« Unexpected Results; Unintended Consequences | Main | The Marijuana High from a Clinical Perspective »

January 17, 2011

Questions Answered: #2

Question #2 on January 12th asked why “Reefer Madness” (a.k.a. America’s marijuana prohibition) survived Repeal. Although it should have been asked more precisely as "HOW did our drug policy survive Prohibition’s failure?" a major factor was obviously the care taken by federal bureaucrats from Anslinger forward to avoid any use of the “P word” in official documents. That practice became universal after Nixon and has also been honored by the media; just like they never mentioned FDR's polio residuals.

The implicit dishonesty with which a failing drug policy was given a pass became even more evident after Nixon; the drug war has been euphemistically described as drug “control” without it enforcers being asked any hard questions: how can a valuable commodity can be “controlled" when designated criminals are given a monopoly on its production, transportation, and sale. Also remarkable for their scarcity in the media are other hard questions: why is a chronically failing policy awarded a bigger budget every year and why has it been accompanied by a quadrupling of prison inmates since it was instituted in 1970? Finally, the same hard questions are never asked of aspiring Presidential candidates.

Thus are what may be the most important lessons to be learned from Prohibition’s failure either ignored or misunderstood by both political parties and the media and so, beg more questions: are they all stupid, cynical, or both? There seems no logical alternative. That the same policy is also implicitly, albeit cautiously, defended by the similar failure of professors of “Public Policy” at "leading universities" to ask the same questions is another puzzle. Are (we) humans simply consummate liars and equivocators?

While that may be a deeply disturbing idea, history tells us it shouldn't come as a surprise. Although we are the most recently evolved primates and the most capable of cognition, it's only a relatively short time since we even learned to write and an even shorter interval since we gained the ability to sort and classify various abstract ideas (Psychiatry hasn't even come up with a rational classification of our own behavioral problems).

Since we are also highly competitive mammals, only too willing to kill both ourselves and others for our strongly held personal and religious beliefs, the imposition of a silly drug policy by our political leaders may be just a passing phase and shouldn't panic us into throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Given all our other faults: murder, child abuse, torture and criminal neglect of the same environment our grandchildren may need to survive in, perhaps a failing drug policy shouldn't be of primary concern.

If we were to practice a bit more denial, things may even get better by themselves. Out here in California, where progress has been inching along for 14 years, we even had a legalization initiative to vote on last November. If the people who already had a doctor's recommendations, hadn't voted against Proposition 19, it might even have passed; but I haven't heard anyone complaining...

Doctor Tom (only slightly tongue-in cheek; see Fred Gardner)

Posted by tjeffo at January 17, 2011 05:08 AM