MAPTalk-Digest Monday, December 4 2006 Volume 06 : Number 143
001 Update: HB 5470 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act Testimony
From: Richard Lake <>
002 US: Web: Breathing While Black
From: Allan Erickson <>
003 Legalized Drugs - A Proven Track Record
From: Steve Heath <>
Subj: 001 Update: HB 5470 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act Testimony
From: Richard Lake <>
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2006 08:57:16 -0800
Video of the Committee on Government Operations hearing testimony for
and against HB 5470, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act on Tuesday,
Nov. 28 in Lansing, Michigan is now on line at:
Tim Beck's HB 5470 Testimony
Republicans for Compassionate Access HB 5470 Testimony
ONDCP's Scott Burns' HB 5470 Testimony
Irv Rosenfeld's HB 5470 Michigan Medical Marijuana Testimony
Laura Barber's HB 5470 Michigan Medical Marijuana Testimony
Ben L's HB 5470 Testimony
More will be posted at this link as time allows:
Note: We no longer recommend accessing the above at YouTube because
of opportunistic uploads of video by others which have nothing at all
to do with the hearings. Instead please use the above link. Thank You
Oakland County, Michigan, NORML for making the videos available.
The following was posted to an Oregon list, DPFOR, without
attribution. It was written by Greg Francisco. We now share it with all of you:
The hearing room was full and overflowing into the hallway when the
Michigan House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations
was called to order Tuesday, Nov 28th to hear public comment on
HB5470, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. And at least half of the
attendees, 30 or more, sported large buttons demanding the
Legislature stop arresting medical marijuana patients. Most of the
others filling the gallery were representing news media outlets from
around the state.
Despite the fact that HB5470 is destined to die a quick death in the
four week lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature, this hearing
was widely regarded as an important step in moving medical marijuana
closer and closer into the mainstream. This was the first Michigan
legislative hearing on the topic in at least 20 years.
Co-leader of the Flint Medical Marijuana initiative already certified
to appear on the Feb '07 city ballot, Charles Snyder III, his wife
Shelby & daughter Nevaeh show their support for HB5470 before the
hearing was called to order.
Representative Drolet, (R, Macomb Township), well known for his
libertarian leanings chaired the meeting. He first called Tim Beck,
Executive Director of Michigan NORML and the architect of the
successful Detroit Compassionate Care Committee's 2004 measure
legalizing medical marijuana in that city. Tim introduced the
proposed bill and pointed out that it was actually quite conservative
in nature. It would be limited in scope to include only severely
disabling diseases falling into several narrow categories. Tim also
briefly touched on several other conservative hot buttons like small
government and reducing taxes before concluding his opening remarks
in preparation for the impressive slate of witnesses prepared to testify.
Before Tim could step away from the rostrum however, Representative
Sheen, (R, Plainwell) addressed one question to Tim that quickly
proceeded, through a series of leading, follow-up questions, to the
conclusion that people using medical marijuana are not being arrested
in Michigan. The state is deterred from doing so because they don't
want to pick up the tab for medical care. Representative Sheen then
went on to relate that his brother had used marijuana to relieve the
symptoms of AIDS. It was the Representatives opinion, based on his
brother's experience, that anyone who wants to use marijuana already
can with little fear of arrest. The police invariably exercise their
discretion and show sound judgment by not arresting medical marijuana
users anyway. So why change the law? He then went on express his
fear of the slippery slope. Medical marijuana for cancer patients
now, what's next Representative Sheen asked, "medical marijuana for
hang nails?" It just wasn't worth changing the laws and then risking
unintended consequences or opening the gateway. His brother had
assured him that sick people just don't get arrested for using
marijuana. If only all medical marijuana users were so fortunate as
to have a brother who is a State Representative.
Representative Hoogendyk, (R, Portage) next expressed his fear of
doctor shopping. What would stop someone from going from doctor to
doctor until finding a quack who would write a recommendation where
it was not warranted? What if one doctor set up a recommendation
mill, churning out medical marijuana recommendations willy-nilly? He
seemed to feel the Legislature needed to exert oversight on this
matter rather than professional boards. He also questioned HB5470
because it made no provision for how patients would obtain their
medicine. Since there was no way for patients to obtain it legally,
then there was really no need to legalize possession either, was
there? Tim rose admirably to the challenge of rebutting these arguments.
Chairman Drolet next called Don Murphy, (R, former MD Delegate) and
State Representative, Penny Bacchiochi, (R, CT) representing,
Republicans for Compassionate Access. Mr. Murphy began the testimony
by affirming his Republican credentials. He then spoke of Republican
values, specifically citing small government and respect for the
right of citizens to be free of an over reaching
government. Representative Bacchiochi followed up with moving
testimony about being faced with the necessity of choosing between
obeying the law or obtaining marijuana for her husband, dying of
Committee member Representative Garfield, (R, Rochester Hills) spoke
of his own use of heavy doses of Vicodan to offset the pain of
severely damaged back and neck vertebrae. He then asked for
information on the relative benefits of Marinol and
cannabis. Representative Garfield also was curious how authorized
users would be protected? How would the police sort out who had a
legitimate recommendation and who just wanted to get high? Rep
Bacchiochi briefly sketched out an outline of a card system she
envisions for Connecticut.
Next up to bat was ONDCP Deputy Director Scott Burns. Chairman
Drolet set the mood during his introduction by noting that Deputy
Burns was from the Federal government and he was here to help
us. Not deterred, Deputy Burns launched into his familiar
routine. He testified that as recently as last April the FDA has
confirmed that smoked marijuana is not an approved
medicine. Furthermore, by federal mandate, the FDA has sole
regulatory control over investigating, evaluating and approving
medicines. Not State Legislatures and definitely not ballot initiatives.
Deputy Burns next gave a brief rationale for federal oversight of
medications. He cited snake oil salesmen of old and told the
committee that marijuana was no different. Like users of 1880's
patent nostrums, people smoking marijuana only think they feel
better. But aside from their anecdotal reports there is no evidence
that they really do. They just think they do. But they really
don't. Ummm, OK.
Deputy Burns continued his testimony by condemning at length smoking
as a drug delivery system. He also induced the biggest laugh of the
morning when he reminded the committee that marijuana was the most
commonly abused drug by teenagers and in fact accounted for the
lion's share of rehabilitation center admissions. His concluding
comment was to mention that the FDA had not approved smoked marijuana
as medicine and FDA regulatory processes are there to protect the public.
Apparently that last comment was too much for Chairman Drolet, who
cut the Deputy Czar off by shooting the question, "Did the FDA
approve Vioxx?" Deputy Burns showed his pique by shooting right back,
"If you treat me with respect me, I will treat you with respect."
Somebody sounded just a bit peeved.
HB5470 sponsor Lemmons, D, Detroit then took up the questioning. He
first stated that the ONDCP was on record as saying Prohibition was
apolitical in nature. Rep Lemmons challenged that assumption and
opined that indeed it was all about politics, not sound public
policy. He noted that alcohol continues to be a common ingredient in
various OTC medications. Lastly he conceded that smoking was not an
optimal drug delivery system, but what about vaporization? What was
the Deputy's take on that delivery system?
Deputy Burns responded to Representative Lemmon's first comment. He
insisted that alcohol use had brought down upon society a wide range
of ills and that Prohibition, be it alcohol or other drugs, is not
about politics, it's about reducing that damage. He noted that there
are an estimated 123 million alcohol users in the US and less than
1.5 users of illegal drugs. With all the havoc alcohol had wrought
on our culture, "do we really need pot?"
Representative Lemmons noted that cocaine was a Schedule II drug,
doctors could prescribe that as a part of their legitimate
practice. Why not marijuana? Deputy Burns demurred, citing his lack
of medical training or expertise to comment on that particular nuance
of the law. The only medical knowledge that he could claim was that
the FDA has not approved smoked marijuana.
Chairman Drolet asked what experience other states with medical
marijuana laws had regarding rising or falling rates of teen use?
Deputy Burns replied that teen use was down 20%
nationwide. Unfortunately the marijuana teen's smoke today is not
the marijuana their parents smoked in the 60's & 70's. That
marijuana was 1% to 2% THC. Marijuana today is 8% to 10%. B.C. Bud
can go as high as 30%. Chairman Drolet asked again, how do rates of
teen use compare in states that have legalized medical marijuana and
those who have not? Deputy Burns reported that there simply is no
data. Any reports on the matter are strictly anecdotal. According
to Deputy Burns, there have been no studies, nor did he give the
impression that he was particularly interested in doing any, either.
Representative Garfield threw out the rhetorical question, could the
FDA ever make an error? They were after all a government agency,
staffed by human beings. Was it within the range of possibilities
that the FDA could ever make a mistake?
Representative Hoogendyk asked, has the FDA done any testing on
marijuana? Deputy Burns stated emphatically that, yes, research has
been done. And the Iowa Study concluded that the risks of smoked
marijuana clearly outweigh any benefit. The FDA has a system for
approving new drugs and smoked marijuana simply does not meet the
criteria. Representative Hoogendyk: "What are the criteria for
Schedule I. Does marijuana meet those criteria? Deputy Burns
replied, yes, it meets all 3 criteria to be placed on Schedule I. On
the other hand, FDA has determined that smoked marijuana does not
meet the criteria for approval as medicine.
Representative Sheen, rousing himself from the newspaper he avidly
perused through most of the hearing, came to the defense of the FDA's
integrity. He asked the rhetorical question, how many lives had the
FDA approval system saved vs. how many lives had been lost due to FDA
errors? Chairman Drolet felt that tangent was not particularly
germane and attempted to redirect Representative Sheen back on topic.
Representative Lemmons returned once again to his attempt to get
Deputy Burns to go on record regarding vaporization as a delivery
system. He also suggested that by legalizing marijuana it would then
be possible to regulate THC content. Deputy Burns repeated, the FDA
has not approved smoked marijuana. "I understand that. But what
about vaporization." Representative Lemmons asked again? No longer
able to dodge the question Deputy Burns stated he had no knowledge of
vaporization, had never heard of it and the bill didn't mention it
anyway. He quickly retreated from there back onto more secure
ground, wrapping up by reminding the committee that the FDA has not
approved smoked marijuana. His summary hit a few more quick high
spots, to wit: The federal goal is to reduce use of marijuana. Any
attempt by the states to legalize medical marijuana interferes with
that federal goal. Political pressure and snickering in the
gallery--a clear jibe at the assembled activists who had made their
amusement at his testimony quite apparent--is not how medicines are
approved in this country. As for cocaine, the FDA had approved
it. The FDA has not approved smoked marijuana.
Once the Deputy Director had left the witness desk, and just as
quickly excited the hearing room, never to be seen again, Irvin
Rosenfeld took his place at the microphone. Irvin gave a high
energy, highly entertaining account of his experience in the
Experimental Drug Program which has been providing him 11 ounces of
government marijuana for the past 25 years. Irvin was able to give
graphic evidence by his appearance and lucidity that in his case at
least, long term, responsible use of marijuana is not harmful. He
brought in his tin, filled near to the brim with pre rolled marijuana
cigarettes grown at the University of Mississippi. "In what kind of
bizarre universe does the government say it is OK to provide me
marijuana for 25 years but," and then he turned to point to 82 year
old Helen Thompson in her wheelchair, "she's a criminal?"
Laura Barber, who led the 2005 Traverse City medical marijuana
initiative to victory was next. Laura spoke on behalf of her
husband, Matthew who suffers from Gulf War Syndrome. She described
in graphic detail the severity of his disabilities including two
types of MS and multiple lesions on his brain and spinal
cord. Before Matthew began to use marijuana he was near blind and
confined to a wheelchair. By using marijuana he was able to regain
much function and the semblance of a normal life. Laura told of
their brushes with the law and assured the committee that medical
marijuana users do indeed get arrested. It was Matthew's arrest that
got her dander up enough to push the Traverse City initiative. Laura
tearfully begged the committee, if they were going to take away the
one thing that gave her husband a decent quality of life, well then
please, she needed the telephone number for who ever is responsible
for quality of life because she and Matthew would be coming up short.
The final witness of the day was rather puzzling. He was introduced
as Ben L., from Ann Arbor Youth who wished to speak in opposition to
the bill. Ben, who appeared to be no more than 16 years old, took
his place. He first introduced himself as Ben L, an alcoholic,
paused for the acknowledgement that never came, and then admitted, he
wasn't exactly opposed to the bill, he just, um, well thought, umm,
that it had, "bad wording." Then Ben L sat back in his chair. It
took a prompt from Chairman Drolet to get him to say, what exactly
about the wording did he object to? After more stuttering and
stammering, Ben L eventually conveyed his opinion that the provision
for relief of severe pain was too open ended, that it would be too
easy for a malingerer to fake chronic, debilitating pain.
The committee adjourned shortly after Chairman Drolet thanked the
witnesses, those in the gallery and apologized to the several
witnesses that never had an opportunity to speak. Written testimony
was also submitted to the committee by several activists in attendance.
The after hearing analysis and dissection at a near by Big Boy
restaurant concluded that medical marijuana advocates definitely
carried the day. There were only two witnesses in opposition; Deputy
Director Burns who rather artlessly recited the company line and Ben
L, who in hind sight may have been from Alcoholics Anonymous Youth
rather than Ann Arbor Youth--did Chairman Drolet simply misread the card?
On the other hand, each of our witnesses was well prepared and
articulate. Even Tim, who was caught unawares, not expecting to do
more than provide a quick introduction and overview, leaving the
specifics to the witnesses he had lined up, rose to the
occasion. There is every reason to be optimistic that medical
marijuana will become legal in Michigan within the next few
years. All that remains to be determined is if it will happen
through legislative action or ballot initiative.
Subj: 002 US: Web: Breathing While Black
From: Allan Erickson <>
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2006 16:53:35 -0800
Breathing While Black
Sat, 02 Dec 2006
> -snip- I have often joked that if you ever want to see a modern-day
> Uncle Tom, look no further than me in the vicinity of a white police
> officer. The reality is, that is how I have been conditioned to behave
> around the police for pure self-preservation reasons, having grown up
> black in Chicago with parents who wanted their boys to live to
> adulthood. But the other reality is that whatever newfound liberties I
> have experienced, and all too often have taken for granted, I don't
> ever want to be made to feel like a nigger--something far, far worse
> than its utterance. It is a status whose roots form the tree from
> which we are lynched. Without the corollary lack of humanity and
> powerlessness, lynching could not occur, in all of its modern
> iterations, " contagious shootings" included.
> Two recent police shootings involving black victims have a deeper
> meaning and impact for those of us who are unwarranted, but
> nevertheless prospective, suspects. In New York, Sean Bell, a
> 23-year-old unarmed man, died and two of his friends were critically
> wounded--caught in a hail of fifty bullets fired by undercover
> officers--as the group emerged from a nightclub, where they had been
> celebrating Bell's bachelor party. In Atlanta, 88-year-old Kathryn
> Johnston was shot as she sought to defend herself from police who had
> stormed into her home in search of drugs.
Subj: 003 Legalized Drugs - A Proven Track Record
From: Steve Heath <>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2006 15:43:10 -0800
In reading yet again "anti-legalization" LTE which ran in this morning's St
Pete Times and another item from former Drug Czar lackey Kevin Sabet, I was
struck by the refrain therein where Sabet submitted that "legalization
efforts have been a failure (remember Switzerland's 'Needle Park'??).
Well we all know that three years after shutting down the Needle Park
venture, the Swiss instituted a more regulated safe injection and heroin
maintenance program which almost ten years later has exceeded all
expectations for increasing public health and safety while relieving their
criminal justice system of property crime and drug-possession cases.
But upon further reflection, I submit that in fact "Legalization is tried
and true and has a proven track record."
As evidence I point to the system used in the United States for the past 72
99.9% of the pharmacopia and other intoxicant drugs (alcohol and tobacco)
are LEGAL and their production and commercial distribution is subject to
various forms of regulation at the federal, state and local levels.
This system has been approved of and supported by communities, states and
federal policymakers for over seven decades.
As mentioned above, it is the preferred system for production and
distribution of the dangerous and often addictive drugs alcohol, tobacco
and also includes risky and potentially abusable drugs from Vicodin to
Celebrex to Oxcyodone to Morphine and hundreds of other in-demand Rx drugs.
It's time for reformers to wrest further control of the "DrugSpeak" from
status quo Prohibitionists.
For decades, they've attempted to say, "Street drugs = BAD, Other Drugs = OKAY"
Next time someone suggests to you, in person or in writing, that
"legalization won't work", remind them that legalization does in fact work
for 99.9% of the current list of in-demand drugs.
And further, legalization and movement into a regulated free market will
almost entirely end street dealing for any drug, as proven by the current
distribution rates of legal drugs.
Alcohol - 99.9% of all alcohol transactions are conducted by a legal,
regulated dealer (retailer, bar or restaurant).
Tobacco - 99.8% of all tobacco transactions are conducted by a legal,
regulated dealer. In the past few years there has been a very tiny spike
in interstate smuggling from states with possibly excessive taxation to
states with lower taxation.
Rx Pharms - According to the DEA, "Upwards of 3% of pharmacueticals in the
U.S. are 'diverted' illegally from legal distribution channels and onto the
That translates into "97% of all Rx pharm transactions are conducted by
legal, regulated drug dealers."
And the 3% diversion could quite likely be reduced by our addressing the
gross disparities in pricing for Rx drug consumers. (insured vs non-insured
Fun Fact #1 A Legal, Regulated system for drug production and distribution
is NOT WITHOUT PROBLEMS.
IFun Fact #2 A Legal, Regulated system for drug production and distribution
can be exploited by those intent on same.
But regardless of both these facts, it remains a far preferable system to
that of drug Prohibition and the associated societal damage and destruction
which is stimulated by Prohibition.
Three cents plus a nickel from Clearwater
End of MAPTalk-Digest V06 #143