Mayor Sees Complexities of Pot

Mayor Sees Complexities of Pot
Posted by CN Staff on September 25, 2007 at 12:53:03 PT
By Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Source: Daily Bulletin
Rancho Cucamonga, CA - When it comes to questions about marijuana, Don Kurth rarely has yes or no answers. Rancho Cucamonga's multifaceted mayor likes to begin his sentences with, "on one hand," then moments later add "on the other hand." He can go back and forth like this for hours - his way of demonstrating that the seemingly endless debate about marijuana isn't black and white. In the vast expanse of gray that lies between, all the nuances to such a heated issue should be fleshed out, he said, but instead are often ignored.
On one side, marijuana advocates want the controversial herb legalized because it helps those suffering from certain illnesses, and hasn't been proved to be especially harmful when used recreationally. For decades, smoking marijuana has been as ubiquitous as underage drinking, advocates say, and it's only the out-of-touch federal government that considers it an illegal substance. Across the aisle are those who think the illicit drug might cripple communities, leading to crime and debauchery. These people think pot dispensaries let the drug seep into schools and onto the streets. With high emotions on both sides, Kurth, 58, said it's hard to get society to a middle ground. "I don't think anyone would want a society where the majority of people lead unproductive lives and don't contribute to society ... smoking pot all day or smoking opium all day long," he said. "On the other hand, if people like having a drink at the end of the day or socializing with friends, going on a wine-tasting tour in Northern California - I don't think there's any harm in that. ... Is there a role for marijuana in that? Maybe there is. There seems to be. "There's a lot of people who smoke on a recreational basis. I'm not so rigid that I think we need to stop people from having fun." It may seem that his middle- ground approach is just a politician's way of pandering to a large crowd. But Kurth's diplomacy springs from a life of many roles. In addition to his work at the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center as chief of addiction medicine, he is mayor of a growing and affluent city, and has the opportunity to influence policies at the heart of the marijuana debate. In fact, like many other city leaders in the Inland Valley, Kurth initiated a temporary ban on the establishment of pot dispensaries in Rancho Cucamonga. But his past experience with drug addiction is what colors his views on the topic with such an interesting light. As a young man, Kurth had a bitter battle with drug addiction. At age 12, he had his first drink. At 16, he tried marijuana, his first drug. "The '60s were a different era," said Kurth. "Drinking was more passe. Marijuana was the thing to do." Pot was not his downfall. The New Jersey teenager became a heroin addict and, just shy of the legal drinking age, hit bottom. Drug rehabilitation began his turnaround. Once clean, Kurth earned an Ivy League education, graduating cum laude from Columbia Medical School. In the debate over whether marijuana is a gateway drug, Kurth believes that it's not so much the substance that opens the gate as it is the genetic makeup of the user. Smoking marijuana may make a person lower their defenses against the desires to take other drugs, he said, but it's their genetic makeup that makes them more likely to be chemically dependent. "There are a lot of examples in society today where people who smoke marijuana in high school and in college stop, and they want to end that period in their lives," said Kurth. "Other times, people smoke intermittently throughout their lives and may be professional, tax-paying citizens. "But it's not that way for everybody, and that's the problem. Those of us who are in the field of chemical dependency see all too often where it does cause a problem, where people are using marijuana or other drugs on a daily basis." Marijuana addicts are not admitted to the chemical dependency unit where Kurth practices, but he said those who use it in conjunction with other drugs are. Kurth said physicians have not reached a consensus as to whether marijuana as medicine has value, though studies support pro and con views. "Most physicians don't think it's medicine," said Kurth. "As a physician, I think there's some evidence that it helps some people. I don't know how you can deny that. "If people with serious, potentially lethal illnesses are saying it's helping them get through the day, what's the harm? Why not let them have some relief? But if every 18-, 19-year-old claims to have fibromyalgia or a headache and needs to have unlimited marijuana to have fun with friends, that's not the way to go." For it to be used as medicine, said Kurth, it needs to be regulated and distributed by physicians and in doses recommended by physicians. In other words, pot needs to be treated the same way as mainstream medicine. "It's hard for us to dispense three joints," said Kurth wryly. "Milligrams, we know about. But how many tokes on a bong? I don't have any training in that." As mayor, Kurth said he has an obligation to prevent medical- marijuana dispensaries from opening and causing problems in the city. Rancho Cucamonga has no such dispensaries, but in May, the City Council banned the establishment of them for 101/2 months. The decision followed similar moves made by Norco, Pomona, Ontario and many other communities. The temporary ban gives cities time to weigh the outcomes of court cases hashing out the conflicting state and federal laws governing medical marijuana. "The federal government says one thing, and the state initiative says something else. As a city, we're kind of stuck in the middle of it," Kurth said. The fear that pot from marijuana dispensaries could be abused and sold to addicts and young children has spawned a backlash against Proposition 215, the initiative that legalized the use of medical marijuana in California. But Kurth said the government shouldn't necessarily clamp down on marijuana use. Using scare tactics against pot would actually encourage drug experimentation, he said, especially when people realize that the government is overreacting. "Historically, our government has taken a hard-line view against marijuana, which may not always have a scientific foundation. When people begin experimenting with marijuana, they'll realize, `These things aren't true. It's really not a demon weed ... reefer madness,"' said Kurth, referring to the 1930s propaganda film. People who try marijuana and realize it's not the lethal drug the government makes it out to be may assume the government is lying about all drugs, said Kurth. "I'm not so moralistic that I think smoking pot is the end of the world," said Kurth. "There are lots of worse things to do."  Pot Through The Ages Marijuana has been used for centuries as a recreational and medicinal drug. A brief look at how humans have used cannabis through the ages: 2737 B.C.: The writings of Chinese emperor Shen Nung detail marijuana's medicinal value as a treatment for rheumatism, gout, malaria and absent-mindedness. 1000 B.C.: Marijuana is used as a recreational drug in India. 1500s: The Spanish are believed to have introduced marijuana to the Western Hemisphere, but historians disagree on how cannabis left the Old World. Other researchers contend the drug was transported during the slave trade or brought to the Americas in the late 18th century by migrants from India. 1611: English colonists grow hemp in Jamestown for its value as a fiber. 1850-1942: Marijuana is listed in the United States Pharmacopeia as a drug for the treatment of labor pains, nausea and rheumatism. During the 19th century, the drug was frequently prescribed by doctors and also was available without a prescription. Late 1800s: By this time, cotton has displaced hemp as an important crop in the southern United States. Some patent medicines employ marijuana, but snake-oil salesmen are more likely to use opium or cocaine in their potions. 1906: The Pure Food and Drug Act is enacted. The law requires that prescription medicines be approved by the federal government and mandates that potentially habit-forming drugs carry warnings. The law deals a heavy blow to the sellers of patent medicines. 1914: The Harrison Act becomes law. It is the first federal law to criminalize nonmedical drug use. The law places restrictions on morphine, opium and cocaine. Marijuana is not mentioned in the law's text. 1920s: Recreational marijuana use picks up among musicians and showbiz types during the Jazz Age. 1930s: The U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics engages in an information campaign to portray marijuana as a dangerous and addictive drug. 1936: "Reefer Madness," initially titled "Tell Your Children," is released in cinemas. The anti-marijuana film has developed a cult following for what some say is its exaggerated depiction of the dangers of marijuana use. 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act requires people possessing or selling marijuana to register with the Internal Revenue Service and pay a special tax. The law laid out heavy fines and jail terms for unlawful possession and since compliance was so difficult, the law effectively banned marijuana. 1960s: Marijuana becomes a popular drug among young people during the rise of the "counterculture." Marijuana and LSD are still regarded as keystones of the hippie life. 1970: The Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that it is legally considered to be medically useless and subject to the same prohibitions as heroin. 1996: California voters pass Proposition 215 legalizing medical-marijuana use in the state. Federal law continues to prohibit medicinal cannabis use. 2000: California voters pass Proposition 36 allowing first- and second-time nonviolent, simple drug possession offenders to receive substance-abuse treatment instead of incarceration. 2007: Law-enforcement officers in the Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley uncover illegal marijuana operations inside a slew of grow houses. Officials in multiple inland cities enact moratoriums and consider prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries. Sources: Narcanon International, Internet Movie Database, Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, a collection of documents accessible at: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)Author:  Wendy Leung, Staff Writer Published: September 25, 2007Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper GroupContact:  letters dailybulletin.comWebsite: Article:Gray Areas: Conflicting Laws Lead To Arrests
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Comment #10 posted by ekim on September 26, 2007 at 11:44:40 PT
seems like longer than just two months ago
US: U.S. Mayors Declare Drug War a Failure
URL: wonder what has happen to Mayor Booker of NJ
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Comment #9 posted by mayan on September 26, 2007 at 05:18:13 PT
I'm sure Bush could answer that!
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Comment #8 posted by whig on September 25, 2007 at 22:31:00 PT
Don't cokeheads need cannabis to deal with the side effects?
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Comment #7 posted by mayan on September 25, 2007 at 18:08:29 PT
But Kurth said the government shouldn't necessarily clamp down on marijuana use. Using scare tactics against pot would actually encourage drug experimentation, he said, especially when people realize that the government is overreacting.Almost everyone is already using cannabis except for the neo-cons, and they use cocaine. Paradigms of all sorts are on the verge of shift. Things will never be the same and that could be good or bad. It is up to us to decide.THE WAY OUT IS THE WAY IN...Seven CIA Veterans Challenge 9/11 Commission Report:"9/11 Blueprint for Truth" Film ~ Northampton, MA: Tancredo Meets the Student Scholars for 9/11 Truth (video): TV News' "WebNation" interviews Dylan Avery (video): an Inside Job: WAS AN INSIDE JOB - OUR NATION IS IN PERIL:
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Comment #6 posted by RevRayGreen on September 25, 2007 at 18:04:06 PT
On this hand
I have a joint....on the other hand I have a
a minute or three I'll PTM to your hand.
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Comment #5 posted by whig on September 25, 2007 at 16:34:58 PT
Where pharmaceuticals are concerned there is a very narrow margin of safety, thus the dosage must be carefully regulated to provide an effective quantity of the medication without doing more harm than good or even causing serious health problems or death in some cases.Cannabis cannot be overdosed to cause harm or death. If you need more than you are taking to get a desired effect, take more. If it seems too much and you are finding lower doses more beneficial, reduce your dose or frequency.Want a suggestion? Eat more cannabis. That's what my doctor advises, and it does seem to help. Hemp is good food.
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Comment #4 posted by OverwhelmSam on September 25, 2007 at 16:19:04 PT
We're Circling The Drain
Developing the people's clout enough to stop the drug war, or the war in Iraq means more than just showing the government who's boss. If we don't stop the government, the monetary system is going down and us with it. Probably right about the time Social Security shuts down, housing prices fall to about $5,000 or free and the national debt is so high that it cannot be repaid. We are not far from there now.I recommend the storage of canned goods, lots of them. Find a rural area to live and get a gun lest you discover human nature when everyone is literally starving to death. In the mean time, I think I'll smoke this bowl. Click!
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Comment #3 posted by Had Enough on September 25, 2007 at 14:43:39 PT
Higher Education…
needed???“"It's hard for us to dispense three joints," said Kurth wryly. "Milligrams, we know about. But how many tokes on a bong? I don't have any training in that."”Now that’s the first I’ve heard it put in that manner, similar, but not quite like that.What’s next, bong schools???Yep that’s what’s next. The lawmakers will have to go to work and start requiring stuff again.Before a doctor can recommend cannabis, they must have completed an approved course in the use of a bong and joint rolling procedures. All weights shall be measures in Milligrams as to avoid confusion. With minimum 12 hr annual continuing education courses, approved by the state…
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Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on September 25, 2007 at 14:10:56 PT
Worried Little Cowards
"Across the aisle are those who think the illicit drug might cripple communities, leading to crime and debauchery. These people think pot dispensaries let the drug seep into schools and onto the streets."Makes me vomit sick to think that adult American men and women can behave and believe like such total chicken shit yellow belly cowards. How can they face each day in such total fear of everything. Please people, get a grip on marijuana use you cowering cowards.
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Comment #1 posted by dongenero on September 25, 2007 at 14:07:45 PT
as needed.
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