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December 12, 2009

Annals of Denial

Denial is something we humans have become experts at. One of its most distinctive features is stubborn refusal to acknowledge an error long after it has become obvious to all except those with a vested interest in the status quo. A classic example from History is the Roman Catholic Hierarchy’s treatment of Galileo: after finally subjecting him to house arrest for heresy in the 17th Century, the Catholic Church didn’t get around to acknowledging its error until 1992, long after Science had radically influenced the world in ways the Church still has trouble accepting. One hopes it won’t take the federal government 360 years to take cannabis off Schedule 1, a move that would be unacceptable at any time to a DEA that would face drastic reduction in size and prestige if cannabis were merely legalized, and complete dissolution if all US drug prohibitions were to end for any reason.

Given those considerations, it's likely the drug enforcement bureaucracy created nearly four decades ago following Nixon's unexpected election is being stressed in ways that could not have been anticipated before the unexpected size and vigor of California’s medical gray market were revealed, however erratically, over the last thirteen years that Proposition 215 has been (disputed) state law. Even so, denial is still the order of the day as evidenced by the failure of both my “pot doc” colleagues and mainstream media to ask two obvious questions: how did "weed" become so popular? and why was the steady growth of its illegal market missed completely by those with a vested interest in tracking it?

Instead of dealing with such fundamental issues, dueling opinion pieces still focus on “medical” versus “recreational" arguments, even as news items report the inability of law enforcement to keep track of new retail outlets, let alone shut them down; not to mention the bloody disputes that market is inspiring South of the Border

There have also been significant shifts within the gray market itself that have yet to be seriously discussed. Once its economic potential was demonstrated, primarily in in the Bay Area and Emerald Triangle between 1997 and 2003, it began erratically spreading southward to larger population centers as hundreds of entrepreneurs scrambled to cash in on pot's popularity.

Although my ad-hoc studies of applicants seeking to use pot legally suggested that the distinction between "recreational" and "medical" cannabis is blurred and the modern market didn't begin growing until the first baby boomers started unwittingly medicating various symptoms of adolescent angst with "reefer," the rather profound implications of those observations have been studiously ignored by nearly everyone.

That neither government nor reform sources have opted to address the implications of the data I've been gathering through systematic clinical encounters with a large sample of the huge illegal market created by Nixon only supports my belief that those aggregated histories provide the best evidence yet about how and why today's market has evolved.

That's not to say the story of that evolution is at all complete; my data can't address its inaccessible components: those who still use cannabis without bothering to apply for a recommendation, those who tried it and then gave it up after a variable period of repetitive use, and those who simply tried it a few times and moved on.

On the other hand, just as imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it may be that inappropriate silence be the most convincing evidence of earlier mistaken beliefs.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 12, 2009 03:34 PM