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June 19, 2006


Set Up Although the word has never been officially  applied to drugs, US federal drug policy began evolving into prohibition ninety-two years ago when agents of the Treasury 'tax unit' created by the Harrison Act started arresting doctors complying with the new law because they were prescribing for 'addicts'. That 'unit'  eventually became the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) under Harry Anslinger  in 1930. In 1937,long after the Holmes-Brandeis Court had ruled  'addiction' to be a medical menace best dealt with by rigid federal control of all prescriptions for opiates and coca products, Anslinger used the same fear-based tax ploy to gain control over all products of the hemp plant. A critical difference was that while Harrison  allowed some medical use of opiates and cocaine under strict control, similar allowances were not made for cannabis by the MTA. Anslinger was a thuggish bureaucrat whose great skill was protecting FBN turf; his technique was simple: use arrogated authority over all things 'narcotic' to block unbiased studies of 'addiction.'

The emergence, several years after his sudden departure from FBN, of pot-smoking hippie demonstrators  experimenting with a melange of new 'psychedelics' while  urging both radical social change and an end to the Viet Nam war gave Richard Nixon one of the major items on his 1968 wish  list:  a federal police agency he could control. Although Watergate ultimately frustrated him, the DEA and NIDA--  both outgrowths of his sweeping 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA)–– became important to Ronald Reagan's first-term decision to intensify Nixon's drug war. Since then, the DEA has retained Anslinger's authoritative role as the major 'official' source of drug information, while NIDA has become sponsor of 85% of academic studies of 'drugs of abuse' and thus able to skew both their design and interpretation in support of our never-admitted policy of prohibition.

We now have an utterly dishonest  'control' policy which three quarters of the general public see as a failure beyond fixing; yet  federal bureaucrats are free to spend billions boosting as successful. Beyond that, our powerless 'drug czar,' is merely a purveyor of propaganda fashioned from selected  data supplied by a self-interested federal police agency and augmented by 'research' sponsored by another  'scientific' agency created to study a 'disease' (drug abuse) for which objective diagnostic criteria are lacking and total abstinence  has been decreed the only acceptable goal of treatment. Among the few reliable statistics allowing a peek at what four decades of such insanity have actually accomplished: over two million prisoners in our jails and prisons, the arrest of over three quarters of a million people each year for cannabis violations, and several thriving illegal drug markets which can't be precisely measured by standard econometric techniques–– precisely because they are  illegal.

This rant is intended as background for the deconstruction of a recent Op-ed by Professor Mark Kleiman, who has made a comfortable living and achieved a considerable academic success by teaching drug policy 'analysis,' most recently at UCLA.
Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 19, 2006 06:21 PM