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June 09, 2006

A Naive Study

A Naive Study I spent the last few weeks poring over hundreds of clinical histories obtained from pot applicants during  the Spring of 2002; right about the time I was tumbling to an insight which was to gradually  escalate into an obsession: since nearly  all applicants I was seeing were already long term pot users,  perhaps their accumulated experiences would help define the phenomenon of large scale juvenile pot use which had so clearly developed de novo during my own lifetime. In any event, such a study might also shed light on another contentious issue: how should ‘medical’ use of cannabis be defined ?

I set out to develop an unbiased interview format as a research tool. The intrinsic logic of the situation made the proposed study seem such a no-brainer I was almost embarrassed it had taken me so long to come up with it. Little did I anticipate the mixture of disinterest and antipathy the study— and the data— would inspire. It’s now been four years; and even though a lot of data has been accumulated and some of it coherently presented to many people with an alleged professional interest in Medicine, Drug Policy— or both— ‘stubborn disinterest’ is the kindest way to characterize its reception. Significantly; except for a very few individuals, there’s been an almost universal tacit refusal to enter into detailed discussions.

What has changed significantlty–– and just recently–– is that enough of the mountain of accumulated data  has been processed in a brilliant  relational data base to repudiate federal cannabis (“marijuana”) policy as the fraud many have long suspected it was; but could never ‘prove.’  What is also surprising is that such an obvious fraud could have been so durable. In fact, the implcations of its durability for the cognitive processes by which  we dominate our planet may extend far beyond drug policy.

In a more restricted and practical vein, the detailed portrait of modern American pot use provided by the data base— whether it is immediately understood and accepted or not— should ultimately sound the death knell of the drug war that teen  pot use frightened RMN into declaring just over  37 years ago.

Since the details revealed by data base analysis which most apply to its eventual publication in ‘peer-reviewed’ medical literature are  technical  and statistical, I won’t disclose them here. However, I  believe  the extraordinarily destructive nature of our drug policy makes it reasonable to at least list the study’s major implications.

1) The US has been burdened by a deceptive policy of drug prohibition since 1914.

2) It was then, and contrinues to be, based almost entirely on fear of ‘addiction,’ an entity which although uncritically designated as a 'disease' by some and the focus of a putative medical specialty, still eludes coherent definition and cannot be diagnosed with precision.

3) Although outright cannabis prohibition was added to our oppressive 'control' of coca products and olpiates in 1937 for spurious reasons and with shockingly little discussion, it was retained under the omnibus controlled Substances Act (CSA) during the first Nixon Administration in 1970.  The law had been rewritten only because SCOTUS, in a trypically clueless drug policy ruling, had threatened  the legislative basis of  prohibition for reasons which were peripheral to its (probable) unconstitutional flaws.

5) The most important questions about the new phenomenon of widespread juvenile pot use, which should have quickly occurred to anyone professionally concerned with drug policy during the Seventies–– have never even been asked–– let alone answered:

Why did an agent ignored by the public for thirty years suddenly become so popular with youth— not only in America, but around the world?

Why has an inadequate and unpersuasive ‘gateway theory’ remained  both the major focus of cannabis 'research' by the Behavioral Sciences and the major reason touted by policy advocates for its continuing harsh prohibition?

Clearly, the sustained incremental growth of an illegal commodity market for cannabis is just one of many elephants in the drug policy living room; yet one is forced to wonder why such an obvious question was never asked. That’s especially true once one realizes that the mid-Sixties were when the first ‘Baby Boomers’ were sumultaneously coming of age and discovering pot.

That nearly all who became chronic users had first tried both alcohol and tobacco was interpreted by the first researchers ever to study adolescent pot use as evidence that it was a ‘gateway’ to ‘harder’ drugs. Other possible explanations, which might have been investigated then or later, have been largely ignored while ‘gateway’  has remained the major focus of Behavioral Science studies funded by NIDA  since its creation in 1975.

The original ‘sequence’ of initiations is no longer true and pot’s relationship to the other two agents is best explained by the realization that pot soon became the third entry-level drug tried by by anxious teens, along with alcohol amd tobacco. Although alcohol and tobacco are still not perceived or regulated as ‘drugs,’ and both are more dangerous to individuals and society, they remain legal and loosely regulated while mere possession of cannabis is rigorously punished. When it's realized that another finding was that nearly all chronic pot users reduce their use of both agents after settling on pot as their drug of choice, the perverse stupidity of the drug war comes into even sharper focus.

That’s all I have time for today; more later.

Posted by tjeffo at June 9, 2006 12:20 AM