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June 27, 2007

Rehnquist Remembered; an exercise in revision

When I first started blogging, I was quite unfamiliar with the technique and also intrigued by its implicit potential for correcting errors at some future time. Although now reasonably satisfied that current efforts are both acceptably typo-free and reflect my thoughts with reasonable accuracy, I still cringe at some early efforts. One in particular, was so ineptly written and riddled with typos that yesterday I decided to try my first revision; however, after tackling details, I realized that a simple deletion and replacement would be intellectually dishonest, and thus decided to leave the original as is and post the revision as a current item. That decision became even easier when I saw the news of this week’s Bong Hits for Jesus ruling, one I also plan to discuss.

First the Revision:
While Jack Shafer's revelation in Slate (September 20 2005) of the late Chief Justice’s
lengthy abuse of a prescribed “sleep aid” caught me by surprise, his observation that it had not been fully addressed by his colleagues in the media did not. In fact, I  predicted that Shafer's detailed parsing of Rehnquist's Placydil habit would probably provoke as little interest from his colleagues as they’d shown for similar weaknesses in other prominent conservatives: Nixon's boozing, Bennett's serial obsessions with nicotine, food, and high stakes gambling, and the prodigious appetite Limbaugh had developed for a prescription opioid.

What such media disinterest (still) demonstrates to me is the staggering amount of hypocrisy and/or self-deception required to shore up the credibility of a destructive drug policy which has done nothing but fail. Although Shafer himself clearly wouldn’t agree, I see the continued endorsement of that policy by both major political parties as a national disgrace.

Nor have its well-documented failures ever provoked honest interest from the lofty institutions allegedly devoted to policy analysis. Although its deceptive nature was implicit in its 1914 debut as an improbable tax law, the 1914 Harrison Act was endorsed by a medically ignorant Supreme Court and thus thoughtlessly converted into criminal prohibition in the process. It should certainly have been re-examined following Repeal of The Eighteenth Amendment in 1933; yet it continued to be accepted without question until another Supreme Court decision in 1969 threatened its even more artless 1937 clone, the Marijuana Tax Act.

The first Nixon Administration then used that threat to the constitutional basis of the MTA to assert an entirely new and far more sweeping prohibition mandate when it pushed through the  Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Just as with Harrison, the spurious rationale for the CSA continued to be fear of “addiction,” a condition which has, nonetheless, remained bereft of unbiased clinical study since 1914.  

However, the CSA went much further than Harrison: it provided the Attorney General, an authority unlikely to ever have medical, or even scientific training, sole authority for assigning suspected addictive agents to Schedule One,  which is tantamount to making them absolutely illegal for anyone but sworn law enforcement officers to handle or possess. Although an administrative law process was created for internal review of scheduling decisions, the prompt rejection of Judge Francis young’s 1988 decision, together with DEA’s protracted delays of renewed efforts to reschedule marijuana, serve as convincing evidence that, absent public or Congressional outrage, the rescheduling of any agent the DEA doesn’t want rescheduled will be impossible.

The ease with which the makers of Marinol were able get their product rescheduled from schedule two in 2000, apparently just to facilitate its sales, simply stands as further evidence of how dishonestly any law can be administered by a hostile bureaucracy.

The truth no one seems willing to admit is that our drug policy has become a federal lobbying effort on behalf of thriving criminal markets which, in addition to enormous profits, also generate a host of collateral benefits that a wide variety of society’s most important institutions  have become very used to over the years; one might even say they are addicted.

As we know only too well, whether one thinks of addiction as a disease or a behavior, the first step in overcoming it is getting past the denial that it even exists...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 27, 2007 02:44 PM