Andrea Barthwell, caught red-handed

(2/13/05)

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).

A picture named Bwebpage.gif

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.

A picture named Bhighlightedflyer.jpg
  • 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]. “A lot of things she talks about are blatantly not true, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. There is precisely zero medical evidence that higher THC levels in marijuana causes more dependence. As far as potency goes, there is an average of 7 percent THC potency in medical marijuana in the United States. 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.

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