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April 30, 2014

New survey suggests that "medical community supports the use of medical marijuana"

WebMDIn many prior discussions of modern marijuana reform, frequent (but now MIA) commentor Bill Otis was often very quick to highlight that the American Medical Assocation has expressed serious concerns and considerable reservations about the potential health impact of legalizing marijuana.  I largely agree with Bill that the medical community should have a significant role and voice in the on-going national marijuana reform debate, and thus I found notable this new FOXBusiness article headlined "Survey: 53% of Doctors Support National Legalization of Medical Marijuana."  Here are the details:

Medical marijuana might be legal in 21 states, but it is still not widely prescribe by doctors across the country — despite the majority of doctors and patients supporting its use. According to a survey by online medical resource WebMD, 69% of doctors and 52% of patients polled say marijuana delivers benefits.

“Regardless of past restrictions, a majority of patients and doctors see marijuana as delivering real benefits to treat patients,” says Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD in the research report. “Uncertainty is the next largest response, with 37% of patients unsure of marijuana’s benefits versus 20% of doctors.”

Among the nearly 1,500 doctors surveyed, 82% of the physicians in favor of medical marijuana were oncologists and hematologists. What’s more, a wide majority of respondents say medical marijuana should be an option for patients. However, the support of legalized marijuana has its limits, according to the survey: 53% of doctors and 51% of consumers oppose legalizing it nationally for recreational use.

WebMD and its Medscape unit polled 3,000 consumers along with 1,500 doctors for its report. Support for medicinal use of marijuana is strong even in states where it’s illegal. According to the survey, 50% of doctors practicing in states where it’s banned say it should be legalized, while 52% of doctors practicing in states that are considering legalizing it for medicinal use support the practice. Forty-nine percent of consumers living in states where it’s not legal support legalizing medical marijuana.

Smith says the findings of the survey indicate the medical community supports the use of medical marijuana, but more studies are needed to boost doctors’ confidence as to where medical marijuana can help and where it may not. “Despite more than 20 years of anecdotal evidence about the medicinal effects of marijuana, doctors and consumers remain in search of answers,” he said in a recent press release.

The press release referenced in this article is available at this link, and it provides some more details about the survey and its results.  I also now see WebMD has this entire special section of its website providing coverage of marijuana-related issues.

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform.

UPDATE:  I am pleased to see that Bill Otis has responded to this post via a new post here at Crime & Consequences headlined "How Do You Conduct a Phony Pot Survey?" This response confirms my hope that Bill continue to engage with what I post here even though he, for reasons unexplained to me, no longer seems able or willing to comments directly in the comment section.

April 30, 2014 at 09:19 AM | Permalink

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Doug, I haven't communicated with Bill Otis about this, but my hunch is that the inexcusable and outrageous attacks on his wife and family from certain commentators drove him away.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 30, 2014 4:15:22 PM

no problem here

Posted by: ok | Apr 30, 2014 4:29:52 PM

I think it is interesting to read about the reports on this medicinal plant. I wonder if more states will legalize it in the future. I think it will only become more accepted as time passes.
Jayden Eden | http://www.mednet-tech.com/services/web-design

Posted by: Jayden Eden | Apr 30, 2014 8:10:10 PM

Can't say I blame Bill. Simply for offering another point of view (shared by many in this country) he was personally attacked over and over by anonymous commentators. I am glad he continues to share his thoughts at Crime and Consequences.

Posted by: Zachary B. | Apr 30, 2014 9:11:54 PM

The real question, Douglas, is why would you post a silly internet "survey" as evidence of anything? I would not accept this from my undergraduate students but this is acceptable from a notable law school professor?

I would be ashamed to post this information.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | May 1, 2014 7:38:39 AM

TarlsQrt1:
The survey indicates:
"WebMD’s survey was completed by 2,960 random site visitors from Feb. 23 to 26, 2014. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.8%. Medscape’s survey was completed from Feb. 25 to March 3, 2014 by 1,544 doctors who are members of Medscape’s panel, representing more than 12 specialty areas. It has a margin of error of +/- 2.5%."
Why is it silly?
Why wouldn't you accept this survey as having validity?
What is wrong with their margin or error calculation?
Is it "lies, damn lies and statistics" you have problem with?
Or is it because you do not have enough information as to the survey's construction and how the margin of error was calculated?

Posted by: ? | May 1, 2014 8:31:49 AM

?-

"Random site visitors" is not on the same continent as a scientific survey. Does Gallup use 2,000 "random site visitors" to determine our stance on the Obamacare debacle? Would you accept a "survey" with the same standards (if you can call them that) so readily from Fox News about Benghazi?

Do we know how or if they even verified those taking the survey were doctors?

Again, I would be thoroughly embarrassed to propose such a sham as anything meaningful.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 1, 2014 9:14:06 AM

?-OK, I now see that the doctors are part of Medscape's "panel." At least we know they are doctors.

Unfortunately, that does not help one bit. It is like trying to decipher the beliefs of the entire legal profession by surveying only lawyers who work directly for the ABA.

No academic would accept it if it did not support his position.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 1, 2014 9:28:18 AM

If we’re looking for the position of doctors, here are those of the AMA & APA:

| AMA Opposes Legalization, Calls Marijuana ‘Dangerous Drug’|
Nov. 21st, 2013 /www.usnews.com/
by Pat Anson, Editor
▼ “The AMA’s House of Delegates voted this week not to adopt an amendment proposed by a delegation from California
that would have taken a “neutral stance” on the legalization of marijuana.

▼ It also voted against a proposal to support the sale of marijuana in states where it is already legal.
▼ “The AMA today reiterated the widely held scientific view that marijuana is dangerous and should not be legalized,” said Stuart Gitlow, MD, Chair-Elect of the AMA Council …

▼ “We can only hope that the public will listen to science – not ‘Big Marijuana’ interests who stand to gain millions of dollars from increased addiction rates.”
▼The House of Delegates called for more efforts to discourage marijuana use, especially by young people, and said more research was needed to determine
the consequence of long-term cannabis use.
======== ======== ========
▼- The AMA’s action comes one week after the American Psychiatric Association released a statement outlining the public health harms of marijuana.
▼- “There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.

▼- In contrast, current evidence supports, at minimum, a strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders. Adolescents
--- are particularly vulnerable to harm, given the effects of cannabis on neurological development,” the statement said.

Posted by: Adamakis | May 1, 2014 9:58:47 AM

TarlsQtr: I am not "accept[ing]" this Medscape survey, only reporting on it. Actually, I am really reporting on the fact that FOXBusiness picked this up and reported on this survey of doctors (weeks after it was first reported via a WebMD press release that I also linked). Are you saying that FOXBusiness (a division of FOX News) should be embarrassed to report the results of this survey?

Moreover, what it appears that you and Bill have largely missed is that the use of random site visitors was ONLY for the consumer parts of the survey. The doctor part survey protocol, as highlighted by ?, is described this way: "Medscape’s survey was completed from Feb. 25 to March 3, 2014 by 1,544 doctors who are members of Medscape’s panel, representing more than 12 specialty areas." I do not know how Medscape conducts its survey, and it also might depend on site visitors. But it seems possible that the Medscape approach/results are a bit more valid for doctors than for random consumers who went past WebMD.

Notably, Bill Otis said that it should have been front-page news when an association of assistant US attorneys polled its members (seemingly in an online survey comparable to this Medscape survey of doctors) and those polled said they did not want to see all mandatory minimums repealed. Did you think he should have been embarrassed to make a big deal out of that online survey?

I will readily acknowledge that folks with views on important issues are often drawn to news that contributes support to their views and resist news that undermines those views. That is why I try hard to report all seemingly relevant news, especially when it comes from the folk at FOX, as I share the FOX aspiration to be "fair and balanced."

Posted by: Doug B. | May 1, 2014 10:10:31 AM

Doug,

Reread your first paragraph. It is purposely taunting (a decision to not post here the last couple of weeks for whatever reason is being MIA?) and you obviously posted this in order to refute Bill's position about the AMA.

Denying that makes you look worse than Jay Carney did yesterday.

You stated: "Are you saying that FOXBusiness (a division of FOX News) should be embarrassed to report the results of this survey?"

Don't be a passive aggressive tool. I love how you throw in "a division of Fox News." So? Instead of weaseling with what you imply, why not come out and say it? For the record, I do not have any cable or satellite subscription. I only watch what comes over the air and what I can see freely online unless I happen to be at someone else's house.

I have not read their account but if it gives any credence to this as being an official position of a majority of doctors, yes, they should.

Please answer the following questions. Would you accept such a source from your students? Are your standards for academic credibility lower than what I employ with college freshmen?

You stated: "Notably, Bill Otis said that it should have been front-page news when an association of assistant US attorneys polled its members (seemingly in an online survey comparable to this Medscape survey of doctors) and those polled said they did not want to see all mandatory minimums repealed. Did you think he should have been embarrassed to make a big deal out of that online survey?"

A notable difference is that Bill did not, to my recollection, make any claims to the veracity of the data other than it showed a significant amount of assistant US attorneys disagreed with Holder and that in any other administration it would be big news. If WebMD's headline said "A Significant Number of Doctors Approve of Medical Marijuana", it would be far more acceptable than "53%..." It is a survey, not a scientific poll. 53% reflects nothing more than the 53% of people who are part of a Medscape "panel", of which we have no idea about the make up.

You stated: "I will readily acknowledge that folks with views on important issues are often drawn to news that contributes support to their views and resist news that undermines those views. That is why I try hard to report all seemingly relevant news, especially when it comes from the folk at FOX, as I share the FOX aspiration to be "fair and balanced.""

You have been reading too many posts from the liberal participants on this board and have forgotten how to be honest. You know damn well that the part above you wrote in your OP is an editorial in support of these findings. Your sarcasm and denial of that fact is shameful and below someone in your position.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 1, 2014 11:00:04 AM

I think you are the one having a hard time reading, Tarls, so let me try to walk you through this starting with my lead in that you want me to re-read regarding my reprinting of a piece I saw via FOX Business:

"In many prior discussions of modern marijuana reform, frequent (but now MIA) commentor Bill Otis was often very quick to highlight that the American Medical Assocation has expressed serious concerns and considerable reservations about the potential health impact of legalizing marijuana. I largely agree with Bill that the medical community should have a significant role and voice in the on-going national marijuana reform debate, and thus I found notable this new FOXBusiness article headlined 'Survey: 53% of Doctors Support National Legalization of Medical Marijuana.'"

1. The first sentence, I believe, accurately reflects Bill's past tendency to stress the AMA positions on marijuana when I posted about support for medical marijuana research/reform. Indeed, Bill's post at C&C makes the same reference.

2. My second sentence expressed agreement that "the medical community should have a significant role and voice in the on-going national marijuana reform debate," and uses that preamble to explain why I found the quoted headline via a FOX news source notable.

3. I think go on to quote the FOX Business article, from which I draw the quote (based on a statement by Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD) that "the medical community supports the use of medical marijuana." If you read closely, the article has Dr. Smith asserting that the survey "indicates" this medical community support. Because I was skeptical about the survey's source and methods, in my post headline I used the term "suggests." (Also, to find more about Dr. Smith, WedMD has this profile: http://www.webmd.com/michael-w-smith linked on-line.)

4. I do not think anything in my post or in the WedMD press release or in the FOX Business article claims in any way that this is "an official position of a majority of doctors." The fact that you admit your criticisms are based on assumptions rather than on actually reading closely what you are criticizing I think says much more about your attacks than about my effort to report on something I found notable.

5. I would be troubled if my students used this survey of "proof" of anything. I question all polls and surveys --- on-line and done the old fashion way --- because of selection biases and reporting biases. Moreover, I do not know if this survey would support a claim that "A Significant Number of Doctors Approve of Medical Marijuana." What I continue to feel it is accurate to say is that this (opaque and perhaps suspect) "new survey suggests that 'medical community supports the use of medical marijuana." I agree with you that the "53%" statistic is a weird bit of false precision, and I would knock whomever is in charge of headline-writing at FOX Business for that choices. But that was not my choice AND it was that very headline choice by a division of FOX News that drew my eye to this story.

6. Please explain to me how this post is an "editorial in support of these findings"? My editorializing was in support of Bill Otis often stating that "the medical community should have a significant role and voice in the on-going national marijuana reform debate." If you want to disagree with this viewpoint, have at it. But given that it has historically been hard for the medical community to speak out on these issues in light of federal prohibition AND that the AMA is hardly the only way for the medical community to express its voice, I continue to think that may reporting of FOXBusiness reporting on this Medscape survey was proper and not "shameful" or "embarrassing."

7. Last but not least, I should note that FOXBusiness report on this survey did not provide any link or real information about how this survey was conducted other than to (inaccurately) report that "WebMD and its Medscape unit polled 3,000 consumers along with 1,500 doctors for its report." Because I, like you and Bill, was curious and concerned about the reported results, I tracked down and linked to the press report which provides the (opaque and perhaps suspect) survey process.

As sometimes seems to be the case, Tarls, my libertarian affinity for ending modern federal marijuana prohibition seems to be getting under your skin and leading you to see red when you should be much calmer if you just took the time to read what I have actually said in black-and-white. Again, I take no offense with legitimate debate, and I enjoy being challenged about my actual claimed. Ergo, if you disagree with my opinion that "the medical community should have a significant role and voice in the on-going national marijuana reform debate," I want to hear all about that. Also, if you have any solid evidence about the views of the medical community aside from what we hear from the AMA or from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, please share. But please stop calling me names --- saying I should be "ashamed" and "thoroughly embarrassed" and a "passive aggressive tool" --- based on what you think I am saying rather than what I have actually said.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 1, 2014 3:52:34 PM

Doug, TarIsQtr is one angry guy. Throw in some arrogance and nastiness, and you have a not so flattring picture.

Posted by: observer | May 1, 2014 4:59:21 PM

Tarlsqtr:

You state:
"Random site visitors" is not on the same continent as a scientific survey. Does Gallup use 2,000 "random site visitors" to determine our stance on the Obamacare debacle? Would you accept a "survey" with the same standards (if you can call them that) so readily from Fox News about Benghazi?

Do we know how or if they even verified those taking the survey were doctors?

Again, I would be thoroughly embarrassed to propose such a sham as anything meaningful."

You're response leaves me at a loss to understand how you can attack rather reported low margin of error ( +/- 1.8% to +/- 2.5%) and say it is "not on the same continent as a scientific survey." My experience is non-scientific surveys don't have margins of error - heck the survey designers don't even comprehend the phrase "margin of error."
Just because you don't like the results doesn't mean the construct doesn't measure what it purports to measure and is invalid.
Seems to me that while undergrads might not be able to confront you, I bet a dissertation committee would call you out on your lack of data to confront a set a data with a margin of error.
It seems to me that an academic would identify the primary issue as "what is basis for the calculation of the margin of error" before asking "whether the conclusion is correct in spite or despite the margin of error."
Me, I am interested in validity--not result. How about you?

Posted by: ? | May 1, 2014 9:08:20 PM

1) Stop the lawyering and plausible deniability crap. We both know you posted this "notable" survey (although I fail to see how a survey you later admit is unscientific could be "notable") as a refutation of Bill's AMA citation. You were not just "reporting" as you claimed, you were "refuting." When you use a sham piece such as this as a refutation, you own the sham nature of it as well.

2) No qualms other than your failure to address why you decided to bring up "a division of Fox News". Then again, we both know why. If this came from MSNBC or HuffPost, you never would have phrased the question the way you did.

3) So, a single word (suggests) in the post title indicates your that you are "skeptical?" That is completely insulting (or should be) to anyone reading this blog. No one reads your OP and says, "Boy, Doug sure is skeptical about that survey!" Incredibly weak.

4) You stated: "The fact that you admit your criticisms are based on assumptions rather than on actually reading closely what you are criticizing I think says much more about your attacks than about my effort to report on something I found notable."

Please QUOTE DIRECTLY where I ever "admit" such things." The fact that you are smart/weasley enough to imply rather than come out and say certain things says more about you than it does me.As dishonest as he is, at least Grits would be man enough to call me a "Fox News watching mouth breather."

5)Got it. You NOW admit that the "survey" is garbage but it is still "notable." That makes perfect sense. (Sarcasm) Thanks for being my best advocate and agreeing to what I said all along. We could have saved a day or two of posting.

You stated: "But that was not my choice AND it was that very headline choice by a division of FOX News that drew my eye to this story."

Of course, what WAS your choice was to not "report" these problems in the original post and wait until being called on it by me to make such a statement. Bias is indicated as much by what you report as it is how you report.

6) You stated: "But given that it has historically been hard for the medical community to speak out on these issues in light of federal prohibition AND that the AMA is hardly the only way for the medical community to express its voice, I continue to think that may reporting of FOXBusiness reporting on this Medscape survey was proper and not "shameful" or "embarrassing.""

If a student of yours used this as proof/evidence of anything, you would have a problem with it (as you already stated). That YOU (an esteemed law school professor)chose to use it as evidence of anything IS embarrassing and shameful. I know. I know. You will claim that you took no position and was just "reporting." That is a howler.

7) You stated: "I tracked down and linked to the press report which provides the (opaque and perhaps suspect) survey process."

And did not say a word about it until I brought it up. In fact, you even defended it by pointing out (erroneously) that Bill tried to do the same thing with an AUSA survey. An honest "reporter" would have stated something to the effect, "Although a suspect survey process may have been used, a recent Medscape survey of physicians indicated..."

You chose not to do so.

You stated: "As sometimes seems to be the case, Tarls, my libertarian affinity..."

LOL I would still love to see the list of Federal/statewide libertarian candidates you have ever voted for.

You stated: "my libertarian affinity for ending modern federal marijuana prohibition seems to be getting under your skin and leading you to see red when you should be much calmer if you just took the time to read what I have actually said in black-and-white."

What you said (and did not say) "in black-and-white" is perfectly clear.

You stated: "But please stop calling me names --- saying I should be "ashamed" and "thoroughly embarrassed" and a "passive aggressive tool..."

Seriously? THAT is where you want to draw the red line of debate and take offense? In light of what has been said on this blog over the last several years and especially the last couple of months, that is cute.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 2, 2014 2:33:08 PM

Observer stated: "Doug, TarIsQtr is one angry guy. Throw in some arrogance and nastiness, and you have a not so flattring picture."

Too funny. Perhaps when I start calling people "blood lusting" and "kapos", you will have the moral right to call me angry, arrogant, and nasty. Until then, you just look foolish.

You stated: "You're response leaves me at a loss to understand how you can attack rather reported low margin of error ( +/- 1.8% to +/- 2.5%) and say it is "not on the same continent as a scientific survey.""

Take it up with the esteemed law professor. He basically says (in a nicer way) that you are FOS.

Doug said, "(opaque and perhaps suspect) survey process."

And: "I would be troubled if my students used this survey..."

Posted by: TarlsQtr | May 2, 2014 2:40:13 PM

Tarls, a few quick responses:

1. I do not think it would be possible for any survey of doctors to somehow "refuses" the AMA, but what a survey can do is reveal that perhaps the official position of an official organization does not represent the views of all or most of its members. Notably, the ABA has formally called for a moratorium on the death penalty, but I bet a survey of lawyers (especially those who work in Boston) would say the feds should seek the death penalty for the Boston Marathon bomber. And I think such a survey would be notable, even if exactly how such a survey was conducted was opaque and perhaps suspect. I will happily own what I said: this Medscape survey as reported by FOXBusiness is notable. I will not own what you (wrongly) think I meant by what I actually said.

2. I brought up FOX because you had done so earlier in the thread via your comment on May 1, 2014 at 9:14:06 AM. I think your point was that the source of a survey/report matters, and I agree, which is why I found notable the way in which a FOX division reported on the Medscape survey.

3. I am skeptical that this survey --- or any single survey --- is conclusive proof of anything, and that is why I used the term "suggests." If you want to write you own blog posts saying why you think this survey is worthless and not even worth discussing seriously, you (like Bill) can do so. But I still think this survey is notable, as did obviously the folks at FOXBusiness and seemingly you and Bill because we are spending a lot of time discussing it here and at C&C.

4. You said "I have not read their account..." in your comment May 1, 2014 at 11:00:04 AM. I took that as an admission you were making assumptions rather that relying on actually reading what we were discussing. Again, I fear you are so eager to "read between the lines" rather than just focus on what actually gets said. That's fine, but then I am going to complain that you are making assumptions rather than actually staying grounded and focused on the topic being discussed.

5. I do not think this survey is garbage, any more than Bill thinks the NAAUSA survey is garbage. Rather, as I have said all along, I think this survey and its results are notable and that it does SUGGEST that the medical community supports the use of medical marijuana.

6. I am happy to admit I am biased by my libertarian concerns about national marijuana prohibition, and that is one reason I found this story and the survey notable and blog-worthy. You are welcome to write your own blog so you get to have your biases impact your coverage. Candidly, I do not believe it is possible for anyone to report/research on any topic without some personal and professional biases impacting the reporting and research.

7. I think this survey is evidence of something (and not garbage) in the same way that Bill thinks the NAAUSA online survey is evidence of something and not garbage. In this context, I think the survey is some evidence that the AMA's official position on medical marijuana may not represent the views of most doctors, just like Bill considers the NAAUSA survey to be some evidence that the DOJ's official position on sentencing reform may not represent the views of most AUSAs. (I am concerned when any single survey is cited as "proof" of anything, but that does not mean a survey is garbage. This is why I questioned Bill when he said a NAAUSA survey was "proof" that hundreds of prosecutors were in "open revolt" against AG Holder, and this is why I would be concerned if any lawyer now asserted that this Medscape is "proof" that a majority of doctors were in open revolt against the AMA.)

Finally, I do not take any offense over your heated commentary and name-calling at all. I have very thick skin and I am proud of it; also I am not drawing any red lines, but rather just trying yet again to make sure you stay focused on what I actually say rather than what you assume I mean. For example, I did not say anyone is FOS, and I try to avoid that kind of name-calling (not because I think it is offensive, but because I think it is counter-productive to robust, respectful debate on important matters).

On the libertarian voting front, I was sincerely hoping the Ohio GOP would not have worked so hard to block the a libertarian candidate from the Gov ballot in 2014. I was very much hoping to have three choices for Gov, including a real libertarian candidate. Instead, I now have to spend a lot of time figuring out which of the two traditional (and flawed) candidates is more likely to act in more libertarian ways. And I trust you have seen my support on this blog for Rand Paul and other national players with libertarian tendencies.

As always, thanks for the spirited engagement!

Posted by: Doug B. | May 2, 2014 3:51:55 PM

observer wrote to TarISQtr: "TarIsQtr is one angry guy. Throw in some arrogance and nastiness, and you have a not so flattering picture." In light of Tar's last comment to Doug's response, observer clearly understated his or her description. Tar, lighten up; relax. As someone else suggested,have a toke or two; mellow out; it's only a blog.

Posted by: skeptical | May 2, 2014 8:25:35 PM

Based on TQ's failure in reading comprehension, I don't believe for a minute that he is capable of educating anyone. He ALWAYS reads between the lines which means he doesn't read period. He always knows what you mean by what you don't say.

Posted by: albeed | May 3, 2014 8:58:47 AM

The AMA is a very minor trade association for Physicians these days. They are losing members yearly. AMAs membership is about 15% of the total number of physicians in the country. They now receive a high % of their income from the government as they provide the electronic data system for medical coding.

The AMA supports the Drug War, The Affordable Care Act and promotes Climate Change legislation and more resources for patients health care caused by climate change.

The main study that is being cited by anti legalization of marijuana groups showing a correlation between marijuana and mental health in adolescents is one that was funded by a government grant. The study was conducted by physicians with a financial interest in adolescent treatment centers. They probably depended on mandated court referals for patients. The sample was small - less than 100 and it was difficult to see any control group

The study done at Harvard on marijuana smoking and adolescent schizophrenia was evidence based and had a control group. It showed no correlation. Schizophrenia was influenced by the family history - not marijuana.

Next week-end there is a Patients out of Time conference in Portland. The conference is sponsored by the Medical School of SF. They will give CMEs to attending physicians. This conference is all about medical marijuana. There will be many more - the train has left the station.

Posted by: beth | May 3, 2014 1:51:03 PM

well you all have to admit if anyone would know a phony survey it would be a gov't employee they did after all lift the art of telling a lie to a hight never dreamed of by our founders.

Posted by: rodsmith | May 4, 2014 2:18:25 AM

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