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Web Log of Dr. Tom O'Connell

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April 20, 2005

About Dr. Tom's Web Log

Personal log of Dr. Tom O'Connell, Researcher.


Medical School: NEW YORK MED COLL, NYC




Redwood City, CA 94065

Tom O'Connell tjeffo@drugsense.org

It is my intention to provide this space as a BLOG but also as a forum
for those who may agree or disagree with me so please email your well
thought out replies to my email address above.

This BLOG is arranged with the most current entry at the top of the
page so for a history of discussions scroll to the end
of this page, start there and work your way back up.

Thanks to Michael Krawitz, Matt Elrod and DrugSense for their help in
producing this Web Log.

Posted by tjeffo at 04:20 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

Why this Blog?

Why this Blog?

By Dr. Tom O'Connell

This Blog will focus on the conundrum which has evolved since California passed its unique "medical marijuana" law called Prop 215 in 1996. Although in effect for over eight years, recent developments- including the undistinguished US Supreme Court, Raich "decision" and yet another overwhelming vote against the fledgling US congressional attempt to rein in the DEA, the Hinchey Rohrabacher Amendment demonstrate that the issue of medical use is still grossly unsuccessful at the federal level. In the past, that was arguably because supporters of the drug war had enjoyed such great success in preventing meaningful scrutiny of their policy; but an alarming new development- rejection by the organized "drug reform" movement of credible evidence that federal policy has been both egregiously dishonest and indefensibly destructive- is now indirectly helping the feds avoid the kind of scrutiny needed to indict the drug war in the only court that really matters: public opinion.

It's first necessary to realize that in 1969, newly elected President Nixon's "drug war" was a radical expansion of what had been a long-standing- but relatively unimportant (in terms of the size of the existing illegal markets)-- policy of drug prohibition; he next pushed through a huge legislative expansion of that policy- the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The CSA would eventually allow harm maximization policy supporters to control drug research while simultaneously conducting an effective propaganda campaign on behalf of a diabolically false paradox: although drug policy is primarily one of Public Health aimed at protecting careless teens from addiction, Medical practitioners can't be trusted to implement it. That must be left to police, prosecutors, and judges armed with the power to mete out harsh criminal penalties to those irretrievably tainted by previous drug use or who prove resistant to coerced treatment- the goal of which must always be total abstinence.

What allows me to venture some very contrary opinions in this contentious arena is information gathered by interviewing thousands of California pot smokers in compliance with state law. The new law relied on licensed physicians to evaluate those requesting a patient designation; the government literally created cannabis evaluation as a new specialty by immediately threatening any doctor wiling to do so. Subsequent developments seriously reduced the ability of applicants to find and access such physicians; it also reduced the willingness of either group to publicly acknowledge such encounters; let alone whatever personal information had been either sought or disclosed.
To cut to the chase; by late 2001, conditions in the Bay Area had evolved in such a way a that it was obvious most of the applicants trying to convince me they were using pot to treat some form of chronic pain had probably become long-term users in an unwitting attempt to control the same emotional symptoms that have made anxiolytic agents, mood stabilizers, and anti-depressants Big Pharma's most important market segment.

In other words, pot had been treating what Prozac treats before Prozac even existed- only more effectively, more safely, and more durably. I explore this rationale in my article in the Spring edition of O'Shaughnessy's, the Journal of the California Cannabis Research Medical Group, at:


Analysis of patient responses-still incomplete- has now progressed to a point where it allows some very pejorative conclusions about pot prohibition itself and raises serious questions about whether any substance prohibition can ever be responsible public policy.

I won't begin by presenting detailed results for the simple reason that the study itself is still in progress and data entry is still lagging; in specific discussions, I'll try to cite the most recent data to have been processed. Because I hope to always be updating, I hope to be able to respond to specific questions with the most current data .

The article, in the Winter/Spring 2005 O'Shaughnessy's,was written in December, 2004 and is still accurate. What is considerably newer is an understanding of the rejection with which "reformers" greeted it when I attempted to solicit helpful input. While not exactly positive, that experience was as important as the data itself in permitting me a clearer understanding of how drug policy has evolved into the public policy monster it has become. I intend to comment frankly on why I believe current observations should impact drug policy politics, and will not be shy in identifying both opposing opinions and those who are venturing them. However, I will try to deal only with the opinions themselves- and then only in settings where authorship is unmistakable.

Readers who disagree are, of course, free to e-mail me. If enough interest develops , a public forum might result.

Dr. Tom O'Connell
4 July 2005

Posted by tjeffo at 04:39 AM | Comments (0)

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