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April 11, 2010

The Marijuana “High:” therapy or a criminal act?

Our long-term study of Californians hoping to have their use of marijuana recognized as "medical" under the terms of a disputed state initiative may be as significant for what it reveals about bureaucracies as for the light it sheds on pot use. Whatever demand existed in 1937, the actual market for inhaled cannabis (“reefer”) must have been very small, based on the percentage of applicants who were born before the Baby Boom began in 1946 (3.92%). Probably of equal significance, their average age at initiation was significantly higher: over 30 for those born before 1935 and over twenty-five for those born between 1936 and 1945. In fact, the two most important bits of information from our study may be demographic evidence suggesting why the drug war has failed to discourage teen aged “marijuana” initiation, as well as troubling evidence of the lengths government bureaucracies will go to avoid owning up to big mistakes.

One example of the latter: the importance of the Baby Boom to current American history is well recognized but that era is clearly being seen very differently by drug policy enforcers and individual boomers who might have sampled “drugs of abuse” as adolescents. To enforcers the era was an evil to be denounced, rather than an important historical event to be studied or understood. Also, it doesn’t require extraordinary powers of deduction to realize that the Boomers themselves were not only younger than the “reefer” smokers who preceded them, they were a lot more numerous and could well have shared generational experiences that shaped their drug use and other behaviors very differently (exactly what happened). In the same vein, the study also demonstrates how far government bureaucracies will go to resist suggestions their policy may be failing, let alone that they should search for ways to correct it.

Ironically, a Rand study published in November 2002 had reached conclusions very similar to ours but has never been linked to it by others. Nor did it provoke the discussion it should have when first published. Finally, in a brief reassessment published in 2003, the authors actually strengthened their criticism of the "Gateway" hypothesis but explicitly disavowed any support for marijuana “legalization*”

Later this week, I hope to spell out how a clinical dissection of the marijuana “high” as a poorly understood therapeutic and cultural phenomenon that has been vilified for forty years can begin to resolve current contradictions and hopefully, facilitate a more rational discussion.

Doctor Tom

* "Conclusions Marijuana gateway effects may exist. Our results demonstrate, however, that the phenomena used to motivate belief in such an effect are consistent with an alternative simple, plausible common-factor model. No gateway effect is required to explain them. The common-factor model has implications for evaluating marijuana control policies that differ significantly from those supported by the gateway model...However, the study does not argue that marijuana should be legalized or decriminalized."

Go Figure...

Posted by tjeffo at April 11, 2010 08:01 PM