July 27, 2013
Obama’s Biggest Challenge: Guns, Drugs, or Racism?As a reelected US President, Barack Obama faces a question that should have become of major concern to him last November: what will his legacy be? Two-term presidents have a unique opportunity to make history, and as the first nominally black president in a nation with our painful history of racism, he has not only a golden opportunity to address it from the “bully pulpit,” but also- it will be argued by many-the obligation to do so.
There has been a (timid) indication he may respond to the case as a "teaching opportunity" by his statement that Trayvon "could have been me 35 years ago," a fact anyone who has bothered to read the news for the past 20 years should be able to understand and agree with; at least according to Time Magazine, hardly our most liberal media outlet.
Typically, the hate mongers on the Right, have already thrown down the gauntlet by voicing unequivocal approval of the verdict and denying that the case had anything to do with "race." In fact, the flatulent Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity went a step further by tying Martin, Obama, and marijuana together with an allegation that is best described as "clueless."
My own response is based on reading the comments responding to the Time opinion piece, many of which were discouraging: racist and hateful. On the other hand, there were also many that were reasonable and I didn't find any that were stridently anti-pot, which- as a pro-pot physician- I found encouraging.
What I'd also point out about the marijuana use is that both Trayvon's and Barack's parents had been divorced, a situation I find very interesting and plan to comment on in some detail.
June 11, 2013
Leaks in the News; Plumber Needed?At the top of today's news is the story that broke over the week-end about CIA contract employee Edward Snowden who confessed from his Hong Kong hotel room on Sunday that he deliberately leaked large amounts of classified information to the press while working- not for the Agency itself, but for one of its many contractors.
It thus recalls the famous Pentagon Papers that tied President Nixon’s “plumbers” to two failed break-ins in the 70s: the first was at the famous Watergate complex in Washington. The other was an earlier effort on the West Coast to obtain confidential medical records from the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist after the ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran- then an employee of the Rand Corporation, “leaked” massive amounts of data his Rand job had made him privy to and reinforced his doubts about America’s growing involvement in Vietnam to a level he could no longer ignore.
The furor created by the release and publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, was huge, but sadly, its significance has apparently been forgotten by many; including most of the media and the present administration.
Happily, Daniel Ellsberg is still alive and has been quick to praise Snowden's act of conscience as "more important" than his own. He also gives credit to Bradley Manning who, because he was on active duty when he defied the government, has been subject to the same level of punishment that became routine at Guantanamo.
When one listens to Snowden’s account, one also realizes that he, Manning, and Ellsberg faced exactly the same dilemma: at what point do you stop compromising with blatant dishonesty? The major differences between them are attributable to the internet, which has compressed time while increasing the ease with which "classified" information can be acquired and disseminated. It may not seem that long since the 70s, but digital technology has reshaped the world. Ellsberg's access to information was through Xerox copiers, while Snowden, a high school drop-out and typical "geek," has obviously mastered contemporary IT to a considerable degree.
In that sense he closely resembles another forgotten man: Bradley Manning, whose defiance while in uniform has undoubtedly made his pre-trial confinement more akin to the treatment of those unfortunate enough to disappear into the American gulag at Guantanamo.
Ellsberg's disclosure was against the law in 1971, but the Department of Justice declined to prosecute him because of federal misconduct by Nixon's "plumbers."
Thankfully Daniel Ellsberg is still alive and very much on top of current developments.
Eerily like the Seventies, we also have a lawyer in the Oval Office. Although Obama smoked pot in High School and is well versed in Constitutional law; he has also used drones against civilians in one undeclared war in Asia and waffled repeatedly on another; thus I'm not that optimistic about Snowden's chances of avoiding prosecution.
In the meantime, Bradley Manning's trial begins at Fort Meade this week. The intensity and tenor of its media coverage will be an important indicator.
January 23, 2013
Post Inauguration BluesOver the past weekend, I listened carefully to the parsing and analysis of President Obama's inauguration rhetoric without hearing any clear mention of my favorite subject: his take on America's drug war. My own ten year study of Californians seeking to use cannabis as Medicine convinced me long ago that President Nixon's "war" on drugs has been a classic government folly of the type lucidly analyzed by historian Barbara Tuchman in 1984. Indeed, given its shabby provenance and unbroken record of failure, the drug war's survival as UN policy is a disheartening comment on our entire species. That it compounds the costly error of domestic alcohol "Prohibition" is bad enough, but its exacerbation of the racist residuals of America's tragic embrace of chattel slavery is even worse.
Until his second inauguration, I was hopeful that President Obama's own biracial background, his having been raised by a single mother, and his adolescent cannabis use might combine to encourage him to use the expanded powers enjoyed by a second-term President to begin rolling back our drug war; but so far, there's been no evidence of an epiphany.
Quite the contrary, as Norman Solomon's bitter quip implies, and our summary executions of suspected civilian "terrorists" from the air suggests. Perhaps further questions will be raised; even leading some to question an American drug policy that has encouraged thousands of poor Mexicans to slaughter each other for the privilege of smuggling drugs over our border.
What history tells us is that we are a mistake-prone species inclined to adhere to false beliefs long after they should have been discarded for a variety of reasons.
Although varied, those reasons most often boil down to the ones exposed in Tuchman's historical examples and should be easily recognizable within contrived "logic" aired every evening on TV news broadcasts.
We Americans now seem to have decided what "truths" we will permit ourselves to discuss. Homosexuality and gay marriage are now OK, but legal pot is still out in the the waiting room.
December 04, 2012
Is History Catching up with the Drug War?In an uncannily quick response to questions raised recently in this blog, two ex-US Presidents raised fundamental questions about the drug policy they had supported during their combined 12 years in office.
It would have been even better if they had zeroed in on the policy's most basic flaw , but the fact that they are unmistakeably putting the kind of pressure on the current incumbent so soon after his re-election is huge, if for no other reason than it will make it more difficult for our fickle media to indulge in their usual trivializing pot jokes. "Taboo" is on my list of must-see TV shows this week
November 22, 2012
“Nobody Died in Watergate”I occasionally watch Fox News just to hear their latest take on reality and was brought up short yesterday morning when I heard the flannel-mouthed Chris Wallace assert “nobody died in Watergate” in support of the Republican witch hunt about who said what and what relation it might have had to the deaths of four Americans at the hands of a Libyan mob in Benghazi back in September.
Don’t radical Republicans realize the election is over, the world has moved on, and we are in the midst of another crisis in the Middle East? Clearly, the answer is no; the election hasn't changed their need to oppose Obama any more than whatever temporary "peace" ends the new violence in Gaza and Jerusalem will end the hatred that has divided Arabs and Israelis since the state of Israel was founded by UN mandate in 1947.
The issue of culpability for “Benghazi” is now a shibboleth in an attempt to block the President's appointment of Susan Rice as Secretary of State to replace Hilary Clinton. Whatever the accuracy of Rice’s statement and her (perhaps) overlong adherence to an erroneous intelligence assessment, the idea that it was culpable in the deaths of our Ambassador and three others makes as much sense as blaming Robert Mueller for the the FBI's dismissal of specific warnings from Agent Colleen Rowley about to Zacarias Moussaoui well before 9/11.
Be that as it may, Wallace’s clueless reference to Watergate betrays an even bigger failure: the catastrophic social damage that resulted after "responsible" governments and "leading" social institutions accepted the unsupported assertions of the two principal Watergate culprits in the Controlled Substances Act they persuaded the US Congress to pass and the UN to accept without a scintilla of supporting clinical evidence.
I’m not claiming that either Nixon or Mitchell could have anticipated the catastrophe their rhetorical enhancements of Harry Anslinger’s clumsy 1937 ban on "marihuana" would lead to, only that there may be no better example of the ripple effects that can result when malevolence is incorporated into public policy.
Nixon's intention was not to protect the public against "drug abuse" as he claimed, but to punish the pot-smoking hippies who were then protesting his bombing of Laos and Cambodia to influence negotiations aimed at ending the Vietnam war.
What is most discouraging to me is the degree to which institutions and governments all over the world have endorsed Mitchell's formulations as essential to public health, but were clearly intended to punish youthful users of drugs that had never been studied as responsibly or competently as they should have been.
Unfortunately, the same is still true: transporting small amounts of "marijuana" across the border of any UN signatory nation is a "crime" that, if discovered, can result in immediate arrest of the smuggler; yet once we finally had had an opportunity to do clinical research on career pot users, self-appointed "experts sans expertise" arrogated the right to decide what research should reveal.
Ironically, how President Obama, himself a toker in High School, deals with the conundrum created by voters in Washington state and Colorado will be a major determinant of his legacy.
There's still a lot to say about this complex and terribly misunderstood issue, but this seems like a good place to stop for the moment.
October 29, 2012
Annals of DenialWhat follows is an admittedly gloomy analysis of the drug war's largely unrecognized adverse effects on our species and the bleak prospects for their early mitigation. The most appropriate current analogy may be the slow motion progress of Hurricane Sandy as it bears down on the US East Coast. Record breaking storm surges are expected and TV’s Weather Channel experts are predicting unprecedented flooding in an area that's home to nearly a third of the US population. Nevertheless, recently written articles denouncing global climate change as a “hoax” are still easy to find.
With respect to the drug war, we have been victims of a hundred year policy error, the magnitude of which has been exacerbated by the fact that its principal architects were largely unknown to each other, lived during three different political eras, and were connected primarily by their desire to protect the early federal hegemony over "drugs" that had been arrogated by the policy's earliest proponents, men who could not possibly have predicted how their largely invalid assumptions about "addiction" would have eventually matured in today’s overpopulated, competitive, and dangerous modern world.
The next entry is planned as a simple narrative describing that evolution and suggesting the magnitude of the modern world's self-imposed drug problem. I certainly wouldn't expect it to find immediate favor; in fact, quite the opposite. That the drug war is a necessity is still one of the modern world's most cherished myths (but one starting to show signs of age). I'm also e-mailing the text to people I have good reason to believe will not reject it out of hand; but might even read and discuss it (revolutions have to start somewhere).
As time permits, I hope to offer specific evidence on key points that reinforce the idea that the drug war began as an understandable mistake that has evolved into a tragedy. Predictably, one of the first obstacles it will face is denial a human characteristic by used increasingly to avoid the need to even think about bad news, especially that with dire existential implications: financial melt downs, threats of nuclear war, and weather disasters like Sandy, for example.
As for me, I'm going to watch Sandy's development on on the Weather Channel and be grateful that I ended up in the Bay Area by opting to intern at San Francisco General Hospital after medical school graduation in 1957. Had it not been for that decision (and a slew of other unpredictable events) I wouldn't have had the chance to study pot use in California, learn why the drug war is such a disaster, and have an opportunity to tell the world news it would prefer not to hear about the real "Hoax of the Century."
October 21, 2012
The Drug War's Watergate Connection & Why Marijuana Prohibition is a War CrimeThe Presidential debate scheduled for Monday reminds me that Watergate was not the only disaster caused by Richard Nixon, not even the worst. Two others that were much worse were the bombings of Laos and Cambodia, which left behind thousands of bomblets that are still maiming children forty years later; also the evil, dishonest Controlled Substances Act which has no basis in science, but depends entirely on bogus assumptions for the "scheduling" of drugs that are laughably simplistic and entirely without foundation. That the same assumptions are still cited (by a police agency) as the reasons "Marijuana" must remain illegal is both a national and a species disgrace.
A review of the sequence of events that led to that culprit legislation is straightforward enough to grasp the flagrant nature of the dishonesty it was based on. The first event was the 1969 Supreme Court decision to nullify the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act in a case involving Timothy Leary, a development that was both unexpected and a significant problem for Richard Nixon, who was then being assailed by young people outside the White House protesting those illegal bombings of Laos and Cammbodia, as well as the Vietnam war in general. The Court's action required that the deceptive MTA be replaced forthwith; another problem for Nixon.
Attorney General John Mitchell's solution to Nixon's problem was a clever, but dishonest rhetorical exercise: the creation of a simplistic "scheduling" algorithm by which to rate drugs ("substances") on the basis of their "danger," "habit forming" potential, and "acceptance in American Medical practice" (as if any AG would be qualified to judge those nebulous criteria). Another problem with Mitchell's schema was his total lack of knowledge of Pharmacology. Although no self-respecting pharmacologist would have taken his schedules seriously, none were given that chance. nor were, there any data offered to support Mitchell's assumptions; nevertheless, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, incorporating all of them, and tragically; policemen around the world have used them to make millions of felony arrests and destroy countless lives for forty years.
Even worse, the CSA contains another provision that allows the US Attorney General to place new drugs on schedule one as he deems necessary. With each new addition, a lucrative, and potentially violent, illegal market has been created.
Since 2001, I have been using the access to chronic cannabis users provided by California's medical marijuana initiative to interview over 6800 applicants seeking to take advantage of's Proposition 215 to profile them and investigate their histories of use. Their data reveals a profile of chronic cannabis use which is overwhelmingly at odds with the uninformed and generally incoherent DEA propaganda used to counter the generally valid information published by reform organizations.
In that connection, "reform has consistently been snookered by its tendency to take ignorant DEA claims at face value and then base their own arguments on the benefits of cannabis as medicine without realizing that their opponents are so deeply committed to a bogus policy, they will simply not be moved by contradictory data.
Suffice it to say that a careful comparison of my data with federal claims reveals that the dug war is even more egregiously mistaken and cruel than could have been imagined
Beyond that, cannabis is uniquely complex and treats a wide variety of psychotropic and somatic ailments very safely and effectively. For example, it's excellent treatment for common "Autism Spectrum" syndromes ranging from dyslexia, and ADD to Bipolar disorder. It's also a well tolerated anticonvulsant. When ingested as an edible in proper dosage (which can be tricky to establish) it provides surprisingly effective pain relief from severe neuropathic and arthritic pain. An exciting recent insight requiring further investigation is that it may also relieve a wide variety of symptoms of autoimmune disorders.
A final thought: The CSA was cleverly supported when the DEA and NIDA were created by Nixon's Executive Order in 1973 and 1974 respectively. That also provided plenty of money, mostly to psychiatrists and psychologists, for writing policy-friendly papers with which to stuff peer reviewed literature. What all the early papers missed is that thousands, perhaps millions, of adolescent baby boomers who began trying "marijuana" in the Sixties were susceptible to the anxiolytic properties of inhaled weed. That was a phenomenon that turned the relatively small market that had existed in Anslnger's day into the monster that scared parents in the Sixties.
That seems like quite enough for one day; I'll have a lot more later.
September 24, 2012
Some Nuances of Presidential Pot UseAs this most bizarre of election campaigns lurches towards November 6, I'm finding that many of its confusing issues have been clarified for me by my (now) ten year study of cannabis applicants, while both the DEA and "reform" continue to demonstrate they haven’t a clue about either pot's amazing medical value or the extent of the harm done by its prohibition. That’s primarily because their own thinking about cannabis begins with its inhalation by large numbers of young people in the Sixties, the same phenomenon that inspired urgent drafting of the Controlled Substances Act by the Nixon Administration in 1970. By then, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act had already faded from the memory of the relatively few pre-boomers able to remember Harry Anslinger. It has also surprised me to learn that Harry J is simply a pre-hippy bogey-man to most younger applicants- if they remember him at all.
The timeline developed as a by-product of my applicant profile also confirms that what inspired NORML to begin its full-time advocacy for "Marijuana Reform" in 1972 was the flood of youthful arrests by local police enthusiastically applying John Mitchell’s (bogus) Schedule One algorithm. Ironically, the DEA, which didn't exist until Nixon created it with an Executive Order in 1973, was born without a coherent clinical theory of pot use; thus it had rely on an amalgam of imagination and dogma to counter the (somewhat better) rhetorical arguments used against the CSA by NORML from 1972 on.
No wonder both sides remain confused: they have been locked in a four decade argument between lawyers about straw men created by two other lawyers named Mitchell and Nixon; the whole world was also blocked from any possibility of gathering objective data from users until 1996. Another shocking reality is that the first, and most harmful, medical endorsement of the CSA came from psychiatrists and psychologists who misinterpreted early incomplete data as showing a ”gateway” effect that many still cling to despite its acknowledged incongruity.
A further irony is that my applicant profile suggests President Obama would have been an early pot initiate, and most likely, a serious "head." Newly available evidence confirms he was both. I’m also reasonably sure his desire for a political career led him to give up weed, probably between Punahoa and Columbia, maybe while at Occidental College in LA when he would have realized that the longer his toking could be documented, the harder it would be to dismiss as "youthful indiscretion." Finally, abstinence from pot could have led to his difficult-to-quit cigarette addiction.
Finally, I'm reasonably certain that if Obama’s Presidency extends beyond November, he'd be able to grasp the significance of his upbringing by a single mother; possibly to the point of restraining or even dissolving the DEA, especially in view of its creation by a notorious liar. The DEA has never undergone serious scrutiny, let alone received formal Congressional approval.
In comparison a President Romney, would be a disaster; rigidly opposed to any medical use; more likely committed to driving it back underground as US Attorney Melinda Haag has been quite successful at recently.