An afternoon at the Supreme Court

Where are the Marx Brothers when you need them? A copy of Any Warhol’s famous decaptyche of Ten Famous Jews figures prominently in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Most prominently depicted: The Brothers Marx. I should have stopped to ponder this intriguing work on my way up the hill to the nearby Supreme Court.

September 22 has finally come, the date set months ago and punted to just last week when the Cannabis Patients Association hoped against hope to stay the Health Ministry’s “Reform” of medical cannabis. Today, in a three hour unbearable hearing Vice Chief Justice Melcer put on a show worthy of the famous Jews down the hill. (If only it were a movie and not real life suffering for 50,000 not so famous and essentially invisible Jews,- a good several hundred of whom packed the hearing hall and were regularly told to shut the f—k up, with a promise that they would have time to speak at the end, which of course never happened.).

Let’s start with quantity. The patients were represented by two attorneys and the respondents by some half dozen or more. The chief attorney for the defense spoke for about an hour all told, saying almost nothing. Each of the other respondents, including some of the growers who magically became supporters of the Reform was given full time. In addition the Defense was able to call on its Vice-CEO of the Health Ministry, a doctor with absolutely no experience with cannabis, to carry on about 15 minutes, and even IMCA CEO Magister Y. Landschaft was allowed to perform on two occasions (more later). The two attorneys for the appellants were given say 20 or 25 minutes all told and were not allowed to bring any professionals to speak despite the presence in the hall of at least four physicians with plenty of experience with cannabis and the damages of the Reform.

Let’s go to form. Justice Melcer, with occasional assistance from Justice Handel (the third Justice was silent – you guessed it, Harpo), seemingly grilled the Defense attorney with all sorts of relevant questions about how badly the Reform has been performing. He was particularly stern about the “confiscation” of all medical cannabis. Bad Boys. He asked for numbers of patients negatively impacted and called for the Minsitry to set realistic dates to get things right. All this was as it were encouraging to the appellants, as if Justic Melcer was doing their work for them. But, oh, all this was about the last request to stay the confiscation, not about the Reform itself. Turns out the Ministry’s spinners succeeded in being  bad boys a few weeks ago, and it made the Court unhappy  but this way they succeeded in completely distracting attention from the essential damage that the Reform does no matter how it is implemented. This discussion with the Chief Counsel for the Defense was like a “guy-fight”, and allowed him to drone on and eat up all the hearing time. Now the two female attorneys for the appellants were seriously outnumbered, but that was not the worst of it. It was a feminist nightmare, Justice Melcer essentially telling  them they have nothing to add to what they have written, with the most polite chauvinist condescension. No guy-fight for girls.

Finally, some content.  The heart of the Reform is Magister Lanschaft’s Green Book. This lists which concentrations of CBD and THC are indicated for which illnesses, equating all strains according to two chemicals out of hundreds. The appeal was supported by medical opinions of four physicians – who came to the hearing,- who gave written personal testimony of patients that respond differently to same CBD/THC strains with other properties yet to be characterized. The book is a green-faced lie; it has no scientific basis, and threatens all patients with wanton disregard of their need-and right – for continuity of care. You’re not going to believe this, but here is what Magister Landschaft testified to the High Court: (I am quoting from a letter he undoubtedly penned that was signed by the Health Minster and sent to me a few weeks back, August 25 to be exact):

The term “strains” is scientifically incorrect. Products have genetic lines, and it is possible that some of the “strains” being grown today will turn out to be genetically identical, with no differences [his redundant prose, not mine].

So I was giving cannabis genes to 600 autistic children? And here I thought I had nailed high school biology which differentiated phenotype from genotype. Had one of Netanyahu’s Minstries cancelled the difference between phenotype and genotype when I wasn’t looking? Miri Regev? As everyone who would dare open his mouth on the matter in a Supreme Court hearing knows, the phenotype is the actual form of something as it appears (from phainos, like in phenomenon). The genotype is something you don’t see (or smoke) but presumably is the source of the information that makes a phenotype appear.  Of course, in agriculture everyone knows that the same genotype shows up differently with different environmental conditions  like water, temperature, acidity, fertilizers (not of Magister Landschaft’s type) etc. Did he really say to Israel’s Supreme Court that “strains” is entirely genetic? And did he imply that we possess such information??

If you care to Google strains of plants you get:

In botany, the term strain refers to variations found within plant cultivars. It also refers to the offspring that descend from modified plants. These plants are either produced by biotechnological methods or through regular breeding. In some cases, different strains result from genetic mutations.

I guess Magister Landschaft was a bit preoccupied and didn’t get around to googlling his testimony. Lawyers among my readers might be asking what this kind of professional testimony constitutes. Is it an outright lie, which I guess might be a felony, or some other sort of misleading the Court. In all events it is not a good idea.

But it went by without a blip. And it is the heart of the Reform, the heart of the mischief and the heart of the threat to patients. But that is not all. After the hearing was essentially closed, up jumps Magister Landscaft with some papers and runs up to the desk of the Three Justice Brothers. He gives each a copy, and speaks so no one can hear him. The attorneys for the defense were unable to halt this egregious break of protocol or even common sense. Turns out he was trying to show the judges how all the T#C# categories in the Holy Green Book included all the “strains” which he just explained don’t exist. The reader is invited to imagine what logic this could possibly express. The hearing was recessed. I spoke to the counsel for the appellants who has hoped to grab a moment for me to testify (I had written one of the opinions for the appeal, and I had remembered to wear a tie). I reminded her about phenotype and genotype and suggested she try to grab three minutes out of 180 just to address Landschaft’s performance.

But alas, the Court reconvened to do what it had planned to do all along. Justice Melcer sternly warned the Health Ministry that it needed to get its act together in short order.

When I needed to change from temporary to permanent medical license back in the 80’s, there was a bureaucratic glitch beacuse of which I was with no license for a few weeks. Concerned (i.e. having left the Marx Brothers in galut), I asked the head secretary of the Southern District Health Minstry, a wise and warm woman named Shula, what would happen if I practiced medicine without a license, something no one in his right mind would do for a split second in New York. She replied, “Oh, we send you a “NuNuNu”.

The Health Ministry got a NUNUNU, and cannabis patients, the middle finger.

About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry specialties at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. He is currently CEO of Family Instiute of Neve Yerushalyim, sponsoring a first fully accredited post-masters training in family therapy for the Haredi community. Alan has edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005) in Hebrew, translated Buber's I and Thou anew into Hebrew, and authored Losing It, an autobiography, and From Protection to Passover.
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