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August 05, 2008

The Roots of Folly (Personal)

As busy members of an increasingly complex society, we are under growing pressure to concede expertise to those who claim it; particularly if they are certified as "specialists" and government exerts pressure on their behalf; however, there are several good reasons to be wary. Nazism, the Eighteenth Amendment, chattel slavery and the “Divine” Right of Kings are all relatively recent examples of policies now widely regarded as destructive follies that were once “official” and vigorously enforced (imposed) by government in "advanced" nations.

My own doubts about the wisdom of drug prohibition began in the early Seventies when some (rare) free time for browsing in local libraries was afforded by my sudden decision to leave military service for private practice. Over several months, I happened to read several then-recent books on drug policy without realizing that what prompted them was the drug-using counterculture that had blossomed while I was busy: either overseas or in residency training.

 Even so, the message I gleaned was very clear: criminal prohibition of drugs as public policy can be expected to fail. I soon became so immersed in becoming a surgical specialist in a competitive urban environment that I couldn’t return to reading about drug policy until unaccustomed spare time became a bonus of phased retirement. To my great surprise, little had changed in terms of the arguments for and against criminal prohibition, but the policy of "war" on drugs had become dominant. A combination of heightened curiosity and the perception of more spare time soon led me to the Ninth Annual DPF convention in Santa Monica and quick conversion to the cause of drug policy reform, a course that would soon do away with my “spare” time. As I’ve indicated elsewhere, my experience in the “movement” between late 1995 and late 2001 was an intense education in drug policy, the study I (unexpectedly) found myself engaged in from 2001 onward is different because it has allowed me to bring nearly fifty years of clinical experience to bear on what had long been a forbidden subject: the repetitive use of  illegal drugs by human subjects. 

Over the next several weeks, I hope to trace both the antecedents and recent history of America’s war on drugs, which I now regard as an enormous folly. Although a view now shared by many, but articulated by few, neither thought represents a new insight. What I do regard as new are certain insights afforded only by what California’s medical marijuana law has allowed: a clinical study of a human population the federal government has been treating as disposable for almost forty years: those who dare self medicate with cannabis (and other "drugs of abuse").

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 5, 2008 11:24 PM