Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
As political junkie, I have attended numerous public forums, City Council meetings, Pima County Board of Supervisers’ meetings, and even Arizona Legislature sessions, but tonight’s “educational” forum on medical marijuana (Prop 203) was the weirdest, most one-sided and contentious non-debate that I have ever witnessed.
In a nutshell, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall [check out the seriously under-the-radar website link] used this public forum (and a Pima County facility) to give her personal opinion on medical marijuana, scare the audience, and campaign for a No vote on Prop 203. (Isn’t this unethical behavior?)
At the onset, LaWall said that the meeting was not a debate or a public forum but simply an educational meeting. She said her goal was to “educate and inform” the audience about Prop 203. Fair enough but that is not what transpired.
LaWall’s slanted slide show, her “facts” about medical marijuana, and editorial emphasis on certain key points made it obvious that she was not providing education; she was using her office to campaign against medical marijuana.
Early on, in the non-debate, the mostly pro-203 audience of about 40 people began to challenge her “facts”. For example, she said that marijuana was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a “medicine” and that it has not been research-tested. (Earth to Barbara, the FDA has not approved St. John’s Wort for depression, black cohash for menopause, or any number of herbal remedies and supplements, but drug stores and health food stores are selling them.)
Marijuana has not been approved as a medicine because there are no pharmaceutical companies producing marijuana pills and funding multi-center clinical trials. Since it is illegal in most states, there is no economic incentive to pay millions of dollars to test it. (Drug research in the US is based on capitalism, not on the overall public good.) On the flip side, there have been loads research articles providing anecdotal evidence and case studies on the benefits of medical marijuana.
Regarding research testing of Controlled Substances, in the US most research is funded by the federal government or by drug companies. After the free-wheeling 1960s when Timothy Leary. Ram Das, Andrew Weil, and others at Harvard Medical School were conducting clinical trials of, writing about, and/or experimenting with mind-altering drugs, the Nixon administration clamped down on experimentation (research or otherwise), and medical research into potential benefits of controlled substances was suppressed. (Research funding is a political football.)
I digress. Back to tonight’s political theater… instead of answering questions from the audience, LaWall became defensive, skipped through some slides, threatened to have people removed, and solicited help from uniformed police officers to control the crowd of citizens with legitimate questions. Since LaWall refused to call on people who raised their hands early on, audience members started shouting questions and comments.
For example, she answered one of my questions, but only when I said I was a journalist and asked, “Do you want me to write that you refused to answer audience questions?” When I raised my hand with a follow-up question, I was ignored– along with many others.
Eventually the audience turned to heckling, but, seriously, LaWall deserved it. One breast cancer patient shouted out how much medical marijuana has helped her over the past 2 years of chemothearpy. Community activists accused LaWall of abusing her elected office by using the public forum to voice her personal opinion. Outside, a cancer doctor and palliative care cancer nurse told me that LaWall just doesn’t understand the benefits of medical marijuana to their patients.
The meeting lasted about 30-40 minutes, since LaWall refused to answer the vast majority of questions or address comments from the audience. This was a pathetic performance by an elected official.
On November 2, 2010, Arizona voters will again have the opportunity to approve medical marijuana (Prop 203). Arizonans have approved medical marijuana at least twice before in my recollection. What makes the 2010 vote different? In 1998, Arizona voters got tired of voting for initiatives and then having the Republican-controlled Legislature not enact the voters’ wishes. Consequently, the Voter Protection Act was passed. This forces the Legislature to enact laws approved by the voters. (Watch out for this because Republican legislators are trying to undermine our initiative process.)
Old hippies, stoners, cancer patients, people with chronic pain and other medical conditions improved by marijuana, and other freedom-loving Americans who want less government control of our lives– mark your calendars. I’ll make it easy for you. Here are the election-related deadlines you need to know:
– To vote on November 2, you must register by October 4, 2010. You can register to vote here.
– The first day of early voting and the day that early ballots are mailed is October 7, 2010.
– You can also request to be on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). This means you automatically always get a ballot in the mail. (You can change this at any time; you can also drop the ballot off at a polling place on election day. It’s easy, trust me.)
– The last day to request an early ballot is October 22, 2010. Here is a list of early voting sites.
– Election day is November 2, 2010. If you don’t know where to vote, check out the Pima County Recorder’s website. And, again, thanks to Republicans, you have to take an official government identification with you to the polls.
Also, while you’re voting for medical marijuana, vote for Arizona Democrats. Statistics show that most people don’t like the way the Republicans are running this state (ie, 2nd in poverty, 50th in education, worst unemployment in 27 years). It is long past time to throw those bums out!
In the future, looks for public forums on zoning for medical marijuana. Counties and cities around Arizona will be trying to control usage, dispensaries, and cultivation. Don’t let them undermine your rights!
>I was also at this theatre of the absurd performance of Barbara LaWall tonight and your description was 100% accurate. Afterwards I had a few brief words with Miss LaWall and she was visible angry at the way the "forum" turned out and said she didn't appreciate being called a liar. I told her I hadn't called her a liar and I invited her to come to a monthly meeting and address the questions that people want answered and she said no way would she ever come to talk to a group after the way she was treated at her forum.Under the Merit System of Pima County, I believe Barbara LaWall was violating the rules regarding political activity. It clearly states that no Pima County employee can engage in activities on duty meant to influence an election and Barbara LaWall stated she was giving this presentation to shape opinion against Proposition 203. This should be investigated further since in the guise of giving information LaWall and her office running a quasi-campaign to defeat Prop 203.
>Thanks for the weird update. Keeping marijuana illegal for medical use is just plain mean! Doesn't she know how expensive and debilitating pain medicine is?I don't care if people smoke for recreation. It's better than Meth or whatever else people do to get stupid. And alcohol! a proven addictive substance that is responsible for deadly impairment. Maybe she gets money from the pharmaceutical corporations!? Can't we have debates with intelligent, objective, informed people?LaWall works for us. She doesn't get to refuse to answer questions.
>Anon#2– good point: She works for us and "doesn't get to refuse to answer questions."The quasi-facts aside, I didn't like her sneering delivery about caregivers, patients, and mj products. Under the proposed Arizona law, patients can grow up to 12 plants for personal use in some sort of locked cabinet, closet or building. Unpaid caregivers can take care of 5 patients and grow **5 times that much!!!** (Her emphasis.) She also sneered when she showed ads for caregivers and said they have groups or clubs. (I think they're called support groups.)I used to work at the Arizona Cancer Center, and I saw first hand what those poor people go through and how miserable they look when they are regularly fed poison (AKA chemotherapy). If they want a bit of mj ice cream (which she showed is for sale in Santa Cruz, California) let them have it! Cancer drugs are much better than they used to be in the 1960s, but they are still devastating to the body. Some people run the gauntlet of chemotherapy and come out the other end disease-free and deservedly proud of their courage. Some suffer through the last months or years of their lives and don't survive. Give them some comfort! I went to a lecture by Andrew Weil several years ago at the Cancer Center. One of the oncologists asked him about chemotherapy and the placebo effect (ie, people feeling better even when they are not getting the drug). He basically whatever improves your experience with cancer is a good thing. He also said that if he had terminal cancer– one they don't have good cures for– he'd buy some pot and spend his last months going on a cruise and having quality time with his friends and family– rather than spending time in the clinic receiving chemo.Treatment is also devastating for the caregivers (usually family members because people can't afford home care.) They get stressed and depressed seeing the suffering of their loved one. Unlike LaWall, I also do not begrudge them a toke, a brownie, or a dish of mj ice cream. Anon#2, yes, she has no idea how expensive these palliative care medicine is– on top of cost of the other drugs. Since the AZ mj clinics will be run as non-profit centers and since people will be allowed to grow small quantities, this will keep this drug affordable. One thing we all need to watch out for is the zoning hearings. One of LaWall's lackeys presented the last slide on mj control laws. We need to be present for those!
>I attended the meeting because of her deceitful invitation to neighborhood leaders to learn about possible zoning changes. I walked out after 10 minutes of her biased presentation that had no bearing on zoning changes. I have written to the Attorney General and to the Arizona Ombudsman's office to request info to pursue a formal complaint.
>@Sarah, good for you! I am going to write to the County Clerk and ask (her?) to place on the Supes agenda an inquiry on BL's campaigning.
>Pam, you have done an exceptional job on describing this farcical meeting and debunking much of her contentions. I was one of those chastising her for abuse of her office and for the way she duped the public (see Sarah above) into believing this meeting was for the purpose of considering special zoning for the dispensaries. The mood of the crowd was one of outrage over her blatant electioneering on this topic.
>I applaud your blog for bringing out Ms. LaWall's total misrepresentation of prop 203 as I also witnessed at the city council meeting on 9/8/10. I sat with my mouth agape at her audacity and blatant lies . But, my faith was restored as soon as Andrew Myers appeared to dispute and bring to Ms. LaWall's attention her inaccurate power point presentation as one of the worst he'd witnessed. In speaking with well over 300 patients and those that are healthy, I must admit I was totally surprised to find only several that were against, and the most surprising to me was their party affiliation, that being the majority saying they would vote yes ,indicated the were Republican . Imagine my surprise! And to add one final point regarding political affiliations, I might add Ms. LaWall is a Democrat, that said, how can we depend on her or other officials professing to be democrats to represent us properly? I am of neither party, was a Democrat for 30 years until I became totally disgusted with them as well as the Republican party as well, then became an Independent, not all Independents as we know from the last election that put Obama into office, do not always vote Republican, but might well in this election since the Dems and Repubs equally have let our country down .
>@Anon#3, I posted this story on my facebook account. One fb friend said that the "blue hairs" would be against medical marijuana. I replied saying that support for medicinal use crosses age and party lines. Pretty much everyone knows someone who has had cancer or another devastating disease that could have been alleviated by it.There was a story on NPR about a 50-something woman (a caregiver) who purchases marijuana for her 80-something mother with a terminal illness. The mother had tried several pharmaceuticals for her pain but couldn't tolerate the side effects of those drugs. She can tolerate edible marijuana and says it works better than the other drugs.Yes, she's a Democrat. Personally, I hope someone runs against her in the primary next time.
>For those of us who were unable to attend, thank you for this report (which was not in what remains of the news media). She should have listened.Surpression of free speech in Tucson is on the rise this week….at this forum and in a most unexpected place. The threat to solicited help from uniformed police officers to control the crowd of citizens with legitimate questions mirrors what happened a few days later at the Pima Council Interfaith Council "accountability forum" where the PCIC only permitted Republicans and Democrats to address their assembly. Green Party and independent candidates were excluded from the gathering of over 1000 people, including me – a two term former legislator who is on the November ballot as a "nonpartisan" candidate for the State Senate in Legislative District 28. When a Green Party candidate and I distributed our literature OUTSIDE the meeting area, PCIC searched women's purses, removed political literature that was in these purses, and called the police. See http://votedowning.com/www.votedowning.com/Issues_and_Solutions/Entries/2010/9/26_Separation_of_Church_and_Politics_in_Pima_County.html Unfortunately, we did not have Pam to tell the truth….would someone clone here?For the record, I support the medical marijuana initiative, so there is no doubt where I am coming from. Ted DowningNonpartisan Candidate for the Arizona State Senate http://www.votedowning.com
>@Ted, thanks for the comment. That is a sad comment about the Interfaith event, which I could not attend due to a conflict. I have thoroughly enjoyed the televised debates that included Green and Libertarian candidates. Independents and representatives from these other parties enliven the debates because they offer ideas beyond the D or R party line and force the Ds and Rs to voice opinions on issues they would like to skirt. Did you see my Krino article? That article here and on Examiner has sparked quite a bit of conversation about your race.