Egads. Do I know my way around a public hearing. As a longtime journalist, I have spent countless hours in government meeting halls listening and watching and listening and watching and …
So, when my husband, Dr. Christian Thurstone, was asked to testify March 4, 2010, during a Colorado House Judiciary Committee meeting on the regulation of medical marijuana (it was House Bill 1284), my reaction? “I gotta see this!”
I did. And that hearing proved to be yet more sorry proof that entirely too many of our marijuana laws are made with little, if any, regard for evidence-based science. Let’s just say I didn’t consider it a good sign when the committee devoted entirely too much time to quizzing a woman who identified herself as a “THC expert” and repeatedly mispronounced the word “cannabinoid.”
As a force of old habit, I took notes during the hearing. Afterwards, I pulled them together for a clippy account to post on Facebook — so no, this isn’t writing I’d go running off to nominate for a Pulitzer Prize:
* What an incredibly poorly run hearing this is. Thank you, Colorado State Rep. Clair Levy (D-Boulder). She’s playing the same old political games I’m used to seeing but have never found time to write about. Legislators often stack expert testimony so that only the people who represent views they favor are heard first. The idea, of course, is to wear down the opposition — to make people who disagree with their views literally give up and go away. It is a shameful manipulation of public debate that the people should rise up and ban. Legislators should be made to recognize “pro” and “con” in an alternating fashion to bring balance and greater perspective to every hearing — and to respect the time commitment that their opposition also has made to the political process.
* Would it be possible to hear from even one more weed smoker from Boulder? We’ve already been here a couple of hours … The only up side: watching the representatives cringe as one marijuana lover laced his testimony with lots of profanity.
* Now we’re nearing the four-hour mark.
* Thank you, Mr. Sergeant At Arms, for taking my note to Rep. Levy. I could tell you were sympathetic to my argument that this is a sham of a public hearing.
* Thank you, Rep. Levy, for reading my note — and realizing that it was reasonable to disrupt this lopsided speaking schedule to recognize Dr. Thomas Crowley of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, who has waited more than four hours to testify. As I wrote on that note, Dr. Crowley is a world expert on marijuana and addiction. He literally wrote the textbook: “Marijuana and Medicine” and also co-authored the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report stating that there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medicine. This committee would’ve been smart to hold a meeting just with Dr. C for a couple of hours.
* Dr. Crowley is clearly not playing to this crowd. In so many words, he told the committee that however heartfelt, sincere and accurate each of the long-winded, personal stories they’d heard were, all of that experience amounted to little more than anecdotes. Millions of people receive therapeutic value every year from placebos, too, Dr. Crowley said.
* Who says potheads are merely mellow, peace-loving folk? The pro-marijuana-dispensary crowd has been called to order several times for rude and disrespectful behavior. Their antics — including coordinated and loud coughing when people with whom they disagreed testified — might have been amusing in junior high school. And that’s a big might. When they scoffed at the obviously nervous teenager from Colorado Springs, who testified that he was recovering from drug addiction and that he considers marijuana the “gateway” that led him to try other drugs? Despicable. There’s really just no other word for it.
* Finally. Chris Thurstone takes the floor. The crowd’s shenanigans kicked in again as he explained addiction rates among young people. He simply raised his voice to a level that he drowned them out — which is, as people who know him will attest, highly unusual. But this is a guy whose professional life is devoted to children. And children are little people who wield incredible power and prestige in our nation’s political system and structure, right? Right? Wrong. So, Chris just wanted to remind all of the powerful adults in that room — politicians who trumpeted their visits to medical marijuana dispensaries, but who have never contacted his adolescent substance-abuse-treatment clinic, one of Colorado’s largest — to remember kids and what’s in their very best interests as said politicians craft public policies.
I’m very proud of Chris’ determination to be heard.