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Burning Questions 

How "prescription mill" doctors and indiscriminate pot clubs threaten the well-being of legitimate medical marijuana patients

Wednesday, Feb 21 2001
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Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I may have orchestrated mankind's first perfect burn. Anyone who attended high school during the 1970s remembers what a "burn" is: the craft of producing an insult so, ahem, deft that it leaves opponents speechless.

"I know you are -- but what am I?" is a classic genre standard, as is, "Sphincter said what?"

But there are burns with pitches so pure that their songs rise above the chatter of more ordinary retorts. Such burns require preparation; I labored a week crafting an opinion column ripping on potheads, knowing they'd respond with angry letters that would be sitting ducks for burning. And I lay in wait, with an unassailable riposte: "Dude, are you, like, totally stoned? Are you on pot? Hooo! Are you high, dude?" Ha, ha, ha! What a burn!

My first correspondent -- spoiling for a fight yet unaware he was heading into a trap -- provided a perfect target.

Oh pleeease! Can a week go by without Matt Smith writing something annoying and ridiculously mean spirited? First it was about doing away with rent control, then it moved to defense of corporate media takeovers (aaargh! now that was a particularly shameless and pathetic piece ... But I digress ...), to the rabid rants at, ohmygod, the biggest threat to American Law and Order, the dreaded, disgusting Potheads! Odd, to say the least. I think even small town Texans could find this kind of sentiment a little conservative ...

Apoligies for the poor quality of writing and rambling style, but I am writing this at work AND would therefore be grateful if the name were witheld...

Dearest pothead,
No need to apologize, dude; poor-quality rambling is a natural part of being stoned. I've never written about rent control -- but who's counting? -- you're high! Anyway, while you may be toasted, B---- Z--------, I'm not, which means I'm not buying your promise to be grateful. You've already proven yourself to be a most ungrateful correspondent.

Sign me,
Ha, ha! What a burn!

Our next letter comes from the e-mail address of one Richard Feller. As with many members of a certain pot-addled generation, this correspondent's mind seems to be stuck in college.

Hey Matt. You really had me going for a while, you little devil. The article was all about working out the issues you have over not getting any at college. All the girls that shut you down smoked pot, right?

Dear Stoner Feller,
No, high dude; my college girlfriends were all crackheads and junkies. After all, the coolest people use illegal drugs, right?

With kind regards,
Matt Smith

Next from our mailbag, which filled and then overflowed with strange punctuality, given that potheads wrote the letters -- when potheads become uppity and punctual, don't the Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride? -- anyway, our next letter arrived from Carol Colburn of Meadow Vista, Calif. She took issue with my assertion last week that pot smokers are lame-os.

Dear Matthew Smith,
I have been to more parties where attorneys, judges, doctors, scientists, school teachers, pilots, business men, politicians, and show business types smoke pot openly. I guess for that type of person, smoking among their elite groups is legal. At least they act like it. There are trays of marijuana and cocaine, along with the canapés and a full bar.

Dearest Carol,
You make an excellent point, Carol. How could I possibly say pot smokers are lame-os, when there are stoner airplane pilots out there? Nobody with the skill necessary to fly an aircraft while stoned could possibly be a lame-o. My apologies. Stoned airline pilots rock. Toasted schoolteachers are bitchin'. Pothead doctors and judges rule!

Sign me,
Forgoing air travel for the rest of my life

Our next piece of mail comes from a man with a long title, which makes him harder to burn. But I'll try.

Dear Mr. Smith,
This evening I had the unpleasant task of wading through your invective and slander about medical marijuana and those who support its regulated use. I remind you that Proposition 215 passed overwhelmingly. I do not believe that the majority of California voters are either "potheads," "dope peddlers," nor exclusive members of the "doobie sect" whatever that is.

...The AMMA Medical Advisory Board is comprised of professionals. We do not support drug abuse of any kind. Nor do we feel that medical cannabis is a "miracle drug" useful for anyone with any condition. We support a patients Right under the California Constitution to utilize medical cannabis upon a Physicians recommendation. We further call upon all concerned to adopt reasonable guidelines for medical cannabis cultivation, distribution, possession, and use ...

In Faith and Service,
Jay R. Cavanaugh, Ph.D.
State Recall Coordinator, AMMA
Medical Advisory Board, AMMA

Dear Dr. Cavanaugh,
Are you high, dude? Er, I mean, um, you certainly have an impressive-sounding title. And while you're wrong in suggesting I've ever used the unfair term "doobie sect," your thoughtful tone has made me question my petty, childish attempt to "burn" you and your faithful.

If irony is a noble weapon in the battle against hypocrisy and malfeasance, it can also serve ignoble ends. Fearing ignobleness, I decided to pay a visit to the Market Street Club, a Castro District medical marijuana provider claiming to be San Francisco's oldest. After all, as medical marijuana user and mailbag contributor Michael Chudzinski says in a just-arrived missive, "its one thing to write an article in an office after "researching' a subject, but it's an entirely different matter to research real life."

There is, after all, anecdotal evidence showing marijuana may be an appropriate treatment for a short list of medical conditions, including AIDS wasting syndrome, glaucoma, and the side effects of chemotherapy. But wouldn't it be, like, a total burn, if the legitimate medical marijuana users were sick and tired of recreational marijuana users -- who seemed to constitute the vast majority of my correspondents -- trying to co-opt the medical pot movement as their own?

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Matt Smith

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