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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: Does this surprise anyone?
By knowyourenemy on 11/20/2008 5:19:52 PM , Rating: 2
"As far as gay marriage, its been between a man and a women since time began. I see no reason to change that."

In the sense that it is a religiously defined term, I agree. Whatever the religious says can and can't happen, so be it. Leave it to the religion. However, in United States law, I must sincerely disagree. This war of semantics has brought up some of the most ridiculous bigotry I have ever heard. Goes to show that I didn't grow up during the civil movements through the 50s to 70s.

RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 on 11/21/2008 1:23:55 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see how you're equating an opposition to gay marriage with bigotry. I may be legally barred from marriage to another man, but I'm likewise prevented from marrying an underage child, a farm animal, or a length of rubber tubing. Are those laws bigotry as well?

It's important to understand what this struggle is really about. Gay couples already have the right to live together, and to file domestic partnerships that grant them nearly all the rights of a married couple. What do they lack? Primarily, nothing but the ability to force employers who offer health-care benefits to traditional couples to extend those benefits to them.

Of course, many employers already choose to do this anyway. Personally, as a citizen of a supposedly free country, I favor the free choice option myself.

RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By NullSubroutine on 11/23/2008 7:49:55 AM , Rating: 2
An underage child, farm animal, or length of rubber tubing cannot consent to marriage.

Thats besides the point of the equal protection clause in the constitution, which states much be applied equally to everyone, and you cannot discriminate on the basis of race, age, sex, gender, religion, etc...

RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 on 11/23/2008 3:56:34 PM , Rating: 2
You've misinterpreted that clause. The right being extended here is that of a man and a woman to enjoin in marriage. The 14th Amendment states that right must be extended to all people, i.e. a gay man must still be allowed to marry a woman, and a lesbian still has the right to marry a man.

It does not, however, generate new rights in itself, such as the right for two men, gay or not, to marry each other.

By NullSubroutine on 11/24/2008 4:34:31 AM , Rating: 2
No, that is not true. Until there is an amendment to the US constitution that states marriage is between a man and a woman the 14th provides someone has the right to marry a man or a woman regardless of their own sex. Man+woman is a social custom not law. (except states that passed law, but are most likely unconstitutional)

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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