Tag Archives: Pennsylvania and marijuana

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.