One of the most ignored countries on Earth just enjoyed a historic Winter Olympics. Its a country near and dear to Vermont, but also a world away. Like comedian Rodney Dangerfield would put it, Canada cant get no respect.
And even though the United States of America was its victim on the Salt Lake ice, we must applaud the gold medals in mens and womens ice hockey won by our neighbor to the north.
Congratulations, Canada! Well get you in four years.
But, truth be told, Canada, the country that puts the north in North America, has a leg up on the U.S. in more areas than puck control.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, the land of the loonie has a significantly lower infant mortality rate than the land of the almighty dollar (6.76 deaths per 1000 live births in the U.S. 5.02 in Canada.)
And being born in Canada not only means longer winters, it also means a longer life.
Life expectancy north of the border is currently 79.56 years. In the good ol USA, life expectancy is 77.26 years.
They must be doing something right, eh?
Take the way Canadians handle one of the oldest medicines known to man marijuana. In August 2000, Ontarios court of appeal ruled than banning marijuana for medicinal purposes violates the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Last July 30, Canada quietly amended its Narcotic Control Regulations by establishing Marijuana Medical Access Regulations. According to Health Canada, the federal health agency, the new regulations set up a compassionate framework to allow the use of marijuana by people who are suffering from serious illness, and where the use of cannabis is expected to have some medical benefit that outweighs the risk and use.
In the land of Olympic hockey gold, the government grows grass for those who cannot grow their own. What a country!
The new law went into effect last summer, and like civil unions in Vermont, nothing really changed. No one noticed. A search of Canadian news sources turns up little in the way of controversy. And the recent Olympics indicates theres no evidence that the 32 million inhabitants of Canada have turned into crazed, stoned-out drug addicts.
South of the border, its a drastically different story. American culture is obsessed with drugs in all forms. Prescription drugs, illegal drugs, dangerous drugs, drug dependence, drug commercials and full-page advertisements, drug courts and counselors and overall drug hysteria.
These days U.S. politicians of every stripe are furiously piling on the pharmaceutical industry, claiming prescription drugs are too expensive. But few are willing to take on the entrenched reefer madness that does harm to so many.
Do I think the War on Drugs is terrific? replied Gov. Howard Dean M.D., when asked the other day about the medical marijuana bill currently before the House Judiciary Committee.
Do I think drugs are a public health problem?
Do I favor legalizing marijuana?
Because I think it will make the public health problem much worse, he replied.
Because many, many more people will use marijuana, and some percent of those will require a substantial amount of treatment, the same as alcohol.
Really? But what about marijuana prescribed by a physician?
My position, said Dr. Dean, is if the pill form were approved by the FDA, I would have no problem.
But what about cancer patients and others whose nausea prevents them from keeping pills down?
Well, there are suppositories, then, he answered with a wide grin. Just speaking as a physician.
Cute. Picture the headline: Dean to pot smokers: Shove it up your ass!
But doctors do disagree on this one. Joseph McSherry M.D., a Burlington neurologist, told Seven Days, Theres no scientific or medical question that marijuana is a medicine. Marijuana has been a medicine for thousands of years.
In 1937, however, it became illegal in the U.S., despite the objection of the American Medical Association, said McSherry.
Neurologists treat patients afflicted with diseases of the brain, spinal chord and nervous system such as Parkinsons and multiple sclerosis. McSherry was at the Statehouse Friday to testify on the medical marijuana bill sponsored by Rep. David Zuckerman (P-Burlington). There are 40 co-sponsors.
As the governor pointed out, said McSherry, things go through the FDA now. But aspirin didnt go through the FDA. Aspirin is a willow bark extract and never would have been approved because its so highly toxic. But its something we all use.
Marijuana is a real medicine, he added, and from a scientific point of view, its a medicine that affects these diseases. Its the best medicine in terms of side-effects and the potential for addiction being less.
Doc McSherry knows, because hes seen its effect on patients in pain. And, he said, recent studies have indicated marijuanas benefit to the immune system. When used in the mouse models of multiple sclerosis, he said, marijuana prevents the diseases damage.
Also on hand to testify was Deb Ramsdell, 62, a Charlotte selectboard member. Ramsdell lost her husband to cancer. He wasnt even a smoker.
Ramsdell had read in the press that marijuana could be helpful for the nausea that accompanies cancer chemotherapy.
So finally in the last two months of his life, she told Seven Days, I got him to use it. He asked for it every day. It was the main thing that kept him going. It relieved his nausea. It gave him a sense of well being. It just made life more pleasant for him. And he was going to die anyway.
Reality what a concept!
Its silliness to the point of cruelty, said Ramsdell, to make a criminal out of a desperate cancer patient.
Rep. Zuckerman told Seven Days it appears unlikely the Judiciary Committee will send the medical marijuana bill to the floor. But that doesnt necessarily mean the end of it this year. There will still be the opportunity to put the issue before the entire House as a floor amendment.
Boy, Canadians must think we live in a strange, strange country.
Armory Update Theres been some movement on the part of Adjutant Gen. Martha Rainville of the Vermont National Guard in the wake of last weeks barrage of bad press. She was slammed for her decision to keep after-school kids programs out of the Guards mostly idle armories in Burlington and Vergennes.
Last Thursday the general met with three Burlington lawmakers who had written her, asking that the New North End Youth Center (NNEYC) be allowed back into the Gosse Court armory.
It seems a shame to deny children access to a successful program and leave the armory facility underutilized, they wrote.
Citing security concerns in the post-September 11 world, Rainville responded like a general at war.
It would be irresponsible, she wrote on February 8, to allow groups of civilians back in.
But the pressure mounted. Gen. Rainville heard from the governor and the mayor, too. And, as we reported last Wednesday, Rainvilles parade was subsequently rained on by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last Thursday the general finally met with the three Burlington reps.
She said she was relenting, said Rep. Bill Aswad. Shes willing, he said, to let the kids back in to use the drill floor, but not the office space.
My hope is were moving beyond the security issue, said Rep. Mark Larson.
The bottom line, said Rep. John Tracy, is keeping the kids out was probably not the best decision to make.
Gen. Rainville told Seven Days she will meet with all the interested parties on March 6. She said the focus needs to be on the kids. Getting them back in the state-owned building could happen realistically within a couple weeks.
Rainville noted the military remains at Threatcom Bravo. That means a guard member will have to be on duty when the children are present, she said.
Damn little terrorists, eh?
But regardless of security, the general made it clear the guard intends to permanently take over the office and classroom space at the Burlington facility. That will pose a problem.
Kathy Olwell, director of the NNEYC program, told Seven Days the loss of the office and classroom space will deprive the kids of access to the computers as well as a place to sit down.
We cant run the program that way, said Olwell. As far as Im concerned, she cautioned, this is not letting the program continue.
Our sources say this battle is far from over.
Osamas aftershocks continue.
Not a Pollina Poll? Vermonts fledgling left-wing third party stumbled a wee bit last week trying to spin poll numbers just like the big boys. The Progressive Party hired Action Research, a Burlington marketing outfit, to conduct a statewide poll earlier this month testing the strength of the Progs two best-known horses: Anthony Pollina and Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle.
The Progs spun the results to show that either Tony the Prog (29 percent) or Mayor Moonie (27 percent) could beat Democrat Pistol Pete Shumlin (25 percent) in the upcoming race for lieutenant governor. Of course, the margin of error was plus/minus 5 percent.
The Prog Poll also showed Pollina getting 19 percent of the vote in another run for governor double what he got in 2000. Thats when he used the campaign financing law, which he helped write, to tap $265,000 in public financing. Free money.
As word of the Prog poll buzzed through the Statehouse a couple weeks back, the Progressives were unusually mum. Then, last week, when they were sending out press releases bragging about it, New Poll Shows Progressive Party Increasing Influence, the press showed little interest. Finally, after a couple days, the Associated Press paid attention.
AP Statehouse writer Ross Sneyd noticed a potential problem. Under the rules, a candidate cannot spend more than $500 before February 15 and qualify for a spot at the public financing trough.
Tony the Prog played dumb. He even said he had been against doing a poll when the matter was first discussed by Prog Party insiders, and had no idea what the questions were. Mr. Pollina explained the purpose of the Prog poll was party-building, and not designed to benefit his next bid for statewide office. The poll was conducted, he said, to measure how the partys message was resonating.
Unfortunately, the questions asked of 456 registered voters between January 31 and February 8 were not about message at all. The questions were all about how Anthony and da mayor of Burlap would fare in several different election scenarios this year. Stuff like: Would you say your support for Anthony Pollina is very strong, somewhat strong, neither strong or weak, somewhat weak, or very weak.
One thing is clear: Support for Mr. Pollinas spin is very weak even over at the Vatican of campaign finance reform, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG).
VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns told Seven Days he doesnt know about the legal question, but he does know it would have been wise to avoid doing a poll right before the February 15 time line. The Progressive Party, he added, could also have avoided problems by not sharing the poll results with any potential candidates.
They could have sat on it. Instead, they issued press releases in an attempt to tell the whole world about it. Mr. Burns said he cant profess to call the poll a violation, but questions about whether it is or not could have been avoided.
Timing, they say, is everything. The Prog poll hits the street just as Mr. Pollina is rethinking his plans for the fall election in the wake of King Con Hogans Independent entry. The numbers indicate Pollinas best shot at Victory Lane is in the Lite-Gov race. Surely thats valuable information for Candidate Pollina to digest. And its worth a hell of a lot more than $500.
Richard McCoy, the president of Action Research, told Seven Days, Its our job to collect accurate and objective data. Its the clients responsibility to use it in accordance with ethics and the law.
Last Word The cranky crows have all gone quiet. City Market has finally opened. What a gem of a grocery store. Best of both worlds. I love the Paul Newman chocolate chip cookies. Thank you, Onion River Coop.