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What? The similarities between raw milk and medical marijuana aren't obvious?

March 30, 2010 |  6:26 pm

Rawmilk Even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns against drinking raw milk, Wisconsin legislators are considering giving consumers access to the stuff. Or at least easier access...

Here's the Wisconsin State Journal's report on today's raw-milk action. And here's the FDA's warning about an outbreak of campylobacteriosis linked to raw milk in Michigan. The culprit apparently came from a dairy in Indiana.

If the passion and fury as it relates to raw milk has been somehow eclipsed by life's other pressing matters, now's your chance to get up to speed on a food issue that shows no sign of going away. The Seattle Times recently offered this well-done overview on the raw-milk controversy. Here's an excerpt:

"Never mind that health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mayo Clinic say you shouldn't drink the stuff. To some, the bad news is evidence of a conspiracy. It involves Big Ag trying to stamp out the little guy, Big Government pushing its way into our kitchens, sleazy lawyers trying to make a buck, and scientists who malign a key to good health...."

It continues:

"In states with limited availability, people drive hundreds of miles to get their raw-milk fix. They break laws and stage protests. They have long maintained they're being picked on."

As the story notes, most states have severe restrictions on raw milk. In some states, sales of it are simply illegal.

Filmmaker Jed Riffe goes so far as to compare raw milk to medical marijuana.  He makes the comparison at sf360, an offering of the San Francisco Film Society:

“I’m seeing these very strange parallels between medical marijuana and raw milk,” the East Bay filmmaker says. “There are a thousand cases a year reported of [raw milk] contamination, but there are 1.8 million reported cases of other contamination—such as meat. So why are people talking about ‘terrible drug abusers’ who use and produce raw milk? These [regulators] are so vicious about acting to protect us from ourselves.”

It might not be a comparison most people would make -- and he is working on a film about the topic -- but as the Wisconsin legislature considers expanding access, Californians could perhaps point out that where's there's a product, sellers, buyers and legal room to maneuver, access might be a matter of degree.

Here's a look at the supposed health benefits of raw milk.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Raw milk from Dungeness Valley Creamery is offered in Washington state, one of seven states allowing retail sales.

Credit:  Steve Ringman / AP / The Seattle Times