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June 29, 2008

Why this Blog? (an update from July 5, 2005)

Note: What follows is a rewrite of the July 5 2005 entry. It's intended to enhance the longitudinal quality implicit in any blog as a (unique) kind of accessible public journal.

This blog will focus on a conundrum that has developed since California passed its unique "medical marijuana" law (Prop 215) in 1996. Although in effect for over eight years, recent developments- including the execrable US Supreme Court, Raich "decision" and yet another overwhelming vote against a Congressional attempt to rein in the DEA, (the Hinchey Rohrabacher Amendment) demonstrate that the strategy of drug war opponents (using sympathy for medical use as a political tool) is still grossly unsuccessful at the federal level. In the past, that was arguably because supporters of the drug war had enjoyed such great success in preventing meaningful scrutiny of their policy; but an alarming new development,: rejection by the organized "drug reform" movement of credible evidence that federal policy has been both egregiously dishonest and indefensibly destructive, is now helping the feds avoid the kind of scrutiny needed to indict the drug war in the only court that matters: public opinion.

In that connection, it's important to realize that in 1969, newly elected President Nixon's "drug war" was a radical expansion of what had been a long-standing, but small and unimportant (in terms of the size of existing illegal markets), policy. Nixon's drug war, as implemented by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, represented a huge legislative expansion of what had really been a carefully protected sixty-five year policy failure. The CSA quickly allowed drug policy supporters at the federal level enhanced control of drug-related research while simultaneously allowing them to conduct a tax supported propaganda campaign on behalf of their version of the truth: Although ostensibly one of Public Health aimed at protecting careless teens from addiction, the policy had taken diagnostic and therapeutic decisions away from physicians through Supreme Court decisions upholding the Harrison Act of 1914, thus leaving future control of "addiction" to police, prosecutors, and judges for the indefinite future. Both that power and the false sense of control promised by federal policy were greatly increased by Nixon's dug war, as implemented by the CSA in 1970. What (finally) allows some contrary opinions in the ever-contentious drug policy arena is information gathered from thousands of California pot smokers in compliance with Proposition 215. The new law relied on licensed physicians to evaluate those requesting a patient designation; the feds literally created cannabis evaluations as a (suspect) new specialty by immediately threatening any doctor trying to do so. Subsequent developments seriously impeded the ability of applicants to access compliant physicians while also reducing the willingness of both groups to publicly acknowledge such encounters; let alone reveal whatever personal information had been either sought or disclosed.

To cut to the chase; by late 2001, conditions in the Bay Area had devolved in such a way that it was obvious to me that most of the applicants trying to convince me they were "legitimate" pot users were claiming some form of chronic pain relief because they thought it would be their best tactic. They simply hadn't known (as I hadn't) how receptive I'd be to data suggesting that the same emotional symptoms that had made anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, and anti-depressants Big Pharma's most lucrative products had also inspired the modern pot market .

In other words, what I intuited from those early patient encounters was that inhaled pot had long been treating emotional symptoms more safely and effectively than Prozac, Paxil, Ritalin, or Adderall when those agents first came on the market. Analysis of patient responses, still incomplete, has now progressed to a point where it allows some very pejorative conclusions about pot prohibition itself and also casts serious doubt on any substance prohibition as responsible public policy.

A report, written in December, 2004 for the Winter/Spring 2005 O'Shaughnessy's, is still accurate. It was updated by "peer reviewed" publication of similar data from over 4000 applicants in 2007. What is even more recent is my evolving understanding of the rejection with which "reformers" greeted both articles. While not exactly positive, that experience was has proven as important as the data itself for the implications it allows; not only as to why drug policy evolved into a public policy monster, but also why our species may now be poised on the edge of an abyss of it own making.

I hope to continue commenting frankly on why I believe current observations should impact drug policy politics, and will not be shy in identifying both opposing opinions and those venturing them. However, I will try to deal only with the opinions themselves, and then only in settings where authorship is unmistakable.

Readers who disagree are, of course, free to e-mail me. If enough interest develops , a public forum might result.

Doctor Tom tjeffo@comcast.net

Posted by tjeffo at June 29, 2008 07:59 PM