Monday, February 27, 2012

12 May Global Day of Action

[update - for more 12 May resources go here]

Slamming this one out with no edits - I'm all wrote out for now, but I want to disseminate some info right away, to give you time to plan.

Got a neuro-immune disease? I hope not.
Know someone who has one? Probably.
They include --- well, here. Just read the back of the t-shirt.

If you have one of these diseases you've probably heard ...
  • "You don't look sick."
  • "Yeah, well, I don't feel so good either."
  • "Can't you just control that with _______?"
... but you know the pain, and you know that what these diseases need is funding for research.
NID's are invisible and misunderstood diseases; it's hard to get research funding.
People just aren't aware of the tremendous need.

Time to read the front of the shirt:

Okay, now you know what to do.
Then I'll tell you.
Do something. ANYthing. Create an action and make it speak louder than words.
When you know what you're going to do on 12 May for NIDs, tell us about it.
We'll pool our efforts and make 12 May 2012 one huge global action.

Now, all the links below are works in progress, because of course we still need to add you in there.
I'll be drawing with chalk on the sidewalk in San Francisco. Joni will be leafleting in Des Moines.
I think Mary might be presenting a statement of grievances in Washington, DC.
Carole's action will be in Edinburgh or Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Monique in Belgium, Cathy in Spain, the list is growing.

Some will go to a nearby government health office, some will set up an information table at their local market, and others will create a photo or video protest from their couch or sickbed.

Wherever you are, there's an action you can do. It can be whatever type of action you are inspired and able to create: flash mob, rally, press conference, picket, video... your call. And it can be focused on one NID, or several, or all of them.

You need not be sick to help raise awareness. In fact, we sickies would love to have some strapping, energetic wellies helping out. Okay, even some weak, low-energy wellies. Everyone's welcome.

We'll be selling the t-shirts to raise funds in hopes that we can help defray the costs of flyers, signs, fake blood or whatever is required to pull off as many Actions as possible.

Please join in and help us make the 20th International Awareness Day so big, that in another 20 years we'll actually have not only awareness but some acceptable treatments and even cures.

Here's the Facebook Event Page. and here's the web site. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

There's an agency that takes care of that.

In sheer disbelief at what was happening, I drafted this post a couple of years ago, in another county than the one where I now live. I held off on publishing this, because I was afraid of compromising my benefits. I'm less afraid now, not because there's less to fear, but because there's nothing more scary than being silenced.

I want to share this now, as it's all too typical of the current atmosphere toward disability, assistance and work, everywhere. In fact, assumptions that disabled people could do more, and that there are already plenty of services available, provide a foundation for killer cuts to essential services. Here's how I ran into those assumptions a couple years back:

I drove over two hours round trip, to go to the closest office of social services in the county I'd just moved to. I'm disabled by ME and Fibromyalgia, so travel and sitting in an office were really huge challenges, but there wasn't any way anybody could come to me, or for the appointment to be held in a more accessible location.

I brought all the requested papers, including the ones that say I'm disabled.

The worker asked when I had last worked, and what was my last job title.

I replied that I worked as a grant writer most recently, and had been gradually slowing down due to my disability which began in May of 2007, until, in June 2009, I was unable to work any longer, at all.

So she was clear that I couldn't write grants now.

Yet she asked me, incidentally, could I write grants for a local nonprofit I'll call "Krips on Skis."

I told her I could not, as I was now disabled, but I would gladly refer them to the consulting firm for which I formerly wrote grants.

She told me they wouldn't pay anybody to write grants. She actually bridled, saying firmly and with pride that Krips on Skis is a 100% volunteer organization.

So she was asking me, although I am too ill to work as a grant writer to support myself and my children, and am barely getting by on public assistance and disability, would I donate my time and work as a grant writer, a thing I'm unable to do anyhow, plus do it for free?

I seem to have that right so far. Yes, that seems to be what she was asking me.

Our appointment wound down. The paperwork I'd received in advance had stated that we'd take an hour but we took closer to three. Finally when I was nearly too exhausted to think at all, she asked me, did I have any questions.

I asked if there were any services in this county or the adjacent one, to help disabled people with basic necessities. I cited as an example the Center for Independent Living in my former county, where advocates helped disabled people find housing, food banks, in-home assistance and other such services.

No, she told me, there were not any such agencies in these counties.

Okay, so, there's Krips on Skis which would be glad to help me go skiing if I had the energy to do so and was perhaps an amputee, but there is no agency to help disabled people with, say, tax preparation, or referrals to utility assistance, or, like I said, food banks. The cupboard was near bare.

She did tell me there were no food banks but that I could ask churches. No specific denomination, just "churches."

Ever since the tanking of the global economy, programs have been cut back and eliminated, and the bar has been raised to qualify for assistance. There have been less funds everywhere to help the poor, elderly, ill and disabled, yet people---even social workers---go on believing that "there is help out there."

Furthermore, doctors and chronic pain specialists can confirm that a patient has a disability, and even the Social Security's government specialists, a very tough bunch to convince, can confirm that, and yet many people---even social workers---go on thinking that people with disabilities can somehow do more: complete paperwork, attend appointments, do volunteer work.

The county where I now reside has a larger tax base and thus better services than the county where I experienced that astonishing failure to connect, on the part of the social worker, but the same attitudes are typical everywhere. I know that friends all over the world have to struggle to explain to social workers, the meaning of "need," and of "disability."

And everywhere, we encounter people who assume that there's an agency that takes care of that, despite the evidence before their eyes of homeless people with no shelter and sick people with no medical services.

In the UK the assumptions have gotten so far out of control, the private contract agency Atos have judged someone "fit to work" who was dead of their disabling disease within a week of that determination, and under Workfare, people with disabilities and others in need have been made to work for free or lose their benefits, so corporations that show huge profits can get their shelves stocked for free which means they can cut back on their hiring, or they simply divert the government funds for this program into training for existing employees.

Maybe more austerity measures should be aimed at the wealthiest citizens and corporations, but there isn't an agency for that.

Updates on the UK's Workfare can be found here. Boycotts are helping. You can start with McDonald's (and here's why), worldwide. That is, unless you're down with eating burgers that are flipped for free by contagious krips like me.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crushed Beneath the Medicine Wheel

Corporate scheme to co-opt international Medical Marijuana market aims for billions in profits.

In a scheme they think capable of making billions, a US corporation not only plans to market a delivery system for medicinal cannabis, but also hopes to cut out small time farmers and private growers by introducing prohibitive protocols through state health departments.

First, for those readers who are surprised at my recent drift from a focus on my own illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelits, let me explain that in the course of following the medical story of ME, I’ve learned things I wish I didn’t know about the big business of medicine, about government agencies charged with public health, and about the pharma vendetta against alternative healing practices.

Our pain is their payday. In a recent post I told how I learned about the market research firms that prey upon patients by posing as patient forums, soliciting personal stories, and selling the data they glean from our suffering.

Today’s story is one of cold avarice on a far grander scale.

The corporation is called MMDS: Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems LLC, marketing its medical cannabis delivery system through its “Medicine Wheel” subsidiary.  They hold this patent  for the Tetracan  transdermal patch: like Nicoderm, but it delivers cannabinoids instead of nicotine. They advertise it as providing all the benefits of medical marijuana, without the health-destroying smoke.

The principal is Jim Alekson, a multi-firm entrepreneur about whom, more later. So, isn't that a great thing, this Tetracan patch that is promised to hit the sales counters at dispensaries in the second quarter of this year?

Tetracan publicity ignores the fact that there are many other delivery systems already available, as alternatives to smoking. A patient can consume cannabis in baked goods, dissolve a lozenge under the tongue, take tinctures and other extracts, and get the health benefits without the “risk” of smoking.

Right: I don’t use unmotivated quotation marks, so, “Risk?”

Tetracan publicity also ignores this study
recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Twenty years of research have proven that smoking moderate amounts of marijuana daily over years actually improves pulmonary function in comparison not only with tobacco smokers but with healthy non-smoking controls. Theories as to why this is, suggest the credit may go to biophysics: the exercise of pulling cannabis smoke into the lungs, holding one’s breath, then exhaling; or biochemistry: the anti-inflammatory action of cannabis.

Though JAMA itself didn't emphasize the point, other authors picked up on and publicized this fact that marijuana smoking apparently improves lung capacity. In this article  for instance, one of the study's authors is quoted:

We don’t know for sure,” he said, “but a very reasonable possibility is that THC may actually interfere with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nevertheless, MMDS is pushing the benefits of their transdermal patch as a healthier alternative to smoking, via its “Medicine Wheel Project.”

Here is their business plan.

Page through it and you’ll see some amazing things, like, yes, here are the billions, on page 12:
TOTAL GROSS REVENUE: $2,843,540,662
Now, to make even more money by paying less than the usual costs of launching a pharmaceutical product, they’re cleverly trying to play both sides of the game with government agencies, avoiding FDA requirements by representing the patch as an alternative therapy…

The TETRACANTM Patch does not require U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval because it will be marketed as a holistic therapy in the same manner as Medical Marijuana is marketed and sold through Medical Marijuana Dispensaries across the United States. (Plan, page 7)

…while simultaneously acting to keep marijuana’s status different from any herb like basil that anybody could grow in their garden, or even a medicinal herb which patients could be licensed to grow,  as it is now in Medical Marijuana states: MMDS plans to manipulate the law to further their monopoly beyond the patented patch and into growing rights. The Plan states, on lucky page 13,
There are no Rules, Regulations or Protocols governing the manner in which Medical Marijuana is cultivated, harvested or processed in any of the Medical Marijuana States or the District of Columbia.

The Medicine Wheel Project LLC, an associate company of MMDS, plans to introduce Growing Protocols to State Health Departments as it begins to organize the Medical Marijuana Industry under one umbrella organization.
Emphasis added because I'm aghast at the blatant intent to influence state health departments to serve corporate ends.

So that’s where politics play a role. Remember the name Jim Alekson? He’s the principal in the patch company, and heads up many intriguingly related business ventures.

Here he is playing politics with a friendly article. Touting the jobs to be created by the Medical Marijuana industry, Medicine Wheel has been blogging up the UK cannabis movement, engaging in friendly chats on a UK forum, and Alekson got his blog reposted on the official website of single-issue, pro-cannabis UK political party CLEAR (formerly Cannabis Law Reform).

CLEAR leader Peter Reynolds appeared on the scene only recently, taking over the party with a massive vote of nearly forty members, and changing its name and direction, while censoring and even ousting anyone who questioned his policies. More on that story can be read here and here.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, it could prove interesting to delve into the names and natures of politicians and perhaps tribal leaders supporting Alekson’s scheme. Medicine Wheel is an interesting name for the project, with its mellow, First Nations overtones. But this Kimosabe Connection isn’t the only business headed by Alekson. His interest in things tribal appears to extend beyond image, or even medicine. Spinning the wheels to make some deals...

For example, it’s also about  real estate develoment of tribal lands  ...

…within the scope of his broader real estate goals as the Alekson Group

…plus, a huge contract to provide electricity to tribal lands

….within the broader scope of Energy Pointe Partners which is yet another Alekson company...

…and if it’s not enough of a monopoly to own a piece of politics, a patent, growing rights, land and energy, there are also the industrial scale hydroponic greenhouses mentioned on  Alekson's profile at Linked-In.

A friend suggested that all this might be empty scheming with no money behind it, but it seems from Alekson's creds on pages 40 - 49 of his stock offering that he really is accustomed to running with the big boys.

Let me repeat the big numbers quoted for the transdermal patch trade alone:
TOTAL GROSS REVENUE: $2,843,540,662
Add real estate, greenhouse construction, energy supply and a growing monopoly, and potential profits are plenty motivation for all the behind-the-scenes political manipulation implied in corporate documents, and more.

None of this vast corporate empire is in the best interest of patients, of course, who typically suffer from the doings of Big Pharma --- not even Big Pharma in Alternative Medicine clothing is actually helpful to medical cannabis patients.

As it currently stands in a Medical Marijuana state like my own, patients can buy, carry and use medicinal cannabis and cultivate it for their own use, and it can also be grown by licensed farmers with an agreement to supply it only to licensed dispensaries. Patients here can obtain high quality, organic cannabis in a variety of strains specifically developed with high levels of the compounds that best address their specific pain, inflammation or other health issues, from a safe, state-licensed dispensary; or simply grow their own.

Everyone from the patients who require those varied strains to the growers who developed the strains, to the general public which is asked to criminalize actions because they run counter to corporate profit, everyone stands to lose, if Medicine Wheel gains its ends. Cannabis helps so many conditions from cancer to MS to Alzheimer’s, plus is enjoyed by recreational users with far less danger than alcohol or cigarettes.

The battle against prohibition doesn’t end with legally-grown medicinal cannabis, and it can only be set back further by interference from a multi-billion dollar patent medicine show.
The ultimate objective of cannabis campaigning is to get cannabis beyond the medicine cabinet and into the mainstream as a healthy alternative to dangerous substances used socially and for relaxation, such as alcohol and cigarettes.

This could cost a lot of corporations a lot of money, but think what it would save taxpayers by abolishing the prosecution of all cannabis users.  Some 20 million American citizens have been convicted of marijuana offenses since 1937In 2005, alone, 800,000 Americans were arrested on pot charges, costing taxpayers over one billion dollars.

Now, whose pockets do we want to put a billion dollars into? Jim Alekson’s, or the taxpayers’?  And whom do we wish to see benefit from the health-giving properties of cannabis? Patients, or profiteers? We need to be vigilant, lest AgriCannaBusiness squeeze small farmers out of one more market, and lest patients be denied the right to grow our own few plants for personal use.

Note: since I first drafted this blog post, news has come out in Canada that shows the collusion of governments and corporations to keep cannabis profitable, as it’s currently playing out in interpretation and enforcement of Canadian law:
Health Canada is now in the process of consulting with the marijuana community to reorganize the program, and has proposed eliminating personal production licences and setting up a system of large-scale commercial growers. Established medical marijuana dispensaries were not mentioned in the government's new plans.
These are the multi-billion-dollar shenanigans we have to be on the lookout for, worldwide. Even if you get compassionate medical cannabis laws passed, the governments and corporations collude to make it impossible to grow your own or operate small growing operations that serve local dispensaries. The result: cannabis is just more Agribusiness and Big Pharma.
There's no deal, partner
Who's your real partner?
Could there be just a chance
That you've got some heavy clients?
Who'd ever think it?
Such a squalid little ending
Watching him descending
Just as far as he can go
I'm learning things I didn't want to know


Everybody's playing the game
but nobody's rules are the same.
Nobody's on nobody's side!

~ Chess, the Musical

Errata: Since publication I have been corrected regarding two items:
1. Peter Reynolds was elected by 23 votes, not nearly 40 as stated.
2. His single-issue party was known before he took over as the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, which name he changed to Cannabis Law Reform, and CLR is abbreviated "CLEAR."
My thanks to those who pointed out these mistakes.