Feb 24, 2015

Magic Mushrooms

As a child of the sixties, I was entranced by Michael Pollan’s article in the New Yorker called The Trip Treatment.

It chronicles the comparatively  new efforts to work with psilocybin (a psychoactive chemical from certain mushrooms) as an experiential antidote to depression, anxiety and even the fear one experiences facing death.  Psilocybin was banned when Nixon signed the controlled substances act .  When this happened, the extensive research being done on psychoactive chemicals (the most well known being LSD) came to a halt.

Now at NYU and Johns Hopkins a small number of researchers are being allowed by the government to resume working with “these powerful and still somewhat mysterious substances.”  According to one psychiatrist, cancer patients receiving just a single dose of psilocybin experienced “immediate and dramatic reductions in anxiety and depression, improvements that were sustained for at least six months.” ( Pollan attributes the willingness of the government to allow these carefully conducted studies to the fact that the drug war is winding down.)

Psilocybin is similar in effect to LSD, but less likely to produce adverse reactions, and is not as strong or long lasting.

In the Hawaiian Islands a number of these psychoactive mushroom species occur naturally, including five which have been identified. The three most common of the identified species of psychoactive fungi in the Hawaiian Islands are known to contain psilocybin and/or psilocin .   These mushrooms are known in Hawaii by recreational users as “magic mushrooms,” “gold caps,” “blue meanies,” “dimple tops,” and “cone heads.” They are the most common species employed for recreational, albeit illicit, purposes. Such illegal use has taken place rather commonly in Hawaii for 20 years or more (Anon. 1972; Pollock 1974; Anon. 1981b;).  These mushrooms are part of a class of drugs known as psychedelics.  At least during the sixties and seventies, these mushrooms could be found on the hillsides in Hana.  (and elsewhere in Hawaii, I am sure).

I learned from the article that the term psychedelic was coined by an English psychiatrist in 1953, who described it in a letter to Aldous Huxley to mean “mind manifesting.”   When Pollan queried one of the researchers about whether there might not be another backlash, the researcher noted that much has changed since the 1960′s, noting that people then never even talked about death or cancer, and now there are hospices everywhere and cancer is front and center in the conversation.  So, too, is mindfulness.  Mindfulness is mainstream, noted the researcher and he believes this will lead to acceptances of psychedelics in treatments of many diseases.

That  researcher raises the idea of the use of psilocybin “for the betterment of well people,” saying “We are all terminal.  We’re all dealing with death.  This will be far too valuable to limit to sick people.”

But here’s a problem:  even if large trials prove that psilocybin is a successful treatment for dealing with many medical issues, and even if the government were to declassify psilocybin as a controlled substance, it would be difficult to get a pharmaceutical company to take it on because it cannot be patented.


Feb 23, 2015

Concealed Carry on Campus

A disturbing editorial in the New York Times this weekend says that the gun lobby “is flirting with self-parody as it explains the issue of sexual assaults on college campuses by proposing a solution of — what else? –having students carry guns.”

Currently 41 states ban guns on campus through either state or university policy.  But lawmakers in 10 states are considering legislation to arm students on college campuses.  The sponsor of a Nevada gun law, Michele Fiore “told The Times that ‘these young hot little girls on campus’ would be safer if they could brandish a weapon and make sure ‘these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.’”

According to The Times, the Florida legislature is considering a bill legalizing concealed carry on the 12 state university campuses DESPITE “… opposition from students, professors, administrators and police officials.”  Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota are working on bills that allow adults to carry guns in schools beginning in kindergarten.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced his intentions to sign any campus carry bills that are being written in the Texas legislature.  Montana’s senate has a campus carry bill “with fine print as to whether roommates can veto a student’s gun possession.”

The Time points to a new study by the Violence Policy Center which notes that states with weak gun-safety laws and high rates of gun ownership lead the nation in the number of gun deaths.  The Violence Policy Center’s website notes:” Public health research has shown that firearms violence is directly related to firearms availability and density.

What separates America from other Western, industrialized nations is not our overall rate of violence, but our rates of lethal violence–which can be directly traced to gun availability.” 

Surprisingly, to the naive among us (me included), this is another way that the gun lobby can market guns to young people and make them lifelong customers.  So it behooves them to work with legislatures to draft these bills. and pass them (push them?) into law.


NOTE: Hawaii has no specific law regarding the limitations of concealed firearms on college and university campuses, therefore it is up to each university and college to decide whether to permit concealed handguns on campus or in buildings.As of August 21, 2013, no public or private university permits concealed guns on campus grounds or in buildings.








Feb 14, 2015


As I am driving around busy Kailua, impatient with the traffic, I notice a delivery truck blocking the road.  Cars on the other side of the street are zooming by, disregarding me (!) and the people behind me who are waiting to go around the truck.  The driver is nowhere to be seen.  Then, a car on the other side stops and flashes its lights at me, letting me know that I can go around the truck and use his lane to do it.  I remember that this is typical of Hawaii drivers.  I am grateful.

As I wait in line at the drive through at my bank, I am in a hurry to get on with my day.  In front of me I notice a hen and her seven chicks, wandering aimlessly around in the driveway.  She is waiting for the eighth chick, still on the lawn where some nice person gave them hot dog buns to eat.  They wander aimlessly in the driveway.  I can’t go anywhere.  I don’t know how to alert the person behind me that I am not going to move.  Literally stopping me in my tracks, this is a most heart warming scene.  I remember that I did not invent the universe and I am not running it.

Finally, I honk the horn.  The mother and her chicks head straight back to the hot dog buns.  I am grateful.

Feb 13, 2015

Domestic Violence is Not a Mistake

Listening to the news while I work, I hear Ray Rice (who has been let off the suspension hook) say that he is very sorry, he made ” a horrible mistake” and he will never do it again.  We’ve got a lot of work to do on the issues of domestic and intimate partner violence, and one of them is to call it what it is:  a willful act taken by someone intended to do physical or emotional harm to another human being. A deliberate act of violence.  It is NOT a “mistake.”

Mistake is defined as “ an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.” Given that definition, in common usage, a mistake is considered to be the result of insufficient knowledge.  Ray Rice had plenty of knowledge of what he did.  Even done in anger, Ray Rice knew exactly what he was doing.

It took Mother’s Against Drunk Driving years to get the word “accident” changed to “crash” in the case of drunk driving.  It is not a semantic difference.  It is a profoundly important difference.  It is a different, accurate definition.  It does not let the drunk driver off the hook.

Both drunk driving and domestic violence are dirty little secrets of our society.  The perpetrators, in both cases,have been allowed to hide behind words like “accident” and “mistake.”  Now, a drunk driving crash can result in a manslaughter charge.  It is  high time that we change our language regarding domestic violence in the way that MADD changed our language and corrected our thinking about what drunk driving actually is, and what its consequences are.

Feb 7, 2015

Our Screwed Up Food Safety System

I have just finished reading an article in the New Yorker called A Bug in the System/Why last night’s chicken makes you sick, and it should have been titled A Bug in the System/Why Food “safety” in the U.S. Makes You Sick.  It is in the February 2nd edition of the magazine and worth reading.  But I just wanted to share a few of the things that would be hilarious, if they weren’t true.

- There isn’t a single Department responsible for food safety.  There is the U.S.D.A.s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.), the Department of Health and Human Services and the one which we are more broadly aware of , the F.D.A.  These are the most important.  There are a total of fifteen agencies responsible for food safety.

Here are some of the absurdities:

F.S.I.S. inspects meat and poultry.  Fish are the province of the F.D.A.  EXCEPT catfish, which are the responsibility of F.S.I.S.

Frozen cheese pizza is monitored by the F.D.A. BUT frozen cheese pizza WITH PEPPERONI is monitored by F.S.I.S.

Bagel dogs are F.D.A.  Corn dogs are F.S.I.S.

Here’s the most ridiculous:  The skin of a link sausage is F.S.I.S. but the meat inside is F.D.A.

These were just the examples the author gave an article that also discussed that the performance standard for salmonella in ground chicken is 44.6 percent.  In ground turkey it is 49.9%.   That kind of negates all the good you are trying to do by eating ground turkey instead of ground beef (which, by the way, the author says is now safer because they have had to get their act together because of all the suits.)

Here’s something twisted:  In 2013, the F.S.I.S. unveiled a new Salmonella Action Plan, which would reduce (that’s right, reduce) the number of inspectors observing the production at slaughterhouses.  The person responsible told the author, “this also forces the plants to do their own testing.”

Okay, if you thought Congress was bad… the whole thing is FUBAR.



Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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