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October 06, 2010

False Assumptions from Academia

As November 2nd approaches, more state-wide curiosity about the fate of California’s marijuana “legalization” initiative (Proposition 19) has been evident than when Proposition 215 was on the ballot in 1996. Even the Los Angeles Times, which had taken little note of 215; either before the 1996 election or while LA's local "medical" industry was evolving in the first several years after it passed, is displaying considerable interest in this year’s initiative.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when the subject is “marijuana,” intelligent appraisals are hard to find for the simple reason that our nation’s power structure is still strongly biased in favor of the war on drugs. Two recent opinion pieces were published by the Times , each was authored by a concerned faculty member from a local university. Predictably hostile to the initiative, they serve as good illustrations of how vested interests and wishful thinking can combine to induce well-educated people to support bad policy.

The first, authored by Mark Kleiman of UCLA in July, predicts that even were Proposition 19 to pass, it would be resisted so effectively by the federal government as to have little effect. He supports that opinion with another completely unproven (but widely shared) assumption: that there are easily determined differences between the “recreational” and “medical” uses of marijuana. It was the same idea that inspired NORML to petition the DEA to reschedule as far back as 1972.

As it turned out, that idea didn't gain much credibility until 1988, when conservative Administrative Law Judge Francis Young issued his widely quoted ruling. Although summarily overruled by his administrative superior, that same idea, after maturing for several more years, would eventually evolve into Proposition 215. Ironically, Doctor Kleiman himself would play an important role in that process.

In my opinion, Kleiman should take more heed of historical reality: although the the Prohibition Amendment never lost its support in Congress, it was Repealed by another Amendment because the nation was broke. Given our current economic debacle, it's not that unlikely that the same thinking might prevail.

The second opinion piece was more recent.

Written by a specialist in "Addiction Medicine" whose bias in favor of the drug war is even more transparent than Kleiman's, it parrots, albeit in milder terms, many of the standard, never-proven DEA assumptions about the dangers of inhaled cannabis. That "Addiction" has never been satisfactorily defined, and that neither he nor the DEA even recognize a significant difference between cannabis when eaten and when it's inhaled tells me all I need to know about the validity of his (their) opinions.

My own opinion on Proposition 19 is that although its wording is flawed for the same reasons as Proposition 215's, it's also a big step in the right direction because it will force more people to ask why this "drug of abuse" has remained so popular since it was first discovered by "kids" in the Sixties.

Perhaps the most important lesson taught by Science is that until erroneous assumptions can be questioned, ignorance will prevail.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 6, 2010 12:38 AM