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July 30, 2010

Incremental Sanity in Action

The outcome of the process that began with the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996 has yet to be decided. Barry McCaffrey, then Clinton’s drug czar, couldn’t even wait for 1996 to end before threatening the license of any California doctor for simply discussing the therapeutic use of marijuana with a patient. Fortunately, the Ninth Circuit ruled that a violation of free speech and the Clinton Administration elected not to appeal.

The presence of Proposition 19 on this year’s ballot is evidence that considerable progress has been made since then; however several related questions have remained unanswered over the past 14 years and more will be raised no matter how the vote goes in November

If Proposition 19 is defeated, federal law will remain unchanged, but the margin of victory will be of great interest to both sides, neither of which seems to have learned much in 14 years. Ironically that same interval- from 1919 to 1933- had been all that was required to bring about the demise of Prohibition.

Since 2001, the most obvious lesson of Proposition 215 seems be one that both the political supporters and opponents of cannabis have enormous difficulty acknowledging: its market is much larger than most had imagined and is still growing. Ironically (there’s that word again) the reason neither side wants to cop to the size of the pot market is that it requires a contradiction of claims each made in the past: the narcs have claimed to be “winning” the war on drugs, while stoners have claimed to be “recreational” users simply exercising free choice.

The truth, both simple and yet more complex than the medically uninformed claims of the opposing sides, is that a significant fraction, generally over 50%, of the population born since the end of World war Two has been trying inhaled cannabis as part of their adolescent rites of passage and a smaller, but still significant, minority have been using it- often for long intervals- because it's safer and more effective than competing “legal” products.

In other words, federal claims that herbal cannabis can’t be medicine are baseless and have done enormous medical and financial damage to our social structure. That such would be difficult for any bureaucracy to admit goes without saying; however a small beginning may have just been made in the form of letters from obscure VA functionaries in response to queries from a veterans' group.

This could be the first crack in the dam that’s been holding back the truth since 1968.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 30, 2010 04:48 PM