July 22nd, 2008

Chris Keeley


July 20, 2008

Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?

IN the republic of innovation, life is unfair. A relatively small number of places — all in wealthy countries or in China and India — create nearly every important technological advance.

Other places must be content with technologies made by others. Yet people in these areas are dreaming of more.

Consider Wilfred Mworia, a 22-year-old engineering student and freelance code writer in Nairobi, Kenya. In the four weeks leading up to Apple’s much-anticipated release of a new iPhone on July 11, Mr. Mworia created an application for the phone that shows where events in Nairobi are happening and allows people to add details about them.

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Chris Keeley

California now has more than two hundred thousand physician-sanctioned pot users and hundreds of dis

Dr. Kush
How medical marijuana is transforming the pot industry.
by David Samuels

California now has more than two hundred thousand physician-sanctioned pot users and hundreds of dispensaries.

the Tibetan prayer flags suspended on a string over the sleeping body of Captain Blue rose and fell in fluttering counterpoint to the wheezy rhythm of his breath. Lifted by a gentle breeze off the Pacific Ocean, each swatch of red, white, yellow, or green cotton bore a paragraph of Asian script. Every time a flag flaps in the breeze, it is thought, a prayer flies off to Heaven. Blue’s mother says that when her son was an infant he used to sleep until noon, which is still the time that he wakes up most days, on his platform bed in a one-bedroom apartment overlooking Venice Beach, a neighborhood of Los Angeles.

It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, and Captain Blue was dozing after a copious inhalation of purified marijuana vapor. (His nickname is an homage to his favorite variety of bud.) His hair was black and greasy, and was spread across his pillow. On the front of his purple T-shirt, which had slid up to expose his round belly, were the words “Big Daddy.” With his arm wrapped around a three-foot-long green bong, he resembled a large, contented baby who has fallen asleep with his milk bottle.

Captain Blue is a pot broker. More precisely, he helps connect growers of high-grade marijuana upstate to the retail dispensaries that sell marijuana legally to Californians on a doctor’s recommendation. Since 1996, when a referendum known as Proposition 215 was approved by California voters, it has been legal, under California state law, for authorized patients to possess or cultivate the drug. The proposition also allowed a grower to cultivate marijuana for a patient, as long as he had been designated a “primary caregiver” by that patient. Although much of the public discussion centered on the needs of patients with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases that are synonymous with extraordinary suffering, the language of the proposition was intentionally broad, covering any medical condition for which a licensed physician might judge marijuana to be an appropriate remedy—insomnia, say, or attention-deficit disorder.

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Chris Keeley

Michael, a sixty-year-old man with a gray ponytail, was wearing jeans, a faded navy T-shirt, a yello

Michael, a sixty-year-old man with a gray ponytail, was wearing jeans, a faded navy T-shirt, a yellow flannel shirt, and a battered fleece vest. Shifting impatiently from one foot to the other, he read from a poster on the wall stating that words and phrases like “weed,” “dope,” and “getting stoned” were used to “devalue, disempower, and criminalize people who choose to use medical cannabis.” Recently, he noted, characters on “Desperate Housewives” had used the words “medicine” and “medicating” while referring to cannabis consumption. The culture was changing. “We see cannabis as a gateway herb,” he said.

Upstairs, he showed me a light-filled waiting room with a grand piano and handcrafted wood chairs and couches. Someday soon, he said, the room would be filled with patients waiting to meet with therapists practicing massage, acupuncture, and other healing arts. Licensed professionals would be available to consult about medication, diet, and exercise. The waiting room was even equipped with children’s toys, so that mothers could bring their kids to appointments. As we spoke, he trimmed some long-stemmed flowers that were in a vase on top of the piano. He then sat down and played a passage of Brahms.

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