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Schumer Plays the Pot Card…at Last

The “Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act,” drafted by Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey, was introduced on July 14 in the US Senate by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The measure would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, allow banks to handle marijuana-related money, and expunge non-violent marijuana-related federal arrests and convictions. Funds would be directed to uplift communities most damaged by years of prohibition. (Happy Bastille Day!)

According to the NY Times story by Nick Fandos, “The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Republicans are opposed, and it is unlikely to become law soon. President Biden has not endorsed it, and some moderate Democrats are likely to balk at the implications of decriminalizing a drug that has been policed and stigmatized for so long.”

Schumer vowed “to use my clout as majority leader to make this a priority in the Senate.” He told the media, “It’s not just an idea whose time has come —it’s long overdue.” Overdue, indeed, and probably too late for the Democratic Party to “own” the obviously popular issue. The Times piece quoted a conservative think tanker who supports drug-law reform: “The culture war over this issue has definitely moved on. Even among Republicans, you’re getting very close to a majority supporting legalization outright.”

The Democrats had their chance handed to them when California voters legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996 —on the same day that Bill Clinton was re-elected. If only the Big Triangulator had said, “The people of California have sent the government a message: they want to allow the medical use marijuana. We are very concerned about the effect on public health and safety, so we will be carefully monitoring the impact of this new state law…” In due course the Democrats would have been seen as the party that allowed the end of marijuana prohibition. Instead, Clinton closed down the leading California dispensaries in ‘97. He did it by civil injunction, the tactical hypotenuse between siccing the DEA on them and allowing them to operate.

Al Gore would have won handily in 2000 if instead of the “more research is needed” line he had supported states’ rights to regulate marijuana as they saw fit. There would have been no hanging chads.

(BTW, Gore had been a heavy user. What hypocrites these politicians be!)

US Overdose Epidemic Escalates

Puns are commonplace in marijuana-related headlines. “Drug Overdose Deaths Spike” in the New York Times July 14 was the first I’d seen making light of needles. According to the story by Josh Katz and Margaret Sanger-Katz, “As Covid raged, so did the country’s other epidemic. Drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 to a record 93,000, according to preliminary statistics released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the largest single-year increase recorded. The deaths rose in every state but two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, with pronounced increases in the South and West.

“The pandemic itself undoubtedly contributed to the surge in overdose deaths, with disruption to outreach and treatment facilities and increased social isolation. Overdose deaths reached a peak nationally in the spring of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic’s most severe period of shutdowns and economic contraction. But public health experts said there had been a pre-pandemic pattern of escalating deaths, as fentanyls became more entrenched in the nation’s drug supply, replacing heroin in many cities and finding their way into other drugs like meth.”

The reporters pointed out that President Biden had just appointed to “the post sometimes called the drug czar,” Dr. Rahul Gupta, former commissioner of public health for West Virginia, “a state with one of the sharpest rates of increase in drug deaths last year.”

In the not-so-distant past, the Drug Czar (the official title is Director of the White House Office on Drug Policy) was the visible face of marijuana prohibition. Poppy Bush’s Bill Bennett and Clinton’s Barry McCaffrey and W.’s John Walters and John Ashcroft both fought in federal court to disimplement California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Reformers saw them as arch foes. The pharmaceutical industry stayed discreetly in the background while the ONDCP promoted its interests.

Also, in the not-to-distant-past, I would end an item like this by pointing out that not one of the 93,000 “drug deaths” reported in the Times had been caused by marijuana. But now that I’ve declared war on the United States of Amnesia, I’ll end with the relevant background.

The Importance of Conant v. Walters

Weeks after California voted Yes on Prop 215, the feds tried to disimplement the new law by threatening to revoke the license of any doctor who actually approved marijuana use by patients. The threat to doctors was announced by McCaffrey at a press conference carried live by CNN Dec. 30, 1996. Flanked by Attorney General Janet Reno, Alan Leshner of NIDA and Donna Shalala of Health & Human Services, the Drug Czar dismissed medical marijuana as a “Cheech and Chong show” and mocked as absurd Tod Mikuriya’s claim that this one substance could alleviate a vast range of symptoms.

Within weeks, lawyers funded by Ethan Nadelmann (whose Drug Policy Alliance was then called the Lindesmith Center) filed suit in federal court to enjoin the feds from carrying out their threat. The lead plaintiff was Marcus Conant, MD, and the case was called Conant v. McCaffrey. Conant was a perfect choice because he was a UCSF Professor of Dermatology and had worked with AIDS patients whose symptoms included Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Nadelmann saw to it that Dr. Mikuriya was not included among the many co-plaintiffs, although it was Mikuriya who had helped draft Prop 215 and whom McCaffrey had dissed and threatened by name.

In March ‘97 a federal judge named Fern Smith —a Reagan appointee!— granted Conant et al their injunction on Constitutional grounds. The doctor-patient conversation, she reasoned, is protected by the First Amendment’s freedom-of-speech guarantee.

“A minor slight,” is how Tod described being excluded from the Conant suit. He was more dismayed by the DPA “pulling all their resources out of California to promote the master plan,” i.e., to pass medical marijuana laws, no matter how restrictive, state-by-state, until so many had been enacted that the federal government would have to accede somehow. Tod called Prop 215 “a unique research opportunity” and thought the movement’s most important task was to document the safety and medical efficacy of cannabis —a job for clinicians and epidemiologists, not campaign consultants and public relations experts

Was Cannabis First Grown in China?

In a paper published July 16 in Science Advances, Guangpeng Ren and colleagues conclude from genetic-sequencing data that all Cannabis Sativa comes from a “single ancestral gene pool” and was probably domesticated about 12,000 years ago in Eastern China for fiber and medical use. Breeding for psychoactivity probably began some 4,000 years ago as cannabis was spreading to the Middle East and Europe, according to Ren et al.

Proponents of the prevailing theory —that the plant was first grown by farmers in Central Asia— are not overwhelmed by the new study. As explained in an email to O'Shaughnessy's by Dr. John McPartland, Ren's methodology is seriously flawed. Read the details on

Mike Ives’s story summarizing the new study in the NY Times had a lede we’ll give an A for effort: “People feeling the effects of marijuana are prone to what scientists call ‘divergent thinking,’ the process of searching for solutions to a loosely defined question. Here’s one to ponder: Where did the weed come from?”

In my experience people feeling the effects of marijuana are prone to searching for their glasses and/or the remote.

(Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at


  1. C. T. Weber July 24, 2021

    It about time. Peace and Freedom Party has been supporting the decriminalization of marijuana since the early ’70s, maybe the late ’60s.

  2. Mark Laszlo July 24, 2021

    Here’s divergent thinking for you.
    How people mess up this paradise given to us with herbs for our healing! Why let greed and fear spoil the Earth?
    IT synthetic chemicals became the norm in medicine when the chemical industry captured America’s medical schools a hundred + years ago.
    Since then, chemical cos have a fail-safe business, both causing and treating disease.
    The more valuable a herb is, that’s easy to grow and use, the more business it can take from vested interests. Cannabis being the most useful and safe plant in the world, is also the most lied about.
    George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson for advice on how to grow “Indian Hemp” (cannabis
    sativa). Jefferson wrote back with instructions for growing sinsemilla, ie, potent for medicine.
    How can people go to such lengths to regulate and bust this gift from God, from His own pharmacy, that founders of our country grew?
    “Every man for himself” is so much a watchword of our 2021 era, the savage spirit that corrupts civilization. It is the antithesis of civilization – untrammeled selfishness. For civilization to exist and last, we need to feel and act like we have more interests in common than in any dispute
    and can normally settle disputes by voluntary agreement. That it’s normal for people to feel we can trust others.
    Freedom is being able to do anything you want, as long as you respect rights of others. To “take liberties”, or practice license, is abuse of freedom at the cost of others’ freedom. There is freedom and there is license. License steals freedom. Freedom defeats license by justice. No freedom w/o justice. But we do need govt and law; far from us.
    If the govt had not interfered in such natural rights as growing anything w/o causing real problems for anyone, by now, as a society, we’d have problems solved we are struggling with via bureaucracies’ red tape to grow and get along with freedom and no license. When society is tight, drawn together by common interest to help each other to survive in a great crisis, then we are like Antarctic colonists, loving people for helping them survive a killing climate.
    So it will be. Good neighbors will organize and deal with neighborhood problems, as we can.
    Zombies will have to be dealt with permanently.
    And we will be more free if we rely more on ourselves and each other, in community orgs, than the govt.
    The farther from government you live, the freer you are, if you can take care of yourself, but everyone needs help sometimes. There is less want when people share. There can be trust when people know each other. Some customs of organization in common need be taught to children, with manners as tools to communicate peacably.
    Civilization is one of the things we take for granted now but will miss, if it is not already missed.
    If Mendocino people were tight, we could solve more problems with and w/o law enforcement. Government should be great when you need it, but the less you need it the better, because it costs not just taxes but liberty, the more you ask it to do. So, if neighbors organize and watch each other’s backs, w/o asking the govt for help w anything we can do better w/o them, we can become more free. The 1st law is, commonweal: We share more interests than we have different ones. People normally help each other survive and do well. That is the spirit of civilization. When someone’s
    a bad neighbor, like from growing anything in a way that badly impacts the environment and quality of life for neighbors, whether bamboo, kudzu or Ho Chi Minh’s victory garden, a village should meet and talk and those said to offend should be invited to talk. Whatever community problems can be resolved satisfactory to community consensus, w/o govt. help, can make us freer. Law and govt are better to have than not, when we need them, but using them too much makes us less free.
    I think more use of existing community organizations and new ones could help solve such problems as finding out who is truly criminal and who grows illegally but ethically and sustainably and treat them according to that difference.
    Why let good people who don’t cause problems and can’t afford exhorbitant fees to grow a small patch of wholesome organic medicine, people who fall through the cracks, as oligarchs great and small drive out little guys who perfected the culture, with an oligarch’s habit of grabbing everything he can take from his neighbors under cover of law, why let good little guys get busted,
    because snooty oligarchs hate hippies?
    Too much reliance on law and govt. costs freedom. Some of the outlaws may be ok. Better many little growers than a few big growers. Local govts need revenues but the People do not exist for the govt. The govt exists for the People. It should not be there to shake us down. When the USA was new and when California was new, it was easy for little guys to buy land or homestead it. Now the
    Haves have most of everything, chains of debt hold little guys back from fulfilled lives and our chances of getting a bit of good land are about the odds of a lottery drawing.
    So here we are in Paradise, on the eve of apocalypse. Actually, already into it. Much more fun to come!
    I am for realism, for seeking to live best in the world as it is. How can it get any better by living in it like it’s better? By somebody sticking their neck out for others. By creating enough examples of altruism, a society can make altruism the normal model of behavior. Is it not? If not, wasn’t altruism normal some time in the past?
    To have a civilization, we need also a common enough set of ideas about life and how to live, about the world and how it is, about our history and how it can draw us together, with self-evident truths and natural rights, when the Goddess of Liberty is not set on Her head!

    Objective truth, the kind that exists outside of people, that is true for all, is found by the best evidence and reasons available. Western civilization depends on versions of the Republic of Plato, the invention of government the USA is based on, although few republicans now read it. It demonstrates Socrates method of argument to find truths Western civilization and science depend on to exist. Truth is not what makes you feel good to believe, with others. In religion that may be true, but in earthly life, what’s true for all is proved by best evidence and reason. That should be common sense to stick our society together, instead of the schizophrenic society, like multiple warring societies with different reasons to exist and different ways to seek truth. It’s hopeless to unite the country until after civil war II and world war III.

    Regulation serves no good when someone is already basically compliant, but can’t afford to comply with the letter of the law.
    And if they try to comply, will they be allowed to grow a small cash crop, sustainably, w/o any nuisance to neighbors, or be busted on a technicality and have everything taken from them?
    The founders said to be wary of govt. Any govt. So, if govt is a necessary evil, let it be no more than the People need, but only if we can live with the govt and be free; a very questionable idea now, but i’m glad to have democrat world destroyers in charge because they are the best our nuclear warlords will allow us to have , with competence and some breaks for the People at home, even if military policy abroad is already gone nuclear. At least they slow down AGW a little.
    I think most of N. Mendo is likely to get least fallouts (NBC, fire, smog, volcanic, electronic), but everyone needs a Geiger counter and a fallout shelter w filtered air and water, etc. Well made fallout shelters can provide safety from fires w/o evacuation. Also hard to break-in and invade. Properly made underground homes can keep people cool in a heat dome and warm when it’s cold. Most people rebuild on the surface but they are just sitting ducks for everything again!
    So how does a little guy, or a homeless family, find a shelter to use? The more people share the more there is to use. That’s the loaves and fishes lesson. So maybe some with land, shelters and other resources need reliable people to work for them. There is power in numbers. With community solidarity, more children can be saved, so Mendo Co. has a future.
    Are all the above subjects related? I’ll say, under the heading “Can a man go back to the land in Mendo Co. and be free?” Or is some part of the govt going to interfere with me for their greed of spoil or me being a gadfly? The govts too strong now, but it will weaken when it causes destruction of America. Save children, so there may be enough little guys left over to resist the govt that led the world to destruction. Then, if people don’t get freedom backwards, God may save our self-evident truths and natural rights!
    Is it too much to ask for the liberty Americans had when the US was young? Is it risque to ask Americans to imagine what life was like with so many laws not made, so many owning land, that is the source of all wealth? Over generations, we have been made accustomed to a shabby imitation of freedom, and most of our rights necessary to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are
    gone! Watch as what’s left is extracted from us by the 1%. To them we are “pitchforks”. They have the best private shelters. We must build what we can.
    I came to Mendo to save some lives in the war and practice a right practiced by the USA’s founders. I thought some gain from the cultural revolution of my generation was held here, but squares rule. People can’t be too free, unless they can afford it!
    Now i think Mendo is like the rest of the USA, ie, less free than ever. Will we become even more regulated, or lynched by fascists? If we get it together, we may choose a better destiny. If we don’t prep, there will be few children left to hope for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is power in numbers, in common interest, in the biggest crisis ever. In altruism, especially for the good of many, by many, but the few have to get it started.
    Now, somehow, with my own land, i could grow what Washington, Jefferson and many early American farmers grew, but the govt they started now takes away at least as much freedom as they allow to be returned after they stole it for vested interests, including govt rackets thriving from prohibition. The same rackets are still with us. The MCSD has confiscated at least 2 legally placarded grows recently, as told in the AVA. With cannabis, does the MCSD know the difference between legal and not? If they break the law, how can they expect people in the country to help them? If the law abiding live in fear of the MCSD pointing guns at their families, torturing people to sign away rights and taking their property away, are we a free county? Are we in a free country? Think of how it must have been in the early republic. We hadn’t over-regulated yet. But now we may grow this year or next, maybe, after filling out all the forms and paying all the fees.
    God will do the impossible in His time. The People will be free. Children of the poor and middle class will be left over. Freedom will come again, if people want it bad enough. God wants every good for us. Humans were born to be free. He loves the poor, so He would not leave the world just for the rich. If the meek inherit the Earth, the heirs will include the poor. And all have a natural right to grow the most healing herb in His own pharmacy.

  3. Pat Kittle July 26, 2021

    Embarrassing FACTS about Schumer will not be tolerated here!


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