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August 18, 2012

Annals of Speculation

A favorite human speculation is considering what might have happened if a particular event or human decision had either not taken place or had a significantly different outcome. For example, if an eighteen year old Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip had not assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophia, on a 1914 June day in Sarajevo, would World War One have even happened? What if the Archduke had survived? Indeed, one could ask similar questions about any of the myriad assassinations that abruptly changed history: Julius Cesar, Abraham Lincoln, the Kennedys, to name but a few of the most familiar. Beyond that, a detailed review of each reveals several contingencies that might have altered their outcomes. Thus we are left with the idea that human history has been shaped by cascades of unpredictable events.

On the other hand, a very different concept has dominated religious thinking for centuries, one that may still be preferred by a majority of humans: that an omniscient, all powerful deity created the universe and would not be surprised by any single human action or decision; nevertheless, God is also believed to judge individuals on the basis of their specific choices ("free will"). That such a belief is inconsistent with ordinary logic does not appear to faze "true believers" of many persuasions.

My purpose here is not to discuss religion, but to question how a US policy that was radically altered when the Supreme Court declared the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional in 1969 was not only replaced, but greatly intensified in less than a year, thus becoming both a domestic and an international “war on drugs,” almost without missing a beat and without any serious discussion; either in Congress or at the UN. An additional irony is that the same federal bureaucrat primarily responsible for the deceptive 1937 "tax" act nullified by the Court had, as the first-ever UN "High Commissioner of Narcotics," led the campaign to convert his dubious legislation into global prohibition.

It's also important to note that as this is written in 2012, there has never been an unbiased modern study of cannabis- clinical or otherwise- in a setting where it was not already "illegal." Also, the US prison population, already spiking up in the early Sixties, has quadrupled since the MTA was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act conjured up by Watergate conspirator John Mitchell in 1969 was passed by Congress in 1970. The bottom line is that a small amount of "marijuana" detected at any UN member nation's port of entry can result in arrest and prosecution based on the UN's (impossibly vague) version of Mitchell's nebulous "Schedule One."

These policies offend me as a physician because a comparatively simple clinical study of its chronic users reveals that cannabis is a safe and useful medicine; despite the DEA's (uninformed) opinion. The primary reason its obvious medical benefits haven't been recognized has been its US illegality, which- ironically and tragically- was somehow “grandfathered” into UN policy after John Mitchell’s imaginative scheduling algorithm became the basis for American domestic policy.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, more properly-the Criminal Market Creation Act- made things a lot worse. Not only did it make useful medicines categorically illegal and create multiple violent criminal markets; it also denied important medical benefits to the whole world and anointed the US Attorney General as overseer of the ever-expanding list of categorically illegal Schedule One substances!

The disastrous American experience with (alcohol) Prohibition should have taught us that illegal markets for desired commodities are potentially enormous and impossible for police to "control;" they are also bereft of the usual safety and quality standards.

Over four decades of experience with this expanding US/UN folly have produced rogue nations with economies dominated by the global illegal drug trade; yet the pressure to change an obviously failing and destructive policy has been scant and largely ineffective.

Why the silence? What would it take to change such an obvious act of cognitive folly? Are we even capable of saving ourselves? The available evidence suggests we are not and the outcome of the raucous, impossibly stupid American Presidential campaign may turn out to be an important straw in the wind.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 18, 2012 08:44 PM