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December 15, 2007

Components of the Emergent Pot Market 2 : patients

Note to chronic readers: this blog is, like everything else, evolving; hopefully in a useful direction. What I hope to do in the future is identify topics I’ve already written about with italics, which can then serve as search terms those interested in more detail.

California’s huge gray market for marijuana, like so many other phenomena dependent on our feckless drug war, is seen quite differently by different observers. In many respects, the old parable of the blind men and the elephant is the most apt description; unfortunately, the disability in this instance isn’t simple blindess.

Rather, it’s the bias that prevents most humans from recognizing or admitting that an earlier judgment, which may have built their reputation and rewarded them with wealth may have also been wrong. That’s especially true of the drug war, which began as a purely intellectual formulation, and has been failing for decades around the world, but is still staunchly defended by most authoritarians as essential public policy. In essence, the greater the error, the longer it has dominated human thought, and the more vigorously it has been defended, the more difficult it becomes to criticize consructively, let alone change.

In the case of the drug war, which, despite lacking either coherence or supporting evidence, has co-opted so many of our important institutions: criminal justice, health care, and  education, for starters; the problem is enormous— especially for those on the wrong side of conventional wisdom.

The backlash against the excesses of the youthfully idealistic “hippie" movement that seemed to spring up suddenly in the mid-Sixties was immediate and intense. Unfortunately; because the counterculture also reinforced the latent fear of youthful rebellion that exists just below the surface in many (perhaps all) societies, the backlash against it has also proved quite durable. As I’ve been emphasizing, the first white people to use pot in a way that attracted notice were members of the “Beat Generation” who were older than the baby boomers they influenced, and would provide the youthful counterculture with substance, purpose, and pot, which unquestionably became (one of) the psychotherapeutic agents that critically enhanced their behavior.

In many respects, the Sixties represented a perfect storm in which America’s largest-ever generation, through no fault of its own, become recipients of affluence and conveniences derived from winning World War Two without any real memory of the pain and sacrifice winning had required. In much the same way, most other nations going through the same war had experienced more pain over a longer interval and would thus be understandably ambivalent toward the lucky Americans who, because they had  suffered less, were in a position to bail them out with unprecedented largess in the post war period...and so oon.

Nevertheless, what the survivors of wars in Viet Nam and Iraq are learning in common, is that the stresses of war can produce an anxiety syndrome (PTSD) and that its symptoms yield to pot in many cases. It was essentially the same lesson that American High School kids have been learning since the early Seventies.

All of which brings me to the points I’d like to leave behind: over half of American adolescents have been trying pot since the late Sixties. A surprisingly large percentage have remained long term users for indefinitely long intervals. Such use isn’t “recreational” (do we risk arrest or career destruction for fun?) and it certainly isn’t addictive (pot smokers find it far easier to give up pot on short notice for cause than to ever quit cigarettes). The available evidence from California is that after 215 let the genie out of the bottle, our commercial natures have created market forces with the power to (perhaps) frustrate the enormous legal advantages of both the DEA and the local cops. Even if they succeed in their short term goal of driving distribution back to the street, the war on pot will never be the same.

Think of how much easier it might have been if Reform had just been able to abandon their misplaced commitment to the “sick and dying”  and see pot smokers as the symptomatic patients I have found them to be. It's another case for the coulda, shoulda, woulda file.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 15, 2007 09:05 PM