[Artwork by JAMES THORTON]
GUARDIAN: An alternative newspaper in Denver, Colorado, Westword, is seeking a marijuana critic. More than 120 people have applied for the job to review the drugs legally available in the state’s medical dispensaries. One condition: the critic must have a medical ailment that allows him or her to buy and use marijuana at one of Colorado’s 100 dispensaries. And the pay, unlike the job, is not expected to be high. There are already several online reviewers of cannabis, such as marijuanareviews.com and weedmaps.com. MORE
WESTWORD: All those journalistic scoops are just so much smoke compared to the attention attracted by an ad we posted on the web last week — for a medical marijuana dispensary reviewer. Denver is the wild, wild West of the medical marijuana business, with new dispensaries opening daily — but the staffer who’d been posting “Mile High and Low” reviews every week for the past month under the name Mae Coleman (an homage to Reefer Madness) was ready to get back to his day job. Still, since the number of people seeking medical marijuana cards is growing even faster than the number of dispensaries in this state, we knew that not only was there a need for critical information, but that we’d have no shortage of qualified applicants. Not in the Mile High City. So we published a post asking would-be dispensary critics to write a brief essay on “What Marijuana Means to Me.” Our first applicant replied within five minutes — fast work for a stoner. Our first media response came a few minutes later — really fast work for a journalist. A week later, our quest has been captured by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, and the essays continue to pour in — some silly, some actually spelled correctly (many potheads don’t seem to care for punctuation), some very sincere. A sampling…MORE
WASHINGTON POST: I think we probably should have an open debate about decriminalization. But it should be a real debate, about real decriminalization, and not clouded — pardon the expression — by hokum about “medical marijuana.” To the extent it puts the attorney general’s imprimatur on the notion that people are getting pot from “caregivers” to deal “with serious illnesses” — as opposed to growing their own or flocking to “dispensaries” just to get high — the Justice Department’s move is not so constructive. I do not deny that for some people, including some terminal cancer patients and pain-wracked AIDS sufferers, marijuana is a blessed relief. Let ’em smoke, I say, just as the Justice Department has usually ignored such cases since long before Holder spoke up. But if you believe there is any scientific evidence that smoked marijuana has the multiplicity of therapeutic uses that advocates claim — well, I’ve got a bag of oregano I’d like to sell you.
Usually, drugs have to pass exacting testing by the Food and Drug Administration before they go on the market. There’s a good reason for this: we don’t want people spending money on products that might be ineffective or actually harmful. In California and elsewhere, however, snake oil — sorry, “medical marijuana” — got on the market via a different route: popular referendum. The pot for sale in dispensaries is subject to none of the purity controls that actual pharmaceutical drugs must meet. Indeed, the new DOJ policy essentially recognizes a gray market for pot, leaving these supposedly seriously ill people at the mercy of their dealers — I mean caregivers — with respect to quality and efficacy. MORE
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Finally, there’s a dose of sanity in the federal government’s approach to drug prosecution. The U.S. Justice Department has announced it will no longer go after those who dispense or use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it’s legal, such as California. That’s a welcome reversal from the Bush administration’s heavy-handed approach, raiding clinics and arresting people who relied on marijuana to relieve the pain and nausea of cancer, AIDS and other debilitating illnesses. The new policy treats the sick with dignity, frees up limited law enforcement resources for fighting real crime and honors what often is seen as a conservative concept: states’ rights. California has long been at the vanguard of the campaign to allow medical marijuana. In 1996, voters passed Proposition 215, a carefully constructed initiative that allows those who need marijuana to obtain it with a doctor’s prescription but includes tight restrictions to keep the legally-produced drug away from traffickers. Since then, 12 other states have followed suit. And some experts believe the Obama administration’s new approach will have a similar ripple effect. That would be good news, as poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans support the humane approach to medical marijuana laws. MORE
NEW YORK TIMES: The federal government should not be harassing sick people and their caregivers. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has made the right decision, calling off prosecutions of patients who use marijuana for medical purposes or those who distribute it to them — provided they comply with state laws. It is a welcome reversal of the Bush administration’s ideologically driven campaign to prosecute dispensaries, even in states that had made medical uses legal and often with overwhelming popular support. The new policy still leaves plenty of room for local prosecutors to decide which dispensaries are really in compliance with state law and which look like schemes to sell drugs to all comers at a big profit. It shouldn’t take a lot of resources or time for local or federal investigators to figure out the difference. That will leave more time and resources for the real job of prosecuting dangerous drug traffickers and other criminals. MORE