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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 FITCamaro on 11/20/2008 12:21:20 PM , Rating: 2
I love it how whenever it comes to drugs, its always "STATES RIGHTS!". But then when it comes to abortion, gay marriage, and a whole bunch of other conservative issues, its always "WE'LL FIGHT THIS IN COURT!".

Honestly, if a majority vote in a state allows marijuana to become legal, I would not fight it. I might not agree with it, but I would not say it was wrong. The people would have spoken. But any time liberals don't get their way through the vote of the people, they go running off to the courts.

RE: Marijuana Prohibition is a Joke
By gramboh on 11/20/2008 1:18:57 PM , Rating: 3
Both on all those issues the question is should individuals be free to decide for themselves versus state regulation. A real/classical conservative would agree with a social liberal in that it should be individual choice.

It's really sad that somehow ignorant religious zealotry and ruined the right wing in North America.

By wordsworm on 11/20/2008 10:26:44 PM , Rating: 2
I love it how whenever it comes to drugs, its always "STATES RIGHTS!". But then when it comes to abortion, gay marriage, and a whole bunch of other conservative issues, its always "WE'LL FIGHT THIS IN COURT!".

It's about not being discriminated against. If gay people want to get married, then they should have that right just like anyone else. It's just like going to court back in the day to allow blacks and whites to get married. Even if a majority of Americans don't like that idea, it's still discrimination against people who are in love with each other.

If you had a debilitating disease or condition which only marijuana was helping to any degree, and there are tons of testimonials to the effect, then I'm pretty sure you would seek out any avenue you could to alleviate those symptoms/pain. As the list of ailments that can be helped by MJ are increased, and the number of people it helps increases, it's inevitable that it will, as the miracle drug that it is, become legalized for the ill. Unfortunately, there are four huge industries that profit from it, not counting the criminal organizations: the police, the prisons, the legal processing (lawyers, judges, etc), these are thousands who make their living off of the drug war. Lastly, there's the pharmaceuticals who stand to lose billions of dollars in revenue if people find that a non-patentable plant (sans genetic modification) becomes legal to the point where their drugs are abandoned in favor of MJ. Considering the big money against MJ, I'll still be surprised to see it legalized in my lifetime. Let's see what Obama does with it.

Those of you who are interested in the amazing things that are being revealed in studies of the plant and the people that it's helping can check out .

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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