Saturday, April 30, 2005

By the sea

Well the weather station keeps telling me its in the high 70s today but yesterday was warmer on the beach and they were saying it was in the 60s. It's all about the wind here and it's really windy today. The sea is way up again so the ferry was out and I wore my longjohns and sneakers on my walk.

I met my neighbor "Bill" on the beach. It's a funny thing. You would think that someone who's worked with the public for as long as I have would be better with names. Turns out his name is really Greg and the other guy I met yesterday is Buck, not Larry. Greg tells me Buck is a former state Congressman from New Jersey.

Greg is surprisingly nice for a rich guy. He thought I assumed he was a Republican because he's from the South but as I told him, anyone who could afford that condo is either a Republican or a Libertarian and he looked way too straight for the latter. It was nice to have someone to walk on the beach with and we had a great discussion on politics but unfortunately, he was on his way back to Raleigh this afternoon. He says he's going to check out the blogs when he gets back. I hope he emails to let me know what he thought.

If he was going to stay around I may have kept the condo for a couple more days because I enjoyed the conversation but I finally broke down this afternoon and booked the room at the Ramada down the road. It's a horrible hotel. I stayed there in September and it's a bit rundown but all the rooms are oceanfront and they have good balconies and there's a bar and restaurant. I realized this morning that I've been here almost a week and haven't had any fresh seafood yet. I feel like I should have a crab sandwich or something before I leave and I'll be more motivated to get out if I only have a room instead of this apartment. I've been nuking food all week because it's easier but I can do that at home. It feels kind of dumb not to be eating fresh fish by the sea.

NORML news

A couple of items of interest from NORML this week. The ACLU has joined a lawsuit against the DEA for denying the UMASS researchers a license to grow research grade marijuana as part of clinical testing for its medical use.
The DEA rejected [the UMASS] application in December 2004, stating that the establishment of a cannabis production facility "would not be consistent with public interest" because marijuana is "the most heavily abused of all Schedule I controlled substances," and that NIDA's crop was of "sufficient quality" to meet researchers' present needs. The agency further noted that it discouraged research investigating the medical utility of smoked cannabis, stating, "Smoked marijuana ... ultimately cannot be the permitted delivery system for any potential marijuana medication due to the deleterious effects and the difficulty monitoring the efficaciousness of smoked marijuana."
Complete BS of course. Read that as the DEA won't authorize anything with even the remotest possibility of proving the medicinal value of cannabis because it would render their cushy jobs as prohibitionists obsolete.

On a brighter note, the March issue of the Journal of TRAUMA Injury, Infection, and Critical Care published the findings of researchers at the State University of New York proving that marijuana smoking alone has not been responsible for trauma related injuries in emergency rooms, contrary to John Walters and the DEA's assertions to the contrary.

NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano notes, "Among trauma patients requiring hospitalization, cannabis is rarely mentioned independent of other drugs. More importantly, cannabis use alone is not associated with the sort of serious or violent injuries that are typically correlated with the use of alcohol and cocaine - two substances that, unlike marijuana, often increase aggressive or risk-taking behavior among users."

We of course knew this. You simply don't smoke marijuana and feel like committing violent acts, unless you count, for instance, devouring a whole box of Oreos as violence.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Beach blogging

The drug war news is piling up in the inbox but it turned out to be such a pleasant afternoon I spent two hours walking on the edge of the surf today so it's a beach story again tonight. I picked up only a few shells but I found a bed of baby clams with multicolored shells in a tide pool. I didn't pick them up of course except to look at the colors but it was fun to watch them roll up and down the bank with the incoming tide. They looked like tiny little jewels in the sun.

While I was standing there a dead pufferfish rolled onto the shore. I walked down to see what it was and it looked so unreal that at first I thought it was a ceramic frog that fell off someone's boat. The colors were so fluorescent that I almost picked it up. I'm glad I didn't touch it though, I think those quill thingys are toxic.

I probably should tried have for a ferry today. The shrimp boats were out for the first time since I've been here so they were probably running to some extent but as usual I got out too late to even try. With the wind, I doubt if the ride would have been much fun anyway even though the sea was pretty calm.

The wind died at around 5:30 so I brought a beer down to the benches at the top of the dunes when I got back. I was sitting there soaking up the rays when all of sudden a storm of blackheaded seagulls appeared out of nowhere and started circling rather low overhead. I watched one doing figure eights at eye level. I hadn't seen more than four or five flying together until then. It was quite dramatic and impressive.

Out of the this storm also appeared my neighbor, I think his name is Bill Greg, who had just arrived from Raleigh. We had a lovely chat and were joined by another owner, a retired guy from New Jersey, whose name I've already forgotten so I'll call him Larry Buck. He was a wealth of information about the complex and the Isle.

Turns out Bill Greg owns the best condo in the complex, the very one with the blue cushioned cairs I spoke of a couple of days ago. This I found out from Larry Buck. Bill Greg is a contractor. He builds shopping centers and new evangelical churches. I was fascinated to discover that they put Starbucks franchises and 50s style diners, not to mention Laundromats in what Bill Greg called the modern churches. Talk about outreach.

Meanwhile, I still haven't decided whether to stay or leave on Sunday. It would probably do me some good to get off the internet and talk to some actual human beings for a couple of days. Not to mention I know they have an outdoor hot tub there and good soak wouldn't hurt either. It will be my only chance to wear my bathing suit and if the weather turns bad again I know I can lie on my bed reading and still see nothing but the sea.

Guess I'll figure it out in the morning. I have to make the choice tomorrow or I'll be sleeping in that silly little car on Sunday night.

The Point

I didn't get to the national seashore. The ferry system appears to be a bit dicey this time of year and it was too cold for beachwalking anyway. I did make it to the beach at the end of the island though. Don't be too impressed - I drove. The beach itself was quite impressive - it gets really big and you can indeed find bigger shells there although I didn't see any conch. I have a feeling there's heavy competition on the shelling down there among the long term residents. Nice houses though. I'd consider renting a place down there if I could put together a group group big enough to make the rent worthwhile.

In any event, I had a nice ride yesterday in the funny fancy car and actually made it to the sound side of the island. It was pretty unimpressive but nice. A lot of birds around the public access dock and the houses were very nice as well. You can get some great deals in that section of town.

I went to four stores and I'm already shopped out. I found a few funny gifts and also got a nice dress for four bucks at the cheezy tourist store Wings. These places are always huge with tons of cheap junk but they're a well organized chain. They even have their own theme music with songs about the store piped in overhead and damn if it doesn't get you bopping a little in the aisles.

No nature sightings of interest on my outing but this was a weird coincidence. I drove down to the point as I said and also swung by the Coast Guard station while I down there. You couldn't get in but I went by real slow and this was this military looking type guy jogging behind me. Later that evening a big ass military helicopter literally buzzed the trailer park next door and I swear it hovered for a good half a minute where it had a direct view into the condo. I of course was thrilled and would have attempted to motion them down to the beach so I could get a ride except that I didn't think they would be able to see me in the dusk. It was very cool.

Meanwhile, the sun has unexpectedly come out just now so I'm on my way down to the beach to catch a few rays and try to decide what to do about housing here. I'm weighing the advantages of moving to the hotel down the road over the convenience of staying put. One of the biggest factors of course is I would have to give up the computer here and be tied to internet cafes of which there are few and they have bad hours.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A moment of warmth

Well with all this beach walking I've been doing this week, I've been sleeping like a rock. Yesterday's stroll turned out to be quite pleasant. It got warm enough in the sun to ditch the sneakers and walk barefoot along the edge of the sea. Not only that but I also got warm enough to sit in the sun with just a tank top so I even got a little tan.

I managed to keep the walk down to two hours and it was easier on my back since I've already got nice specimens of the common shells so I'm a lot more selective over what I'm willing to bend down to get. Find of the day was a shark's tooth and it's a beauty. I was pretty excited since in all the decades I've been beachcombing, I've never found one and this one is huge. It's this incredible color that changes from obsidian black in the shade to this sort of translucent midnight blue in the sun.

Meanwhile, It's cold here again this morning but the sun is shining and the sea is flat. I'm toying with the idea of trying to get to the national seashore at Cape Lookout this afternoon. I'd like to find some fancy shells before I leave.

Live audio chat

Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance will be joined by best-selling author Andrew Weil, M.D., for a live chat today at 3 PM PST / 6 PM EST.
Before Dr. Weil became known to tens of millions for his pioneering work and writing on integrative medicine, he was already highly regarded for his insightful writing about drugs. His first book, The Natural Mind, is one of the greatest books ever written about psychoactive drug use. It played an important role in shaping my thinking on the subject, and is widely regarded as a classic in the field. As for Chocolate to Morphine, which Andy co-authored with Winifred Rosen, there is simply no better drug education book -- both for young people and adults.
You may still be able to submit questions, here. To listen, go to at the appointed hour. It's bound to be an interesting chat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Beach life

I'm moving even slower today after yesterday's jaunt down the beach. The sun is finally breaking through right now but the wind is coming up so it was actually warmer this morning when I had my coffee but it looks like it might be a pleasant enough afternoon. I'm about to try the hot shower trick again and go down for a while but today I really am going to try to keep the walk short.

It's hard because I love shelling and once I start I lose track of time. It's been pretty good here since there's been no competition. It's not a great beach for shells in general but I've found some very interesting specimens, the prize so far being one I can't identify. It's like a white hollow tube that spirals up to form a little minaret at the top.

Meanwhile my sightseeing plans have been shot to hell so far. I was excited about taking a helicopter ride but the cheapest one is almost $300. Even if I could find three other people to go with me, it's pretty stiff for what is certain to be about a 15 minute ride. I've been hoping to get to the National Seashore as well, where I hear the shelling is really great but so far the sea has not looked conducive to sailing. You can only get there by ferry and the whitecaps are really high again today since there is some kind of storm just offshore. Still hoping to get there before I leave though. I understand you can see the wild ponies on the way over as well.

But for now, I'm off to the beach for the afternoon.

He wasn't driving

Nick Nolte's son Brandon was arrested for marijuana possession with intent to deliver while riding through West Virginia. The kids were stopped by police for a broken headlight and the officer allegedly smelled marijuana. He found 2 1/2 ounces in the car.

Now unless they were toking up while driving, it seems a little dubious to me that the cop could have smelled only a couple of ounces of pot in sealed baggies. One assumes it was also in some other satchel that would have masked the stinkiest of weed. It looks like a classic case of hippie profiling to me. I hope the boys saw the video Busted and at least didn't consent to the search so they can move to suppress the evidence at trial.

The lesson here is don't go driving around with your stash if your car is not in good running condition in the first place and get "Busted" so you know what to do if you're the next victim of police profiling.

Drug Warrior distortions

This is interesting. The DEA just issued a new anti-marijuana press release. Notice how, now that Karen Tandy's predecessor Andrea Barthwell has been hired to shill for Sativex, that they carefully use the words - smoked marijuana - in claiming cannabis is not a medicine. I believe they've done this for while but one assumes the pharma corps in mind when they started doing so.

Other than that they trot out their usual disinformation starting with blaming a tragic death from a what appeared to be a bad batch of the chemical ecstasy, on marijuana leaves. Somehow they don't make the connection that if the drug was legal, number one it would be pure, number two, the kids would have had a harder time getting it because the black market would be gone and number three, the teenagers would have been less afraid to simply call for help.

The release segues into the outright lies that the medical community doesn't recognize marijuana as a medicine - it does and back up their distortions with research and statistics they bought and paid for themselves. Especially galling is their use of a Swiss program in 1987 that allegedly failed. It's possible that happened then - I'm too lazy to check today - but I know for a fact that Switzerland currently has a five year old program for drug addicts that has not only reduced heroin use, it's reduced crime, law enforcement costs and related health care costs in the country.

It goes on to the usual scare tactics about gateway drugs and drugged driving. I always find it particularly irritating that they assume people will drive while high, since most responsible users don't, and they make no mention of the far greater hazard of drunk drivers. Not to mention the very real problem of people who drive under the influence of prescription drugs - most of which are much more powerful than cannabis.

The release concludes with the request, "Spread the truth." The DEA wants to dispel the "marijuana myths." So okay, I'll try. How about this slogan: Here's the truth - the DEA lies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Afternoon Delight

The hot shower got me going and the wind died and the sun unexpectedly came out so I never stopped. My one hour walk turned into three including a stop at the Bogue Pier. Nice pier, it has an elevated observation deck at the end and it's free.

I got a little seasick up on the deck. There's a definite sense of movement up there that's not comfortable. Although I'm certain it's perfectly sturdy, it kind of feels like it might fall down at any moment. It was worth going up though. I saw someone catch a baby manta ray. Then on the way out I saw a baby shark get beached in the tide pool. One of the surfers picked him up by the tail and took him somewhere. I suspect to be cooked for dinner although I saw a sign saying it was illegal for the fishermen to catch them.

I was hoping to catch an early bite and a beer at the restaurant myself but of course with my impeccable timing, they were closed today - I had to settle for a V8 and bag of chips from the concession stand. Nonetheless, it was a nice walk and I saw my first pelicans and my first plovers since I've been here. The best was the puppy though.

I was absorbed in scanning the flotsam and jetsom as I was walking along when I felt my foot hit something soft and squishy. I instinctively pulled up thank God because when I looked down, it was the cutest little cocker spaniel puppy that was moving so fast in his excitement that he looked almost liquid. He belonged to a guy about my age and two young kids. They had another dog as well, a really old and overweight black Lab. The Lab chased a tennis ball while the little guy raced around in circles, periodically returning to roll somersaults at my feet. He was so tiny, he couldn't have been more than a few days weaned. He was so cute, I almost wanted to scoop him up and take him home.

I went out with less layers today but still rather warmly dressed. By the time I got to the pier it had warmed up to the point where I had taken off the sweater and scarf. By the time I left I was carrying the fleece as well. By the time I got back I was so excited by the change in weather that I put on my flip flops and went back to the beach fully intending to walk in the water. I changed my mind as soon as my bare foot hit the sand at the bottom of the stairs. It was very cold. I haven't given up on the idea for tomorrow afternoon though. It's supposed to get into the high 70s.

The sea is flat

The weather is sort of improving. Everything is gray today, the sky, the sea and the air but the wind died down so it was actually comfortable to have coffee on the deck this morning. I haven't been down to the beach yet. I dragged myself out of bed early so my body rhythm doesn't get locked into a 3:00am to 10:00am schedule and a result I'm moving a little slow and frankly I'm feeling a little stiff from the ambitious walk yesterday. I probably overdid it by walking for two straight hours after having had virtually no exercise for months now.

I'm off for a hot shower, hoping to solve that and a shorter walk before the rain comes this afternoon. I've already posted in Detroit today so I should be back sooner rather than later tonight.

Addendum to a sunny afternoon

Having slept in so late, I'm still awake and just checked outside. The wind is dying a bit and changing direction. It's actually warmer now than it was at 6:00 pm. Probably due to the cloud cover. I can't see the stars tonight. Anyway, as long as I'm here, let me tell you about my favorite image of today's walk.

When I got back to the condos, I sat in the sun on a bench outside of the gazebo. From there, one gets a good view of the decks of the fancy oceanfront units at the end of the complex. They're twice as big as mine, wrapping around the front on two sides. They have nice furniture - none of it is plastic.

The top penthouse unit had two blue rocking chairs - with cushions - facing the sea. The wind was so strong it made them rock, but in different rhythms, so it looked like there were invisible people in them, maybe having a conversation.

My second favorite image was at sunset. It was most unspectacular tonight as the sky was clear and it was really cold in the wind so I didn't stay on the deck to watch it disappear. But when the sky started to color, I went back out and found clouds rolling in from the east. To the west were four jet planes, I suppose from the nearby military base flying some kind of maneuvers. There were two in the distance and two close enough that the vapor trails were large and visible. I watched as they flew in opposite directions and then turned and flew directly towards each other. From my vantage point it looked like they might collide until the very last moment.

The vapor trails, lit by the last light of the sun, blazed like orange fire behind the black silhouettes of the jets. They looked like Buck Roger rockets in the sky. That was worth standing in the cold wind. I watched until they all disappeared into the black cloud bank.

An untimely goodbye
Dr. Jay R. Cavanaugh died suddenly today. According to his bio in Under The Influence, he served as a gubernatorial appointee to the California Board of Pharmacy from 1980-90. During his tenure he helped create and supervise the Boards enforcement program to stem the flood of pharmaceutical sedatives and narcotics to the black market. Cavanaugh received his baccalaureate degree in Biology from California State University, Northridge and his doctorate in Biological Chemistry from Tulane University. Our condolences to his friends and family.

His work watch dogging the pharmaceutical industry deserves to be remembered. From Reckless Disregard:
There are several mass murderers loose in America. Collectively they kill more innocent men, women, and children than all the drunk drivers, illicit drug pushers, and gang bangers combined.

This collection of serial killers with reckless disregard of human life, extinguishes the hopes and lives of over 100,000 Americans every year. In the past decade they are responsible for over one million innocents yet not only have they not faced justice, they have enriched themselves with profits that would make Bill Gates envious.

...Collectively these pitiless people have engaged in the longest running and most destructive continuing criminal enterprise in history. Who are they? They are nameless and faceless executives who hide behind the alleged respectability of names like Eli Lily, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Co., Pfizer, and many more. At least the psychotics Manson and Gacy were aware at some level that they were killers. Not the drug companies. To them, the deaths are nothing more than the unavoidable collateral damage in the war on disease and the pursuit of earnings.

...While the suffering from hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of adverse reactions, millions addicted, and economic havoc is damning, it is only one half of the coin. The other half is the active support and participation of the pharmaceutical industry in the so called war on drugs. Obviously they don't support war on their own drugs, only those of their competition.
Their biggest threat being medical marijuana which threatens their profits since anyone could conceivably grow it themselves - hence the focus of the drug war on the least harmful substance. Cavanaugh goes on to point out that the US government spends millions to vilify cannabis while endorsing pharma drugs with toxic side effects that make billions in profits for the pharma corps. Read it all and then read his other work, The New Salem and also The Mouse That Coughed - the sad tale of Stuart Little, pot addict.

Drug policy reform lost a good man today. May he rest in peace.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Castles made of sand

I spent about two hours on the beach this afternoon but didn't quite make it to the end of the island. It's longer than it looks of course and the head wind was really strong although not as icy as last night. The bonus was, when it turned into a tailwind on the way back, the walk was shorter. It was cold but not all that unpleasant with the sun in a cloudless sky and the water very blue with impressive whitecaps.

The few sandpipers were quite bold dancing just ahead of me. Even more impressive however, was the crow in the courtyard as I leaving the house. There's a wooden walkway all around each level. I'm in the middle. As I was leaving I heard him calling above me so I walked around on the opposite side. He was just sitting on the top rail, surrounded by a bunch of little wrens who were excitedly responding to his caws. I stood and watched him for a long time. He never moved. I looked back as I reached the far stairs. He looked straight at me, extended one wing and started preening for his little fans.

There were maybe a dozen people on the beach. Three guys were surf fishing and a couple was flying an acrobatic kite. They were really good at making it do tricks. There was actually one family out in their bathing suits with their giant beach umbrellas breaking the wind. We made a funny juxtaposition I think.

Picture me bundled up in long johns, pants, three sweaters, a fleece with the hood up and a big scarf wrapped around everything - all black - standing next to three kids in multi-colored swim trunks splashing at the edge of the surf, making a castle in the wet sand.

Lazy Day

I'm feeling more relaxed already. Being on the west side of the building, untroubled by the rising sun, I slept in until 10:30 this morning. I don't think I've slept that late in a year. The computer setup here seems to be working fine although it's set up so I have so sit so far from the screen that I have to draft this in an extra large bold font so I can see what I'm saying, but it's Roadrunner and it works fine otherwise, which is a good thing since of all the things I could left behind in my rush to get on the road yesterday, the laptop was the only thing I forgot to bring.

Meanwhile, I've settled into the condo and like it very much - the condo itself and the whole concept of renting the condo instead of a hotel room. With the last minute special rate, I paid less than I would for the hotel and I have a whole apartment that's about the same size but nicer than my old digs in Northampton. It's not glamorous like the bigger condo I almost got but it's very comfortable and well furnished. I went to grocery last night and stocked the frig and nuked myself a meal last night as usual. It really feels like I'm actually living on the beach here.

I probably wouldn't want to be here in high season though. While the location is good and the view and proximity to the ocean is actually better than it looked in the pictures, somehow they managed to avoid showing that the deck also overlooks the trailer park next door. Now it's not a white trash park, it's a place for mostly traveling house trailers to park, although along the periphery there are some permanent ones and those are nicely kept, some with gardens and statuary around them. Right now it's almost empty so it's quiet. I have a feeling in the summer, it's likely to be much noisier.

The condo complex is pretty much deserted as well. There's maybe a dozen cars here out of eight buildings and I haven't seen a soul walking around yet. Of course I haven't ventured off the deck myself yet today as the wind is still pretty stiff. Still it was pleasant enough to bundle up and have my coffee out there this morning. I'm glad I brought my silk long johns which I'll need for a walk on the beach today. The good news is it's supposed to get warmer as the week progresses so I still may get my feet wet before I leave.

For the moment I'm about to put on about seven layers of clothes and go out for a walk. Part of the reason I picked this place is it's close to the inlet at the end of the island. It looks to be under three miles to the end and I think the shelling will be better down there. One would think you could possibly find whole conch shells judging by the number of them I see spread over the picnic tables at the trailer park. I don't know if I'll get that far in this wind but I'm going to give it a shot. It won't get warmer than this today and the sun is shining brightly. That can only help.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

By the sea

Well of course I didn't start packing until this morning so I arrived late but here I am live blogging from the beach.

I drove up to the realtor's office to find it closed. After a conversation through the locked glass door with the cleaning guy, I found myself at the police station collecting my keys. The cop at the desk told me they had been doing it for years as he rifled through his file box. Apparently I was not the only late arrival.

Once I dragged all my stuff in and I brought more than usual because of the weather and because you have to bring your own linens, I took my ritual walk on the beach. It was already sunset and the wind was bloody freezing so I wore three sweaters, a fleece and my pashima. Keeping my sneakers on besides, I stayed above the water line. Ahead of me was a woman walking through the surf. We were the only ones on the beach.

Eventually we intersected and spoke for a few minutes. She was from California here on some business I couldn't understand. She started out talking about worm tea, which is a compost kind of fertilizer for gardens and then told she was here setting up a kitchen of some kind for a restaurant. Clearly I misunderstood one or the other as the sea was very agitated and loud. Her legs and her nose were very red from the cold.

The sunset was magnificent, and there was just one sandpiper bravely pecking through the sand that looked that it was covered with a glistening pink and purple film as the wash from the surf caught the last rays of sun. It was a beautiful, a blazing mass of red and purple clouds on the horizon. I watched the last of it from my deck. It perfectly situated for this time of year. I sat at the table and the last rays were shining straight on me. As I sat there a pair of cardinals showed up and sat on the next deck to watch with me.

I like the condo a lot. It ain't glamorous but it's comfortable. I'll have more to say on that tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2005
They call this family protection?

Another innocent victim in the war on some drugs. Gregory Love, 23-months-old, was ripped from his family and placed in foster care when his mother tested positive for drug use. Three weeks later the child was dead due to the neglect of the foster home.

Christina Mantooth has three other children that were also displaced when the Florida Dept. of Children and Families broke up the family because she failed a drug test. That was it. She wasn't accused of neglect or abuse or of even having consumed a drug in front of her children to my knowledge. They look happy and well cared for in the photograph. Yet the DCF chose to place these young innocents with strangers who clearly don't care for their charges well, under the tenets of misguided zero tolerance policies.

The foster parents no doubt are drug free - one assumes they are tested as well - but they failed in their responsibility to the children under their supervision. According to his brother, who is also placed in this "home" - "He said he busted his nose and his lip when he fell off the top bunk bed." The foster mother didn't seek medical care for the toddler. CFS was told but didn't intervene. He died five days later, one would speculate from an internal brain injury of some sort.

If not for the drug test, Gregory Love would be playing with his siblings and getting excited about his second birthday. He would have been better off with a mother who loves and cares for him, drug consumer or not, than in the "care of" the agents of a heartless and mindless system. As this case tragically demonstrates, responsible drug use alone should not be a criteria for custody.

[Link via Sharon Secor]


I rented a car for the trip and just got back from picking it up. I've rented a car several times while I was visiting here before I moved and always use the airport location even though you pay an extra fee for the concession because it's the only place I can reliably find. I have a pretty good sense of direction but the roads are very confusing around here and I haven't gone out enough to find my way around yet. I have to admit though, as we were driving up I had a huge pang of regret about not going to Florida as I watched the airplanes lifting off. The better weather aside, I love flying and hanging around airports.

No matter, it's too late for regrets and it turned out pretty well. My ride was an hour and half late. I was impatient and little cranky about it since the weather turned in the interim and a storm blew in but all's well that ends well. I was supposed to get a Dodge Neon, the cheapest and smallest car but I arrived so late and they were over-booked so I was upgraded to a freaking Chrysler PT cruiser. It's kind of mixed blessing. It's a very cool car but I feel like no self-respecting hippie should be seen in a car this trendy. I felt like a bleeding yuppie driving home but it will be a real comfortable ride to the beach tomorrow. Not to mention, now I can go shopping with impunity. There's nothing I want to buy that wouldn't fit into this baby. I expect at the end of two weeks I'll be sorry to give it back.
Why I never got a cell phone

This story is making the rounds but is worth repeating. Turns out it's more dangerous to give your kids cell phones than it is to let them smoke pot. A UK researcher found that phone calls, emails and text messaging was taking a huge toll on workers.
In 80 clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day.

He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

Goes to show that nothing is completely safe and at least marijuana eases stress instead of contributing to it.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Deep breath

Okay. I'm officially on vacation. I think I have 16 days to get my life back together. Ten of those will be spent at the beach with my trusty new laptop. I can't wait to smell the sea but of course, the weather is going to suck. It's going to be cold until Wednesday, a prospect made worse by the fact that I opted out of the Florida digs where the weather will be in the 80s. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that I wouldn't get any work done at all if I went south and it will still be warm enough during the day to walk the beach here. I don't swim in the Atlantic anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fateful last words

I just got home. I'm going to stop putting a time frame on when I'll be back because it seems to have become something of a jinx. Every time I have expected to be home early, something has happened to delay me. I've got to get up at the crack of dawn and do it over again one more time tomorrow so no blogging tonight after all.

Short takes

I'm off to spend the afternoon with the family so just a quick look at what's making news.

GW Pharmaceuticals has won approval in Canada so Sativex should be showing up on the pharmacy shelves soon. A successful launch there could put pressure on US authorities to allow the same. After all, it's not smoked so that eliminates the prohibitionist's main argument.

Two mayors of border towns with Belgium and France in the Netherlands have called for the legalization of marijuana in order to thwart criminal gangs that are causing problems. Christian Democrat mayor Gerd Leers of Maastricht said, ""I think that a regulated production (of cannabis) would drive out a lot of the criminal activity."

Gary Youds opened the Amsterdam-style Tea Cafe in Holt Road, Kensington, Liverpool six weeks ago without government sanction and has been busted twice already but not for complaints of misconduct by his patrons. By all accounts, the cafe with 400 registered members has caused no problems other than a vague concern that the patrons are smoking pot behind closed doors. "We are doing nothing wrong, all we want is tolerance," he said.. I am happy to work with the police and council, allowing them inside for inspections at any time."

Meanwhile the newly resurrected Marijuana Party in Canada launched its provincial election campaign with a gala event in Vancouver.
That's it for now. I'll be back this evening.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

4/20 Roundup

There was a surprising amount of press I thought.

A 4/20 explanation.

A crackdown on campus in VT.

The 4/20 aftermath - some advice on passing the piss test.

Snark from Jim Stingl in Milwaukee who could use a sense of humor transplant.

A scholarly look from the Herald Tribune that quotes Nadelmann.

A report from Washington State reassuring parents their teens were not skipping school.

A fair warning to Colorado students.

And finally, The San Francisco musical version.


Happy 4/20 to all. The origination of this day to make merry with marijuana may be in debate but you all know what to do to celebrate. Of course around my old haunts, every day was 4:20 but I have a feeling it's going to be a quieter event here in the South. Unfortunately I don't even have any seeds to send off with a helium balloon this year, so I can't mark the occasion as I have in the past but I'll be joining the merrymakers at places like Arizona State and Colorado university in spirit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Flora and fauna

It's been a long day. I didn't get home until it was almost dark but there was just enough light to determine my little garden is happy and thriving. I was worried about the pinks. I ripped the roots pretty drastically to get them separated but everyone was standing up and looking happy enough. The tomato almost looked like it grew an inch.

Meanwhile, four more days to the beach. The bad news is I didn't take the fancy oceanfront condo after all. It turned out the wifi was not necessarily working so I'm going to take the smaller oceanview down the road. Only one deck and no gas fireplace but it has working Roadrunner and since I waited until the last minute, they dropped the price and it's ridiculously cheap.

On the bird front, what I believe to be a mockingbird has sort of befriended me in the family hood. It followed me along the side of the road, from tree to the tree, the other day. It was almost like being followed into the woods by a cat. Today he buzzed out low from the brush, flew straight at me and then veered when he was about six feet away and landed on low branch on the other side of the road. He had caught a bug. He was so casual it almost looked like he was flying in slow motion.

The "left hand path"

Preston Peet of suffers from chronic pain as a result of a horrible auto accident in his youth. As a result, he is kicking a rather nasty dope habit - again. Ibogaine has helped him through twice now and he's hoping the third time is a charm. Read a graphic account of his latest trip.

Monday, April 18, 2005

How will my garden grow?

Well I don't have high expectations with the condition of the soil but I planted a little garden this evening. That's the best part of living in the South. I can get home at 7:00 and still work outside. It doesn't get dark until 8:30. I planted one heirloom tomato and one sweet pepper I've never seen before, one sage plant and a few flowers. I'll get a couple more herbs and maybe a squash and a melon of some kind but I don't think I'll be investing much more into it this year.

Meanwhile I still can't decide whether to mow the lawn. I'm not sure it's possible because there's so much moss and I love the flowers. It's kind of turned into a bluet and violet strewn meadow at the moment and if I wasn't for what to appears to be some kind of crabgrass about to go to seed I wouldn't dream of cutting it. I'm thinking of getting one of those old fashioned push mowers so I can just mow the ugly parts and leave the flowers alone instead of hiring someone to drive over everything.

In other yard maintainence developments, I'm getting ready to some serious brush burning as I discovered it's the socially acceptable method of disposal here. I do so love a bonfire and I already have good firepit in the back yard. The only problem around here is there's no rocks to speak of. I would have liked to build a fire ring of stone.

bright yellow-green apples
Stacking the books

Wow! Out of my price range but if you have the cash, this is a worthwhile investment.
William Dailey Rare Books, Ltd and Flashback Books are jointly offering for sale, en bloc, the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, the largest collection of psychoactive drug books and related materials in the world.

The library’s holdings includes more than ten thousand books, pamphlets and offprints, journals and magazines, archival papers, letters and manuscripts, phonograph records and audiotapes, photographs, engravings, posters, broadsides and videotapes, comic books and newspapers, and a wide variety of artifacts. A large number of items fall into the categories of rare or scarce, and an extremely large number are out-of-print.
Read the description. It covers everything from books, pamphlets and research memorabilia to phonograph records and paraphernalia. Almost makes me wish I had dedicated my life to money instead of travel.

Weedman wins

I'm feeling better today and so is the New Jersey Weedman, Ed Forchion who is still winning the battle against the state of New Jersey over his DNA sample. When he first received the order to give up the swab he wrote to the Governor and the AG telling them if they wanted his DNA they would have to kiss his ass and retrieve the DNA from their lips. The state has been pursuing Weedman ever since, looking for an alternate method of obtaining the sample but the state appellate court shot down the AG's complaint, ruling Weedman was not in contempt and technically was never issued a clear judicial order to give up the sample.

A frequent candidate for office, a Rastafarian by faith and a pro-legalization marijuana activist, the Weedman said he was elated when he got the news Saturday. Don't expect him to be resting on his laurels though. Knowing Ed, it's only a matter of time before he's hauled into court again for challenging the inequities in this war on some drugs

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sick Day

Sorry folks, no blogging today. It's was a gorgeous day here and I have tons to get done outside but I'm sick and have barely managed to crawl out of bed. It's passing. I'll be back tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The two faces of Andrea Barthwell

Thanks to Michael Krawitz for pointing us to this hot rumor posted by Fred Gardner at the always interesting Counterpunch.
A hitherto reliable source says that G.W. Pharmaceuticals has hired Andrea Barthwell, MD, to lobby for approval of its cannabis-plant extracts in the U.S. G.W. manufactures a high-THC spray called Sativex that is awaiting marketing approval in Britain and Canada. They also make a high-CBD formulation, and a 50-50 mix. Barthwell, a specialist in addiction medicine, is a liberal Republican from Illinois. She was employed for two years in the Office of National Drug Control Policy under Bush's "drug czar," John Walters, and she left with an eye towards running for the Senate (for the seat that was won by Barak Obama).
I don't know where he came up with the "liberal" Republican part but nonetheless I find it very interesting that Ms. Barthwell, after making a living for years on anti-marijuana rhetoric, declaring that there was absolutely no medicinal value in cannabis, all of sudden found some value in Sativex when she found a way to make money on the position.

Especially galling since she is currently offering her services as a prohibition speaker for hire via her corporation Illinois Marijuana Lectures. A quick look at the site today finds the opening words to be, "Surgeon General, pediatiricians, AMA warn parents about marijuana." They didn't even spell it correctly and they say we're impaired?

I was almost surprised to find the site still alive after she was caught lying about her sponsors. How she can bill herself as the Honorable Andrea Barthwell with a straight face is beyond me but then again, blatant hypocrisy becomes professional liars. And there's more.
G.W. has also hired John Pastuovic, who headed the Bush-Cheney campaign in Illinois in 2000, to handle public relations in the U.S. The implication of the hires is that G.W. founders Geoffrey Guy and Brian Whittle will use any means necessary to push their products as alternatives to smoked marijuana. Our source says, "As a stockholder -bravo! As a citizen -what a shame!"
This is just the last in a string of odd news lately that speaks of a broader interest in isolating the elements in cannabis that do the medical job without the high of smoking the plant. Gardner goes on to look at anti-inflammatory aspects that are being studied with an eye to isolating the non-psychotropic inhibitors from those that affect perception.

I have a feeling the prohibitionists are brewing this new strategy of keeping the plant illegal by vilifying the innocuous buzz so they can control the market with derivatives and chemical synthetics. They've known for decades the plant is safe but they couldn't figure out how to keep people from obtaining the drug on their own by growing it. This lets them work both sides of the fence.

I can see the commercial now. Open with long shot of John Walters, now former head of ONDCP, purposefully striding down a corridor. Voiceover: "We told you MMJ was bad medicine." Pull in to talking head shot, serious but vaguely contrite expression on his face. "We were wrong." Pull out to John standing between two wheelchair bound patients. Sincere and vaguely cheerful expression on JW's face. "We discovered the problem was the [bad chemicals] in the plant. Thanks to [insert pharma here] people like Sam and Linda here can enjoy the relief of Greend* without the terrifying side effects of relaxation and expanded thinking.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Drug testing does more harm than good

This is why random student drug testing is such a horrible policy.
Seventeen-year-old Mike, an upstanding senior at Shallowater High School near Lubbock Texas, had been on a number of medications for allergies as well as some antibiotics?one of which his doctor later confirmed could cause a false positive for cocaine?when his school randomly tested him. The school failed to properly follow their own policies by neglecting to ask Mike to list the medications he was on. To make matters worse, South Plains Compliance, the drug testing company hired by the school to administer the tests, maintained that their procedures were 100% accurate despite the extenuating circumstances.
His mother subsequently had him tested several times privately with negative results. The school didn't budge and the kid was singled out for random testing on a regular basis. The stress understandably didn't help his studies and in the end he withdrew from extracurricular activities altogether. His life is basically ruined by a flawed test and for what? Studies have shown the whole testing program to be ineffective in deterring substance abuse in the actual users. As Drug Policy Alliance notes:
Drug testing has recently always been an easy anti-drug sound bite for the White House. But stories like Lori's cannot be ignored. Their experience is a prime example of how student testing breaks the trust between young people and adults and drives students away from the extracurricular activities that keep kids out of trouble.
John Walters is on a taxpayer funded tour promoting this fiasco of a policy. DPA in response is holding summits to counter his propaganda. If you live in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oregon or Texas check out their tool kit with posters, talking points and other ways to take action.

Afghan eradication begins badly

Pete at Drug War Rant already covered this and I blogged it in Detroit, but it's worth posting again. It appears day one of the US sponsored poppy eradication program in Afghanistan didn't go well. They had a big hoo-haw going out into the fields but by the end of the day five farmers were dead after a fierce battle with the local "cops" and the private US security forces (mostly ex-cops from here) were cowering in razor-wired compounds. And this was supposed to the be the easy target.
"The farmers are angry with the Americans and the Kabul government," said Ahmed Weil. "It is only the fields of the poor that are being destroyed, not the fields of the rich." Afghans complain that wealthy warlords keep their stockpiles of opium while poor farmers are stopped from growing the crop or have their fields cut down.
This eradication program will be every bit a disaster as Plan Colombia is for coca farmers. The difference is that the Afghanis have been fighting foreign occupiers for decades now. They're much more apt to resist. This is a tinder keg just waiting to blow Bush's carefully crafted vision of a peaceful Afghanistan to smithereens.

It's the tax man

I file the simplest forms possible because in my financial range it's just not worth the extra hours of aggravation to save a couple hundred dollars on deductions. The 1040EZ takes fifteen minutes to fill out, the state form maybe thirty - it's more complicated. Even then, except for last year, I usually get about hundred dollars back, so why do I always wait until the last day to file?

I don't know. I guess it's because I just hate the whole process and it pisses me off when I see how much of the money I earned with actual labor has been squandered by politicians who spend more time making deals to enrich themselves than they do looking out for my interests. I mean don't even get me started. Anyway it's done for another year.

Meanwhile I'm looking forward to some beach time. I almost relented and went to Florida. I went as far as putting together a great two week package but I backed out at the last minute and went for the local option. I decided I needed the quiet and took the remote condo on the beach with the wifi access. I can't wait to be live blogging from the sea. I think it's ten days from now. With my erratic schedule, I've completely lost track of time.

On the home front, the cardinals have been getting friendlier all the time and the local hawks have become an endless source of entertainment both here and at the family homestead. I saw six at once yesterday, swooping low between the houses and there was one just hanging in the wind this afternoon in the setting sun that was stunning. It was so low I could see all the colors on its wings.

In the flora department, my azaleas turned out to be pink and white and my neighbor has the sweetest smelling lilacs in bloom. Driving on the narrow roads right now is like driving through clouds of flowers. I'm astounded daily by how much is blooming at once. It's kind of like the springs I remember as a child. Even more stunning for a Northerner like me, I saw my first iris in bloom this morning. Definitely a flower I associate with mid June, not April. Small wonder that I'm feeling a bit disoriented by the season.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The price of prohibition

One of the nicest results of my brief stint at TongueTied is that I gained Ben Harris as a reader here. Ben kindly sends the links when Fox News covers the war on some drugs. I appreciate this because I don't have the time or the stomach for checking the site regularly and I like knowing that they do, even if it's for the wrong reasons. It still illustrates how inane it is to think you can stop the import of illegal drugs as long as the profits generated by their prohibition remain in effect.

Today's military drug run comes from Germany where two unfortunate souls in the Air National Guard were caught carrying 290,000 Ecstasy pills into the country while on a military mission. If you think they're the only ones doing it, think again. Interestingly the two here were named Rodriguez and Fong, but what are the chances these guys are the only two out of tens of thousands of soldiers who would be tempted by a chance to make $10,000 for carrying a couple of big baggies full of pills?

And by the way, I've never taken it myself but Melissa at D'Alliance knows what's going on in that scene and has this to say on the DEA's valuation of the haul.
"$40 for ecstasy? On what planet?"
Law enforcement always over values the bust for a number of reasons. The bottom here is, 290,000 sounds like a lot but it is not a major haul and you can be sure that ten times that is arriving in other military bags, even as you read these words.

Update: Apologies to Ben. He didn't get here from Tonguetied; he's actually a fellow reformer and has been around here longer than that. I confused him with someone else, probably because he was sending links from Fox. I've been having this space-time continum problem lately.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Simple logic - Prohibition funds terrorism

M. Simon at Power and Control unearthed this gem from a Instapundit post.
Like its '90s counterparts in Afghanistan and Algeria, the Saudi terror movement depends heavily on smuggling, especially of drugs such as heroin and hashish, as a source of revenue.

Because such drugs are specifically banned under Islamic law, the terror groups have used a fatwa by their late "spiritual guide" Abdallah al-Rashoud in which he provided an "exception." His argument was simple: Hard drugs represent a form of weaponry that the true Muslim is authorized to use against the "infidel" nation; the drugs will kill young people in the "infidel" West while providing money for the Islamist groups to buy arms with which to kill more "infidels."
As Simon points out the prohibition is supporting the terrorists and other criminal elements. Remove the black market, remove the profits, remove the funding for terrorists. How much easier could it be?

Tell it like it is

Marisa Garcia wrote an excellent op-ed on the ill-advised HEA provision for college financial aid. Marisa is one of its victims and takes Mark Souder to task in his own hometown newspaper. This is a prime target for Letters to The Editor. It would good to generate enough buzz that the paper plays the story up. After all that snake in the grass Souder has got to go home once in a while.

Letters to the editor can be sent here, and if you need help in composing yours, contact MAP's Media Activism Facilitator Steve Heath, here.

DEA policy leaves patients with little choice

The Agitator points us to an excellent article on the DEA's war on pain management doctors. Ronald Fraser of the DKT Liberty Project examines the DEA's dunderheaded program to keep honest citizens from obtaining adequate pain relief.
In March 2004, DEA administrator Karen Tandy told Congress her drug warriors have "been successful in addressing OxyContin diversion as evidenced by a reduction in the rate of increase of OxyContin prescriptions being written and a leveling-off of OxyContin sales."
As Fraser notes, this is an odd measure of progress since the experts estimate 40% of legitimate patients don't receive adequate medication. Essentially this proves that the DEA scared the doctors out of the practice but shows no effect on the black market in the drug which by any practical measure will have increased because people in pain have no choice but to go to the black market to obtain relief. Or they could suffer.
Thanks to the DEA, Orient predicts, "if you have an operation or an acute injury, chances are your doctor will order adequate pain medication. But if you are one of the millions with chronic, intractable, so-called benign pain, you may be told to learn to live with it."
Little wonder suicide rates among this group of patients are up.

Sorry, wrong number

Another raid gone wrong in New York. Thank God there were no fatalities this time but the deaf woman with asthma and her two young children will never be quite the same.
Mini Matos, 28, and her two children were fast asleep when about five cops from Brooklyn South Narcotics burst into her apartment in the Gravesend Houses in a predawn raid Jan. 15. Before Matos was aware of what was going on, she was pulled from her bed and handcuffed. Her son, Benny, 8, and daughter, Mayralee Matos, 5 - asleep on bunk beds in an adjoining room - were startled by the commotion and burst into tears.

"I actually thought I was dreaming," Matos said. "When they handcuffed me I was having trouble breathing. I told them I had asthma and I needed my asthma pump. But nobody was paying attention to me."
Some time passed before one of the officers came in and announced they had raided the wrong apartment.
Now, nearly three months later, she says she and her kids are still not over their ordeal. "My son understands more, but my daughter couldn't sleep for two days and she thinks they're going to break in again," Matos said. "I'm also worried it's going to happen again. I keep getting up and looking at my door.
Not much chance those kids will grow up thinking the police are their to protect them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ONDCP launches latest propaganda blitz

This is enough to make you lose your lunch. The ONDCP has launched it's latest disinformation campaign coyly titled "Facts for Parents," with a press release announcing, "ONDCP Print Ads Arm Parents with Scientific Data." The data is the same tired, long debunked propaganda, dredging up the not your father's pot, mental health risks and the ever popular pot is worse than cigarettes fictions among others. The ads, aimed at parents, are to likely to be as ineffective as the last campaign targeting the teens themselves was - that resulted in increased use among the group.
"We've done research with parents to determine what motivates them to take an active stance about marijuana with their teens, and we discovered that many parents say they don't have the accurate information or compelling facts they need to address this issue," said John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. "These ads give parents some hard facts that they can use to have informed conversations with their kids about the negative consequences of marijuana.

Spare me. What rock would these parents have been living under? Not to mention I can't think of any worse way to talk to your kid about drugs than by trying to pass off prohibition science-fiction as fact.

In any event the PR industry will be thriving. Starting today, millions of your tax dollars will be paying for the ads to run in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. During the course of the next four months, they will also appear in Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Time and Smithsonian magazines.

Bigger than your average bust

The dogs at the San Diego border got this one - over six tons of marijuana behind the legit goods in a tractor trailer truck. That's a lot of pot and it's hard to hide. Which is why you pay so much for commercial Mexican these days. The importers have to cover this kind of loss and the cost is passed on to the consumer - just like any other business.

But the real point here is the government only intercepts a small percentage of what gets through. I don't have the figure handy but I believe they've never done better than 20%, so for every 6 tons they bust, another 24(?) tons gets across the border. Think about it - the folks in the ghetto can't possibly afford to consume all the drugs that come in. So who do you think is buying the stuff?

Plotting medical marijuana regs

I like that the Ukiah Planning Commission is planning ahead and addressing medical marijuana growing regulations but they're definitely barking up the wrong tree with the current proposals on the table. They want to restrict to indoor grows only.

It doesn't make a bit of sense to do this in California's climate for one thing and it's more dangerous to grow indoors. There's a lot of safety issues and the energy draw is not only wasteful generally but cost prohibitive for the grower.

The planners are to hold a combination workshop and public hearing on Wednesday. One hopes the public will set them straight.

Penalties to fit the "crime"

It's good to see that 60s spirit sparking up on college campuses. Supporters of a campus-wide ballot issue at the University of Colorado staged a rally as voting began for the on-campus referendum. The question before the student body is whether marijuana and alcohol infractions should carry the same penalty. Proponents rightfully point out that currently marijuana carries a much higher penalty while it's alcohol abuse that causes most of the problems. CBS4 reports:
The voting goes on all this week. Results will come on Saturday. Students at Colorado State passed a similar resolution last week.
We await the results with great interest.

At home

It's turned out to be a very busy few days off and of course I didn't get half of what I wanted to done, but I'm making progress. I decided I really wanted a quiet vacation so I'm going to forgo Florida in favor of the Outer Banks. Still fussing over which condo to rent. The more expensive one is right on the beach and has wifi. I'm trying to decide whether it's worth the extra expense but I'll probably end up getting it. I can't seem to let go of this vision of sitting on the deck overlooking the sea with my laptop.

I'm moving slow today. I think I'm finally coming down the cold the family has been passing around and my back is out from digging in the garden yesterday. I should be out there right now transplanting the wayward strawberries but it's just not going to happen.

The flora here is moving at a rapid pace. The magnolias and cherries have dropped their flowers but the dogwoods are peaking and there's some kind of tree that looks like a horse chestnut only with pink flowers that seem to have bloomed overnight. My neighbor has a fine specimen that's most cheering on this gray day.

Meanwhile, I have no bird sightings to report myself except a few visits from the cardinal pair outside my office window but bird blogging seems to be catching on. Check out Silflay Hraka's Birds of Iraq.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Thai tactics take war on some drugs to extremes

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra declares war on some drugs annually and just issued this year's edict. The maniac had 2,500 people executed in 2003 and despite international disgust with this human rights violation intends to "stay the course."
"As long as I am still the prime minister, I will not allow narcotic drugs to return," Thaksin told 1,000 drug busting officers and volunteers at police headquarters in Bangkok as he launched the three-month campaign.
What exactly does he mean by that? It implies drug use was actually eliminated at some point in time but despite the mass murders of thousands, it doesn't appear he made much of a dent in the business in 2003 if they're still "fighting" two years later. This could explain it.
The three-month 2005 campaign would focus on major producers along the borders with Cambodia and Laos, areas to which they moved from the Myanmar border, and small dealers peddling in bars and clubs, Thaksin said.
What do you want to bet that most of the arrests come from the latter group? It makes for good PR - Thaksin was re-elected in a landslide based partly on this policy - but it won't stop the drug trade.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Pharmaceutical pot for pain

Well they're finally admitting that cannabis has medicinal properties. New scientific studies prove that a cannabinoid receptor in the plant is shown to inhibit acute, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain. Anecdotal evidence proves that pharmaceutical companies have known right along and have merely been waiting to figure out how to make money from it before they endorse it.

Johnson & Johnson sponsored this study and here's the rub. They figure you have to take the high out of the plant in order for it to be socially acceptable. Thus these studies are working on a process to do just that. As the article so obliquely puts it, "Extricating the high could aid in generating novel pharmaceuticals free of the political opposition facing medical marijuana." In other words, they'll be for it when they can turn the plant into a chemical that can only be obtained through them.

I would note that J & J, along with most if not all big pharma corps are huge sponsors of prohibition under the guise of such agencies as Partnership for a Drug Free America. They will no doubt continue to support medical marijuana prohibition in the interim of course, proving once again that they are always willing to put profits over the pain and suffering of the people.

Hemp for New Hampshire

It's good to see policy on industrial hemp making strides. New Hampshire legislators are taking up the issue, rightly seeing the plant as a crop that could help out an ailing agricultural industry in the state. The bill allowing its production has already squeaked through the House of Representatives and will now come before the state Senate.

Of course, they still have to battle the misconception on the part of the public that equates agricultural cannabis with the smokeable variety. Take for instance the Ossipee police chief - who really should know better.
“Legalization of hemp is really a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana. You’re going to increase the supply, which will lower the prices. That will give kids more access to it. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
What's ridiculous is that a law enforcement officer doesn't know the difference. With a 12,000-year history of growth you would think folks would be able to understand the huge benefits of this crop. As proponents point out, with an increasing amount of farmland being sold off and developed into condos and tony developments, it would be a great way to save a number of family farms and preserve our rapidly diminishing open spaces.

The hemp industry is thriving internationally. Given a chance, hemp could become the new cotton here and could bail out failing tobacco farms. Let's hope it gets the opportunity to demonstrate its worth.

Lost day

For some reason I was just burned out yesterday. I couldn't even look at the computer. I didn't read anything, I didn't blog anything and I spent the day outside. I'm off right now to the family homestead for a few hours but I will be back later today - promise.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Well it took all day but I got my car back and I'm a legal driver again. Grady came to pick me up and we had a nice chat on the back to the garage. He talks really slow but he didn't look at all like I expected and he's had an interesting life. It's a good thing I did it that way because I drove him back to the place and it's really hard to find. You can't see it from the main road. I never would have found it on my own.

The car isn't finished yet. There's more stuff that needs to be done but it was running great. No inconvenient stalling and the new wipers made a big difference in today's storm. I haven't met the owner who is off in Texas seeing his sister or something but I really like this garage. They seem very honest and they haven't charged me very much money yet.

I also got the license and reg changed. Not as easy as it sounds but the problem is with the weird paperwork, not with the officers and clerks. They were really nice and the whole process was amazingly efficient. I got one sign, (like you remember which shape the RR crossing is without the picture) and 3 questions wrong on the driver's test. Good enough to pass.

The new license photo was not great but compared to the last four, it was okay. Thus inspired and having to go to the local mall to change the plates, I had my passport photo taken as well. What the heck, I was still wearing lipstick and it's due to renew. That one was an improvement on the current photo as well.

I took the back way into town. I'm convinced it's quicker and the drive is certainly nicer. Wisteria vines and shrubby cherry trees form a large part of the undergrowth in the undeveloped woods along those roads and the well tended lawns in between are turning emerald green. It was a colorful and pleasant ride.

Smoking pot causes sarcasm

The UK Guardian looks at an old study that proves pot could be the answer to peace in the Middle East. Thirty years ago, researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted experiments with a group of young men between the ages of 21-30, testing their levels of aggression after smoking marijuana.

Unsurprisingly, the results showed that their aggressive impulses diminished greatly while non-smokers reacted more aggressively to frustration. More surprising was the finding that marijuana actually caused a small increase in "sarcastic communications." Might explain my dry wit.

Anyway, if we lock the Middle Eastern leaders in a room with a bag of pot, perhaps we really could make some progress for peace.

Blogger issues

Well Blogger has been completely goofy again so I haven't be able to post. I think I may have solved the problem but I have to go out and deal with car stuff today which is likely to take the better part of the day so I'll be back later this afternoon.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A decade of progress

If you've got the cash, Marijuana Policy Project is having its 10th annual bash and it sounds like it will be quite a party. Acclaimed comic, actor, and Emmy Award-winning comedy writer Rick Overton will serve as master of ceremonies, honoring Montel Williams, U.S. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), and U.S. Supreme Court medical marijuana plaintiff Angel Raich. I'm sorry I'm going to miss the fun.

The gala will be held at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 4. Regular tickets are $250 and VIP tickets (which include a special VIP reception and preferred seating) are $500. A limited number of student/limited income tickets are also available for $150.

Proceeds will benefit MPP's important and effective work for reform and the protection of medical marijuana patients. For details, go to the site.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

van Etten photo

I've been neglecting the graphics here for lack of time so I decided to do the occassional photo blog of the lovely work of van Etten courtesy of the London Morning Paper. I'm starting with this particular photo because it looks almost exactly like the car in my neighborhood. They're different models but the colors are exactly the same.

Prohibition - follow the money

Thanks to Tim Meehan of NORML Canada for passing this item on. The Partnership for a Drug Free America has posted a new list of donors. The dates of these donations are unavailable however, of 24 major donors - 15 are pharmaceutical corps.

Think about that for a moment. Haven't we always said the drug pushing pharmaceutical companies were the biggest supporters of prohibition?

International anti-drug conference

The Prohibition Profiteers convention has convened in Chile this week. Prohibitionists from over 70 countries have gathered to pat each other on the back for their "good work" and to pledge co-operation in a "war" they really don't want to win because it would put them out of business.

You ever notice how often the big prohibs like Walters and Tandy get to travel on the taxpayer's money? No wonder they want to keep this so-called war going.

Afghanistan opts for humane approach to poppy cultivation

This is good news. Afghanistan continues to resist US pressure to institute a "Plan Colombia" style eradication program to bring poppy cultivation under control, asking donors to instead "invest in law enforcement and alternative livelihoods for poppy growers, rather than crop spraying or eradication at gunpoint."
"I think this problem can be taken care of and we will not need to reach to use force against poor farmers," Wardak said.

But he said force would still be used in "exceptional cases" against drug processing labs, as opposed to poppy growers.
Uribe should take a lesson from this, but then again the billions of US tax dollars given to Colombia doesn't really go towards fighting drugs anyway. It merely provides the cover for clandestine support of their military.

Skewed logic on teens and drugs

This guy needs to get a life or least get out of the house more often.
Franke Roffel, a counsellor at Abbotsford's Yale Secondary School, says some students are going to invitation-only sex parties where drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and sometimes heroin are made available along with large amounts of alcohol.

"As a rule, it is young men supplying the drugs and the young ladies being invited to the party," Roffel says. "Have the drugs, and in exchange, you have sex."
Come on Franke. Teens have been having parties and sex since the beginning of time. By this criteria, anyone who has a date that ends with a sexual encounter is guilty of prostitution. I mean really, if they weren't using drugs would he accuse them of trading sex for potato chips and dip?

Prohibition propaganda - It's not just for Americans anymore

Well I suppose it should be have been expected that with all the coaching going on between the US prohibition profiteers and Canada's government that this site was inevitable. Still, a quick look is enough to make you want to hurl your breakfast.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

When the morning comes

I hate the time change. I haven't slept more than 5 hours on any night this week and I'm tired and cranky. My car is still not ready and my last conversation with the garage was less than comforting. They found something wrong but can't figure out what it is and I still don't really know where they are. I think I might have to take a cruise over there in the morning.

Meanwhile the rest of my life is not so bad. I've been walking every day and notice I already have a tan. I think I'll need to break out the sun screen pretty soon and I'm loving the laptop. I can't wait to take it out into the greater wifi world. As luck would have it I found a link to a worldwide wifi locator in my newsletters today.

I'm looking at a couple of weeks off at the end of the month. I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to Florida. I was going to do the Outer Banks but I found a really cheap flight to Lauderdale and it would a nice time to visit my friends. Not to mention, according to the locator there's a lot of wifi availability in Florida. I'm too burned out to decide tonight though. That and the drug war news will have to wait until the morning.

Monday, April 04, 2005

China declares war on some drugs - again

A "senior security official in China declared a "people's war" against drugs this week.
"The nationwide campaign is to meet actual demand to deal with current tough situation of drug abuse in China, and is also a decisive strategy to win the initiative in fighting against drugs," said Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and State Councilor.
They already have a big head start on the project.
China cracked 98,000 drug-related cases in 2004, up 4.4 percent over the previous year, and seized 66,900 suspects, up 5.1 percent,according to statistics revealed at the meeting.

Last year, China seized 10.8 tons of heroin in 2004, up 13.6 percent year-on-year; more than 3 million "head-shaking" pills, or ecstasy, an eight-fold increase; 2.7 tons of "ice" , down 52.9 percent; and 160 tons of chemicals for drug manufacture, up 119.8 percent.
They certainly have a large pool of potential arrestees.
Nearly 86 percent of Chinese drug users, comprised mainly of young people, farmers and the unemployed, are addicted to heroin. The number of addicts to new kinds of drugs like ecstasy and ketamine hydrochloride is also increasing, from accounting for 2.5 percent of the total in 2001 to 9.5 percent in 2004.
And while the authorities complain of being under equipped in the fight, they apparently have plenty of manpower.
China now boasts a special anti-drug police force of about 17,000 members, and the central government has input hundreds of million yuan to support the drug control efforts over the past years.
The report fails to mention that China has been routinely executing drug dealers for a very long time and although authorities claim this hard line approach has curbed the market, they don't seem to be running out of addicts. Proving that you can no more execute your way out of drug abuse than you can incarcerate your way out of it.

Supply and demand
Outside of drug policy, M. Simon of Power and Control and I are pretty far apart politically. Nonetheless, I like his no nonsense approach and I'm a big fan of his blog. He favors us with an interesting lesson on supply side economics and the black market in drugs. Simon also makes a good point on the effect of prohibition on the market.
Cross border importation has given way to hydroponic homegrown. Ever notice how many hydroponic stores are in your town? Our small town just added another a year ago. Prices will start to fall in time even in the marijuana market.
Ironically, since no major government/corporate entities are involved on the supply side, as there are on the prohibition end of the equation - the drug market may realistically be called the free market's greatest success.

Weak excuse for murder

This is so bogus. A cop gets away with killing an unarmed passenger in a car during a traffic stop because the driver was later found with 3 grams of pot and a pipe in her possession. Last I looked, marijuana was not a lethal weapon and even if they could construe the pipe as deadly, it was in the driver's purse so there was no proximity. Nonetheless, a months long investigation and a 400 page report exonerated the cop officially though not all are satisfied with the report's conclusions.

Steve Kubby has his own questions for the panel, such as given the officer's interest in sports and sports medicine, whether this could have been a case of "roid rage which Kubby notes "is an increasingly common problem with officers who use steroids and are easily enraged or threatened." Kubby suggests the cop be tested. Sounds reasonable to me.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Marijuana in Michigan

Ann Arbor's annual Hash Bash was held yesterday with a respectable crowd despite the cold and drizzly weather. In a sign of the times, the focus was more on political parity than pot party.
Organizer Josh Soper, a U-M junior, said the intention of the rally was to bring the issue of legalizing marijuana to light instead of being "a smoke in" as it had been the case in previous years. Soper is director and founder of the U-M chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Poet John Sinclair, a 1960s activist whose arrest in 1969 inspired the very first Hash Bash, urged participants to fight for the right to legalize marijuana. "We will continue to work to alter the laws in this town," he said. Of course the town laws aren't that odious, hence the warning from the speakers to conduct any marijuana consumption off campus. It seems the university enforces state law while the city of Ann Arbor instituted the eminently sensible statute within city limits making possession a civil infraction with a $25.00 fine.

It occurs to me as we await the decision in Raich v.Ashcroft, if the court renders a bad decision, as many expect, perhaps the way to make an end run against the prohibition is to get Ann Arbor style legislation enacted in every town in America. The feds couldn't very well enforce the interstate commerce act against the whole country.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A little help for a new friend

Nephalim is going through some tough times this week, his wife left him, so I'll be posting drug war news over there tonight. Having lost at love as many times as I have, I know what he's going through. Seems the least I can do when he went to all the trouble of setting up that fabulous website.

My ride is on its way so check for me there in about an hour or so.

Time flies

Today is my one year anniversary at the Detroit News. I never would have predicted that I would have lasted so long. Heck, when I started there I had read their blog exactly twice and I've never set foot in the city. The funny thing is, I feel a real connection to readers and the real estate. I've come to think of them as my blog family and find myself following everything from their weather to the local politics.

And having survived my brief stint with Fox News, I find myself proud to be associated with the paper itself. For a mainstream news source, it's more truly "fair and balanced" than most.

If it's not one thing...

I'm so spectacularly unco that I managed to trip and rip my foot open on the overturned plastic storage bin I was sitting on this morning. Of course I was at the family homestead, alone with miles of white carpeting in every direction. There's going some shampooing going on over there I'll tell you. The interesting thing was I didn't rip my sock to do it and it's an ugly little injury. Go figure.

Meanwhile, it turns out that Grady was just joshing me about the car. It was on the lift yesterday and of course needs to have all the brake lines replaced after all those New England winters. I probably should have washed it more - or ever. I still don't know quite where the garage is but it wasn't done today in any event so I guess I'll just wait until it's fixed now.

It's cold here tonight. I'm home for only a couple of hours but I arrived in the daylight to find I have azaleas ready to bloom and my latest lilies, which appear to be some kind of Dutch variety, are growing apace. The trout lilies are about gone past but the bluets are multiplying with the rain and the entire yard, front and back, is ablaze with violets. Not to mention the neighbors all have gorgeous cherry trees in different shades of pink. On the down side my window box fell off in the wind but there's still a silver lining in it. I needed to change the soil anyway.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Black market profits lure GIs into ruin

We currently have 1,400 Americans in Colombia under the auspices of the war on "narco-terror." Five of them were caught switching sides this week. They are currently being held, "somewhere in America" after trying to smuggle out 32 lbs. of cocaine aboard a US military aircraft. A small amount by cartel standards but one can be certain the profits even on this amount of the drug far surpass their military pay.

The US has spent 3 billion of your tax dollars here so far but have failed to stem to flow of cocaine into our country. This is one reason why, while drug czar John Walters waves around statistics about stepped up eradication efforts and how many hectares of coca leaf they have destroyed, the price of cocaine on the street continues to drop.

As long as prohibition continues, the black market profits will make it worth any risk to get the drug into the country. You can be certain the five guys they caught aren't the only ones taking the chance. It's like trying to stop a flood armed with a sieve.

[Hat tip to Ben Harris]

More sense on hemp

Hemp laws are being challenged in Fiji. Rup Singh, of Banaras, Lautoka, told a Senate ad hoc committee in Ba on Wednesday that the laws dealing with marijuana were draconian and unjust and rightfully pointed out hemp is the best source of raw material ever known to mankind."
"There are 40 varieties of cannabis and only two of these are illicit while the other 38 are not, one of which is industrial hemp," he said. "The Government is losing out on thousands of untaxed dollars every day from [fibre crop] marijuana sales and it should seriously look into the hemp industry."
Advice our own legislators would do well to take. The prohibition on agricultural hemp, is the most ridiculous aspect of this war on some drugs. In decades past the government encouraged it's cultivation - Hemp for Victory - as part of its war effort. Now they declare war on the same plant that could save the planet from deforestation for one thing, just because it looks like a drug? Boggles the mind.

Hemp sense

Canadian Agriculture Minister Steve Peters tells lawmakers industrial hemp could be a viable option for tobacco farmers who are struggling to survive in today's dwindling smokers' market. A good point and one that could be made here in the US as our own tobacco farmers are facing decreasing government support for their crops.

NDP MPP Peter Kormos takes it a step further and suggests allowing the farmers to also grow medical marijuana.
"The demand has never been greater here," Kormos said. "Why are we letting
biker gangs grow it in grow operations with illegal hydro hookups when we
could be letting former tobacco farmers earn a living doing it."
Makes sense to me.

US bucks world consensus on harm reduction
Drug Policy Alliance reports on the 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm noting "the U.S. is far behind the rest of the world in its harm reduction approach to drug use and abuse." Even in Iran where per capita heroin addiction is the highest in the world, the theocrats recognized the benefits of harm reduction and "issued a fatwah [legal ruling] authorizing needle exchange and methadone maintenance programs." Only the prohibition profiteers in the US still refuse to recognize this sensible approach to drug addiction.

Think about that the next time you hear John Walters tell you how he wants to "win" the war on some drugs.