Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marijuana begins slipping its way into the American mainstream


The dueling pot covers, courtesy of The Cannabist (click to enlarge)

"When American institutions as stolid as Time and National Geographic run cannabis on their covers, without the words 'crackdown' or 'out of control' or 'fear', the ground has truly shifted."
-- Bruce Barcott, author of Weed the People: The
Future of Legal Marijuana in America
, in an
e-mail to
The Cannabist staffer Ricardo Baca

by Ken

When I opened my mailbox today, there staring out at me was the new National Geographic with the cover you see above, and the giant cover line: "WEED: The New Science of Marijuana." For reasons that some of you may already have guessed, that got my attention.

Marijuana isn't a subject that's ever been of much interest in me. When I was of an age to dabble, and most of the people my age were doing a lot more than dabbling, I was apparently no good at it -- the couple of times I tried to smoke the stuff, all that happened was that I gagged on the smoke, and gagging isn't anything I've ever gone looking for ways to experience. So I've generally taken a pass on heated debates about legalization, suspecting that the fierce opponents are overestimating its downsides and its proponents underestimating them.

Medical marijuana is something else, though, but again it's not something that was an especially personal issue for me. Anecdotal as the evidence for its benefits might be, that evidence seemed to me more than sufficient to outweigh any of the downsides for the sufferers who might benefit from it. This was still pretty abstract, though, until I witnessed at close range -- or as close a range as you can get from 3000 miles away -- the intensity of Howie's sufferings before he finally sought out a trustworthy source and availed himself of it and the kind of relief he has gotten, which he wrote about in a post last week, "How Much Good Can Medical Marijuana Do Patients?"

So I know, first off, how cautiously, how skeptically, he approached it. As he himself has written here, pot once played an important role in his life, and the role it played was something he emphatically didn't want to revisit -- as he told me frequently, he really, really didn't want to get high. What's more, while he was undergoing chemotherapy, his doctor, whom he trusts highly, issued a strict "uh-uh" order. But when he finished those treatments, and was still suffering a host of debilitating side effects starting with really high degrees of neuropathic pain and near-inability to eat or sleep, and he had tried everything else that the medical establishment had to offer, he did find a source who could guide him through the incredibly fraught world of medical marijuana in California, where the overwhelming majority of customers aren't buying for medicinal use and the overwhelming majority of sellers are people you really, really shouldn't want to be doing business with, for any reason, ever, the results were, as again he has written here, both quick and pretty astonishing.

I learned from Howie too that most of what passes for "received opinion" in the medical community, and therefore also what we might call "controlling" medical opinion in the country at this time, comes from older doctors who don't seem to mind that, really, they don't know anything about the actual potential benefits and risks. Perhaps because that "controlling" opinion squares so neatly with the knee-jerk "it's a sin" opinion of our self-appointed guardians of morality, it has been sufficient to all but stifle the kind of research you would figure would normally go into forming some kind of informed opinion on the subject.

So we're in this situation where people who are almost proud to know nothing whatsoever about the subject exercise the power to make it next to impossible for us to learn any more than we know. I suspect that, as with such other matters as abortion and homosexuality which have been held captive by our society's self-appointed moral ignoramuses, a lot more flexibility has come into play when it comes to their own nearest and dearest, which certainly represents a step beyond the categorical "uh-uh, no way." However, from this point it's still generally an arduous process for authorities to connect the dots and begin to lift the curtain for other people.

I should say that I still haven't actually read the National Geographic piece. What I did do right away, though, was to go online and see if I could find a link that would enable you to read the piece. I did, as you'll see, but I found more than that. Above all, I found this piece on the website The Cannabist:
National Geographic, Time both have science-of-pot cover stories this week

By Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist Staff

Have a look at your local bookseller’s magazine rack this week. It might even be worth an Instagram — for history’s sake.

Two of America’s most fabled magazines’ current cover stories are exploring the known and unknown science of marijuana. On National Geographic’s cover: “Weed: The New Science of Marijuana.” On Time magazine’s cover: “The Highly Divisive, Curiously Underfunded and Strangely Promising World of Pot Science.”

That the two magazines, with nearly 210 years of publication shared between them, are coincidentally running these stories simultaneously says something about the ever-shifting national conversation surrounding cannabis.

“Politicians and voters need to wake the fuck up and smell the weed,” wrote Redditor envyxd on a r/trees post about the dueling covers.

Bruce Barcott — author of the book Weed the People and co-author of Time’s piece this week — took notice of the two magazines’ timing in a recent email exchange.

“When American institutions as stolid as Time and National Geographic run cannabis on their covers, without the words ‘crackdown’ or ‘out of control’ or ‘fear’, the ground has truly shifted,” Barcott told me.

So here they are: Hampton Sides’ Science seeks to unlock marijuana’s secrets [you have to be registered for free access, but registration is free -- Ed.], from National Geographic. And [Bruce] Barcott and Michael Scherer’s The great pot experiment, from Time [only a preview is available free to nonsubscribers -- Ed.].

[Time notes: "Portions of (Bruce Barcott's and Michael Scherer's) article were adapted from Barcott’s new book Weed the People, the Future of Legal Marijuana in America, from TIME Books. -- Ed.]
The message I'm getting is that we've reached a milestone in that process of processing the subject of pot based on reality rather than blindly received moral gobbledygook.


The Washington Post's Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports, in "Senate panel backs allowing vets to ask about medical pot for PTSD,":
Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other chronic pain issues may be able to ask their VA doctors for a new treatment soon: medical marijuana.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to back the Veterans Equal Access Amendment. Under the measure, Veterans Affairs (VA) would be allowed to recommend medical marijuana to patients for medicinal purposes for everything from back pain to depression to flashbacks.

Veterans who support the proposal say that it is safer and helps more than the addictive and debilitating painkillers that are often prescribed. They say using medical cannabis can help combat PTSD’s insomnia and panic attacks.

The legislation would overturn VA’s policy that forbids doctors from talking to patients about medical pot use.
And note the party of the senator who introduced the bill:
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who introduced the legislation, argued that forbidding VA doctors from talking about the option of medical marijuana is unconstitutional. He said that First Amendment rights include the right of patients to discuss whatever they want with their doctors.
Senator Daines goes on to say, "They can't discuss all the options available to them that they could discuss if they literally walked next door to a non-VA facility. I don't believe we should discriminate against veterans just because they are in the care of the VA."

The legal issue for the VA is that "the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, like heroin and LSD," which "means it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." But if I've understood Howie correctly, doctors in California -- which like the District of Columbia allows medical marijuana -- don't seem to be allowed to raise the subject of medical marijuana either, or at least not the ones he's dealt with.

One interesting note in the WaPo piece : "Several studies have shown that states that allow medical marijuana for health purposes also found a decrease in the number of painkiller-related overdoses." Read more onsite.
The Effects of Marijuana on the Body

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At 8:39 PM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It was pretty mainstream back when I was in college, IF I recall correctly.

Fucking war on drugs. Fucking corporate media.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

First of all Ken, when you write the "..overwhelming majority of sellers are people you really, really shouldn't want to be doing business with" I have to say it appears to me that you are being "...held captive by our society's self-appointed moral ignoramuses."

At 9:39 AM, Blogger calltoaccount said...

Totally correct, Unknown. Ken is great on a lot of subjects, but writing that-- shows he still has a lot to learn about CBD and THC.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Apparently either Howie is misinformed or you don't know what Howie has learned about the people in the drug-selling business. Perhaps one of these days he'll write about that.

From what he tells me, though, it's a critical problem connecting people who need medical marijuana with dealers who aren't, as I said as politely as I could, people you shouldn't want to do business with.

When it comes to stuff like this, I have a high degree of trust in what I learn from Howie.



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