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July 29, 2014

Colossal Canadian Stupidity

We're used to thinking of our neighbors to the North as more conservative and less zany than us Americans, but every so often, as if to show that we can't take then for granted, our Northern cousins do something really bizarre. This time it was a ruling by Health Canada that Liam McKnight, a little boy with Dravet syndrome whose seizures were being well controlled with a cannabis edible, would have to switch to another mode of administration in order to comply with a truly clueless ruling from Health Canada.

In fact, it had been only about a year ago that the first significant mention of the use of marijuana for medical purposes had appeared on a series of CNN broadcasts featuring British host Piers Morgan and American neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta on a case involving a Colorado child named Charlotte Figi who was also a victim of Dravet Syndrome.

Since than, Dravet Syndrome, first described by a neurologist named Charlotte Dravet in 1978, (whom I'd never heard of before) has been popping up frequently in news related to the medical use of cannabis– always with remarkable reductions in the number and frequency of seizures.

In fact, the frequency of that association makes me wonder if there might be a class action case on behalf of young people with seizure disorders who are clearly being impeded by the DEA's single minded quest to reduce use of cannabis on the spurious grounds asserted by Richard Nixon in 1970.

It was just such a case that overturned the disastrous policy of segregation that had effectively re-imposed chattel Slavery on the nation by stealing the victory won by the Civil War.

What the Court can impose, it can also take away. All that's required is the right case, some good will, and a modicum of common sense.

Are we up to it?

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2014

Police Shootings

Even before starting to take histories from applicants hoping to use cannabis legally in California, I'd spent 4 years– from 1997 to 2001, editing a weekly newsletter based on a database of media reports on the drug war. Because it required reading about three hundred news items a week; it became an intense education on how our drug policy was corrupting the nation and encouraging gross injustice.

It soon became clear that that police agencies at all levels had to participate in the policy to make it work; also that they required almost complete legal immunity for whatever untoward events their enforcement activities might produce.

I recently had occasion to recall two particularly egregious cases from that early experience; both involved people of color who had come to the attention of police during Rudy Giuliani's tenure as New York's mayor. One was the 1999 case of a man named Amadu Diallo in what turned out to be a case of mistaken suspicion. Because he was thought to resemble the description of a serial rapist, Diallo was hailed by four plain clothes cops. Apparently spooked, and not realizing the men were police, Diallo ran for the apparent security of his apartment building, with its automatically locking door (for which he had the key). Once inside the vestibule and apparently still confused, he reached for his wallet. One of the officers, thinking he was reaching for a weapon, shouted "Gun!" 19 of the ensuing 41 shots struck Diallo, killing him instantly.

News reports of the event soon led to demands that charges be filed against the police. A change of venue to the state capital in Albany, was granted, where a predictably conservative jury recommended dropping all charges.

The other case, although equally shocking had a much happier outcome; primarily because the victim, although treated with equal disregard by NYC's "finest," survived his ordeal, collected a large settlement, and has continued to advocate on behalf of police reform. If there are any bright spots in this narrative, they have to do with Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who also ran afoul of the NYPD 2 years before Diallo, but managed to survive. Clearly; in a tort liability case, a living victim the jury can identify with is worth a lot more in court than a dead one.

I just had occasion to learn of another case in the nearby town of Santa Rosa, one that could serve as a Rosetta Stone for the realities of modern American "Criminal Jusice" in the nation we're all so proud of. Our cops seem now able to gun down any citizen they have "probable cause" to think is carrying a firearm and represents a threat, even if he's an immature 13-year old Eighth grader carrying a toy gun down a sunny street on a school afternoon. In fact, it's been worse that that for a long time. The evidence of police wrongdoing is everywhere; we've simply been looking past it for years; just click on list of US police killings.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2014

Random Thoughts on America's Recent Birthday

238 years ago, 13 British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America declared themselves independent of British rule in a document now famous as the Declaration of Independence. Its author, Thomas Jefferson went on to become one of the founders of the new nation and its 3rd President.

Recently, DNA evidence confirmed that following the death of his wife, Martha, Jefferson had several children by Sally Hemings, a woman of color who was both his slave and Martha's half sister. Such tangled relationships were probably not rare, given the degree to which chattel slavery had become essential to the economy of Southern colonies before our successful rebellion against British rule. There can also be little doubt that our forefathers' dependence on chattel slavery has adversely affected our development as a nation. As W.E.B. DuBois noted in 1896, the 3/5 compromise, resolved the deadlock over slavery and enabled our founders to finish drafting their Constitution in 1787, but was ultimately responsible for the bitter Civil War we were lucky to survive. Sadly, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln almost immediately following his reelection in 1865 deprived us of his leadership during the critical Reconstruction era.

In 1896, the Supreme Court's thoughtless Plessy decision essentially re-enslaved blacks by trapping them in the sharecropping economy of the "deep" South. The continuing rancor of Southern Democrats was also painfully evident throughout the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, it was not until after World War II that the Armed Forces were desegregated by Harry Truman's Executive Order in 1947- at about the same time that the color line in baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson.

Although progress in race relations in the United States since the end of WW2 has been slow, difficult, and erratic; "African-Americans' now have the right to vote and their civil rights are protected, albeit better in some states than others. However it's already been a Century and a half since the Civil War ended. There's also little doubt that Republican “red" states (predominantly ex-Confederate) still discriminate and there's also significant income and educational disparity on he national level.

Shifting to our history as a species- humans remain conspicuously vulnerable to jealousy, greed, and insecurity. The UN now enforces a a major anomaly of American Law, the War on Drugs ;despite it's well-known record of failure.

Finally, we also have abundant evidence that we have dangerously overpopulated our species' only available habitat for the foreseeable future, yet humans obviously find waging war against each other preferable to reaching agreement.

Ironically there is now a biracial President in the White House (who is nonetheless seen as black in most "red" states}. Safely reelected to a second term in 2012, he would to have little to lose- and predictably much to gain- by endorsing cannabis legalization.

I base that opinion on a study of (now) over 7000 cannabis users revealing that paternal participation in the life of their children is particularly important to their self-esteem and early adolescent behavior.

Finally, Obama's own adolescent pot use as a member of the Choom Gang should be pointed out to him within the context of his own upbringing. He's certainly smart enough to understand that ending Tricky Dick's punitive drug war will look a lot better on his ex-Presidential resume than having had that chance and wimping out.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2014

Supremes Run True to Form

In a blog entry dated April 20, 2811, I wrote. "Notwithstanding the 2012 election results, the drug war seems assured of enough Congressional support to survive as a protected policy for the indefinite future. Nor does it lack support from a Supreme Court that's been stacked with a Roman Catholic majority by fundamentalist Republicans intent on overturning Roe V Wade.

Yesterday's "Hobby Lobby" decision by the Supreme Court will, if nothing else, cause an increase in the numbers of unwanted children. My work with cannabis applicants revealed- somewhat unexpectedly- that children who–- for whatever reason- do not have the support of their biological fathers during critical childhood years, are prone to exhibit maladaptive behaviors such as ADD and ADHD from as early as age 4 or 5 (some even younger). It was also discovered that adolescent use of cannabis not only mitigated those behaviors, but exerted a positive influence on symptoms by reducing anxiety while enhancing focus, concentration, and memory with attendant improvement in school performance.

Associated findings (which make sense in the light of those discoveries) included an increased tendency by affected children to try (initiate) other psychotropic drugs such as nicotine, alcohol, and a bevy of so-called psychedelics in early adolescence. Needless to say, when the repressive Controlled Substances Act of 1970 with its emphasis on police as society's primary agents for dealing with "addiction," collided with the record population of young people produced in the immediate aftermath of World War Two (the “Baby Boom”) things began to happen.

The unfortunate, but easily understandable, result of that collision-especially in the wake of the JFK's assassination- was a surge in urban homelessness at precisely the wrong time. The surge and its results were aptly described by Psychiatrist Sally Satel in a November 1, 2003 NYT op-ed entitled “Out of the Asylum, Into the Cell."

Unlike Dr. Satel, who is decades younger than myself (and also graduated from Cornell before going to medical school) I'd witnessed the "Asylum to Cell" transition almost in real time. In 1956, while still a 3rd year Medical student, I'd sent a month at a huge VA Hospital in East Orange NJ. It's important to recall that Psychiatry and the VA have undergone huge changes in the interim, thanks to the delusional thinking of a world leader who had risen from obscurity after being wounded and gassed in the service of the Kaiser in World War one.

What Hitler's (and may other "leaders'" careers) illustrate is how the delusional grandiosity typical of Bipolar Disorder (formerly "Manic Depressive Psychosis") can, by afflicting someone with great political potential, alter the course of history and destroy many lives in the process.

If anything, our species is more vulnerable than ever to the noxious effects of such delusional thinking simply because there are so many of us and we have become so mutually interdependent.

Sadly, as a glance at the headlines reminds us, we seem as unable to work together as a species as ever.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)