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What’s Not To Like?

Dr. Kathleen Boyle of the UCLA Drug Abuse Research Center has a problem.

The social psychologist began a two-year study last July on the use of medical marijuana by people with AIDS. The university-funded project seeks to document both the satisfaction (or not) of med-mar users and their issues and concerns. The hitch is that Dr. Boyle can’t find anyone who’s used it and says it doesn’t work for them.

Boyle has been holding focus groups with members of three groups: the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (a local cannabis club) as well as Being Alive and the Women Alive Coalition, two community-based AIDS organizations. She’s found that patients find pot wonderfully efficacious for relieving nausea due to drug therapy and pain management, and adds that "they also notice a psychological benefit, i.e., relief of depression and anxiety." The primary concerns of users are driving after medicating, the potential side effects of smoking any substance and, not surprisingly, getting busted. Although medical weed is technically legal in California with a doctor’s recommendation, that hasn’t stopped law enforcement from arresting sick people.

While Boyle placed an announcement in the AIDS Project Los Angeles newsletter and put up signs at the community orgs, not one dissatisfied customer has stepped forward. "It would lead you to the conclusion that everyone who’s tried it has liked it," says Boyle. "I don’t think that’s possible. There’s nothing that everybody likes or works for everybody. I’m reluctant to come to that conclusion. I feel like if I hand in a report that says it works for everybody, it would be unbelievable."

If you have AIDS, have tried medical marijuana, and it ain’t, shall we say, your bowl of tea, you can reach Dr. Boyle at (888) 333-1764, Ext. 241.

—Michael Simmons

Censorship Can Be Hard

Congress has a hard-on for Internet porn censorship. Evidence? The recently passed HR 4328, otherwise known as the "Internet Tax Freedom Bill." The bill’s primary purpose seems innocuous enough: Protect Internet service providers, as well as businesses that conduct commerce via the World Wide Web, from "double taxation" and other discriminatory taxes to which they are currently vulnerable.

But wedged into the middle of the bill is a provision that would prevent certain businesses from enjoying protection under the act, namely, Internet porn pro-viders. According to the provision, any smut peddler who doesn’t go to significant lengths to keep his or her material out of the hands of minors can be taxed in as discriminatory a manner as any state or local government chooses.

It’s the latest in a long string of attempts by Congress to graft Internet morality legislation onto communications bills. The most infamous of these must be the so-called "Communications Decency Act" attached to the sweeping 1996 Telecommunications Act, in which Senator J. James Exon (D-Nebraska) proposed holding Internet access providers criminally liable for allowing not only "obscene," but also less-offensive "indecent" material to pass through their systems. When the ACLU protested, the House edited that bill into a slightly less outrageous form.

As for the "Tax Freedom Act," it will probably prove as ineffectual as its predecessors. Most purveyors of porn are well aware of the forces aligned against them, and so go out of their way to pepper their sites with warning banners and disclaimers.

— Rico Gagliano

Heat on Holden

As the 1999 L.A. City Council campaign season opened, with a majority of the council facing re-election, it appeared that only one incumbent, Richard Alatorre — currently the target of a federal investigation — would be vulnerable to defeat.

Now it looks as though council veteran Nate Holden may have his hands full this spring as well.

As of the first of the year, two candidates, Madison T. Shockley II, an African- American minister, and Scott J. Suh, an ethnic Korean, had each raised more than $50,000 for the race. In the eyes of political strategists, that kind of cash elevates them into serious challengers for Holden’s seat. "Holden is in trouble," said political consultant Parke Skelton. "Shockley in particular is going to give him a run for his money."

Shockley, a well-respected community leader, is taking a page out of former Mayor Tom Bradley’s playbook by attempting to rebuild the once-vaunted black-Jewish coalition. How that plays in District 10, an increasingly Latino and Korean area stretching from the Crenshaw District through Pico-Union and west to Fairfax, is yet to be seen. For his part, Suh left his job as a county employment counselor to run for office.

Holden is no stranger to campaign challenges, or to controversy. He has won repeated elections despite multiple charges of sexual harassment and assorted displays of eccentric behavior. In 1998, during the NFL owners meeting to discuss extending an expansion team to L.A., Holden’s antics took the form of a one-person pep rally favoring the return of the Raiders. "It’s in the interest of people of District 10," said a Shockley campaign adviser, "to have more credible representation."

— David Cogan

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