Friday, December 16, 2005

Jane Weirick

Jane Weirick was a tireless and dedicated worker for the cause of cannabis reform. She was co-founder of the SF Patients Resource Center at 350 Divisadero, which set a model for MMJ cooperatives in SF after closure of Dennis Peron's club. She went on to found the Hayward Patients' Resource Center, working successfully with local officials to establish one of the first city agreements to permit dispensaries to operate. She was a leading advocate for responsible self-regulation of dispensaries and was known for her devotion to her friends, patients, and customers.

Last December she was stricken with a mysterious, extremely debilitating illness that may have resulted from chemical exposure, according to her Kaiser doctors. Jane was convinced the chemical assault came from Avid, a pesticide that a few growers of "medical" marijuana reportedly spray on their plants to control spider mites. Avid, manufactured by Syngenta (formerly by Novartis), is a so-called "natural" pesticide, extracted from a soil bacterium. It is applied to plants in the flowering stage. It is classified by the industry as "slightly" toxic, but by entomologists as "highly" toxic.

Tod Mikuriya, MD, thinks "presumptive delayed allergic hypersensitivity" is a reasonable diagnosis. Mikuriya has been urging since the mid-1990s that cannabis dispensed for medical purposes be screened for pesticide residue. "Patients with HIV and other illnesses that compromise the immune system are at even greater risk [than Weirick]," he observes.
Counter Punch featured a good article with information on Jane and what may have led up to her passing. If anyone has more detailed information on AVID please weigh in.

To address Mr. Steiner's comment on the "Steiner Strikes Back", I myself was surprised that there was not a post concerning Jane Weirick on our blog page. However, I am not sure if Mr. Steiner is insinuating that Marijuana, and not AVID is responsible for what happened to Jane.

AVID is not a pesticide specifically made for or used on marijuana. This page shows the current EPA approved Crops that Avid should be used on. There is no mention of specific plants that would be grown for consumption. It seems that AVID is meant to be used on Ornamentals, foliage, Christmas trees, and landscapes. Therefore, if AVID is the main cause of Jane's allergic reaction, would she not have had the same reaction if she worked at a farm, greenhouse, or worked specifically with AVID while landscaping her yard? Furthermore, if AVID were used on food products that were regularly incorporated into our diet, would that not cause a similar reaction?

The problem is how unregulated some of this medicine is. If the medical marijuana were to be regulated, AVID would not be used on it because patients prefer and expect organic marijuana. Without having a reliable source of medical marijuana, dispensaries have to obtain medicine through growers who may not have the patient's needs at the top of their list. Making sure they do not lose their grow because of an infestation of spider mites, some growers may use a pesticide and not know its effects on patients. Some growers may just altogether lie about using a pesticide at all.

The medical marijuana and drug law reform movements have lost an amazing and loving person, who dedicated her time and life to helping patients get the medicine they could not get anywhere else. She had compassion for people with illness and disease and understood that while medical marijuana might not work for everyone, it does work for some and she witnessed that.

Our laces tied together

Unless we untangle prohibition, we are going to continue to trip up young people.

Yesterday, students and parents in Douglas County, Colorado, were taught this lesson - the hard way. Eight Mountain Vista High School students were caught smoking marijuana, only to be informed by police that their stash was laced with heroin. Trace amounts of heroin were found in a field test of the pot, and further testing is being conducted. It is likely that the teens knew nothing of the "secret ingredient", so we must wonder how it became tainted. I see two possibilities:

1. The heroin was intentionally introduced by a dealer to make the pot more addictive so that the customers would come back for more. (Currently, this is the sheriff office's theory.)
2. Somewhere along the process, the marijuana was handled "on the same equipment" as heroin (just as milk chocolate M&Ms can potentially contain traces of peanuts).

The former scenario seems less plausible than the latter (for simple cost-benefit reasons that I won't get into here), but either option leads us to the same conclusion: If marijuana was a regulated substance, its distribution would never share proximity with heroin in the first place.

After all, could you imagine Starbucks trying to get away with "accidentally" lacing their lattes?

Two states away, in Nevada, The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana is working to pass the "Regulation of Marijuana Amendment", a law that will make marijuana a regulated commodity - just like alcohol or coffee. And as with alcohol, persons under 21 will be turned away at the counter.

Personally, I have qualms with setting 21 as an age limit for the legal consumption of any substance. But it's clear that this policy is much more sensible than the one that currently forces marijuana to mingle in the company of more dangerous black market drugs. Once passed, this sensible drug policy will likely spread to other states, including Colorado. Perhaps, then, when these eight Mountain Vista students are old enough to have teenagers of their own, they will know that if their kids do get their hands on marijuana, at least it will be heroin-free--a guarantee that mom and pop didn't have in the Olde Days of Prohibition.

DEA holiday fundraiser

I received this special holiday offer in my e-mail inbox from the Drug Enforcement Administration today:

For All You Last Minute Shoppers – the 2005 DEA Holiday Ornament

Christmas tree lacking a little something? There's still time to save the holidays! Click here to order your 2005 DEA Holiday Ornament. Order by December 19 to guarantee holiday delivery.

The link takes you to an online store where, in addition to the holiday ornament, you can buy all sorts of DEA paraphernalia. They've got everything from shirts to pens to posters to mugs to yes, even golf balls. But be sure to rock out for a bit to the catchy "bust 'em and lock 'em up" theme song that accompanies the flash animation before you click over to check out the products.

I guess the DEA is doing whatever they can to scrounge up funds in light of their recent poor report cards and resulting allowance probation. Why don't they just ask for a bigger share of asset forfeiture revenues by local law enforcement agencies?

Steiner phones in

I got a call on my cell phone yesterday from good ol' Steve Steiner.

Without getting into too many specifics, I'll just say this: We actually had a fairly nice and cordial conversation. Despite his ineptitude with the written word, he's actually a fairly articulate and well-spoken guy.

And believe it or not, there wasn't any yelling and only a little bit of voice-raising and interrupting.

Among other things, Steiner told me that I don't sound gay (not that there's anything wrong with that), and that he's expecting a call from President Bush (who, he says, he's planning something special with). As to the pending presidential call, Steiner wouldn't reveal the details. This, I told him, I completely understood. It's not as if I'd prematurely let him in on any big plans SSDP's working on.

I think Steiner and I gained a bit of mutual respect for each other (or at least I hope the feeling is mutual). Listening to him talk about his deceased son gave me a sense that this is actually a guy who really cares about making the world a better place and genuinely believes he's doing so through his work with DAMMADD.

I talked a bit about my mom, who's living with multiple sclerosis and has been working harder to pass Rhode Island's medical marijuana bill than anyone I know who's not getting paid to do so. I think Steiner came to understand that I too endeavor to make the world a better place through my advocacy. Of course, that didn't stop him from repeatedly patronizing me with lines like "you'll learn when you get older and have kids yourself."

In other news, Steiner also e-mailed me a response to my public question below. While on the phone, he told me he'd be posting it here on the blog (but he hasn't done so yet). I would go ahead and post it here for you all to see, but I think it might be a bit unethical to broadcast a private message. So let's hope he follows through and does end up posting his response. For now, I'll just tell you that it leaves a lot to be desired.

If you're still reading, Steve, I do want to thank you once again for continuing to engage us in spirited discussion about these important and complex issues that don't have any simple solutions. It's certainly not often that prohibitionists are willing to debate drug policy reformers. Only through open and honest discourse can we unearth our common ground and foster constructive solutions. Let's keep it up.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Paging Steve Steiner

Steve, I want to genuinely thank you for engaging us in debate. It's not everyday that prohibitionists are willing to discuss the actual issues with drug policy reformers.

With that said, I've got a simple question for you:

Can you tell us why you advocate the prohibition of marijuana (a drug that has never killed anyone) while you don't advocate the prohibition of OxyContin (a drug that lead to your son's death)? It can't be because you take money from Purdue Pharma (the manufacturer of OxyContin), can it?

We're eagerly awaiting your honest response.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Anything but marijuana!

So it seems as though researchers have found a drug (which, for the moment, they are referring to by the uber-sexy name URB597) that "works by raising levels of endocannabinoids" in treating depression.

The article, from UPI, is sparse on pharmacokinetic details, but it sounds like it might be the equivalent of MDMA's effects on Serotonin but on endogenous cannabinoids (which the article frequently refers to endocannabinoids as if their readers know to instinctively interpret the "endo" at the beginning of a word).
"This is the first time it has been shown a drug that increases endocannabinoids in the brain can improve your mood," said lead investigator Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher at Montreal and McGill Universities.
Almost true! Two years ago, scientists found that the mood-elevation associated with "Runner's High" was likely caused by endocannabinoids, but I guess it's folly to think that the mainstream would consider excercise a drug.
The researchers, including scientists from the University of California-Irvine, were able to measure serotonin and noradrenaline activity as a result of the increased endocannabinoids.

I'd just like to point out (as I have in late-night inane rants to Tom Angell on at least two occasions) that a trend is emerging where agonists (drugs which directly act on neuroreceptors in the brain) are fairly consistently demonized, while most other drugs (antagonists, reuptake inhibitors of all sorts, particularly Serotonin) are glorified.

It seems to me that a subconscious social norm has developed which is accepting of drugs which inhibit brain function, but fearful of drugs which enhance or increase brain function.

It's not clear, then, where these kinds of drugs, which are somewhere in between, would fit in.

MDMA works by causing a release of 5-HT - endogenous Serotonin. Amphetamine (which is prescribed like candy to young teenagers) has just about the same effect on dopamine. Now, URB597 (whose subjective effects I'll be sure to report on as soon as I get my hands on some) appears to do the same for the cannabinoid system.

How will society's unconscious distinction treat this drug?

And moreover, why is it that a drug which essentially mimics marijuana acceptable while marijuana is not? Is it the mere use of endogenous rather than exogenous cannabinoids? The acceptability of "Marinol" (which, by the way, gets you really quite high) seems to suggest otherwise.

It's as if we recognize marijuana's medicinal and other value, but we want anything but marijuana to achieve it.

Read the Article Here.

Steiner strikes back

Steve Steiner is on the defensive about my post from last night. He must be really worried, because in addition to commenting on my post, he sent a link to DARE Generation Diary to his e-mail list this afternoon. I paste his alert below, in full:
Subject: Students for drug legalization attack DAMMADD founder

Marijuana policy Project ramps up propaganda

Dear Tom Angell,

Yesterday, I sent out a request for you to sign a petition, the purpose of this petition was to call on Rhode Island House Members not to override the Governor's veto. We also sent out a press release on US Newswire, in response to this press release and petition, the drug legalizers led by the Marijuana Policy Project and their sister organization Students for drug legalization started a personal attack on myself.

Please if you can forward this petition to your friends and family. Obviously, we have hit a nerve, the truth will win.

Here are the links to their attack:

Sign this petition

Sign this petition and notify:
Representative James Langevin
Representative Patrick Kennedy
Rhode Island House
Senator Jack Reed
Senator Lincoln Chafee
Steven Steiner

We the American citizens of this great country are asking you the House members of the State of Rhode Island to please do not override Governor's Caricieri veto in regards to crude marijuana as medicine. We are also asking you to take a look at this video clip
that clearly shows there agenda for even more information on the agenda of the financiers, please go to . The most compassionate thing we can do for our loved ones that are ill is to get the best medicine possible and crude marijuana is simply not compassionate medicine. The children of Rhode Island are just as important than children from any of the other 49 states, for their sake do not override the veto.
Typical Steiner rambling. But I can't believe he'd want his members to read the important and accurate criticism of him posted here.

Additionally, I can't understand why he thinks Rhode Island state legislators will be swayed by e-mails from crazy DAMMADD members from all across the country. And why is he also asking people to e-mail members of Congress and all the governors in the nation? They have no bearing on whether or not Rhode Island enacts this compassionate legislation.

In any case, it probably won't be long before Steiner purges me from his action alert list. But that's okay, I've already signed up with an alternate e-mail address.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Steven Steiner: A sad, sad man

Steven Steiner founded Dads And Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers (DAMMADD) after his 19-year-old son, Stevie, died of an OxyContin overdose.

This sad event turned Steiner into a rabid anti-drug crusader. Well, except that his organization is funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies - including Purdue Pharma, which made the drug that killed his son. That, and his organization primarily works to oppose statewide medical marijuana legislation which his pharmadonors certainly don't want to pass. They must be worried they'd lose a lot of money if seriously ill people were able to have access to a plant that anyone can grow in their own backyard and thus can't be patented.

Steiner has gone so far as to put gut-wrenching pictures of his son's dead body up on his website. He's also set up a form on his website where visitors can submit tips to turn in drug dealers - for cash rewards.

But if you think drug policy reformers are worried about Steiner and his well-funded organization, you're wrong. His "action alerts" almost invariably contain spelling and grammatical errors. No one takes him seriously, especially the public officials these alerts are aimed at. Here's just a tiny sampling (my comments in parentheses):
"Back in September I watched a video called up in smoke this is a dvd put out by Snoop Dogg advocating drug use, violence and demeaning of women. This dvd is so over the top and something must be done about the advertisers who want to make Snoop Dogg some kind of icon. These corporations need to hear from us, so what I would like you to do is click on the link below and watch the video,(this video contains explicit language and sexuality and should not be watched by children under the age of 17) I am sorry that you have to watch this but after seeing this it will make you angry and want to react." - Dec. 9 (punctuation, anyone?)

"It was a very extraodinary year this year, we launched over 20 petitions fighting everything from medical marijuana, needle exchanges and even being a big part of the meth bill that passed here in New York State." - Oct. 25 (how "extraodinary!")

"This is a Must read For All Parents.... Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Police alliance both will tell your kids that marijuana is natural and safe??? Wrong and either is moonflower shame on them...... this is why George Soros and Peter Lewis must be stopped." - Oct. 18 (Drug Police alliance, eh?)

"We would also like to thank our corporate sponsors: Purude Pharma..." - Dec. 11 (he misspells the name of his primary funder!)
You'd think Steiner would have someone take a look at his alerts before he sends them out (or at least use his e-mail program's built-in spellchecker).

In addition to being a sad, misguided dad with terrible spelling and grammar, he's also a partisan hack. Take for example this article, in which he urges readers to resist buying auto insurance from Progressive (owned by Marijuana Policy Project, ACLU, and donor Peter B. Lewis) and instead do business with Nationwide, who Steiner says is "on your side." He links to this list of political contributions showing that 89% of the company's PAC donations have so far gone to Republicans in the '06 election cycle.

And another thing: I just don't understand DAMMADD's name. Why are only the moms mad? Are the apathetic dads just against drug dealers because their angry wives told them to be?

But seriously, my heart goes out to any family (including the Steiners) who've lost loved ones to the real and serious problem of drug abuse. But advocating for harsher punitive policies that will only ruin more people's lives is just plain sick. This grieving man is being taken advantage of by greedy pharmaceutical companies. I'm not sure he even knows what he's doing.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

UK considers taking a U-turn in the face of progress

As published by the Independent today...
"Tony Blair is planning a controversial U-turn on cannabis laws and the reintroduction of tough penalties after an official government review found a definitive link between use of the drug and mental illness.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has detailed evidence showing cannabis triggers psychosis in regular users. The findings are expected to be used by Blair to overturn the decision made two years ago to downgrade the drug."
Please read the details before continuing on.

I can't help but wonder what hidden agenda Blair might have. The article seems to suggest that ACMD does not encourage changing the law, but that the politicians plan to use their findings to do so anyway. They plan to do this regardless of the fact that drug use by youth has continually decreased in the last two years, and in defiance of edicts from the police, who state that the new policy has allowed them to focus more effectively on class A drugs such as heroin. If Blair wishes to make a U-turn in the face of such progress, he better be certain that the ACMD findings are verifiable.

I for one am very anxious to see the research methodology proving marijuana leads to schizophrenia and mental illness. Have these findings been replicated? I am curious as to how this study received results in contrast to every previous study ever conducted. Of the many regular users I have met, all of them would argue that marijuana simply does not induce psychosis. On that basis, I am skeptical of results that seem to jive so poorly with reality. However, I have not run any empirical tests. Thus, I leave the question open: Will Blair's decision to turn the car around be justified, in spite of all the seemingly obvious "no U-turn" signs?

Across the blogoverse

In addition to the Drug War coverage we try to provide here at DARE Generation Diary, there's lots of other drug policy stuff to be found across the blogoverse.

A light sampling:

Radley at The Agitator continues to shed light on the extremely troubling case of the drug raid gone wrong on Cory Maye's home. Here, he interrogates the prosecutor in the case.

Bill at DPA's D'Alliance tells us here about how terrorists in Singapore get rehabilitated while drug smugglers get executed.

Thehim, in his continually excellent DrugWar Roundup blogs this week about misleading "science" on marijuana and driving.

Scott at Grits for Breakfast has blogged up a storm recently, sharing his take on the whole "Stop Snitching" phenomenon here, here, and here.

And although no one's blogged about it yet, I can't help but share this article about how Australia's leaders are complaining that their country's youth are too "stoned and fat" for the nation to have adequate military recruitment.