November 24, 2013
An Imponderable CascadeThe 1960 contest between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon was a watershed in American Presidential history, the consequences of which are still being felt. Narrowly won by Kennedy, it was the first in which both candidates were born in the Twentieth Century and the first won by a Roman Catholic.
Although both men would occupy the Oval Office, neither would finish their remaining term; Kennedy because he was murdered in Dallas at the start of a promising re-election campaign following three somewhat uneven- but eventful and generally positive- years as President. Had he been re-elected the world would now be very different. But- as with Abraham Lincoln- we'll never know what might have happened.
Nixon would later win a cliff-hanger in 1968 after Lyndon Johnson's surprising withdrawal from a contest in which he was eligible for what would have effectively been a third term. Johnson had clearly relished being President, but he was also good at political calculus.
Another imponderable was the second assassination of a Kennedy within 5 years; by eliminating the strongest "peace" candidate right after he'd won a decisive primary, it left Nixon facing the weakest Democrat (who still made a race of it at the end). One is forced to wonder what might have happened had "Clean Gene" McCarthy urged his young followers to vote against Nixon in the weeks before the election.
In contrast to his narrow '68 margin, Nixon won a smashing victory over McGovern in '72, largely on the strength of his surprising visit to China, only to be embarrassed into resigning by Watergate, well before the end of his second term, which was completed by Gerald Ford, the first Speaker of the House to be elevated to the presidency, a contingency brought about by earlier revelations that Vice President Spiro Agnew had accepted bribes while governor of Maryland.
Two more links would be added to this chain of improbable Presidential events that began with JFK's victory in 1960: the election of Jimmy Carter, a fundamentalist Christian Georgia governor who was also an Annapolis grad and trained nuclear engineer, but had disappointed the electorate by failing to deal assertively with the Iranian hostage crisis, arguably a complication of the deal Henry Kissinger made with the Shah of Iran while while serving as Nixon's (who else?) Secretary of State in 1973
Kennedy and Nixon both had solid accomplishments while in Office; Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile crisis narrowly averted nuclear war which could well have been catastrophic. He and Kruschev both deserve great credit, although it must also be pointed out that Kruschev's ploy of smuggling nuclear weapons into Cuba is what created it.
A final imponderable is what would have happened had Richard Nixon not been the sitting president when the Warren Court struck down the Marijuana Tax Act in a 1965 case involving Timothy Leary, for it was clearly his need to punish the young peace demonstrators demanding an end to the war in Vietnam that motivated him- with rhetorical help from John Mitchell- to propose the medically indefensible Controlled Substances Act as the "remedy."
For reasons I will detail in the near future, the War on Drugs that followed the CSA almost immediately is a disgrace, not only to the United States, but to all of Humanity. It has had no redeeming features, only evil consequences in its four decades as American and UN policy.
Far from being accepted uncritically as a "gold standard" the scheduling algorithm it is based on should have been laughed out of existence by the first medically knowledgeable authority to read it.
November 13, 2013
Why Obama Should Endorse Legal Cannabis ASAPAn interesting result of the recent off-year elections was another surge in demand for cannabis ("marijuana") legalization. Legal pot was more popular at the ballot box than the Tea Party, Right Wing politicians, and the (fading} reputation of Barack Obama, whose job approval rating fell to a new low.
Our struggling Prez- one of only 14 American chief executives to win in consecutive general elections- did so despite being perceived as Black and after openly admitting his own aggressive adolescent toking. He should have learned from that experience that such an admission is no longer the kiss of death it had been for Reagan nominee Douglas Ginsburg in 1987 after a tattle-tale NPR columnist disclosed his repetitive use.
In fact, a critical analysis of the progressive, albeit painfully slow, roll-back of state "marijuana" laws since California's passage Proposition 215 passed in 1996 suggests that a youth market had long existed and been growing steadily since the early Sixties. Indeed, it was that very market that had inspired the onerous Controlled_Substances_Act Richard Nixon and John Mitchell had convinced an ignorant Congress to pass in 1970.
That Nixon's law has been so assiduously enforced around the world since 1970 does not reflect well on the cognitive ability of our species. Even so, it's not the only destructive law ever enforced in "the Land of the Free" with near-catastrophic results. One needs only to recall that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 helped propel our new nation into a catastrophic Civil War, which could easily have been fatal had it not been for Abraham Lincoln.
Instead of dealing with it honestly at their Constitutional Convention in 1787, our Virginia-dominated founders opted to punt, a decision W.E.B. Dubois would later observe, "opened a road that led directly to the Civil War."
In other words, the industrialization of British cotton production facilitated by invention of the cotton gin increased the demand for American raw cotton that it led to destructive monoculture and pressure for progressive Western expansion of slavery as new states were added to the Union: exactly the opposite of what had been predicted when the compromise was adopted.
Similarly, when the Warren Court nullified Harry Anslinger's Marijuana Tax Act in 1965, it could not possibly have known what enormous social and other changes that had overtaken the insignificant criminal market Anslinger had created with the MTA in 1937. Nor was the vibrant youth market for "psychedelics" that had sprung into existence following the experiments described by "beat" authors from the late Fifties onward. "Marijuana" didn't have to be imported; it could be grown locally. LSD could be produced in a lab.
The drugs themselves were not "addictive," but they encouraged the kind of independent thinking that was anathema to "all the President's men."
The next entries will deal with the amazing series of unintended consequences that have followed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
In a sense, they have been more far-reaching than any simple tweaking of a poorly conceived, ad-hoc policy should have produced, but they are both undeniable and responsible for a far-reaching cascade of evil consequences that will be hard to overcome.
November 03, 2013
A Surprising Development Put into PerspectiveYesterday, I was surprised to see an optimistic email from NORML to its members and supporters citing a somewhat positive article in Bloomberg News suggesting that legislation to "legalize" cannabis ("marijuana") might be just around the corner. Upon reading it however, I don't agree, primarily because its data is from the same old sources: more a reflection of the ignorance that has prevailed since the 1970 Controlled Substances Act launched the blatant deception that quickly evolved into an (international) "war on drugs" with a familiar cast: Drug "Producing" and "Transporting" nations, all afflicted with higher crime rates and more violence than their less involved neighbors. Not to mention the disasters at home: prison growth, Swat raids and lives destroyed on the basis of irresponsible false assumptions.
After California's Proposition 215 passed in 1996, a steadily expanding medical marijuana phenomenon- either by initiative or direct legislation- has been extended to twenty US states, but cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and in all UN member nations by International treaty.
I began actively oppossing America's drug war in 1995 and have had an opportunity to collect data from over 7000 Californians seeking approval of their "medical" use since 2001. Thus I've been able to compare clinical data from admitted users with the conflicting information supplied by both policy enforcers and their opponents in "reform."
What has impressed me most is the disparity in their claims: both with each other and with my data. For example, neither of the opposing sides provide demographics on the huge illegal market both are focused on. My data show it was very thin until the 60s when Boomers born right after WW2 suddenly developed a interest in cannabis that has been sustained ever since, leading to today's huge modern market which has been expanding into the Medicare demographic since 2010.
I've never seen a coherent explanation of that important phenomenon: a glaring failure by the 2 agencies Richard Nixon created to suppress that market in '73 and '74 respectively: just another of the many shortcomings casting great doubt on their frequently asserted "expertise."
Also, the timeline of events leading to passage of the CSA in 1970 confirms that the nullification of Anslinger's Marijuana Tax Act by the Warren Court in 1969 provided Nixon and Mitchell with both motive and opportunity to punish the young hippies then demonstrating against the increasingly bloody and ultimately futile Vietnam war just as Nixon was trying to control it with the succession of devastating attacks on Laos and Cambodia that ultimately failed to prevent North Vietnamese victory in 1973.
Thus our now 42 year drug war can be seen as collateral damage from the war crimes committed by Nixon and Henry Kissinger in their effort to Vietnamize American failure between 1969 and'73.
This is a prelude to why I don't think Congress will vote to legalize cannabis. There is too much negative history to admit, to say nothing of our deep commitment to folly and the huge lobbies that have grown rich on four decades of drug war failure.
It would ultimately be better to emulate the Supreme Court strategy of Brown V Topeka, the protracted cluster of Civil Rights cases required to undo Plessy V Ferguson. It will be daunting, but the still-unrecognized benefits of legal cannabis in an unfettered market would allow development to its full therapeutic potential. OTH, grudging "mini-legalization" would maintain the absurd stigma that still inhibits its use and precludes honest research.
The bottom line is that "pot" is even better than realized; it would be tragic to concede any of its many benefits for the sake of softening a harsh truth. More, later.