Medical Marijuana, Dow 10,000, Crimefighting Politicians, and Fox TV

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to... uh... something

| Tue Mar. 23, 1999 1:00 AM PST

Never mind what his own study says; Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey insists that medical marijuana is gonna stay illegal -- because it impairs memory, interferes with motor skills, and it impairs memory.

As you already know, voters in seven states have approved the use of marijuana strictly for medical purposes. However, the will of the people notwithstanding, the federal government still thinks letting a cancer patient in chemotherapy relieve their pain this way is a crime worthy of imprisonment.

Gee, thank God somebody's trying get these troublemakers off the streets.

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Let's not confuse medical use of marijuana with recreational toking. Casual marijuana abuse can cause serious problems for some people. But that's not the subject here. And it impairs memory.

Here's the thing: an independent report commissioned by McCaffrey's own Office of National Drug Control Policy has strongly recommended legalization for medical reasons only.

McCaffrey's own investigators say that

a) marijuana's not particularly addictive
b) it's not a gateway to harder drugs
c) medical use wouldn't increase casual abuse
d) and for people in grave condition and real pain, like AIDS patients suffering from wasting syndrome, the medical benefits far outweigh the risks, which are less than you get even with many well-known prescription drugs.

Never mind all that. Never mind the insanity of outlawing a substance tried by roughly one-quarter of the U.S. population. Never mind the ongoing, ludicrous failure of drug prohibition. And never mind the obvious historical example of alcohol prohibition.

The Drug Czar still insists that anyone putting into practice his own office's findings will still be subject to arrest.

But suppose for a second the study had determined that marijuana was a major public-health menace. Do you imagine General McCaffrey would discard it so easily, or would he be waving it proudly as further rationalization for the militarization of drug enforcement?

Dude, why spend our tax dollars on a study if you're just going to ignore it if it doesn't find what you want?

I guess because except for cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and prescription narcotics, drugs are destroying America.

And they impair memory.



10,000 on the Dow. Well, whoopty-do.

Last Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached the 10,000 mark for exactly one minute before quickly retreating over a hundred points away.

Which reminds me of an auto show I went to in college: the Dow brushed up against 10,000 sort of the same way I got to go up and touch this Playboy Playmate I had a crush on.

And then in like a minute the handshake was over, and I had to pull myself back to the real world. And then came the restraining orders, the house arrests, and that other ugly business I can't even write about because of the settlement.

OK, that last paragraph was really creepy. People, I'm just kidding. Although I did get to hang with a Penthouse Pet once, an event which I am certain remains clearer in my memory than in hers.

Anyway. The Dow touched 10,000.

So did she probably.

Anyway.

Wherever the Dow is right the minute you read this, here's the deal: since the beginning of the year, more stocks are declining than advancing, and more are hitting new lows than new highs.

But the index of 30 stocks is skyrocketing, right? Big deal. Actually, almost all the growth in the Dow this year is in just eight stocks.

Meanwhile, the world economy is circling the drain, the price of oil is rising, and cabbies are mortgaging houses to buy Internet companies with no earnings on margin.

Just because the Dow Jones crosses an arbitrary number doesn't mean it's gonna stay there. In the November 1972, powered by similar large gains in a narrow group of stocks, the Dow crossed 1,000 for the first time ... and then, due to rising oil prices and a recession, two years later it was back down to 577. The Dow didn't see 1,000 again until 1982.

Which doesn't necessarily tell us anything about the current stock market. But it does tell us that big round numbers mean nothing. And we do know that, by historical measures anyhow, much of the current stock market is wildly overvalued.

So sure, maybe you can still get into this market and make a big score.

And maybe I can still do the same thing with that Playmate.



A lot of politicians visiting New Hampshire are promising to be Tough On Crime when they get to Washington, D.C.

That's nothing new. This is:

According to figures released last week by the Justice Department, we already have more Americans in jail than in both places combined.

One in every 150 Americans is now in prison.

Per capita, we're the world leader among countries not experiencing civil war.

And that's not even including the cast of "Diff'rent Strokes."

1.8 million Americans are now behind bars.

That's enough to lock up the entire city of Washington D.C. more than three times over.

Which might not be a bad idea, but that's not the point.

And it's not even necessary. All this posturing about crime is swell, but the falling crime rate probably has more to do with an improving ecomony and a demographic decline in the number of young males between 18 and 24 who commit the bulk of violent crime.

But thanks to all the cheap rhetoric, some states are literally cutting school budgets to build more prisons.

Which can't be good for our children's future.

Although the food service is probably about the same.



You wanna find out the real media bias in this country? Set something on fire.

Let's digress. If you listen to talk radio, a lot of formerly-gelatinous-but-now-merely-overweight radio hosts honestly think there's a pervasive lefty bias to the commercial media. As if the most prominent employees of people like General Electric and Microsoft are secretly reading Mao in their spare time.

Excuse me? Use your eyes and ears. When CNN stands for the Chomsky News Network and competes with EF! The Earth First Channel for ad revenue from Tom's of Maine, we can resume this discussion. But not only are most pundits avowedly conservative, even reactionary radicals like Ollie North and G. Gordon Liddy, whose open contempt for the law is precisely what made them famous, routinely host national radio and TV talk shows.

Truth is, the real bias of commercial media is: it's commercial media. Giant media corporations make their money by selling ads to other giant corporations, and any long-term systemic bias exists because it serves that bottom line. Period.

That's why so many TV shows contain nothing but

a) sex
b) violence
c) violent sex, and
d) occasional footage of pit bulls attacking fat people.

Last week, there was a fire in a strip mall in the suburbs near my home in Los Angeles. And the Fox affiliate's 6 a.m. news show consisted solely of a helicopter shot of the burning building.

For an entire hour.

Like nothing else mattered in the world.

Apparently Beavis is now Channel 11's news director.

"Fire! Huh huh, cool! Huh huh, fire is cool, huh huh..."

After which Jillian, the weather chick, caressed the nation's midsection while wearing a really tight shirt. Then they went back to the fire.

Half these people probably think Edward R. Murrow is that actor who played Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver.

So if you're an activist, next time you want your message to get TV coverage, don't waste your time coming up with fact sheets and compelling true stories. No one cares anymore. Really.

Just set fire to a half-dozen pit bulls, and hire some fat people to have sex in the street.

You'll have Fox and CNN on the scene in twenty minutes.

Just make sure to give the pit bulls and fat people full-body tattoos with your group's slogan.

It's the only way to be sure what you have to say will make it into the final story.


Bob Harris is a radio commentator, political writer, and humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide.

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