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August 20, 2007

From Beats to Pranksters to Hippies... (Historical)



Twice each week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I see patients seeking pot recommendations. If this week’s group is typical of those I’ve been seeing for the past two years, about 40% will be “renewals” who had seen me anywhere from one to four times in the past and about 60% will be seeing me for the first time. Some of the latter may also have obtained  a recommendation from another doctor sometime in the past.

If anyone had told me when I first began screening pot smokers, that Proposition 215 would be going through the weird changes I’ve lived through over the past five years, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. For one thing, I didn’t realize our drug enforcement bureaucracy is as uninformed and mean-spirited as it has shown itself to be. Nor would I have wanted to believe that the reform movement could become so stubbornly locked  into its own denial.

What reform doesn’t seem to understand is that although the public has bought their emotional arguments about “medical marijuana” to the extent that they don’t want obviously sick and dying heads hustled of to jail, it also has a misplaced sense of fairness that allows it to agree with simplistic law enforcement arguments that healthy looking ABYM in the 18-30 age range are all “cheating.”

California’s police agencies, almost unanimous in their opposition to the initiative, are no longer arguing that all  medical marijuana is a fraud, only that most of those who obtain recommendations are, thus the number of retail outlets allowed business licenses should be drastically restricted. Actually, they would prefer that none receive a license, but are careful not to say so when they appear at one City Council after another to argue for either outright bans on business licenses for dispensaries, or for moratoria on new ones. In the midst of all this, the DEA has also been carrying out its own escalating program of harassment and intimidation against property owners who rent to pot clubs; going so far as to threaten them with forfeiture.

The success of these tactics depends on three sets of circumstances:
1) The traditional reform argument that most pot use is “recreational,” therefore benign, and should be legal. Results in state after state suggest that a critical segment of the public which supports “medical marijuana” doesn’t agree that “recreational” use is so benign and is frightened by its Cheech and Chong image.

2) The public’s default position on the drug war seems to be that although it's a failure, it’s well-intentioned and we have no other choice because of the threat posed by “addiction.” This is actually a profoundly mistaken view which persists because:

3) organizations representing Medicine and its Allied Professions have been taking the easy way out by cooperating administratively with substance prohibition, a supremely foolish public policy that has never succeeded historically in any nation where it has been tried.  Nevertheless, it's also current UN drug policy.

The title refers to the history of the pot market that I keep alluding to because I think understanding the reasons behind the explosive growth in pot use which was so famously a part of the counterculture that developed right here in the Bay Area during the Sixties is key; if for no other reason than it allows a full understanding of how dishonest and unscientific (actually  pseudo-scientific) the drug war really is.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 20, 2007 02:55 AM

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