What I Learned About Medical Marijuana

Filed under:Not Cool,Politics,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on October 26, 2007 @ 11:10 am

Or, This is My Legislature on Drugs.

This fall I’ve been attending Citizens’ Academy, the class put on by the police to show us how they do things. It’s highly informative and entertaining. Last night we got an introduction to narcotics and some of the issues surrounding them. While it was all interesting, the most eye-opening part was not about meth or any other of the big nasties, but about good ol’ marijuana. Oregon has a medical marijuana program in place, voted in by the good ol’ citizens of the state in 1998. The loopholes in this law are big enough to drive army trucks through.

Want to know what it takes to get a medical marijuana card? It takes, basically, going to the right doctor and telling him/her you have a lot of chronic pain with no specific findable cause. Look at these statistics the police showed us. The numbers aren’t current-year but are illuminating as to the overall program.

Patient Condition Resulting in MM Card ……………………………………. # of Patients

HIV/AIDS ……………………………………………………………………….. 289
Cancer ………………………………………………………………………….. 381
Nausea ………………………………………………………………………….. 2637
Seizures …………………………………………………………………………. 427
Pain ……………………………………………………………………………… 12,000 (approx.)
Glaucoma ……………………………………………………………………….. 237
Muscle spasms …………………………………………………………………. 2796

One of these things is not like the others. Actually, about three of them are not like the others. The numbers are overwhelmingly disproportionate to unspecific conditions like “pain,” “muscle spasms,” and “nausea.”

There are three classifications of people in the medical marijuana program: Patients, caregivers, and growers. A patient can be in possession of up to 24 growing plants–six mature, 18 immature, and 1.5 pounds of processed marijuana at any given time. Do you know how much weed 1.5 pounds is? Because I didn’t. Apparently if you smoke two joints per day for a year, you might use up a pound. So a patient can possess a cache of MJ big enough to last a regular recreational user at least a year at any one time.

It gets better. Growers are permitted to grow plants for up to four patients at once, meaning they can be in legal possession of up to 96 plants and/or six pounds of processed stash at any given time. Caregivers, who, as far as I can tell, do not have to be medical personnel in any form (though a doctor does have to sign off on the initial card application), can “treat” unlimited patients, which in theory means they can be in possession of an unlimited amount of weed at any given time. And people can hold dual citizenship, so to speak, as both growers and caregivers.

The patients are not charged for the marijuana. Which is to say, it is illegal for the grower to bill the patient for the substance, because that would then actually be drug trafficking of an FDA Schedule 1 drug (Schedule 1 substances officially have “no medicinal value.”) The grower can ask the patient to “reimburse” his expenses–and growing weed indoors is phenomally expensive, due to the special lights and rivers of electricity it requires. Let me ask you: Outside this “reimbursement,” what possible incentive would anybody have to grow free marijuana for patients? None at all. Unless he thought he could get a little action on the side. That’s where the army truck loophole comes in. Street price of a pound of marijuana? According to our instructing officers, about $3,000.

Somebody in our class wanted to know how this law squares with applicable federal laws applying to controlled subustances. The answer is “it doesn’t.”

“The (state) Act neither protects marijuana plants from seizure nor individuals from prosecution if the federal government chooses to take action against patients or caregivers under the federal Controlled Substances Act.”

The whole thing strikes me as covert legalization right under the nose of the federal governent, which has far more pressing concerns even in the drug department–such as huge outdoor grows and the flow of drugs over both borders–to bother with home-grown guys operating under the scant legal cover of the Oregon law.

I don’t even have to take a position on the premise of the law to know that the law itself, as written, is moronic BS. If somebody calls the county’s drug-enforcement team and tells them they think somebody in their neighborhood is growing Mary Jane because they smell it or something like that, the police can’t call the MM program and find out if there is a legal grow in that area. If they have a specific address they can find out whether that house is registered as a grow site or not, but even if they end up with a warrant to check out a legal grow site and find the law being broken, they can only seize the number of plants by which the grower is over the limit. Our detective told us, “We’re nice! We even let them pick the plants they want to keep!” And once the bust is made, the public cannot be told that this was a “legal” grower patently abusing the law the voters granted him–privacy rules apply.

Message to Salem: Quit smoking the stuff and start regulating it. Get Oregon’s reps and senators to introduce a federal legalization bill. Stop subverting federal law.

Know Thy Neighbor Unless the Referendum Fails

Filed under:Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on October 18, 2007 @ 10:23 am

Turns out publicly posted names and addresses cut both ways.

The groups gathering signatures to put Oregon’s domestic partnership law on next year’s ballot failed by 116 signatures. The second referendum failed shortly thereafter.

Know They Neighbor Oregon, the group that threatened to post all signers’ names and addresses for “protection” or maybe to know where they needed to do more “education and work,” they’re not sure, will not publish the signers now that the referendum has failed, “as [they] have said,” though I didn’t spot exactly where they’ve said it before, “above all [because] it would provide opposition groups with a database of contacts for a repeal attempt that they have been discussing.”

A nice lady at the office of the Secretary of State tells me that petitions, whether successful or not at putting their measure on the ballot, stay on file for six years and that anybody can go down to Salem and look at them. Those motivated enough will still be able to go back to the well for next year’s signatures. But at least those motivated to triangulate their “neighbors” over political disagreement (but it’s about the FAMILY!!!) won’t have a handy electronic database with which to do so. Eah. Maybe it was that $3,000 Know Thy Neighbor said they needed to make copies of the signatures that was the deal breaker.

Groping Towards a Right Understanding

Filed under:Language Barrier,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on September 30, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

In S. Renee Mitchell’s Oregonian column a week ago, she strongly disapproved Mayor Bloomberg’s “Opportunity NYC” program, which will pay poor adults to do things like attend parent-teacher conferences and hold down full-time jobs and poor teenagers to pass their school certification tests. The bulk of her column is overflowing with unintended irony–she sees and remarks on the incentives and motives that keep some poor people poor, sometimes for generations, and objects strongly to fostering a “gimme” mentality, but reverts right back, like a rubber band relaxing back into place, to the major bugaboos of the liberal attitude toward the poor as victims of a corrupt “education, banking and government systems that stubbornly keep people under poverty’s thumb.”

We can’t throw money at the poor here and magically expect those whose lives are the hardest to more closely resemble those whose lives are the easiest. Giving cash incentives won’t automatically end high-interest loans, reduce their vulnerability to crime, or jolt them out of the depression that often comes with living life every day on the edge.

Tell it to LBJ. If money is the difference between the poor and middle class and wealthy, then how is it that throwing money at the poor won’t change that gap? Obviously, what Ms. Mitchell comes so close to here but never quite hits on it is that it isn’t just money–it’s working for that money, understanding that nobody will give you money if you don’t work for it, and spending the money on appropriate necessities and luxuries for yourself and your family. And by her own statement, then why shouldn’t welfare systems heavily involved in “throwing money” be abolished? Ms. Mitchell speaks of her children as “not entitled to be lazy” as long as they’re under her roof. There is no more effective incentive for adult citizens not to be lazy than to have to work to eat because nobody “throws” money at them, and arguably none that will work at all if that one doesn’t.

And Ms. Mitchell clearly knows this. After describing her own childhood poverty, she states:

Eventually, my parents educated themselves out of abject poverty, but I’ll never forget the experience of never having enough. You can’t buy the kind of inner fire that stems from trying to escape a cycle of constant lack.

Incentive. And yet with her very next sentence Ms. Mitchell demolishes the idea she was so blithely tripping toward in the previous:

Productivity and self-reliance increased my self-respect. But over the years, I’ve encountered some low-income parents who share those values and some who don’t.

So now earning your own way is a value that can either be espoused or discarded. Tell me, Ms. Mitchell, what is a societal solution to the problem of those who choose to discard it?

While in Orlando, I wrote about an innovative — and expensive — Walt Disney World pilot program to get rid of all of the excuses that multigenerational welfare mothers had about why they didn’t work. Disney offered decent-paying jobs, as well as classes on budgeting, parenting and goal-setting. The participants received free rides to and from work, free child care and a chance to save for retirement.

An excellent experiment in incentivizing. Take away the excuses of those people who may not even recognize them as excuses, and see what incentive comes out ahead:

After a few weeks, I revisited one of the mothers I had interviewed for my article. She told me that she had quit her Disney job — and the opportunity to give her four children a better life — because she missed watching her afternoon soaps.

Implicit in this pathetic and disgusting story is the certainty that whatever assistance this person was receiving from sources that did not require her to work was sufficient to allow her to 1) feed herself and her children some amount of food and 2) watch television, which apparently are all she wants out of life. How can there be anything appropriate to do for that person other than to give her the incentive to work that her current source of subsistence does not? While I doubt that Mayor Bloomberg’s program will do the trick, certainly the current welfare system doesn’t either.

Poverty starved that mother of her productivity, integrity and self-respect. A hustler at heart, she wanted the most money for the least amount of effort. So, a job opportunity wasn’t appreciated in her household, where children were considered as excuses not to work.

Exactly backwards. She didn’t become a hustler because she lost her self-respect to poverty. She is a lazy sort of hustler who found out how to get something for not much and decided her self-respect and poorer lives for her children were a reasonable price to pay for the opportunity to go through life lazy and idle. Whatever sort of subsistence she’s on, and I have to assume it’s welfare, possibly supplemented by things like church food pantries and assistance programs, it’s been enough to incentivize her hustler mentality to remain on top, as well as setting a bad example for her children that one hopes they will find enough education to counteract.

Sadly, I doubt there’s any amount of money this program could afford to pay that would make people already not inclined to hold down full-time jobs do otherwise. But Ms. Mitchell’s closing comments about “the system” fall right back into the mindset that people have no choices or cannot be motivated by things that are implicitly important to them. Implicitly important to the mother in the story was her desire not to work, and whatever system she’s on is feeding it. At the worst, Mayor Bloomberg’s system will probably be indifferent in its effects, since if people are “getting by” on welfare they will not be inclined to get off their butts for a couple thousand more. At best, it might actually give some struggling families a leg up. Regardless, the contradictions inherent in Ms. Mitchell’s own mindset are the contradictions inherent in welfare systems nationwide. Returning to a right understanding about human nature and the factors that work to influence and incentivize it, rather than blaming a system that, surprisingly enough, works perfectly well for a vast majority in this country, is the only way we will stop “throwing money” and throw out the most insidiously enabling aspects of the welfare system instead.


Filed under:It's My Life,Not Cool,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on September 20, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

I live in Portland, where we have an insidious governmental interference called the Urban Growth Boundary. It’s a line drawn around the city to prevent urban development outside its borders. When it was first drawn, there was much land inside it still undeveloped, so that development could continue on a pretty ordinary schedule without running up against the line. But now the suburbs are pushed slap up against the boundary. I can literally drive down the line and observe the “house farms” on one side and the actual farms, open land, on the other.

It’s no surprise, then, that the house I live in is built on a development plan of about seven houses to the acre. There is a plot of grass the size of a postage stamp that, surprise, doesn’t entice any of us to hang out outside, though I do maintain some rosebushes and herbs in the half-postage-stamp front yard. The price of houses with yards rises exponentially to the amount of land they sit on, and these houses are likely to be much older and thus require a larger investment in renovation and repair. And because most of us live on the postage-stamp patches, going outside for any amount of time requires us to … drive somewhere, often upwards of 20 minutes, to find a nice outdoor area. That’s right–in a city that prides itself on its greenness and its obnoxious mania for outdoor sports and demonizes auto traffic to the point where our traffic congestion rivals that of much bigger cities because the highway system is not big enough to support the population properly, we have to drive to play outside comfortably.

The UGB is frequently touted as helpful to farmers–you know, so they won’t have to make those hard choices when the dirty developers come knocking on their doors with their fistfuls of cash, because the poor dears just couldn’t handle such a thing. But if they find farming unprofitable, woe to them since they can’t even pay developers to take the land off their hands, since most rural land is zoned in such a way that it can’t be divided into lots smaller than five acres. Even worse, some owners find that when the UGB is moved back, as it periodically is, Metro will thoughtfully tell them their land will be “preserved” instead of rezoned “suburban” with the rest of their neighbors, meaning it will still be worthless to developers.

Today I walked down a street I’ve walked many times before. I’ve always admired how the homeowners there have managed to hang on to their acre-plus plots with houses in the middle, surrounded by a sea of seven-to-the-acres. There was one house in particular that sat in the middle of an acre–a barren acre. Nobody was doing anything with it; it wasn’t even lawn. I used to daydream about what I’d put in there if I could live there. No chance of that–the going price was close to a million the last time it was sold–and though the house looks nice and probably a bit bigger than mine, it’s not a million-dollar house. Today when I walked by, however, the house was jacked off its foundations. A woman I met in the course of the walk told me she heard that the house was to be moved to the back of the lot and eight more would be built on the acre. Oh, did I forget to mention that some of suburbia is zoned nine houses to the acre?

Portland is reaching the point where the density is so high that people will not want to live here. I’m reaching the point myself of wanting to find, um, greener pastures. Metro will not take it into its head that for people who don’t live the hiker/biker lifestyle, a little bit of green to call their own is more important than the finest scenery in the world–especially when Metro doesn’t even want them to drive to see it.

Stickin’ It to The Man

Filed under:Politics,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on September 16, 2007 @ 8:28 pm

I got a voicemail today from the Speaker of the Oregon House. He’s running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Gordon Smith. His campaign tour kicks off tomorrow. Campaign for what, you may ask, besides gaining the Senate seat?

Nothing, apparently, except stickin’ it to Gordon Smith and Geo. W. Bush. Not one word in his message about what he thinks ought to be done about any of various situations, only that Gordon Smith and George W. Bush have led the country in a wrong direction and apparently he, Jeff Merkley, is the man to set it right. That’s right, apparently the Republican gentleman from Oregon, among the hundred senators, is the one hand-in-glove with Bush, just as responsible as Bush himself for whatever Jeff Merkley doesn’t like.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, President Bush and his top advisers continue to insist the escalation of the Iraq war is a prescription for success. It is mind boggling just how disconnected from reality this administration really is.

No, actually, based on the Petraeus remarks that you, Jeff Merkley, characterized as “a good man being forced to justify a disastrous war,” President Bush is now planning to withdraw troops based on the success already gained, not “escalate” in order to “prescribe” for some future success.

Note to Merkley speechwriters: Calling Petraeus “a good man” does not mask the fact that your opinion of him matches that of MoveOn.org.

And despite his efforts to remake his record, Gordon Smith voted for this escalation and is just as responsible as George Bush for the ongoing debacle in Iraq.

Just as responsible as the commander-in-chief, who, by the way, Jeff says, should have his duties usurped if Congress doesn’t like the way he fulfills them.

If the president won’t exercise his duty as commander-in-chief to bring an end to this war, Congress should do it for him.

It’s so cute the way the anti-war crowd speaks of war as something that can be ended just on somebody’s say-so. It’s almost as if they really believe the war would just end, poof, if we left. Of course then there are the others who know it wouldn’t and don’t care.

So no, Jeff Merkley, deposing Gordon Smith and George Bush, who by the way will leave office after next year’s election whether Gordon Smith does or not, so, you know, you really won’t have much to do with it one way or the other, is not a good enough reason to vote for you or your illogic.

What’s sad is that he knows his audience here in Oregon. Running on a platform of “I’ll have whatever he’s not having” is the Democrats’ best card right now. It’s too bad there are so many people willing to beg them to play it.

Sign a Petition, Get Posted to a Witchhunt

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Jerks,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on August 23, 2007 @ 8:35 pm

Perusing today’s articles linked in Oregon Reddit produced this little gem: a plan to post to the web the names and addresses of anybody signing petitions that run counter to the homosexual lobby’s agenda.

In addition to holding petition signers accountable, Stewart explains the underlying idea behind the project’s name, Know Thy Neighbor. “To me, it’s important as a queer woman to be able to look up people and see, are the people in my neighborhood on this petition? Are there people in my zip code on this?” she says. Finding out that people she knows—like friends or coworkers or even a boss or local business owner—signed the petition is valuable information, “if for no other reason than protection.”

“If” for no other reason? Do tell, what could be the other reasons? Leaving aside the laughable premise that people who oppose gay marriage, by definition, wish, and will perpetrate, harm on gay people, that is.

Privacy for me, but not for thee if you oppose me. Where have I heard that before?

Uh, You Know That Rain Out of the Clear Blue Sky?

Filed under:It's My Life,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on July 8, 2007 @ 10:11 pm

It, um, wasn’t rain.

That was on a Sunday night after I’d seen a movie downtown. Tonight, Sunday night, I saw a movie at the same theater and walked back up the same street to get back to my car. It sprinkled … something … on me from the same building. Uuuggghh.

By coincidence I parked my car on the same street as a guy also seeing the same movie as I was … he said, “Maybe it’s just somebody with a kitchen sprayer at an open window.”

I gotta tell ya, I hope that’s all it was.

And next time I see a movie downtown, I walk on the effing other side of the street.

Fracking Oregon

Filed under:It's My Life,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on May 15, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

It sprinkled rain here tonight out of a clear blue sky.

Kid you not.

Morons on an Oregon Jury

Filed under:Jerks,Sad,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on March 20, 2007 @ 9:34 pm

Moron jurors agitate to reopen a case to the point where the DA gives the guilty perp–a father who killed his 33-day-old daughter when he threw her into the air as high as he could and then “threw her down onto the couch with great force,” according to his confession–a new plea-bargain in order to avoid having the case reopened.

[Baby killer] Haley had been charged with felony murder for shaking Gabrielle to death. When he went on trial, [defense attorney] Connall brought in an expert witness who testified that shaken-baby syndrome is old medicine. But before the evidence was all in, Haley decided to plead no contest to second-degree manslaughter and received six years in prison.

When [Judge] Johnson informed the jurors, they objected and said they believed the expert witness had created reasonable doubt. [Moron juror] Hanau contacted Connall, who swiftly went to court to change Haley’s plea. The jurors appealed to District Attorney Michael Schrunk, who reminded them that they had not heard all the evidence. Still, the jurors pursued the case.

Schrunk tried to block the case from being reopened, but he lost in the state Supreme Court. The case was headed for a new trial last fall when Connall appealed to Schrunk to help forge a new plea agreement. After several rounds of talks, he agreed to accept Connall’s proposal, which Haley completed Monday.

He was serving six years, then got a second plea-bargain through the efforts of these moron jurors. The new deal includes four years of prison, three already served, plus probation and a prohibition against caring for children under 18. Oh, and parenting classes. He was high as a kite on weed and had thrown her around much more than once–all according to his confession, which was the return the DA got for this laughably lenient sentence agreement.

Note that the “reasonable doubt” the moron jurors cited was created by an “expert” witness testifying that the shaking need not have caused her death–it’s not reported whether the jurors doubted that she was shaken. You have to be a real moron not to believe that whipping a baby’s unsupported neck around violently will eventually kill her and a real asshole to testify to a “medical” opinion that it won’t.

And the moron jurors were stunned when the confession was read.

[Moron juror] Jean Maynard smiled ruefully. “We don’t think we were stupid jurors.”

Lady, as in everything else connected with this case, you and your fellow morons were dead wrong.

Democratic Governor of Oregon Undermines Democratic Process

Filed under:Politics,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on February 6, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Oregon’s Democractic governor seeks to suspend the operation of a democratically voter-enacted law while he and his party in the legislature figure out how they’re going to abolish it. See, here in Oregon we have a lot of beautiful, scenic land. We also have a lot of garden-variety farmland that may or may not be useful to the landowner as farmland, but THAT’S BESIDE THE POINT, PEON! The point is, it’s scenic, and houses mar the scenery. So no, you may not simply put buildings on your land, willy-nilly. Or sell it to people who will put buildings on it. The government knows what the land needs, and buildings are not in the approved list.

At least, that’s how it was until Measure 37, which basically says that if a land-use restriction enacted after you buy property restricts your ability to do with your property as you wish, the government must compensate you for the loss of “fair market value” caused by the regulation or else exempt you from the regulation.

Not surprisingly, there are many, many claims for compensation and/or permission to enact changes that would otherwise violate the land-use restrictions. Even people who once thought the government should be restricting people’s use of their own property have now suddenly realized that they could lose money as well:

Gary Willis, a third-generation pear grower in Hood River County, says he initially liked land-use rules meant to reserve the country for commercial farming.

That was before he competed against cheap, imported fruit. Before he wondered whether his son could make a profit on the family’s 300-acre orchard.

You mean … you liked the restrictions until they affected you?

Never fear, Kulongoski is on the case. You pear farmers don’t know what’s good for you, and all these Measure 37 claims are bad for the land. We’ll just ease them off to the side of our desks until we can come up with a way to overturn a law enacted by popular ballot, otherwise known as “democratically.”

Welcome to Oregon! State motto: It’s our land, we just let you live on it. Barely.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace