Thursday, March 19, 2009

AG Holder Announces Major Shift in Drug Enforcement Policy

It’s official. The Obama administration has announced it has no plans to prosecute marijuana dispensaries in California and other states. The move represents a significant shift away from the Bush administration’s stance on the issue. Here are stories from the LA Times and New York Times; click here for a previous LB post on the issue.

The news came straight from the mouth of Attorney General Eric Holder, who said Wednesday in a sit-down with reporters that the new administration would target outlets operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers. “Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target,” the attorney general said.

In the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes even if the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws.

President Obama indicated during the campaign that, under his leadership, the nation’s drug-enforcement policies would change. But soon after his inauguration, the DEA raided several dispensaries in California, in what appeared to be a continuation of earlier policies.

Those raids, however, may well become a thing of the past. “If you are operating a medical marijuana clinic that is actually a front, we’ll come after you,” one DOJ official told the LAT. “But if you are operating within the law, we are not going to prioritize our resources to go after them.”

Law Blog Reading Recommendation: For a wonderful introduction to the world of California’s marijuana dispensaries, we suggest checking out David Samuels’s really nice piece in the New Yorker, from last July. Here’s the story’s wonderful second paragraph:

It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, and Captain Blue was dozing after a copious inhalation of purified marijuana vapor. (His nickname is an homage to his favorite variety of bud.) His hair was black and greasy, and was spread across his pillow. On the front of his purple T-shirt, which had slid up to expose his round belly, were the words “Big Daddy.” With his arm wrapped around a three-foot-long green bong, he resembled a large, contented baby who has fallen asleep with his milk bottle.

Captain Blue is a pot broker. . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama Backs Global Gay Rights

President Obama Administration will sign the US up to a United Nations declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality, AP reports.

This is a straight reversal of then-President George W. Bush’s refusal to endorse the idea when it was proposed by the French Government last December.

Until now the US was the only hold-out among Western Democratic nations – all EU nations back the declaration along with more than 30 other countries.

But 70 U.N. members currently outlaw homosexuality — and in several of them, including Iran, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, opposed the declaration including the Vatican. Members of the Islamic conference argued that legalization of “deplorable acts” could lead to paedophilia and incest.

This decision by the Obama Administration isn’t only significant for gay rights, it also marks a change of approach to participating in multilateral initiatives.
The Bush Administration was often preferred to go it alone and stay out of international conventions. A recent poll showed that a substantial minority of Americans still favour pulling out of the UN.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Video of ReWalk Exoskeleton System
Filed under: Neurology , Rehab

Israel21C has a video of the ReWalk exoskeleton system, from Argo Medical Technologies, for people with paralyzed legs. We profiled the system back in March, and we thought this video would be interesting to see the device in action:

ReWalk comprises a light wearable brace support suit which integrates DC motors at the joint, rechargeable batteries, an array of sensors and a computer-based control system. It fits the body snugly to detect upper body movements, which are used to initiate and maintain the walking process. Wearers also use crutches for stability and safety.
ReWalk is undergoing clinical trials in Israel at the Rehabilitation Hospital at Chaim Sheba Medical Center - Tel Hashomer, with pilots planned for rehab centers in Holland and Italy. A US trial is scheduled to begin in November at the Moss Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia, after which Argo will apply for FDA regulatory approval.

Argo's demo video features team member Radi Kioff, a 40-year-old Druze Israeli citizen who was shot in the back while serving in the Israel Defense Forces during the first Lebanon War. Ironically, the man who devised the system that allows Kioff to walk cannot benefit from his own invention. A quadriplegic, Amit Goffer has only partial use of his hands, but not enough to operate the ReWalk.