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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 arazok on 11/20/2008 11:41:51 AM , Rating: 3
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.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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