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August 27, 2006

Craven Fear of an Absurd Policy

In 1937, at a time when modern Pharmacology was still in its infancy, Congress- acting after less than two days of sketchy hearings- passed the Marijuana Tax Act by voice vote. It was a ridiculous piece of legislation that went nearly unnoticed at the time and then remained obscure for nearly thirty years. It wasn't until aggressive use of cannabis ("marijuana") by  'Baby Boomers' defiantly protesting the Viet Nam War prompted  newly-elected President Richard Nixon to declare a second 'war' on drugs that growth of the present market became sustained. His sudden new expansion of an old policy coincided with several other developments in addition: the emergence of a series of robust international criminal industries for cocaine, heroin, and sundry other agents like the psychedelics, meth, crack, and a variety of 'club' drugs, each with its own market, and all collectively impacting domestic and global policies.

Considering only their domestic  repercussions, criminal drug industries have provoked huge federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts to suppress them. For nearly four decades the support  lavished on the  drug war by both political parties, all sitting presidents, and every federal agency has been literally  unprecedented .  Both the budget and influence of the two brand new agencies (DEA and NIDA),  created to fight the drug war have grown progressively; even as the Justice Department was devoting an ever larger fraction of its resources to drug prosecutions and the Federal Bureau of Prisons was expanding to house over 190, 000 inmates; over half of whom (54%) are serving time for drug offenses. The record federal expansion has been accompanied by a four-fold increase in state and local prisoners, giving the US the dubious honor of becoming the worlds' leading jailer, a lead we increase every month.

Yet the elephant in the national living room is that our lavishly supported drug policy has never even met its own goals. The 'zero tolerance'  and 'drug free America' slogans of the Eighties were quietly dropped in the Nineties for a more modest fifty percent reduction in 'drug use' within a specified interval; only to see the interval extended as it became clear the original reduction wouldn't be achieved. Current emphasis has shifted to 'drug free' workplaces and schools through use of yet another unproven strategy: aggressive random drug testing.

Interestingly, that's a development which serves mainly to highlight another weakness in a woeful policy: urine testing is best for detecting marijuana.  Just as the drug war was originally impelled by youthful use of cannabis, its failure has always been underscored by pot's continued popularity with adolescents; that many have remained chronic users is supported by the steadily increasing number of annual arrests and  the relentless increase in seizures at our borders; to say nothing of the numbers of plants being cultivated  by amateur growers in the nation's back yards, basements, garages and closets. Then, there's the recent discovery of enormous 'grows' in our national forests being being tended by Mexican aliens, clearly to circumvent both border interception and land forfeiture.

All the above suggests that Congress has been enhancing punishments for marijuana out of sheer frustration; yet 'pot' arrests are still treated by the media as opportunities for word play and stale Cheech and Chong humor. Along with the stubborn denial of policy failure at the federal level,  is the craven failure of non-government institutions to come to grips with the enormous and indefensible injustice represented by four decades of "marijuana" prohibition, a policy which, even as this is written, is being enforced more aggressively than ever against 'medical' users in California. Nor are our scientific organizations willing to criticize the obvious abrogation scientific principle by government agencies in defending it. That news organizations were out in front of 'science' in parsing the FDA's absurd April 20 communique on smoking pot is a telling case in point. Most outrageous of all, at least to this writer, is that the campaign against medical use in California is receiving passive assistance from the self-appointed medical marijuana advocates who claim to speak for 'patients' and yet have completely failed to take advantage of the opportunity Proposition 215 provided for studying them.

I have now been systematically interviewing chronic pot users for nearly five years. What they have told me convinces me beyond any  doubt that NORML, ASA, MPP, and other medical marijuana supporters are nearly as clueless as the feds; and equally susceptible to  doctrinaire thinking when it comes to adolescent drug initiation and usage.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 27, 2006 01:35 AM