« More Bad News | Main | A Thriving Business »

July 13, 2008

The Importance of Context

Almost from the beginning, the study I’ve become so involved in has tended to isolate me because it was providing reliable information confirming a long-held suspicion that seemed to be shared by remarkably few people: despite its obvious failures, America’s drug war continued to receive undeserved respect and exerted far more influence on medical practice than it should have. As it progressed, the study also confirmed the absurdity of cannabis prohibition, clearly a key drug war element, one about which considerable doubt had already been expressed.

Important nuances apply to both areas: my judgment about prohibition laws had been mostly intuitive, requiring little specialized knowledge beyond an awareness that (alcohol) Prohibition in the Twenties and the earlier 18th Century attempt by China to ban importation of British opium had both failed for what appear to be very similar reasons, thus suggesting that any law seeking to thwart a popular illegal market may be doomed from the start.

On the other hand, the study demonstrating both the medical absurdity and adverse social consequences of cannabis prohibition, although requiring some clinical expertise, had been relatively straightforward and could have been done at any time without the oppressive restrictions created by the policy itself. What most clearly brought the integrity of both “reform” and the feds into question was their apparent blindness to a simple fact I know beyond question to be true: there had been no measurable youth market for pot from before 1937 to the mid Sixties. How do I know that? I was a sentient observer, having graduated from grammar school in ‘45, HS in ‘49, college in ‘53, and medical school in ‘57; I started drinking and smoking at age 13 in New York City. If pot had been around, I’d have found it

Before proceeding I should emphasize another key point, one already made at length, but important, nevertheless: precisely because the clinical information in my peer-reviewed report on pot use by applicants is unique, straightforward, internally consistent, and casts so much doubt on an already questionable policy, its summary rejection by the drug policy reform community requires explanation.

My best effort in that regard:  Humans were the first long-term survivors from what may have been several primate species with similar cognitive potential. As suggested earlier, we also seem to have been victimized by an evolutionary mismatch in which our language and rational centers remain subject to powerful influences from separately evolving, but more “primitive” emotional centers in the limbic system. That situation could easily have added erratic and combative emotional elements to the evolutionary imperative shared by all species to compete for food and habitat.

Our historically recent development of empirical science provided a more productive way of investigating our environment; nevertheless the implications of Science were opposed by religious leaders, even as it began enabling and sustaining the spectacular growth in human population of the last two centuries, thus intensifying humans' impact on the planet’s environment and ecology.

Ironically, those opposing Science on religious grounds are among the more prolific users and developers of the technology it generates. What all humans have been slow to appreciate has been the speed with which we have exploited our planetary environment and how rapidly the unanticipated consequences of that exploitation can occur. Global climate change may be but the first such example. Critical water and petroleum shortages are already looming.

In that context, the acceptance, by world leaders, of the egregious errors of cannabis prohibition, indeed all prohibition policy, can be seen as but one more manifestation of how deviously our species has been using its cognitive powers to cheat. Recognition of that reality may now be an index of our ability to survive for the simple reason that we are in a predicament entirely of our own making, one compounded by the intransigence of traditional religious thinking and its inhibitory effects on rational thought.

It’s well beyond time to admit that our Science- enabled population expansion, welcome at first for the increased wealth it produced, is now revealing the enormous dishonesty that’s been built into our complex global economy. That economy depends on trust; it’s being stressed as never before by accelerated climate change, a rapidly developing energy crisis, and our innate preference for denial over reality (to say nothing of long-standing conflicts that have been raging for years).

Are we up to the challenge of thinking and responding as a species? Perhaps more importantly, can our current leadership fend off chaos long enough for us to adapt to our new reality?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 13, 2008 02:11 AM