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March 09, 2014

A Key Insight from a Surprising Source (modified)

My intellectual differences with drug war supporters are rather basic: I think our failed effort to control commerce in alcohol via the 18th Amendment demonstrated the futility of trying to prohibit commerce in any desired commodity so convincingly that repeating the same experiment indefinitely with "drugs" (as our species now seems committed to do through UN treaty) has become either an act of insanity or criminal irresponsibility. However, global anarchy is such a daunting prospect, we are left with persuasion and a reliance on facts to change an obviously misguided policy.

To focus on a specific example, Sally Satel MD is an academic psychiatrist who has consistently supported the war on drugs. My first awareness of her position was a 1995 Op-ed on the evils of meth she had co-authored with Professor Mark Kleiman, then teaching Public Policy at Harvard (he has since moved to UCLA where he is considered such an authority on drug policy that Washington State hired him to advise them on how best to implement the "legalization" of cannabis!). The exclamation point indicates my surprise that Washington state officials could have been so unaware of Dr. Kleiman's prior opinions on cannabis, a subject he clearly knows little about.

On the same subject, I came across an item phrased so so vividly by Dr. Satel that I clicked on it and was rewarded with an insight that helped me understand an anomaly that had long puzzled me: how had our jails and prisons become so overcrowded with a population that had once been managed as inpatients in the nation's State Hospital system?

As often happens, just seeing a vexing question posed differently– especially when accompanied by a new fact- can jostle one's memory enough to supply an answer that had remained just out of reach, a process we call "insight." It quickly struck me that I hadn't known anything about the Community Mental Health Centers Act, (I'd had been assigned as a surgeon at a US Army hospital in Japan a few months before Kennedy's assassination in Dallas). An important consequence of that timing is that although he and LBJ clearly harbored strong opinions about the shortcomings of American Medical care, they could not have discussed their separate ideas in much detail before the assassination.

Thus, the tragedy of Oswald's personality disorder can be held accountable for yet anther another unknown outcome in addition to how JFK might have managed Vietnam. LBJ was clearly flummoxed by the war, we also know from the record he'd been deceived by MacNamara's "fog of war." We also know from the Cuban missile crisis that Kennedy– although clearly anti-communist– had been a master of urgent diplomacy who had– thankfully– allowed Nikita Kruschev, a way out after overplaying his hand.

In my opinion, Dr. Satel's frequently expressed opposition to the very idea that cannabis could be medicine is indicative of the logical flaw she still shares with Dr.Kleiman and a host of others: the belief that Richard Nixon's CSA was humane legislation deserving of intellectual respect.

Even more surprising is the illogical CSA's durability as federal law in the face of its wretched provenance and unfailingly poor results over its four decades as a global policy. New markets, often violent, for every new "substance" listed on Schedule one, not to mention the bloated US prison population Dr. Satel rightly complains about.

I will soon address her implied question: just how were asylum inmates converted so quickly into prison inmates between 1962 and 1972?

The answer to that question has such serious implications for the future of our species, that it deserves the careful consideration only an extended essay could begin to address supply. Indeed it goes right to the heart of the folly known as the "War on Drugs"

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 9, 2014 09:59 PM