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March 31, 2011

Empowered by Cognition; Endangered by Emotions

Cognition, which has become the preferred term for what used to be called “thinking;” is as close to an exclusively human brain function as there is. That other complex animals have similarly organized brains with rudimentary cognitive powers is obvious; so is the fact that brains are essential to life in virtually all species possessing them because they serve as visceral and muscular control centers. For completeness, it’s also known that as far as thinking is concerned, octopuses demonstrate remarkable intelligence and capacity for learning; unfortunately their aquatic habitat and remarkably short life spans severely limit their developmental potential.

Also obvious to anyone who has studied anatomy is that the human brain is structurally far more complex than those of other mammals, amply confirming its role with respect to the capabilities that have set us apart from, and allowed us to dominate all others: language, consciousness, memory and emotions. Indeed, it is clearly our brain’s complexity- not its size- that has endowed us with our as-yet unmatched cognitive abilities. There is one important caveat however: to the extent our cognitive skills have enhanced our ability to influence our planetary environment, so has our marginal emotional control become a liability that seriously threatens our well being.

At this point, one might well wonder why a blog nominally devoted to “medical marijuana” should concern itself with such abstruse concepts. The reason is that the more my essentially private investigation of the American phenomenon of cannabis prohibition has revealed, the more it has also become clear that it’s both a national folly and an apt metaphor for our species’ most dangerous vulnerability. Ironically, our emotions, the very qualities that enhance our joy and delight at being human, and have been enriching culture for thousands of years- and literature since we first learned to write- are the same ones that lead us to lie, cheat, steal, rape and kill both ourselves and each other.

Although many would still deny it, cannabis is a complex and effective herbal remedy that moderates emotional excesses to an amazing degree (it also treats a wide range of somatic symptoms more safely and effectively than most pharmaceutical products). Sadly; it also has a disgraceful American (and global) history: one of official lies and distortions almost beyond belief; comparable only to our tragic adventure with chattel slavery. Our witless federal cannabis policy has given comfort and sustenance to a succession of fools, frauds, and mountebanks in law enforcement and the Judiciary while encouraging the destructive punishment of chronic users, most of whom were guilty of nothing more than unwitting self-medication to relieve symptoms produced by childhood emotional trauma.

That it's a story told best told by surviving victims in response to the first unbiased medical questioning of them ever permitted should not come as a surprise; but apparently that’s the case... if you have any doubt that self-appointed "experts" remain hopelessly confused, just click on some recently expressed opinions.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 31, 2011 01:43 AM