t surprising that the DOJ will appeal US district court Judge Virginia Phillips’s injuction on the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that the Obama administration has been trying to end, and just like it isn’t surprising that they’re also going to appeal U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s finding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  As odd as it sounds, our current Attorney General seems to feel that it’s his role to enforce the laws that we have, rather than the laws that he and his boss want.

 

Remember when this doofus was the top cop in the country? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

Frankly, I’m not sure I understand all the hand-wringing from the progressives about this entirely-unsurprising discovery.  Wasn’t their complaint about Bush that he wasn’t following the law?

 

...that is to say, it used to be, back when we weren't doing it.

 

Well, okay, there were lots of complaints.  But I’m sure I remember hearing that one, too, among all the rest.

I don’t know about the rest of the complainers, but I voted for Obama – in part, anyway – because I wanted a return to rational, honest governance, not because I though he would just approve whatever I thought was right.  I wanted government to follow the law, and to improve it when they didn’t feel like it was effective, rather than just making shit up the way the Bush Administration did.  And for the most part, that’s just what we’ve had.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been happy to see more dramatic change – for instance, finding a way to fix Bush’s banking catastrofuck without simply handing bankers all the cash they wanted, or closing Guantanamo despite the difficulties, or choosing not to read my emails, etc. – but all things considered, I’m not unhappy, and I don’t think I understand why more people don’t share that sentiment.

 

At least the spelled his name correctly.

 

Well, that’s not entirely true, either; I suppose I do understand why all those Tea Party folks suddenly discovered that they cared about deficits as soon as Obama took office.  I’m just really surprised that anyone takes them seriously.

As I can’t seem to stop myself from repeating, if anyone deserves blame for the terrible economy, it’s the republicans who tanked it for us all, and then  decided that they’d rather see the country go down in flames than appease the black guy who happens to have been elected president of the US.

 

Remember when it was so important that we have "an up or down vote"? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

I’ll reserve a little of that blame for the weak-kneed democrats in the Senate who can’t seem to overcome the handicap of an almost historic majority to actually, y’know, pass any of that legislation that they were all elected to pass, but the two don’t really compare.

Still, it was gratifying to read that some people in law enforcement have an awareness of history, and understand what’s actually going on here.  I’m talking about the former San Jose Chief of Police, Joseph McNamara, who was recently spotlighted in an article from the stoner-friendly Huffington Post.  Here’s the money quote:

“As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies…”Passing Proposition 19 in California will undoubtedly kick start a national conversation about changing our country’s obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies.”

His view seems persuasive, and sensible.  It’s not like the Feds can just tell us that they’re planning to ignore their own laws, but at the same time, they’re not going to be able to oppose the will of the states if they all decide to decriminalize marijuana, and it’s starting to seem like all of the states are on the same page.

And all things considered, I’m kinda glad that the republicans have decided to abandon their traditional “states’s rights” argument rather than stand with the rational center of the nation on this issue.  Not because I woudn’t like to see the policy end that much sooner, but just because I don’t like the idea of sharing even a little ideological ground with these clowns.

 

Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org. Back before the Tea Party leaders knew well enough to avoid being photographed.

 

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23
Jul
10

Wind them up, wind them down

ABC’s “news” show, 20/20, will be airing a segment tonight at 10pm on kids using medical marijuana to treat OCD and ADHD.   I haven’t seen the trailer, so I’m interested to see how the show’s producers will segue from the anecdotal tales of successful treatment to the same old warnings about marijuana being a gateway drug.

In my last post on college students smoking away their time in college, I briefly addressed the far-more-troubling problems associated with abuse and overuse of truly harmful substances like alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, but I neglected to mention the most recent of the college-related drugs – the prescribed amphetamines like adderall and ritalin, used to “treat” all of those newly diagnosed attention-deficit problems.   Break up your pills and snort them before all-night study sessions, trade them with your friends, then restock from your most reliable dealer you’ll ever know – Mom and Dad and the family doctor.

As safe as jumping on a trampoline with scissors!

Having been a student before the onset of this new cultural craze, I was constantly shocked by the number of students who would approach me on the first day of class with their medical documentation, identifying themselves as part of that new class of students allowed to take more time on tests, while – in all likelihood – medicated to the gills by parents determined to fix their tragically broken children.

How on earth have we come to believe that a “normal” 18 year-old should be happy to sit in one place for an hour-long class, listening to someone twice their age talk about abstract concepts?  The problem is not just that we’ve been convinced to see that sort of unnatural behavior as normal, but that we’ve become convinced that anyone incapable of that sort of “normal” behavior needs to be treated into submission.  Given the widespread denial of evolution that’s taken place in this country over the past few decades, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the wholesale embrace of such an odd practice.   I’ll admit that the zombie kids hopped up on adderall perform better in the class than the stoner kids who are only marginally present, but they’re way more off-putting to deal with.  And that’s a drug habit that really is a habit, one that has the full support of the medical profession, the pharmaceutical industry, the schools and the family.

Check out this sad blog on living the ADHD drug lifestyle and tell me that any rational parent wouldn’t rather have their kids smoking a little weed.  At least stoners can still feel happy.

10
Jul
10

Putting the medical in medical marijuana

Someday, scientists will finally manage to take the fun out of pain relief.  This article from science guys shows why the “medical marijuana” political platform is a slippery slope to someplace other than where most of its supporters think it’s going.   Whee?

In rats, treatment with MDA19 effectively reduced specific types of neuropathic pain, with greater effects at higher doses. At the same time, it did not seem to cause any of the behavioral effects associated with marijuana.

Here’s my question:  What sort of sick bastard devotes his life to taking away the one thing that makes life as a lab rat bearable?  Oh well, maybe they’ll finally be able to focus on some way out of that cage.  Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep hiding from scientists.

What, me worry?

07
Jul
10

Interest, if not approval

Sure, newspapers are increasingly irrelevant, but I still found it telling that the L.A. Times website  devoted an entire “section” of the online paper to Marijuana today.

The upcoming election is the proximate cause, as this article on the potential benefits of Proposition 19 makes clear.  Here’s the hair-standing-on-end/hair-pulling upshot:

The Santa Monica-based, nonprofit research institute [Rand’s Drug Policy Research Center] predicted the cost of marijuana, which runs between $300 and $450 per ounce, could plunge to about $38 by eliminating the expense of compensating suppliers for the challenges of operating in the black market.

Scary, right?  Or enticing?  I guess it depends on where you stand.  At least the Rand Center had the good sense to follow-up by admitting that they don’t really know what they’re talking about:

The researchers noted that projections for marijuana use and tax revenues hinge on estimates of use, prices, how use changes with price, taxes imposed and evaded, and numerous other factors. The report is peppered with caveats about the assumptions researchers had to make.

One of the most amusing aspects of the study is that the savings come from legalization, but the assumption is still that the product will be grown in “1,500 sq foot houses.”  Why, exactly?  Once it’s legal, and inexpensive, why would anyone grow it in a house?

Oh, and there was no mention of the actual costs involved in producing the product, just the proposed market value. That’s the more troubling element, to my mind, signaling an ever-widening gulf separating those who grow (and those who know something about them) from those who don’t (and don’t seem to know that they don’t know something).   Hardly a new development, I suppose, but it’s something that’s about to become politicized in a new way.

Someone get Neil Young and John Mellencamp on the phone, cause it’s starting to feel like the 80’s all over again, and there’s a new class of farmer in need of aid.  On second thought, that didn’t work out so well for the farmers back in the 80’s, so maybe we could use a better model.   It makes me wonder, was there a time when people cared about food production, or was our interest just limited by our technology and our income?  It seems like the reason that most of the food most people in the US consume (that used to be grown by members of communities) is now grown by machines and humans who emulate machines is that most of those food-buyers don’t have a clue about how their food is produced, and frankly don’t much care.  That’s not a beneficial attitude for anyone still pulling for the humans.   And I don’t see much of a distinction here between growing food and growing cannabis, at least in the price structure supporting the individual grower.

Beyond all the variables that the Rand center can’t figure, the one clear (though unstated) finding the study supports is that the purchasers of the product aren’t much concerned with the interests of the growers of the product.  At least those farmers back in the 80’s had the sympathy of the people putting them out of business.  Emerald Triangle growers – you’re on your own.  And never mind L.A.; you don’t even have much support from your own community.  I’m always a little surprised to read comments from residents of the Emerald Triangle (like the ones on Kym’s recent post on the benevolence of community members who happen to grow) that feed the perceptions of those who don’t actually have any contact with the grower community up here – guns and pesticides and deforestation and water pollution and mexican mafias and so on – because they seem so unreal to me.

I’ve tried my hardest over the past year to meet up with as many growers as I could, and even the scariest of those folks don’t seem to fit the stereotype.  I’m not saying they don’t have guns, but – seriously – who doesn’t have guns?  My old neighbors in L.A. were all armed to the teeth, too, and all they had to protect was their iphones and xboxes.  I’m much more sympathetic to the view that Kym takes, and mostly because I’ve met lots of growers who donate to their community and I haven’t met any of the ones who do all the bad things they’re all blamed for.  I know there are some bad actors out there, but I suspect that they’re a tiny minority.  And I’d bet that we’ll see way more abuses once we run the individual farmers out of the business.

07
Jun
10

Leading and following

In an unexpected display of leadership, Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado just signed two bills regulating Colorado’s Medical Marijuana industry, providing clear rules for operators, patients, doctors and law enforcement officials.  Not everyone is happy about the regulations, but no one seems entirely unpleased and at a minimum, the laws provide clear guidelines.  You can read the details from the Washington Post report here, but here’s the critique from the cannabis activist community:

The measures face potential legal challenges from supporters who say they go too far, allowing communities like Vail, Aurora, Superior, Arapahoe County and Colorado Springs to clamp down on the industry.  “On the one hand, we are pleased it legitimizes this health care industry; however, we are concerned it may be overly strict and could cut off patient access to medication as a result of the dwindling number of dispensaries,” said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, a medical marijuana patients’ group.

At the same time, as if to emphasize the  contrast between Colorado’s statewide approach and California’s patchwork of regulations, L.A.’s city-wide attempt to play catch-up goes into effect today.  From the L.A. Times:

More than five years after the Los Angeles City Council began debating controls on medical marijuana dispensaries, Los Angeles Ordinance No. 181069 now takes effect…The ordinance shuts down more than 400 stores that opened in the last 2 1/2 years. Dispensaries that registered with the city in 2007 will have six months to comply with new location restrictions, which will force many to move to isolated areas.

How’s that going to work, you may ask?  For the shop owners who decide that they aren’t interested in making money anymore, I suppose they could just close up and go home.   Seems pretty unlikely.  For the rest, those who decide to live with the uncertainty, they’ll be faced with fines and intimidation.  From the same article:

City prosecutors have declined to spell out how they will enforce the ordinance. “Our next step will be to ascertain the level of compliance,” said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney. She said her office would rely on reports from police officers, building inspectors and neighbors to identify violators.

Like I said, fines and intimidation.  Or, they could just move to Long Beach, or Ventura, or the Inland Empire, or Orange County.  Or, they could head to the semi-underground – the home delivery market.  A report out today from KPCC California Public Radio calls attention to the ongoing absurdity of the California approach:

A flourishing and unregulated industry of pot delivery services is circumventing bans on storefront dispensaries and bringing medical marijuana directly to people’s homes, offices and more unconventional locations across the state, records and interviews show.

The unfettered delivery of marijuana through hundreds of these services highlights how quickly California’s fabled pot industry is moving from the shadows and into uncharted legal territory. These new couriers include enterprising farmers, business entrepreneurs and even a former Los Angeles pot dealer methodically switching her former clients to legal patients.

In other words, after five years of hemming and hawing, L.A.’s attempt to retro-actively regulate the industry that grew up around the initial attempts to regulate the industry produced a tiny legal speed bump that threatens to inconvenience some people while accomplishing very little.   Life  in the “Wild West.”

31
May
10

Support the troops, even when it’s inconvenient

I proudly served my country, and despite my grave dissatisfaction with the recent expressions of U.S. power, I feel my debt to U.S. servicemen and women in a profound way.   I know I’m far from alone in this sentiment, and even though we’ve become accustomed to using them as props, I’m happy knowing that respect for servicemen and women has become more of a default feeling than in the recent past.

Service comes with costs, as everyone knows.   I was fortunate.  I came out of my own service with almost no lasting problems and a whole host of personal improvements.  I know that I’m a better person than I was before my service, with a wider perspective on the world, a greater understanding of the inherent similarities of people everywhere, and a firm understanding of the tremendous privilege of being an American in a world rife with poverty, disease, oppression, commercial exploitation and hostility.

That’s not always the case, though.  In contrast to my relatively-benevolent experience, my partner came out of her service a little worse for wear.  She suffers from some permanent nerve damage, carries some lingering symptoms from a fairly intransigent infection and has a pretty typical case of PTSD.  I try to be understanding, but that’s not entirely in my nature so I fail from time to time.  Still I try to support her in her treatment and recovery, wherever that takes her and whatever is involved; part of that is helping her to improve her mental state.  I’m not the biggest fan of psychotheraphy, but I know that can be part of the solution for many people who have suffered as she has.  I have to admit, though, that I was a little shocked when my partner returned from a visit to a therapist with an unoffiial recommendation to treat her PTSD symptoms with cannabis.

Actually, that version of events messes with the narrative time-frame a little.   Like many who suffer from PTSD, she had been self-medicating for her symptoms even before she understood what was causing her problems and even before she started to see someone specifically for the PTSD.  True, she started out with a legal prescription to use cannabis to treat her debilitating migraines – and unlike all of the horrific prescription medications she’d tried before, the cannabis actually stopped her headaches, and without the raft of side-effects from the commercial-pharmaceutical options – but she soon found that the same medicine worked better at calming what she hadn’t learned to call her symptoms from the PTSD.

I’ve never been supportive of self-medicating.  In fact, I’m not a fan of medication in general.  I fear my pharmaceutical overlords much more than I trust them, and I’m not convinced that doctors can be trusted to shake off the enormous influence exercised upon them by those overlords.  That’s just part of the problem, though.  We’ve become a nation of pussies in many ways, and part of that is an overblown fear of pain.  Pain, in our current cultural climate, is something not to be tolerated.  I can’t count the number of friends and relatives who mindlessly swallow everything their doctors prescirbe them in the aftermath of even minor procedures and operations, without questioning how much of that crap is actually necessary and how much is simply convenient.    I don’t think I have a particularly high tolerance for pain, but I pride myself on not being a complete pussy, and I haven’t felt the need to deaden my senses after the last two surgical procedures I’ve had with anything more than aspirin or tylenol.  I have a stack of unused prescriptions for the harder stuff that I found to be completely unnecessary.  That’s not to say that powerful painkillers aren’t entirely appropriate in some circumstance and for some people; I’m just pointing out that pain meds are over-prescribed and over-used by a population that has stopped even considering the “whethers” and “whys” before automatically popping whatever pill comes their way.   Drugs are bad, ‘mkay?  Maybe cancer patients need Oxycontin, but do you really need smack to deal with an ingrown toenail?  I think not.  Maybe that’s just me.  Like I said earlier, being understanding is not entirely in my nature.

Anyway, as a result of my knee-jerk failure to empathize, I’d no doubt been harassing my partner about her increasing tendency to self-medicate.  So much so, that I’d convinced her to raise the issue with her therapist.  The therapist’s response?  “Good for you – in fact, you keep smoking your weed if that helps.”  I was shocked, if not exactly mollified.  It turns out, though, that she’d stumbled upon a fairly common solution, supported by some surprising cheerleaders, as the following article makes clear:

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is developing a national policy, and the head of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access believes a VA policy allowing medical marijuana “is inevitable.”

“We’re all on the same side,” said Michael Krawitz of Virginia. “My goal is a good outcome for the veteran, and that’s their goal…The irony in this … is it’s a common thing for veterans to tell me, ‘The VA is telling me if I just stay away from medical marijuana, we’ll give you all the pills you want, morphine, whatever,'” he said.

And it’s not just the hippie press reporting the efficacy of cannabis in treating PTSD.  Dr. Irit Akirav and research student Eti Ganon-Elazar, working at the Learning and Memory Lab in the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology recently published a report in The Journal of Neuroscience reporting on the promise of the weed – and nobody knows more about messed-up human brains than the Israelis, so I’m inclined to trust their study.

Anyway, to return to my original point, I’d like to offer yet one more reason to support the decriminalization of cannabis.  More than that, though, I’d like to suggest that we work a little harder to de-stigmatize the use of weed for the treatment of PTSD.  Our recent national adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have produced the largest population of returning, damaged soldiers since the end of the Vietnam War.  Those men and women served in dubious circumstances, but there’s nothing dubious about their service.   They deserve our support, in whatever way we can offer it.  If cannabis is better at treating the symptoms of the most ubiquitous harm that they’ll suffer as a result of their service, then we owe it to them to work to allow their doctors to prescribe them the best medication for their hurts.  Support our troops – but don’t just do it for yourself, and don’t just do it when its easy.  Give them what they need, rather than what’s convenient.

21
May
10

Atlas Shirked, or, the Problem with Relying upon Libertarians

Following his surprising primary win in Kentucky, Rand Paul has become only the most recent public figure to reveal libertarianism as the sadly-deficient political ideology that it is; the hobgoblin of small-minded people.  Like his namesake, Ayn Rand, Paul has risen to prominence by touting a philosophy that appeals to the ignorantly-selfish, blindly-privileged masses lacking in the sort of rational perspective it takes to see the uneven playing field upon which we all find ourselves, those unwilling to see their own privilege when it becomes inconvenient.

All things being equal, libertarianism might be an appealing philosophy.  Call me when all things are equal.

If you’ve missed the entertaining display of political expediency and public ignorance recently emerging out of Kentucky’s Republican primary race, here’s Paul on the the Rachel Maddow Show, flailing to defend his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and institutional racism, in general):

Paul has been busy spinning his increasingly-contradictory views ever since, trying to make it look like he has some reasonable arguments underlying his objectionable viewpoints; and he’s been excoriated in the press and the blogosphere – mostly because he doesn’t.  As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out in his post, “The Proud Ignorance of Rand Paul,” these sorts of views seem to make sense in an inverse proportion to the amount of knowledge actually involved.

And this is where the problem comes closest to home – Cannabis activists have been overly-dependent upon libertarians for support for some time now, and that dependence might just become a problem as the realities of legalization set in.    After all, at some point, practical rules will be implemented to manage the coming out party for this billion dollar industry, and if there’s one thing Libertarians are bad at it’s the implementation of practical rules.

Bill Maher may be a useful spokesperson for the movement, but he’s no politician and politicians bring their own set of problems.  First of all, there’s the problem of consistency.  As Rand Paul’s own candidacy reveals, libertarians can be as changeable with respect to their deeply-held convictions as any other pol, and sometimes the appealing face of libertarian purity is simply a mask for the more typical biases of conservative populism.   Paul is running for office in Kentucky, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but even though he seems perfectly fine opposing the Civil Rights Act on ideological grounds, he doesn’t seem as consistently committed on all issues.   As Time Magazine reports,

Paul has lately said he would not leave abortion to the states, he doesn’t believe in legalizing drugs like marijuana and cocaine, he’d support federal drug laws, he’d vote to support Kentucky’s coal interests and he’d be tough on national security.

So watch out for those political winds, because the support you count on may blow away when elections hang in the balance.

But there’s another, even more significant problem lurking behind the appealing face of libertarian support for legalization, and that is that libertarianism seems appealing in inverse proportion to the practicality of its tenants.   Those paranoid fears of big business taking over the industry?  That’s exactly what a libertarian regime would bring about (if any such thing could exist).  Not because libertarians favor big business, but because libertarians turn a blind eye towards the routine exercise of practical power.   They choose not to acknowledge the realities that exist, because doing so would undermine their ideological positions, but that willful ignorance is the same as tacit acceptance of the status quo.  Just because you believe in a level playing field doesn’t mean it exists, and businesses have perfected the art of unleveling playing fields in the U.S.  for good reason – because it profits them to do so.  Turning a blind eye to that practice only makes their jobs a little easier.

I’ve been railing against the Tea Party movement lately, and not just because it so clearly basks in the racist, nativist, xenophobic climate of the aging conservative movement, but because it celebrates a platform of non-governance.  Non-governance in the abstract might sound appealing, especially given the problems that governance has presented us with for much of the 21st century, but given the practical power exercised in our society by business forces, retreat is surrender, and I’m not in favor of turning over the levers of power to the business interests who already have their greedy hands on too many of those levers.  Flawed though it may be, government is all that stands between the unimpowered citizenry and the evil that men do.  Attacking the sole force capable of representing our collective interests against those forces seeking to exploit our weakness is simply insane.  And if you had to come up with a philosophy that enshrines that sort of insanity, you’d call it libertarianism.

All things being equal, we wouldn’t have to rely upon government to protect our interests.  Call me when all things are equal.