By Brinna Nanda, originally posted on her blog Brinna’s Broadside
If we can hope for one thing in the upcoming Obama presidency it is a serious rethinking of the sinister, decades long War on Drugs. For those who dismiss this as a stoner wet dream, or a trivial, peripheral issue, I would suggest that this war is one being waged directly upon the citizens of this country, not by terrorists, or drug cartels, but by our own government, purely for profit and control, and it impinges on all our lives.
One in every 100 Americans is in jail. We have the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. Forfeiture laws allow for the seizure of money and property in drug busts with little or no oversight, and provides a hefty income stream to law enforcement. It is not surprising that police, district attorneys, and the prison guard union consistently lobby against grassroots initiatives which seek to modify our failed drug policies and bring them into alignment with common sense and human decency.
The lynch pin of this war is cannabis, and the enemies of this once highly respected herb are legion.
When Richard Nixon tore up the Shafer Report which he commissioned to review Federal marijuana policies, he did so because the report recommended legalization. By burying the report and launching his self-styled War on Drugs, Nixon saw a way to silence the hippies and peacenik’s who opposed that other war, the one in Viet Nam.
For more complex motivations, the Clinton and Bush II administrations specifically targeted the medical marijuana movement because they rightly saw it as the beginning of the end of Just Say No (Reagan’s and Bush I’s singularly successful strategy to silence any public discourse on the topic of drugs and our society).
After all, hockey moms, and joe-six-pack can easily laugh at dehumanized pot-heads, and dismiss them as deserving neither respect nor defense, but a cancer patient, or someone with MS or seizure’s?
So naturally the Drug Czars, and their minions in the ONDCP try to discredit claims that cannabis is medically useful, and hoist the canard that poor, sick people are being used to further the agenda of those that just want to get high.
Which brings me to the subject of this post: The US Government’s patent on medical cannabis. In what is either a humongous slip-up, or simply a matter of greed trumping rationale, the Dept. of Health and Human Services filed for and was awarded a patent on the medical benefits of cannabinoids derived from cannabis, based on studies done at the National Institute of Health. The patent (#6,630,507) awarded in 2003, states unequivocally that cannabinoids are neuroprotectants and anti-inflammitory, and as such are useful in the prevention and treatment of a wide variety of diseases including stroke, trauma, auto-immune disorders, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and HIV dementia. That’s prevention and treatment, mind you.
Which begs the question, why is cannabis still classified as a Schedule I substance, having “no current use for medical treatment in the United States?” Leaving aside the point that it is now legal for medical treatment in 13 states, the answer is simple, if cannabis were to be reclassified, the scientific community in this country would go full-steam ahead with research into its healing properties (as they are already doing overseas). Medical professionals across the nation would be able recommend cannabis without fear of interference from the federal government. The culture of silence that has been imposed on mainstream media would dissolve, and a true discussion about the pros and cons of this issue would emerge.
Which is why it is so delicious to see existence of this patent move inexorably (albeit glacially) toward common knowledge. If there is one thing that the American people can’t abide (beside high prices as the gas station) it’s hypocrisy and believing we’ve been suckered. Hence the downfall of Edwards, Foley, Craig, and the boiling outrage against the financial bail-out.
Those in office who champion a change in our drug policies, claim there is no political will to make a shift. I would postulate that political winds shift very quickly when the right fires are lit. When the American populace fully understand the extent to which we are being flummoxed and ripped-off as a result of these bone-headed policies – that we, indeed, are the flunkies – change will follow quickly upon its heels.
The stunning victory of Proposal 1 in Michigan (which brought legalized medical cannabis to the midwest), and Question 2 in Massachusetts (which made possession of small amounts of cannabis a record-free misdemeanor) despite massive opposition by the usual suspects, sounds a lot like chimes ringing in a new age of rationality.
Whether we will see another near 1,000,000 people arrested next year for cannabis related offenses is still a question, but the days of Just Say No-thingabout the our crazy drug policies is definitely over.
Oh, and for those of you who are interested, the Feds are offering their cannabinoid patent for licensing. Let’s see how long it takes to get picked up.