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Pot Shot

[whitespace] Drug czar: Medical marijuana might harm health of the dying

By Bob Harris

NEVER MIND what his own study says, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey insists that medical marijuana is gonna stay illegal--because it impairs memory, interferes with motor skills, and it impairs memory.

As you already know, voters in seven states have approved the use of marijuana strictly for medical purposes. However, the will of the people notwithstanding, the federal government still thinks letting cancer patients in chemotherapy relieve their pain this way is a crime worthy of imprisonment. Gee, thank God somebody's trying get these troublemakers off the streets.

Let's not confuse medical use of marijuana with recreational toking. Casual marijuana abuse can cause serious problems for some people. But that's not the subject here.

Here's the thing: An independent report commissioned by McCaffrey's own Office of National Drug Control Policy has strongly recommended legalization for medical reasons only. McCaffrey's own investigators say that (a) marijuana's not particularly addictive; (b) it's not a gateway to harder drugs; (c) medical use wouldn't increase casual abuse; and (d) for people in grave condition and real pain, like AIDS patients suffering from wasting syndrome, the medical benefits far outweigh the risks, which are fewer than you get even with many well-known prescription drugs.

Never mind all that. Never mind the insanity of outlawing a substance tried by roughly one quarter of the U.S. population. Never mind the ongoing ludicrous failure of drug prohibition. And never mind the obvious historical example of alcohol prohibition.

The drug czar still insists that anyone putting into practice his own office's findings will still be subject to arrest.But suppose for a second the study had determined that marijuana was a major public health menace. Do you imagine Gen. McCaffrey would discard it so easily, or would he be waving it proudly as further rationalization for the militarization of drug enforcement?

Dude, why spend our tax dollars on a study if you're just going to ignore it if it doesn't find what you want?

I guess because except for cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and prescription narcotics, drugs are destroying America.

And they impair memory.

YOU WANNA find out the real media bias in this country? Set something on fire. Let's digress. If you listen to talk radio, a lot of formerly gelatinous but now merely overweight radio hosts honestly think there's a pervasive lefty bias to the commercial media. As if the most prominent employees of people like General Electric and Microsoft are secretly reading Mao in their spare time.

Excuse me? Use your eyes and ears. When CNN stands for the Chomsky News Network and competes with EF! The Earth First Channel for ad revenue from Tom's of Maine, we can resume this discussion. Yet not only are most pundits avowedly conservative, but even reactionary radicals like Ollie North and G. Gordon Liddy, whose open contempt for the law is precisely what made them famous, routinely host national radio and TV talk shows.

Truth is, the real bias of commercial media is: they're commercial media. Giant media corporations make their money by selling ads to other giant corporations, and any long-term systemic bias exists because it serves that bottom line. Period.

That's why so many TV shows contain nothing but sex, violence, violent sex, and occasional footage of pit bulls attacking fat people.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a fire in a strip mall in the suburbs near my home in Los Angeles. And the Fox affiliate's 6 a.m. news show consisted solely of a helicopter shot of the burning building. For an entire hour. Like nothing else mattered in the world. Apparently Beavis is now Channel 11's news director. "Fire! Huh huh, cool! Huh huh, fire is cool, huh huh ...

After which Jillian, the weather chick, caressed the nation's midsection while wearing a really tight shirt. Then they went back to the fire.

Half these people probably think Edward R. Murrow is that actor who played Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver.

So if you're an activist, next time you want your message to get TV coverage, don't waste your time coming up with fact sheets and compelling true stories. No one cares anymore. Really. Just hire some fat people to have sex in the street. You'll have Fox and CNN on the scene in 20 minutes.

Just make sure to give the fat people full-body tattoos with your group's slogan. It's the only way to be sure what you have to say will make it into the final story.

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From the April 1-7, 1999 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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