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The Download: Going to pot


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“No one calls pot pot anymore,” writes Andrew Ferguson in Time’s latest issue. “It’s medicine now. Dealers are called caregivers and the people who buy their dope – medicine -- are patients.”

Ferguson’s cover story takes us on a tour of Colorado’s booming medical-marijuana industry, from the tattooed Jenelise Robinson, who makes lemon bars that knock you on your ass, to Briargate Wellness Center, where owner Joe DiFabio showcases medicines with names like Mowie Wowie, Couchlock, and Atomic Haze.

Colorado and 14 other states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana. Dozens more are considering it. Arizona is the latest convert. Voters there narrowly passed a referendum question this month allowing patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, or other “chronic or debilitating” diseases to buy 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow their own. All that’s needed is a doctor’s approval and registration with the state.

Ferguson says marijuana’s beneficial influence in pain treatment is fairly well established, but he suggests many patients are more interested in getting high than anything else. In Colorado, for example, he says relatively few patients that are registered to use marijuana are suffering from cancer, AIDS, or MS. More than 90 percent are suffering from the catchall “severe pain,” and three out of four of them are men under 40.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Michigan, one of the states that has legalized medical marijuana, has issued 37,730 patient registrations and has a four-month backlog of requests. Some communities are being overrun with marijuana dispensaries.

Massachusetts hasn’t legalized medical marijuana, but it has decriminalized the drug. Voters by a 2-1 margin in 2008 approved a ballot measure eliminating jail time for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Sentiment may also be building for complete legalization or legalization for medical purposes. According to Worcester Magazine, voters in 17 state representative districts and one Senate district approved nonbinding measures dealing with marijuana earlier this month.

But not everyone is on board. The Boston Herald reports that law enforcement officials are worried that the existing decriminalization has led to an increase in pot-related trafficking and violence. The story is largely anecdotal, but it suggests smaller marijuana dealers, sensing an opportunity, are moving in on the turf of more established operators and prompting some violent turf battles. The Herald says the massacre of four people in Mattapan in late September, including a woman and her 2-year-old son, was allegedly related to a pot-dealing turf dispute.

Probing probation

The Globe goes wall-to-wall with coverage of independent counsel Paul Ware’s report on patronage in the state Probation Department. Here’s the main story, a look at legislators’ roles in securing jobs for friends, and consideration of possible criminal charges emanating from the probe.

CommonWealth has two stories, one by Jack Sullivan detailing what’s in the report (noting how Ware criticized top judges with oversight over probation, a point the Globe neglected to mention) and the other by Bruce Mohl suggesting Ware could have written a similar report about many other parts of state government. The Eagle-Tribune seemed to buttress Mohl’s contention with its editorial criticizing the decision by incoming state Treasurer Steven Grossman to hire just-defeated state Rep. Barbara L’Italien. Don’t miss Howie Carr in the Boston Herald, who offers his laugh-out-loud take on the whole mess.

Revulsion at the probation doings unites the differently-winged posters on Red Mass Group and Blue Mass Group. For BMGers the story is, of course, more discomfiting, since it is their nominal Democratic allies who are in the crosshairs. This is “a situation which tracks the right wing’s worst caricatures about government,” frets one BMG commenter.

Economy

Could renting be the new American dream? asks Governing magazine.

The Bay State’s congressional delegation is pushing the Commerce Department for immediate aid to help bail out the state’s fishing industry, beset by the down economy and tightening federal regulations, according to the Standard Times.

Springfield leads the state in completed foreclosures for two straight months, the Springfield Republican reports.

The Wall Street Journal notes that business startups are dwindling, dimming hopes for an innovation-led jobs recovery.

On the Globe op-ed page, CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow looks at the incredible shrinking clout of the Federal Reserve Bank. Meanwhile, Harvard’s Ed Glaeser takes aim at the home mortgage interest tax deduction, a compelling argument in search of a political constituency.

GE isn’t the only company looking to trade jobs for tax breaks. Horizon Beverage is willing to move to Norton from Avon, but the Sun Chronicle says the move would come at a price.

Somerville is weighing a DIF to finance infrastructure improvements around Assembly Square.

Ben Bernanke finds some fighting words, and they’re aimed at China.

Environment

The National Review touts “Cool It,” a documentary counter to Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” that is produced by a reformed Greenpeace worker who says cap-and-trade is just throwing good money after bad ideas.

The Berkshire County town of Hancock could receive $109 000 in PILOT monies annually from Berkshire Wind developers—at least to start, according to a report in The Transcript.

Education

Education Week’s “Teacher Now” blog reports on a panel discussion that US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took part in on Wednesday. Duncan’s message: We must stop treating teachers like “interchangeable widgets” who aren’t compensated based on performance. It’s a theme CommonWealth took up in this cover story last year.

Aristotle was a muggle. The Enterprise reports Bridgewater State University is offering a class on “The Ethics of Harry Potter,” a sociology course relating the ethics of author J.K. Rowlings to the Greek philosopher.

North Andover teachers get a pay raise in return for shouldering more of their health care costs, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A Cape Cod Times editorial urges the nine state universities to develop uniform policies to address student over-enrollment and overcrowding issues.

Health and health care

The frenzy to ban the high-kick in a can, Four Loko, swept up a Cohasset boutique brewer who was ordered by the FDA to cease making Moonshot, a caffeinated beer she has brewed since 2004, according to the Patriot Ledger.

Small farmers in western Massachusetts tell The Recorder they’re worried that a bill passed by the US Senate to grant broader authority to the FDA for food recalls is a “one size fits all” measure that could have a devastating impact on the little guy.

Scott Brown, who railed against Obamacare in his campaign, moves to amend, not end, the federal health care law, reports the Globe. But he says he actually still does want to end it.

The BBJ reports large area employers are bracing for some very large health insurance rate hikes come January.

Public safety

NECN reports that more than two dozen people were arrested in Massachusetts heroin raids.

Governing magazine reports that California has begun rethinking the way to manage sex offenders who are returning to society.

Local government

Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan says in response to a wrongful termination suit he and the city can’t be on the hook for job contracts his defeated predecessor handed to two longtime aides on the way out the door.

The Gloucester Times reports that Essex is giving a 3 percent raise over three years to its police officers' union and also agreeing to cover the total cost of officers' education incentive pay known as the Quinn bill

Transportation

A pedestrian and biking lane could be in the works for the refurbished Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge.

National politics

James Carville, the Democratic strategist, tells The Christian Science Monitor that the Republicans’ “old white guy rule” means Mitt Romney will get the nod in 2012.

House Democrats fear a subpoena-wielding Darrell Issa, and they’re considering countering with Dennis Kucinich.

Senate Dems are pushing a tax-cut bill. But is it a trick?

Today in Congressional inaction: The House does not extend unemployment benefits, but it also doesn’t slash and burn NPR funding.

Shout-out

Keller@Large says President Obama’s decision to award the Medal of Freedom to one William Felton Russell is sure to expose a new generation of basketball fans to the all-time great Boston Celtics center as a civil rights leader who is a man of integrity, honor, passion, and principle, on and off the court.

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