November 30, 2010
New "Marijuana" Message: the (gradual) Emergence of Big PotRecent publication of a book on the economic strength of "medical" marijuana calls attention to the fact that whether it's characterized as "medical" or "recreational," the criminal market that has been developing under the noses of NIDA and the DEA over the past 40 years is much bigger than anyone realized (or the feds could ever admit). So much so, that the huge national demand for cannabis, reinforced by tragic developments in Mexico since 2006, has become today's most easily understood "message" on "Marijuana." Beyond that, the degree to which we Americans are pretending not to hear that message is assuming the dimensions of a national disgrace.
Leaving aside the pot market's tragic human implications and focusing only on its economic emergence, one can now reasonably compare Big Pot with Big Booze, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma. Once the validity of that comparison is admitted, it's but a short step to the realization that all are competitors in the treatment of Anxiety, which although not qualifying as a disease, can nevertheless be seen as the modern world's most troublesome symptom.
November 28, 2010
Descent into ChaosGiven the relentless flow of improbably bad news bombarding us through the media and the internet, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me personally to pretend that the contemporary world of humans is even rational, let alone that anyone in a position of “leadership” has a realistic plan for dealing with our most obvious problems. I realize, of course, that this is an entirely personal response, one (obviously) not shared by many. In fact, that’s precisely why I’m so alarmed: it's the manifest lack of interest in the latest news of drug tunnels between Mexico and San Diego, or the horrific atrocities in Juarez, on the same pages chronicling the lavish attention showered on a dim-bulb politician like Sarah Palin and her latest misadventure with the English language, or the juvenile antics of some underage celebrity du jour.
The reason for my angst should be obvious: we now have enough information about our species' past failures to enable prudent leaders to avoid certain obvious pitfalls. What seems lacking is a degree of reality sufficient for both the leadership and the polity to react appropriately. In fact, just the opposite seems to happening: the more serious the problem, the more difficult its recognition seems to become, a phenomenon widely recognized as denial. Nor does having a name for that phenomenon allow us to overcome it; things are now so out of whack that I think it’s fair to say that our species’ most pressing problem has become denial itself; thus our prognosis for recovery from threatened climate change , short of an avoidable catastrophe has become guarded at best.
Of course, if the catastrophe were to be one of the ultra rare natural disasters over which we would have little "control" (say a mega volcano or collision with a comet) it wouldn’t matter at all.
Perhaps that's the best those of us with a stubborn sense of reality can hope for. 2012 anyone? But isn't that notion simply another example of wishful thinking imitating science?
November 26, 2010
Whither Legalization?In an interesting coincidence, the same LA Times article cited in the last entry re: Steve Cooley’s concession in the race for state AG contains a link to a chart on changing voter attitudes toward the issue of “legalization;” both currently and over the years since 1969 (the same year the Nixon Administration began drafting its invidious Controlled Substances Act).
One doesn’t have to be a professional pundit to understand that California may well vote to legalize pot two years hence on the sixteenth anniversary of Proposition 215, which will also coincide with the next Presidential Election. Also, given the popularity of “medical” marijuana around the nation, it’s quite likely California will continue in its traditional role as America’s bellwether state, at least on social issues.
Indeed; pot’s chances in 2012 would now have to be rated as better than Obama’s.
November 24, 2010
A Pleasant Surprise and some Interesting PossibilitiesThe close race between Steve Cooley and Kamala Harris to become California’s next Attorney General ended suddenly when Cooley conceded, well before December 3rd deadline, that Harris had amassed an insurmountable lead.
Depending on how Harris interprets her mandate, the implications could be very significant for arrestees already in the system on charges related to Proposition 215 offenses. One of the anomalies still unresolved by either the California or federal Supreme Courts is the liability people who might be charged by either “sovereign” (because both governments are arguably "sovereign").
Another potential stumbling block is the fact that Proposition 215 has been allowing practices specifically prohibited by a Federal law that could itself easily be interpreted as a violation of the Tenth Amendment.
Federal and State issues aside, if Harris were simply to exercise the AG's responsibility to see that the state's laws are "uniformly enforced," it would be a huge improvement over the chaotic standards in effect since 1996.
November 21, 2010
More QuestionsThe last entry ended with a rhetorical question: how did our species, the only one capable of both literacy and empirical science, manage to make such a mess of the modern world? Important collateral questions, which in any rational context, should at least be addressed before an attempt is made to fix such problems: is a fix even possible? And is there enough time?
It’s now obvious that my (admittedly limited) study of the clinical pharmacology of marijuana strongly supports the notion that in its natural state, cannabis possesses unique, potent, and generally safe medical properties. It’s also probable those properties could be enhanced considerably in a setting in which pot use were both legal and socially acceptable. The opposite is also clear; until those conditions are met, anyone using cannabis for any reason will risk arbitrary and capricious punishment from police entities at all levels for the simple reason that policing drug use has become a major source of Law Enforcement's institutional influence and financial security.
Because mode of ingestion turns out to be an area of considerable federal inconsistency, it's one that also demonstrates our drug policy's reliance on enforced ignorance and thus also worth considering for that reason alone.
Cannabis wasn’t native to Europe; it was introduced from the Far East in the Nineteenth Century, perhaps much earlier, probably in both its inhaled and edible forms. Just when, and by whom, are not precisely known. Martin Booth, in his exhaustive history does not attempt to pin the dates down exactly, but infers that the inhaled form was usually seen as less desirable, even in Muslim countries; thus when Anslinger attacked inhalation with "reefer madness" propaganda, he was simply following an established pattern. What was new with Anslinger was the idea that "marijuana' somehow represented a foreign threat to American teens.
What's clear is that modern users still recognize major differences in effect based on whether pot is inhaled or eaten, but are not at all clear why that's so. What's also clear is that the existence of those differences should have become clear to NIDA and the DEA long ago because both, like Anslinger, claim expertise on all facets of drug use.
The difference is that we now have, in place of NIDA's repetitive studies of "kids," information provided by applicants of all ages, coherent evidence based on their years of experience. The more such evidence accumulates, the shabbier and more contrived federal doctrine should appear.
Thinking Out LoudIt would be difficult to find much support for the idea that America’s (or the UN’s) drug wars are succeeding. About the best being claimed for either right now is an empty assertion: that the world’s drug problems would somehow be even worse if certain arbitrarily designated agents had not been declared illegal by act of Congress forty years ago. However, closer scrutiny of even that modest claim reveals it to be just as absurd as the notion that any market for products or services desired by enough humans- from commercial sex to nuclear weapons- can ever be “controlled” by declaring them illegal. In fact, the ongoing quests of 3 designated “Axis of Evil” nations for their own nuclear weapons are a telling rebuttal: both North Korea’s and Iran’s efforts can be seen as crude attempts at nuclear blackmail; as was Iraq's before unilateral Israeli aggression canceled it abruptly in 1981 (and set it back enough to obviate any need to overthrow Saddam as part of a rational response to 9/11).
Nor can it be claimed that the current emotionally charged dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir has been made safer by nuclear weapons. Ditto North & South Korea; in fact, just the opposite. Finally, who would Israel nuke in response to unequivocal evidence that an extremist Arab weapon exists?
Nor does the current global economic debacle auger well for the immediate future: pessimism and resentment are far more conducive to mindless aggression than is optimism about the economy and the future. That neither modern nations nor their vaunted international agencies, including the UN, are capable of controlling rogue nations like Somalia is just as evident now as it was in Jefferson’s day when the “shores of Tripoli” unwittingly expressed a still-futile American promise to impose its brand of order on unruly populations.
Finally, does anyone doubt there are Muslim Jihadis somewhere whose faith would allow them to deliver a bootleg nuclear device to an infidel target meeting their (personal) criteria of legitimacy?
All of which prompts an obvious question: How did the world’s only cognitive species get itself into such a mess?
November 14, 2010
California Election AftermathSupporters of California’s failed November 2nd initiative to legalize cannabis have three solid reasons to be confident that victory is probably no more than a few years off. All are essentially demographic: the first is that only 237 (3.81%) of the 6207 applicants I gathered data from were born before 1946; in other words, before the Baby Boom. The second is closely related: a majority of the relatively few pre-boomers were between 25 and 35 years of age before "initiating" marijuana (inhaling "reefer” for the first time) whereas their younger colleagues were overwhelmingly in their mid-teens at initiation. Finally: essentially everyone who applied for a “medical” designation was already a chronic user whatever their age; only a handful, five or so, were cannabis naive.
Those rather straightforward findings provide both a solid time-line and firm starting point for evolution of the enormous criminal market for marijuana that exists today; it started growing only after the Baby Boom counterculture began coming of age in the mid-Sixties and quickly penetrated the nation's high schools, where trying marijuana has been a rite of passage comparable to trying alcohol and cigarettes, a pattern that's very unlikely to be changed by more drug war propaganda.
Collateral data supplied by applicants of all ages on their initiations and use of alcohol, cigarettes, and several illegal drugs support an entirely different hypothesis for the patterns of juvenile drug use than the speculations supported by supporters of drug prohibition, who are forced to rely on the less-than-complete Monitoring the Future studies that began(belatedly) in 1975 and thus also lack data from critical earlier years.
Beyond that, the older age at initiation of the pre-boomers in my study suggests that whatever market for “reefer” existed before the mid-Sixties must have been tiny and unsophisticated in comparison to the one that has developed since then. That's a finding that can easily be verified by obtaining year-of-birth data from older applicants already in possession of a physicians' recommendation.
Thus the discovery of “reefer” by Baby Boomers in the mid-Sixties was a signal event, a critical bit of history that has been assiduously ignored by both policy advocates and reformers, each for their own reasons. That reality that should become increasingly obvious as the first Boomers begin aging into Medicare on January 1, 2011.
On a more mundane note, perhaps the most immediately practical election result will be the identity of California's next Attorney General, a contest certain to be go down to the wire, perhaps beyond. If Cooley wins, I'll be surprised if he doesn't interpret a razor thin margin as a mandate for legal harassment and restriction of cannabis distribution outlets (dispensaries) to the extent possible.
One could hardly expect such a rabid Republican to do less.
November 11, 2010
Trial UpdateA while back, I reported on a trial in which I’d volunteered to become an expert witness on behalf of a patient I’d first seen in April, 2002 when I was still a novice “pot doc” struggling to understand the new specialty I’d become involved in. My rationale was that over eight years of studying pot use as a behavior and publication of the only medical profile of Proposition 215 applicants should give me some standing to refute what I now regard as the mistaken assumptions still dominating popular discussions of cannabis use.
Yesterday the trial, which began in December, 2009 and stalled almost immediately over the prosecutor's demand for the raw data from an ongoing study (the names, addresses, and personal details of thousands of people seeking to comply with California law).
What it had finally taken for the trial to resume was for me to be represented by my own attorney who could then explain why honoring the prosecutor’s demand would violate the most basic canons of patient confidentiality. Yesterday, the long awaited resumption took place. As expected, there was no hint that the prosecutor had learned a thing about medical marijuana in the past eleven months; he was still intent on sending my patient to prison if at all possible. I could not even tell if he’d ever read the paper based on the data he had demanded, but my best guess is that he hadn’t.
The trial will resume sometime in January (marking the fourth calendar year since the patient's arrest). All indications are that my patient will be found not guilty by the judge, but that’s still not certain. What was confirmed for me is that our modern age is woefully in need of an overhaul; we humans are trapped within a system that's out of control because the most basic beliefs underpinning our behavior are still in dispute: was the universe created by a humanoid intelligence or did it simply evolve by complex mechanisms we are just beginning to understand?
November 04, 2010
Late, Hopeful News on Cooley vs HarrisAs I suspected this morning, the election outcome that will be most important to cannabis users in California won’t be Prop 19; it will be who wins the race for Attorney General. Ironically, shades of 2000, it’s already being predicted that the outcome may remain in doubt “for weeks.”
Let’s hope the US Supreme Court doesn’t become involved...
For what it's worth, I suspect that the relatively unknown Harris' unexpected "strength" came from late publicity emphasizing Cooley's hostility to medical marijuana and his desire to shut down LA dispensaries.
November 03, 2010
Election ResultsAlthough I voted for it, I was neither surprised nor disappointed by Proposition 19’s relatively narrow defeat yesterday; in fact, I rather expected it based mostly on the tone of recent American political commentary and the antics of the US electorate over the past several weeks. Another factor was the frankly disappointing performance of our rookie chief executive whose rhetorical skills clearly outshine his ability to lead. If he wants to be a two-term president, he will have to hope for either a GOP error like the one that saved Bill Clinton in ‘95 or find a way to quickly demonstrate leadership skills similar to those exhibited by Truman throughout his entire presidency.
Back to Cannabis and California: the most critical election result yet to be resolved is Attorney General and the stakes are huge: Steve Cooley is an almost-fascist throwback to ex-California AG Dan Lungren. He declared war on LA’s cannabis “dispensaries” long ago. In contrast, his opponent is San Francisco DA Kamala Harris, whose attitude toward pot use seems nearly as confused as Obama’s.
Talk about deja vu; it's the lesser of two evils... all over again.