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May 03, 2006

On April 20, the FDA released what was clearly intended as an authoritative 'advisory' explaining that ‘marijuana’ shouldn’t be taken seriously as medicine because it must be smoked! That statement has since been parsed more exensively— and critically— than any comparable official statement of drug war dogma I can remember. While I still haven’t read all the critical comments, I’m disturbed that I have yet to see one clearly stating what seems to me its most shocking (albeit unintentional) disclosure: the degree to which ’science’ has been distorted to defend a destructive policy of failiure.

An inescabable collateral realization is that many of  our ‘leading scientific institutions’ have been bullied into grossly compromising their supposedly hallowed scientific principles— without a peep of protest.   

For those still in denial, the drug war’s remote origins were a series of judicial decisions made nearly 100 years ago when the US Supreme Court was sufficiently persuaded by superficial and misleading analysis of what— even then—  was incomplete and biased evidence, to embrace three key fallacies. The first was that ‘addicition’ is the most important risk of using  ‘narcotics’ (that term then applying only to opiates and cocaine) the second, was that abstinence is the only acceptable goal of addiction treatment. The third was that physicians can’t be trusted to prevent addiction in their patients or to treat it properly when it occurs; thus police and criminal sanctions are essential elements of the nation’s Public Health.

The subsequent history of our drug policy is that its inflexible nature— and the prerogatives conferred by the Court on its enforcement bureaucracy — were protected by a single bureaucrat for over three decades after he took over the FBN in 1930. Other than skillfully protecting the Bureau’s intellectual turf, Harry Anslinger’s most important contribution was the 1937 MTA, which added cannabis as a third proscribed agent on scientifically absurd grounds.  Otherwise, his tenure can now be seen as most noteworthy for what never happened: any significant expansion of the three illegal markets created by the policy.

However, his departure in 1962 was followed by three events which would soon dramatically reshape and enlarge all illegal drug markets within a single tumultuous decade: the introduction 'psychedelics' and several other new psychotropic agents, the discovery of cannabis by a significant fraction of American youth, and the 1968 election of Richard Nixon.

 Even before Nixon’s ‘drug war’ was  empowered by the CSA (1970), reinforcd by the DEA (1973), and another agency (NIDA) created to defend its ‘scientific’ purity in 1975, it had been on an upward trajectory. Some momentum was lost following the Watergate disgrace; but it was quickly recovered— and then some— after Reagan’s election in 1980. Since then, the policy has becme so dominant in Washington that its major political risk may be that unwitting revelations like the clueless 4/20 FDA proclamation could trigger enough public recognition of its foolishness to bring about insight and repudiation

In that context, one wonders just when— and if— the leadership of the drug policy reform movemment will ever ‘get it.’

Posted by tjeffo at May 3, 2006 11:22 PM


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