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Debunking the false "Drugs abd Alcohol" mantra

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Sat, 09/06/2014 - 17:16
Mark Kleiman is a Professor of Public Policy at UCLA; he has long specialized in drug policy and has achieved a position of considerable prominence by claiming to be a moderate, while really taking a position that fully supports our lunatic drug war. Ironically, he came to my attention early in my own career as an activist opposing it. As I've mentioned before, it was an Op-ed on meth that Kleiman– then at Harvard– co-authored with psychiatrist Sally Satel in 1995 that brought him to my attention. While I've yet to meet Dr. Klieman, I've kept track of his maddeningly disingenuous position on American drug policy over the years and have marveled at how uninformed it is– particularly on the subject of marijuana. In a nutshell, he takes Richard Nixon's Controlled Substances Act seriously and thus considers use of marijuana and alcohol to be synergistic, while– in fact they are antagonistic, a common error stressed ad nauseam by "antidrug" ads on TV that inevitably link "drugs and alcohol"

In fact, chronic pot smokers do not drink much. The late Dr. Tod Mikuriya published about a "substitution" effect; what my more recent interrogation of users uncovered was the mechanism by which that happens. It's first necessary to reject another false assumption: the "age of consent" at which youngsters are allowed to drink (21) or use tobacco (18) legally are observed by most. To the contrary, the more emotionally troubled pubescent teens are, the more they feel impelled to experiment with drugs. Alcohol and tobacco are usually the first two because they are both "legal' and thus more available, but cannabis has been a close third since the Sixties.

Although exact figures are hard to come by, it's no secret that most youngsters start experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol at age twelve, or even younger. What my data show, however, is that the most common consequence of becoming a repetitive pot user is that interest in alcohol is quickly reduced and those who were already smoking cigarettes begin trying to quit. Rather than a "gateway" into drug use, cannabis is a gateway out of problematic use.

The reason has to do with the most obvious therapeutic effect of inhaled cannabis on those who respond to it: it's a feeling of "relaxation," that comes from feeling more comfortable in one's own skin.

As it turns out, the same provocative factors that operate in childhood to impel prepubescent youngsters to try drugs lead them to try the most available first: cigarettes and alcohol since 1900 and before, and cannabis since the early Sixties.

Unfortunately smoking is the quickest way for any psychoactive agent to reach the brain and watching youngsters smoke is an almost universal turn-off for adults. For that reason, even after cannabis is "legalized," a more acceptable delivery system will have to be found for it to become as accessible as will be needed.

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The Long Term Efects of a Police Shooting

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 10:30
My voluntary editing of an online newsletter devoted to America’s “Drug War,” for the four years between 1997 and 2001 provided me with an intense education in the injustice that had become so intrinsic to American policy shortly after passage of Richard Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act of 1970. While the policy had never been an intelligent response to the problems posed by addiction, Nixon’s contribution literally turned what had been disaster into a global catastrophe so progressive that it ranks high on the list of imminent dangers now threatening our feckless species; many of which may have seemed like good ideas at the time.

My antipathy toward police had its beginning with the shooting of a 22 year old African immigrant named Amodou Diallo in the Bronx by four NYC policemen on February 4, 1999, when they riddled him with 19 shots– simply because he ran from them to seek refuge in the vestibule of his apartment. Diallo had reason to run; he was black; an illegal immigrant from Guinea who was making a precarious living as a street vendor. He was also unarmed. The cops were all white and in civilian clothes. They were members of an elite Street Crime Unit that had been created by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani (and was subsequently disbanded because of multiple charges of excessive force). At the time, the story of Diallo’s slaying enraged so many citizens that all four shooters were arrested and charged with murder. After a motion for change of venue was granted, the trial was moved to Albany and all four were acquitted. Only one– Kenneth Boss– remained on the force but was forbidden to carry a gun. That restriction proved so intolerable that he sued the City three times to have it rescinded.

Finally, in 2012 his persistence was rewarded and his right to carry a gun was restored by Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Of considerable interest to me was the reference to Ms Diallou's friend, Ms Bah, whose mentally disturbed 28 year-old son had been shot by NYC police in a setting that was eerily similar to their killing of Amadu Diallo in 1999.

Is there a pattern to these fatal shootings? What a stupid question. The only ones who doubt it are red state Republicans, police officials, and overbearing meat heads like Sean Hannity.

Doctor Tom
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A Suspicious New Claim

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 10:41
This morning, a new claim was made on behalf of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who killed an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, an event that has provoked a degree of unrest and interest that is almost unprecedented. In brief, it's the unsubstantiated claim that Officer Darren Wilson, the policeman named as Brown's killer, sustained an orbital blow-out fracture just before he shot Brown. If so, it would be powerful mitigation of the claim that the shooting was either unprovoked or motivated merely by the theft of a box of cigars.

Blow out fractures are well known; they are produced by direct trauma to the eyeball and its surrounding bony orbit. They are often complicated by troublesome double vision (diplopia) from the herniation of a small fat pad that supports the eyeball and which usually requires surgical correction. Such an injury would constitute such a powerful rebuttal of the claim that Wilson's killing of Brown was either unprovoked or motivated merely by the theft of a box of cigars that its delayed release is- at the very least– highly suspicious.

A blowout fracture would also be expected to produce a black eye, noticeable misalignment of the eyeballs and x-ay evidence of a fracture, all of which are objective and, by themselves, would have at least mitigated the growing unrest.

Given the abundant evidence that similar shootings of young males by US police have become remarkably common, further developments in this case should continue to be of great interest. To see a list of this month's shootings, simply clicking on "August" in the drop-down menu for 2014 will reveal the known details on the 46 such events (including Michael Brown's) that have been listed so far this month. Most of the HTML links to media sources are live.

Doctor Tom
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Nixon's Impact on the Modern World 1

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 08:30
It may come as a surprise to many, but the modern American President who has had the biggest impact on the contemporary world is almost certainly Richard M. Nixon, the least respected and the only one ever forced by his own dishonesty to resign.

Nixon did accomplish a lot in his six years in the White House, most of it was through ad-hoc measures that were not carefully thought out, but are still affecting us adversely. A good example was his unilateral decision to take the US off the gold standard, thus changing a multinational policy that had been adopted at the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire in the immediate aftermath of World War Two and had been working reasonably well.

The consensus is that Nixon's move encouraged OPEC to raise oil prices and brought about the first "oil shock" in 1973. A second "oil shock" followed in 1978.

In 1971, Nixon tried to force North Vietnam to make concessions in Geneva by ordering the secret bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail, a campaign that not only failed to discourage its use to transport supplies and reinforcements to South Vietnam, but left behind a plethora of unexploded anti-personnel weapons that continued to kill and maim children decades after America was forced to withdraw its forces in an ill-advised war.

Neverteless, Nixon's greatest crime against humanity should eventually be seen as the "War on Drugs" he committed us to with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, a transparently dishonest piece of legislation that– unaccountably– continues to be enforced as both US and UN policy despite its universal record of failure and generally disastrous consequences.

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Progressive American Embarrassment

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Tue, 08/19/2014 - 17:10
America is being progressively embarrassed in the eyes of the world; does our establishment even get it? Probably not. As I’ve been trying to point out for the past several days there’s a site on Wikipedia documenting that the callousness and stupidity now being exhibited by police in Ferguson MO is nothing new. To a shocking degree, it’s been standard police operating procedure for years when the “bad guys” are people of color, especially young males.

The demonstrations in Ferguson now seem to be taking on a mind of their own. I don't think they will stop until a majority of America's black citizens feel that they are being taken seriously and respected as citizens by their oppressors in America's police establishment. In my view, that will also require serious modification of our inane and destructive drug policy and the grossly unfair way it is enforced. I will soon have some suggestions in that regard with respect to realizing the marvelous potential of cannabis and turning it into an asset.

These are areas where Obama cannot remain the passive defender of the status quo he has been for five years. It's his moment to rise above the painful mediocrity with which he has governed thus far. He has the brains and the rhetorical skills; it's time he found some better advisers and used the "Bully Pulpit" of the Presidency with insight and conviction.

Doctor Tom
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A Long-Overdue Protest in Ferguson

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 09:33
On July 19th, I referred to a phenomenon that has long been a consequence of our destructive drug war: the militarization of American police agencies. In the last sentence, I included a link to a database that lists the shooting victims of American law enforcement. I'm still not sure how, or by whom that database was started, but it seems to have been well maintained since 2009, at least. It contains both the identities of the victims and the circumstances under which they were shot; usually with links to press or TV accounts. Just browsing it is a revelation: the great majority of victims were young males of color who were shot early during an encounter with their local police. There are often links to media accounts of the shootings that include protests from friends or family disagreeing with the "official" interpretation– often stridently. A substantial number of the incidents were formally investigated and the police use of deadly force was almost always found to be justified.

In fact, the current ruckus over the killing of Michael Brown by police in the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson is rather typical of the group; except that it's generating far more media coverage than any similar event within recent memory.

One has to go back the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police which was caught on amateur video and became an oversight sensation when released to the media.

In the aftermath of the King verdict, in which the cops were all acquitted, prompting three days of rioting that produced over fifty deaths, and in which the LAPD did not distinguish itself by either its intelligence or its courage. There were additional costs: Rodney King was a chronic alcoholic who eventually died suspiciously after being enriched by a large settlement for the beating administered by the LAPD.

Some accurate and careful analyses have been written since Michael Brown's death, such as the one by Jewelle Taylor Gibbs that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. My only disagreement with her is relatively minor: I hold Richard Nixon far more culpable than Ronald Reagan; it was Nixon who (literally) dreamed up the Controlled Substances Act. All Ronnie did was to follow Tricky Dick's script (with appropriate coaching from Nancy).
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A Brand New Concern

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:59
For some time, I've been frustrated by the fact that my country is the source of a failing global policy of drug prohibition; also that the species I'm a member of had been endorsing that policy for decades, despite its obvious record of failure.

Today I'd planned to post more analysis of the nuclear threat we humans had somehow avoided during the 50 year Cold War we'd been engaged in with the now-defunct Soviet Union. However, a more pressing existential threat has just come up: an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa that has already claimed about 2000 lives and been disseminated to both Europe and the US in the form of sick patents being transported for treatment.

Whatever risk was implicit in breaking the quarantine of Ebola within Africa had thus been taken by the humanitarian decision to fly two Americans to Atlanta and a Spanish priest to Spain for treatment. It's unlikely that any quarantine would have held, in any event

That's not to say that "Marijuana" prohibition is any less ridiculous today than it was yesterday; only that the threat of globalized Ebola is much more immediate and deserves precedence.

As it happened, I'd read Richard Preston's gripping description of Ebola about ten years ago. It convinced me we'd be hearing about the Ebola virus again. The strain Preston wrote about was eventually found to infect only monkeys; not humans– but the collateral information he supplied in his detailed analysis left little doubt that Ebola, like Anthrax and Smallpox, would not disappear spontaneously.

The timing for the emergence of human Ebola couldn't be worse. Not only is our overheated, overpopulated home planet trying to cope with the mystery of two missing airliners; we have an existential viral threat as well.

Beyond that, the decision to treat three known human cases outside Africa violated the most basic rules of quarantine for a disease we know relatively little about. However, that risk had already been taken; not just in the US, but in Europe and is believed by experts to have been minor.

The good news is that we should begin to have some answers in the next 8-31 days, which seems to be the incubation period for Ebola in humans.

The bad news is that West Africa was the same place where another unknown virus HIV/Aids emerged less than 40 years ago.

Doctor Tom
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Annals of Creeping Sanity

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Thu, 08/07/2014 - 09:50
Last week, the New York Times published a surprising editorial recommending that "Marijuana" be legalized. When I attempted to simply read what the "Paper of Record" had written on a subject of great interest to me, I was greeted with a notice that I'd already exceeded my quota of free NYT articles for the month accompanied by a none-too-subtle ad for subscriptions, which I effectively trumped by visiting the old news Website I'd once edited.

While there, I noticed a few items that re-kindled a spark of optimism that our species may not be as close to auto-extinction as I'd feared: the first was an item about the popularity of "pot shops" in Colorado, but the (inevitable) downer was an item in a travel letter explaining how the Colorado rules, all of which are left over from Nixon's reefer madness, are interfering with the growth of its booming Marijuana industry.

That led me to understand that any one expecting the feds (or our species, for that matter) to get over their Nixon-imposed reefer madness in a hurry just because Colorado and Washington State had voted to "legalize" recreational use may be in for a long wait. On the other hand, progress is progress and it's always better to be going forward than backward.

Doctor Tom
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The Bomb and the Boom: Part One

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Mon, 08/04/2014 - 17:40
We are now in the midst of an important anniversary, the first-ever use of atomic energy as a weapon of war in August 1945. So much has happened in the intervening 69 years that relatively little attention has been focused on the critical events that transpired between August 6th and 9th 1945 to bring about the sudden end of the Second World War– but at the cost of releasing the nuclear genie from its bottle. That nuclear energy would have been discovered sooner or later is almost certain but the important point is that the decisions to develop and use it were motivated by World War Two and were among the more critical ever made by our species.

Thus it may be worthwhile to review them in some detail. It's clear that the humans who made them were acting under duress, a situation that hasn't changed significantly despite the rapid technological progress and population growth of the past seven decades.

Aside from the 2nd World War itself, perhaps no demographic phenomenon did so much to shape our modern world as the Baby Boom that began abruptly in 1946. If one takes live births as a critical measure of national fertility and realizes that children have not only to be conceived, but also desired by their parents, one can readily understand that for families suddenly thrown on hard times by the Great Depression, the prospect of another mouth to feed would have been most unwelcome. Although abortion was then illegal, it was also reasonably safe and much less expensive, over time, than another child in a stagnant economy where living space was already being squeezed to the max and families were making do on fewer calories and a minimum number of low-paying jobs.

We will probably never have reliable statistics on how many abortions were performed in the US during the Thirties but the number of live births in America hit its lowest point in January 1932, the month I was born. They remained depressed until 1946, when there was a sudden sharp jump; 30% over 1945. Births then hit a sustained rise that lasted through 1964, thus producing the "Boom" that is still having consequences that require analysis and understanding.

Clearly, the monetary woes of the Great Depression were banished by World War Two, there was employment for millions in the war effort and the government was printing money as never before, but the war hadn't relieved the ambient anxiety. Quite the opposite: we were suddenly locked into a global, existential struggle for survival with multiple enemies in a war of unprecedented scope and magnitude. The opponents were similar to World War One, except that a Communist Soviet Union had replaced Tsarist Russia and become a difficult ally, while Italy had joined the the Axis under Mussolini. France had fallen, requiring a massive invasion of Western Europe and an extended campaign in North Africa. The US had become the most important of the "Allies" and the only one capable of bearing the burden of a two ocean war. The Nazis had remained formidable opponents until Hitler's suicide on April 30, 1945 led to a sudden German collapse.

The remaining Axis combatant was Japan, the nation that had shocked and enraged America with its brilliantly conceived and executed "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Not only were they still fighting, the invasion of their home islands was a foregone conclusion and expected to be even more daunting than the invasion of Europe and North Africa. The geography alone was formidable: Japan is a 1000 mile archipelago featuring four mountainous volcanic islands, then populated by upwards of 73 million people, all purportedly committed to a quasi– religious Bushido Code that preferred death by suicide to the dishonor of surrender.

Fortunately, the Western allies– and the Japanese people– were spared the uncertainty and trauma of invasion by Harry Truman's decision to use two secretly developed "Atomic" bombs on Japanese cities: a uranium device on Hiroshima on August 6th and a plutonium version on Nagasaki three days later. Truman's decision– and its aftermath– have since been the subject of intense debate- much of it woefully uniformed– for the past sixty–odd years. I say "uninformed" because any realistic analysis based of what Truman knew, along with what he learned after the responsibility for leading the Allies had been thrust upon him by Roosevelt's sudden death in April 1945 would lead any reasonable person to do almost exactly what Truman did.

First of all, it was by then an American War on the "Allied Side"; we were heavily engaged in both the Atlantic and Pacific and had dominated since North Africa. We'd also been primary everywhere but Russia, (yet still supplied Stalin with critical assistance). Truman was a relatively unknown political figure, thrust by fate into the very center of responsibility at a critical time in US history. The man who had been leading the nation for thirteen years through the Depression and the war had just died suddenly, leaving him in charge. He'd also just been informed that FDR, that same leader, had– in 1942– taken a huge gamble by diverting over two billion dollars to develop a secret weapon no one could be sure would even work.

The success of Roosevelt's gamble was then confirmed on July 15th when when the Trinity test in the New Mexico Desert proved the Plutonium bomb would explode and assuaged the fears of some insiders (Enrico Fermi among them) that it would produce an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Thus how could Truman opt for a costly and bloody invasion of Japan when he'd just learned that we now possessed a new bomb that could end the war in a day or two?

As it would turn out, that's what actually happened– although not through a set of circumstances anyone on the US/Allied side could have predicted: Emperor Hirohito, who at that time, had greater personal power over Japan than anyone in history was the only leader who could have forced their surrender– became persuaded by the Nagasaki bomb to overrule his military advisers for the first time since Japan had embarked on a war of conquest against China following the Marco Polo Bridge incident.

In other words, Hirohito, Japan's supreme ruler, who was (properly) considered by many to have been a war criminal, was Truman's opposite number: the only man in the world with the power to end Japan's participation in the war, and– as a bonus– secure its cooperation during the critical post war occupation. That his views had been radically changed by the Nagasaki bomb is demonstrated by the fact that he overruled his military advisers for the first time since Japan had embarked on its course of conquest and also recorded his famous surrender broadcast.

Finally, to those who claim that Truman had a realistic alternative to use of the bomb, I would offer the carefully reasoned assessment of Karl Compton, a thoughtful contemporary observer who took the trouble to question influential Japanese leaders soon after the event.

Given all that has happened since August 1945, especially the Cold War between the US and Russia and the arms race it engendered, the fact that the Nagasaki bomb was the 2nd and last time a nuclear weapon was used in time of war is almost miraculous.

Unfortunately, posturing in the Ukraine and elsewhere tells us that "Nuclear Chicken" is still very much on the menu for would-be world "leaders."

Will we ever learn that the the most reasonable goal in human life is not "winning," but survival in the hope of improving the lot of our species?

Doctor Tom
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Colossal Canadian Stupidity

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 11:46
We're used to thinking of our neighbors to the North as more conservative and less zany than us Americans, but every so often, as if to show that we can't take then for granted, our Northern cousins do something really bizarre. This time it was a ruling by Health Canada that Liam McKnight, a little boy with Dravet syndrome whose seizures were being well controlled with a cannabis edible, would have to switch to another mode of administration in order to comply with a truly clueless ruling from Health Canada.

In fact, it had been only about a year ago that the first significant mention of the use of marijuana for medical purposes had appeared on a series of CNN broadcasts featuring British host Piers Morgan and American neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta on a case involving a Colorado child named Charlotte Figi who was also a victim of Dravet Syndrome.

Since than, Dravet Syndrome, first described by a neurologist named Charlotte Dravet in 1978, (whom I'd never heard of before) has been popping up frequently in news related to the medical use of cannabis– always with remarkable reductions in the number and frequency of seizures.

In fact, the frequency of that association makes me wonder if there might be a class action case on behalf of young people with seizure disorders who are clearly being impeded by the DEA's single minded quest to reduce use of cannabis on the spurious grounds asserted by Richard Nixon in 1970.

It was just such a case that overturned the disastrous policy of segregation that had effectively re-imposed chattel Slavery on the nation by stealing the victory won by the Civil War.

What the Court can impose, it can also take away. All that's required is the right case, some good will, and a modicum of common sense.

Are we up to it?

Doctor Tom
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Police Shootings

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 09:30
Even before starting to take histories from applicants hoping to use cannabis legally in California, I'd spent 4 years– from 1997 to 2001, editing a weekly newsletter based on a database of media reports on the drug war. Because it required reading about three hundred news items a week; it became an intense education on how our drug policy was corrupting the nation and encouraging gross injustice.

It soon became clear that that police agencies at all levels had to participate in the policy to make it work; also that they required almost complete legal immunity for whatever untoward events their enforcement activities might produce.

I recently had occasion to recall two particularly egregious cases from that early experience; both involved people of color who had come to the attention of police during Rudy Giuliani's tenure as New York's mayor. One was the 1999 case of a man named Amadu Diallo in what turned out to be a case of mistaken suspicion. Because he was thought to resemble the description of a serial rapist, Diallo was hailed by four plain clothes cops. Apparently spooked, and not realizing the men were police, Diallo ran for the apparent security of his apartment building, with its automatically locking door (for which he had the key). Once inside the vestibule and apparently still confused, he reached for his wallet. One of the officers, thinking he was reaching for a weapon, shouted "Gun!" 19 of the ensuing 41 shots struck Diallo, killing him instantly.

News reports of the event soon led to demands that charges be filed against the police. A change of venue to the state capital in Albany, was granted, where a predictably conservative jury recommended dropping all charges.

The other case, although equally shocking had a much happier outcome; primarily because the victim, although treated with equal disregard by NYC's "finest," survived his ordeal, collected a large settlement, and has continued to advocate on behalf of police reform. If there are any bright spots in this narrative, they have to do with Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who also ran afoul of the NYPD 2 years before Diallo, but managed to survive. Clearly; in a tort liability case, a living victim the jury can identify with is worth a lot more in court than a dead one.

I just had occasion to learn of another case in the nearby town of Santa Rosa, one that could serve as a Rosetta Stone for the realities of modern American "Criminal Jusice" in the nation we're all so proud of. Our cops seem now able to gun down any citizen they have "probable cause" to think is carrying a firearm and represents a threat, even if he's an immature 13-year old Eighth grader carrying a toy gun down a sunny street on a school afternoon.
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Random Thoughts on America's Recent Birthday

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Mon, 07/07/2014 - 09:38
238 years ago, 13 British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America declared themselves independent of British rule in a document now famous as the Declaration of Independence. Its author, Thomas Jefferson went on to become one of the founders of the new nation and its 3rd President.

Recently, DNA evidence confirmed that following the death of his wife, Martha, Jefferson had several children by Sally Hemings, a woman of color who was both his slave and Martha's half sister. Such tangled relationships were probably not rare, given the degree to which chattel slavery had become essential to the economy of Southern colonies before our successful rebellion against British rule. There can also be little doubt that our forefathers' dependence on chattel slavery has adversely affected our development as a nation. As W.E.B. DuBois noted in 1896, the 3/5 compromise, resolved the deadlock over slavery and enabled our founders to finish drafting their Constitution in 1787, but was ultimately responsible for the bitter Civil War we were lucky to survive. Sadly, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln almost immediately following his reelection in 1865 deprived us of his leadership during the critical Reconstruction era.

In 1896, the Supreme Court's thoughtless Plessy decision essentially re-enslaved blacks by trapping them in the sharecropping economy of the "deep" South. The continuing rancor of Southern Democrats was also painfully evident throughout the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, it was not until after World War II that the Armed Forces were desegregated by Harry Truman's Executive Order in 1947- at about the same time that the color line in baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson.

Although progress in race relations in the United States since the end of WW2 has been slow, difficult, and erratic; "African-Americans' now have the right to vote and their civil rights are protected, albeit better in some states than others. However it's already been a Century and a half since the Civil War ended. There's also little doubt that Republican “red" states (predominantly ex-Confederate) still discriminate and there's also significant income and educational disparity on he national level.

Shifting to our history as a species- humans remain conspicuously vulnerable to jealousy, greed, and insecurity. The UN now enforces a a major anomaly of American Law, the War on Drugs ;despite it's well-known record of failure.

Finally, we also have abundant evidence that we have dangerously overpopulated our species' only available habitat for the foreseeable future, yet humans obviously find waging war against each other preferable to reaching agreement.

Ironically there is now a biracial President in the White House (who is nonetheless seen as black in most "red" states}. Safely reelected to a second term in 2012, he would to have little to lose- and predictably much to gain- by endorsing cannabis legalization.

I base that opinion on a study of (now) over 7000 cannabis users revealing that paternal participation in the life of their children is particularly important to their self-esteem and early adolescent behavior.

Finally, Obama's own adolescent pot use as a member of the Choom Gang should be pointed out to him within the context of his own upbringing. He's certainly smart enough to understand that ending Tricky Dick's punitive drug war will look a lot better on his ex-Presidential resume than having had that chance and wimping out.

Doctor Tom
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Supremes Run True to Form

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 10:31
In a blog entry dated April 20, 2811, I wrote. "Notwithstanding the 2012 election results, the drug war seems assured of enough Congressional support to survive as a protected policy for the indefinite future. Nor does it lack support from a Supreme Court that's been stacked with a Roman Catholic majority by fundamentalist Republicans intent on overturning Roe V Wade.

Yesterday's "Hobby Lobby" decision by the Supreme Court will, if nothing else, cause an increase in the numbers of unwanted children. My work with cannabis applicants revealed- somewhat unexpectedly- that children who–- for whatever reason- do not have the support of their biological fathers during critical childhood years, are prone to exhibit maladaptive behaviors such as ADD and ADHD from as early as age 4 or 5 (some even younger). It was also discovered that adolescent use of cannabis not only mitigated those behaviors, but exerted a positive influence on symptoms by reducing anxiety while enhancing focus, concentration, and memory with attendant improvement in school performance.

Associated findings (which make sense in the light of those discoveries) included an increased tendency by affected children to try (initiate) other psychotropic drugs such as nicotine, alcohol, and a bevy of so-called psychedelics in early adolescence. Needless to say, when the repressive Controlled Substances Act of 1970 with its emphasis on police as society's primary agents for dealing with "addiction," collided with the record population of young people produced in the immediate aftermath of World War Two (the “Baby Boom”) things began to happen.

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Ms Dowd's Rocky Mountain High, Part 2

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Sun, 06/29/2014 - 15:18
In the last entry,I pointed out that edible cannabis is processed very differently than smoke, primarily because it is swallowed; which means it must be broken down by the gastrointestinal tract. Thus rather than traveling immediately to the brain like smoke, the cannabis in a pot confection is digested , a process that takes 20-40 minutes and– so far as I can tell– has yet to be studied in detail in the modern era.

As soon as I read Ms Dowd's account of her edible misadventure, I knew her prominence as a New York Times columnist would evoke considerable commentary and was curious as to whether it would reflect any better understanding of the edible-smoke difference than I'd encountered in my patient histories a few years ago. The first author to deal with what I've come to think of as Dowd's Rocky Mountain High was Steve Wishnia, a medical marijuana advocate whose piece in the Daily Beast included quotes from several prominent medical marijuana supporters, all of whom agreed that edibles and smoke are indeed different, but gave multiple conflicting opinions about why that was so. Read in sequence, the reasons offered were laughably out of synch with basic anatomy and physiology as well as with each other.

Wishnia started out well, "the pharmacokinetics of marijuana—the way it is absorbed and excreted by the body—are different for smoking and eating." However, he then quoted psychologist Mitch Earleywine, a pyofrssor at the State University of New York in Albany, “Smoked or vaporized cannabis bypasses the liver and doesn’t create the same 11-hydroxy-THC." Wrong. The 11-hydroxy-THC idea is a canard dating back to a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 1973 which did not specify how the 11-hydroxy-thc is produced and certainly did not consider the effect of liver processing on the products of enteric digestion. We now know that a plethora of complex molecules are found in 2 different strains (indica and sativa) of cannabis, each with its own plethora of individual components. The truth is that the liver has the last word on edible effects, which are far more complex than smoke because the liver breaks down complex cannabinoid digestion products (that have also been incompletely studied). The liver is clearly the basis for the "body high" which on the basis of patient data, seems more likely to be responsible for the benefits cannabis provides important (and to date unrecognized) relief to people afflicted by a relatively recent cluster of illnesses known as autoimmune disorders.

One would think that with all of the medical interest in marijuana since California opted to vote for "medical" use in 1996, that the physicians charged with finding out what its users found so good about it might have done a better job of learning why its chronic users liked it so much. One of the reasons for the fog of persistent ignorance has been the malevolence of the DEA, but that still doesn't account for why such a stupid and irrational law should remain the global default on an herb that appears to be the richest source of natural medicine ever encountered.

All of which prompts a logical question: can a species this stupid be saved from itself?

Doctor Tom
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Drug War Insanity; Ms Dowd's Rocky Mountain High: Part 1

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Sat, 06/28/2014 - 13:41
Relatively early in the unauthorized study of cannabis users I began 10 years ago, I discovered several differences between the "high" produced when pot is inhaled as smoke vs consumed by mouth. Those differences were well known to chronic users, but– as I also discovered– the reasons for them remain obscure.

In a nutshell. one can get high either way, but the "head" high produced by smoke comes on faster, is over sooner, and– perhaps most importantly– can be titrated (measured) on a toke-by-toke basis. That ability to titrate is important, because contrary to cherished beliefs of the DEA and many pot naive people, "stoners," don't always want to be stoned; they simply want to relax, which brings up a critical difference in terminology.

While being under the influence of marijuana and alcohol are both considered being "high," the marijuana high is most often a therapeutic (anxiolytic) state, under the control of its experienced users, especially when it is inhaled. That's because the quickest route to the brain is by inhalation. The experienced user feels the 1st toke and is thus able to follow the progress of the high, toke by toke. There is no alcohol equivalent because alcohol cannot be inhaled. Thus alcohol is always treated as an "edible;" consumed by mouth and processed by the gastrointestinal tract.

Other drugs inhalable drugs are nicotine, heroin, meth, and more recently- crack. All are sensed almost immediately by the brain with the 1st toke (inhalation) thus giving the user a degree of control over the "high." But when we compare the various “highs,” we find significant differences. That produced by nicotine delivered by a cigarette is of the shortest duration and is now conceded to be the most addictive and dangerous to user health. Nevertheless, cigarettes are still legal everywhere and despite their well-recognized dangers, are used chronically by approximately 30% of people in the US and most modern nations.

On a purely rational basis, if a prohibition policy were really effective, cigarettes should be the first "substance" listed on "schedule one." However that's not the case. Despite relatively huge increase in cigarette taxes intended to discourage their use, approximately 1/3, or more of the world's population still smokes. In fact, China, which has a government monopoly on cigarettes and thus profits from their use, is estimated to consume 3 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked the world today. The long term adverse health consequences of such a situation would seem obvious.

As mentioned earlier, edible marijuana affects all users a lot differently than smoke. That's because its processing by the body is entirely different. The gastrointestinal tract does not provide instant feedback because pot digestion products take longer than smoke to reach the brain thus eliminating any rapid titration benefit. Another big difference is that the breakdown products of cannabis digestion have not been studied in significant detail since 1973, nor have they ever been studied as completely as they might have been to which compounds are produced by hepatic processing, a step that smoke is not subjected to.

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd had a typical edible experience during a recent trip to Colorado.

A self-confessed pot novice, the normally unflappable Ms Dowd was still clearly distraught when she reported on her "bad trip" to readers in a column written the next day. Of considerable interest to me was that the explanations offered for her distress were just as uninformed as I have come to expect from both novices and seasoned heads. In the interests of clarity, I will try again to explain the edible mystery in terms of its pertinent anatomy and physiology.

However, this lesson has already become too long and complicated, so in the interests of clarity, I'll complete the explanation of the "edible" difference in another entry.

Doctor Tom
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The Approaching Centennial of American Drug Insanty

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Tue, 06/24/2014 - 13:55
On December 17th of this year the American policy that matured into a global "war" on drugs in 1970 will celebrate a painful centennial; it was on that day in 1914 that Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act, the first of three punitive laws based on the idea that police are the professionals most qualified to define and treat "addiction," a condition that still can't be defined as other than an undesirable behavior. Harrison was the first of 3 major pieces of inept American legislation that would coalesce into a global "drug war" with passage of the most misguided of all in 1970: Richard Nixon's Controlled Substances Act.

In a bizarre twist, the 18th amendment mandating the prohibition of alcohol was not passed until 1918, 4 years after Harrison. The much-anticipated ban on commerce in alcohol, which had been expected by many to bring about an alcohol free utopia, failed miserably and had to be repealed a mere 14 years after ratification. Perhaps the most obvious lesson (not) learned from that failure is that prohibition laws forbidding products or services desired by a significant minority of the population will inevitably create illegal markets which, in turn, induce wholesale corruption and end up doing far more harm than good.

Nevertheless, Harrison remained in force by surviving several 5-4 Supreme Court decisions between 1915 and 1920. Later, the Court ruled unanimously against itself in Linder in 1925, but because no other drug cases were decided after that, Harrison continued to survive under the watchful eye of Harry Anslinger.

In 1937, a 2nd critical piece of prohibitive legislation– known as the Marijuana” Tax Act was pushed through Congress by Anslinger himself, who had been made Chief of the Federal Bureau of narcotics, despite his complete lack of qualifications for the position. However, he had important political connections: his uncle was Andrew Mellon, who just happened to be Secretary of the Treasury and the richest man in America.

The third act in this legislative farce took place over 30 years later when Richard Nixon-possibly the least qualified American president ever– took it upon himself to enhance the scope and power of American drug policy in the complete absence of supporting evidence. He then compounded the felony by announcing criteria for the establishment of new illegal drug markets on a substance by substance basis, a privilege awarded to the Attorney General, thus excluding Medicine completely from both the legal and regulatory processes.

In an astounding example of the blind following the blind, The UN then updated, without significant discussion, its original 1961 commitment to ape American drug policy.

To a degree that has yet to be appreciated, Nixon's need to deal with the hippies then protesting the war in Vietnam, who were also the leading edge of an emergent new “drug culture,” dovetailed almost perfectly with the confusion and distress felt by their parents and elders over their behavior. That mutual generational ignorance led to an uncritical acceptance of Nixon' (and John Mitchell's) Controlled Substances Act which– in retrospect– can be seen as a purely rhetorical exercise aimed directly at the young political rebels then (understandably) protesting America's sadly mistaken war in Vietnam.

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The Drug War's Cardinal Errors

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Tue, 06/03/2014 - 10:25
America's War on Drugs is a humanitarian catastrophe that evolved from three erroneous beliefs about "addiction," an entity that was not understood in 1914 and has yet to be precisely defined– thanks in large measure to American hubris. In essence, the erroneous beliefs embraced by the Harrison Act of 1914 have not only been retained, they have been amplified and multiplied, thus turning a potentially remedial policy mistake into a global disaster in conjunction with America's greatly enhanced wealth, and concomitant economic and military importance.

The three cardinal errors embodied in Harrison were 1) that the federal government understands "addiction." 2) that it has an obligation to treat it; and 3) that the criminal justice system is the treatment bureaucracy of choice (actually the Treasury Department had initially been charged with that responsibility, but the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, by creating the DEA, clearly assigned the burden of explaining and prosecuting the phenomena of "addiction" and 'drug abuse" to the Department of Justice.
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Aspberger's and PTSD in the News

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Mon, 05/26/2014 - 17:41
Asperger syndrome and PTSD are both are emotional disorders which have been effectively self-medicated by many of the patients I've interviewed pursuant to their use of (federally illegal) "medical marijuana" during the past 10 years. I've now taken histories from over 7000 applicants seeking to use pot medically in California. Despite an increasing voter demand for liberalizing our rigid federal "marijuana" laws, there is no significant movement to remove it from the list of Schedule One (totally forbidden) drugs and the US federal bureaucracy has remained adamant that it will not be "rescheduled," a position that's becoming increasingly difficult for them to defend in light of current news.

For example, 2 of the leading stories on this Memorial Day Weekend dealt with conditions cannabis treats very effectively. One involved a typically troubled youth who had been diagnosed and treated within the "system" for Asperger's for at least three years. He uploaded both his bitter feelings and his proposed solution on You Tube before setting out to make good on his threats. In a more rational setting, an honest Pharmaceutical Industry could easily have made a nebulized cannabis preparation available. Sadly, sixteen years after "medical use" was approved for California, both an honest federal bureaucracy and and an honest pharmaceutical industry are still distant pipe dreams.

Even more maddening to me is that our President is a living, breathing example of someone who successfully treated his own ADD with illegal cannabis while a prep school student in Hawaii and doesn't even know it. My study, first presented to the pathetically uninformed "Medical Marijuana" lobby 1995 (and ignored by them ever since) pointed out the consistent relationship between absence of the biologic father from a child's life and how the symptoms of ADD are mitigated by (illegal) adolescent use: a correlation first noted among the "baby boomers" now aging into Medicare and still continuing among their grandchildren.

The other Memorial Day story was a criticism of inadequate VA care of the "Wounded Warriors" Ironically, both the Controlled Substances Act and the All Volunteer Army, both of which were conceived of by Richard Nixon, are continuing to wreak havoc long after the Trickster died in1994. There are now an average of 22 suicides /day being among returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan and the VA, which is responsible for their medical care, is forbidden to use the one drug my study shows mitigates PTSD better than any of the synthetic pot imitators being pushed by Big Pharma.

Abilify anyone?

Doctor Tom
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An American Hitler's Deadly Prescription for "improving" the Species

Dr. Tom O'Connell's Blog - Wed, 05/21/2014 - 13:07
It would be considered a stretch by most to compare any American President with Adolph Hitler, perhaps the most infamous tyrant in human history to date. However, there are several cogent reasons for comparing him to Richard Nixon.

Both men were ambitious national leaders who were very resentful after being traumatized during childhood by unsatisfactory relationships with their biological fathers; a circumstance identified as surprisingly common in my opportunistic study of over 7000 American cannabis users seeking my approval tP use as marijuana "medically" between 2001 and 2013.

Nixon was guilty of perjury and bribery in the Watergate scandal, also the disruptive secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia, yet the disrespect in which his truncated presidency is held by most historians has little to do with what I consider his worst crime: the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which was approved by Congress with minimal discussion midway through his first term and has since been loyally supported by state and federal police ever since. That the CSA has has remained global drug policy despite its disruptive influence on the lives of so many humans since 1970 is not encouraging.

At least Hitler's crimes ended with his death. Nixon's victims are still being born and then being victimized by the predatory illegal markets encouraged by a law being enforced by police in he mistaken notion that they are "protecting" society.

In truth, the CSA is classic fascism. It has "succeeded" by masquerading as (virtuous) Public Health for over forty years, but at terrible human and social cost which is compounded every year.

Why that is so has a lot to do with human culture, which– in turn– has a lot to do with our (relatively) recent appearance among mammalian species; about a quarter of a million years ago, most of it before we could think clearly or write,

Before pooh-poohing that line of reasoning too vigorously, nay-sayers should realize that a) this is not a bible-friendly site and b) the best scientific information on our origins is that Evolution happened; also that H. sapiens is a relative newcomer on a planet that's been in our galaxy for over 4 billion years– and home to life for about 500 million. There's obviously a lot we have yet to learn.

Since we don't know much about the process of speciation, we can on;y surmise that it did happen without worrying how. It's also very human to want coherent answers for our most existential questions and then argue about which are true and what they all mean.

However, given our terrible record of failure at correcting human behavior by repressive laws, it might be better to worry about how we can get help each other succeed than how best to punish those we disagree with. Neither Genocide nor mass incarceration for spurious reasons has worked and both have had extensive trials throughout human history.

Doctor Tom
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