« The Drug War's Watergate Connection & Why Marijuana Prohibition is a War Crime | Main | Annals of Cognition (the Impact of Emotions on our Decisions) »

October 24, 2012

Annals of Human Belief 1

One indicator of humanity's unique position atop the cognition pinnacle is the intensity of our beliefs; we are the only species that commits murder or suicide over issues ranging from transient personal frustrations to deeply held religious and political convictions. Although not the only cognitive mammals, we are the only surviving hominids and our greater cognitive abilities are clearly what differentiated us from those who went extinct. Yet ominously, we now find ourselves in a particularly dangerous predicament because we have developed the power to influence our planetary environment to a degree that is both unprecedented and a threat to our survival.

Unfortunately, we don’t seem even remotely capable of modifying the behaviors that have placed us in that position; even worse, we seem strangely indifferent their dangers even though it only requires a modicum of scientific knowledge to appreciate their serious implications. The first indisputable example of existential human risk was the Cuban missile crisis 50 years ago this week. Fortunately, because both Kennedy and Krushchev rejected the advice of their generals, we still don’t know if Nuclear Winter would have followed a nuclear missile exchange, but it would have been a disaster for the US and Russia, to say nothing of Cuba. There were undoubtedly other close calls, Able Archer, for one.

One of the more specific modern dangers, for which a plethora of suggestive evidence already exists, is global climate change, which became a cause for Al Gore after he was snookered out of the Presidency in 2000. Surely both the Presidential candidates, who just concluded their third “debate” without mentioning the subject, were aware of Gore and his issue; yet neither mentioned it or was even questioned about it, which is precisely why I think we should all be worried.

Such existential thoughts were definitely not my main interest when I accepted the invitation of on Oakland cannabis club owner to screen prospective customers seeking to take advantage of California’s medical marijuana initiative in November 2001. Although I’d been an outspoken opponent of US drug policy since 1995 and an advocate of “medical marijuana’ since 1996, my knowledge of both was largely theoretical.

The club owner in question was seeking to protect himself by ensuring that his customers would be in compliance with the letter of California’s new “Medical Marijuana” law; I was seeking to learn about how it was functioning after five years of disputed existence. As it turned out, although our business relationship may have played some role in the sudden expansion of pot’s then-fledgling retail distribution system that took place in 2003, we were both unaware of how implacably the federal government was opposed to any “medical” use. We were also unaware of the the extent of basic human dishonesty, or of the likelihood of “friends” might steal from, or turn on former allies.

My early experiences with those I labeled “cannabis applicants” in the peer reviewed paper published five years ago (but have always thought of as “patients”) quickly told me my original beliefs on the subject were mistaken. I was very aware that inhaled pot’s ability to relieve nausea and prevent vomiting were what had generated the public awareness that put 215 on the California ballot, but I was completely unprepared for the most common complaints I'd be hearing from those seeking to use it medically: a majority of the men were emphasizing chronic pain and though many would also allude to "stress" and "insomnia," women were far more open about emotional symptoms. Somewhere along the line I began asking everyone about their prior use of alcohol and tobacco and it quickly dawned on me that most had tried both as aggressively as I had. I thus realized that if pot had been as available to me when I was in High School, I would probably have tried it and my whole life might have been very different. Shortly after that, I consciously embarked on what has become a 10 year study of pot use that has convinced me the the modern “drug war” has been America’s greatest mistake since our revered founders buried Slavery within the Constitution in 1787, an opinion I know many might bristle at, but am very; sure is accurate.

To be continued.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 24, 2012 08:36 PM