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August 22, 2010

Delusional Thinking is Alive & Well in California

The magazine section in today's San Francisco Chronicle featured 2 very different op-ed pieces, but each opposed the "legalization" initiative that will be considered by voters in November. That the Chronicle would do so didn't surprise me because its editors have never exhibited clear thinking on pot issues. Even though they are at the epicenter of the "Medical Marijuana" movement, they have yet to cover it intelligently. The following will be sent to them later today, but I'll be surprised if it's published...

For nearly fourteen years after Proposition 215 passed in 1996, we have had a form of marijuana legalization: any resident over 18 able to acquire a signed “recommendation” from a licensed physician could become a “medical” user and receive a (disputed) measure of protection against arrest and prosecution under state law. Although fiercely resisted by all state law enforcement agencies and most politicians after qualifying for the '96 ballot, Proposition 215 passed handily and ultimately thrived despite the best efforts of its opponents and the manifest inability of its supporters to define “medical” use coherently.

“Pot docs” willing to sign recommendations were notably few and far between in early years, but now they compete blatantly on the internet and retail outlets ("dispensaries") selling “medical” marijuana now blanket the state despite the risk of raids by both local and federal police who often confiscate cash, product and equipment. Difficult to measure precisely, the medical gray market created by the proposition continues to grow; indeed, it was that growth, and the prospect of tax revenue replacing enforcement expenses that has helped place a “legalization” initiative (Proposition 19) on the November ballot.

As a physician who has been collecting data from an unselected stream of medical applicants for nearly nine years, I was not surprised by the very different, but equally meretricious arguments advanced by Dr. Cermak and Chief Manheimer in support of the status quo. Indeed, I have been reading similar arguments ever since discovering that both marijuana partisans and opponents share a preference for blind belief over informed skepticism.

My individual patients have not known how other applicants were answering the questions I’ve been asking as part of the standardized intake interview all undergo. Those “renewing” with me (some as often as five times) tend to understand why cannabis has been so helpful and are particularly good sources of information for that reason. I know its reliable because I’m the only one able to compare all answers. Although I have published my data statistically (to protect confidentiality) any other pot doc would be free to ask similar questions and publish their results; that’s how Science is supposed to work.

The never-verified assumptions of Doctor Cermak and Chef Manheimer are those of the drug war as adjusted to the preferences of their professional organizations.

The brand-new specialty of "Addiction Medicine" is entirely dependent on the drug war for its existence and for a definition of the entity it treats; there's no objective standard for “addiction.” It may exist, but cannot be identified precisely enough to justify the coercive abstinence-only methods insisted upon. Also, the historical record of every criminal prohibition policy is one of abysmal failure. The most useful approach would be to look at all drug use as a characteristic human behavior that should first be understood before being subjected to one-size-fits all "treatment."

Perhaps Dr. Cermak should ask himself just why "marijuana" became so popular with adolescents in the Sixties and why its illegal market continues to grow inexorably despite the best efforts of Chief Manheimer and others.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 22, 2010 05:45 PM