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February 10, 2009

Federal Trials, Reform Tribulations, and the Questions they (should) raise

The last entry ended with a comparison of two federal prosecutions in California for growing medical marijuana and suggested they had been so egregiously unfair they could pose a threat to the Controlled Substances Act itself. However, that will only happen in the unlikely event their troubling details become known and understood by the voting public; if not, they will probably do little to change a destructive failing policy that has been successfully sold as necessary to Americans since 1970.

In essence, the CSA had been hastily devised by the Nixon Administration to replace a deceptive drug prohibition policy that had been threatened when the Supreme Court overturned one of its two key pieces of legislation on Fifth Amendment grounds. The replacement legislation was a sweeping rewrite of both the Harrison Act of 1914 and the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. It addressed the constitutional issue by simply asserting a completely different (and equally questionable) basis for intruding into Medical practice; nor did it revise outdated and highly questionable assumptions about pharmacology and addiction made by by the two original laws. Nevertheless, the new hybrid was soon generating thousands of marijuana arrests and the policy itself soon became known as a “Drug War.” In other words, one of the first questions that should be raised about the CSA is how such a slapdash, uninformed policy come to be accepted as reasonable; not only in America, but around the world.

Since the mid Seventies, domestic American drug policy enforcement has been dominated by the size of the illegal market for marijuana, a drug not widely used until large numbers of young Americans discovered it in the mid-Sixties, shortly before Nixon’s election. Pot soon proved such a hit with Baby Boomers it had already been established as the nation’s most popular illegal drug; even before the first Monitoring the Future (MTF) study appeared in 1975.

Although the reasons for its sudden surge in popularity have never interested Academia, that same popularity has been enhancing the budgets and political power of a variety of police agencies ever since. In fact, it was the alarming rise in pot busts following passage of the CSA that had inspired a young lawyer named Keith Stroup to found NORML.

Thus did early pressure for rescheduling marijuana (as permitted by the CSA) automatically convert a provision of Nixon’s policy –– that the only person authorized to determine which drugs are prohibited (listed on Schedule One) is the US Attorney General–– into a non-negotiable article of faith for the entire federal government. The Drug policy Reform movement’s continuing failure to grasp that reality is underscored by their recent pursuit of a strategy that failed in the mid-Eighties when an Administrative law judge working for the DEA was summarily reversed by the Agency Director a few month later.

That brings up the next logical question: what could have induced the leading strategists of the medical marijuana "movement" to believe a political adversary as manifestly dishonest and committed to marijuana prohibition as the DEA would behave any differently in 2008 than they had in 1988?

The collateral question is: are these clowns ever going going to wake up?

In the next entry I plan to ask similarly embarrassing questions of the reform movement's legal brain trust.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 10, 2009 10:55 PM