In her latest “report” on medical marijuana in Portland, Oregon (“Sheriff’s Association: Medical marijuana program out of control“), local KATU reporter Anna Canzano (née Song) once again distorts and selectively edits her story to favor the anti-medical marijuana views of law enforcement.
[Oregon Sheriff's Association President] Tom Bergin said at the rate Oregon is going, he believes Oregon is three times sicker than California. Why? Well, more than 90 percent of cardholders say they’re using pot to treat pain — not glaucoma or cancer — as the bill was initially marketed.
Here are the facts from the state’s medical marijuana program registry:
- There are 49,220 medical marijuana patients
- There are 44,756 patients who indicate chronic pain as a qualifying condition
So Canzano, Bergin, and every prohibitionist who scoffs at people in serious pain treating it with a non-toxic herb pull out their calculators and exclaim “90% of cardholders are using it for pain, not glaucoma or cancer!” (The number is actually 90.9%.)
What Canzano distorts lies in the word “not”. Under Oregon law, a registry cardholder can qualify under more than one condition. The state even puts “A patient may have more than one diagnosed qualifying medical condition” right there on the website where you got the numbers to crunch. Are we to believe people with cancer and glaucoma don’t suffer chronic pain as well? I just spoke at a meeting in Eastern Oregon where one young mother discussed the excruciating pain she suffered batting multiple sclerosis, another young lady described the torment that accompanies vomiting up tumors as she fought cancer, and a woman given 300 joints a month since 1988 by the federal government for glaucoma described the lifelong pain of her condition and multiple eye surgeries.
If you total the number of conditions Oregonians are legally treating with cannabis, you get 69,033 conditions among those 49,220 patients, so obviously there are 19,813 more conditions than patients. The fewest mathematically-possible single-condition patients in the program, then, is 29,407, but that’s assuming the rest of the patients only indicate two conditions. Since someone with HIV/AIDS, for instance, may also experience nausea, cachexia, and pain, it is hard to estimate how many cards are “pain-only cards” there are. I can tell you that pain makes up 64% of the conditions treated by cannabis and that greatest possible number of “pain-only cards” is 24,943, or a bit more than half of all cardholders.
Canzano’s emphasizing the talking point of law enforcement that medical marijuana “was initially marketed” only for cancer and glaucoma.
Dispensaries were rejected last November by Oregon voters, but overall, the popularity of the state’s medical marijuana program is skyrocketing. The program, which was once billed as something that would apply to 500 people, has ballooned to more than 50,000.
I’ve debunked this as well when Canzano’s rival in yellow journalism, Hannah Hoffman of the McMinnville News-Register, brought it up earlier this year. The “500 patients a year” figure was an estimate of financial impact by the Secretary of State’s office, not anything proposed by proponents of Measure 67 (read the ballot arguments for yourself). Ironically, Hoffman even quotes the measure’s co-chief petitioner, paraplegic Stormy Ray, as saying, “There are thousands of patients like me…” in her ballot argument.
As for Canzano’s parroting of Bergin’s “Oregon is three times sicker…” line, one would have to assume if Oregon has 50,000 patients, California must only have 16,666 patients if we’re three times sicker. The fact is there are an estimated 750,000 to 1,250,000 medical marijuana patients in California. Based on those numbers, about 1.2% of Oregon’s population are cardholders, compared to estimates of 2% – 3% for California.
We’ve reported on Canzano’s “fair and balanced” medical marijuana “reports” before (“Portland TV reporter goes “undercover” to “easily” get medical marijuana card [video]). She even references her last undercover “report” in this latest hit piece:
Last year, KATU Reporter Anna Canzano went undercover to see how easy it was to get a medical marijuana card. She hit up a clinic, paid $200 and explained the massage therapy she was receiving for back and neck pain wasn’t working.
She walked out with a prescription for medical marijuana and even got a free sample from a grower who happened to be in the clinic at the time.
What she leaves out here is that she has extensive medical records of her scoliosis and pain from three car accidents. In other words, she absolutely legally qualifies for medical marijuana for her pain, regardless if she lied about the therapeutic effects she receives through massage therapy.
The problem law enforcement has with the rapid rise in medical marijuana’s popularity, something Canzano helps characterize as “abuse” with her one-sided hit pieces, is that so many people tired of addictive pharmaceuticals with toxic side effects are choosing to go the natural route and medicate legally with cannabis. They mock people with serious pain for choosing cannabis as a first resort instead of Vicodin, Demerol, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, or even acetaminophen and aspirin (click for lists of fun side effects!) as if they are merely faking and defrauding the medical marijuana program. A survey by the Arthritis Foundation found that 42% of adults suffer some kind of pain daily and 89% suffer pain monthly, with a mean prevalence of chronic pain at 35.5% of the adult population. The real problem for law enforcement is that more legal patients makes it more difficult for cops to figure out which cannabis consumers are healthy enough to arrest, fine, and imprison, to seize assets and driver’s licenses from, to break down their doors and kill their dogs, ruin their scholarship and job search prospects, and otherwise scare the hell out of.
Bless that grower who offered free medicine to Canzano. Because we live in a state that recognizes marijuana as medicine but refuses to provide a legal way to purchase it, a person in pain like Canzano is left at the mercy of drug dealers. There is no Walgreen’s for medical marijuana patients and when we tried through initiative multiple times to institute a well-regulated dispensary system, voters rejected the proposal because of… well, fears of drug dealers. Odd, then, that we’d provide drug dealers 50,000 customers who can legally possess their product instead of putting those customers under the protected, regulated watch of legal stores. Also, how many of you know a coworker, relative, or friend who’s slipped you one of their prescription pain pills when you complained of a worse-than-usual pain?
Two activists I know personally, Angela Fairless and Madeline Martinez, are selectively quoted by Canzano to make it seem as if “the biggest supporters of medical marijuana said the program operates in a gray area, with some pushing the envelope too far.” Yes, some people are taking advantage of patients, and they couldn’t do so as easily if there was a regulated distribution system. Canzano’s editing makes it seem as activists feel, like the sheriffs, that the medical marijuana program is out of control, when the solutions they propose aren’t to tighten restrictions on medical marijuana as the sheriffs would prefer, but to institute a dispensary system (Fairless) or just outright legalize cannabis for everyone (Martinez). In other words, Canzano “reports” that both sides think medical marijuana operates in a gray market, but fails to mention cops want sick and disabled patients to go back to a black market and activists want to make it a legal market.