Pubdate: Mon, 11 Aug 2014
Source: Hays Daily News, The (KS)
Copyright: 2014 Hays Daily News
Author: Jon Hauxwell, MD


For decades a vast, uncontrolled experiment has been conducted
across America.

Cannabis -- or "marijuana" -- has been used for thousands of years as
a medicine and sacrament. Colonial American landholders were required
to grow it, mainly for its fiber, used in cordage for sailing ships.

George Washington took it to ease his gout, and Queen Victoria
relieved her menstrual cramps with it.

Listed in the official U.S. Pharmacopeia, cannabis was available
over-the-counter in neighborhood pharmacies. No epidemic madness resulted.

But by 1933, when the disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition
ended, erstwhile federal alcohol warriors faced obsolescence -- until
the first Drug Czar, Harry Anslinger, crusaded to keep his job by
substituting cannabis prohibition for the alcohol ban.

He didn't indict cannabis on medical grounds -- there wasn't evidence
to support that, had he been interested in evidence. Rather, he
unapologetically invoked racism. Cannabis was the drug used by black
musicians and Mexican laborers to seduce white women, and assault
white men. It makes "a peon think he's Emperor of Mexico," he sneered.

In 1937, a federal law placed usurious taxes on cannabis without
making it illegal. Pharmacies could still sell off their cannabis
stocks, but thereafter could not afford to pay the taxes to replenish
their stores.

Subsequently, cannabis was outlawed outright, then designated a
"Schedule I drug," in the same totally illegal category as heroin or
LSD. Schedule I status asserts a drug has no accepted medical usage, a
prohibitive risk of addiction and exceptionally adverse

This determination was not based on scientific data; no safety and
efficacy studies were conducted. It was the age of "Reefer Madness,"
as portrayed in the hilariously contrived movie intended to discourage
teen use.

By the 1950s, though, cannabis' stigma had been replaced by the
glamour of the forbidden. Since the '60s, it has become first a
countercultural staple, and then a mainstream source of amusement,
gleefully celebrated in the popular media and widely tolerated among
the general population.

Today, more than 100 million Americans have used cannabis, and they're
all criminals. Your doctor, your lawyer, your banker might never have
been able to pursue their constructive careers, had they been caught
back in college. Looks bad on one's post-grad application.

Since Nixon declared his "War on Drugs," the war has claimed far more
victims than the drugs.

This disastrous and destructive campaign, far more moralistic than
informed, continues today. We've spent more than a trillion dollars
pursuing it, destroying lives while totally failing to achieve any
reasonable reduction in the adverse consequences of drug use.

Legal penalties now constitute the most dangerous side-effect of
cannabis use for the great majority of its users.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal
use of cannabis. Polls consistently show a majority of 70 percent to
80 percent favoring medical legalization, and now recreational
legalization is polling well over 50 percent.

However, despite the Obama administration's disingenuous proclamations
the feds will no longer hassle state-legal medicinal cannabis
operations, the reality is very different.

Obama has spent $300 million on federal enforcements in states with
medicinal cannabis laws, averaging $180,000 a day. In six years he's
outspent Bush II by millions.

Despite AG Eric Holder's claim the feds won't target state-legal
patients, the real decisions are still left up to any local U.S.
Attorneys with a vigilante mindset. Are they mopping up cartels trying
to muscle in on medicinal cannabis production? Hardly. Flak-jacketed
SWAT teams crash through doors to awaken terrified patients and
providers who are fully compliant with state law. The president and AG
just ignore routine violations of their ballyhooed directives.

In 2010, police made 853,838 arrests for cannabis-related offenses.
Fifty-two percent of all drug arrests are for cannabis, but of these
88 percent were for possession only. (And no, these aren't just
big-time traffickers who plea-bargained to a lesser charge.)

The Midwest has the highest rate of cannabis arrests, 63.5 percent of
all drug busts.

Since 2000, law enforcement reports an estimated 7.9 million arrests
for cannabis violations. Each arrest carries the potential to ruin the
victim's life far more than the drug itself would. Beyond the police
and court costs to taxpayers, cannabis is a godsend to the
prison-industrial complex, which feeds especially on "juvies," the
kids who need special confinement away from adults who are actually

When cannabis is decriminalized, so that those in possession of small
amounts might just get a ticket instead of jail, and when medicinal
use is legalized, the effect on crime is apparent -- and positive.

After California decriminalized pot in January 2011, possession
arrests of juveniles fell by 61 percent -- that's a lot of kids whose
future won't be compromised by police records. Most of them won't be
compromised by pot itself as their future unfolds -- but some will.

Likewise, a RAND report showed crime dropped by nearly 60 percent in
areas with medicinal dispensaries compared to areas in which existing
dispensaries had been banned.

The prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry noted, "The available
evidence suggests that removal of the prohibition against possession
does not increase cannabis use. This prohibition inflicts harms
directly and is costly. ... It is difficult to see what society gains."

Cannabis prohibition is even more destructive than alcohol prohibition
proved to be. Our current Drug-War mentality is failing our kids and
our society.

* Coming up: What are the social, biological and psychological effects
of cannabis?

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton
and now lives outside Hays.
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