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Bennett Black Needs Marijuana to Live. John Kavanagh Wants to Take It Away from Him.

8:33 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

medical marijuana

I read something just now that makes my blood boil:

It starts the minute he wakes up and puts his feet on the floor. The nausea quickly builds from the base of his stomach to the back of his throat and he tries to think mind over matter but matter generally wins and this is just the beginning of the day. The really hard time, he would tell you, comes later in the afternoon, when he must force down the pills he needs to stay alive and hope they stay down. Food? The thought of it makes him gag and this goes on day after week after year. His parents wonder whether he can survive it. So far, in 14 years, Bennett Black has only found one thing that eases the nausea enough so that he can eat, so that he can live.

That’s marijuana.

Now there’s a move afoot to repeal the medical marijuana law that Arizona voters have approved three times now. Bennett Black’s father is hoping the Legislature will take a pass on [state Representative John] Kavanagh’s bill to put repeal on the 2014 ballot.

Back in 1997, when Bennett was 14, he was hit by a car while riding a Go-Ped. This caused brain trauma that led to life-threatening grand mal seizures so severe that the best specialists in the nation haven’t been able to totally stop them despite many years, treatments, and surgeries. The anti-seizure pills he takes do cut down on the number of seizures, but at the heavy price of a constant nausea that renders eating virtually impossible and his waking life a living hell. Frankly, I’m amazed he didn’t give up years ago.

The only reason he’s able to eat at all is because a couple of years after the accident, after Bennett went from 180 pounds to 114 pounds because he couldn’t get, much less keep, anything down long enough for it to be absorbed into his body, a sympathetic neighbor with neck problems suggested to his mother Cindy that he try marijuana. It was a godsend. It allowed him a brief period each day to have a fighting chance to eat — and, more importantly, to digest — enough nourishment to stay alive.

There were a couple of problems with this treatment. One was that it was illegal to use pot, even for medicinal purposes, at the time that Bennett first tried marijuana. The other was that Bennett’s father is former U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald, a Reagan appointee who enforced and even helped set Reagan-era policies in the War on Some Drugs. The family had to live a strangely bifurcated existence: Cindy procured the weed, Bennett consumed it — and Mel, the U.S. Attorney, made a point of staying well out of sight on both sets of occasions, so he wouldn’t be witness to something he would have to consider as a crime even as it saved his son’s life. The advent of legalized medicinal marijuana has enabled the family to have something more closely resembling a normal state, and Mel McDonald’s attitude towards medicinal marijuana has done a 180-degree turn, as he’s seen how it’s helped his own son. But they now face the possibility of being forced back into the shadows again because of Rep. John Kavanagh’s bill to put repeal of medicinal marijuana on the Arizona ballot.

Why does Kavanagh want to repeal the state’s medicinal marijuana law? Because he apparently thinks that the people taking advantage of it are all plain old recreational dopers and that no real doctor would actually approve of it: “No medical authority would say it’s helping you. They all say it’s harming you.” As anyone who’s studied the medical marijuana debate for more than five minutes knows, this is a lie; there are many, many studies done by many, many doctors and scientists showing the efficacy of marijuana as an anti-emetic, among other things.

Bennett Black needs marijuana to live. John Kavanagh wants to take it away from him. It’s as simple as that. Read the rest of this entry →

The Art of the Whip Count and the Strategic Referenda

10:49 am in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman


It has often been said that politics is the art of the possible. The heart of this concept is the whip count.

You don’t allow votes to proceed if you know from the start that your whip count shows you will not prevail in some way, shape or fashion. Why? Because the worst thing in the business of legislative politics is to always be the symbolic loser. (Think of politicians like FDR, LBJ, and Teddy Kennedy — people who Got Things Done. They all knew this instinctively, without having to be told it.)

The whole thing about whip counts is why Jane Hamsher (you may have heard of her) decided to go with the public option rather than single payer when Obama and Congress started on the health care reform legislation, as there was no way in hell single payer would have come close to passing. We almost got the public option through, despite Obama and Rahm’s cutting the $150 million ad deal with industry stakeholders in May of last year; we couldn’t have come close with single payer and we knew that from the start, thanks to having ears on the ground. And even though we didn’t get the PO, the fight was close enough so that the organization Jane put together was able to pivot on a dime and successfully press for student loan reform, which turned out to be a nice consolation prize once the stake was buried in the public option’s heart. Now, that same organization has joined up with coalitions like LEAP (Law Enforcement Officers Against Prohibition) and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, to push for marijuana legalization.

Here’s the thing about legalization: It’s not just a way to undo the hideous damage wrought on this country and its Constitution by the War on Some Drugs. It’s to us what gay-marriage referenda were to the Republicans in the last few election cycles — namely, a way to energize the base AND to attract independent voters. Once the voters are in the booths to vote on the referendum, they see the candidates from the party that back the referendum and vote for those candidates. Even if the referendum doesn’t pass, it’s already served its secondary purpose. Poll after poll shows that legalization of marijuana is perhaps the single most important issue for young people of voting age; this is also a group that tends to vote for progressives and Democrats, but also tends to get easily discouraged from voting — a factor that looks to cost the Democrats seats if nothing’s done to address this.

Will the Democrats realize what an opportunity they have to win back the 2008 voters they alienated in 2009 and 2010? The next few weeks will tell the tale.

Meet Neil Haugerud

12:00 pm in Uncategorized by Phoenix Woman

There lives in southern Minnesota a man for whom the old cliché "he lives his life to the fullest" is no cliché at all, but pure and honest truth. In his eight decades on this earth, he has been — among other things — a carpenter, a farmer, a Sunday school teacher, a Marine, an interrogator of accused criminals (who got his subjects to talk with kindness, not waterboarding), a deputy sheriff and sheriff, a real estate and insurance agent, a prominent state legislator, the chair of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Commission, a small-town newspaper columnist, a mediator and consultant in conflict management, and a loving husband, father, and grandfather.

His name is Neil Haugerud, and throughout his long life and varied career, there has been one constant driving factor: Service to others, bundled with compassion. Now, at an age when most persons have long since retired, the need to be of service to others keeps drawing him to the issue of crime and how best to deal with it.

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