Commentary: Tough Love for Medical Marijuana

  Commentary: Tough Love for Medical Marijuana

Posted by CN Staff on March 22, 2005 at 18:38:16 PT
By Hil Anderson 
Source: United Press International 

Calif. -- San Francisco's move Tuesday to temporarily rein in the opening of any new medical-marijuana clubs in the proudly liberal city by the bay could now turn into a step toward public acceptance of cannabis as a respectable medical treatment.The proposed 45-day moratorium on club openings would give the city time to draft a method of regulating the existing marijuana clubs that could serve as a template for other cities nationwide and would prevent the high-profile upscale city of San Francisco from becoming home to a shadier breed of pot purveyors whose clientele are chronic dope users.
"I believe medicinal marijuana is appropriate and right," first-term San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle Monday. "I also think there needs to be some common sense and grounding as it relates to the proliferation of these clubs in San Francisco."The sprouting of marijuana clubs in San Francisco, or any other city that allows the use of pot as medication, would conceivably provide the proof that opponents of medical marijuana would need to conclude that the entire concept was merely a poorly disguised means of legalizing a potentially dangerous drug."This is hyperbole," Newsome warned, "but we are conceivably walking down a path that would allow for a club on every street corner in San Francisco."By requiring licenses, zoning restrictions or some other type of permit for marijuana outlets, the city would be putting its imprimatur on the facilities that are currently allowed to open freely and operate with little or no government supervision; San Francisco is already home to 30 percent of California's 125 medical-marijuana outlets.While such outlets might be technically legal, the very fact that they dispense a felony drug -- depending on the quantity -- puts them in the same outlaw category to many critics as crack houses and public nuisances that should be shut down at the earliest legal opportunity.The Bush administration has made no secret of its official disdain for even the concept of legalized medical marijuana. The Justice Department has consistently maintained that the weed has no proven medical benefit and that, therefore, it's nothing more than an oxymoron, or the "big wink" in drug circles.A 2002 raid by federal drug agents on a Bay Area provider of medical marijuana led to a court challenge in which the plaintiffs steadfastly alleged that they were protected from prosecution by Proposition 215, a measure passed by progressive California voters allowing the use of marijuana if recommended by a doctor.The plaintiffs have prevailed thus far, although the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled that Prop 215 didn't violate federal interstate commerce laws and did not address the merits of medical marijuana.Meanwhile, the issue is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, where legal analysts have thus far given mixed predictions on the government's chances of overturning the liberal-bent 9th Circuit.Should the proponents of medical pot prevail, their entire movement could be easily unraveled by the maverick actions of some bad apples that would no doubt spring up in the absence of stringent controls by local and state authorities.Allowing medical marijuana in the first place has been derisively chided as a means of opening the door for legalized marijuana -- replete with trumped-up "prescriptions" carried by determined card-carrying pot heads. If an unsupervised and wholesale expansion of marijuana clubs is allowed, it could be only a matter of time before some high-profile busts take place involving distribution to people who simply aren't sick but wish to get stoned with impunity on a regular basis.And there goes the neighborhood. It is not unreasonable to assume that addicts and other unsavory characters would gravitate to neighborhoods around such free-wheeling clubs, possibly leading to higher crime rates and declining property values. Such a development would swiftly turn the public against the entire medical-marijuana movement regardless of its merits, and that would leave patients who actually do get some relief from lighting up forced to obtain it from underground dealers.Such an ugly scenario cropped up in San Francisco last week when a marijuana club opened its doors in a downtown hotel leased by the city to provide housing for the down-and-out, including a lot of recovering addicts struggling to get back on their feet.Complaints from hotel residents appeared in the media, catching the city off guard and prompting Newsom, the same mayor who issued an order allowing gay marriages, to call for the 45-day moratorium on new club "openings."Some cities in California have already put caps on the number of marijuana clubs they will allow to operate, and -- somewhat surprisingly -- opposition to the restrictions from the marijuana movement has been virtually nil.Marijuana advocates, in fact, contend that local controls benefit everyone by putting police and patients on the same page of the law books. In a letter made available to city and county commissions throughout the state earlier this month, the East Bay advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, maintained, "Medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives can be a positive part of a community.""When properly regulated and operated, they will prevent lawful patients from unnecessary and potentially harmful entanglements with illicit markets or law enforcement," wrote Executive Director Steph Sherer. "They will also be a key element in ensuring that patients are legally qualified and well educated about their rights and responsibilities under the law."The sentiment reflects the fact that voters in California and 11 other states have passed measures allowing their chronically ill neighbors to seek relief by smoking marijuana, but they didn't intend their humanitarian gesture to lead to a dope-dealing bazaar; San Francisco's decision to put the brakes on at this time reflects that sentiment and will lay the groundwork for an orderly role for medical reefer.Newshawk: MayanSource: United Press International (Wire)Author: Hil AndersonPublished: March 22, 2005Copyright 2005 United Press InternationalWebsite: Contact: nationaldesk upi.comRelated Articles & Web Sites:Americans For Safe Accesshttp://www.safeaccessnow.orgMedical Marijuana Information Links Declares Moratorium on MMJ Clubs News Medical Marijuana Archives

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Comment #6 posted by john wayne on March 23, 2005 at 22:17:04 PT
upscale and high-profile chronic dope users
"the high-profile upscale city of San Francisco from becoming home to a shadier breed of pot purveyors whose clientele are chronic dope users. "Mr. Cliche-Ridden Writer, did you know that some of those "chronic dope users" are also upscale and high-profile? Maybe even more upscale and high-profile than third-rate UPI hacks.
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on March 23, 2005 at 09:43:09 PT
Sam Adams - Ignore the man behind the curtain 
Masterpiece of logic and emotional clarity.
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Comment #4 posted by Sam Adams on March 23, 2005 at 08:17:27 PT
Ignore the man behind the curtain
Ah, yes. Allow the sick and ill to use cannabis, but only if it's done in a way that allows us to continue scapegoating and demonizing the CHRONIC pot-heads to make us feel better about our own failings and shortcomings.Keep drinking your nightly wine and beer, San Franciscans. Eat your ice cream and chocolate and get fat! Don't worry, you're fine. You're NOT chronic alkies or anything. The REAL dopers are those dirty potheads! E-gad, a marijuana shop on every corner....that would be almost stores! Or Walgreens, selling toxic over-the-counter meds like Tylenol and Advil. 
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Comment #3 posted by potpal on March 23, 2005 at 07:25:07 PT
recovering addict
...recovering marijuana addict for 19 years...give me a break.Good arguement for HARM reduction.I've been a recovering catholic for 30 years...;-)
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on March 22, 2005 at 20:58:48 PT

News Article from
County, Health Groups Launch Marijuana InitiativeBy Gig Conaughton - Staff Writer March 21, 2005San Diego, Calif. -- Radio, music, television, movies and businesses are giving marijuana a good name ---- and that has to stop, County Supervisor Bill Horn and a slew of drug-prevention organizations said Monday at a press conference at the county administration center.Calling themselves "Health Advocates Rejecting Marijuana," or "HARM," Horn and representatives from the organizations said they were kicking off a public relations campaign to counteract some popular culture and remind parents that marijuana is a harmful drug. Horn and the group said surveys conducted by the state and the San Diego Association of Governments, a regional planning agency, show that more younger children are reporting they're trying or using marijuana ---- and that they think it's relatively harmless. 
They said those results are not surprising because popular culture inundates teens and children with the message that marijuana is funny and harmless.Drug-prevention officials such as John Byrom of the Tri-City Prevention Collaborative said some radio stations promote pot and observe "mandatory Marley" time every day, in reference to deceased reggae icon Bob Marley, who was famous for his marijuana use.Meanwhile, Byrom and others said, "head shops" that teens and children can patronize sell all kinds of drug-use paraphernalia ---- sending them the message that drug use must be OK because you can freely buy the equipment to use it."When I walked into my first head shop when I was 13, it changed the way I thought about drugs," said Byrom, a 50-year-old counselor who has been a recovering marijuana addict for 19 years. "I walked in and said, 'Look, they (drugs) must not be so bad. They've got a whole store for it."Officials said Monday that the truth was that marijuana, like alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin or others, is harmful.The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still list marijuana as a major public health problem, saying that it is known to impair short-term memory, make it harder for users to learn, decrease sperm count, interfere with ovulation, impair immune-system response and ---- like tobacco ---- hurt lung function. It's possible that the drug also leads to cancer and lung disease, according to the centers.At Monday's press conference, Thomas Alexander, manager of the juvenile substance abuse programs in the county's probation department, said marijuana today is much stronger than it was when it became the drug of choice for the "hippie" generation in the 1960s."Now, it's like 200 times stronger," he said. "The marijuana being smoked now is very potent stuff. It's a very harmful substance for our young."Meanwhile, a 16-year-old San Diego teen who identified herself only by her first name in order to protect her anonymity said marijuana use nearly ruined her life.Karina, a recovering addict, said she has not smoked marijuana for about a year, and that she was introduced to smoking grass by her older sister when she was 13."I think about two years went by, and ... I don't know, I was just getting into trouble," Karina said. "My grades were definitely going down. I kind of stopped caring. It was like, I just wasn't enthusiastic about anything."Meanwhile, Judi Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth said teens using marijuana can also encounter disastrous short-term effects ---- car wrecks and traumatic injury or death."The whole drugged-driving thing is a real concern, especially in our North County population," Strang said. "because nobody drives as much as our North County kids."Byrom, meanwhile, said the newly created "Health Advocates Rejecting Marijuana" have long-range plans.First and foremost, he said, the coalition hopes to use public events to help get the media to spread the message to parents that marijuana is not a joke, but a drug to be reckoned with.Next, he said, the group hopes to entice local cities to enact new laws ---- just as the Tri-City Prevention Collaborative was able to convince city of Oceanside officials to do ---- that would re-classify drug-paraphernalia selling "head shops" as adult businesses.Oceanside officials voted in 2003 to classify head shops as adult businesses.Contact staff writer Gig Conaughton at (760) 739-6696 or gconaughton nctimes.comCopyright: 2005 North County Times
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Comment #1 posted by Patrick on March 22, 2005 at 20:00:21 PT

The Crux
Of the matter is…The Justice Department has consistently maintained that the weed has no proven medical benefitWhile the people have consistently maintained and documented time and time again the 5000 years of medical benefits of the weed. Not to mention hundreds of other practical uses that all our ancestors gained from farming the plant throughout history. It’s only in the last 70 years of recorded history that the U.S. government viciously prohibits cannabis sativa to the point that the most harmful effect of using cannabis on the human body today comes from the political persecution of arrest by an armed police force that makes a criminal out of someone for something as benign as choosing wine over tea. Literally by the point of a gun the government lays claim to our individual liberty to grow a God given plant and to grow enough of it so that we’ll have some to last until the next year’s harvest. This is about control and power and not about good government. If this scenario is not a prime example of the violation and assault on our individual liberty then tell me what is? Forcing someone to live yet another year as a vegetable? The human spirit seeks freedom. That includes the freedom to pass into the next life with dignity.The Federal government seeks control of individual life and liberty and the the crux is it should be protecting it.God willing the gift of the cannabis plant will belong in the medical pharmacopeias again. Prohibition will end. And a new era of exploration and freedom will dawn on mankind.

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