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April 15, 2008

Lessons from State Court (Personal)

Although originally intended to better define “medical” use of cannabis, both the ad-hoc study of applicants I began in 2001 and the blog I started in 2005 to describe it have continued evolving as new information has been acquired. The first requirement of the study was deciding what questions to ask of those requesting medical status; the second was how best to record the data. The blog was motivated by the unexpected response to my attempt to share preliminary findings and solicit suggestions on two e-mail discussion lists (one state and one national) I’d become involved shortly after joining the drug policy “reform” movement in 1995. It was a shock to discover that many presumed colleagues held very different opinions. Some were militantly opposed to any discussion and let me know it either
publicly or in private; the majority just refused all attempts at discussion, a pattern of denial entirely consistent with the way pressing world problems like war in the Middle East and rapid climate change are (not) being dealt with at the moment.

 Meanwhile, my unique access to applicants (essentially granted patient status by the new law) was providing me with direct evidence that the opinions being aired on the lists were, to be charitable, simplistic and seriously mistaken. In a nutshell, patient histories were providing powerful evidence that American drug policy is not only as deeply rooted in error as most had suspected, but actually worse than realized. To a degree few had imagined, cannabis has remained popular because it’s been safe and effective self-medication for many of the conditions government sponsored research blames it for aggravating.

Such apparent heresy becomes understandable with the realization that  Psychiatry and Psychology have embraced a system of classification in which symptoms and behavioral tendencies are considered diseases and assumed to require specific treatment by one (or more) of the of the new psychotropic agents produced by an increasingly profitable Pharmaceutical Industry. One obvious result has been recent spectacular increases in the frequency with which various mood and behavioral “disorders” are being diagnosed.

Demographic information supplied by applicants also clearly shows that today’s huge illegal marijuana market began when the first Baby Boomers began trying pot in the early Sixties and has grown steadily ever since; primarily because each new cohort of  adolescents has been trying (initiating) marijuana in defiance of advice to the contrary from both the drug war bureaucracy and their ideological opponents in NORML.

That both the federal government and “reform” have continued to ignore data supplied by a population of illegal drug users is now abundantly clear. I certainly understand why the federal government is unlikely to call attention to a study that directly challenges key policy assumptions, but it strikes me as absurd is that NORML and other reform organizations still cling to notions of “recreational” use.

My courtroom experience last last week demonstrated the impact of that denial so vividly that over the next few days, I hope to illustrate its cost and suggest some practical steps to reverse the deteriorating legal situation that’s been developed in California since the Raich decision was handed down in June of 2005.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at April 15, 2008 02:57 PM