Sunday, November 22, 2009

Medical marijuana prescriptions for minors?

In 1913, California became the first state to outlaw marijuana. However, in 1996, under the Compassionate Use Act (also known as California’s Proposition 215), California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes only. Since then, 13 other states have followed California in legalizing medical marijuana. Recently, the Justice Department stated that people who use medical marijuana or distribute it would not face federal prosecution, as long as they follow state law. This is a big step forward because prior to this, the federal government could press charges because marijuana isn’t legal on a federal level, but just in certain states. Also, this is a big step because it shows that the Obama administration is focusing on more important issues such as the war in Iraq or Healthcare.

Another thing currently happing with marijuana is its drug classification. In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act which classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it had no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. However as we see with the passing of the Compassionate Use Act, this might not be the case anymore, in terms of its medicinal value. The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physicians organization, recommended that marijuana’s schedule classification be reviewed “for the purpose of facilitating research and the development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”

While the above policies are good news for the medical marijuana world, a new development is emerging in California that is becoming the center for debate for doctors. Doctors have now been prescribing minors who suffer from ADHD medical marijuana. Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at Berkeley stated in response to this: “How many ways can one say one of the worst ideas of all time?”

While some doctors say medical marijuana is safer than aspirin and Ritalin and helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and anger, others say the THS in marijuana will just further intensify those with ADHD because it disrupts attention, memory and concentration. A second concern of doctors with prescribing minors medical marijuana is the issue of dependency. One doctor states: “It’s detrimental to adolescents who chronically use it, and if it’s being used medically, that implies chronic use.” A second doctor, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes that risk of dependency is a big issue because dependency is already high among adolescents and people with attention-deficit disorder.” Another possible risk with the use of medical marijuana by minors is the increase risk of psychosis and schizophrenia for those genetically predisposed to those illnesses.
While I support the use of medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana in general, I have to admit that I am a little uneasy with giving a 14 year old a prescription for medical marijuana. While some research supports use of marijuana in helping those suffering from ADHD, I feel more research needs to be done with minors specifically. Also, while many do not consider marijuana to be an addictive drug, I do agree that minors would be more susceptible to developing a dependency on it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sammy skim regime or color complex?

Last week, pictures of Sammy Sosa, former Chicago Cubs player, from the Latin Grammy awards surfaced, showing his skin to be paler than usual for the Dominican Republican native.

While many people speculated that he had bleached his skin or was suffering from a medical condition, Sammy Sosa defended the pictures by saying his lighter skin color is caused by a European night cream he has been using, as well as camera lights. Former Chicago Cubs employee Rebecca Polihronis stated in Sosa’s defense:

“He's not trying to be Michael Jackson…He is going through a rejuvenation process for his skin. Women have it all of the time. He was surprised he came out looking so white. I thought it was a body double. Part of [the photo appearance] is just the lighting. He was doing a dermatological skin process after years and years [of playing baseball] in the sun.”

However, some dermatologists are skeptical of Polihronis’ explanation. Dr. Jonith Breadon, a practicing dermatologist in Chicago said it was unlikely that such a skin rejuvenation process (such as a chemical peel or laser treatment) would have lightened his skin evenly. While she describes that there can be accidental effects of such rejuvenation procedures, patients with darker skin would more likely end up with darker patches of skin. Other critics suggest that his lighter skin color could be the result of steroid use, since he tested positive in 2003.

In an interview with the Univision Spanish Network, Sammy Sosa himself states: "It's a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin some. It's a cream that I have, that I use to soften [my skin], but has bleached me some. I'm not a racist, I live my life happily.”

While both Sammy Sosa’s and Rebecca’s Polihronis explanations are possible, one must also consider that in these pictures Sammy Sosa is also wearing green colored contact lenses. Thus the question is, is Sammy Sosa really trying to improve his skin care regime, or is he suffering from what is called a “color complex?” A color complex is when those of color believe they will become more popular and more widely excepted if they adopt more “white” features. Dawn Turner Trice, of the Chicago Tribune’s Exploring Race blog, writes:

"The reason Sosa is in the spotlight is because he appears to be yet another brown person unhappy in his skin. He says that's not true. But in the photos, Sosa's eyes appear lighter and his hair straighter. It does make you wonder…."

This color complex has become an issue not just for the late Michael Jackson, or possibly for Sammy Sosa, but is a huge issue in India. In India, the cosmetic industry is making millions of dollars selling skin-whitening products to women. In addition, recently, such companies are targeting their product towards men as well, convincing men through its advertisements that light skin will make you more appealing and successful at work. This desire for whiter skin comes from their Hinduism’s complex social hierarchy, in which those in the upper class had paler skin than those in the lower class; it is thought that if you have a pale skin, you are from a family of higher class because they did not have to do any outside labor, in which the sun would have made your skin darker. Indian women take this drive to become paler to the extreme by even eating saffron or powdered gold when pregnant in hopes of it making their children lighter. Also, parents who are seeking brides for their sons in newspapers write in the description that they are looking for “fair” or “very fair-skinned” girls.

While it remains unclear the cause for Sammy Sosa’s lighter skin, it would be very unfortunate if it was because he was uncomfortable in his own skin.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hungry for genetically modified crops?

One in seven people in the world go to bed hungry. That translates into 1.02 billion people ( The reason is a worldwide food shortage. The question now is, what can be done to fix this. How can we better deliver food to the hungry and how can food be grow in developing countries most effectively at affordable prices? The solution is genetically modified crops. As of 2000, thirteen countries grew genetically modified crops, with 68% of total crops grown by U.S. farmers alone. While many environmental and public interest groups are against genetically modified crops, the world cannot rule out a possible solution to world hunger.

The current food shortage is due to the global financial recession, soaring food prices and grain shortages. A second problem is climate change due to global warming, which makes it more difficult to grow crops, especially in countries that need it the most, the sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In addition, scarce farmland has become a challenge. Land is either already under cultivation (thus less is available to buy) or over-cultivated (thus not producing as many crops as possible). Additional challenges facing landowners include the scarcity of water, the increasing price of fertilizers and other necessary tools and the demand for the use of land for oil and biofuels. As a result of food shortages there have been violent food riots, in places such as Cameroon, Egypt, Haiti and Thailand, increasing pressure on governments and world-wide hunger.

This is where genetically modified crops come into the picture. These crops are created for human and/or animal consumption and are modified in laboratories using molecular biology techniques. The main goal of these crops is to enhance desired traits in crops. There are two ways this can be done. One way is to transfer the gene from one plant to another For example, scientists today have been able to isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and then insert that gene into a different plant whose environment may be suffering from a drought. A second method is to transfer the gene from a non-plant organism to a plant. For example, scientists have been able to insert an anti-freeze gene found in cold-water fish into tobacco and potato crops. 

Genetically modified crops will address world hunger because of its many proposed benefits. Scientists are able to locate the genes for pest resistance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance and nutrition, which they can then insert into crops to grow developing countries. Thus, more than ever, this is the most practical solution to stop world hunger. Unlike other solutions, genetically modified crops offers a permanent solution, rather than a temporary one. As Philip J. Crowley, a department spokesman, states, “We are trying to shift away from emergency aid toward agricultural development” (

In other words, the world needs to spend time focusing on evolving agriculture. The global population will only continue to grow. Thus, the more we can grow on the land we have already, the better off we are. Although genetically modified crops may not fully solve the entire food shortage in the world, it brings us one step closer. In these times, we can’t fear science. We have to embrace it and its benefits.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Medical Marijuana's farming impact on small towns

Currently, under the Compassionate Use Act (also known as California’s Proposition 215), which was approved in 1996 with 55.6% of the votes, patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other diseases and pain were allowed to grow and possess the drug for their ailment. To do so, they just had to get a “medical marijuana card” prescribed from his or her doctor. A big issue for the upcoming 2010 election is a ballot that would legalize marijuana. If such a ballot was passed, California would benefit immensely from legalizing marijuana. Marijuana, which is California’s biggest cash crop, would bring in extra revenue from taxation and tourists visiting California just for the marijuana. Also, the marijuana industry might even decrease California’s unemployment rate.

While there are many benefits to legalizing Marijuana, the Los Angeles times wrote a very interesting article on the impact of growing of medical marijuana on small towns which I wanted to share, because it gave a different perspective on the legalization and growing of marijuana. This article focused on Trinity County, which was called “Northern California’s pot paradise” by High Times magazine. Trinity County only has 14,000 residents and has no traffic lights, freeways or even parking meters. This place is a hotbed for growing medical marijuana because of its climate, which is very warm and dry. Currently, lots sell for around $50,000, in which there are 10,000 marijuana plants growing. Farmers are very protective of their lots, often guarding them with electric fences, dogs and even have been known to threaten trespassers with guns.

Although Trinity County only has 14,000 residents, the huge growth of medical marijuana has affected its residents and safety. For example, the football practice at the local high school had to be moved because of the marijuana odor outside. Also, the sheriff’s department has been busy fighting organized crime, closing illegal sites, arresting laborers and collected 400,000 illegal plants. The Sheriff’s Department stated that they have spent nearly $1 million dollars removing 29,085 pounds of debris (fertilizer, irrigation pipes, pesticides, and so forth) from abandoned marijuana farms.

Thus, while the growing of medical marijuana brings many benefits to California, and will bring more if legalized, I don’t think people realize the possible consequences of growing throughout California. Even though I support the legalization of marijuana, I think we need to be careful and realize the potential impact on towns throughout California.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2010 or 2012?

There’s a saying by William Gladstone that goes “justice delayed is justice denied.” While in most civil rights cases, this holds true - the faster we are to act, the faster we will have results we desire - for homosexual marriage, the reverse may be the best course of action – “justice delayed is justice granted.”

If we look at the news today, a very interesting thing is happening. Gay rights activists groups are actually in disagreement about gay rights. Many groups, led by Yes on Equality!, are eager to overturn Prop 8 in the November 2010 election. Yes on Equality is fighting to repeal Section 7.5 of Article I of the California Constitution, the “California Marriage Equality Act.” As of now, the article reads: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Yes Equality’s proposed California ballot initiate would have this section removed. 

However, other groups, led by Equality California, don’t believe California is ready yet to repeal Prop 8. While I am a strong advocate for gay rights and legalizing same-sex marriage and admire the enthusiasm of Yes on Equality! I agree with the activist group Equality-LA in waiting until the 2012 election to overturn Prop 8. It is just too risky and costly to rush such a crucial moment in California’s history.

In the 2008 election, both sides spent a total of $81 million dollars campaigning for Prop 8. In the end, 52% voted Yes on Prop 8 and 48% voted No on Prop 8. There are many reasons why waiting until 2012 is the best course of action to win the battle over same-sex marriage.

There are three major reasons that California should repeal Prop 8 in 2012 as opposed to 2010. First, we must wait for financial reasons. Due to the economic recession, all social and political groups are feeling the effects of less money in their pockets. As a result, less people are able to donate money to organizations that fight for LGBT rights. Thus, it is logical to wait two more years to raise enough funds.

Secondly, before we can convince others to vote for same-sex marriage, we need to focus on internal organization. Not only do we need full support from the entire LGBT community, but include our allies and make them pledge their support, financially and volunteering.  

Once we have financial support and a strong coalition of allies, we can finally turn to the gathering the support of others who voted Yes on Prop 8 in 2008. It is crucial in this aspect to win over the support of religious groups, conservative groups and communities of color, who statistically tended to vote Yes on Prop 8. However, it is not so easy to convince these groups to repeal Prop 8 if they voted for yet just a year ago. Thus, waiting until 2010 will give us the extra time needed to win over more supporters.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Perhaps, not even more...

What is the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy? In the simplest sense it is the federal policy regarding homosexuals serving in the U.S Military. The “don’t tell” part of the policy states that anyone who demonstrates the will to engage in homosexual acts is not allowed to serve in the armed forces; this includes disclosing his or her sexual orientation openly. The “don’t ask” part of the policy states that superiors in the military should refrain from questioning or investigating a service member’s orientation if they are behaving correctly. This policy was first introduced in 1993 and approved by Bill Clinton as a compromise since he believed all citizens regardless of sexual orientation should be able to serve in the military. Before this, only heterosexuals could participate in the armed forces. In the New York Times, then president Clinton stated in defense of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:”

Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.

Recently in the news, President Obama was a speaker at a gala dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gays, bisexuals and transsexuals. In his speech, he pledged to end the current military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He even went as far as to say he would do his best to undo the law that prevents federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. While his speech seemed promising to many, people were still skeptical of President Obama’s promises since he did not provide a timetable or in the past year has been more talk, and less action. However, some of Obama’s recent actions show some promise. He has appointed some gays and lesbians to his administration team and promised to sign into law a bill, named after Matthew Shepard, that would expand the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against gays. So hopefully, President Obama will hold true to his promises and be a strong advocate for equality for all.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fundmentalism and Progress?

There are many reasons why Prop 8 passed and there are just as many reasons why stem research doesn’t have the full support it needs. However, perhaps the biggest culprit in both cases has been religion. To be clear, I don’t mean all religions or all degrees of religion are at fault, but I am focusing more specifically fundamentalist religions. Regardless if it is Christian fundamentalism or Islam fundamentalism, there is something about fundamentalism in general, a common thread between all fundamentalist religions that prevents progress in many aspects of society. In terms of gay marriage, I define progress as voting for marriage equality for all and for stem cell research I define progress as the government providing the necessary financial support for research. Fundamentalism is most often characterized by its strict accordance to religious principles and scripture. For fundamentalist religions, its text or scripture, may it be the Bible, Torah or Koran, is considered to them as the word of God, thus must be followed, obeyed and not altered. While ancient text may have been more applicable hundreds or thousands of years ago, today there are a lot of conflicts and contradictions modern life presents in comparison with ancient text. However despite these discrepancies, most often fundamentalists don’t change their views to adapt to modern life, which in the end proves to be detrimental to society because it prohibits change for the better.