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December 23, 2011

A Search for Coherence

A relatively unnoticed characteristic of America’s “drug war” is its incoherence. It simply does not make any sense. I would defy anyone to propose a brief, coherent explanation of how the features allegedly linking all the various "substances of abuse" that have been added to “Schedule 1” under the Controlled Substances Act since 1970 qualify under the terms stated in the legislation itself. Three specific requirements were set by Congress at the behest of John Mitchell and Richard Nixon, neither of whom are remembered for their personal integrity or medical scholarship. Thus, at its very core, the drug war can be recognized as a doctrine of incoherent nonsense, the dubious legacy of medically ignorant scoundrels. Yet because it's been enforced globally by UN treaty for over 40 years, it has been expanded into a significant cause of avoidable mortality and morbidity. If ever there were a better example of our species' desperate current plight, I'm hard pressed to think of it.

Nevertheless, a considerable fraction of influential people tacitly endorse the drug war by their reluctance to either criticize it openly or even acknowledge its disastrous effects. A good, but by no means unique, example is Ken Burns, the talented producer of several uniquely American documentaries for PBS including The Civil War, Baseball, and Prohibition.

Born in 1953, the boyish, intelligent, Burns was a Baby Boomer who must certainly have become aware of the social turmoil developing around him in the late Sixties and early Seventies: Nixon’s election, Watergate, and the war in Vietnam. My interest was evoked by learning he had avoided the relevance of the drug war to Prohibition when specifically questioned about it. After a further search, Google found the evidence. His weaseling response confirms a remarkably common phenomenon: undue respect for a destructive policy that, once we understand another human behavior, is all too characteristic of our species.

The message is clear: until we can overcome our own collective hypocrisy, fear and greed, we will be stuck with a perpetually losing War on Drugs and all the destructive behavior it encourages.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 23, 2011 09:09 PM