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Government-built Google mashup sends a mixed message

Attempts by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to make a point about California-legal medical-marijuana dispensaries went horribly wrong earlier this month, when the office’s official “Pushing Back” blog published a Google Maps mash-up supplying the public with a map of downtown San Francisco’s marijuana dispensaries.

The mash-up was originally built to make a point -- San Francisco is so saturated by medical-marijuana dispensaries that they exceed the number of Starbucks coffee shops in the city’s downtown area.

Both San Francisco city officials and the San Francisco Chronicle are questioning the federal governments sources, however. One city official told City Insider that the data presented was “extremely incorrect.”

“I don’t know how they got that,” he added.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, there are only 24 dispensaries in San Francisco in possession of the necessary permits, or trying to apply for them.

Even the ONDCP’s assessment of Starbucks locations is incorrect, said Starbucks spokeswoman Vivian Doan. The map should have listed 71 locations, when it instead listed 66.

In a follow-up post, the ONDCP implies that it gathered its data from publicly-available search engine listings. “It's hard to be exact,” reads the post, “but based on publicly available info on search engines, we believe that there are more listings for pot dispensaries in SF than there are Starbucks.”

The post, authored by ONDCP spokesman Rafeal Lamaitre, then acknowledges statistics from the SF Department of Public Health, before noting that the number of “registered pot clubs” in San Francisco still exceeds the number of Taco Bells (18), Middle Schools (14), and district police stations (14).

“Simple Google searches will find far more pot establishments in the San Francisco area. Some of these even offer delivery services,” the post reads, including a link to one such service.

The original version of the mashup listed a total of 98 dispensaries. When questioned about the source of its data, the ONDCP provided a list of 74 dispensaries and revised its map to show 71. Officials say the removed entries consisted of “alternative-medicine-type” shops whose marijuana offerings could not be confirmed.

Wired’s Threat Level notes that ONDCP was previously caught producing fake news broadcasts in 2005.



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RE: Marijuana Prohibition is a Joke
By robinthakur on 11/20/2008 10:52:20 AM , Rating: 2
What about the research that states that it increases paranoia and incidences of mental illness in some people? I knew people at college who started out really fine, normal people, who smoked loads of it and became freakishly paranoid. The fact that when I hypothetically tried it, I vomited then passed out within 2 minutes clearly doesn't make it dangerous either. The UK government is spending a colossal amount on tv adverts that speak of the damage which marijuana can do.

I would hesitate to say this was harmless if regularly taken unless you can cite a medical authority which states this. You could say that the same effects occur with alcohol abuse however, so I think the obsession with pot in the US is a bit nuts compared to Europe's stance on it. Its refreshing to see a US City deploy some moderate common sense in the case of this and gay unions which undermines the commonly held international view that America is ruled by small-minded, right-wing religious nuts like Dubya/Palin. Or used to be, at any rate.


RE: Marijuana Prohibition is a Joke
By arazok on 11/20/2008 11:41:51 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
What about the research that states that it increases paranoia and incidences of mental illness in some people? I knew people at college who started out really fine, normal people, who smoked loads of it and became freakishly paranoid.


As a former college pot head, I can attest to that. I smoked 4-8 joints a day for a solid 4 years between the ages of 18-22. I became socialy withdrawn, somewhat paranoid, and couldn’t sleep unless I burned a joint before bed. I had a difficult time concentrating, and even holding conversations. I had one friend who was “a bit off” compared to most people, but otherwise normal in high-school. By 25 he had become a hermit, and couldn’t handle being out of his house for more than a few hours at a time. He was on numerous anti-depressants. He recently quit and now leads a more balanced lifestyle and needs no medication.

I also have friends who still smoke pot every day, and seem completely normal. It clearly effects different people differently.

Legalization advocates don’t like to talk about anything that doesn’t further their goals, and foes only like to focus on the negatives. I don’t see why we can’t just accept that pot Cleary a healthy thing, but it isn’t going to destroy society either. Clearly, making criminals out of marijuana users is doing more harm than good.


RE: Marijuana Prohibition is a Joke
By gramboh on 11/20/2008 12:05:53 PM , Rating: 2
See this is where your political ideology has to come into play. The examples you have given, people chose to abuse marijuana and it negatively affected their lives, just as if someone decided to drink 8 beers a day, it would probably ruin their lives (and health).

I think the rational approach with a substance that is not harmful (if treated with respect) is to allow people the freedom of choice while also providing truthful education. The lame drug war scare tactics are detected as false by rational thinkers and thus discredited and ineffective.

The American's "war on drugs" is a disgusting waste of money and misallocation of funds. It's sad to think of lives ruined by people going to jail for weed possession, what a joke.

Oh and FITCamaro, you actually listen to O'Reily? Pathetic. Ignorant losers like that ruined the Republican party and ruined their chances of running the country for quite a while.

signed - a Libertarian Canadian.


By FITCamaro on 11/20/2008 12:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
No I don't watch the OReily show or listen to him. I just happened to see the clip I mentioned. Yes he says some stupid sh*t sometimes. But I don't disagree with him all the time either.


By Bioniccrackmonk on 11/20/2008 11:46:12 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
What about the research that states that it increases paranoia and incidences of mental illness in some people?


What about the studies and trials that show patients having a better quality of life during major health issues, cancer treatments being one of them.

quote:
The fact that when I hypothetically tried it, I vomited then passed out within 2 minutes clearly doesn't make it dangerous either.


When I hypothetically tried cigarettes, I turned green and threw up as well. Only those are legal for some reason and also serve no benefit in life.

quote:
I knew people at college who started out really fine, normal people, who smoked loads of it and became freakishly paranoid.


I know people from college who smoke a lot as well that graduated and have successful careers, that still smoke to this day, albeit not as much as in college. Engineers, physical therapists and accountants are some of them.

quote:
I would hesitate to say this was harmless if regularly taken unless you can cite a medical authority which states this.


As you also state, alcohol is readily available and ruins numerous lives every year. There is rock hard proof that alcohol contributes to deaths, beatings, fights, aggressiveness and all sorts of other issues, and yet, it is still legal.

quote:
so I think the obsession with pot in the US is a bit nuts compared to Europe's stance on it.


I don't know what Europe's stance is, but ours is ridiculous.

quote:
Its refreshing to see a US City deploy some moderate common sense in the case of this and gay unions which undermines the commonly held international view that America is ruled by small-minded, right-wing religious nuts like Dubya/Palin. Or used to be, at any rate.


I yearn for the day that politicians just care about improving the quality of life for everyone and leaving their personal agenda at home.


By brickd007 on 11/21/2008 2:20:46 PM , Rating: 2
Of course they're paranoid....they're paranoid because the man is going to come raid their stash and toss them in jail.


"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA














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