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May 19, 2011

Annals of Misinterpretation

As noted in previous entries, America’s national drug policy began when the deceptive Harrison Act was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in December 1914. Controversial from the start, it generated a series of affirmative 5-4 Supreme Court decisions based on erroneous assumptions about “addiction,” an entity with which the medical profession of that day was just beginning to grapple and still had little experience. Unfortunately, the premature intrusion of the criminal justice system into what should ideally have remained a medical problem politicized it and prevented its unbiased assessment. Addiction was actually a new facet of human behavior that was misidentified as a disease, an error which is more than just semantic and persists to this day.

Politicizing addiction placed it just beyond the reach of scientific scrutiny, a defect that couldn’t be remedied until California and Arizona passed similar “Medical Marijuana” initiatives in 1996. Even then, the dead judicial hand of the past was invoked by modern politicians to strike down Arizona’s initiative because its use of the word, "prescription” was deemed to violate existing law (the good news is that 14 years later, Arizonans barely managed to make their state the fifteenth with a medical marijuana law; the bad news is that the 2010 margin was much closer than in '96).

Thus had ninety-two years elapsed between the Harrison Act and Proposition 215, the first real opportunity to gather clinical information with which to scrutinize the bogus assumptions of the “War on Drugs.” That such an irrational policy could have survived and prospered to the extent it has is compelling evidence of a serious flaw in human cognition, the critical function that has allowed our species to dominate other life forms and now, it is argued, poses a grave existential threat to its own welfare.

That sad theme will be explored in a future entry.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 19, 2011 05:17 PM