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The Prohibitionists’ Manifesto

by FRED GARDNER

“Marijuana Dispensaries and the Federal Government: Recommendations to the Obama Administration” is a well researched, smoothly argued, copiously annotated Prohibitionist position paper that recently appeared on the California Police Chiefs Association website. The authors of the paper were not listed in the CPCA version; the title page simply said “Presented by Friends of the DEA.”

In addition to CPCA and the California Police Officers Assocation, the paper was “endorsed by” some 25 front groups promote the Drug War.

This is the paper’s bottom-line message: “Requiring the DEA unequivocally to take a ‘hands-off’ approach, no matter how egregious the dispensary’s practices, will not serve the best interests of patients. Uncontrolled proliferation of these dispensaries will seriously undercut our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug approval system and deprive patients of important regulatory protections. Such a result will defeat the Administration’s avowed desire to support and follow the results of sound science.”

FODEA turns out to be an Arlington, Virginia lobbying group run by a lawyer named Michael Barnes who had been a Bush appointee to the Drug Czar’s office.

Barnes told CounterPunch that FODEA is changing its name but we didn’t ask “To what?”  Barnes said he had co-authored the position paper with Andea Barthwell, MD (also a former Drug Czar operative with ties to the drug-treatment industry), and that it was published in the Summer 2009 Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice.

The paper is a salvo in the battle being waged for the hearts and minds of Barack Obama and Eric Holder. The Prohibitionist strategists understand that their best chance of containing the medical cannabis industry is in the name of “Science” and, to use the jargon of Barthwell and Barnes, “within the parameters of modern regulatory oversight.”

Pre-empting any critics who might point out that modern regulatory oversight routinely allows the foisting of deadly pharmaceuticals on the American people, the authors primly note, “the FDA drug approval process is not perfect, as demonstrated by recent news about previously-unknown dangers of marketed medications, such as Vioxx.” This is a gross lie pretending to be an expression of humility. The dangers of Vioxx were not unknown to Merck, they were ignored because profits loomed.

The reference to Vioxx is footnoted, of course -Barthwell and Barnes document every lie- and the citation itself a lie, too. (“FDA Estimates Vioxx Caused 27,785 Deaths,” Nov. 4, 2004).

The figure of 27,785 deaths caused by Vioxx is about half the number projected by Dr. David Graham, the FDA scientist who blew the whistle on Merck. Even so, it’s almost 10 times the number of people killed by terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. And 27,785 is but the number of deaths caused by Vioxx -it doesn’t take into account the estimated 100,000 people disabled by heart attacks and strokes.

This year on Sept. 11 the TV news showed a woman reading aloud the names of those killed in the attack eight years ago. No one ever reads aloud the names of Merck’s victims. Merck was not denounced as a terrorist organization.  The U.S. government continues to do business with Merck.

Terrorists wreak death and destruction intentionally, claiming they have some noble purpose. Merck execs knew from an early clinical trial that Vioxx caused coronary damage. The execs’ response was to exclude from future trials anyone with a history of heart trouble! Once the drug was on the market, Merck intentionally suppressed data showing it caused strokes and heart attacks at twice the normal rate. Dorothy Hamill twirled on the ice and “It’s a beautiful morning” lilted from every TV in the land as Merck pushed a drug that CEO Ray Gilmartin and the other top bosses knew would kill people.

Now Merck is pushing Gardasil. Thirty-two deaths reported so far. They can’t give it to the boys because it’s too painful, the boys won’t come around for the second injection… They want to make it mandatory for girls!

Fortune and Men’s Eyes

How marijuana became legal” is the audacious title of the cover story in Fortune Magazine this month.

Author Roger Parloff describes the rapid, dramatic proliferation of dispensaries in California. He was especially impressed by the Farmacy in LA, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, and Peace in Medicine and Sebastopol. Like Barnes and Barthwell, Parloff  says the future of the industry depends on whether or not the Obama Administration constrains the DEA.

“Eric Holder, confirmed at a press conference that he would no longer subject individuals who were complying with state medical marijuana laws to federal drug raids and prosecutions. This understated act… potentially leads to exactly the same endpoint as the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed the federal prohibition on alcoholic beverage sales.

‘There are about 700 medical marijuana dispensaries now operating in California openly distributing the drug,” Parloff reports. “The dispensaries sell marijuana and its concentrated resin forms, hashish and kif, sometimes alongside a range of enticing, non-inhaled alternatives, including marijuana-imbued brownies, cookies, gelati, honeys, butters, cooking oils (‘Not So Virgin’ olive oil), bottled cold drinks (‘enhanced’ lemonade is the most popular), capsules, lozenges, spray-under-the-tongue tinctures, and even topically applied salves.

“In Los Angeles a high-end three-store chain called the Farmacy employs a pastry chef to oversee production of all its baked goods. Most dispensaries also sell potted plants and seeds for patients who are either thrifty or
entrepreneurial.”

Parloff saw the Summer 2009 issue of O’Shaughnessy’s (the journal I edit for a pro-cannabis doctors’ group) and picked up on one of the main points we’ve been trying to get across:

“It’s even possible that legalization would reduce national health-care costs, by easing demand for costly pharmaceuticals. In the most recent issue of O’Shaughnessy’s, one doctor reported that his cannabis patients had either stopped or cut back their use of ‘analgesics of all kinds [including] Tylenol, aspirin, and opioids; psychotherapeutic agents including anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, anti-panic, obsessive-compulsive, anti-psychotic, and bipolar agents; gastrointestiminal agents including anti-spasmodics and anti-inflammatory medications; migraine preparations; anticonvulsants; appetite stimulants; immuno-modulators and immunosuppressives; muscle relaxants; multiple sclerosis management medications; ophthalmic preparations; sedative and hypnotic agents; and Tourette’s syndrome agents.'”

Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD, provided that list as part of a recent O’Shaughnessy’s survey. His colleagues report a similar pattern among their patients. Cannabis is in many ways an anti-drug —which is why the pharmaceutical companies fund lobbyists and think-tank intellectuals to turn out position papers like “Marijuana Dispensaries and the Federal Government.”

FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. Email fred@plebesite.com.

 

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

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