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November 13, 2007

Generational Influences (Logical, Historical)

The first of three themes I’ve been emphasizing lately is that today’s illegal marijuana market really didn’t start growing until inhaled pot (“reefer”) was discovered by hippies in the mid Sixties. The second is that pot’s popularity with the  then-youthful counterculture was the inspiration for Nixon’x disastrous “war” on drugs. The third is that the repressive prosecution of that war over the past four decades was enabled by an invidious law, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. which was simply an amalgam of two failing and deceptive older pieces of legislation,the Harrison Act of 1914, and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.  The CSA completely neglected the woeful results of both while endorsing the already-discredited basic assumption they were based on: criminal prohibition is responsible public policy.

This entry will consider a somewhat different theme: that generation gaps, like the one between Nixon’s "silent majority”  and their less disciplined Democratic opponents, have always existed. Indeed, although it may now seem unlikely, today’s gap, which is deeper than ever, still has the potential to turn 2008 into “deja vu all over again.”

That "marijuana," an illegal drug, had so much appeal to the youthful counterculture in the  Sixties was the phenomenon turned it into such a troubling symbol for their parents and older Americans. In that context, it should be pointed out that both World War Two and Korea were fought by young Americans with similar values. Most WW2 veterans had been born in the Twenties. The Korean War, which began only 5 years after WW 2 ended, was fought by a mix of WW2 holdovers and draftees who were often their younger brothers, nephews and cousins. They  also rememberd the Great Depression and tended to share similar attitudes, beliefs, and drug preferences.

The situation was dramatically different when the Viet Nam War began heating up in the Sixties; a new crop of  American draftees was being threatened with combat in Asia. Almost exclusively baby boomers who had been born after 1945, and thus had become the nation’s first TV generation. They had also been raised in relative affluence during the Eisenhower Fifties. Data from Viet Nam vets who became career cannabis users suggests that those differences critically influenced not only their attitudes toward the draft and the Viet Nam war, but also reflected— and were influenced by— the availability of several new drugs during their adolescence. The prefrerences of those who became career pot smokers also usually included experimentation with newly christened “psychedelics,” most frequently peyote and/or LSD.

The next entry will deal with how drug war precepts have distorted the important lessons we might have been learning from less biased studies of drug use in contemporary society, rather than the highly restrictive “studies” allowed by a self protective policy committed to hiding its failures.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at November 13, 2007 07:55 PM