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May 13, 2009

The Human Paradox

Some have called the human brain the most complicated device in the universe; so long as we remain the only species with our degree of cognition, that judgment can’t be challenged; however it doesn’t answer the troubling question at the heart of humanity’s most mportant dilemmas: are we in more trouble from our incompetence or from our dishonesty?

In late 1995, I became intrigued by the drug war as a prime example of a failing policy. A little over seven years later, that same interest, together with my medical training, provided me with an unexpected opportunity to study the drug war’s relentless campaign against cannabis from a unique perspective. I soon discovered that, like all other unresolved scientific issues, it was much more complex than it appeared from the outside; also the more questions one answers, the more it’s necessary to ask.

Not all is frustration, however. Such efforts do hold the implied promise that since all our behavior depends on our complex brains, understanding ourselves might allow us to avert, or at least mitigate, the looming disaster of climate change, and associated shortages of food, water, and energy.

As it happens, there are useful parallels between the drug war and another fraud in the news: that of Bernard Madoff’s breath-taking Ponzi scheme, which like marijuana prohibition, had been undermining a host of worthwhile institutions and claiming countless innocent victims for about the same interval, while also receiving undeserved respect from the very agencies that claim to protect Society’s vital interests.

In the Madoff case, Frontline has assembled an impressive indictment of the SEC and Madoff associates hinting at several prosecutions to come. The most compelling evidence turns out to be the pathetic statements of participants unwise enough to explain their behavior on camera. One does not have to be a sophisticated investor or an economic pundit to realize how much Madoff’s cronies had looked the other way while lining their own pockets; especially after specific charges brought by Harry Markopolos and Frank Casey were first aired over ten years ago.

The situation with the drug war and the federal agencies created to prosecute and defend it is even worse. Both the DEA and NIDA are still carrying on a tax supported campaign that trashes the canons of Science while attempting to protect a policy widely known for its grotesque failures.

But help may be closer than we think, and in a form that has yet to be widely considered: just as the realities of the Great Depression finally made all thought of suppressing America’s thirst for alcohol easy to brush aside in 1933, so may the realities of today’s economic collapse allow us to finally recognize the greater psychotropic benefits of pot over alcohol and tobacco.

One can always hope.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 13, 2009 06:25 PM