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November 29, 2009

Improbable Changes, Grim Prognoses

From its beginning in 2005, this blog has been focused on various aspects of “medical marijuana” as a political campaign against America’s war on drugs. The relatively small, disputed, gray market that began evolving in scattered parts of California after 1997 had just sustained what many saw as a crippling blow in June: the US Supreme Court ruled against it in a decision that effectively allowed Californians to be prosecuted in federal court for following a state law both state and federal Supreme Courts had upheld; local California police were lobbying vigorously against business licenses for new cannabis retail outlets, and also cooperating in a spate of DEA raids.

Improbably, just over four-and-a-half years later, the disputed medical gray market has become a thriving multi-billion dollar industry, not only in California, but in a growing number of other states. One medical organization after another has expressed, albeit timidly, support for the concept of medical use. Although the DEA and NIDA retain their Congressional backing and state law enforcement agencies still openly support the drug war as policy, funding for its principle weapons: arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, is increasingly limited by a sinking economy.

For the first time ever, it appears that pot’s days on Schedule One may actually be numbered, although in ways that hadn’t been predicted. Indeed, given the parallel incongruity of drug war developments with pressing global events, the most important question may be whether that happens before a nuclear strike by a rogue nation, the first unequivocal evidence of coastal inundation, or planetary shortages of oil, water, and food.

Their common denominator is human error; the burning question may now be one of the time remaining for their correction.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2009

A Blast from the Past

It’s been over five years since I analyzed data from about 625 selected cannabis applicants for presentation at a national conference of Medical Marijuana “reformers” in Virginia. Although the total applicant population has since become a registry of nearly fifty-five hundred individuals and much detail has been added, the general findings exhibited by that first group have remained remarkably consistent. I recently came across a column by Fred Gardner published just before that conference, which I also remember clearly because it was there that I received the first unmistakable signals of displeasure from presumed colleagues; for reasons they are still reluctant to discuss and I no longer bother to ask about.

Fred's column isn’t very long; slightly over 1000 words and just a click away. Because findings related to the role played by biologic fathers have also stood up remarkably well and weren’t emphasized in the subsequent peer-reviewed report, I’m pasting the relevant text here. It suggests that, even in their physical absence, the very idea of the biologic father is important to the emotional well being of their progeny; also that their physical presence may be far from benign.

Finally; more recent analysis, facilitated by the larger population and its enhanced comparison of birth cohorts, could, when published, eventually bring about the demise of the invidious "Gateway Theory."

"Looking for environmental factors that might explain such high rates of illicit drug use, I began taking increasingly detailed family histories. It soon emerged that there was a common pattern: the biologic father had not played a positive, supportive role in their lives between pre-school and the sixth grade — roughly ages four through 12.

The most common reasons were:

— an unknown father

— early (before 7) death or divorce

— an alcoholic/workaholic father

— a stern, punitive father.

There are other, less common scenarios involving an invalid or an elderly father, or a recent immigrant who cannot communicate in English.

Many of my patients reported early self-esteem problems which were made worse by the following: — any learning or reading disability

— being in a racial minority

— being teased ( for any reason)

— frequent moves and attendant school changes.

Quite a few of the younger ones were evaluated for/identified with ADD; many of the older ones would probably have qualified. The bottom line is that most of the people who use cannabis regularly and were forced to come to buyers' clubs for their "recommendations" — either because they don't have a doctor, or their own doctor wouldn't discuss it with them — were/are using seeking to control an emotional "disorder" rooted in low self-esteem.

Cannabis was clearly only one of several agents they'd tried — along with alcohol and tobacco. Any of these agents may be able to control the underlying emotional disorder for a while, but pot is — for them, at least — the safest and least harmful, especially over the long haul. "Initiating" heroin seems an unquestionable indicator that the underlying emotional disturbance is severe. Those who tried heroin also tried cocaine and mushrooms at rates over 90%, and had the highest rates of problem drinking... There's some preliminary data that access to cannabis predisposes against addiction to heroin. It appears that most adolescent drug use may be motivated by the same basic causative factor: low self-esteem in its many guises."

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2009

The “Pot Doc” as (New) Medical Specialist

Although now nearly forgotten, both California and Arizona passed “Medical Marijuana” initiatives in 1996. Unfortunately, Arizona’s was nullified on a technicality that had been avoided when California’s authors referred to physician approval as a “recommendation,” while Arizona’s Proposition 200 carelessly used “prescription.” Because prescribing a federally illegal drug is a legal no-no, Arizona has been without a medical marijuana law for thirteen years, while its neighbors in Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico were busy passing more acceptable versions.

On December 30, 1996, two days before California’s new law was to go into effect, Clinton’s drug czar, went on national TV to threaten the license of any California doctor daring to even discuss use of cannabis with a patient, a bureaucratic arrogation of power that was soon blocked by a Ninth Circuit injunction, thus granting Proposition 215 a two year reprieve.

What McCaffrey’s threat did do was guarantee that physicians without their own personal reasons for favoring cannabis as a therapeutic agent would be discouraged from signing pot recommendations; except perhaps for very special patients. It probably also served to discourage all but the most desperate patients from seeking them. Remember that the initiative effectively required all participants to start from scratch in the face of what quickly turned out to be hostile police scrutiny in most parts of the state.

Because I hadn’t been a “head” myself before learning to despise the drug war as policy, I was blissfully unaware of those details when I was recruited by an Oakland club owner seeking a physician to screen his would-be customers in November 2001, after the initiative had been in effect for nearly five years.

The owner who recruited me is now serving five years in a federal prison on a negotiated plea bargain; he is an honorable man who turned out to be as naive as a “club” owner as I had been as a brand new pot doc. Those details, except for the role played by our mutual naivete, are a story for another day. He, like me, hadn't been a “head” in his youth; thus his naivete led him to place too much trust in his compliance with the letter of the new law, while mine was focusing me on curiosity about pot's appeal for my applicants (patients).

When I was led to understand it had been the anxiolytic potency of inhaled cannabinoids, I couldn’t wait to tell my reform colleagues, and was shocked by their summary rejection of that hypothesis in 2004. It would take me a while longer to understand they were/are unwilling to cop to their own emotional reasons for becoming heads; in other words, they see chronic pain as somehow more manly than anxiety in its various forms.

What I have also learned, albeit more gradually over the past five years, is that when one has the relative luxuries of a well-tuned interview and enough time to administer it properly, it becomes more than a useful tool for extracting information, it's also useful in educating patients about their own pot use. Although the principles behind a given solution may be similar, no two scenarios are exactly alike; thus as my own experience in my new specialty has increased, so has my confidence in the advice I’m able to offer. In that respect, the follow-up mandated by the ad-hoc “renewal” requirement that was added after passage of the initiative has also been helpful.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2009

A Disputed Idea’s Erratic Progress

Earlier this month, a news item that- twelve years ago- would have been literally inconceivable, created barely a ripple of interest when an AMA committee timidly endorsed the idea that cannabis (“marijuana”) may have some medicinal value and recommended that “research” be done. This was the same idea Richard Nixon had summarily rejected when it was presented to him in March 1972 by his own blue ribbon committee. Although he was soon driven from the Oval Office by Watergate, Nixon’s rejection, nearly unnoticed by the press at the time, has allowed the “war” on drugs to evolve from its genesis in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act into a policy that would eventually quadruple America’s prison population, produce over twelve million felony marijuana arrests, and provide price support for several other illegal agents then barely known to Americans by name, or even discovered.

Thirteen years ago, the dispute over pot’s medical value produced a victorious California initiative, despite near-unanimous opposition from state and federal officials, 57 of 58 DAs and all its law enforcement organizations. By the end of 2001, after a threat from the federal drug czar that would have stymied implementation was stayed by the Ninth Circuit, the idea had overcome law enforcement hostility to the extent that there was a customer base for cannabis products estimated at about 20,000, mostly in the Bay Area.

By the second half of 2003, an unexplained increase in the number of Californians with the required recommendations from “pot docs,” had fueled a corresponding increase in retail outlets openly selling cannabis products. That number has continued to grow, especially in the LA basin and previously pot free locales, despite organized campaigns by local law enforcement agencies against business licenses for “clubs” (now known as “dispensaries”) DEA raids (often with local police help) and- despite a Raich Decision in 2005 that has generated increased federal prosecution of growers and distributors despite their apparent compliance with state law.

Last week in LA, as counterpoint to the timid AMA endorsement emanating from Houston, an improbable and very public battle between LA's City Council and its District Attorney points up the political confusion that is still being generated by the notion Nixon summarily rejected over 37 years ago.

Despite the now-sustained interest in "marijuana" California's initiative is producing, two related questions are almost never asked by "experts" on both sides of the issue: just how big is pot's illegal market and why is "weed" still so popular after all these years?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2009

Help from an Unexpected Quarter

Although it’s long been clear to me that genetics play an important role in human behavior, I hadn’t expected much help from that quarter because I regarded my investigation as an opportunistic chance to study drug use as a reflection of “nurture,” rather than “nature.” Wrong. An article by David Dobbs in this month’s Atlantic focuses on an easily recognizable sub-set of the population I’d also become involved with through their illegal self-medication with cannabinoids. To my surprise, I hadn’t finished the first paragraph before I could have supplied the names of at least two famously troubled children whose behavior had been indistinguishable from those Dobbs’ article is about: one for her controversial death at the age of four, the other from a detailed case report I’d first heard presented at a national meeting of cannabis reformers in 2004.

Although the initial focal point of his article is a celebrated researcher at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, Dobbs makes clear that support for the controversial notion summarized by the catch phrase “orchid children” comes from many respected academics in several nations. The basic notion seems to be that gene variants already known to be associated with serotonin transport are not only associated with early development of problematic behavior in toddlers and pre-school children, but there is solid evidence that improving the way mothers deal with those children can modify their problematic behavior in positive ways. Beyond that, and even more exciting: the same heredity that impels similar troubled behavior, when properly nourished at home, may unlock expressions of unusual talent.

What my own work has suggested to me is that when vulnerable adolescents have been fortunate enough to begin self-medicating with a drug that, although illegal, allows them to control certain destructive impulses, a vulnerable few will blossom as “orchids,” while the majority who represent the more common (and hardy) “dandelions,” also benefit from the protection cannabis confers against excessive use of its two legal alternatives which, sadly, an ignorant policy still prefers.

Perhaps we can wake up in time to save ourselves.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2009

Different Responses To Similar Information

We live in a constantly changing world ; one in which taking things for granted can have disastrous consequences, as was dramatically demonstrated in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007 when a relatively modern bridge collapsed during rush hour, killing 13, injuring over fifty, and shutting down a vital traffic artery for 18 months. In the aftermath, it was revealed that the bridge, in company with many others that are routinely inspected at intervals, had been known to have serious problems for years, but for one reason or another, hadn’t been either retrofitted or replaced, a non-decision that implicitly assumed there would be time to do one or the other before a collapse. We also know there are many similar bridges in daily use. The term commonly used for such avoidance is “calculated risk.”

A different type of calculated risk is involved in the recommendation announced on Monday by the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force, an official- but little known government agency, recommended changing long-accepted guidelines for performing routine mammography, a decision that, when implemented, would affect not only a large number of women, but the reimbursement of large numbers of health care providers.

The response was predictably rapid and intense. Given my interest in another controversial Public Health issue, I can't help comparing the open "debate" over mammography, which is legal, to the non-debate that frustrates users of "medical marijuana" (cannabis) my study clearly shows to be treating themselves safely and effectively for conditions that are otherwise far more damaging to both them and society when treated with pot's legal alternatives: alcohol and tobacco.

In fact, given the amazing responses, in California and elsewhere, in terms of the gray markets created by medical cannabis laws, one could reasonably claim that the adverse Public Health consequences of keeping cannabis illegal may be much greater than is presently either realized or imagined.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2009

Credibility and Cognitive Dissonance; testing the limits

Over the past several months, even as officials in the Obama administration were announcing there would be fewer raids on cannabis dispensaries, the LA City Council was preparing to crack down on them; thus it appeared that the level of cognitive dissonance might, after thirteen years, finally be reaching a level that could not be sustained. In the background, the usual glut of conflicting claims and counterclaims could be found in the media and on the internet. However. I also remembered feeling the same degree of frustration on several other occasions, especially after starting to publicize the admittedly unexpected findings of a study of the applicant population to an obviously indifferent world.

I’m now glad I have discussed them here in a generally careful, (albeit tedious) style, because I understood, almost from the beginning, that objective and reasonably complete medical records might be my best defense if the Medical Board of California (MBC) should ever elect to punish me for "recommending" the use of marijuana on behalf of thousands of patients.

In that same connection, it’s long been clear that “pot docs” had little to fear from zealous DAs, or even from the DEA itself; our greatest threat has always been from California’s medical licensing authority. I had watched in horror in 2004 as the MBC persecuted (there is no other word) the late Dr. Tod Mikuriya and then twisted the knife by making him foot the bill for their grossly unfair “investigation.”

I'm also glad I had chosen to attend an MBC quarterly meeting in 2005 and formally provided them with timely notice of the study I had become engaged in, but hadn’t yet published in peer-reviewed literature.

To cut to the chase, a new regulatory watershed may just have been reached; first there were rumors that Hany Assad MD had lost his license; then, those rumors were confirmed on Friday evening, when a Google search turned up Fred Gardner’s meticulous description in CounterPunch. Just as important from my perspective, was the text of the actual decision posted on a spiteful, anonymous site mocking not only Assad, but other pot docs who had chosen to defend him and Dr. Alfonso Jimenez, a peripatetic Hawaii/San Diego osteopath recently unfrocked by the Board of Osteopathy. The same anonymous source posted a similar attempt to smear Dr David Bearman, a Santa Barbara physician who’d testified on Jimenez’s behalf and Phil Denney MD a veteran pot doc, the current president of Mikuriya’s old organization , and a witness for Assad.

Typical of many authoritarian abuses of bureaucratic power, the cases brought by the MBC against both Drs. Mikuriya and Assad relied on the unsupported judgment of professionally incompetent judges to define reality in ways that are clearly at odds with both Science and competent professional observation, in this case my findings, which weren't available in time for Mikuriya's defense and weren't cited in Assad's. Over the past four years, the study's findings have been published or cited in a variety of locations.

To summarize only the most important points: the charges brought against "pot docs" by the MBC were based on invalid assumptions mede by the MBC and accepted by thr physicians it was prosecuting. For example, the key issue in the "medical marijuana" controversy is arguably the safety and efficacy of an herbal remedy that had been rendered illegal by legislative fiat in 1937 and remained relatively unknown to the public for another thirty years before becoming explosively popular with youthful initiates in the mid-Sixties.

In an interesting parallel, the current medical gray market that began developing thirteen years ago under the aegis of California's disputed initiative, has grown erratically, but its product is now surprisingly popular for reasons that have yet to be either questioned or examined (except in this blog).

I now think the available records would provide me with a powerful defense should the MBC choose to "investigate" my practice as cannabis specialist/investigator recommending its use within the intention of the initiative, in a manner consistent with data accumulated under its protection, from the user population encouraged by the amnesty implied by its passage to provide it. I have been advising all applicants of what I've learned and urge them to manage their own use accordingly.

In Science, the proper response to unexpected new data is not to reject them out of hand, but to consider them in light of what had been known from earlier studies. Unfortunately, the historical record with respect to cannabis fails to reveal that any unbiased studies of its inhaled form were ever done prior to 1937, or in the wake of the CSA in 1970, despite a specific official recommendation to do so in 1972.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2009

Good News, Bad News

An item in yesterday’s LA Times caused me a bit of surprise; the good news was that the AMA finally saw fit to endorse reclassification of “marijuana” thirty years after a federal Administrative Law judge working for the DEA had formally declared pot to be both safe and effective (before being summarily overruled by his administrative superior). The bad news is that a careful reading of the whole article shows how far the AMA remains behind the reality curve by clinging to the notion that “recreational” use can be accurately differentiated from medical use through casual observation by the medically untrained, and by implication, that it warrants arrest.

It’s difficult to fault the AMA for that belief, however; my own acquaintance with the usual suspects listed as applauding their decision confirms that they all share both the AMA's poor judgment and the lack of clinical experience required to have arrived at it.

Ironically, in defending their recommendation, the AMA also invoked the prescient 1937 warning of Dr. William Woodward to the effect that future research might show that cannabis offers considerable medical benefits, thus the Congressional Committee then discussing a bill that would preclude such research should think twice before recommending it.

The official record shows that the good doctor was then scolded by the committee chairman for his impertinence.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2009

How Should a Victorious Candidate lose a War?

In recent weeks, several of the issues I’ve struggled with since starting this blog have come together in ways that are both new and internally consistent with the different view of human nature forced on me since I started treating cannabis applicants like patients and research subjects in 2001. For one thing, I’ve had to seek answers in several disparate disciplines, something that shouldn’t be surprising because the drugs we humans self-medicate with reflect the same cognitive conflicts driving all our behaviors. In that respect, my education, training, and past experience were very helpful in some areas and left me at a disadvantage in others.

Before considering those areas in detail, (and future entries) I’d like to advance one of the key concepts that just came into focus: whether he realizes it or not, our rookie President is now struggling with a problem faced by several other national leaders since the end of World War Two: how does one lose a war gracefully; especially when the enemy won’t agree to a cease fire?

Starting with Viet Nam, several solutions have been tried unsuccessfully; Lyndon Johnson turned his back on the Democratic nomination in 1968, thus giving Richard Nixon a close victory. Nixon compounded the losing war in Viet Nam by attempting to shift the onus of defeat to the corrupt regime we’d agreed to prop up under Eisenhower and continued supporting under Kennedy. Unfortunately, Nixon also opted to punish his political enemies with what has ballooned into a global “War on Drugs,” in which surrender is also unthinkable to those charged with "winning" it.

Currently, Obama is pondering his limited options in two other losing wars in which the risks were seriously underestimated and “victory” was not defined by those who started them, exactly the same problems faced by Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in Viet Nam and Bush-Cheney in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2009

I Told You So...

Every once in a while, it's nice to savor a small triumph, especially when one has pretty good evidence their main message isn't being received as well as they had hoped. Such was the case yesterday when I learned that Obama's new drug czar couldn't explain when, let alone why, pot had became so popular, something I'd have thought any drug czar would know. Hoping to rub it in a bit, I searched the archives and quickly found an item I'd posted three years ago:

October 27, 2006

Children of the Sixties; behind pot’s appeal to youth...

Analysis of the interviews of California pot applicants I’ve been conducting over the past five years (and, hopefully, soon to be reported in detail) confirms that pot smoking, as a youthful phenomenon, is comparatively recent, one which didn’t begin on a large scale until the mid Sixties, when youthful baby boomers who had fallen under the influence of Fifties "Beat" writers began using it. What happened next (and largely out of sight) was the rapid  expansion of an illegal cottage industry until it had literally saturated most American high schools with marijuana, an event that took several years to become complete nationally. It was most overt from the start on both coasts, where pot was associated with several events that still resonate powerfully: Monterey Pop, the Haight Ashbury, the Summer of Love, Woodstock, Altamont, psychedelic drugs, Bill Graham’s Winterland & Fillmore East, and the Stonewall riots. In the Seventies came Kent State, the premature drug-related deaths of several Rock icons, and a somewhat muted spill-over of anti-war protests and social unrest from the Sixties.

The tumultuous era ended with Watergate.”

Even as I was completing that task, I came across an interesting reference to an article relating PTSD and cannabinoids that had been published in Time last week. It seems that the PTSD like behavior of rodents conditioned to fear the dark could be improved by a THC agonist injected directly into their brains. Wow! Imagine that! If only those researchers had read my blog of November 17, 2006, they'd have had clinical confirmation from a human study; Time (pun intended) to go back to the archives; all of which brings up another point about the the CSA: by arbitrarily defining certain drugs as too dangerous and habit forming to be permitted, the framers of the CSA were unwittingly creating a natural experiment with the potential to shed important light of human behavior years into the future.

Not only did Proposition 215 permit the unwarranted assumptions made about each drug by the framers of the CSA to be tested; they also made their central idea- that prohibition works- to be tested as well.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2009

A Revealing Interview with Obama’s Drug Czar

On Tuesday, November 3, Rebecca Roberts of NPR conducted a thirty-minute soft-ball interview of current drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, on Talk of the Nation. Kerlikowske, who has maintained a far lower profile than John Walters, his stridently uninformed predecessor, revealed that he is just as ignorant of many key details of marijuana use; thus I wouldn't look for much change in current federal “prohibition lite” (fewer DEA raids). What will be most interesting in the near future will be the official excuses offered for those that are carried out (you can bet there will be some).

Roberts’ interview, despite her failure to ask several painfully obvious questions, wasn't altogether useless, precisely because her subject was so much more affable than John Walters would ever have been. Thus Kerlikowske unwittingly revealed what he doesn’t know rather than simply repeating tedious drug war propaganda everyone has learned to tune out. A quick example was provided by a call from a female listener ("Kris") about 25 minutes into the program.

From the transcript:ROBERTS: Let's hear from Kris(ph) in Lincolnton, Georgia. Kris, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION. KRIS (Caller): Thank you. I was wondering - I'm 62 years old, and when I was in high school, I didn't even know what marijuana was. And I'm wondering why is it so rampant now, and it never used to be?

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Mr. KERLIKOWSKE: Well, I wish I had a good answer for that, Rachel. I am - I actually just about two years younger than you are, and so I'm afraid I would put myself in exactly the same mindset. But I think that marijuana is popularized on television shows. It is popularized in media. There is only one antidrug media message out there, and that's the one that the Office of the National Drug Control Policy actually funds, and that - the antidrug.com. There's an awful lot of information about drugs, and it's put forward in a very matter-of-fact and straightforward way that's very helpful to people. So I would tell you that there's more information available there.

My analysis: this is right in line with what I've come to recognize as the Generational Ignorance to which all humans seem prone: we tend to be blind to the social conditions that existed as few as fifteen years before we were born, primarily because our childhood memories are far more emotional than intellectual. Abstract thought doesn't begin in most children until around the age of twelve and is usually focused on local conditions in school and at home at first, although that may vary considerably, depending on intelligence and many other complex variables. In any event, both Kris and Kerlikowske were leading edge Baby Boomers who came of age in the early Sixties when pot first began appearing in American High Schools. I've consistently encountered the same ignorance among the pot smokers I've been interviewing for past eight years. When I tell them there was NO POT in American High Schools during my high school days ('45- '49). In fact, appreciation of that generational ignorance is key to any understanding of the genesis of today's enormous pot market; beyond that, the appeal pot had for boomer teens is critical to understanding its sudden surge in popularity from 1966 on, a surge that was clearly badly missed by the First Nixon Administration as it was hastily rewriting our drug laws without any scientific or medical inpupt at exactly the same time.

Since I know from painful experience that a number of "reform" luninaries share the same ignorance, I shouldn't be surprised when the drug czar admits he's just as ignorant of essential reality as the leadership of NORML and MPP (and, I suspect, as the Gang of Four, who are all of similar age).

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:43 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2009

American Drug Policy; what ever happened to Skepticism?

I’ve long subscribed to Scientific American and often read its monthly columns, not because I necessarily agree with the columnists, but because they often make me think. One such is Michael Shermer, an academic from Southern California whose column is known simply as Skeptic. Shermer has literally made a career of skepticism, not only has he written extensively about it, he's also founded an organization dedicated to it, and publishes a magazine focused on it.

I recently caught up with his July column, and became intrigued with the esoteric concept of the Null Hypothesis, which, upon first reading, seemed to have some promise as a model for what had become a personal holy grail: the perfect argument for dispatching the drug policy monster once and for all in a way that would leave little doubt about its fundamentally evil and irrational nature.

After considerable time spent going back and forth between various Null Hypothesis explanations summoned by Google, I realized that holy grail, if it exists at all, is still out there waiting to be discovered and that Michael Shermer will probably always have work trying to explain the nature of truth to skeptics of all stripes.

On the other hand, the short essays I'd just posted do reveal how deeply rooted our drug policy is in two deceptive laws which, when taken together, reveal how faithfully it reflects the ambient ignorance of two bygone eras. That raises an important question: how could such limited views of drug use and addiction have remained almost unchanged over so long an interval?

The answer is that drug policy "science" was easily discouraged during the Anslinger era when Pharmacology was relatively primitive. Following Harry's departure, it was replaced by Nixon's CSA, which gave rise to two in-house agencies, the DEA and NIDA, that have protected their policy from scrutiny far more successfully than their policy has protected civilization from the evils of the global criminal drug markets it has sponsored.

In that respect, they have been aided to no small degree by an essential human weakness: that of denial. I expect that over the next few days we will see plenty of denial as our government and news agencies attempt to minimize and confine the obvious PTSD that is now afflicting an increasing percentage of our military, which, in turn, is being assiduously drug tested to detect the agent my study has revealed to be most effective in treating it.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 05:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2009

A Belated Assertion of Priority

Several recent entries reviewed the creation of federal marijuana prohibition (a.k.a. the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937) out of whole cloth via a deceptive transfer tax, the same mechanism that had been used 23 years earlier to launch its equally dishonest prototype, the Harrison Narcotic Act. Fifteen years after passage of the MTA, when Harry Anslinger, the man most responsible for that abomination, was approaching senility, he was allowed to end his career as the first-ever UN High Commissioner of Narcotics; thus his never-validated slander of a useful plant suddenly became (and remains today) global policy by default. In the same vein, the Supreme Court’s 1969 invalidation of Timothy Leary’s 1965 pot conviction proved another bit of execrable timing because it provided the Nixon Administration with an excuse to rewrite existing drug laws and thus arrogate enormous additional powers to the policy. Beyond the highly fanciful reasons used to justify Schedule One, the CSA’s inclusion of cannabis and several other potentially useful agents like LSD on the same list has blocked any study of them as therapeutic agents. Even worse, the CSA provided a simplified mechanism by which a scientific ignoramus like the average Attorney General (think John Ashcroft or his successor) is free to add additional agents to Schedule One without any need for legislative, let alone scientific, approval.

Ironically, just as ratification of the Single Convention treaty was taking place in the mid-Sixties, American and British baby boomers were discovering the unique appeal of “reefer” as an inhaled anxiolytic, a phenomenon that would not be identified and documented by my clinical research for another thirty years. Finally, and perhaps most ironic from my point of view: Nixon’s rejection of any study of pot’s medical potential, as recommended by his own select committee in 1972, meant that my opportunistic study of pot use by Proposition 215 applicants in California would become the first such study ever published in "peer-reviewed" literature.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)