Archive for California

Voting to Legalize Marijuana in California.

Posted in Current Events with tags , , , , on April 5, 2010 by corecompany

Ahh, California, my homeland. It’s the state that nurtured me and made me the cynic I am today. Thankfully, for me and for Californians I live in New York but having spent the first 22 years there, I feel qualified to comment on the culture and of course their drug policy. I know what you are saying, “feelings aren’t facts” meaning perhaps I am not qualified but isn’t that what a blog is for? Unsubstantiated rantings about whatever? That’s what mine is for anyway.

California has a reputation of being a liberal bastion; groundbreaking culture where oddballs cast out of their home environment can feel safe. To some extent this is true, the epicenter of the gay culture found a home in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in San Francisco. Angela Davis shouted from the hills of Westwood at UCLA. Berkeley has long been a community and University of intellectual inquiry and liberal politics. The thing to remember about California is that it is huge and diverse and except for these pockets it might as well be Texas. Californians love the death penalty, guns, the Klan has a strong yet more subdued presence there. Ironically Californians love almost all things Mexican, the food (which by the way is one of the best things about the state), the architecture, as well as naming their cities and streets Spanish names. What they don’t love about Mexican culture are the people. They have staunch opinions about being bilingual and immigration. They vote to exclude immigrants from health care and education. This seems to be institutionalized racism because they all seem to love their individual Lupe, Maria, or Consuela whom they treat as an indentured servant. So in other words the message is: “Mexicans keep out; unless you will mow my lawn, care for my child, grow my food, bus my table, clean my house, then we welcome you North, amigo”. In a sense California is liberal but in a really militant way especially in the Bay area. There is a high expectation of political correctness in the social circles in the Bay area. A smugness that is off-putting, exclusive, as well as mystifying. What is it that makes them feel they have found the secret to happiness? It is a quaint place, aesthetically pleasing and the food is good but is it important? No, it is not. Certainly not to the degree it feels it is. For a place that celebrates diversity it is oddly rigid. If you didn’t go to UCLA or Stanford, live in the Marina and drive an Audi A4 you will never be a cool kid, not ever. Los Angeles? Not enough time to comment on that quagmire of vapid dudeosity they call a city. Oh what to do about the California problem? Get a burrito and a surfboard and join them? Hardly an option. Stay in Brooklyn and make fun of them? Watch their political climate closely? Yes, this will be a better plan.

Why California on the brain? The measure that will be on the November 2nd ballot to legalize marijuana. I have never made any secret about my position on marijuana: I consider it a dangerous psycho reactive drug and I encourage people to steer clear of it. I hate the culture that surrounds it; the complacency, the stupidity, the dirty hacky sack playing white kids with Dred locks that look like they need parenting and a bath. I really do not like hippies or their hypocrisy. With that said, I am a supporter of taxing and regulating a substance that clearly the people want and consume. Additionally, I would never support the government having the right to choose an individuals intoxicant, especially when the one they choose is one of the most dangerous ones out there.  California has clued in, or maybe they are thrust into this by their fiscal crisis. Whatever the motivation, California could be the first state to reduce illicit drug use by more than half, generate revenue and a tax base for something that already goes on, and allow a personal liberty that the government has no right to intercept. Where is the downside of this? Additionally, it would seem to merge various cultures in California. The Hollywood limousine liberals could feel good about themselves (although what would stop them?), the San Francisco smugness would be justified (in their minds) and the gun-toting Mexican hating, tract housing living conservatives should be happy that big wasteful government would be turning a loss into a profit. Will they be? Will these cultures align and be the first domino to fall in America? Who knows? Anyone who has ever tried to organize drug users to do much of anything knows, addicts don’t vote. They are too self-centered, often high and unaware of any civic responsibility. Addicts in recovery are of course a different breed of cat. Will they put the bong aside, the Doritos away and turn the Xbox off long enough to vote on an issue that impacts them? Maybe they won’t. Their weed could increase in price and dealers will deliver. It takes minimal effort to get high at the moment so maybe they won’t do it.

The polls suggest most voters favor the move to make marijuana legal. There are voices out there dissenting. One is Pastor Ron Allen, a crack smoker turned cleric, (really is there any better kind?) who is one of those “Just say no” evangelicals voicing bizarre opinions based on his sample of one of what to do about the drug problem.  Other’s are surely to surface opposing this issue, likely they swill scotch and hate Mexicans but culturally stereotyping people is really not part of my bag of tricks so I will leave them alone.

Which California will emerge on November 2nd?  I hope it’s the one that will approve this and end a piece of the senseless, bloody drug war. I say either end the prohibition of Cannabis or reinstate the prohibition of alcohol. Ok, California, its, like, you know, up to you to lead the nation on this one.

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Legalizing Marijuana in California

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , on January 14, 2010 by corecompany

California, took another step closer to legalizing recreational use of Marijuana. A 4-3 vote by the assembly public safety committee kept the bill moving. Jared Huffman (D. San Jose) summed the baby step up pretty well, voting for the measure but distancing himself from it. In a bold statement, Huffman declared, “I don’t want my kids to use it”. Solid parenting assemblyman. I am not sure that anyone wants a kid, whose brains are like wet cement to use a dangerous psycho-reactive drug but that is not what the legalization movement is about. To me it’s about honesty. “Of the people, by the people, and for the people”, well, the people like to get high, relax, unwind, whatever you’d like to call it with cannabis. Should we make our own people criminals because they would like to do that with cannabis rather than alcohol?

One of the dissenting votes called the 1.4 billion dollars in potential tax revenue “blood money”.  What would the money spent on incarceration and paramilitary tactics be if taxing and regulating is blood money?

In my own smug way I like to distance myself from the marijuana smokers. For a variety of reasons, I have been intoxicant free for nearly 13 years but in all that time, I don’t think I have gathered the opinion that everyone should be. It’s really not my business, and frankly, I find the marijuana culture insultingly stupid, complacent, and boring, but I don’t think we should shoot people because they like it or want to participate in it.  So if any of you hippies are out there reading this are thinking we will be friends, forget it. Just play with your xbox in your apartments and let me be your champion from up high, from my lofty perch.

To me, legislating people into a specific intoxicant goes against the foundational ideas of America. When did we become a nation of judgment and shame? Bay area politicians hemming and hawing and apologizing for their vote?  Good work with the vote but why not sound off like you got a pair, step up and have an opinion. Is that so hard?

Will California Legalize Marijuana?

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , on November 16, 2009 by corecompany

I say it not less than 5 times a week, “the AMA has recognized alcoholism as a disease for decades”.  It’s an arrow in my quiver used to penetrate denial in some way. Sometimes it’s just a wiseass comment. I like to pull it out when people say ‘I don’t think alcoholism is a disease”.  “Really Dr., the AMA disagrees”.  IS the AMA a friend to our culture, our cause, to us pinko reformers?

While the AMA is asking for more clinical trials regarding the medicinal value of marijuana, they are careful to distance themselves from the long-haired, twinkee eating, Cheech and Chong  loving complacent pot culture. The AMA is clear  that they do not endorse any state based medical marijuana programs and does not support the legalization of marijuana. Why not AMA? It doesn’t take an MD to know that many of the substances that freely flow out of  doctors offices are way more dangerous and harmful than Marijuana, so why would a doctor not feel comfortable writing a Marijuana prescription?  How may lives are claimed by Percocet, Vicodan, Oxycodon and/or Zanax? More than we know, certainly more than people are honest about. How many marijuana overdoses are there annually? ZERO, ZERO!!!!

Marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 drug, the most restrictive of five schedulings. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medicinal use (tell that to someone having chemo), and a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug. Another schedule 1 drug is heroin……. Less restrictive substances in the schedule 2 arena include cocaine. What? Our government believes that marijuana needs more restriction than cocaine? Does anyone really believe that drug policy is working? Where is the outcry for the massive reform of drug policy in this country?  The lack of discourse is staggering. Where, oh where, does alcohol fall into all of this? It seems again, that it gets a free pass.

Looks like California will be the first to vote on legalization of marijuana. Ok, Cali, let’s see it.

The Battle Continues – Legalizing Marijuana in California

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , on October 17, 2009 by corecompany

legalizing-marijuana

The debate to legalize marijuana in California is on yet again.  The state is saddled with huge budget deficits and proponents of the decriminalization movement argue that it would produce north of a billion dollars annually in tax revenue for the state.  California, land of disenfranchised misfits, has a long tradition of liberal idealism as well as arch conservatism. Remember Regan shut down the Berkeley campus and scolded the kids for acting up. This would seem to a natural reach across the aisle issue, tapping into both republican libertarianism and liberal freedom of choice.  The state already has laws on the books making marijuana “legal for medicinal purposes”. What does that mean in real terms? It means that any pot smoking doctor will write you a prescription for a hang nail, anxiety, back pain, glaucoma, whatever. The downside for some is that it labels you as a user of a substance that is “bad” or at least not approved by the government. Remember it is alcohol that does the most damage to society and the individual. The state is legitimately looking at the issue. Iconic former mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, says,  “People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization”.  Chong says, “Yea, man!” In an effort to inch toward legalization, the city of Oakland, facing no opposition voted to tax the marijuana dispensaries at the insistence of the owners of the stores themselves. It was an effort to demonstrate that this is an idea that can work. So what happened? There was an economic boom in the neighborhoods and people got high. Of course people would be getting high if the neighborhood remained in urban squalor.

            Let’s say they get this passed. What will that do to the federal law making Marijuana illegal? Will it set up a further war on drugs? Will it turn into more of a civil war? Will California finally succeed? Will people get high and eat Twinkies? Will Californians no longer swirl wine in their glasses and glibly pontificate the virtues of their perfect weather” paradise”. Is it the alcohol lobby that opposes this?  Oh, California, what are we going to do with you?

An Insiders View of the Betty Ford Clinic.

Posted in Rehab Reviews with tags , , , , on February 8, 2009 by corecompany

bettyford1

If you were to look up RECOVERY in a picture dictionary, chances are there would be a picture of The Betty Ford Center representing it.  The Betty Ford center (BFC) is a recovery pillar, a groundbreaker and pioneer in the recovery culture and movement. Long before young stars like Lindsey or Britney sought help to wrestle their demons, the Betty Ford Center saw many cultural elites on their expansive manicured lawns. There was a day when BFC was routinely mentioned in Johnny Carson’s monologues, was fodder for backyard bbq conversations, and was a staple in supermarket tabloids.  To those of us who make a living in the commerce of care we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the center and to Betty Ford herself. Where would we be if she had not had the courage to self disclose, organize her friends and funnel her celebrity into something that has changed the face of addiction treatment and the sub culture of 12 steppin’ – West coast style? 

Today the center has been in operation for more than 25 years, has an endowment of more than 20 million dollars, 80,000 alumni and continues to establish standards of care and develop new programming. On a recent visit to “The Betty” I had the pleasure of seeing their children’s program, a brilliant and effective approach to introducing children, already hurt by the ripple effect of alcoholism, to the knowledge, values, and skills of recovery. Well done Betty! I have always had a particular interest in youth traumatized by addictive disease and the treatment of that. Disney knows “get them young” and you have a lifelong customer, cigarette companies seem to have clued in as well, I think it’s time we do too and thanks Betty for such an innovative and pioneering program!

While The Betty is a tremendous system, it is not without its warts. Visiting the Betty Ford center is a similar to what I imagine visiting Betty Herself would be like. I can envision the nervous anticipation of visiting with a former first lady, coupled with respect and brimming with questions and conversation ranging from politics to being a warrior in a more meaningful war on drugs. Unfortunately, reality in this case is similar to a balloon slowly loosing it’s air….The fantasy lunch is much more satisfying.  In reality, the lunch ends with a somewhat disappointed, empty feeling that Betty is a 90-year-old lady who is past her prime and lacking in her energetic vision. It’s much the same with visiting the center; feeling like I’m headed to Lourdes and then realizing, like all things, The Betty is in some ways past it’s prime and is really a mix of good and bad.

The Betty blends in perfectly with its manicured neighbors – it’s very similar to the planned golf communities that surround it, the lawns are freshly mowed, the hedges are perfectly squared off, it’s warm and sunny and everyone seems happy to greet a New Yorker with open arms.  They embrace me in the relief I must feel to be “out of the cold”.  I let them know that I have a coat, but irony is not something of value at the Betty.  The center is organized like a massive university campus; there are departments, halls, a central cafeteria and an organizational system guiding the treatment process. Each hall has its own identity and source of pride. Men are separate from women and interacting is strictly frowned upon. There is an antiseptic feeling at the Betty. It runs, efficiently, as if were run by an empathic navy admiral who has little tolerance for cutting corners.

The Halls are simple, industrial, and clean. They are as exciting as the freshman dorm at a land grant mega university but they seem to do the job. For the entitled, the risk of AMA is high. The Betty is very much grounded in fundamental paradigms of recovery, humility, honesty, and service. Clearly these are important values in any sustained recovery but the pacing of this is important.  As a believer in meeting the client where they are, The Betty is a distant choice for the high profile client.  The staff is friendly, warm, knowledgeable, they seem happy and largely in recovery themselves, something I think helps.  They also seem to be white, retired, and ethnocentric about their desert community. There is an air of superiority, resting on laurels, and self-satisfaction. Like a pre Vatican II church. The Betty seems like a big factory, organized to the point of sacrificing a personal feeling or an individualized program. It can be argued that any treatment experience is as valuable as the relationship with ones primary therapist. The Betty would offer a great chance to work though ones issues with ones granny, given the apparent transference. As with all mental health treatment it is designed by and run by women. A conflict that is clear at the Betty. During the “When you. I feel” group a well-meaning middle-aged woman on the staff said, “When the men of DuPont are unwilling to participate in this exercise, I feel frustrated and sad”.  The group took this comment as criticism, found it off putting and minimized the great effort it takes for a man to identify and discuss any feeling other than “Shut up”.  I think I could have spoken for the guys in the group by responding with “When you nag and minimize, and patronize, I feel like I want you to shut up or go home and watch a soap opera” With such an emphasis on boy’s camp and girls camp, it is concerning that this does not extend to the staff. While there were men on staff, they were few and far between –  the clinicians were primarily middle-aged women. For anyone raised on text messaging and doesn’t know a world without MTV, think twice; think three times before going to the Betty for treatment. Recent developments and demand have created programs which would be much more appropriate placements for a younger population.

            The cafeteria is like everything at The Betty, clean, well run, and “not bad”. The food compares to a “souplantation” or some such mass produced mall like fare.  It was fresh and well prepared. It is as exciting as a mall court, of course, you’re not there for the food. As with high school, the cafeteria sheds light on cliques at the Betty. Patients are mandated to sit with their halls, a sound clinical decision which makes sense. The dining hall looks like an AARP mixer or a dynamic master planned community clubhouse. There are the bulk of the patients who fall one or two deviations from the mean, on the fringes are the self absorbed and indignant young people who look like they have been bribed to visit grandma. In the distance, children from the kids program gleefully dart about, happy to visit grandma and excited to swim in the community pool. The kids are still excited by the endless soft serve ice cream machine.

The Betty is an important system in the world of treatment and recovery.  They have helped thousands of people and untold numbers of families.  They have done more to break through the cycle of shame than any other treatment center.  The children’s program is the only one of its kind.  The cost of the Betty is 25k for 30 days; it’s a treatment value. In a sense they are like another famous Ford, Henry Ford who figured out a system that made a horseless carriage more obtainable. The Betty is a 12step program – they stress fundamentals. In the end, take the crunchy with the smooth, leave your clubs at home and go get spiritual at the Betty, especially if you’re considering sobriety as part of your retirement plan.