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December 20, 2011

Is "Legalization" even a viable option?

Many Americans know the Drug War is a rank failure, but most don't know why- and are afraid to say so. The good news is that criticism is now considerably more open than when Proposition 215 passed in 1996. The bad news is that it is still poorly coordinated, the rate of change has been slow, and it rarely equates with a preference for "legalization."

Our study of cannabis applicants is the only attempt to profile pot smoking as a behavior I've been able to find. One of several characteristics shared by many (but not all) in the larger cannabis community is a desire for "legalization." Unfortunately, they also have great difficulty agreeing on just how that should be accomplished. Finally, I'm becoming convinced, by an unscientific straw poll of applicants seen since November 19th 2010, that if all pot users in the state had voted "yes," Prop 19 would likely have passed easily. In other words, a segment of the "industry" is profiting from the status quo. Duh.

What I've also learned from studying them for 10 years, is that over 96% of applicants were born in 1946 or later, a similar fraction had tried it before age 18, and many were troubled by behaviors now diagnosed as ADD or other conditions on the "Autism Spectrum." However, none of that information could possibly have been made known to them, the Scientific Community, or the public at large; let alone the now-deceased characters most responsible for today's "War on Drugs." That's because Hamilton Wright MD, Harry Anslinger, and Richard Nixon were all opportunists who were unknown to each other and, in any event, could not possibly have foreseen where their political power plays would lead.

More generally; "behavioral" scientists are the most dependent on NIDA and DEA approval for funding. They are understandably loathe to criticize the policy that feeds them; thus it's no surprise that our findings, which implicitly contradict drug war dogma on "marijuana," are rarely quoted and usually misconstrued when they are. However the study itself would have been impossible had it not been for the initiative, simply because declaring any "substance" illegal effectively blocked unbiased clinical research after 1970 (vanishingly rare before then). The public might even be shocked at how quickly, and in what numbers, the "scientific" literature on "drugs of abuse" began dancing to the tune of the federal agencies created by Nixon to implement and defend the CSA. The basic story of the drug war is how rules contrived by a few well placed historical characters have evolved into a policy monster that could hardly have been more wasteful or destructive had it all been planned by a single evil genius (a fact no Congress would dare admit) which is why I think "legalization" is so unlikely.

One would think that, by now, everyone should know that the criminal prohibition of popular products is a public policy loser because it creates illegal markets that become short term bonanzas for criminals by enabling them to sell cheap unreliable products at exorbitant prices. That's exactly what happened under alcohol Prohibition, a mistake the US federal government has never formally admitted and was quick to back away from after "Repeal" and the election of FDR in the darkest days of the Great Depression...

Unfortunately the same mistake was already being repeated with "drugs" and has, improbably, been intensified into today's "War". The Harrison Act, a clumsy federal attempt to restrict the use of two drugs in 1914 has subsequently evolved into today's "Drug War" through an irregular series of expansions, each with at least the tacit approval of all three federal branches of government at each stage. The single exception was when the Supreme Court declared the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional shortly after Nixon's election and the trickster quickly seized the opportunity to transform what had been a sputtering, incoherent policy into coherent dogma-driven monster that soon became a full-fledged War. Nixon had invaluable help from John Mitchell. Perhaps the least appreciated facet of the CSA is how soon it opened the door for lobbyists working on behalf of the Prison Industry, Big Pharma and Law Enforcement, all of which soon became powerful allies.

The very ease by which the right catalyst could transform a bad law and a failing policy into a destructive "drug war" is what makes its "repeal" by Congress so unlikely and its non-legislative destruction so attractive. What's needed is an end- around tactic at to use against a federal government that has been so historically unwilling to admit past screw-ups and so guilty of intensifying its serial prohibition failures that a law contrived by the only AG who ever served time at the behest of the only President ever forced to resign because of personal dishonesty.
The same reluctance would inhibit a Supreme Court that has upheld John Mitchell's CSA on every occasion it could have been questioned. Not to mention the Presidency itself: every chief executive since FDR has backed our drug policy; not one has even suggested a timid revision.

Thus it may be that some form of cognitive judo, which could use the failures of the Drug War to render it politically incorrect might be the most efficient way to neutralize it.

The Drug war has evolved into the most destructive sacred cow in American politics, one predictably beyond legislative repeal in the foreseeable future. The next entry will outline a simple, viable strategy for its neutralization, one that should be both possible and affordable.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 20, 2011 09:11 PM