February 26, 2012
Anxiety, Dishonesty, and "Criminal" Drug UseOur species’ biggest problems are our intrinsic anxiety and dishonesty, which often combine in political and other leaders as a quest for monopoly, the need to dominate whatever commercial, academic, or political venture they are engaged in. Although not fully expressed in everyone, that same need to control has often been prominent in charismatic leaders, who, through control of governments or important organizations, have exerted great impact by recruiting dedicated followers (Hitler and Gandhi are familiar examples, but there are many others).
Following the evolution of an effective Scientific Method roughly five centuries ago, the ability of governments to feed their populations, fabricate weapons and sponsor the invention of complex devices generated wealth and greatly enhanced the pace of “progress.” Unfortunately, those increased abilities were usually not accompanied by a matching increase in wisdom and restraint.
The human need to “control” has also increased human wealth, food supply, and population, especially during the Twentieth Century. Despite the record numbers killed by war, famine, epidemics, and natural disasters, the Earth’s human population increased four-fold during that hundred years and was, if anything, more politically unstable in 2000 than it had been in 1900; Ironically, not by wars between the “isms” that had struggled for dominance between 1919 and 1989, but resurrection of the religious differences that produced the Crusades in the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Centuries. The intensity of the residual hatred became apparent in 2001, when Muslim terrorists emulated Palestinian suicide bombers and Japanese “Bushido” warriors by combining hijacked Airliners with suicide in a devastating simultaneous attack on America and its economy.
Unfortunately, America’s own unsuccessful 14 year experiment with “Prohibition” of alcohol between 1920 and 1933 had inspired the rapid development of organized crime, which has since invaded other markets and institutions to a considerable degree. By 2000 we could boast the world’s most populous jail and prison populations, largely based on the federal bureaucracy’s conviction that arresting and incarcerating large numbers of “drug criminals” is good Public Health, to be preferred to actually understanding drug use as human behavior.
My own interest, and the source of much of my information, has grown directly from the unexpected opportunity provided by Proposition 215 to study the unique population of US drug users who began appearing in the mid-Sixties and has been growing steadily in number ever since. In fact, it is that growth and the failure of (federally compliant) “research” to understand the reasons behind it that seem to be the most important revelations of the study.
In essence, gaining an accurate understanding the complex relationships between human dishonesty, the noxious effect of childhood insecurity and the genesis of a "war on drugs" may be our biggest challenge as a species. Whether we are up to the job should start becoming apparent by November 2012.
February 19, 2012
Equal Justice under the Law?The last entry described some of the inconsistencies and egregious unfairness with which the feds have enforced their ban on “medical marijuana” within California over the sixteen years since Proposition 215 passed. Just by chance, the San Francisco Chronicle (which in my opinion has done a terrible job of covering the initiative since 1996) surprised me a bit by reporting on the gross differences in the way the feds have handled the medical use issue in California and Colorado (to some extent, it may reflect the fact that Colorado had to amend its constitution in order to pass their law.
By the way, I also find it ironical that the Chronicle was bought by the Hearst Corporation, the same company that started as the San Francisco Examiner and grew into the most powerful newspaper empire in the US. Another example of what goes around comes around.
More than Ironic, to someone with a sense of history, is that William Randolph Hearst's newspaper chain pioneered "yellow Journalism," and helped start us on the road to imperialism by agitating for War with Spain, it was also the source of sinister allegations that "dope peddlers" were selling cannabis to school kids, a major canard Harry Anslinger used in his push for the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act. That the 1937 market was really quite small and primarily focused on adults in the music and entertainment industries is strongly supported by my population demographics, one of several points today's self-appointed policy "experts" either miss or are unable to understand.
February 16, 2012
What Opposition to "Legalization" Signifies, part 2In the last entry, I mentioned a phenomenon that had followed close on the heels of the Raich decision in a case brought against the government by Medical marijuana advocates to test the applicability of the Interstate Commerce clause to marijuana grown within the state for medical purposes. The basic argument was that since the "marijuana" was grown and used within the same state, the IC clause (ironically the original legal excuse for a federal Controlled Substances Act) shouldn't apply. I thought the suit unwise; not for medical or legal reasons, but because it was politically risky. I simply could not see why a Supreme Court court that obviously had been stacked for the purpose of reversing Roe V. Wade would ever "legalize" marijuana out of personal distaste for the Commerce clause. I also knew of several dogmatic assertions of hostility toward illegal drug use and "addiction" by sitting justices and could not think of any who were at all sympathetic to the cause of marijuana legalization.
As it turned out, I was right; the Court somehow construed a World War Two wheat rationing case as justifying federal intrusion into medical use of marijuana in California. Their decision was immediately hailed by conservatives as proving that federal law "trumps" state law and within five weeks or so, four men being prosecuted in different California counties for medical marijuana violations were arrested and taken into custody on federal warrants on the same charges.
As it happened, I was then working closely with one of them, a Merced man I'd seen twice in Oakland for pot recommendations. He was also a grower who had been busted by local police some three or four months after his second visit to Oakland. He was out on bail and busy creating a local patient group that would conform as closely as possible to the legal guidelines then being created by California case law in compliance with the Mower decision.
To make a long story a bit shorter, I had just been deprived of my main venue in Oakland and was in need of a place to see patients. I'm not sure who contacted who first , but when we discovered that our needs were complimentary, I began traveling to Merced to interview patients. Through our frequent contact I became aware of his federal bust the day it happened. The ultimate results are summarized here, here. My interpretation of the sense of "justice" to be found within our federal system is stated here.
It has now been five years since Dustin disappeared into the federal gulag (He's since been transferred to a prison camp in Colorado). I wish I could say that my opinion of the feds has improved, but sadly it hasn't. In fact, a new federal crack-down on medical marijuana in California was announced recently.
For this observer, the mediocrity of current GOP presidential candidates, together with the religious fervor/cynicism (take your pick) of the federal "anti-drug" bureaucracy is frightening.
February 15, 2012
What Opposition to "Legalization" Signifies, part 1About the time I finally realized America's drug war was an enormous folly (circa 1995), I began growing impatient with people who acknowledge an awareness of the damage it inflicts, but feel constrained to add that they oppose “legalization.” One possible explanation for such logical inconsistency is fear of being thought to favor "drug use;" primarily because drug war propaganda has successfully conflated any support for “legalization” to mean just that. Indeed; that implication has long been favored by the DEA and NIDA, the two agencies created by Richard Nixon to implement and defend the bogus assumptions of John Mitchell's Controlled Substances Act.
Thanks to the ultimate global acceptance of those assumptions, the "logic" of the CSA has now been enforced as global policy for just over forty years and has amply confirmed the basic lessons taught by the failure of alcohol prohibition almost five decades earlier; namely that the lure of the profits made possible by illegal markets is irresistible to some; also that those profits enable the most capable criminals to amass huge fortunes. However, the most most basic lesson of all has either never been learned by politicians, or was quickly forgotten: only governments have the power to create illegal markets; thus any legislation that creates one is either an act of extreme stupidity or diabolical cynicism.
The muddled thinking of the CSA is in keeping with that analysis: Nixon's (Mitchell's) law ceded all control of "illegal drugs" to criminals and designated the US Attorney General- the one US Public official least knowledgeable about Medicine and Pharmacology- as the only one with the power to create new criminal bonanzas. Is it any wonder that both their number and share of the global economy have been expanding at an even faster rate than its human population since 1972? Did we ever speak of "drug cartels" and "Narco states" before the CSA became law?
It was clearly Nixon's insecurity that provoked the career-ending folly of Watergate; yet, paradoxically, his repressive drug policy, along with recognition of China, have been his most enduring legacies. That the latter may have obviated direct Chinese intervention in Vietnam does not make up for the former's devastating effects.
Once understood, the durability of the illogical “anti-legalization” shibboleth exposes several additional inconsistencies. Among the most glaring are the conflicting rulings of the US and California Supreme Courts. Federal law states clearly that all production of "marijuana," a Schedule One "substance" is a crime, yet the US Court, in its first ruling on the matter did not strike down the initiative process that enabled Proposition 215 to become state law. The next significant judicial decision on the issue involved Myron Mower, a critically ill California man who has since died. The state court ruling established several protections for patients accused of violating state law. Alleged violation of those conditions now constitute the great majority of marijuana arrests by local and state police. As I have learned from a variety of sources, including direct participation as a witness in a limited number of trials, there is a woeful lack of uniformity throughout the state. In essence California DAs are now free to prosecute medical marijuana "crimes" by whatever standards they can get away with in their home counties.
The Mower case also established two venues for prosecution Medical Marijuana "crimes." The forbearance of the federal court was confirmed by the Raich decision, which tacitly affirmed that “marijuana” may have medical benefits while ruling that growing it could be seen as somehow affecting interstate commerce. That ruling was quickly interpreted as meaning that federal law “trumps” state law and soon resulted in federal arrest warrants for four patients already charged in different parts of the state. Contrary to what one might think in a nation that supports fairness and finds double jeopardy abhorrent, those summary transfers of jurisdiction were not considered either unfair of illegal by the legal establishment; simply another case of “two sovereigns.”
More on this subject later,