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January 08, 2007

Puzzles and Mysteries

Readers of this blog quickly learn that although I'm a supporter of medical pot on both clinical and political grounds, I have  problems with what I regard as the failure of drug policy reform to take full advantage of the opportunities Proposition 215 created ten years ago; in fact, I've gone so far as to accuse them of the same blind adherence to dogma that typifies their opponents in the DEA, ONDCP, and NIDA.

In essence, I have spent five years  attempting to solve several mysteries. Before identifying them, I should first call attention  to Malcom Gladwell's brilliant elucidation  of the differences between puzzles and mysteries in this week's New Yorker: he contends that the former are quite specific and can be solved by relatively small amounts of one-of-a-knd information; however, solution of the latter generally require a large number of accurately classified observations (data). Gladwell's example of a puzzle is the precise location of Osama bin Laden, which US intelligence has been unable to come up with for over five years. His example of a mystery is the collapse of Enron; he had been able to identify several astute observers who had been tracking (and profiting from) public information about the reckless business practices and worsening earnings of the energy giant for several months; even while the conventional wisdom of the market still considered it a stock to buy and hold,

The first important mystery to surface in my early experience with pot applicants was one that neither government prohibitionists nor drug policy reformers have ever shown any interest in: how did an herbal substance–– which has been a recognized  medicine from 1839 to 1937, and then been summarliy banned without generating much market interest –– suddenly become popular enough with the adolescents of the Sixties to provoke a newly-elected President Nixon into declaring a destructive  drug war ?  A closely related mystery was how that banned product has achieved its spectacular market success (it has been the most valuable cash crop in America for several years) despite a relentless propaganda campaign against it and a repressive enforcement policy that has generated three quarters of a million arrests annually; also for several years?

But the ultimate mystery I still had to solve was why neither prohibition nor reform have been at all interested in those mysteries, let alone in their solutions. As it turns out, the unbiased clinical examination of those Californians induced to apply to use pot medically, when compiled in enough detail, not only provides solutions, but also discloses some previously unsuspected destructive effects of our forty year drug war.

The major residual problem is the mistaken mind-set about pot use which  reform continues to share with the general public; thankfully, a just-published Op-Ed by 215's 1996 political managers, written to celebrate the Proposition's tenth anniversary, provides an opportunity to point out that mind set and show how it has worked against the initiative

It's an issue I promise to return to very soon...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at January 8, 2007 12:46 AM