October 30, 2013
Congressional HearingsThis morning I spent the first hour of my day watching the Congressional hearings on “Obamacare,” live on TV. They were conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired by GOP stalwart Fred Upton of Michigan as a typically partisan interrogation of Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s attractive and articulate Secretary of HHS. Unfortunately, further investigation of her stance on medical marijuana reveals that Sibelius, like her boss, is still living in the shadow of Richard Nixon when it comes to thinking of cannabis as a useful therapeutic agent.
Predictably, I found the mindset of the individual representatives typical of their political parties: Republicans were hostile to the ACA from the get-go and oblivious to the fact that America still lags every modern European nation in the ability to provide high-tech interventional care to its citizens. In other words, still reflecting the menu of elitist prejudices that have generally characterized the GOP since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. GOP members were openly hostile to both the ACA and Sibelius, although some were more gentlemanly than others.
Dems, on the other hand, were much more considerate- especially the women. Perhaps the quickest way to characterize the differences between political parties is that Republicans were so opposed to anything having to do with Obama that they seem willing- indeed anxious- to throw out the baby of “Medical Care” with the bathwater of an obviously troubled plan to improve it. In retrospect, all-too reminiscent of the invidious "Harry and Louise" ads that sank Hillary Clinton's ill fated effort to reform health care delivery back in 1993.
The major weakness of Medicare- LBJ’s limited 1965 attempt to deal with the same failures, was that it tied funding to Social Security, as opposed to employment- had happened from the earliest days of WW2.
Ironically, the best explanation I’ve yet heard of how that particular phenomenon had come to be was by lawyer Joseph Califano, who'd been Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of HEW and has remained a stubborn drug war hawk with a particular need to vilify both cannabis and tobacco. In fact, it might have been Califano’s anti- tobacco stance that prompted Carter to fire him prematurely.
Be that as it may, what I remember with particular disfavor from my earliest days in drug policy reform is Califano’s blatant arrogation of medical expertise as founder and chief spokesman for CASA, which coincided with my own discovery- between 1997 and 2001- of the logical absurdity of America’s mistaken drug war, which had been to repeat the mistake of alcohol Prohibition.
In fact, Califano’s writings on the subject often betray a nostalgic fondness for the absurd idea that we gave up too soon on Prohibition in 1933- as if a few more years of futility and mob violence would been better than never attempting to change human behavior with an ill-conceived "experiment."
What I now understand, along with the current editorial staff of Columbia’s student newspaper, is that Califano’s militant ideas on “Addiction” are an embarrassment to their University.
I'd also be willing to bet that quite a few members of that staff had tried Marijuana themselves; but I realize that in the current political climate it isn't politic to cop to a Federal offense that could hurt them and embarrass their institution.
October 20, 2013
Crimes Worse than Watergate 1When Harry Anslinger's clumsy Marijuana Tax Act (MTA) made inhaled "marijuana" (reefer) categorically illegal in 1937, the drug's inhaled use had never been studied; either clinically or by the primitive pharmacologic methods of that era. Nor- despite Anslinger's claims- had its popularity increased during the Thirties. That a market for inhaled cannabis had long existed is obvious; however its size and economic importance had never been measured. In the early 20th Century, cannabis was of economic interest mostly to drug retailers and their trade associations, as reported by the late Dr David Musto of Yale. For that reason, it hadn't been targeted in the final draft of Harrison Act passed in December, 1914.
Parenthetically, although I disagree with Dr. Musto's barely disguised support for drug prohibition as policy, I also recognize and appreciate the value of his extensive academic research and that he shared it with the world in two extensive updates of a book he first published in 1973.
An inevitable consequence of America's enforced drug ignorance was that when the Supreme Court unexpectedly struck down Anslinger's MTA on Fifth Amendment grounds in 1969, the medical literature contained nothing useful about illegal "reefer," its market, or the youthful population that was just starting to use it; but would not be noticed until youthful "hippies" began attracting generally unfavorable attention from about 1965 on.
In that respect, it is now possible to understand that legislation generated by the short-lived populist awakening was the critical first step that inserted the nose of the federal camel under Medicine's tent.
It's also possible to recognize that the policy that evolved from TR's enthusiasm suffered from three critical weaknesses: 1) A generalized ignorance of what motivates human drug use, 2) An early assumption that its principal consequence is "addiction," and 3) An equally unchallenged assumption that law enforcement and the criminal code are the most appropriate government mechanisms for "controlling" a society's "drug problem."
The quotes are intended to emphasize that addictionhas never been precisely defined as a medical entity. Like "beauty,"- it certainly exists, but unfortunately, too much has been left to the eye of beholders; in this case the host of untrained police and social institutions that have retained responsibility for implementing global policy, they clearly don't understand.
Not only does such an illogical and destructive policy disgrace the nation that enacted it, its uncritical acceptance by the UN raises serious questions about the logical competence of the species that continues to endorse it despite glaring failures in Mexico, Colombia, and Afghanistan, to mention but a few of several possible examples.
We don't punish cigarette smokers for getting lung cancer or any of other diseases cigarettes are known to cause. Rather, tobacco's victims are treated in most nations with the best available therapy. Thus does the futile maintenance of violent criminal markets through an unwise policy of global prohibition suggest that either the lessons of (Constitutional) Prohibition in the US have been entirely missed, that there are multiple ulterior motives, or that humans are easily fooled. Most likely all of the above.
Perhaps the most ironic consequence of Nixon's drug war is that marijuana, the "dangerous and habit-forming" substance, which was among the first to be placed on Schedule One of the CSA, has been the most valuable cash crop in the United States for years and despite the best efforts of several federal agencies, has been smuggled across our Canadian and Mexican border in huge amounts for years.
Sadly, our 44th President, who- by his own admission- had extensive youthful experience with choom in his natal state of Hawaii and also meets my criteria for the paternal deprivation syndrome that characterizes a large percentage of the 7000-plus users I've interviewed doesn't recognize himself; probably because no one ever told him.
On the other hand, he is being told, big-time, by a growing number of former fans and disappointed supporters that his record use of the 1917 Espionage Act is both disappointing and increasingly reminiscent of the Trickster; hardly good company for an ex-member of the choom gang who is interested in his Presidential legacy.