FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

AARP Gets Pot-Baited

by FRED GARDNER

AARP The Magazine, a bimonthly that reaches some 25 million Americans, is under attack by prohibitionists and rightwing flacks for having commissioned an article on medical marijuana and the elderly. AARP The Magazine has been “holding” the article -not publishing it- for more than six months. The man who wrote it, L.A. Times reporter Eric Bailey, asked AARP The Magazine for a release this week so he could try for publication elsewhere. AARP editor Steve Slon assured Bailey that his piece is still being considered (i.e., no release). Slon denies that he’s been holding the piece in response to political pressure or on orders from AARP’s CEO, Bill Novelli.

AARP the organization is under attack by corporate interests out to privatize Social Security. Chris LaCivita and other p r. strategists who orchestrated the vile “Swift Boat” ad campaign against John Kerry, are now working for an outfit called USA Next, which, according to the New York Times 2/21, “plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP…’They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts,’ said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. ‘We will be the dynamite that removes them.'”

USA Next has “spent millions in recent years vigorously supporting Bush proposals on tax cuts, energy and the Medicare prescription drug plan,” according to the Times piece by Glen Justice. There is nothing illegal about a lobby and the White House coordinating to push legislation; as the Times reports, “Several huge business lobbies, like the Business Roundtable, have become closely linked to Mr. Bush’s plans for Social Security and have assembled coalitions to promote the proposals across the country.” The fact that USA Next is maintaining its distance from the White House suggests that their tactics will be execrable.

AARP The Magazine features editor Ed Dwyer has made some big tactical blunders that fanned the flames of disapproval. Asking Eric Bailey to write it was not one of them. Bailey is a neutral observer, not an advocate. When he began covering the medical marijuana story for the L.A. Times, he had no special interest in the subject. The straightness of his reporting has won him the trust of activists, doctors, and patients as well as cops, DAs and politicians. When he got the AARP assignment he could call on a wide range of contacts, including Dr. Philip Denney (who has approved cannabis use by thousands of patients), and stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld (who gets his medical cannabis from the U.S. government), and Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (who co-sponsored legislation that would make the feds honor state medical-marjuana laws), and many others. By late June Bailey had completed a 6,000 word piece. Dwyer suggested some edits and cuts, Bailey made them, and by early August he considered the piece finished and publication assured.

Some of the people Bailey interviewed told others that the piece was in the works and word ricocheted around the movement that there would soon be an article in AARP The Magazine. Your correspondent wrote an item in early September, concluding “There’s no more appropriate readership for a story on this subject than AARP’s.”

Bailey was led to believe, initially, that the piece would appear in October ’04, in the issue dated November-December. Then Dwyer informed him that it would be held till the January-February ’05 issue. (One can infer that the higher-ups at AARP did not want to run a piece that might influence the election. Editor Slon says no, late-arriving ads reduced the number of pages available for editorial content.)

In November Dwyer arranged for AARP The Magazine to commission a survey in which 1,706 adults aged 45+ expressed opinions on medical marijuana. Nationally, 72% agreed that “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.” Dwyer publicized the results, which he said would appear in the March-April issue, along with an article on medical marijuana. The AP picked it up and Jay Leno based a joke on it: “Nearly 75 percent of elderly Americans approve of the legalization of medical marijuana. And you thought grandpa used to forget stuff before!”

In December, High Times Magazine published its 30th anniversary issue, which contained recollections by former staffers, including… Ed Dwyer, who was an editor there from 1974-1978. What was the man thinking? By recalling his “dope-fueled mission” in fond terms, in print, Dwyer played directly into the hands of the prohibitionists who -alerted by the publicity around the medical-marijuana poll- had it in for AARP The Magazine. Once they started Googling, the righties learned that Dwyer had written for Playboy and his boss, Slon, once worked for Penthouse

Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media wrote a hit piece Dec. 29 shifting the focus from Bailey’s forthcoming article to Dwyer’s ancient behavior (“From Pot to Porn to AARP: How the Seniors Magazine is Aiding the Dope Lobby”). And Drug Watch International, Joyce Nalepka and other prohibitionist operatives launched a postcard writing campaign effectively pressuring AARP not to run Bailey’s piece.

In a phone interview Feb. 25 Slon said, “We’re not going to run it at the moment. We still hope to run it, uh, soon.” His explanation of why the piece didn’t appear in March-April made little sense. “When it came time for that issue, we kind of felt that we had scooped ourselves. We had gotten the attention for the idea, therefore that weakened the case for that story going into the next issue.” In other words, having successfully publicized the Bailey piece, AARP The Magazine didn’t have to actually run it.

Slon feels the self-pity of the centrist. “AARP gets attacked all the time. We’re being attacked as pro-gay marriage, as anti-gay, as pro-war, as anti-war. The left attacks us for signing up for the prescription drug bill. We get it from all sides and we’re used to that.” He reiterated that editorial decisions are made without consulting CEO Novelli (a former p.r. man who once wrote a forward for a book by Newt Gingrich). “Holding this is not a political decision,” Slon declared. “It’s a terrific story, fair and balanced, and we hope to run it. I have an inventory of two years’ worth of stories that we haven’t run for one reason or another… The only problem I have with the story is that it’s sort of been done. The story of people who are suffering and not getting their medicine, that’s been done.”

But not in AARP The Magazine.

Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance on Feb. 25 addressed a strong, cogent letter directly to Novelli. “… the organizations involved in this assault on AARP may be loud but they are also tiny and lie at the fringes of the drug policy debate. They lack any credibility in the medical and scientific communities, and their positions are at odds with the conclusions and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and other distinguished scientific organizations. Please do not buckle under pressures of this sort. “I urge you and the editors of AARP The Magazine to run the medical marijuana article soon. I know that AARP has much bigger fights on its hands right now and that this dispute over the medical marijuana article may feel like a costly and unnecessary diversion. But the issue of whether or not AARP The Magazine decides to delay a reportedly fair minded and balanced article because of attacks by fanatics raises larger ethical issues….”

It would not only be ethically right for AARP The Magazine to run Bailey’s piece, it would be tactically smart. As their own poll shows, 72 percent of their readers know generally that marijuana has medicinal effects, and presumably they’d appreciate learning more. Medical marijuana is unlike every other topic about which the government is lying, in that the American people know the reality. Most people don’t know for sure whether democracy is being established in Iraq or whether privatizing social security will benefit them or whether the Kyoto accords will slow global warming. But most people do know, first-hand or from someone they trust, that marijuana is safe and effective medicine.Only by publishing Bailey’s piece can AARP The Magazine shift public attention away from their editors’ swinging youth and onto the health benefits that older Americans might obtain from cannabis.

FRED GARDNER can be reached at journal@ccrmg.org FRED GARDNER can be reached at journal@ccrmg.org

 

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail