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October 26, 2011

Et tu, SCIAM?

15 years after California’s Proposition 215 barely survived a determined effort by the drug czar to frustrate the spirit of the initiative, a respected Science magazine has finally mustered enough courage to suggest that herbal cannabis may have some medical benefits after all. Even that grudging admission was obscured by the inexplicable reluctance of the author (along with many reformers) to understand that “prohibition” is very different from “control;” also that continued confusion of the two only perpetuates the bureaucratic mess the initiative was intended to clear up.

The short article promptly addressed "Medical" marijuana's main problem: “marijuana's" listing (on Schedule 1 as having a “high potential for abuse," and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S” limits research by making it “difficult for investigators to obtain.” Bravo. But not merely “difficult,” say rather, “impossible.” It's a classic Catch 22, because changing a bad law written by medically ignorant Watergate Maestro John Mitchell in 1970 well before he went to prison for perjury, would require a similarly ignorant Congress to admit its own mistake in passing the fanciful Controlled Substances Act and later intensifying its penalties repeatedly in the absence of any objective data that cannabis is "harmful," either when inhaled or eaten.

As our (now) 10-year study of California applicants suggests, the reason millions of American teens stubbornly try (“initiate”) “weed” between the ages of 12 and 18 year after year are similar to those that impel them to also try (forbidden) alcohol and cigarettes at about the same age: insecurity. Not only that, those who eventually make marijuana their drug of choice drink a lot less dangerously than they did before and the ones who became hooked on cigarettes start trying to quit; (even when they can't, they smoke a lot less). Over the long haul, cannabis has performed as a gateway out of trouble with “harder” drugs, rather than as a gateway into them. The initial researchers who studied young drug users in the Seventies were too eager to please policy makers and had not followed their young subjects long enough to see what patterns would emerge with extended use. We have now had four decades of pot prohibition and its results are far more discernible to focused questioning.

The drug war would not be the first time America got an important policy wrong (Slavery and Segregation come to mind); but- given the number of people arrested for felonies and the human damage produced by their imprisonment- it would be one of the most inhumane and destructive... shame on The Scientific American for remaining contentedly with the herd.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 26, 2011 11:31 PM