Reefer Madness, Mostly In Pennsylvania

Most of you who are my age or older know about the 1938 film “Reefer Madness”, a ridiculous movie that portrayed pot smoking as something that would make people immoral and stupid.

It was a big hit in the 1960s/early 70s, mostly in midnight shows at alternative theaters like The Biograph in Washington, DC (alternative as in, “I just spent almost 5 hours watching “Scenes from a Marriage” by Ingmar Bergman because I wanted to impress my upper-class friends”…..that kind of theater).

Anyway, people often refer to it when talking about the reactionary, hysterical anti-marijuana lobby, which this week has suffered a major setback:

“Tucked deep inside (a) 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.

Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.”  (“Congress Quietly Ends Federal Government’s Ban on Medical Marijuana”, Los Angeles Times website, 12/16/2014)

No more arresting people in the 32 states that have approved marijuana for medical use.

Unfortunately (for moi), that does not include Pennsylvania.  Because in Pennsylvania, illegal drugs mean big bucks for the ‘recovery industry’.  And they were all ready to add “marijuana addiction” to the list of things you could get treatment for – now tell me that wouldn’t result in a huge increase in admissions (money) for treatment centers?

Here in Pennsylvania, a cursory look at “Psychology Today” listings of treatment centers reveals 20 pages of them…run by everyone from medical conglomerates such as “behavioral health corporations” to ‘former addicts’ who create a social service agency and think they are the end-all and be-all of substance abuse counselors because they’ve “been there”.

“Poverty pimps” we used to call those people – people who had no other skills but the ability to con people out of money so they could sit in an office, go to seminars and conferences, and collect a decent salary.  No training, just a cult-like belief in AA (for which there is no scientific evidence), a good sob story, and the ability to bullshit other addicts.

The point is, Pennsylvania has a lot of treatment centers, and they generate revenue for the courts, doctors, social workers, former addicts, and wealthy benefactors who fund them.  When I “left” my last job at a treatment clinic, the powers-that-be were talking about expanding their treatment of heroin/oxycodone addicts to include “marijuana addicts”.

Which, when you think about it, could include just about everyone.

The other part of the equation in Pennsylvania is the conservative, ignorant legislators.  These are people who do not see any difference between marijuana and heroin. They still use phrases like “gateway drug” – no, really, they do.  I have talked to a few who think that way.

In the last attempt to pass a decent bill legalizing medical marijuana, legislators (inexplicably to me) – Democrats – agreed to continue the ban on smoking or vaporizing marijuana, and to delete several ailments that people could get medical marijuana for – including severe pain, AIDS patients, and glaucoma!  (“Politics Eclipses Needs of Cannabis Patients: SB1182 Passes Senate”, Philly NORML website, 10/1/2014) I thought glaucoma was one of the very first things they discovered marijuana actually did help??

According to NORML:

“Only processed forms of cannabis products would be legal for patients to posses under the latest version of SB1182. These include cannabis-infused edibles, oil-based extracts, tinctures, and salves. Whole plant cannabis (the dried, cured raw flowers) would remain illegal and available only underground. Patients who use raw cannabis would still be at risk of arrest and prosecution.” (Ibid)

So…no tea.  Just brownies. Or you could put it on your skin, like a lotion – which doesn’t do a damn thing.  Hey, you can get hemp lotion in Walmart now, you morons!

NORML goes on to add:

“Other problems with the new SB1182 include: Extremely high licensing fees and overly excessive background check requirements for providers; limiting patients to a 30-day supply of cannabis products but not defining what amounts constitute that supply; and forbidding patients from altering their medicine. This means patients cannot utilize any whole plant material to make their own oil extracts, concentrates, or edibles – all of which are perfectly safe to do.”

Whoops! Ok, brownies are still in, but only if the patient doesn’t make them.  Geez.

They also cut the list of qualifying illnesses from 47 to just 10:

“The ten qualifying conditions under the version of SB 1182 that passed the Senate are: cancer, epilepsy and seizures, ALS, cachexia/wasting syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury and postconcussion syndrome, MS, Spinocerebellara Ataxia (SCA), PTSD, and severe fibromyalgia.” (“Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Bill Gutted and Passed by Senate 42-7”, National Marijuana Info.Org website, 10/2/2014)

PTSD would be a nod to the large veterans’ lobby here, ‘wasting syndrome’ is a “see? we didn’t forget AIDS patients” PR move, and…fibromyalgia?  You’re kidding, right?  I have no idea why that’s in there, unless it’s to shut up politicians’ relatives who bitch about it all the time, maybe?

Fibromyalgia is more painful than AIDS?  I don’t think so.  Is it more painful than lupus or other autoimmune diseases?  I don’t think so.  ALS and Parkinson’s are included but not MS?

Is this the old ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ thing, and people with these diseases just happen to push a little harder and yell a little louder?  Or is it maybe that the people who wrote the bill have relatives with these diseases?  Whatever the case, it ignores science and is really unfair.

Take neuropathic pain, for example.  That’s ‘nerve pain’.  Anyone who has ever had sciatica knows that burning, sharp pain that seems to come and go at will,  It’s common in diabetes and AIDS, too.  It usually isn’t helped by gabapentin (hello, fibromyalgia patients, this drug works for you).  There is a lot of research indicating that marijuana eases neuropathic pain:

“Cannabis for Treatment of HIV-Related Peripheral Neuropathy”, University of California, San Franciso, 2007, study published in Neurology, and reported by the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research.

“Low-Dose Vaporized Cannabis Significantly Improves Neuropathic Pain”. National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institute of Health (yes, folks, that’s our gov’t agency) website, 2/14/2013.

Those are just 2.  There are many, many others, and not just in the US but in Canada and the UK also.  You can Google “Cannabis and Pain” and find many examples of studies.  So why isn’t it included?

This is why, I think, it’s best to let someone’s doctor decide if medical marijuana is appropriate for his/her patient, not legislators.  I can tell just by this list that those decisions by legislators are not based on science, but maybe some emotional appeals and/or cronyism and/or PR moves.

Medical treatment should not be based on that.  Nor should it be successfully opposed by a bunch of profit-driven, unproven businesses (ie, treatment centers), whose only interest, again, is not in patient care but in money.  If marijuana is legalized, treatment centers won’t be able to expand, unless they actually want to push the “caffeine addiction” and “tobacco addiction” diagnoses just added to the DSM-V.

I don’t doubt that, when they find an ad agency that can manipulate the public into thinking that people need treatment programs to quit coffee and cigarettes, they will expand into those areas.   Bad news for another unproven sacred cow – AA.  Those folks live off coffee and cigarettes.

I hope 2015 brings a more successful year for medical marijuana in Pennsylvania.  So that everyone who can benefit from this drug is allowed to.  By the way, I do fall under one of the 10 categories in that bill, so my rant is not completely self-serving.  I just don’t think it’s fair that all these other people have to suffer for, what to me, seems like not very good reasons.

Medical update:  Got more tests yesterday.  Mammogram was normal.  I did not test positive for HIV.  Metabolic panel revealed a sodium problem (not high, but low).  Hep C test not in yet.

I emailed my doctor to ask if the sodium could be a problem, and he emailed back this morning to say he didn’t think so but we could re-test when next I see him (Dec.26).  Is there any limit to this doctor’s wonderfulness? Not only can patients email him, but he even takes the time to email back!!

My completely layperson guess is adrenal issues.  We’ll see.  I am back to feeling crappy and lightheaded even when I am sitting down.  And fatigue, fatigue, fatigue…lack of appetite is back, along with the nausea.  Meh.

Today’s weirdness…well, I didn’t find any truly weird stuff but I did find something in San Francisco…a giant gingerbread house!!  Oh I miss San Francisco at Christmas-time!  I have a lot of wonderful childhood memories of City of Paris, Macy’s, and the restaurant at the St, Francis Hotel.

Anyway, here’s the link and pic: The Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread House.

As for films….anything on Hallmark Channel (which I can’t get but used to love during holidays)..and classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “White Christmas” (or “Holiday Inn”, pretty much the same movie), and any of the “The Santa Clause” movies with Tim Allen.  And of course, Muppets!  Anything with Muppets is sure to cheer up even the meanest of Scrooges.

Be good, be safe, be kind.  Do as my good friend Charlie did, and brighten up somebody’s life who really needs it.  No matter what religion you are (or not), that’s the true spirit of the holidays.  And there’s no shortage of people who need a kind word or gesture, so you have NO excuse.






2 thoughts on “Reefer Madness, Mostly In Pennsylvania

  1. charlies5169

    I’m not even sure where to begin… As you know, this summer I lost my best friend of 50 years due directly to tobacco and alcohol. Two of my uncles drank themselves to death. Members of my immediate family have been through the whole jail/treatment/rehab cycle. My grandmother and my aunt were addicted to prescription drugs and experienced the related psychoses. I’ve had my own problems with alcohol over the years. (I’m happy to say that this weekend marks 28 years without a drop of alcohol.)

    My point is, that all of these issues involved legal, and therefore by implication, SAFE substances.

    This is not even getting into the number of celebrities and others who have died from overdoses of prescription drugs.

    And let’s not talk about all the meds that are advertised on TV, along with the long list of side effects, which many times are far worse than the ailment that they are supposed to address. In fact, how many of these “ailments” are just normal body processes. Designer diseases, right?

    And the marketing machine that pushes these drugs is nothing short of evil in many cases. Why would you want to exercise, or eat right, or generally live right when you can take one of these (preferably expensive) pills?

    And then there are the religious wing nuts who declare that it’s immoral, i.e., against the bible… The same bible that’s been used to defend white supremacy, subjugate women, justify wars, and, oh yeah, the Inquisition. This is not an attack on the bible, just the people who twist it’s messages to validate their own views.

    And besides, I don’t recall the bible saying anything like a Thou Shalt Not Smoke Weed. But, on the other hand, it does say, Thou a Shalt Not Kill – pretty unambiguous, I’d say… No qualifiers like …except if they have a different religion, language, skin color.. or if they just piss you off. No validity in that argument.

    So why is it still illegal, medical or otherwise? It’s a plant! It does not have to be processed or built in a lab.

    Amsterdam, which has had legal marijuana – will technically not legal, just not illegal – for 40 years, went from having the worst hard drug problem in Europe, to the smallest. I’ve been to Amsterdam, and yes I have been in the coffee houses. Hardly dens of iniquity.. more like sports bars where folks stop off on the way home from work. It’s only the tourists who get too high and act stupid. And sadly, more of them appear to be American than anything else.

    So why is a natural substance (IT’S A PLANT!!!) that has shown to be effective in treating so many ailments still demonized? Big Pharma, Big Booze, and Big Cigs think they stand to lose a lot of money. It’s fairly disingenous for the three stooges to claim moral or health objections.

    I certainly didn’t mean to run on about this, but it’s absolutely insane. I’ve watched too many lives ruined, not from the use of marijuana, for either recreational or medical use, but simply because it’s “illegal”.

    And as a parting shot, I have to say that the best weed I ever smoked was courtesy of Uncle Sam. My unit, the 19th Bomb Wing, sent our B52s to Southeast Asia, to blow the shit out of the Ho Chi Minh Trail… Even though most U. S. troops were back by then. And the flight crews always returned with pounds of Thai sticks. So thank you, taxpayers.


  2. Victoria Post author

    Congrats on your sobriety! That’s no easy feat. I have seen more relapses in clients than success stories. And the fact that you did it without a cult or a treatment facility just underscores my opinion that those are not designed to work…and it also says a lot about your character, as well.
    My friend who passed in April was in the AF and got Thai sticks many a time. He had a lot of funny stories about that. And, even though he was generally pretty conservative, he supported legalization of pot. His problems, it seemed, were mostly due to alcohol and tobacco.
    As long as we have a healthcare system that is driven by profit, we will never have sane decisions regarding treatment and medication.
    Even if people do not like Michael Moore – and I don’t – I think everyone should watch his film “Sicko”. It actually does speak the truth.



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