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The AALL Spectrum® Blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. The previous Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
8/1/2012 4:24:23 PM

Why Weed?

"I was gonna clean my [hotel] room until I got high.  I gonna get up and find the [AALL member services’] broom but then I got high. My room is still messed up and I know why (Yeah, hey!)/ Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high." Well, not exactly. Afroman may have sung about getting high, but Jaye Anne Barlous and Kelly Reynolds are the research experts on the subject.

So why weed?  These two librarians stumbled into a hot topic that the students really loved to research. Kelly Reynolds started the session yesterday with a bit of context for using this subject in teaching.  Basically, she found that the subject grabbed student attention, and also fit very well into the research world.  Those opportunities are few and far between for research instructors. For these librarians researching medical marijuana provided a plethora of research “ah-ha” moments. For example, for Kelly it is a “Boolean Dream,” because you have to use wild card characters for a comprehensive search (marijuana v. marihuana = mari*uana).  Also, researching medical marijuana is very Google-adverse, because almost every high school student has written a paper on the subject then posted it online.  Thus,  you, as the teacher, have the opportunity to discuss how to evaluate sources for credibility.  And of course, if you’re open to the public, this will be an inevitable reference question.

Planting the seed. Kelly moved from the legal research classroom to the garden to give us a bit of background on the plant.  I learned that the marijuana plant is an annual that grows 13 to 18 feet tall and blooms late summer to early fall.  Typically, the plant grows 1 to 11 leaflets.  It is a dioecious plant, which means that it’s reproductive organs are on different plants. Hemp comes from the stem (ropes and clothing) of the male marijuana plant.  The issue is with the flowering female (pollinated).  From this plant you can create hashish and by drying its leaves you can form the marijuana that is smoked. Cool.

Reaping the fields.  So then Kelly explained “we have receptors in our brain and our brain that cannabis stimulates.” These receptors impact various parts of our body including dopamine, dopamine receptors, reproduction, memory, and even temperature.  Medical cannabis has been used to relieve the symptoms of many illnesses, such as AIDS wasting and anorexia (generating an appetite), chemotherapy-induced nausea, glaucoma (pain relief), and Multiple Sclerosis Spasticity. However, the use of marijuana is not symptom free, and there are side effects specific to using medical marijuana.  Those include, cognitive impairment, hallucinations, anxiety, early onset psychosis, dependence, and death (yes, there is a lethal limit to marijuana which equates to 30,000 joints = THC limit).

Selling your crops.  I have found that the perfect storm for research questions are those that hit every field of law – international, federal, state and administrative – Kelly confirmed that inclination yesterday.  Medicinal use of marijuana is one of those complex legal questions that require research in each sector.  For example, there is a treaty directly on point with this topic titled the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs created to regulate research-grade marijuana that is produced and sold internationally between research institutions.  But, research-grade marijuana is also regulated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which requires domestic marijuana obtained within the country to comply with the U.S. Code and the regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), available at http:grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not99-091.htm. What an awesome intersection between international law and domestic law! These speakers did an amazing job detailing the history of marijuana in the legal in the legal field, both through legislative history and common law development. 

The purpose of the plant. The second part of the session was on the use of marijuana in media to promote racial basis leading to unethical decision-making by our government.  Jaye Barlous brought an interesting dynamic to the controversy of marijuana over the years by following the historical trail of newspaper and popular culture references.  She took us through a look at marijuana in movies and films that displayed the use of marijuana with many violent crimes! One piece of the propaganda even included a shot of a lady being injected with the marijuana drug. 

If you want to generate a conversation on ethical decision-making at the legislative level, look to the use of racism in the development of the laws and media surrounding marijuana.  For example, by 1937, every state had adopted some form of marijuana regulating law.  In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was enacted.  That being said, imagine creating a legislative history assignment that looks at the testimony before the Committee on Ways and Means, House of Re. 75th Congress on HI 6385 in April 1937 where the speaker refers solely to newspaper articles.  Continue that thought in that these articles were never substantiated.  Strikingly though, his testimony was entered into the legislative history record as part of the purpose for enacting the law, which will then construct the legislative intent for courts to reference.  This behavior is clearly shocking and appalling unethical behavior in our legislative process. To the contrary though, Dr. William C. Woodward, who acknowledged the addictive nature of marijuana, provided an opposing view that looked at the evaluation of the commentary previously provided.  He noted that this testimony was based on news articles and the speaker provided no component primary evidence.  Jaye found that this aspect of medical marijuana compounded into a discussion that challenged traditional notions that government should have best interest of the people.  Conversely, in dealing with medical marijuana over the years, by conducting legislative history research, you find that there are many distinct unethical actions that have been found on racially-based motives to regulating this plant and industry.

Posted By Liz Johnson at 8/1/2012 4:24:23 PM  0 Comments