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July 21, 2012

Mistakes Too Big to be Admitted

It has become increasingly obvious to those with an interest in cannabis ("marijuana") policy that either the Obama Administration can’t control its bureaucracy, or the President and his AG were just blowing smoke when they said shortly after the 2008 election they would take it easy on states with medical marijuana laws. Nor, could their message have ever reached Melinda Haag, Holder's US Attorney for California's Northern District (and a 2010 Obama appointee!).

After Haag's October 2011 press conference, in which she reaffirmed total federal rejection of any possibility that "marijuana" could be considered "medicine," DEA raids on dispensaries ceased (they were, in any event, becoming sources of local hostility and anti-government resentment). Instead, dispensary landlords began receiving letters from Haag's office threatening them with forfeiture if they continued renting to violators of federal drug law.

The new tactics are working; a record number of dispensaries have been evicted by landlords who chose not to risk loss of valuable property to the government. The down side has been a lot of unnecessary suffering by "legitimate" patients. Unfortunately; because government propaganda has convinced most "straights" that much of "medical" use is simply "recreational," the cannabis-naive public doesn't realize the importance of the relief it provides, nor the needless cruelty of making it nearly impossible to obtain by someone who has come to depend on it.

However, change may be in the air; recent high-profile forfeiture actions brought by US Attorney Haag against Harborside, the entity that operates dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose that have been targeted, will bear watching. The Harborside organization has emerged as an important player in the shadowy world of "medical marijuana" beyond California. It has also been the subject of widely seen and generally favorable documentary videos stressing its professionalism and commitment to both cannabis science and to product quality. Harborside is clearly "not your nephew's pot club," to paraphrase an obnoxiously overworked item of federal propaganda. Harborside's brain trust has promised a stout defense of its record-keeping practices and compliance with existing law.

Prosecutor Haag, on the other hand, revealed that her suspicions regarding Harborside's culpability had been whetted by her belief that any operation doing that well must be doing something illegal!

Thus do the advocates of arbitrary medical practice unwittingly reveal their ignorance and prejudice, even as they presume to enforce a law rooted in similar errant beliefs against patients who were often the victims of careless or dysfunctional upbringing.

History is replete with similar examples: poorly conceived policies that were rigorously enforced for long intervals despite the obvious social damage they were producing.

So has the ultimate replacement of such policies often been needlessly difficult, especially if long delayed by denial or stubborn defense of the policy's essential doctrine. The American Civil War, qualifies in both respects and the depth of "Dixie's" intrinsic racism, though lessening, cannot be denied.

Also, one has only to mention Tiberias, Caligula, or Nero to appreciate that history has a long memory for bad behavior. In the modern era, just as Hitler's name is inextricably linked to Nuremberg, so will Nixon and Mitchell likely be associated with Watergate and the Controlled Substances Act.

Ms Haag would be well advised to read more history before marching destructively through California's Medical marijuana experiment.

Perhaps she should also ask herself why a drug that was attacked by two disgraced lawyers with no expertise in Pharmacology has remained America's most frequently tried and commonly used illegal drug since the original Monitoring the Future surveys began in 1975.

Finally; one of the more consistent scenarios exposed in the wake of embarrassing political failures (like the drug war will inevitably become) is misplaced confidence in the false assumptions on which it depends.

In the case of the drug war, the key assumption that underpin the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 are more thread bare than ever: what they really add up to is that cannabis can't possibly be medicine because John Mitchell (who died in 1988) and Richard Nixon (ditto 1994) said so.

Isn't it time we freed ourselves from the ghosts of Watergate? Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 21, 2012 08:04 AM