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September 04, 2005

Feds up to Old Tricks

American drug prohibition-- known as the War on Drugs after its enabling
legislation was rewritten by the First Nixon Administration in 1970-- 
actually began with the Harrison Act of 1914
A singularly dishonest bit of legislation; Harrison was sold to Congress
as a tax measure intended to monitor the use of medications made from the
opium poppy and the coca leaf. What was unique was is arrogation of a federal
control over physicians-- backed by criminal penalties-- for what actually
amounted to disputed professional judgement. The real intent was soon revealed
when Treasury agents began arresting physicians who were prescribing for
"addicts" for a fee-- but in technical compliance with the new law. Selective
prosecutions of two particularly lurid cases induced the celebrated Holmes-Brandeis
Court to rule narrowly (5-4) in favor of the government.

Those decisions not only established the (still) dubious precedent of allowing
a federal prosecutor to directly challenge the medical judgement of a licensed
physician; it also allowed harsh criminal penalties and converted a nominal
tax law into de Jure drug prohibition. The medical profession was so thoroughly
cowed by its ordeal it was persuaded to abandon addicts and their treatment
to the tender mercies of what eventually became the Federal Bureau of Narcotics
under Harry Anslinger in 1930.  During his long tenure (1930-1962),
Anslinger allowed no competitive sources of information on "narcotics." It's
hardly surprising that Interest in-- and research on-- addiction was discouraged.
Nixon's declaration of a "drug war" in 1969 followed the critical hiatus
(1962-68) after Anslinger's departure from the FBN, during which several
new 'psychedelic' agents were popularized, the Supreme Court overturned the
MTA, and the youthful "hippie revolution" combined with protests against
the Viet Nam War to disperse cannabis ("marijuana") throughout the nation's
secondary schools.

Since then, drug "control" has remained a jealously protected federal doctrine, 
but the mode of that protection has changed dramatically from the uninformed
authoritarian blackout of science by Anslinger-- completely bereft of medical
or scientific basis.  Policy now relies on the  mountain of peer-reviewed
'political science' funded by NIDA's since its founding in 1975.

As noted earlier, NIDA is the antithesis of what science is supposed to be
about- as I hope eventually to demonstrate by several specific examples--
however,  this post is to call attention to another abomination: the
Bush Administration's recent spate of criminal prosecutions of "pain" doctors; 
a reprise of the same tactics which allowed Harrison to evolve into the massive
fraud we now call the "war on drugs."

 It's timely because of today's announcement that Dr. Cecil Knox,
a 56 year-old pain specialist in Virginia, has finally succumbed to almost
four years of federal prosecution (persecution) which had produced a hung
jury (11-1 for outright acquittal) in 2003. He is finally accepting a plea
bargain in lieu of a retrial. Significantly; it was only after treatment
for his recurrent lymphoma had produced a remission that the government elected
to retry him. His assets had been frozen and the four charges he's pleading
to were not even in in the original indictment; yet none of that appears
in the government's obnoxiously triumphant press release.

I have never met Doctor Knox, but two things are crystal clear from the 
newspaper accounts: he's no criminal, and whatever irregularities he may
have been guilty of would have been better dealt dealt with through either
peer review or tort (malpractice) procedures; and that's clearly what would
have happened if had he had been anything other than a pain specialist. He's also not the only such specialist undergoing a similar ordeal.
What we are now seeing from our arrogant and dishonest "drug control" bureaucracy
is a modern version of the same witch-hunt that started this mess over ninety
years ago.

The players may have changed; but the dishonesty remains the same.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 4, 2005 05:14 AM


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