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January 01, 2011

Marijuana's Delayed Popularity; the Case Against the Drug War

When Harry Anslinger introduced his inane Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, the only thing we can be sure of is that he knew almost nothing about “reefer” from either personal experience or the medical literature because the prescribed use of inhaled cannabis was so rare as to be relatively unknown, especially when compared to its use today. We do know there was some non-medical (but legal) "recreational" smoking of “reefer” (“muggles,” “gage”). Also that Anslinger was a shameless liar who routinely made up evidence to justify the FBN’s existence. In fact, one of the most damning bits of evidence that the current US and global) “war” on drugs is based on nonsense is that an ignorant buffoon like Anslinger could have been the driving force behind such pivotal legislation.

"Marijuana” was finally discovered by American adolescents and young adults a little less than thirty years after the MTA was passed and just about the time the man most responsible for it was shuffling off to senescence and retirement. "Reefer's"delayed popularity could not have been forecast in 1937, nor indeed was it even recognized until the mid-Sixties. It's explosive popularity, almost three decades after all use had been made illegal, is without parallel in the history of illegal drugs. Ditto the youthful nature and enthusiasm of its first devotees. A third phenomenon requiring explanation has been the sustained loyalty of so many chronic users despite progressively severe prosecution (and persecution) at the hands of our criminal justice system.

Were it not for the nearly simultaneous emergence of information in the late Eighties that inhaled "marijuana" was relieving the nausea and vomiting then interfering with two newly effective treatments for cancer and AIDS, it's likely California’s Proposition 215 would not have even made the 1996 ballot, let alone passed by a comfortable maegin. Even more distressing, from my point of view, is the remarkable resistance of both our media and political power structure to factual information about cannabis, still a.k.a. “marijuana.” Anslinger may have been a clumsy liar, but he was a skillful enough propagandist to infect the general public with the same prejudices he'd displayed throughout a long life; perhaps that's the reason so few biographers have been inspired to tell his story (and none have praised his dubious "accomplishments").

All of which leads me to have contempt for academic gurus at "leading universities" who should have been smart enough to know better, but have continued taking Anslinger's ridiculous claims seriously throughout their (now) relatively long academic careers. We have been seriously led astray on drug policy; not only by all three branches of government, but also by those claiming special expertise in "Public Policy" an academic career field that didn't begin developing until after World war Two.

Anslinger didn't fool everybody; a few prescient authors, notably Dan Baum & Mike Gray published critical appraisals right around the time 215 passed. One, inspired by his earlier study of Nazism, pointed out that such academic and judicial blindness is not without precedent. In fact, a compelling example was flowering in Europe just as a still-vigorous Anslinger was selling the MTA to a gullible American Congress in 1937.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at January 1, 2011 09:46 PM