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An Open Letter to Dale Gieringer

(For many years I thought that people who took politics seriously could understand the difference between principled criticism and personal animosity. How wrong I was. In my whole long life I’ve met only three such people. Dale Gieringer, the longtime director of California NORML, is one of them.)

Thanks for the original invitation to the Young Medical Cannabis Abusers working group, sorry I couldn’t attend the zoom meetings. Count me out from now on (so your fellow activists can relax).

As you know, I wrote something about the group in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, for which I was scolded. If they and you think that Rob Bonta, Gavin Newsom and the Medical Board of California, properly roused, will crack down on the online “recommendation mills” and thereby limit the extent of “Cannabis Use Disorder” among young adults, go right ahead and plead your case. Cassandra (c’est moi) says that even if the authorities respond and prosecutions ensue, you’ll be playing Whack-a-Mole with quick-buck artists. And most of the young adults you prevent from getting blotto on THC will get blotto on ETOH.

I think California NORML’s demand to Newsom should be a seat on the medical board for an authentic cannabis specialist. Bonni Goldstein, Sherry Yafai, Jeffrey Hergenrather – any one of them would immediately command the respect of the other board members by their intelligence, understanding of the subject, and force of personality. The typical board member has contributed financially to the governor, knows almost nothing about marijuana as medicine, and has little or no interest in the topic. An actual expert might exert some influence.

And Newsom and Bonta might well be receptive to siccing the med board’s Enforcement Division on the recommendation mills. It fits in neatly with their basic approach to implementing the “legalization” scheme they helped impose in 2016. As Matt LeFever reported last week on the Redhead Blackbelt site,

“Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta published notably similar press releases this week celebrating California’s cannabis industry touting it as the ‘largest, safest, and most regulated’ market in the world.

“To protect the Golden State’s legal cannabis industry, Newsom and Bonta extolled the mission of the Campaign Against Marijuana Plants (CAMP) and the newly minted Unified Enforcement Task Force (UETF).”

As you know, O’Shaughnessy’s used to cover the medical board. I ought to collect and forward all the relevant backgrounders to you and your group. Here’s the lede of a piece from 2007:

“The Medical Board of California (MBC) targeted five cannabis consultants for possible ‘disciplinary action’ in 2006 — bringing to 20 the number of California doctors investigated by the board for approving cannabis use since Prop 215 authorized them to do so. Not one of the complaints has come from a bona fide patient.

Four Southern California doctors — Joanne Benzor, MD, Alfonso Jimenez, MD, and Michelle Winscott, MD, and Robert Sterner, MD— were named in a complaint to the board by the San Diego District Attorney’s office.

“SDPD used undercover officers to talk to several doctors and obtain open-ended marijuana recommendations based upon self-reported, vague complaints of ailments,” according to a statement issued by the DA at a July 6 press conference (held jointly with the U.S. attorney).

“After announcing that the five remaining San Diego area cannabis dispensaries had been closed, DA Bonnie Dumanis saw fit to add, ‘Our office has no intention of stopping those who are chronically ill with AIDS, glaucoma and cancer from obtaining any legally prescribed drug, including medical marijuana, to help them ease their pain.’

“That evening Deputy DA Dana Greisen elaborated to Channel 10 News: 'The doctors, because they’re giving it to so many people, are basically legalizing marijuana one doctor and patient at a time... It’s being recommended for insomnia, depression, anxiety... The law is being abused on a massive scale.’“

A mystery I never tried to solve is: why didn’t the MBC crack down on the quick-buck artists back then? Were they so blinded by Drug War propaganda that they couldn’t see the difference between Tod Mikuriya  and his small band of serious cannabis clinicians and the QBAs? Were the Prohibitionist strategists so politically astute that they figured highly publicized “clinics” on the Venice Beach boardwalk would discredit the marijuana movement? Highly unlikely, although John Lovell, their top lobbyist in this period was no fool.


  1. jonah raskin October 30, 2022

    The answers to your rhetorical questions 2 and 3 in the last graph are “Yes” and “Yes.” What is Dale supposed to do or say?

  2. Sean Kiernan, CEO Weed for Warriors December 15, 2022

    So we have cannabis “advocates” wanting to get between a Doctor and their patient. Funny, their plan will destroy access for veterans and most of the poor and working class who rely on SB34. Why? Wrapping it in kids but it’s really to defang SB1186 medical access guarantees in all counties and cities. They want to limit competition for their friends. No different than the delivery ban attempt. Funny enough, one of the Doctors you mention offers $400 basic recs and is concerned about her cash flow, I mean erroneous access :).. This working group seems pure self interest and is acting more like Kevin Sabet than the heroes they like to portray themselves as.

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