St. Pierre is the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
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Toke Of the Town, "NORML Owes The Medical Marijuana Community An Apology"
Russ Belville of NORML posts in response,
Let me correct a few mistakes.
"NORML Executive Director Allan St. Pierre has called medical marijuana a "legal farce" and "largely a sham"
No. Allen called out some in the medical marijuana industry, not medical marijuana. Only a fool or a drug czar (redundancy alert) would posit marijuana has no medicinal purpose, and for you to open your piece this way misleads the reader about Allen's intent.
"...in a guest column which hit the web yesterday"
No. It was not a "guest column", as in Allen calls up Steve Bloom and says, "Hey, I have this piece on medical marijuana I'd like to post on CelebStoner." No, it was Steve Bloom, on his own, taking parts of an email written in October that was on an INTERNAL (non-public) list-serve for NORML attorneys.
"...every single time a medical cannabis initiative is raised in any state, the opposition are going to drag out St. Pierre's ill-considered words as ammunition. "Why are you sitting there trying to tell us this state needs a medical marijuana law when NORML itself has admitted medical marijuana is a fraud and a sham?"
Yeah, sure, it will be Allen's quotes, that had been in a PRIVATE email, from three months ago, that nobody else had posted or made public, that the community in general had put behind us, THAT will be what some red state legislator uses to defeat medical marijuana. It won't be the three-foot-joints in a "Prop 215" area of a rap show, it won't be "420 Nurses", it won't be tents on Venice Beach selling $45 recommendations to twenty-somethings, it won't be activists getting busted in Nebraska or Wisconsin with vanloads of hundred-pound California medical marijuana loads bound for New York, it won't be Skype examinations for medical marijuana, it won't be doctors on caravan in hotel rooms giving out cards like candy, it won't be stacks of pre-signed medical marijuana recommendations... yeah, it's the messenger's fault (but, oddly, not Steve Bloom's fault for posting it.)
Right. Long before Allen said or wrote anything, New Jersey was creating the No Garden State for medical marijuana and Delaware and DC followed suit. Long before this column, Montana was repealing medmj, Oregon was doubling fees, Colorado was instituting super tight security, and Washington was vetoing dispensaries. Long before Allen mentioned it, legislators in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and other states considering medical marijuana were tightening it down so much because of the perceived abuses in California, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, and elsewhere.
"That doesn't change the fact that many, many medical marijuana patients and providers -- I feel safe in saying the vast majority -- support legalization for everyone."
I agree with you there, but you diminish the No on 19 medical people in California, the No on I-502 medical people in Washington, the No on Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol people in Colorado, and so on, who are, by-and-large, beneficiaries of medical marijuana and made / are making huge impacts on the ability to pass legalization for all.
Put it another way: When "medical" is on the ballot (I use quotes only to distinguish the legislation, not to demean), you don't find NORML Chapters, supporters, and other legalizers putting together "No on 215" or "No on Amendment 20" campaigns. But when "legalization" is on the ballot, there almost always seems to be a medical contingent fighting against it.
Put it a third way: Votes of Legalizers for Medicalization > Votes of Medicalizers for Legalization.
"It's supremely irritating to read a healthy man's writing about the medical marijuana "scam.""
Yeah? Well, it's supremely irritating to see 850,000+ healthy people like me and Allen still getting arrested and jailed while a million sick men like you are protected and some of you (not you, particularly) are fighting against the legalization that would protect us!
"The experience was even more surreal for me this morning as I was wracked with dry heaves, relieved only by cannabis, as I read St. Pierre's column. (Yes, the cannabis stopped the nausea; no, it didn't feel like a "scam.")"
And here you get to the crux of the issue, which so many others I'm reading can't seem to separate. NOBODY THINKS YOUR RELIEF OF NAUSEA BY CANNABIS IS A SCAM! Get off the Patient Entitlement Syndrome* high horse and recognize that we all, me, you, NORML, all believe, know, and support medical use of marijuana... because we support ALL USE of marijuana!
What we do think is that the doctor of questionable repute whose only remaining occupational avenue is to sign recommendations in a tent at a festival might be a scam. The caregiver who isn't a patient, yet smokes a ton of weed since the caregiver card protects him from possession and cultivtion charges (guilty) might be a scam. The grower (speaking of Oregon here) who gathers four patient cards so he can grow 24 mature plants, yet the patients get an ounce a month for $300 (gee, where's the estimated 4-6oz per plant going?) might be scam. The guy running a "clinic" where the only medical care given is to rubber stamp recommendations of dubious qualification and where employees' paychecks bounce regularly might be a scam. The guy running a medical marijuana "foundation" who's on the hook for tax evasion and who has stiffed his legalization campaign manager out of $6,000 pay and may end up leaving her and her two kids homeless might be a scam. The "patient lounges" that are up or down stairs with no lifts for wheelchairs might be a scam. The "cannabis clubs" here in oregon where growers and sellers are openly flouting the public's defeat of a dispensary measure, twice, might be a scam. The dispensaries that are still selling marijuana at a black-market $10-$15 a gram might be a scam.
If anything, Allen's post was circumspect about not revealing the true extent of the scams going on in the medical marijuana industry.
Ironically, you even recognize the problem ("medical marijuana patients and providers will never, ever be safe in their homes and places of business until cannabis is legal for all adults"), you recognize the coming pharmaceuticalization ("rescheduling it is no solution, nor is any way forward which allows Big Pharma to monopolize access to this healing and beneficial plant") but you blame Allen for pointing out how the excesses of medical marijuana ganjapreneurs are moving public opinion away from expanding access and toward pharmaceuticalization.
It's not just my opinion. CBS News Poll shows 52% of Americans believe medical marijuana is being used not for serious medical conditions, but "for some other purpose". Medical support in the 2005 Gallup Poll was 78%, in 2010 it was 70%. Medical support has stalled at around 70% for two decades now. Legalization support has doubled in the Prop 215 era. We are at a crossroads, indeed, where any continued "wink wink nudge nudge" games of "all use is medical" or "it's for wellness" when the public asks about the healthy-looking 25-year-old anxiety patient thrashing in the mosh pit are going to be met with stricter medical marijuana regulations and, eventually, cannabinoid pharmaceuticals.
The bigger danger (and we'll see how the 2012 election goes) is that people on the fence about legalization might look at what they consider "psuedo-legalization" and think, "gee, we legalized just for the sick people and it turned out like this... we definitely can't legalize for everyone!" Yes, you and I know it is the prohibition for healthy folks that exacerbate any problem with medical marijuana, but that distinction is lost on the public. They'll see that we went part-way, it really sucked, and we should go no further.
That's the alarm we're ringing here at NORML. We have always been and will always be supporters of patients and of medical use of marijuana... so long as medical users of marijuana are supporters of legalization for healthy people. Insomuch as medical marijuana excesses may threaten legalization for healthy people, we will call them out.
* Yeah, I said it. "I'm a patient, not a criminal!" Oh, aren't you special? So, I'm not a patient, therefore I'm.... what? Just like you didn't deserve to be so sick you require cannabis, I didn't deserve to be so well I get jailed for it. For going on sixteen years now, we healthy tokers have been told we need to wait, to sit in the back of the bus, so we can "get the sick and dying off the battlefield". Yet here we are, with one million registered patients, and still, marijuana arrests for healthy people keep increasing.