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July 07, 2011

Change you Can’t Believe In; in a world having problems with reality

I‘d only been screening applicants hoping to use “marijuana” legally for a few months before their clinical histories convinced me that many time-honored beliefs about cannabis are simply either untrue or based on serious misconceptions. After nearly ten years spent studying that heretofore hidden population, I think I've gained an understanding of how it has been evolving for the past 40 years and how America's drug war had been damaging both our own society and those of other nations well before that.

The best place to begin may be with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, a law prompted by developing awareness of drug problems falling under the rubric of “addiction” in the late 19th Century, especially the injection of heroin. Preceded by New York Times specials earlier that year and reflecting ambient racist fears, Harrison was an early attempt to establish “control” over a targeted drug by means of a transfer tax. The new law quickly led to several test cases generated by the arrests of physicians for prescribing drugs (as it required). Through a series of narrow (5 to 4) decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that prescribing for addicts in amounts not in accord with federal policy was illegal. Thus did an ignorant Congress, with a critical assist from an equally ignorant Supreme Court, define “addiction” and specify its optimal treatment long before Medicine had been able to study the phenomenon clinically- or even to describe it coherently.

By establishing rigid rules specifying what the goal of treatment must be (abstinence), also by authorizing criminal punishment for recidivism, a manifestly ignorant Court enabled a policy that would ultimately give America the dubious honor of leading the world in the incarceration of its own citizens.

Yet for some reason, the “drug war” has become a sacred cow; even mild public criticism of our drug policy courts strident denunciation and risks political destruction of the critic. Now globally enforced by UN treaty, the Drug War has the potential to become one of our species’ epic mistakes. A good example was a recent memo from the Obama Justice Department threatening criminal prosecution of officials in states with medical marijuana laws for daring to comply with them.

That memo reinforces the ambivalence Obama's Administration has been exhibiting toward the issue since January 2009. It has also oscillated in other key areas: it bailed out the same banks that helped create our economic collapse, it's now using Predator drones to kill suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also our rejoicing at the assassination of a notorious terrorist being protected there, reminds us that Pakistan had also been sheltering one of its citizens who had grown rich from the delivery of nuclear technology to them, and probably shopping it to rogue nations around the world.

Given the shaky US economy, our crumbling infrastructure, the cascade of weather disasters like Joplin and the record heat and flooding now being experienced in parts of the US. Also, given the international failure to plan for the increasing probability of adverse climate change, the new Obama Administration may be better suited for life with the hypocritical world we humans have created than we realized.

If anyone has a more optimistic description of our present prospects, I’d be happy to listen.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 7, 2011 01:27 AM