Source: - A Personal Newsletter on the Cannabis
Author: Richard Cowan, Editor and Publisher 
Contact:  Website: 
Pubdate: March 29, 1998 
Editors Note: This is a very rare exception to our policy of not
distributing items that are only web published. In response to the
significant discussion of the April Reader's Digest article Dick has
written a superb critique. His comments are in (parentheses) that start
with 'Ed. note.' At some points his critique links to other web based
articles. I have made the links visible. The original item is in our
archives at: 
- - Richard Lake - Sr. Editor, DrugSense News Service

(Ed. note: For more than twenty years the Readerís Digest has been a major
source of anti-marijuana prohibitionist propaganda. The late Peggy Mann
wrote a series of articles which popularized the work of Dr. Gabriel Nahas.
Given the Digestís enormous circulation and its reputation, these articles
undoubtedly played a large role in the resurgence of "reefer madness"
prohibitionism. (Readerís Digest has a circulation of over 22 million
copies in 19 languages. It is the worldís largest circulation magazine.)

Also, they went virtually unanswered. In the age of the Internet, their
free ride is over. It is ironic that this article appears in the same month
with the Journal of the American Medical Associationís review of Marihuana,
the Forbidden Medicine. The JAMA
review says, "It is difficult to see how the growing tide of acceptance of
medical marijuana might be stemmed much longer by accusations of "covert
legalization tactics." This article is an attempt to do just that.

Please note that they use the word "lie" in the title and the main point of
the article is to attack the motives of the supporters of medical
marijuana. In fact, the most striking thing about the article is its very
poor intellectual level, and its apparent indifference to the truth.
Appropriately, reprints of the article were distributed at William
Bennettís anti-medical marijuana hate-fest put on by Empower America
earlier this month. See Only Forty People Show Up For Bill Bennett's
Anti-Medical Marijuana Hate-Fest

The Digest can certainly afford better, and its readers should feel
insulted that the editors think them such fools, but it is just what one
would expect of Bennett, the former drug-addicted drug czar and
multi-millionaire hypocrisy entrepreneur.

However, the article does offer the opportunity to examine the principle
prohibitionist arguments, so bear with me. Prepare your anti-emetics.)

The Reader's Digest April 1998 "High On A Lie" By Daniel Levine

Contact: Mail: Readerís Digest, Box 100, Pleasantville NY 10570-0100 Fax: 914-238-6390.


The article is accompanied pictures that give a sinister appearance to the
articleís arch-villains. " Behind the Pot Vote - George Soros $550,000 -
Peter Lewis $500,000 - John Sperling $200,000 --> Californians for Medical
Rights Campaign for the Compassionate Use Act" to legalize medical
marijuana. Photo caption: "All marijuana use is medical," claims Dennis
Peron, the outspoken owner of Californiaís largest pot club. Funded by
Billionaires, the "Medical Marijuana" Movement is Blowing Smoke in our Eyes
(Ed. note: It never bothers to explain why these very rich men, who have
nothing to gain from this, are pursuing what is clearly a thankless course.
The article is largely about denigrating the motives of the medical
marijuana supporters, but it never ventures an explanation for them. Why do
we want to do what they see as such a horrible thing? What is the nature of
our depravity? Certainly, Levine is not bashful in commenting on motives.)


One Saturday last September, 50,000 people, most of them teen-agers,
crowded into the Boston Common for the eight annual Freedom Rally. Its
organizers billed it as the largest marijuana-legalization event on the
East Coast. Strolling through the crowd, holding a joint, was a 17-year-old
high-school senior who said his name was Bill. "If they allow sick people
to use it," he said, "it canít be that damaging." 

(Ed. note: A previous article by Levine used the same technique, beginning
with a "troubled adolescent," thereby framing the marijuana issue simply in
terms of teenage use. Even if that were the proper measure of "drugs
policy," and it has been a disastrous failure for us, this would be
irrelevant to the medical marijuana issue. As the prohibitionist
psychiatrist Sally Satel observed in the prohibitionist Wall Street
Journal, "Just as addictive morphine has medical uses, so might marijuanaÖ"

If some teenager in the park made a similar statement about morphine, would
that then be the basis for the Digest to crusade against all pain relievers?)

Sharing a marijuana pipe with two friends, a 15-year-old named Nicole
agreed. "Pot is harmless," she said. "It should be legalized because there
are so many medical benefits. It helps you with a lot of things. Itís the

(Ed. note: Again, it would seem that the confusion between medical use and
recreational use is being fostered by the prohibitionists. )

An increasing number of young Americans agree. They have gotten this idea
from a well-funded movement to legalize the "compassionate" use of marijuana. 

(Ed. note: Blaming the medical marijuana movement for the increase in
teenage marijuana use is not supported by any survey data. Teen marijuana
use began increasing before the medical marijuana movement got significant

While every legitimate drug requires rigorous testing by the FDA before
being approved, marijuana advocates are opting for medicine by popular
vote. This year signatures are being gathered for medical-marijuana
initiatives in a half-dozen states and the District of Columbia. 

(Ed. note: Of course, this ignores the fact that the very expensive FDA
approval process was designed for patented pharmaceuticals, not for a plant
that no one can own. Moreover, the FDA process was designed to prevent the
marketing of these products prior to being proven "safe and effective," not
to justify arresting sick people who find that a plant helps them relieve
their suffering. You will not find any mention of the arrest and
prosecution of seriously ill people anywhere in this article.) 

Marijuanaís main active ingredient, THC, is effective in relieving nausea
and inducing weight gain in cancer and AIDS patients. That is why the FDA
has approved Marinol, a synthetic pill form of THC. 

(Ed. note: First, one would think that even at this level of prohibitionist
propaganda they would recognize that a person who is vomiting would have
difficulty taking a pill. After all, the subject is nausea! Also, this
ignores the fact that THC is not the only therapeutic or palliative agent
in marijuana.) 

But marijuana in its smoked form has never been shown in controlled
scientific studies to be safe or effective. 

(Ed. note: This is untrue. It is not necessary to do "controlled studies"
to know that marijuana has no lethal dose. Marijuana has been called "one
of the safest therapeutically active agents known to man" by the DEAís own
Administrative Law Judge. This is a matter of public record that a reader
of this article would never know. Also, this ignores the role that the
government has played in delaying research. Dr. Donald Abramís research was
delayed for more than five years. See The Scientist Magazine Does A
Reverent Interview with the Head of NIDA. ) 

In fact, marijuana smoke contains over 2000 chemicals, many of which
produce psychoactive reactions, cause lung damage and - in cancer and AIDS
patients - increase the risk of pneumonia and weaken the immune system.
Inhaling the smoke also disrupts short-term memory and leads to changes in
the brain similar to those caused by heroin, cocaine and other highly
addictive drugs. 

(Ed. note: This paragraph is so densely packed with lies that it is
necessary to refer the reader to Marijuana Myths; Marijuana Facts - - by Zimmer and Morgan to
deal with them fully. As the JAMA review of Marihuana, the Forbidden
Medicine points out: "Grinspoon and Bakalarís summary of the safety and
toxicology data is clinically and logically unassailable. Undoubtedly there
are batches of mold-contaminated marijuana; coordination and motor reflexes
are impaired during acute intoxication; chronic use of marijuana subtly
affects cognitive function and produces upper respiratory problems.
However, for the amount being smoked, it is reassuring that no deaths
directly resulting from marijuana overdose have been reported, nor have
there been documented cases of lung cancer even in heavy chronic smokers."

However, there are certain non-technical and common sense observations that
illustrate how bad this really is. First, it is largely irrelevant, because
it is possible to vaporize whole cannabis by heating it to just below the
combustion point. This liberates the active ingredients in it, while
minimizing the risks of smoking. Second, the risks in every medicine are
dose-related. The amount of cannabis required for chemotherapy induced
nausea is very small. 

Moreover, the comparison of the effects on the brain caused by marijuana,
cocaine and heroin is irrelevant for several reasons. First, it is
essentially meaningless. This sounds scary, but it means nothing. Second,
opiates and other highly addictive drugs are medically available. If
marijuana has a similar effect, so what? Third, if a person is seriously
ill or in great pain, what difference does it make?)

"There is no conclusive scientific evidence that marijuana is superior to
currently available medicines," says Dr. Eric Voth, chairman of the
International Drug Strategy Institute in Omaha. "Medical marijuana is a
scam that takes advantage of sick and dying patients." 

(Dr.Voth is a well-known prohibitionist propagandist, but never mind. It is
not necessary to prove that marijuana is "superior to currently available
medicines." Under the law, all that is necessary is to prove that it is
relatively safe and effective for some patients for whom conventional
medications are not. Both of these points are implicit in the recognition
of the medical value of THC in Marinol. That is all that is required.)

Says Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret.), director of the Office of National
Drug Control Policy, "Medical marijuana is a stalking-horse for
legalization. This is not about compassion. This is about legalizing
dangerous drugs." 

(Ed. note: Hardly a disinterested party.)

"Daddy Warbucks" of Drugs. - The legalization of marijuana and other drugs
has been debated for more than 30 years, with a vast majority of Americans
standing in opposition. (Ed. note: Surveys show that a substantial majority
are in favor of medical access to marijuana, which is the question at
hand.) Legalization supporters have used the argument that drugs are
necessary for medical reasons. 

(Ed. note: Gosh, "drugs are necessary for medical reasons?" What an amazing
concept. Maybe someone should start a pharmaceutical industry!) 

But now, for the first time, they have significant financial backing. 

(Ed. note: In contrast to the prohibitionists who have always had
"significant financial backing." If this really is a relevant issue, then
someone should do an examination of the funding levels and sources of both
the prohibitionist and anti-prohibitionist movements. It is important -- as
a matter of public policy -- to know that huge sums of public money are
being used to support prohibitionism, but it is irrelevant to the merits of
the arguments.)

In the last six years a handful of Americaís wealthiest people have
contributed $20 million to groups that promote medical marijuana or other
radical drug-policy reforms. Billionaire financier George Soros is the
biggest giver, donating more than $16 million. Others include Peter Lewis,
CEO of Cleveland-based Progressive Corp., the nationís sixth-largest auto
insurer, and John Sperling, president of the Apollo Group, a holding
company that controls for-profit universities and job-training centers.

In an interview with Readerís Digest, the 76-year-old Sperling said he
believes doctors should be allowed to prescribe all drugs, including heroin
and LSD. 

(Ed. note: This does not sound like a libertarian plot to "legalize all

Lewis declined to be interviewed.

A spokesman for Soros said he does not support drug legalization.
Nonetheless, Soros has donated millions since 1992 to groups led by people
advocating it. Former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A.
Califano, Jr., calls him the "Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization." 

(Ed. note: A very well-funded prohibitionist propagandist doesnít like the
fact that someone is spending his own money to disagree with him.)

Soros created a drug-policy institute called The Lindesmith Center and has
funded it with $4 million. Its director, Ethan Nadelmann, Sorosís point man
on drug policy, has said he wants to "legalize the personal possession of
drugs by adult Americans." 

(Ed. note: This is what is known as decriminalization and is not what the
Digest seems to mean by legalization.)

Soros has also given $6.4 million to the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF), a
leading advocate for medical marijuana. Its stated mission is "publicizing
alternatives to current drug strategies." Its founder, attorney and college
professor Arnold Trebach, calls himself a "flat-out legalizer" who
advocates the repeal of current drug laws.

Richard J. Dennis, a 49-year-old Chicago commodities trader and member of
DPFís board of directors, supports both medical marijuana and legalization
in general. In fact, says Dennis, "Iíd like to see legalization for adults
for all drugs, including heroin."

On DPFís advisory board is Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Lester
Grinspoon, a leading advocate of medical marijuana for over 25 years. He
compares marijuanaís potential benefit to that of penicillin, predicting,
"It will be the wonder drug of the new millennium." 

(Ed. note: This may be the low point of the article. It would have been so
easy to identify Dr. Grinspoon as the author of the book Marihuana, the
Forbidden Medicine, that not doing so indicates a fear that the readers may
find out that someone can get information that disagrees with the article.
Instead, he takes one sentence out of context.) 

Soros, Lewis and Sperling gained their biggest victory in November, 1996
when California voters passed Proposition 215, also knows as the
Compassionate Use Act. It allows pot to be grown and smoked for "any
illness for which marijuana provides relief." There are no age restrictions. 

(Ed. note: There are also no age restrictions on morphine or other very
powerful drugs that a doctor can legally prescribe. If a child is
suffering, should an effective medication be withheld?) 

"Illness" is loosely defined and can include headaches, chronic pain and

(Ed. note: Does he really mean to imply that "headaches, chronic pain and
arthritis" are not serious conditions which require medication? This is
really bizarre.) 

A doctorís oral recommendation is all that is required. 

(Ed. note: Of course, the Digest would never acknowledge the reason for
this. Doctors cannot legally "prescribe" marijuana, and are being
threatened with the loss of their ability to prescribe legal pain-relievers
if they even give an "oral recommendation" for marijuana.)

The principal author of the California initiative was 52-year-old Dennis
Peron, a San Francisco "medical pot club" owner whoís been arrested 15
times on marijuana charges. Peron says he worded the initiative vaguely
because he believes "all marijuana use is medical." 

(Ed. note: Dennis specifically said "adult use," which is a very important
distinction in this context.)

Peronís Cannabis Cultivatorsí Club is the stateís largest pot club, taking
in over $20,000 a day. One day last fall, Peron wandered the club greeting
patrons and handed one a bulging quarter-pound bag of marijuana.

Standing in line at Peronís smoke-filled club to buy an eighth of an ounce
of high-grade Mexican marijuana was a 39-year-old named Anthony. Under
Californiaís law, Anthony is consider a "seriously ill patient" who can
purchase and smoke pot. He tokes up four or five times a day.

When asked about his ailment, Anthony answered: "Officially, hernia
discomfort from overstrenuous intercourse. Actually, I canít feel it." He
said the club admitted him without any medical referral. A self-described
"potaholic," Anthony has smoked dope since he was 16. My problems, he
conceded, "are related to a general life-style kind of thing."

Peronís club has operated for years, despite violating state and federal
drug laws. In August 1996, state drug agents raided it, seizing 86 pounds
of pot and $62,000. "The club was running a sophisticated illegal
drug-distribution network," said a spokesman of California Attorney General
Dan Lungren. A grand jury indicated Peron, and he awaits trial on felony
drug charges. Meanwhile, Peron is running for governor of California. 

(Ed. note: This is the only reference to the use of the criminal law to
suppress medical marijuana. If anyone has ever been to any of these clubs,
but he will quickly meet people with very serious medical conditions. This
is cruelest part of the article. It pretends that there are no seriously
ill people using marijuana. This is both dishonest and inhumane.)

Peronís initiative never would have made it to the ballot without the help
of Soros, Lewis and Sperling. California requires 433,269 valid petition
signatures before a "citizenís initiative" can be placed on the ballot. As
the deadline neared, Peron and his unorganized group of volunteers had
collected only 40,000.

That is when Ethan Nadelmann of Sorosís Lindesmith Center stepped in. He
helped create Californians for Medical Rights, a sophisticated campaign
organization that pushed the medical-marijuana initiative. Soros and Lewis
pored $400,000 into the group, which paid professional signature gatherers
who, in 90days, obtained more than 700,000 signatures.

Once the measure was on the ballot, Soros, Lewis and Sperling contributed
$450,000 for advertising. Commercials featured emotional appeals for relief
through the use of marijuana. The ads never mentioned that Proposition 215
would allow marijuana to be smoked for any condition, without age
restriction and without a prescription. 

(Ed. note: The contents of Prop 215 were not a secret. )

One of the numerous medical-marijuana clubs that opened as a result of
Peronís measure was the Dharma Producers Group in San Francisco, which
bragged that it offered "medical marijuana with a Tibetan touch." The
clubís "medical director," a pony-tailed 52-yar-old named Lorenzo Pace,
laughed when he explained his medical-marijuana credentials: "I did
preliminary research all through the Ď60s.:

California for Medical Rights has since changed its name to Americans for
Medical Rights. Today it is leading a campaign to place medical-marijuana
initiatives on state ballots across the country.

Rx: LSD. - While Californians were voting on medical marijuana, their
neighbors in Arizona were considering an even more radical initiative. The
Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996 proposed to
legalize not only marijuana but also more tan 100 other drugs - including
heroin, LSD and PCP (angel dust) - for medical use. 

(Ed. note: This section is entirely irrelevant to the argument about
medical marijuana. There are very good libertarian and technocratic
arguments why other drugs should be legalized or made medically available,
but they are not the same as the arguments for medical marijuana.) 

Arizonaís initiative was sold to voters as a way to get tough on violent
criminals. How? Open up jail space by paroling all first- and second-time
drug offenders. This ignored the fact that virtually all of the 1200
inmates affected had plea-bargained down from more serious charges or had
prior felony records.

In Arizona, Sperling spearheaded the campaign. He, Soros and Lewis
contributed a total of $1.2 million; the DPF gave $303,000. This accounted
for 99 percent of the initiativeís total funding. As in California, much of
this money paid for a massive media campaign. Opponents of the initiative,
caught unprepared, did not run a single advertisement.

The measure passed, but a post-election survey revealed that Arizona voters
had been badly misled. Seventy-four percent did not believe doctors should
be able to prescribe drugs such as heroin, PCP and LSD, as he proposition
allowed; 70 percent agreed that the initiative would give children the
impression that drugs were also acceptable for recreational use. The state
legislature subsequently passed a statute that effectively overrode the

Fighting Back. - The organizers of Arizonaís initiative moved to place a
similar measure on the ballot in Washington State. Sperling, Lewis and
Soros contributed a total of more than $1.5 million.

Despite being outspent more than ten to one, opponents of the Washington
initiative were not about to be caught unprepared. They took every
opportunity to stress that the measure was not about compassion, but about
legalizing dangerous drugs. Last November voters rejected the measure.

The defeat in Washington has not sidetracked plans for similar
medical-marijuana initiatives in other states. (Ed. note: As he just got
through complaining, the Washington and Arizona initiatives were not
medical marijuana initiatives. These others are, and most are much more
restrictive than Prop 215.) 

Battlegrounds include Hawaii, Florida, Kansas, Main and Alaska. An Oregon
initiative would not only legalize use of many drugs but also permit the
sale of marijuana in state liquor stores. 

(Ed. note: This is not a medical marijuana initiative.) 

In Washington, D.C., Initiative 59 would allow up to four caregivers,
including "best friends," to cultivate pot for a "seriously ill" person.
Organizers are hoping that passage of these initiatives will spur Congress
to legalize medical marijuana under federal law. 

(Ed. note: Initiative 57 is not being funded by the AMR group. On the
contrary, it is being backed by Act-Up the militant AIDS group that has
vocally denounced AMR and has distanced itself from the drug reform
movement in general. Again, it is dishonest not to recognize this, but it
doesnít fit with his simple scenario. AIDS groups are among the major
supporters of medical marijuana, but no one would learn that from this

Says Dr. Robert DuPont, a former director of the National Institute on Drug
Abuse: "Never in the history of modern medicine has burning leaves been
considered medicine. Those in the medical-marijuana movement are putting on
white coats and expressing concerns about the sick. But people need to see
this for what it is: a fraud and a hoax." 

(Ed. note: Just when in modern history has arresting sick and dying people
been considered medicine? An article about medical marijuana that does not
mention the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the DEAís
administrative law judge, or the prosecution and imprisonment of seriously
ill people is worse than a "fraud and hoax," it is complicity in murder.
This is a blood libel. Yes, Mr. Levine, I know what that means. Do you?)

Let us know what you think about this topic at 
(Ed. note: Please do!)

Copyright 1998 Readerís Digest Association, Inc.