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February 14, 2008

Generational Issues (Historical)

2008 promises to be an unusual election year; November will mark the twelfth anniversary of California’s 1996 medical marijuana initiative and may be the most important one yet.  I’ve recently become a much
harsher critics of the drug war, a transition that didn’t start until I began taking histories from California pot applicants in November 2001.

Before that, my rhetoric had been similar to that of other full time activists. I now realize that’s because I was one of the few pot docs able to remember the Forties, I had thus been naive enough to see the required screening of applicants as a chance to study pot smoking as a behavior and also soon discovered that, far from harmful (sinful/illegal) behavior, as the feds have always insisted, it’s a safe and helpful form of psychotropic self-medication that's long been competing successfully with alcohol, tobacco and the various psychotropic pharmaceuticals introduced since the Sixties. In fact, most users who discovered its more politically correct physical benefits had done so precisely because they were already using it for emotional symptoms.

In that respect, the discovery was similar to many others in science, in which new data challenges “conventional wisdom.” The main difference with respect to pot was that the conventional wisdom had been a lie enforced by fear of harsh punishments demanded from our highest levels of government since 1937; certainly not circumstances inspiring confidence in American Democracy.

In retrospect, the drug policy that began under the Harrrison Act of 1914; although quite dishonest in its origins and protected against scrutiny for decades, had exerted comparatively little impact before a "drug war" became policy; mostly because the illegal markets it enabled before the Sixties remained comparatively small until the profound economic, technologic, and political changes that followed World war Two.

Also in retrospect, the drug war declared by Richard Nixon in 1969 had also been delayed until new psychotropic agents appeared after the war and the Baby Boomers conceived in the wake of VJ Day were old enough to become the explosive Counterculture that scared a Silent Majority into electing Richard Nixon in 1968.

That Counterculture's drugs of choice, pot and psychedelics, became prime targets of the early drug war and  suppression of the illegal pot market, which gradually became the Developed World’s most successful,  also began generating the most felony arrests.

Finally; one of the more intriguing aspects of this year’s Presidential election is that it's now a three way race between a Nixon contemporary who  thinks we should have won in Viet Nam, a prototypical Baby Boomer who opposed that war, and a (genuine) African-American who may become the first post-Boomer in the Oval Office because he was one of the few Senators to vote against a war in Iraq.

Typically, not one candidate has had to say anything substantive about the drug war because, tragically, they haven't been asked about it.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 14, 2008 07:21 PM