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May 28, 2008

Neuroscience, Cognition and Extinction 2

The last entry touched on relationships between the brain and how we think and behave. It also ventured a quick overview of cognition and ended with the hint that man’s unquestioning embrace of empirical science and his exploitation of the technology it has generated may have may been, at best, a mixed blessing because scientific advances have served to exacerbate two of the modern world’s most pressing problems: overpopulation and pollution. Although those admittedly controversial opinions may not be shared by many, they can be logically (and readily) inferred from the unique study of pot smokers I’ve been engaged in screening since late 2001 and blogging about since the Spring of 2005.

Ironically, much of my confidence in the study’s reliability is based on the fact that when it began, I was in complete agreement with many of the misconceptions now being parroted by media and public officials throughout California; namely that “valid” medical use undoubtedly exists, but there is still too much “recreational” use and we must rely on police to control it, especially in the case of “kids” (adolescents).

Using the 1988 ruling of Judge Francis Young (promptly overruled by his DEA administrative superiors) as a starting point, those arguments date from the rescheduling petition filed by NORML in June, 1986 and argued before Young for two years before his enlightened decision was rendered. My study suggests that not only was Young correct, but also  prescient. That he could have been so promptly overruled by his DEA superiors and his findings so quickly forgotten by the public points up a critical weakness in our system of government.

What (gradually) became even more of a surprise than the study’s findings, was their apparent failure to attract  attention from the two groups with most at stake. The first is the federal government, which has been spending billions of tax dollars each year in a failing effort to discourage adolescents from trying pot, as well as to paper over multiple other drug war failures. In the other camp are several drug policy “reform” organizations (a majority of whose
memers smoke pot) united in their outrage at the drug war, plus the fact that, thus far, they have been unable to mobilize public opinion against it.

The opportunity to do a systematic study of a controversial behavior had been a no-brainer when I discovered that every Californian seeking my approval to use “Marijuana” in 2001 was already a chronic user; especially after further questioning revealed they
shared several other characteristics. I eventually had the study published, but while writing it up, I encountered such an intense negative response from some former colleagues that I was eventually moved to find out why. This blog reflects how that effort has led me even further afield, into the exotic territory of consciousness, cognition, and cosmology. In any event, the availability of behavioral information that had been taboo for over forty years at a time when search engines are becoming more powerful by the week and the databases they  search are expanding at an equivalent rate, may have made this the best time ever for such an exploration.

Two of study's clearest inferences are that our emotions, which clearly exert a powerful influence on behavior throughout our lives, appear to be decisively shaped by childhood experiences in many instances. That alone would explain federal indifference: why
would the guardians of a failing policy publicize a study they can't rebut by attacking it?  At the same time, the hostile indifference of reform is best understood by the fact that NORML has never claimed its members use pot to cope with anxiety; only because it's innocent fun.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 28, 2008 12:47 AM