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October 27, 2010

The More Things Change...

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle contained two silly items confirming what I’ve either known or strongly suspected about the vacuous drug war “debate” for several years: first, that rather than a real debate, it’s been a cacophony of monologues, none of which make much sense or approach problematic drug use with anything like systematic clinical analysis. In that sense, it echoes the futile exchanges before Proposition 215 passed fourteen years ago. That observation doesn’t mean that I expect Proposition 19 will win; it’s still a toss-up and the outcome could be decided by something as peripheral as election day weather or voter reaction to events occurring right up to November Second. If it loses, I think the margin will be small and the duration of further illegality short-lived: one or two election cycles, at most.

The first silly item was the Chronicle’s own editorial re-iterating its opposition to the initiative and adding the same reasons as Professor Kleiman and his Rand cronies: that the feds simply won’t tolerate legal marijuana; they will crack down as Holder just promised. What that argument loses sight of is that federal doctrine on marijuana hasn’t changed in the forty years since the the CSA was passed by the NIxon Administration; it simply hasn't worked, as demonstrated by the strength of the medical gray market. All illegal drug markets for Schedule one agents have continued to thrive (except for psychedelics which aren't used repetitively for long intervals).

That long term user loyalty to cannabis (often for decades) is unique among "drugs of abuse." It suggests that pot's medical benefits haven't been fully recognized and that "recreational" use may simply be an assumed default for the ignorant.

I've mentioned the main reason for feds’ perennial failures before: it's the same as Prohibition: the law itself creates irresistably lucrative illegal markets. Also, inhaled cannabis is a far more complex and effective therapeutic agent than any others; because it palliates such a wide variety of severe symptoms so effectively, the feds have never (and still don't) understand why discouraging its use by adolescents became essentially impossible for them once markets had developed in most high schools (probably by the early Seventies).

Ironically, that same weakness is replicated by the current initiative's exclusion of users under 21, which is one reason the response to Prop 19's fate could be so revealing: if it passes, would law enforcement come down even more heavily on youthful use than it does now? If so, would such a highly visible focus on youth create its own backlash?

Beyond that, it has become obvious to me that there has been a general failure by nearly all interested parties to understand that “reefer's” appeal to youth in the Sixties depended on the fact that cannabis, when smoked, is an easily controlled and short-acting anxiolytic, while more traditional "edibles" were (and still are) far longer acting and more difficult to titrate. These obvious clinical differences (and others) have yet to be even recognized, let alone studied; either in humans, or in laboratory animals.

Finally, cannabis can be grown year round, indoors and out, in all parts of the country; thus rendering interruption of its domestic supply unlikely and further highlighting the enormous (and still increasing) demand for the generally low-grade Mexican product being smuggled across our 2000 mile Southern border.

The second silly item in the Chronicle was a report of the million dollar gift by billionaire George Soros to the war chest of Proposition 215. I consider it silly only because it demonstrates how little he and Ethan Nadelmann have learned since 1996. In fact their rhetoric is little changed from that of the late William F. Buckley Jr. in 1995: "drugs" are “bad,” but laws making them illegal don't work and may do more harm than good. Duh.

We should know the fate of the new proposition by November 3. The federal response will be interesting no matter what happens; but don’t look for any change in pot’s now-overwhelming popularity (however the motivation for its use may be categorized).

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 27, 2010 08:16 PM