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.
October 14, 2011
Euphemism as Blatant Dishonesty; “Nat Geo,” Rupert Murdoch & Mexican CartelsAlthough the policy they are paid to enforce is one of drug prohibition, the bureaucracy prosecuting America’s “war on drugs" stubbornly insists their aim is one of control, while assiduously avoiding any use of the long-discredited “P” word. Such flagrant intellectual dishonesty on behalf of a destructive policy raises euphemism to the equivalent of a war crime and tarnishes the American mainstream media that have been so loathe to question it since Richard Nixon was allowed to bury the Shafer report back in March, 1972.
Nixon's escalation of a failing policy into a metaphorical war was empowered by John Mitchell's Controlled Substances Act just over four decades ago; the DEA and NIDA, the agencies created to wage it, are an overlooked legacy of Nixon's truncated second term; they were created by Executive Order shortly before his forced resignation. That the agencies themselves, and the failures of the DEA have escaped critical scrutiny by our Fourth Estate is an enduring irony, given the media's role in Watergate. One would think the drug war's dubious intellectual origins might have prompted more searching scrutiny than they have received so far from our "free press."
A pertinent contemporary example of both Drug War duplicity and its dishonest media support can be found in Rupert Murdoch's "Nat Geo," which produces a "documentary" series entitled Border Wars. It's shot entirely from the standpoint of our "heroic" Border Patrol without regard to the plight of the desperately poor Mexicans they chase across the Sonoran desert with Blackhawk helicopters, or the horrific cartel violence now threatening Mexican society with implosion. Nor does it factor in the murder an estimated 10,000 Mexicans per year since 2006, when the Bush-Cheney White House requested that newly elected Mexican President Calderon "clean up" cross border smuggling.
I had a small measure of satisfaction this morning upon hearing over the car radio that Murdoch was heckled off a podium in San Francisco he had probably paid good money for .
October 08, 2011
Yet Another Example of Federal Drug InsanityNearly fifteen years after a comfortable majority of Californians voted to allow a long-overdue study of the medical attributes of cannabis (“marijuana”), the federal government Department of Justice, is still adamant that it must remain an illegal drug without any recognized medical use. Yesterday morning Melinda Haag, US Attorney for Northern California, announced a new campaign against the thriving medical marijuana market that has followed California's example since 1998 and now numbers a total of 16 states, despite the best efforts of Clinton’s drug czar to nip it in the bud; before 1996 had even ended.
At some point, one is forced to wonder when the American Public will finally understand that federal drug policy may be the best example of a popular definition of insanity one could imagine.
Haag’s cliche-laden announcement also reveals that federal policy under Obama’s DEA is just as intellectually dishonest and cognitively incompetent as it was under Bush and Clinton. In other words, the Controlled Substances Act authored by jailbird Attorney General John Mitchell in 1969 at the behest of then-President Nixon, still relies on threats and fear over science and ordinary common sense to impose its benighted “marijuana” doctrine. Shades of Harry Anslinger.
It may be that the American Public, long beguiled by federal dishonesty on the subject of drugs and blinded to our expensive efforts to enforce a failing prohibition, will finally wake up. Or it may not. In any event, the popular response to their latest insanity in the nation with the world’s largest (and least affordable) prison system should be interesting, to say the least.
October 03, 2011
A Realistic Historical PerspectiveOur own history is what most humans remain focused on because of the way our brains have evolved. Although those of other vertebrates are very similar, the brightest primate can’t match either the conceptual power or capacity for learning possessed by Homo sapiens. In the final analysis, it's the unique ability to conceptualize- and then test various “what if?” scenarios- that gave our species the degree of control of our planetary environment we now possess. However, as that planet's current state now reveals, it hasn't been smooth sailing; especially since we began acquiring scientific competence a few hundred years ago.
That's because of the alarming overpopulation and an attendant environmental degradation that have accompanied our scientific prowess. We now face a series of existential problems as grave as any that threatened us with extinction in earlier times; however, our present numbers and shrinking natural resources, to say nothing of anthropogenic climate problems, are clearly more serious than we care to admit. Beyond that, years of extraordinary greed may have just poisoned our global economy to an unprecedented degree.
Before these serious problems can be addressed effectively, they will first have to be recognized by world leaders. Assuming that’s even possible, dealing with them constructively will require honest deliberations and the imposition of fair rules. Another lesson history teaches us about ourselves is that exploitation and repression do not succeed over the long term; rather, they breed opposition that eventually defeats oppressors one way or another; not because of Divine intervention on behalf of the righteous (the traditional explanation), but because human emotions inevitably lead apparent “winners” to overreach and "losers" to seek revenge.
Alternatively, we are now also learning- almost on a daily basis- how seriously our small planet’s Geology can affect living populations. Given the relative brevity of primates' time on earth and how quickly it could all be over, planning may not matter.
Before giving in to despair, however; it's also very human to remain optimistic and look for solutions. Where there's a will, there (may be) a way.