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February 2005
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Illinois Medical Marijuana Hearing tomorrow morning

Reminder: 8:00 am. Human Services Committee Hearing. Stratton Building Room D-1. Springfield, IL. We’d love to have some supporters there (wear a suit and get there about 15 minutes early). There’s a bus coming from Chicago, leaving at 4 am. Contact me today and I’ll give you the number to arrange for taking the bus. If you’re coming from Bloomington-Normal, you can hitch a ride with me.
The Illinois Medical Cannabis Act (HB 407)śwas introduced in the House of Representatives on January 26 by Rep. Larry McKeon.ś

Creates the Medical Cannabis Act. Provides that a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition and the person’s primary caregiver may be issued a registry identification card by the Department of Human Services that permits the person or the person’s primary caregiver to legally possess no more than 12 cannabis plants and two and one-half ounces of usable cannabis. Provides that a person who possesses a registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for the medical use of cannabis; provided that the qualifying patient or primary caregiver possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 12 cannabis plants and two and one-half ounces of usable cannabis. Amends the Cannabis Control Act to make conforming changes consistent with the Medical Cannabis Act. Effective immediately.

Full text available here.

Putting a leash on Drug Dogs

I’ve discussed at length my problems with the Supreme Court decision in Caballes (allowing suspicionless dog sniffs of cars), and the road that this decision could take us down. Even now, I understand that there’s a case from a few years ago regarding a suspicionless sniff of a home that may be brought to the […]

Stupid Legislator Tricks

Switching to Washington… Drug Warrior Mark Souder is holding a hearing in his pet subcommittee — The Committee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources — titled: “Is There Such a Thing as Safe Drug Abuse?” Have you ever heard such a pre-judged title? This is what passes for a legislative hearing in Washington. […]

BREAKING NEWS. Andrea Barthwell, caught red-handed (updated)

Not only has Andrea Barthwell been touring Illinois misleading people about the facts about medical marijuana, she has also claiming that her Illinois Marijuana Lectures were sponsored by Great Lakes Addiction Technology Transfer Center (GLATTC), an organization that “promotes state-of-the-art addiction science” and is funded through federal taxpayer dollars (through SAMHSA) and partners with such agencies as the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Well, that sponsorship turned out not to be true, either.
You can understand her desire to have such a group associated with the lecture series — it appears to lend scientific credence to what she’s saying.
But I was curious as to the appropriateness of using federal tax dollars to lobby against a medical marijuana bill in the state legislature (particularly on the heels of recent GAO findings that the Drug Czar’s office had engaged in illegal public relations activities), so I did some checking.
GLATTC is administered by the Jane Addams School of Social Work, which is part of the University of Illinois, Chicago. Here’s the response I got from the University of Illinois Legal Counsel’s office.

“Thank you for your interest, Mr. Guither. Your inquiry has been passed to me for review. The Great Lakes ATTC’s name was used in connection
with the lectures without UIC’s permission, and the persons involved
with the lectures have been so notified.”
[Note: I have not included here the name of the University Counsel or others I contacted at GLATTC, UIC, or elsewhere, because I didn’t think it was necessary. Quite frankly, the University is the one who was wronged here (along with the public), and they were quite forthcoming and prompt in responding to my inquiries. If there are members of the press who need a name to verify this information, please feel free to contact me directly.]

Now, before you say, “Oh, so she mistakenly added an extra name to her list of sponsors on her web site – that could be an honest mistake.”
No. In fact, other than Andrea Barthwell and Judy Kreamer (the lecture presenters) there’s only one co-sponsor: GLATTC. Check out the screen shot of the sponsor page (the web page itself should have GLATTC removed, but as of the time of this posting it had not).

And on the brochure/flyer: Note how GLATTC is shown as the sponsor both in text and in logo, and right near the text that talks about how the Illinois Marijuana Lectures is including lobbying efforts.

Download the flyer at IllinoisMarijuanaLectures.com (pdf)
If the first one has been corrected, you can download the original version of the flyer here (pdf)

A history of deception
Andrea Barthwell is a former Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, where her job was to oppose medical marijuana, regardless of the facts. The function of the ONDCP as charged by Congress was one of propaganda. In fact, the GAO said as much (pdf) in a reply to Representative Ron Paul who was complaining about incorrect information being disseminated by another Deputy Director:

“… while the Deputy Director’s statements pertaining to marijuana may be disputed by some with different viewpoints, they were made within the context of ONDCP’s statutory responsibilities, which include taking such actions as necessary to oppose efforts to legalize certain controlled substances such as marijuana. … Given this role, we do not see a need to examine the accuracy of the Deputy Director’s individual statements in detail.”

In other words, the ONDCP’s purpose includes lying. Not a good background for the credibility of Dr. Barthwell.
Clearly, I’m not the only one appalled by Dr. Barthwell’s deceptions. Today’s Sun Times has a letter from Representative Larry McKeon, sponsor of the Illinois medical marijuana bill.

As a legislator, I am used to political disagreements, and I enjoy a
healthy debate. But when a former White House official crisscrosses
our state, deliberately spreading misinformation about a proposal to
protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, that’s where I draw the
line. …

I welcome an honest debate about my medical marijuana bill, but let’s
base that debate on facts, not spin. Illinoisans deserve better than
Andrea Barthwell’s travelling con job.

And that’s what it is, folks — Andrea Barthwell’s travelling con job.
Representative McKeon also noted that Dr. Barthwell used “cruel hoax” to refer to medical marijuana. This is a phrase she uses all the time, and yet she is the one who is pushing the cruel hoax: by denying the tons of data supporting the medical benefits of marijuana, and trying to prevent sick and dying patients from following the recommendations of their doctor. And if that wasn’t cruel enough, she wants those sick people put in jail for daring to want to relieve their pain or nausea.
In addition to lying about the evidence regarding the efficacy of medical marijuana, Andrea Barthwell adds further deceptions about marijuana and its use. One of her favorite claims is that today’s pot is so much more potent it’s creating problems of addiction and dependency.

“She is just not living in the real world on this issue,” [Bruce Mirken of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project said].ś “A lot of things she talks about are blatantly not true, especially when it comes to medical marijuana.ś There is precisely zero medical evidence that higher THC levels in marijuana causes more dependence.ś As far as potency goes, there is an average of 7 percent THC potency in medical marijuana in the United States.ś That’s less than half the minimum potency standards set by the government in the Netherlands for medical marijuana sold in pharmacies in the Netherlands.”

She also talks about higher levels of youth in treatment for marijuana and infers that this is an indication of marijuana dangers — something the government’s own numbers refute.
Unfortunately, Andrea Barthwell is often assumed to be a qualified expert due to her medical background and her background in government service. Certainly, she is entitled to give her opinion. But it should be clear by now that she cannot be considered credible or an expert in this subject.
I hope that we’ll be able to have a good discussion of medical marijuana in the Illinois legislature this year — without the distraction of Andrea Barthwell’s travelling con job.
Updates:

Monday afternoon: Andrea finally removed the GLATTC logo from the sponsor page (although it’s still on the downloadable flyer, which is unacceptable). She’s also added a Take Action page. (It had always been clear that the Illinois Marijuana Lectures were a thinly disguised lobbying effort against medical marijuana — now even that thin disguise has been removed.
Excellent OpEd in today’s Chicago Tribune: Fighting for your life shouldn’t be a crime by Montel Williams.

You may know me as a television talk-show host, but I am also a criminal. My crime? Using the medicine that has allowed me to live a normal life despite having multiple sclerosis.

I’ll be at the hearing on Thursday. Come and join me! Hearing info: Human Services Committee Hearing Feb 17 2005 8:00 AM Stratton Building Room D-1 Springfield, IL. If you’re interested in attending, drop me a note and I’ll give you a few tips.

Quote of the day

Tommy Chong in an AP story today:

Chong said he isn’t ashamed of introducing millions of Vietnam-era kids to marijuana. “When you think of how many kids died drinking alcohol, I feel I’ve saved millions of lives,” he said.

Drugs in Latin America

An article worth reading in the Economist: Battles won, a war still lost:

At the last count by the United Nations, in 2003, land under coca in Colombia was down to 86,300 hectares (213,200 acres) from a peak of 163,300 hectares in 2000. In 2004, contractors working for the United States sprayed herbicide on 136,555 hectares of coca, a similar amount to the previous year. That points to a further decline in cocaine production last year, according to John Walters, who heads the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

In 2004, almost 150 tonnes of cocaine were seized in the country, a third more than in 2003, while 1,900 cocaine labs were destroyed, 40% more than in 2002. Mr Uribe has extradited 166 Colombians to face drug charges — and probably a life behind bars — in the United States. They include Gilberto Rodr‚guez Orejuela, who as head of the Cali drug mob ruled the trade a decade ago. American officials say that they have squeezed the drug revenues of the FARC guerrillas and their right-wing opponents, the AUC. “We’re moving in one direction. The bad guys are losing and the people in Colombia are winning,” says Mr Walters. Those who see it otherwise “want this thing to fail”.

Yet to many people across and beyond Latin America, the Andean drug trade seems as effective and dangerous as ever. The most telling evidence is the price of cocaine. According to the Washington Office on Latin America, an NGO, the ONDCP’s own figures, released to Congress but not yet to the public, show that in the United States a gram of cocaine wholesaled for $38 in 2003, down from $48 in 2000 and from $100 in 1986, with no fall in purity.

It’s really quite simple. It doesn’t work. In the past, I’ve compared eradication efforts there to this child’s game, and this cartoon fairly accurately depicts interdiction efforts.
Yet we continue to pour money down this black hole and help ruin the lives of Latin American citizens.

Thanks, filchyboy

I had to temporarily suppress all humility to post this one, but I couldn’t resist. It’s such a wonderful post from Christopher Filkins that means a lot to me, and I wanted to share it:

I’ve been reading Salon Blogs since, well, when they started (or at least publicly available) me thinks. There are some […]

Read these…

“bullet” Via Last One Speaks, comes this fascinating and delightful piece by Dana Larsen: What’s In Popeye’s Pipe?

The evidence is circumstantial, but it is there, and when added together it presents a compelling picture that, for many readers at least, Popeye’s strength-giving spinach is meant as a clear metaphor for the miraculous powers of […]

Illinois Action Alert

The Illinois Medical Marijuana bill will have an initial hearing in the Human Services Committee on Thursday, Februaryś17 at 8:00 a.m. in Springfield. I plan to be there and am hoping to bring others. It should be fascinating.
In the meantime, if you live in Illinois, check out this Action Alert from NORML and contact your state representative. If you have friends or relatives in Illinois, have them contact their representatives. It’s easy.

Lawmakers react to budget

When I saw this headline:

Lawmakers Criticize White House Drug War Budget

I thought… “Finally, somebody’s got their act together and they’re not going to put up with the administration increasing the federal drug budget by $268 million at a time when we should be slashing it dramatically.” But no.

…but lawmakers from both parties […]