March 29, 2010
A Line in the SandOn March 4, three weeks to the day before an announcement that California’s marijuana legalization initiative had qualified for the November ballot, Gil Kerlikowske, former Seattle Police chief and the Obama administrations low-profile drug czar, spoke to the California Police Chiefs in San Jose where he spelled out firm federal opposition to any further liberalization of medical use and to any effort at legalization. It was traditional reefer madness; not as over the top as John Walters’ flagrant nonsense, but bad enough in its own right to reflect negatively on the Obama Administration’s reputation for honesty.
Within the following week, several angry reform responses took issue with both Kerlikowske’s facts and logic, which were simply an updated rehash of familiar slanted arguments cherry picked from recent NIDA sponsored literature. Unfortunately, they also omitted any mention of my data showing that properly taken applicant histories reveal that the vast majority were born after the Baby Boom started and that today’s huge “recreational” market didn’t begin until the mid-Sixties, a critical finding steadfastly ignored by both reform and ONDCP .
Thus the indications are that the pre-November “debate” will be an unenlightening rehash of 1996 arguments; however, given California’s robust pot market and the sagging economy, it’s quite likely the initiative will pass anyway. If so, it will present its opponents in both state and federal government with a new set of problems (and perhaps threaten dispensary profits).
In any event, it will be interesting.
March 27, 2010
How California’s Legalization Initiative Changes the EquationEven though it’s been known for quite some time that a marijuana legalization initiative might qualify for the November ballot in California, it wasn’t until Thursday’s announcement that I could focus my thoughts enough to decide on a response. Now that the initiative is reality, it’s interesting that not only did I come up with a response, I can also explain why it’s positive, start making plans to implement it, and list reasons why they may or may not succeed.
What the reality of the initiative did was reveal the prompt negative responses of all three California gubernatorial candidates. That, in turn, confirmed for me there's still a huge gulf between those with a vested interest in the drug war as policy and those dedicated to “reforming” it. Thus do the early responses of the three most likely candidates confirm that senior politicians in both major parties remain clueless about both the appeal of marijuana for large numbers of Americans and the size of its illegal market.
It will be my privilege to explain the significance of those relatively simple concepts over the coming months in a setting that will be increasingly difficult for all interested parties to ignore.
As Bill Clinton (or James Carville) famously reminded us in 1992., simple ideas are more likely to be understood. If we can't get it in the next eight months, there's always another election and pot is unlikely to go away.
March 26, 2010
The Other Shoe DropsThe announcement, in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, that an initiative calling for the “legalization” of marijuana had qualified for the November ballot must have confirmed the worst fears kindled in drug war supporters almost fourteen years ago by the unexpected passage of Proposition 215.
What struck me most about the Chronicle story was the degree to which it misinterpreted important related events over that same interval, many of which had transpired right here in the Bay Area. However, my own experience had prepared me for the confusion by revealing that none of the interested parties were seeing reality through the same prism and the most authoritarian voices were often the most confused. In that respect I had been well prepared for the reactions reported locally the Chronicle and nationally in the New York Times, both of which reflected an ambient confusion, although with somewhat different emphasis.
My own crowded schedule precludes more than passing mention of what is really a landmark event, one unlikely to turn out exactly as predicted by the experts. As for November: if the initiative passes, some large helpings of crow will be in order soon afterward and some rapid adjustments will have to be made, both in Sacramento and in Washington.
Another development seems inevitable: whatever happens this time around, eventual nationwide legalization of Marijuana will happen; the only remaining questions are how messy the process will be and how much avoidable injury will de done by the self-appointed experts on both sides.
Our species has always had great trouble doing the right thing; especially when it comes to our most important decisions. Our experience with "marijuana" is simply one more example.
March 23, 2010
Cognitive Dissonance and the Debate over Medical CareGeorge Santayana, an American scholar born to Spanish parents, but abandoned by his father at 5 and raised in the US for the first half of his life, is best known for observing that, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which probably explains why last Sunday’s Congressional debate over the federal government’s role in health care was so reminiscent of an earlier division that afflicted our fledgling American experiment in Democracy and ultimately plunged us into Civil War. So bitter was the antebellum debate over slavery, and so violent were the feelings it generated among elected representatives that in 1856, a Congressman from South Carolina savagely attacked a Senator from Massachusetts in the Senate chamber with a cane brutally enough to disable the older man for three years. Amazingly, although expelled from Congress, Brooks was never charged with a crime and was defiantly re-elected by his home state. Ironically, he soon died of “croup” before he could finish his term.
Although their names have undergone the political equivalent of magnetic pole reversal, modern Democrats and Republicans exhibit the same powerful emotions as those displayed by supporters of Sumner and Brooks. Today’s Red State, Tea Bag, Republicans, clearly no longer the "Party of Lincoln," now have a different agenda. They are fiercely supportive of the right to life but insist medical care is far too expensive to be extended to the surviving fetuses they hope will be saved from abortion by a Supreme Court chosen for that purpose. By the same token. the Catholic justices on the Court can apparently be counted on to support the expanded police powers that have produced the world’s largest prison system. How else could we punish criminals who dare to self-medicate with illegal drugs like "marijuana?"
March 13, 2010
The (slow) March of TimeFred Gardner is a journalist and author from Alameda who has long been helpful in educating me on the politics of cannabis and its medical uses. I recently had occasion to re-read a Gardner column from six years ago in which he generously published findings I was preparing to present to a national meeting of reformers on the East Coast. I was struck by two things: how well my then-new findings have been confirmed by the thousands of additional interviews I’ve done since it was written, and the degree to which they are still ignored by those with agendas on both sides of the “legalization” issue.
Some things never change, or more properly, like tectonic plates inching past one another, they change so slowly that when the earthquake finally happens, it’s a bg surprise.
Fred’s other item, the one on asparagus, has even greater relevance today because we know air transportation plays a greater role in CO2 release than expected, thus it’s likely the shift in asparagus production motivated by the US desire to reduce cocaine availability has come at additional unexpected costs: not only are American farmers and consumers being hurt; so also is the global environment.
Meanwhile, the drug war continues supporting the price of cocaine and Hillary just returned from a trip to Latin America in which she admitted the failure of US drug policy but urged further intensification of the same old failing tactics.
March 07, 2010
Senior Citizens: the Key to “Legalization”Despite the refusal of conventional media and spineless politicians (is there any other kind?) to face reality, I’ve been predicting that a sea change in public opinion on cannabis prohibition should begin rather abruptly in 2011 and become increasingly evident with each passing year. That forecast was based primarily on the demographics of the population of pot applicants I’ve been studying for over eight years; 96% of whom were born during or after 1946, which just happens to have been the first year of the Baby Boom. With at least half of all “kids” (adolescents) surveyed since 1975 admitting that they’d tried “weed” by the age 18; also given the consumer loyalty documented among my applicants, it’s very clear that when the first wave of Baby Boomers becomes eligible for Medicare, many of them will be seeking to renew the recommendations they already have. The critical difference is that they won't be easily written off as misguided "druggies;" rather they will become the senior citizens politicians ignore at their peril
An additional (anecdotal) finding I haven’t tried to quantify statistically, but have found remarkably consistent, is that seniors of my own generation (the deluded "moral majority" that elected Nixon in 1968) who never tried pot themselves are extremely resistant to ever using it, even after incurring physical conditions it’s known to palliate. On the other hand, people who tried it during their teens are far more open to its medical use, whether they'd used it in the interim or not. In other words, getting high as an adolescent seems to confer lifetime permission for later medical use, should the need arise.
Quite by accident, I stumbled across a non-medical journal with a vested interest in the health of seniors and discovered that it had done an impressive survey in 2005 that tended to confirm the implications of my data even then. It’s thus even more clear to me that as pot-savvy seniors gradually replace their fathers and grandfathers in the electorate, the politicians they choose will have to reflect their views; that’s particularly true if the crazies now running the American asylum get their fondest wish and defeat Obama’s (not-so-great) health care initiative.
Entirely in keeping with the disconnect that seems to afflict those in authority, the forces of prohibition have looked at the same data and come up with an entirely different interpretation.
We shouldn't have long to wait for an answer; I predict that by 2016 (perhaps even before), there will be a viable cannabis legalization bill before Congress.
March 03, 2010
“Marijuana” and dashed hopesJust why Harry Anslinger selected a relatively obscure Mexican slang term for demonizing inhaled cannabis in 1937 remains just as uncertain as solid evidence of why he did so remains scarce; nevertheless, subsequent developments make it clear that whatever market for “reefer” might have existed in 1937 must have been small and remained that way until the mid-Sixties; when it began growing to its present size, best described as enormous, but unmeasurable.
In any event, ignorance and carelessness are painfully obvious in the Marijuana Tax Act’s legislative history; not to mention the incoherence and adverse social impact of the Controlled Substances Act by which the Nixon Administration expanded the MTA in 1970. That such “thinking” remains at the heart of official policy in both the US and the UN is solid evidence that current world leadership is sadly lacking; even as our species struggles with unprecedented levels of pollution, overpopulation, climate change, and depletion of critical resources.
Most revealing of all may be the reluctance of those in authority to even acknowledge the obvious, a trait known as denial. Cartoonist Walt Kelly may have said it best when he observed through his character Pogo that “we have met the enemy and he is us.”
How these gloomy observations relate to my ongoing study of marijuana use is becoming clearer to me by the day; even as any hope they will provoke a degree of recognition in people with the power to influence policy fades. President Obama's victory inspired many to believe the "change" he claimed to represent would favor their particular issues; none more than myself. Indeed, he is a poster boy for my typical pot smoker: an academically gifted bi-racial outcast raised by a single mother whose only known contact with his biological father had been a two hour meeting at an airport. He'd also acknowledged he'd once been high on weed, and tried other illegal drugs. Finally, he's known to have an intractable cigarette habit. What better American President could I have hoped for?
Alas, that hope is running out; he seems far too nice a guy to do all the things I want him to do between now and 2012: find some advisers with balls, fire the entire DEA, and take on opposition yahoos directly for their obvious stupidity instead of acting like a bipartisan wuss.