Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

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Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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More Than 100,000 People Have Signed a Petition to Oust the DEA Chief

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 7:00 AM EST

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for the ouster of Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Roseberg after he flatly rejected the idea that smoking marijuana could have medical benefits. "What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal—because it's not," Rosenberg said during a press briefing earlier this month. "We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don't call it medicine—that is a joke."

In response, a Change.org petition with more than 106,000 signatures is calling upon President Barack Obama to "fire Chuck Rosenberg and appoint a new DEA administrator who will respect science, medicine, patients, and voters."

Rosenberg is clearly wrong, yet it's not entirely inaccurate to call medical marijuana a joke—in California at least.

Roseberg need not look far to find reputable studies documenting the medical value of marijuana, even in its whole-plant, smoked form. As Vox's German Lopez points out, a comprehensive review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that pot can effectively treat chronic pain and muscle spasticity.

Still, it's not entirely inaccurate to call medical marijuana a joke—at least in California, the state with the nation's most lax medical marijuana law. When I visited a "marijuana doctor" in San Francisco a few years ago, it took me less than 15 minutes to get a pot card for—wait for it—"writer's cramp." Meanwhile, my wife waited for days before being denied a pot recommendation from our HMO, Kaiser Permanente, despite suffering from a flare-up of actual arthritis. While she sat at home popping Advils, I headed to the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo, where my card got me into a "patient consumption area" staffed by busty women in tight-fitting nurse outfits and a dispensary worker with a nametag that read, "Dr. Herb Smoker, MD."

But that sort of irony wasn't what Rosenberg was talking about. He seems to believe that because marijuana is popular as a recreational drug, it can't  also be real medicine. Clearly, Dr. Herb Smoker isn't the only medical professional who disagrees.

Study: White Dudes Rule. Literally.

| Tue Nov. 3, 2015 2:13 PM EST

If you turned out to vote in today's off-year general election, the chances are you voted for a bunch of white dudes. Not because you're racist. (Although you probably are.) But because the ballots are overflowing with white dudes.

According to a study released last week by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, white guys make up 31 percent of the population, but they account for 65 percent of the people elected to county, state, or national office in America in 2012 and 2014. And that probably has a lot to do with the fact that 66 percent of the candidates are white guys. "The problem is not that women and people of color candidates aren't winning," said the campaign's director, Brenda Choresi Carter. "The problem is that the demographics of our office holders are set when our ballots are printed."

All told, the study found that 90 percent of candidates are white and 73 percent are men. Republican candidates, not surprisingly, are even more likely to be white and male. Check it out:

Reflective Democracy Campaign

The racial disparities exposed in the study might have been less stark if it had included elections in large cities, which tend to be more racially diverse than rural areas. But that still doesn't explain the wide gender gap.

Carter blames the imbalances on a political system that favors the social and economic elite. Typically, candidates for elected office can afford not to hold full-time jobs, belong to existing political networks, and are not perceived as "risky" by donors, political parties, and other gatekeepers. And they're typically in office already: 53 percent of all elections are uncontested, and 90 percent of those unopposed candidates are white.

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