The Green Party has a chance to claim the medical-marijuana issue for itself. With polls showing three quarters of the American people favoring legalization for medical use, a cannabis-friendly image would propel the Greens to new heights of popularity.
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, a Green, has been at the center of the action as San Francisco figures out how to regulate cannabis distribution. Some 40 clubs are now operating in the city. More than a month ago, Mirkarimi scheduled a hearing for April 25 to discuss “sensible regulations. Then, on March 22, Mayor Gavin Newsom asked one of his favored supervisors, Michela Alioto-Pier, to move for a 45-day moratorium on new clubs. The Chronicle portrayed Newsom as being aghast that a cannabis dispensary was planning to open at a city-funded hotel serving the destitute -and the would-be proprietor immediately withdrew his application. By nightfall Newsom’s slight hint of retreat had been magnified 100X by Bill O’Reilly (see next item).
Mirkarimi kept the post position by calling for the moratorium himself. Alioto-Pier co-sponsored his motion, which passed unanimously. “It’s a little bit awkward for someone who believes fervently in the decriminalization of medical marijuana to be calling for a moratorium on dispensaries” Mirkarimi acknowledged, “but if we don’t get want to see federal intervention, San Francisco has to get its act together.” He was alluding to the fact that whatever the city allows or creates with respect to medical marijuana, the DEA will be free to destroy if the Supreme Court rules against patient Diane Monson (who was growing her own) and Angel Raich and the caregivers who grew for her. The Raich case ruling could come any day now.
At the public comment session preceding the vote on the moratorium, proprietors of existing clubs and their advocates lined up to say they welcomed regulation. Points made by ordinary citizens: “There wouldn’t be all these clubs if there wasn’t a need.” And “Bear in mind that when you tax the clubs it gets passed down to the patients.”
About a dozen clubs were racing to open as the moratorium was imposed, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be deterred by the moratorium. A Planning Department official told Suzanne Herel of the Chronicle, “If they didn’t need to move a wall or something, then technically you wouldn’t need a building permit, and there’s no way they’re really on our radar screen at that point.”
What happens next in San Francisco was a major topic of speculation when 450 NORML members convened in San Francisco Thursday 3/31. Mirkarimi gave a welcoming talk and was thanked for his support. Optimists are fantasizing about consumer protection, price controls, organic standards, record keeping that facilitates medical research, etc. etc. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance said “the whole world will be watching how San Francisco handles this issue.” Kevin Zeese, a Green who stuck with Ralph Nader in ’04 (as his press secretary), worries that onerous restrictions might be imposed. “This is a city with 2,000 bars and they’re acting as if 37 cannabis clubs have created a crisis.”
Dr. Frank Treats
Mr. Bill Frank Lucido, MD, of Berkeley was invited on Friday 3/25 to discuss medical marijuana on Bill O’Reilly’s TV show Monday 3/28. He accepted, and spent the next few days thinking about the questions he might be asked, planning his responses, and looking forward to the opportunity to educate millions of Fox News viewers. Unfortunately, during the course of the interview, O’Reilly’s OCSR (Obsessive-Compulsive Self-Righteousness) reached clinical proportions, and Lucido had to calm him down and restore a semblance of normalcy to the conversation.
O’Reilly is a self-proclaimed “family-values guy,” married with two young children. Last Fall a female producer named Macris, grossed out by his come-ons, taped one of his amorous phone calls. She filed only one court document before Fox News paid her $6 million to not pursue a civil suit. Their ace demagogue had been caught on tape proposing to come up behind Miss Macris in the shower and do something to her with a loofah (a vegetable-fiber sponge). At some point in the conversation O’Reilly called the loofah a “falafel.” Keith Olbermann on CNBC and Alex Cockburn on CounterPunch.org made rich sport of the Macris affair, but the rest of the media cut O’Reilly slack.
While the episode was unfolding and for about three weeks thereafter, Big Bill’s OCSR symptoms, the uncontrollable sneering and bullying, were muted. But now it’s as if his hypocrisy never had been exposed; he gets worked up and the OCSR kicks in and the “guest” is lucky to get a word in edgewise. Here’s is an extended excerpt from the 3/28 show:
O’Reilly: …California’s marijuana law allows people with legitimate pain to purchase pot, but I think the whole thing is a DODGE, and I’ve said that. Anyone can buy marijuana legally in California. So we sent Fox news producer Chris Spinder to check…
Spinder: We went into three different cannabis clubs and I attempted to be able to buy the cannabis without the doctors’ recommendation. And all three of these clubs turned me away without this recommendation. I couldn’t buy the cannabis. However, two of the clubs gave me the business card of a doctor who they said would be able to give this recommendation. And I went to make an appointment. It turned out to be a kind of walk-in clinic. I waited in line for about an hour and a half. At which point [I got] 15 minutes with the doctor in his office. Asked me a few general questions. Name and address. And then he printed out a form letter. And on that form letter it said that I was now under his care and that he recommends that I…
O’Reilly: What illness…were you sick, were you like in pain, was, what was going on?
Spinder: We just had a general discussion about my medical condition.
O’Reilly: Did you have cancer or glaucoma or any of that? Do you have any of that?
Spinder: I do not.
O’Reilly: WOW! (shaking his head, smirking with disapproval) So, basically, he didn’t even give you an exam.
Spinder: He did not examine me at all. No, as a matter of fact…
O’Reilly: No blood test or anything like that.
Spinder: He sat on the other side of his desk, behind his laptop computer I sat on the other side…
O’Reilly: All right, so he just looks at you and he gave you the uh recommendation as they call it. How much did that cost?
Spinder: Two hundred and fifty dollars in cash.
O’Reilly: Wow! Two hundred and fifty bucks! You walk out, you walk back to the little pot clinics with this and then they sell you up to eight pounds you can buy in there, right?
Spinder: Actually, up to eight ounces according to California law. And most people usually buy between an eighth and a quarter of an ounce.
O’Reilly: Now what did that cost?
Spinder: Sixty-five dollars for an eighth of an ounce.
O’Reilly: So you’re in now for 315 bucks for an eighth of an ounce. That’s a lot of money. But, you did it legally, and you can do it as many times as you want, they didn’t take the recommendation away from you, right?
Spinder: No, there’s no expiration date on this particular recommendation
O’Reilly: So you can buy up to eight ounces of pot as many times as you want for ad infinitum. Correct? Spinder: Correct. O’Reilly: All right, thank you, Chris. (raising his voice) Doctor, come on. DOCTORRRR! COME ONNNNN. This is legalized DRUG DEALING. Go.
Lucido (after a beat, realizing that “Go” was his instruction to talk): I don’t like to see poor quality medicine. What this sounds to me is like the worst stories I’ve heard about HMOs. You wouldn’t believe how many patients come to me when I require documentation. I say, “You need to talk to your doctor about your pain,” they say, “why should I… They’re just going to give me pills… as many Vicodin as I want.” I’m not saying this is good. I’m saying-
O’Reilly: But I’m saying that this is what it is. It’s a ROOOZE. It’s a DODGE. Even Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, says IT IS A FRAAWWWWD. It’s legalized marijuana in California. I mean doctor, if you write somebody one, you examine them, right?
Lucido: I do. I spend 45 minutes with patients, I require documentation of diagnosis, I require they have a primary care doctor that they’re discussing their serious illness with every year. My standards are actually onerous to people who don’t have enough money to have a primary care doctor, or if they don’t have faith in the medical system.
O’Reilly: Two-hundred and fifty BUCKS for this recommendation, that’s outrageous.
Lucido: (soothingly) That sounds excessive.
O’Reilly: You know the guy didn’t do an exam it’s two hundred and fifty bucks, he types your name in, he gives you the thing. This is a SCAM. It’s a CON. Every doctor in California should be outraged. Are you?
Lucido: I don’t like this. It’s really bad business practice as well as bad medicine. O’Reilly: What are you going to do about it, doc? Lucido: I’m going to talk to the Medical Board, as I always have. And I’m going to challenge the Medical Board to start looking at the HMOs with the scrutiny that they’re looking at the medical cannabis doctors. They’ve investigated 12 of the 20 most outspoken doctors -I was one of those doctors- and the doctors I know have high standards. What you’re telling me doesn’t sound very good, but this is a minority.
O’Reilly: (bottom line) This is huge scam. I’ve got to run doc, but we’re going to follow up on this. It’s off the charts a scam.
Funny whose transgressions get forgiven and forgotten in America. AARP, The Magazine, recently spiked a story about medical marijuana after it was revealed that the editor who assigned the story had worked for High Times in the 1970s! But Bill O’Reilly, who rode to fame flogging Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, is exposed as a sexual harasser and manages to ride on… Closer to home, several top UCSF administrators who helped plan and direct the disastrous, short-lived merger with Stanford have been named to run California’s multibillion dollar stem-cell research program. Leadership roles in a multimillion dollar boondoggle were not held against them one little bit!
PS from Dr. Anonymous:
While my name wasn’t mentioned on the O’Reilly show last night, I was the doctor in LA who gave the letter to Fox’s “patient.” While the Fox producer didn’t mention it on air, our 15-minute consultation talking “in general about his medical history” was in fact a discussion of his 12-year history of migraine, worse in the past three years. We discussed alternative treatment options. In the end, he said, “God bless it (marijuana)” because it helps him so much.
If O’Reilly was being honest, and if the reporter/patient was being honest, they would have mentioned that the stated complaint was migraine, a serious illness for which cannabis is obviously indicated.
A Second Opinion from Tom O’Connell, MD
If Dr. Anonymous were being completely honest (and ethical), he wouldn’t be charging $250.00 for a limited fifteen minute ‘conversation’ about migraine in which he obviously accepted the “patient’s” claim to have that condition as a reasonable basis for using pot. At best, he’s running a lucrative business on false pretenses because he can’t have also taken much of a look at the patient’s general health– let alone his use of a controversial ‘illegal’ drug.
Quite apart from discussing the patient’s complaint and inquiring routinely about key emotional symptoms, I also establish when they first tried pot and how they have used it in the interim because I know that every valid candidate has a history of (at least) remote prior initiation and/or recent patterned use.
It’s my protection against ‘plants’ like the one used. If they are able to lie convincingly about being current pot users, they are also guilty of fraud and I have little to fear from their “expose.”
FRED GARDNER can be reached at: email@example.com