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December 20, 2008

An Untold American Success Story; Part 1


Cannabis, an herbal remedy with a long history of medical use in Asia, was vilified as "marihuana," and outlawed by act of Congress at the behest of a medically ignorant bureaucrat in 1937. Thirty years later, it suddenly emerged as the favorite drug of the largest and most rebellious generation in American History.

Twelve years ago, voters in California defied the unanimous urgings of their federal representatives by voting to allow a limited (but vaguely defined) trial of "marijuana" as medicine. Several rulings by both federal and state Supreme Courts have done little to resolve the controversy while a "gray" medical market has gradually emerged to take its place alongside a still-flourishing black market of unknown size.

For the past three years, it has been been my contention that systematic clinical interviews of chronic users who were motivated to apply for a medical designation have revealed hitherto unknown insights into both the medical benefits of cannabis and, increasingly, into several little-appreciated characteristics of human behavior.

The following is a rough draft of what is planned as a published article that will address the most important and easily demonstrated revelations of my ongoing seven-year study, together with the reasons behind pot's success with the counterculture that emerged in the Sixties. Finally; I hope to comment on why I think we humans find it so difficult to face certain issues.

In 1937, the US Congress was persuaded to pass a transfer tax on hemp on the basis of claims that adolescents became prone to fits of homicidal rage after smoking “marihuana." No credible supporting documentation was presented (then or ever). Nor were there any estimates of "marihuana" production or its market dynamics.

Nevertheless, a deceptive tax on "marihuana" that effectively punished all production and use of hemp with harsh criminal penalties was introduced, passed by voice vote with minimal discussion, and signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt later that year.

Over the next few years, there was little mention of either “marihuana” or "marijuana" by the media. Shortly after World War Two began, the federal government was forced to initiate a “hemp for victory” program to compensate for the loss of imported fiber needed for the war effort.

Other than widely reported celebrity arrests (Gene Krupa in 1943 and Robert Mitchum in 1948) the Forties and Fifties passed with little mention of pot, except in connection with a small, disaffected coterie of "Beat" authors that attracted attention for their rejection of corporate American values, primarily in New York and San Francisco.

In fact, it wasn’t until baby boomers, born in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, began coming of age in the mid-to-late Sixties that a surge in pot arrests occurred.

I can validate the absence of a pot market accessible to youth from the time of the MTA on from personal experience; starting with my arrival at a boarding school in New York City in 1945 at age 13 and extending for 19 years through undergraduate education at Cornell, medical school back in New York, internship in San Francisco, military service in El Paso and an Army Hospital in Tokyo, Japan. During that interval, “marijuana” was literally invisible to me: never seen nor smelled, (not that I would have recognized it) and certainly never tried.

That wasn't because I was averse to trying, or using, drugs. Indeed, I'd tried both alcohol and tobacco in my first two months of boarding school and was still using both when I arrived in Japan. In fact, the discovery, from my early questioning of pot applicants, that nearly all tried both at around the time they were also trying pot, is what made me realize that had pot been available when I was in high school, I'd have probably been a pot smoker myself and my whole life would thus have been very different.

In other words, the drugs "kids" find most readily available (and easiest to try) from about the age of twelve on have important impacts on both their own lives and the societies they will join as adults.

That's why profoundly mistaken, yet untested, assumptions about drug initiation, use, and "addiction" made over the past four decades by policy makers are having such far-reaching and destructive effects on our troubled planet.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 20, 2008 09:40 PM