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Letters for March 24

Readers sound off on our profile of Dr. Assad, Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Richard Brenneman, and Burmese refugees.


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Gardner does not dispute the existence of high-volume, shady practices like Assad's. And we both can agree: not all doctors run high volume clinics; volume reflects demand; and mainstream doctors are loathe to recommend cannabis and know little about it due to the paucity of US research on the substance. We agree research should be fully funded.

We agree no one other than a doctor and patient should be involved in a treatment decision. We agree there are bad apples and good apples in every bunch.

I would add that: the existence of script mills like Assad's taint both the reputation of the medical community as well the legalization cause. It turns medicine into quackery and makes legalizers look duplicitous. The clinical cannabis community's aversion to shunning or, god forbid, turning in members like Assad ultimately hurts their credibility and their cause. They should self-police or more stories like these will emerge. Ultimately, I hope marijuana is legalized for personal use, so people like Assad can't make millions of dollars discrediting medicine and harming patients with the illusion of care.

To my knowledge no publication has discovered that this is the first pot doctor to have his license revoked in the state. And no local, mainstream, print publication has reported on how Assad took Oaklanders' money and gave them a worthless recommendation. This makes the story both original and a public service. In contrast to Mr. Gardner's assessment of my reporting skills, I thank him for his correction, and understand his effort to minimize and dismiss even a modicum of negative press for his or her cause.

Biased Piece

I am disappointed that despite my efforts to correct factual errors many remain. The statement "A Los Angeles buyer who went on to purchase NorCal Healthcare" is not true! I purchased the practice from Dr. Assad and own it outright. I have hired a Los Angeles-based firm to provide management services. California law does not allow ownership of a medical practice by anyone other than a physician.

Medical cannabis cannot be "prescribed." Its use can only be recommended or approved and it is easier, not harder to approve cannabis use by a patient with a complicated history.

In addition I believe your repeated reference to "pot" rather than the proper term cannabis belies a bias consistent with the overall sleazy nature of the piece. Lastly, please note the correct spelling of my name.

Philip A. Denney, M.D., Oakland

Editor's Note

The misspelling of Dr. Philip A. Denney's first name on second reference was made by me, Robert Gammon, editor of the story. In addition, the story's author asked me to correct an error he made prior to publication concerning the purchase of NorCal Healthcare, but I neglected to do so.

As for the term "prescribed," we used that term interchangeably with "recommended" throughout the story. And while we fully realize that physicians can't technically "prescribe" pot in California, the term, in that context, has generally come to mean the same as "recommending" it.

And finally, neither the author nor the editor intended the term "pot" to be a pejorative. Nor is the author, his editor, or this newspaper biased against medical marijuana. As regular readers know, the opposite is more likely true.     

"The Berkeley Daily Planet: A Personal Obituary," Feature, 3/3

Question Brenneman

I launched in February 2009 as a corrective to the Daily Planet's hysterical anti-Israelism and its forays into overt anti-Semitism. The Daily Planet, despite espousing a policy of publishing all comers, had refused to publish a number of my submitted letters, presumably because they were critical of the Daily Planet. I had no other way to Express my free speech rights than to launch my own web site. That web site grew in time, and has been widely complimented for the depth of its research. Though I have never personally spoken with a Daily Planet advertiser, I have heard anecdotally that after reviewing the information on my web site more than a few of them dropped the paper. 

The only time I met Richard Brenneman was in May of last year when he came to my office representing himself as a "local reporter" interested only in the facts surrounding my local dispute with the Daily Planet. Though a reporter for the Daily Planet, he insisted he intended to "play it down the middle." Having nothing to hide, I granted the interview. On June 3, 2009, the Daily Planet published eight separate articles written by Brenneman and O'Malley condemning myself and others who were opposed to the Daily Planet

Among other things, I learned from Brenneman that day that I am a religious fanatic and a "ziocon" Republican. The fact that I had told Brenneman that I am life-long liberal Democrat, an avowed secularist who rarely attends synagogue, and that, though a Zionist, I identify with Israel's left-wing parties did not prevent him from simply making up whatever he pleased. Using a snippet of a quotation, Brenneman falsely claimed that I was out to destroy the Planet, when the full quote revealed that I was making precisely the opposite point, namely, that a good local paper is a community asset and that I only sought its reform. 

Becky O'Malley, not to be outdone by her reporter, called me a liar, a lunatic, and a Nazi. With this as background, and in close imitation of pro-life extremist web sites that publish the pictures and addresses of legal abortion providers, Brenneman published my address along with my picture, in a thinly veiled call to the Daily Planet's radical minions to do me violence. One such person dropped by the next day. There was no conceivable news justification for the publication of my address. After eventually being dismissed by the Daily Planet, "local reporter" Richard Brenneman launched a blog, wouldn't you know it, that is dedicated in part to the demonization of Israel and American Zionists.

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