August 28, 2013
Beating the War Drums. AgainWe've been here before. Often. The US, as the self-appointed global conscience and policeman is getting ready to punish yet another miscreant nation in our overcrowded, overheated world while the media counts down to the first air strike, drone attack, or cruise missile launch.
The most predictable long term result of such action- in addition to "collateral" civilian deaths- will be to ramp up Muslim resentment and the likelihood of retaliation by suicide bombers in other western nations, who could be either foreign born or domestic.
Not that the actions of Bashar al Assad aren't reprehensible and deserving of forceful restraint and punishment; it's just that our species has yet to find a way to do that without inflaming resentment and the need to retaliate by people who identify with the leaders being punished. Is there any reasonable person unable to recognize that we are now in the midst of a global religious war, and that random bombings by home-grown terrorists who welcome suicide is one of the acceptable weapons?
The first time we faced a similar threat was at the end of World War Two when we avoided what would have been a horrific invasion of Japan by destroying two cities with the only two nuclear weapons ever used in anger.
Unfortunately there seems to be no Muslim equivalent of Hirohito; a leader with the authority release his followers from their obligation to commit seppuku.
Holy war and suicide are only two of the many things our species is trying to deny...more later.
August 17, 2013
An Unexpeced Wedge Issue?A few days ago, I blogged about the unexpected drug war defection of two CNN icons over medical cannabis, a "substance" long demonized as “marijuana” in compliance with official American doctrine. I also noted the timid recognition by AG Eric Holder that we can no longer afford to lead the world in incarcerating our own citizens, an issue closely related to the same costly doctrine. After years spent trying to convince the few readers of this blog that our drug war has been a disaster, the recognition of such issues by a source as prominent as CNN has been both a welcome change in the status quo and a challenge- the latter because the sheer speed of developments makes them difficult to keep up with, let alone interpret.
Back to the Present
The first chink in drug war armor appeared unexpectedly when Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Piers Morgan both publicly admitted trying cannabis themselves. Even more significantly, Dr. Gupta revealed he'd been working on a documentary related to its medical benefits. Since a key drug war assertion is that pot can't be medicine, I realized that by simply airing WEED, a powerful American media voice had decided to defect from the drug war; a decision not to taken lightly in the present political climate.
Thus I watched "Weed" last Saturday when it first aired and again last night when it was rebroadcast. For those who haven't seen it yet, the most powerful part deals with the five year old daughter of an American service man then serving overseas, whose 5-year old daughter in Colorado was experiencing up to 300 seizures (convulsions) a week that were unresponsive to conventional medicines. They were finally controlled when growers raising a specific medicinal strain of cannabis made it available to her mother.
In an amazing follow up- one that could not have been planned- another little girl with the same problem has just surfaced in New Jersey. Yesterday, her father was filmed by CNN as he demanded that the state's obviously reluctant Republican Governor allow her to receive the same treatment Colorado had made available.
Thus in one fell swoop, a cluster of vexing political issues latent within the "medical marijuana" phenomenon ever since its origin as Proposition 215 in California over 17 years ago are finally coming to the fore in an amazing coincidence involving two young girls with the same devastating medical problem.
Even with all I've learned from over 7000 individual patients, I could not have conceived of a better scenario for calling attention to the problems created by a terrible policy based on a costly failure we've never officially acknowledged.
August 13, 2013
Dr. Gupta and the AG: an historic one-two punchRichard Nixon’s Drug War just sustained two historic setbacks within 48 hours. The first was when Neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, CNN's highly regarded "media doctor," said unequivocally in a Sunday evening documentary called WEED, that cannabis is medicine and backed it up with before-and- after video of en engaging toddler having non-stop seizures who became almost seizure free on oral cannabis after conventional treatment had failed. It was an anecdote that didn't surprise me; I have signed "recommendations" for several patients with similar stories, although none were so young or dramatically afflicted.
Nor is it new. Valerie Corral, was a young woman who survived a serious head injury in 1973, but was left with disabling seizures controlled only by cannabis. She became an icon for medical marijuana after her grow was spotted by a sheriff's helicopter 20 years later. Her fascinating story is told by sociologist Wendy Chapkis and reporter Richard Webb in Dying to get High, which also reveals how malevolently the DEA, Nixon's federal drug police can enforce his Controlled Substances Act.
I now compare the DEA to the Gestapo and Hitler's Nuremberg laws to Nixon's CSA. Both were created by national leaders suffering from the same emotional disorder I've discovered is responsible for the sudden success of "marijuana," an herbal remedy that had been readily available in America as "hemp," but had remained relatively unknown to the public until it was discovered by the leading edge of the Hippie movement in the early Sixties, one of whom was LSD guru Timothy Leary.
In the forty years since Leary's remarkable adventures provoked Mitchell and Nixon into their ignorant transformation of Anslinger's shoddy Marijuana Tax Act into a truly disastrous law, there has been so much fear generated by the DEA and NIDA, the drug war's designated enforcers and liars, that the "truth" of anything written about hemp, marijuana cannabis is always suspect.
To paraphrase a popular world war 2 adage: never have so many profiteers told so many lies to so many dupes on behalf of so many control freaks for such devious reasons.
The second attack on drug war was when AG Eric Holder finally agreed that our bloated Incarceration Industry needs to be trimmed down to size. The whole criminal justice system has become so dependent on illegal drugs that the nation may never fully recover; but we'll never know if we don't try.
The only bright spot for me is that Holder is a pal of our toker-in-chief, so he must have cleared the move with Barack in advance. The major problem, of course, is the number of jobs that depend on continuing Nixon's unaffordable and (unwinnable) war.
August 12, 2013
American Fascism, A Critical AnalysisIf, as now seems likely, Richard Nixon’s "War on Drugs” is still being implemented as UN policy on December 17, 2014, the folly of American drug prohibition will have survived its many failures for a full Century. It was on that date in 1914 that Congress passed the first of the three feckless “acts” referred to in the title of this essay: the Harrison Act of 1914, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, and worst of all, Richard Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Each piece of legislation was based on the same erroneous assumption: that humans would not exploit attractive opportunities to profit from the illegal arbitrages that can only be created by governments with the power to pass prohibition laws. The great "triumph" of the Controlled Substances Act was that American drug policy, had (somehow) already been globalized through UN treaty. Thus the CSA gave any US Attorney General the power to create new illegal markets on a global scale without the need to bother Congress. That's true of herbal “substances” that have yet to become too popular; or synthetics he doesn't like. In the ultimate absurdities, precursors used to make "schedule one" agents and synthetic agonists that can mimic their effects are being added, willy nilly.
The only reasonable question at this point is: when will this lunacy end? Given that Bradley Manning, who is seen as a hero by many for revealing some of the dirty secrets of our repressive, criminal government was just sentenced to 35 years in prison by a military Court Martial, I don't think sanity will be reached any time soon. If ever.
August 11, 2013
Pot's Hidden Demograpics: Part 1The complex demographics of my applicant population reveal that the adolescents who eventually became part of the modern “marijuana” market (over 96% of 7100 applicants) began arriving with the "Baby Boom" in 1946. It's a phenomenon so well delineated it has prompted me to divide the US Electorate into Pre and Post-boomers on the basis of their year of birth (YOB) and point out that the first boomers started gradually aging into Medicare by turning 65 in 2010.
What remains uncertain is how many Americans tried pot by getting “high” between 1946 and now. In that context it’s also important to note that there are several characteristics beyond mere age with their own voter implications: had they ever tried weed themselves? How might they vote on the separate issues of "Marijuana legalization" and the Drug War itself (never option in any US referendum).
In addition, the uncertainty clouding all illegal drug markets is a consequence of the illegality imposed by the US government itself; something one would think would be a no-brainer, especially after Repeal, were it not for the disingenuous support of every American administration since Woodrow Wilson's was assigned responsibility for the agencies descendant from the "drug unit" created by the Harrison Act in 1914, especially after Repeal did away with the "alcohol unit" created by the 18th Amendment.
In essence, he feds have been trying since 1970 to hide the failure of drug prohibition behind the euphemism of "Control" created out of whole cloth by Nixon's CSA with the help of John Mitchell.
It’s also important to point out that in 1970, Richard Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act began to alter the global drug prohibition playing field in several critical ways that have yet to be acknowledged. Two gradual alterations affected the pre-existing markets created for heroin and cocaine by the Harrison Act of 1914. Both were international and thus severely curtaied by World War Two; yet they resumed with vigor after VJ day, as documented in the case of heroin by 3 "reality-based" movies shot between the mid-Sixties and 1981:The French Connection , Serpico, and Prince of the City.
Demonstrably, the heroin menace has not diminished, as confirmed by the most recent celebrity death, itself reminiscent of the earlier deaths of John Belushi and Janice Joplin. Cocaine's market spurt became evident with an"epidemic" in the early Eighties largely traceable to Colombian cartels, first in Medellin, later in Cali. After the leaders of both cartels were killed by combined operations involving the DEA and their Colombian allies, the business was taken over by an insurgency that had already been in existence for decades and has since contrived to meet current demand by developing its own progressively sophisticated submarine navy.
The notion that our drug war is more effective than destructive is demonstrably absurd; yet it receives almost no serious scrutiny from the Press, which praises its own role in preserving freedom of spech. The issue of medical marijuana and its "legitimacy" has become a surrogate for people dissatisfied with a criminal drug policy in a "Democracy" increasingly run by money.
Yet I'll watch Dr. Gupta's CNN special on WEED in a few hours because it promises to be better informed and more honest than any precious mainstream drug war "documentary" to date.
How Pathetic that it's taken 13 years since Prop 215 to get this far.
On the other hand, Jeff Bezos just bought the WaPost, one of the three compliant "major dailies" that greased the skids for Gary Webb. If Bezos is pot-friendly, a seems likely,an honest Washington Post could be a game changer. I don't think the drug war could long survive "legalization" of pot.
Now, if someone could come up with a quick fix for climate change...
August 09, 2013
The Significance of Dr Gupta's DefectionAs noted earlier, the conversion of CNN's Dr Sanjay Gupta from anti to pro with respect to medical marijuana should be too big an event for the embattled forces of pot prohibition to ignore; not that they won't try. When silent denial doesn't work, they will probably switch to their time-honored smear tactics.
That shouldn't work either; Dr Gupta is, to all appearances, a well trained, hands-on neurosurgeon with lots of current medical credibility. One statement of his that particularly caught my eye was that cannabis is effective against neuropathic pain, something revealed by my own study, but almost never mentioned by other medical marijuana supporters (but would be noted by a neurosurgeon).
If Dr Gupta's position has any weakness, it's in the much misunderstood area of juvenile use which is a classic sacred cow and echoes the general misunderstanding of how old "kids" should be when they first try ("initiate") legal drugs.
My study looked at the ages at which Prop 215 applicants (all self-medicating) first did attempt to get "high," which is how novices try any new drug. It turned out to be remarkably similar to the ages at which my peers and I were trying cigarettes and alcohol in 1945: between the ages of 12 and 15.
We pre-boomers knew "Marijuana" existed back then; but its market was simply not available to juveniles, one of the many facets of pot history completely beyond the ken of both today's Drug Warriors and their victims because of their mutual generational blindness- one of the few characteristics they share.
Today's enormous market did not come into existence overnight; it began slowly in the early Sixties, through interest sparked by Beat Generation authors in adolescent baby boomers, who tried it- along with tobacco, alcohol, and an assortment of newly available psychedelic drugs. At that time, America's policy of drug prohibition was in disarray following the retirement of Director Harry Anslinger, from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1962. The rest of that history is all here in old blog entries.
Bringing it to the attention of Dr Gupta and CNN is an opportunity that should not to be missed, as NORML did with Jimmy Carter in '78, right about the time Nixon's CSA starting to generate a critical mass of pot arrests. Instead of working with Dr Peter Bourne, Carter's drug czar, they became impatient with him and "outed" him for snorting coke which became a factor in Carter's 1980 defeat Reagan, which was quickly followed by "Just say No" and Star Wars.
BTW, Today's Presidential news conference just ended. Dr Gupta and pot were NOT mentioned, so we'll have to wait for next shoe to drop on Sunday Evening when WEED airs on CNN.
August 08, 2013
Is Change (on) the Air?This morning, a non-medical colleague who shares many of my views on both the Drug War and the fallacy of "Marijuana" prohibition called me with exciting news: Dr.Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN's well known Media Doctor, and Piers Morgan have both admitted to trying marijuana. Beyond that, Gupta was apparently heavily involved in the CNN special, "Weed" that will be aired this coming week-end.
This sounds like the break I've been hoping for since I started blogging: the first real crack in what had become an almost invulnerable policy monster; one based entirely on erroneous beliefs about "Addiction," that persuaded our nation to summarily transfer its management to Law Enforcement in 1914 via the pejorative, and fundamentally stupid Harrison Narcotics Act that was, nevertheless, soon signed into law by Woodrow Wilson.
In essence, the various federal bureaucracies created over the years to enforce Harrison have gradually intensified their grip on what should always have been a Medical responsibility. The results have been a disaster for our species because the policy's underlying Prohibition Fallacy has been accepted globally since the Seventies, despite its predictable failures. Abundant evidence of those failures has been available; also since the Seventies. Despite its being brought to light by respected authorities in Economics and Medicine in the past, it has had no discernible effect on policy.
Nevertheless, I remain optimistic; primarily because Piers Morgan and Dr. Gupta are such popular icons and the ground swell of "legalization" laws and initiatives that began in 1996 demands a rational response from the only sitting President who ever copped to being a "head" himself.
August 05, 2013
How Big Pharma Profits from Illegal DrugsThe other evening I was watching one of those misleading Nat Geo TV productions that admit to drug war failures, while praising the "heroes" who vainly try to enforce it with lame excuses like "at least we kept 2 kilos of cocaine off the street." In other words, failure is really success, because it would be even worse without the cops: a dubious proposition at best,
In another vignette aired on the same program, a DEA agent who was arranging an Oxycontin "sting" complained that prosecutions for "Oxy" crimes are more difficult because "it's a legal drug." It was that observation that led to my sudden intuition: whether they planned it or not, Big Pharma has learned to cut itself in on the drug war in a way that's almost a no-brainer: develop synthetic analogs that closely mimic the effects of popular illegal drugs.
Synthetic "Oxy" is a powerful pain reliever that is also famously liable to produce dependence. An added benefit of effective new synthetics is that they can be patented to maintain high prices on the legal market and to the extent they replicate the desired effects of illegal drugs (heroin in the case of Oxy) they will generate a "crossover" market that adds victims for the enforcement industry that's been evolving steadily around Nixon's CSA since it was passed in 1970.
By an odd coincidence, both "marijuana" arrests and the US prison population have increased dramatically since 1970.
Did Mitchell and Nixon plan this? Probably not. They weren't that smart to begin with and could not possibly have known how their unintended rhetorical disaster would be exploited by our competitive species.
The most important question about the drug war is: can we fix it in time to avert similar disasters? Also, can we save ourselves from our need to succeed at any cost?
August 03, 2013
The Implications of "Our Nixon" and BeyondFor weeks, CNN had been touting a 2 hour special on Richard Nixon, my personal candidate for worst-ever American President. When it finally aired last Thursday (to mixed reviews). I was disappointed- but hardly surprised- that it made no mention of the drug war that has become Nixon's most pernicious legacy (but is not recognized as such for a variety of devious reasons I hope to discuss sometime in the near future).
Ironically, all Nixon himself may have ever craved was approval, but he must have been terribly frustrated in 1968 when, after finally arriving at the ultimate American pinnacle against long odds, he found himself being targeted by young "Hippies" demanding an end to the failing war in Vietnam, a quagmire that had evolved steadily from Truman's offhand offer of "assistance" in 1952 to later become a MAAG under Eisenhower; a unit my younger brother became part of as a draftee in 1960 and described to me in considerable detail in September 1961 when I met him for the first time since we both graduated in 1957; him from college and me from medical school.
What my brother- now sadly, deceased- told me was that the South Vietnamese were slowly losing their war in 1961 and we'd probably become involved as we had in Korea. One thing he was wrong about was China; he thought our presence would pull them in as it had in Korea. He couldn't have known that North Vietnam, liberally supplied with Russian weapons, would stymie our best military efforts until Tet made it clear to all but the most irrational hawks that the cost of "victory" was beyond what most Americans were willing to pay. Nixon's strategy of "Vietnamization' was thus obviated and his 1972 trip to China was after the fact so far as Vietnam was concerned. North Vietnam had outlasted its would-be colonizers, just as it had the French before us.
Every subsequent American president, from Eisenhower forward, had increased our presence in Vietnam until an attack on the Pleiku Barracks suckered LBJ into drastically raising the ante. What we also know about Johnson is that by focusing on domestic issues and allowing Robert McNamara to run things in Viet Nam, he'd set himself up for a forced withdrawal from the 1968 campaign. Thus began the "perfect storm" that allowed Nixon to squeak to a narrow victory over Humphrey in the pivotal 1968 Election.
Thus do mere mortals make critical mistakes based on false assumptions. At least the inescapable reality of failure in Vietnam brought a halt to our efforts to "win" short of using nuclear weapons.
Ironically, we might have learned another lesson from the French failure, one related to their (and our CIA's) use of the heroin market as a clandestine resource. Unfortunately we failed to heed that lesson as well and would only compound the damage after Nixon succeeded in punishing the Hippies with his Controlled Substances Act.
For those who agree that our "security" requires us to punish Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden severely for telling the truth,I have only two words: Daniel Ellsberg.