Saturday, August 29, 2009

Newspaper Has Hard Time Taking Medical Marijuana Seriously. Here's My Response

The following is a response to a piece in the Contra Costa (CA) Times, in which columnist Tom Barnidge expresses his skepticism about medical marijuana, asks "What's up with this scam, anyway?" and says he "has a hard time taking the whole issue seriously."

By Steve Elliott, Reality Catcher

Tom -- or should I say Mr. Barnidge? -- it's fine having skepticism about the value of medical marijuana. Skepticism is a healthy trait, and it's certainly good journalism.

However, persisting in that skepticism even after being confronted with the evidence is not so good. And it's especially not good when you feel your skepticism gives you a license for mean-natured snickering, poking fun and implying that most medical marijuana patients are faking it just to get high.

It's true that there are always a few people who manage to work the system in their favor. But if the system, as it currently stands, allows one or two people who may not strictly need medical marijuana for every patient who obtains (in many cases life-saving of life-altering) relief, then what would you do? Would you deny relief to the one, just to deny the high to the other?

Barnidge: narrow-minded?

Considering the overall tone of your story and how you chose to both begin and end it, I believe it's fair to say that you are unconvinced. But whether or not you, yourself, choose to be convinced by the evidence, or whether you choose to believe in the value of medical marijuana to many patients, is irrelevant, really -- because it works.

Criticizing medical marijuana precisely because of its usefulness -- its efficacy in fighting the misery and discomfort produced by a variety of diseases -- seems particularly disingenuous. Would you feel better about medical marijuana if it treated only one condition? Well, here's the news flash, Mr. Journalist: There are hundreds of medical studies to show that pot is effective in treating every single one of the diseases Dr. Gieringer mentioned to you, and many more besides.

The pity is, that in your smirking sarcasm, you are going to be justifying, in many readers' minds, the narrow-minded prejudices they already have regarding the medical use of marijuana -- prejudices that have been inculcated in them, among other channels, through inaccurate media coverage. Well, like this piece for instance.

It would have been great if you could have fostered more understanding and dialogue between medical marijuana patients and the general public, rather than feeding the mistrust and the fear that many members of the public have about pot.

As a medical marijuana patient, let me say that if you don't trust the medical studies, and you don't trust the law, then maybe you can open your heart to trust the ill people to whom marijuana brings relief, when we tell you that, yes, it does work. If you believe you are in some sort of moral position to make judgments on those people and to disregard their testimony, then you are mistaken.

Maybe you enjoy laughing up your sleeve. Maybe you think it looks smart or cultured to adopt a debonair pose of having "a hard time taking the whole thing seriously." That's fine, if you like that sort of thing.

But for those of us who really are seriously ill, who really have conditions which can be effectively treated by medical marijuana, you should know that it makes you come off exactly like a thoughtless jerk, reveling in his own ignorance.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fresno's Freakin' -- But Marijuana Dispensary To Stay Open

Medmar Clinic is under legal attack from the City of Fresno.

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

​You've gotta pity the poor, put-upon city officials of Fresno. After all, they've only had 13 years to suss out Proposition 215, this newfangled medical marijuana law that's being forced upon their fair city by more progressive Californians. And, heck, it's only been a little over half a decade since the legislature amplified and clarified the intent of the law with SB 420, opening the door for medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.

So what have they been doing all that time? It's hard to say, actually. But one thing seems pretty clear: They didn't find much time to study the law.

The city of Fresno is trying to shut down Medmar Clinic, the first medical marijuana dispensary in town -- along with seven other city dispensaries -- via the monumentally lame move of filing a suit through its city attorneys. But on Thursday, a judge said Medmar did not appear to post an immediate threat to public safety.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch":
Chronic City: Fresno's Freakin' -- But Marijuana Dispensary To Stay Open | Digg story

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Aptly Named 'Joint Resolution' Succeeds; California Senate Urges Change in Federal Medical Marijuana Rules

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

​By a 23-15 vote, the California State Senate on Monday approved a "joint resolution" urging the federal government to stop Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raids on medical marijuana patients and providers. The Sen. Mark Leno-authored resolution additionally calls for the nation to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it."

Marijuana advocates say recent enforcement activity, including DEA arrests following a raid in Upper Lake, Calif. last week, underscore the need for Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14, introduced by Leno in June. Although both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have signaled willingness to change federal policy on medical marijuana, the Administration hasn't come forward with an actual implementation plan.

"Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subject of federal raids," Leno said.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the S.F. Weekly blog, "The Snitch":

Chronic City: Aptly Named 'Joint Resolution' Succeeds; California Senate Urges Change in Federal Medical Marijuana Rules

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vancouver PD Railroading Medical Marijuana Patient To Settle A Score?

Sidney Delaplaine at home in Vancouver, Washington, August 2009

Life in small town America has its perks, but things can get pretty damn iffy pretty damn quickly when you piss off the local cops.

Of course, that couldn't be the reason Sid Delaplaine is facing a long prison sentence, could it?

Could it?

Piling On The Charges For Medical Marijuana

In 2006, Vancouver, Washington medical marijuana patient Delaplaine grew 21 plants in his backyard (not in public view) for his annual supply of medicine. "I had already cut six of them; 15 were still growing," he told me. Then one day in October, the Vancouver Police Department raided his home and took all the plants, along with a couple of guns.

Delaplaine was charged with manufacturing and selling marijuana, with charges enhanced because of guns, even further enhanced because a school bus stop is in front of his house.

The harassment didn't stop with the raid. "They've been dogging me for three years," Delaplaine told me. "Every time the cops have had an opportunity to come to my house and roust me, they did."

Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth The Cop

Sid Delaplaine's daughter used to be a dispatcher with the Vancouver, Washington Police Department. She loved her job. And it bothered her a lot when she noticed back in 2006 that calls for help from one of the officers, a native of India named Navin Sharma, somehow seemed to result in a certain lack of response from the other officers.

Surely such nasty racial prejudice wouldn't exist among members of the esteemed police force of Vancouver. But then, there it was. When Officer Sharma called in, sometimes the other officers just wouldn't respond at all.

Trying to do the right thing, Delaplaine's daughter reported what she'd observed to internal affairs. But her confidence was broken by one or more officers, and soon she found herself blackballed.

Despite becoming the victim of what looks a lot like a case of blaming the messenger by the Vancouver PD, Delaplaine's daughter's testimony helped Officer Sharma eventually win a settlement of $1.65 million in September 2008. Sharma said he faced discrimination and retaliation after he won an earlier settlement from the city. His attorneys said the city seized upon minor mistakes Sharma made on drunken driving reports as a pretext for firing him.

Not surprisingly, California consulting firm Matrix, recently hired (to the tune of $46,440) by the Vancouver PD, told them they have significant problems with poor morale, inadequate communication, organizational dysfunction and labor-management unrest. The consulting firm reached these conclusions after a four-month study of the department, focusing on its internal affairs and disciplinary processes.

In employee surveys conducted as part of the study, a miniscule 5 percent of respondents within the Vancouver PD said there was a "positive organizational culture" in the department.

Not surprisingly, lawsuits, arbitrator rulings and internal investigations have had a negative effect on the department, the consultants concluded. "Morale is poor," said Brown Taylor, a Matrix consultant and former police chief himself (Los Altos and Mountain View, CA). The scandal-plagued department has gone through nine police chiefs in the past 19 years.

Rather than accepting the obvious findings of the consultants, apologizing, and promising to do better, the police union reacted with suspicion and hostility. "With the current climate we have, without us trusting the administration, guild members aren't convinced that it would lead to a fairer process," said Ryan Martin, president of the Vancouver Police Officers Guild. "We can't trust they will make the appropriate decisions anyway. So why would we give up a right that protects our members?"

There now, that's a great, productive attitude to have, Officer Martin. Good to see you're more concerned with protecting misbehaving cops than, you know, being held accountable and stuff!

Chris Sutter, assistant chief for administration in Vancouver, said the department started a working group in 2008 to examine these issues, but quickly ran into opposition from the union. "They have been very reluctant to recommend any changes," Sutter told the Columbian newspaper. "In fact," added Police Chief Cliff Cook, "they won't put anything in writing."


So there you have a brief summary of the Vancouver police officers' "constructive" reactions to criticism.

Now, just because one brave young dispatcher helped to expose racism, cronyism and corruption in the local police department, that wouldn't result in what looks a lot like vindictive, petty retaliatory actions from the cops themselves, would it?

Would it?

Douglas Hiatt (photo courtesy of NORML)

What You Can Do

Seattle activist attorney Douglas Hiatt is taking on Sid Delaplaine's case pro bono. But as the upcoming trial is in Vancouver, he and a couple more volunteer attorneys will have to spend the time (probably a week or more) in a hotel and will incur considerable expenses.

Hiatt needs our help in meeting and defraying those expenses; his goal is to raise $5,000 to ensure that Sid Delaplaine receives a fair trial with the best defense possible.

Please send what you can; anything helps:

Douglas Hiatt
3161 Elliott Ave., Suite 340
Seattle, WA 98121

If you'd rather contribute online, you can donate to the anti-Drug War group The November Coalition.

Be sure to include a note with your donation that it is intended for Douglas Hiatt, and the money will go towards defending Sidney Delaplaine:

Donate to Douglas Hiatt via

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Marijuana Moratorium - How To Ignore The Voters And The Law

Dispensary moratorium: Latest political fad?

One by one, across California, the lights are winking out.

In city after city, town after town, patients who had dared hope they would at last have safe access to the medicine recommended by their physicians are having those hopes dashed by political cowardice, inertia, and the status quo.

In case you haven't noticed, medical marijuana is yet another front in the culture wars. Conservative hamlets which aren't yet ready for the 21st Century notion of patients being legally allowed to treat themselves with cannabis are turning off the light of hope for those who have already waited 13 years for the hope of Proposition 215 to become a reality.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch":
Chronic City: Marijuana Moratorium - How To Ignore The Voters And The Law | Digg story

Saturday, August 1, 2009

R.I.P., Captain Trips: Jerry Garcia Would Have Been 67 Today

Captain Trips was a majestic conduit of pure Being when he played the guitar. He wove soaring, wailing sonic explorations of space and time, heartache and joy which took ecstatic Deadheads along for the ride.

Jerry could take the ineffable, the wordless and express it with breathtaking eloquence and sensitivity and nuance. When Uncle Jerry plugged in, he didn't just plug into an amp. He plugged into Godhead itself.

Happy Birthday and Thank You, Jerry!

The whole thing is remembering, this is who we are. Remember who we are? We are in reality a group of misfits, crazy people, who have voluntarily come together to work this stuff out and do the best we can and try to be as fair as we possibly can with each other, and just struggle through life. ~ Jerry Garcia

You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do. ~ Jerry Garcia

Death comes at you no matter what you do in this life, and to equate drugs with death is a facile comparison. ~ Jerry Garcia

I think it's too bad that everybody's decided to turn on drugs, I don't think drugs are the problem. Crime is the problem. Cops are the problem. Money's the problem. But drugs are just drugs. ~ Jerry Garcia

If we had any nerve at all, if we had any real balls as a society, or whatever you need, whatever quality you need, real character, we would make an effort to really address the wrongs in this society, righteously. ~ Jerry Garcia

jerry garcia Pictures, Images and Photos

What we do is as American as lynch mobs. America has always been a complex place. ~ Jerry Garcia

“Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.” ~ Jerry Garcia

“You need music, I dont know why.It's probably one of those Joseph Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic and bliss, and power and myth, and celebration and religion in our lives and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.” ~ Jerry Garcia

It's pretty clear now that what looked like it might have been some kind of counterculture is, in reality, just the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness. ~ Jerry Garcia

Nobody stopped thinking about those psychedelic experiences. Once you've been to some of those places, you think, "How can I get back there again but make it a little easier on myself? ~ Jerry Garcia

What's been great about the human race gives you a sense of how great you might get, how far you can reach. ~ Jerry Garcia

Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us. ~ Jerry Garcia

What we're thinking about is a peaceful planet.
We're not thinking about anything else. We're not
thinking about any kind of power. We're not
thinking about any kind of struggles. We're not
thinking about revolution or war or any of that.
That's not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt.
Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would
all like to be able to live an uncluttered life.
A simple life, a good life.
And like think about moving the whole human race
ahead a step, or a few steps.

~ Jerry Garcia