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September 06, 2009

Background of a Peer-Reviewed Study

After I began screening pot smokers at an Oakland “buyers’ club” in November 2001, it took several months for me to understand that Proposition 215 had created a unique opportunity for studying pot use. By then, it was April, 2002, and I was briefly embarrassed that it had taken me so long to “get it.” May and June were spent deciding which areas of personal history to focus on and what questions to ask about them. It was a busy time because I’d also started seeing patients at 2 other Bay Area locations on alternate Thursdays. Once I started organizing the data in early 2003, I quickly understood that a database would be needed and population demographics might be important.

Also in 2003, I began informally discussing my findings with reformers in two e-mail discussion forums I’d participated in for years, and subtle, but unmistakable signs told me that a significant fraction were upset by what they were reading. But it wasn’t until May '04, when I reported on 620 consecutive patients to a reform audience in Virginia that I discovered that at least a few reformers were dismissing my applicants as mere “recreational” users and their body language confirmed that the mild hostility I’d sensed from the e-mail discussion groups had been real, but- significantly- at no point was my data ever challenged, and all attempts to seek out specific objections to its accuracy failed .

Two new developments dominated the news in California after my return from Virginia: the Oakland City Council had gone ahead with its plans to restrict business licenses for pot clubs, and police agencies around the state had begun urging their local governments to restrict or deny them completely. Soon the Oakland club where I’d been working had lost its license and consequently had to renege on its offer of space in their San Francisco branch. I was suddenly without a practice location and office help, but Dustin Costa, a former patient, who was out on bail after being arrested for growing, and was starting to organize the Merced Patient Group as part of his defense, invited me to interview its applicants. That was helping to sustain my practice in June, 2005, when the Raich verdict suddenly changed California’s political climate once again.

For Dustin, the cost of Raich was enormous; in August he was summarily re-arrested on a federal warrant by a posse of California police officers brandishing guns and then taken to the Fresno County jail, where he was held without bond for 15 months. In November, 2006, he was convicted by a federal jury that was kept from hearing any relevant testimony; next, in February, 2007, he was sentenced to fifteen years and packed off to to serve his time in a prison in the Texas Panhandle.

My personal experiences with his ordeal, plus the crudely dishonest federal efforts to subvert Proposition 215, have convinced me that American drug policy is even more cruel, unjust, and stupid than I had imagined or (like most people) want to believe. Thus the reasons why such a travesty is still the world’s drug policy by UN Treaty should be a far more urgent item of interest to our species then is now the case.

In a nutshell, that’s also why I now see denial as the greatest threat to humanity's well being.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 6, 2009 07:17 AM