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September 13, 2009

Background of a Peer-Reviewed Study 2

The last entry described how I'd become involved in a continuing study of medical marijuana nearly eight years ago. I should emphasize that before I began interviewing applicants as required by California’s then five-year-old-law, I had little idea of what that review process would involve, let alone what it might reveal. I’ve since come to understand that going to High School in the Forties made me different from my "pot doc" colleagues. Although their defiance of the drug czar in the initiative's first year had been crucial to the eventual development of today's state-wide retail distribution network, their acceptance of chronic musculo-skeletal pain as the most common basis for "valid" use of cannabis had obscured pot's historically important anxiolytic function in assuaging the adolescent angst of baby boomers. That difference is perhaps best explained by our different focus: as boomers themselves, my younger colleagues were seeking reasons to justify their contemporaries' current pot use; as a cultural outsider, I was unwittingly trying to understand why the largest adolescent generation in American history had found a relatively unknown illegal drug so attractive.

The small gray market that developed slowly in the wake of Proposition 215 became a nucleus of clubs in the Bay Area and a few other locations; from late 2003 on, it entered a growth spurt that attracted attention from local governments, law enforcement, and the media. The Raich decision in June 2005 was soon followed by an increase in both federal raids and local prosecutions. Although intense police lobbying produced a temporary reduction in the number of "dispensaries," a second surge in the medical gray market produced the hundreds of retail outlets now operating in populated parts of the state and generating articles in influential publications that, for the first time, raise doubts about the long term future of America's huge drug war bureaucracy.

In other words, despite the drug war’s best efforts, the commercial success of California's admittedly flawed medical model is forcing many local police agencies to accept the law, albeit grudgingly; and a gray market that barely survived the first few years of Proposition 215 is now robust and continuing to grow, albeit erratically.

I'm often asked by applicants if I think pot will become legal soon. Because I know how deeply entrenched the drug war bureaucracy has become over the past four decades, and how reluctant all politicians will be to admit such a huge national mistake, I don't think the death of our drug policy will be quick or easy; let alone, pretty. However, two circumstances now encourage me to think it may be sooner than I would have guessed, even a few years ago. One is the almost total silence with which my paper has been received in the two years since publication.

The other is a set of documents I just became privy to. they reflect the extreme desperation of the drug war bureaucracy after thirteen years of quasi-legal "Medical Marijuana" in California.

The next entry will look at both as omens of an uncertain future.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 13, 2009 03:49 AM