August 07, 2014
Annals of Creeping SanityLast week, the New York Times published a surprising editorial recommending that "Marijuana" be legalized. When I attempted to simply read what the "Paper of Record" had written on a subject of great interest to me, I was greeted with a notice that I'd already exceeded my quota of free NYT articles for the month accompanied by a none-too-subtle ad for subscriptions, which I effectively trumped by visiting the old news Website I'd once edited.
While there, I noticed a few items that re-kindled a spark of optimism that our species may not be as close to auto-extinction as I'd feared: the first was an item about the popularity of "pot shops" in Colorado, but the (inevitable) downer was an item in a travel letter explaining how the Colorado rules, all of which are left over from Nixon's reefer madness, are interfering with the growth of its booming Marijuana industry.
That led me to understand that any one expecting the feds (or our species, for that matter) to get over their Nixon-imposed reefer madness in a hurry just because Colorado and Washington State had voted to "legalize" recreational use may be in for a long wait. On the other hand, progress is progress and it's always better to be going forward than backward.
July 29, 2014
Colossal Canadian StupidityWe'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?
June 24, 2014
The Approaching Centennial of American Drug InsantyOn December 17th of this year the American policy that matured into a global "war" on drugs in 1970 will celebrate a painful centennial; it was on that day in 1914 that Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act, the first of three punitive laws based on the idea that police are the professionals most qualified to define and treat "addiction," a condition that still can't be defined as other than an undesirable behavior. Harrison was the first of 3 major pieces of inept American legislation that would coalesce into a global "drug war" with passage of the most misguided of all in 1970: Richard Nixon's Controlled Substances Act.
In a bizarre twist, the 18th amendment mandating the prohibition of alcohol was not passed until 1918, 4 years after Harrison. The much-anticipated ban on commerce in alcohol, which had been expected by many to bring about an alcohol free utopia, failed miserably and had to be repealed a mere 14 years after ratification. Perhaps the most obvious lesson (not) learned from that failure is that prohibition laws forbidding products or services desired by a significant minority of the population will inevitably create illegal markets which, in turn, induce wholesale corruption and end up doing far more harm than good.
Nevertheless, Harrison remained in force by surviving several 5-4 Supreme Court decisions between 1915 and 1920. Later, the Court ruled unanimously against itself in Linder in 1925, but because no other drug cases were decided after that, Harrison continued to survive under the watchful eye of Harry Anslinger.
In 1937, a 2nd critical piece of prohibitive legislation– known as the Marijuana” Tax Act was pushed through Congress by Anslinger himself, who had been made Chief of the Federal Bureau of narcotics, despite his complete lack of qualifications for the position. However, he had important political connections: his uncle was Andrew Mellon, who just happened to be Secretary of the Treasury and the richest man in America.
The third act in this legislative farce took place over 30 years later when Richard Nixon-possibly the least qualified American president ever– took it upon himself to enhance the scope and power of American drug policy in the complete absence of supporting evidence. He then compounded the felony by announcing criteria for the establishment of new illegal drug markets on a substance by substance basis, a privilege awarded to the Attorney General, thus excluding Medicine completely from both the legal and regulatory processes.
In an astounding example of the blind following the blind, The UN then updated, without significant discussion, its original 1961 commitment to ape American drug policy.
To a degree that has yet to be appreciated, Nixon's need to deal with the hippies then protesting the war in Vietnam, who were also the leading edge of an emergent new “drug culture,” dovetailed almost perfectly with the confusion and distress felt by their parents and elders over their behavior. That mutual generational ignorance led to an uncritical acceptance of Nixon' (and John Mitchell's) Controlled Substances Act which– in retrospect– can be seen as a purely rhetorical exercise aimed directly at the young political rebels then (understandably) protesting America's sadly mistaken war in Vietnam.
Another phenomenon complicating that already complex jigsaw puzzle, was the emergence of the so-called “beat generation” a relatively small but influential bi-coastal literary movement that appeared in the late Fifties and early Sixties. They were the first contingent of young Americans to actually try marijuana and psychedelics and soon wrote about those experiences. Their descriptions contrasted with the cookie-cutter blandness of the Eisenhower Fifties while also encouraging young "boomers" to try marijuana and psychedelics themselves, which further encouraged the behaviors that were puzzling and frightening their parents.
The final impetus for Nixon's anti-drug flight of fancy was the completely unexpected action of Earl Warren's Supreme Court in striking down the Marijuana Tax Act. Thus almost as soon as he took office, Nixon found himself confronted with a youthful rebellion in which the children of the "greatest" generation that had won World War Two were taking drugs and thumbing their noses at their parents' values while also refusing to fight in a deadly jungle war they neither understood nor agreed with.
Add in the demands of other "liberation" movements by Blacks, Gays and women and you have a formula for unprecedented social unrest.
As we now know, Nixon's "solution" was to restore the federal government's power to punish "drugs" and drug users indiscriminately, thus turning what had been an ill-conceived policy into a Perfect Storm of repression that punishes a whole species indiscriminately.
May 27, 2014
Aspberger's and PTSD in the NewsAsperger syndrome and PTSD are both are emotional disorders which have been effectively self-medicated by many of the patients I've interviewed pursuant to their use of (federally illegal) "medical marijuana" during the past 10 years. I've now taken histories from over 7000 applicants seeking to use pot medically in California. Despite an increasing voter demand for liberalizing our rigid federal "marijuana" laws, there is no significant movement to remove it from the list of Schedule One (totally forbidden) drugs and the US federal bureaucracy has remained adamant that it will not be "rescheduled," a position that's becoming increasingly difficult for them to defend in light of current news.
For example, 2 of the leading stories on this Memorial Day Weekend dealt with conditions cannabis treats very effectively. One involved a typically troubled youth who had been diagnosed and treated within the "system" for Asperger's for at least three years. He uploaded both his bitter feelings and his proposed solution on You Tube before setting out to make good on his threats. In a more rational setting, an honest Pharmaceutical Industry could easily have made a nebulized cannabis preparation available. Sadly, sixteen years after "medical use" was approved for California, both an honest federal bureaucracy and and an honest pharmaceutical industry are still distant pipe dreams.
Even more maddening to me is that our President is a living, breathing example of someone who successfully treated his own ADD with illegal cannabis while a prep school student in Hawaii and doesn't even know it. My study, first presented to the pathetically uninformed "Medical Marijuana" lobby 1995 (and ignored by them ever since) pointed out the consistent relationship between absence of the biologic father from a child's life and how the symptoms of ADD are mitigated by (illegal) adolescent use: a correlation first noted among the "baby boomers" now aging into Medicare and still continuing among their grandchildren.
The other Memorial Day story was a criticism of inadequate VA care of the "Wounded Warriors" Ironically, both the Controlled Substances Act and the All Volunteer Army, both of which were conceived of by Richard Nixon, are continuing to wreak havoc long after the Trickster died in1994. There are now an average of 22 suicides /day being among returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan and the VA, which is responsible for their medical care, is forbidden to use the one drug my study shows mitigates PTSD better than any of the synthetic pot imitators being pushed by Big Pharma.
April 19, 2014
Weather or not: Climate IndecsionBy any measure, our species is the most successful on Planet Earth. Not only are we cognitively superior to all others, we are so skilled in Science and Engineering our future seems almost limitless despite nagging worries over climate change beyond the so-called Holocene boundary.
Many worry that climate change is real, but others insist it's just an unproven idea dreamed up by Al Gore to make up for loosing the 2000 election at the Supreme Court. Who do you believe? They ask, a loser like Al, or the smartest judges in the nation?
There are, to be sure, some serious observers who think that fears about climate change are not only on point, but that we may already be too late to avert a series of weather catastrophes. Others ask, why bum people out with a theory that can't be proved? Are you come kind of liberal scare monger or communist?
On one side are some convincing writers with a slew of facts and solid evidence, who worry about a weather catastrophe. Others might ask, "doesn't this expert have a vaguely Arab name? (Jamail was born in Texas to 4th generation Lebanese parents and educated at Texas Tech).
Even so, it isn't that difficult to find opinionated climate deniers .
It's highly unlikely that both sides in this dispute are right and if the climate warriors are correct, our species may be in for a long, bumpy ride.
March 08, 2014
Annals of Depraved American StupidityOne would have hoped that, with timid efforts at "legalization" getting underway in Washington state and Colorado, a measure of sanity might be finding its way into America's destructive "marijuana" policy, but they'd be wrong: a fact convincingly demonstrated by a feature article in the current issue of Rolling Stone.
I immediately remembered how disgusted I had been by stories about "baby faced" narcs posing as high school students when I was editing a weekly drug policy news letter between 1997 and 2001. It simply didn't occur to me that cops would still be employing the same sleazy tactics fifteen years later; particularly in the state that passed the nation's first "medical use" law in 1996. It's almost as if the invidious Daryl Gates were still alive and setting police policy.
To return to the Rolling Stone story; I hope readers will scan in enough detail to learn that the sting's adolescent victim suffers from a severe form of autism known as Asberger's syndrome.
Just as disheartening from my point of view is that (as far as I can tell) I am the first "pot doc" to report that cannabis has been particularly effective in treating applicants who have been self-medicating for several conditions on the Autism Spectrum.
That a "sting" targeting adolescents for "drug crimes" should require prior approval by both police supervisors and school officials, would seem obvious: particularly in our litigious society, yet this one was carried out without the knowledge or consent of the victim's parents–– a circumstance I find appalling because it dramatically points out the inroads Nixon's Controlled Substances Act has made in what were once considered civil rights and Constitutional guarantees.
As usual, I'll have more to say about the warts and pimples of the worst possible public policy since the Nuremberg Laws.
March 02, 2014
The Looming Marijuana ConundrumNow that there has been a steady increase in the clamor for recognition of marijuana as medicine for almost 20 years– accompanied by overwhelming “anecdotal” evidence that its medical benefits are far greater than imagined– one would think that such pressure would auger well for pot "legalization." But one would be wrong; and for the most human of reasons: no one– especially a government official– wants to cop to such a colossal blunder.
"Marijuana" was classified as a Schedule 1 substance in 1970 because it was asserted by Richard Nixon to be "dangerous, habit forming, and of no recognized use in American medical practice," a judgment that's been upheld over and over again in state and federal courts at every level.
To admit at this late date that the assertions responsible for millions of felony arrests over an interval of 44 years were based on nothing more that Nixon's imagination and hie desire to punish would indeed be difficult, particularly since the real reason is that the authorities making and confirming them were medically incompetent, yet refused to allow pertinent evidence to be presented or heard.
Someone in the federal government has to either bite a huge bullet or invent one hell of a cover story so we can move on.
September 14, 2013
Mixed Signals from ColoradoI was intrigued by two items aired by CNN Saturday morning that when taken together, illustrated the reality gap that has been developing around events in Colorado, one of two states that voted to "legalize" cannabis in 2012. Both concerned weather, another topical issue I've referred to frequently as an example of the many mutually contradictory beliefs (cognitive dissonance) held by supposedly responsible, well-informed humans on a variety of subjects, most notably politics, religion, and cannabis.
The first such event- or rather catastrophe- involved the flash flooding that caught me completely by surprise, together with an unknown number of stranded travelers and ordinary residents of Colorado communities that quickly began to resemble New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the main difference being that New Orleans is flat and much of Colorado is not.
The other CNN item was about the Pike's peak longboard races that were held less than a week ago. As a pot doc who is much too old to have been caught up in the extreme sports phenomenon, I have nevertheless, learned from many of my patients how popular skateboarding has become among pot smokers, thus I wasn't as surprised as I'd been by the flash flooding.
At least, not until I googled "Longboarding at Pike's Peak" and learned how much skateboarding has evolved since my then thirteen year-old son made one in the mid-Sixties by attaching steel roller skate wheels to a piece of wood .
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 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.
May 15, 2013
Science, Law, and the TruthScience and the Law are human institutions. Each claims to seek the "truth," but their methods and venues are so radically different that it shouldn't surprise us that their conclusions often conflict.
They also very considerably in their ability to have those conclusions enforced on the populations of the sovereign nations that make up our modern world, each of which have legal systems to administer "justice." In general, disputes are resolved in courts that may vary radically in the beliefs they subscribe to. Some are predominantly religious, while others claim to be neutral, but all are obviously influenced by the dominant religious and moral beliefs extant within their national borders.
Against that background, the anomalous status of cannabis ("marijuana") in our modern world is a prime indicator of some serious human problems.
The best evidence is its current status within the United States, the nation most responsible for "marijuana" being outlawed by UN treaty. There is a quiet guerrilla war underway between those who think its production, possession, and use should not be illegal for a variety of medical and other reasons and those dedicated to continued harsh prosecution and punishment of any use whatsoever.
When one examines the history of US pot laws, one finds they were never justified by research- clinical or otherwise- prior to passage. That was certainly true of the Marijuana Tax Act championed by Harry Anslinger in 1937. That said, prosecutions under the MTA emained vanishingly rare until the Sixties when a case involving LSD guru Timothy Leary resulted in the Warren Court overturning it in 1969, a decision based on legal- rather than medical- grounds.
Also unfortunately, the Court's reversal in Leary took place shortly after Richard Nixon's pivotal 1968 election, at about the time youthful pot-smoking "hippies" were protesting his extension of the Vietnam war into Laos and Cambodia.
With key help from his Attorney General, Nixon "corrected" the MTA with legislation based on an expertise neither man possessed: an algorithym classifying "addiction" and- implicitly- its punishment.
Enforcement and intellectual defense of the CSA , have been conducted under the direction of the two federal agencies Nixon himself created- through separate Executive Orders- in 1973 and 1974 respectively. A careful reading of NIDA's history reveals much criticism, but little real change, while the DEA, even though a police agency, has been forced to assert drug war dogma in far more authoritarian (and simplistic) terms.
That said, the two agencies, with support from others in the federal bureaucracy, have guaranteed that the Controlled Substances Act would not lack support from tax-supported lobbyists within government.
To return to the differences between Science and the Law mentioned earlier, Nixon and Mitchell were both lawyers bereft of medical training, yet were able to embed "scientific" principles within a destructive, failing law. Nixon exercised even more debatable authority by creating tax-supported agencies to enforce and defend the same law. The ultimate irony is that although both men were promptly ousted from Government for lying to Congress the legitimacy of the CSA has never been seriously questioned
A mark of our national (and global) infirmity as a species is that we have been so slow to correct the obvious injustice of cannabis prohibition. In the forty-first year since the CSA was passed by Congress and signed by the Trickster, it has been used illegally, but safely, by a growing population of largely unwitting "patients" for its medical benefits it delivers.
Research conducted on its long term users confirms both qualities. The real reason the drug war should be nullified is that it was based on pseudoscience propounded by two convicted liars and long defended by an expensive, self-serving federal bureaucracy.