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March 24, 2007

Another View on Dispensaries

The medical use of cannabis in California has intermittently received  attention from Bill O’Reilly, who may be the Right Wing’s most famous spinmeister, and was recently  moved to devote an entire column to the LA ‘dispensary’ situation.

True to form, Bill didn’t merely exaggerate a little— or even a lot; he just told over-the-top whoppers by claiming that 'thousands’ of pot ‘clinics’ have opened across the state,’and an increasing numbers of kids ‘are arriving at school stoned’ in San Diego;’ all because George Soros donated to Proposition 215 in 1996. Most interesting for me was his attempt to spin a recent rhetorical shift that admits sympathy for ‘valid’ medical users so as to call attention to the able bodied young ‘cheaters’ frequenting dispensaries.  He became so carried away on  that tack that one of his conclusions was, ‘Society needs to rethink its strategy on intoxicants in general. If marijuana can help those suffering with debilitating diseases, then doctors should have the power to prescribe it and licensed pharmacies should carry it.’

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what John Walters has in mind.

In any event, O’Reilly’s excesses on behalf of  a policy defended by NIDA ‘science’ are another reminder of the casual nature of the assumptions about ‘addiction’ our policy has always used to scare the public and Alan Leshner blamed on ‘drugs of abuse.’ Unfortunately,  like most other behavioral disorders, addiction is not characterized by any of the abnormal anatomical changes which allow pathologists to diagnose physical disease.

Whatever one might conclude about the difficulties implicit in classifying addiction, as a ‘disease,’ doesn’t excuse another conceptual absurdity: an ‘illness’ that prevents  its victims from  being examined clinically because they became either criminals or mentally impaired in the process of acquiring it. In essence, Proposition 215 altered that key drug war dynamic by allowing clinicians to grant pot applicants a kind of amnesty for past use of illegal agents, not only cannabis,  but any others they might choose to ask about. Unless patients can be reassured to that extent, one cannot place much confidence in any data their screening might have produced.

On the basis of hundreds of examinations of patients who received prior recommendations from other pot docs, I have great confidence in the unique quality of the information they provided me with. Inevitably, they hadn’t been asked in  detail about their past use of pot or of other drugs; usually, they had merely been expected to provide reasons justifying their current use. My data is also remarkably consistent and upon analysis, has great internal consistency.

The more one is able to compare NIDA rhetoric with the patterns of drug initiation and use reported in confidence by real people, the clearer it become that we have a drug policy based on myth which is not even remotely ‘scientific.’ Rather than reducing ‘drug abuse’ and ‘addiction,’our most urgent drug policy need is reducing the morbidity and mortality  produced by a drug policy that has evolved into an unscientific dogma-driven fraud as absurd as Bill O’Reilly.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 24, 2007 06:35 PM