Keep it illegal

Remember all those kids who “experimented” with marijuana? I assume that the double-blind testing and peer-reviewed reports they undertook justified those experiments.

Now these kids are middle-aged dopers, so instead of “experimenting,” they claim dope is a remedy for everything from the pain of cancer to toenail fungus. And their doctors? Shame on them for prescribing pot to mollify potheads rather than prescribing real medicine or Narcotics Anonymous. These quacks ought to be prosecuted as accomplices.

As a former public defender, I can assure you marijuana users’ sole purpose is to get high, and growers’ and distributors’ sole purpose is to make a buck off a bunch of fools.

Your Nov. 11 editorial argues that terminally ill, pain-stricken patients are robbed of their panacea. Not true. Marijuana has never been shown to be effective as medicine. Over 30 years ago, psychiatrist Harold Kolansky proved marijuana’s lasting adverse psychotic effects. He was lambasted by pot advocates.

So much for the “medical” part of marijuana. Patients need real medicine, not marijuana snake oil. Pot needs to stay illegal unless and until it can be proven safe and effective as a regulated medicine.

We demand that of Thalidomide and Vioxx; why not THC?

Arthur Zeidman | Walnut Creek

Ignoring the data

Bravo to Joe Eskenazi for his thorough Nov. 11 j. examination of the medical marijuana issue, “Marijuana: Just what the doctor ordered?”

Sadly, the U.S. government continues to ignore the growing mass of data supporting marijuana’s safety and efficacy as a medicine, simply because that data doesn’t fit with the prevailing ideology.

The Institute of Medicine, in a 1999 report commissioned by the White House, found that “nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting and all can be mitigated by marijuana” — with side effects within the range that is normally tolerated for other medicines. Since then, much more data — including landmark studies involving HIV/AIDS patients conducted at San Francisco General Hospital — have only bolstered this conclusion.

It’s time for medical marijuana policies on the national level that are based on science, not ideology and superstition. And it’s time for California’s congressional delegation to take the lead in calling for compassion and sanity.

Bruce Mirken | Washington, D.C.
director of communications, Marijuana Policy Project

Less divisive

Congratulations to the San Francisco Israel Center, Masa, Hillel and the many co-sponsors of the Fools of Prophecy Israeli reggae band tour of Bay Area campuses.

After concerts at U.C. Berkeley and Stanford, the band gave a lunch performance Nov. 9 on Malcolm X Plaza at San Francisco State University. Hundreds of students, representing the broad diversity of our campus, listened (or danced) to one of Israel’s most popular bands as its singers offered words of hope and peace for the region. (Several Bureau of Jewish Education staffers made the trip to campus and joined in the impromptu dance party as well.)

During the encore, the band leader invited the students to sit down and listen to a slow and spiritual ballad about the need for unity. In a physical space so often the scene of political vitriol, over 300 students sat together and listened to an Israeli singer offer his musical hope for reconciliation. It was an inspiring moment that was not lost on us.

Through music, SFSU students witnessed a different and far less divisive side of Israel and Israeli culture. Thank you to all who helped organize this event.

Fred Astren and Marc Dollinger San Francisco
Jewish studies program, SFSU

The facts

In response to Arnoldine Berlin’s Oct. 28 letter, here are the facts about the Home for Jewish Parents in Oakland:

It was founded in 1947. Over the next 50 years, the neighborhood deteriorated, the elders and visitors were no longer safe to walk outside. Employees had their purses snatched. We simply had to get out.

We looked all over Alameda County for a suitable site. When we thought we had found a new location we presented it before a planning commission; we got shot down. The neighbors objected to an old age home. They did not want Alzheimer’s parents wandering around; they were afraid that it would lower the value of their properties. We worked and donated money and formed “Guardian Circle.” Our goal was for a new home.

We purchased the property in Danville, but we did not have enough capital to build. Four years later we broke ground; architectural plans were approved and the first to move in were the patients from the Home for Jewish Parents in Oakland.

Margot Brodke | Walnut Creek

Keeping the faith

This past summer I took part in an amazing teen leadership program in New York. It was called “Face to Face, Faith to Faith,” and brought together religiously diverse teens from South Africa, the United States, Israel, Palestine and Northern Ireland.

During the two-week program, we discussed current issues, listened to personal experiences and learned about other religions. Every day brought new challenges. Whether it was hearing a tragic experience of an Israeli or understanding our stereotypes, we went through those challenges together as a strong, diverse community.

Mornings would involve intense one-on-one dialogues, while the afternoons were intended for open-space discussions and free time. In only two short weeks, I grew to enjoy the other teens — their input on discussions, their own beliefs, their curiosity about different faiths and their compassionate understanding. It was a life-changing experience that I will never forget.

The program isn’t just for Jews. It’s for anyone who is interested and feels they want to have a better understanding on what conflicts are happening in the world. I thought that F2F was so incredible that I wanted to share it with the Northern California Jewish community.

Ellen Holderman | Oakland

‘Dignity for all’

As regional director of the New Israel Fund, I thank you for your recent, powerful opinion piece, “Israel needs to ramp up wheelchair access,” by Rabbi Steven Chester, about the lack of accessibility in Israel for the disabled.

Readers would be heartened to know that there is a very significant organization promoting the civil rights of people with disabilities in Israel, founded in 1992 with the help of the New Israel Fund. Bizchut is an inspiring example of Israel’s growing movement of citizen activism, with the aim of extending the rights and benefits of being Israeli even to the most downtrodden and disempowered.

The Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law, which passed in Israel thanks to Bizchut, is one important victory, but as Chester points out, there is still a long way to go. With organizations like that, we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of the dream of Israel’s founders of a society marked by dignity and equality for all.

Steven Rothman | San Francisco

The Jewish lens

Jewish particularlism is a double-edged virtue.

On the one hand, newspapers and media like j. ensure that the Jewish perspective regarding issues of the day is highlighted. They contribute to strong and ongoing connections within the community.

On the other hand, such particularism can go badly wrong, serving to re-enforce Jewish insularity and encourage Jewish blindness to realities other than our own.

Such, alas, is the case with the Nov. 4 headline “Who Knew: Is Libby’s Jewishness a factor in leak scandal?” Having inappropriately asked the question, the article answering it comes up with a resounding “no” for an answer. But the damage has been done. The suggestion, made insidiously, is that somehow anti-Semitism lurks behind the Libby indictment.

J. frequently chooses to see issues exclusively through a Jewish lens. I suggest that in many cases, such as the one above, this adds neither to the dialogue nor to critical thinking. Please try for a larger view. And if not that, at least be fair.

Rose Levinson | Albany