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June 24, 2012

Discrediting the Drug War: Part 1

The United States has been pursuing an intellectually dishonest policy of criminal drug prohibition ever since the Harrison Act was signed into law by Woodrow Wilson in December 1914. Never remotely successful at achieving its stated goals, the policy survived the demise of alcohol prohibition in 1933; primarily because it was not based on a Constitutional Amendment and the markets for opiates (now opioids) and cocaine it was assumed to "regulate" never became large enough to attract very much attention.

In 1937, the reach of American drug prohibition was expanded to embrace cannabis by Harry Anslinger's Marijuana Tax Act. Like Harrison, the MTA was a deceptive transfer tax that expanded federal police power, but with two important differences. First, Anslinger used the then-rare slang term "marijuana" as an all-inclusive generic for all products of the hemp plant, a detail that has had both a crippling effect on their commercial development and increasingly significant negative economic and environmental consequences. Second, also unlike Harrison, the MTA made no allowance for any possible medical use even if, as Doctor Woodward presciently suggested at the brief Congressional hearing, one or more therapeutic benefits were later disclosed by research.

What "Beat" writers would discover when they became the first authors to both inhale "marijuana" and write about their drug experiences were the instant anxiolytic effects of inhaled cannabis. Unfortunately, they were not able to describe their experiences in medical terms for a variety of reasons. Rather, the effects of inhaled cannabis became known collectively as the "high" produced by "weed," an eventuality that made it easier for John Mitchell's and Richard Nixon's Controlled Substances Act to demonize all "illicit" drug use after the MTA was unexpectedly declared unconstitutional by the Warren Court in 1969.

Thus was a critical dichotomy established between Baby Boomers and their elders, one that has been maintained and exploited by drug policy defenders since passage of the CSA in 1970. Whether originally based on bureaucratic ignorance (as seems likely) the stubborn defense of their destructive policy by an obviously self-interested federal bureaucracy in the face of mounting contradictory evidence is a disturbing abuse of power that tends to negate all the claimed benefits of democratic government.

Ironically, whether President Obama realizes it or not, he is an exemplar of the typical cannabis user profiled by my study: male, biracial, born after 1946, an unknown father, raised by a single mother with or without an assist from grandparents. The only intensifying circumstance would be an early adoption in which both parents remain unknown to the child.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 24, 2012 03:43 PM