All posts by Douglas Olena

10 years

I became interested in the problem of the drug war after being disaffected with life, incapable of studying, reading, or being interested in society for about 10 years. Then I saw Judge James P. Gray on a talk show. Instantly my imagination and not incapable brain caught fire with an idea, the idea that the war on drugs was morally wrong. Then I read Gray’s book, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs, (you can get the older edition on for a penny + shipping).

“Judge Gray’s thorough and scholarly work, based as it is on his personal experience, should help considerably to improve our impossible drug laws. [His] book drives a stake through the heart of the failed War on Drugs and gives us options to hope for in the battles to come” – Walter Cronkite

Then I knew part of the reason why America was failing as a country, why it was not exceptional, or the new kingdom of God, or fair, just, righteous and deserving a pass for international and local peccadillos. At its core it justified the control and eradication of individuals that didn’t fit its stereotypes, the stereotypes of the American dream. It believed that its version of purity was what God wanted and approved. It believed that its status quo was the high moral ground. So racism, sexism, and prejudice of every variety continued to be lauded and written into law, and the subjects of America’s ire were rendered, sent to jail, quietly allowed to be killed, and in the extraordinary circumstance killed them. All the while, America claimed to be exceptional, and shrugged off criticism without a second thought.

It took me about five years to study, analyze, and understand the drug war, its proponents and detractors, the science, the law, the practice. Then I started the Marijuana Memo, this site. In it, I attempted to vent my outrage and give reasons why the drug war was not only a bad idea, but it was immoral, unjust, and prejudicial. It was all these things without reason, justification, or science. All the drug war had going for it was socio-moral disgust whipped up into a frenzy of politicking, funding, and law writing, denigration of the Bill of Rights, militarization of the police force, and an entirely irrational “cure by incarceration.”

See this video on YouTube. This is a start. “The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one.”

After you’ve taken the video break, let me resume with a few recommendations that persist after 10 years of my initial assessments in 2005 and 2006.

  • Restore the Bill of Rights to its rightful place as a preventative of overweening federal power over our private lives.
  • Hold the authorities accountable for their deception, lying, outright abuse of power.
  • We need to let the non-violent prisoners out of jail, those who were wrestled up into the failed drug war, many of them spending more time in jail than their raping, murdering, and otherwise violent cohorts.
  • Allow any adult over 21 who wishes to use marijuana, to do so under a fair regime of laws and taxes that will not foster the continuation of the black or even gray market.
  • Allow doctors in every state to prescribe marijuana in its variety of forms for whatever reason they wish, without any more legal hocus pocus than that which is required for non-opioid pain relievers.
  • Do modern science, and take away from the profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies the exclusive ownership of drugs derived from marijuana. Marijuana is a publicly available plant that grows in a wide variety of climates.
  • Allow anyone to grow marijuana for medical or non-medical use, with the stipulation that none of it be distributed to those below the legal age.
  • Allow all the academic and corporate studies of the drug, whose sole purpose was not to justify the ludicrous federal policy, to be available publicly, and make them the basis of any rubric of drug laws. Many of the studies were publicly funded, and so the public should be able to have access to them as a ground of law.
  • Restore the redacted parts of the US pharmacopeia that dealt with marijuana and use it as the beginning of a better one.
  • Keep in place all the regulations that bring sanctions against people for violence, or reckless endangerment. That is, there are laws against violence of a variety of kinds. Don’t make the arrest about the drugs, even as the arrest for vehicular manslaughter is not (or should not be) about the alcohol.

There are dozens of more recommendations I could make to move the US toward a more just, consistent, a kinder society. Something of our violence has to do with our insecurity. Nietzsche said it (with some complexity, but the point is sharp.)

But most of all the attempt, ever more determined, to fix a price for every offense, and thus to dissociate, up to a certain point, the offender from his offense—these are the traits which characterize with increasing clarity the development of penal law. Whenever a community gains in power and pride, its penal code becomes more lenient, while the moment it is weakened or endangered the harsher methods of the past are revived.1

On these grounds America has become increasingly weak over the past 50 years. It has become a badge of pride or the gorilla beating his chest for the US to come down on drug users. It is politically expedient, and good for political fundraising to participate in the War on Drugs.

The harsher methods, ones that many of us are familiar with, the dramatic rise in incarceration, the persistent violence of the death penalty even in the face of fair and strong criticism of its lack of usefulness and persistent injustice, the contemporary militarization of the police with its attendant “shoot and coverup” mentality, show how true Nietzsche’s criticism was. The tendency, of course, is to cover up Nietzsche’s criticism instead of addressing the inherent insecurity that has ensued from fair mistrust of governmental authority. In the contemporary movie, Suffragettes the protagonist says to the policeman who is interrogating her, “Give us laws that are respectful and we will respect the laws.” Admitting you are wrong amounts to losing your job in the vicious business and political climate, becoming the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, all in the interest of maintaining the high moral appearance of authorities.

This all looks so grubby and medieval. But, “shouldn’t the local lord be able to kill whoever he thinks needs it to secure his power and maintain his hegemony?” Of course he shouldn’t be able to do that any more than a husband has some supposed right to beat or kill his wife if she displeases him.

To leave this on a much lighter note, I quote from Mitch Earleywine’s Understanding Marijuana, “Individuals are no more aggressive [than they were] after smoking marijuana.”2

1Fredrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, ch 2 section X.
2Mitch Earleywine, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002), 272.

sanjay gupta turns around

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a renowned medical expert in the US, has decided after studying the problem itself, that Marijuana should not be a schedule 1 drug with no medical uses. Come on folks, for a long time major public figures like Walter Cronkite have opposed the drug war, not only because of its irrationality as a policy but also as a lie perpetrated by a self-righteous arrogant government that has been lying to its people as a matter of course to pursue goals that have nothing to do with the welfare of its people.

Let’s move on.

Read the article.

holy smoke how the time goes by

It’s been years since I added substantially to this blog. The issues haven’t changed, the fed is as adamant as it was before, Obama has broken his promises not to prosecute medical marijuana patients, the prisons are still too full of non-violent drug users. The moral picture is no different than it was 10 years ago. The fed, including all the drug warriors, and much of the public, still treats users as defectives.

However, some of the pro-mj groups like NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, and Marijuana Policy Project note the rise of public sentiment against the drug war and for legalization, recognizing the fairly benign nature of marijuana as an intoxicant, and the well-researched, historically-proven effects of marijuana as a healing herb.

In the time I have been quiet on this blog, I obtained my doctorate in philosophy from Cardiff University in Wales. I studied Michel Foucault and techniques of the self. But that effort cost me something of my equilibrium. I am having a devil of a time getting back to balance. I am often grumpy and depressed, and can’t get motivated to care for myself as well as I like. I do not have a full-time job yet, though I like the things I’m doing part time. I am still married to my first wife of almost 32 years. I love her and am happy with her.

Here’s the good side, I am smarter, a better researcher and writer. I haven’t lost my friends, am connected to communities today through FB that I wasn’t before, and have a dog. Actually, I didn’t want a dog (my wife did). But they both convinced me that Daisy was part of the family.

’nuff said.

what’s the hangup?

The longer I look at data surrounding the use of marijuana the more I am convinced that the only people who don’t read are the federales. All the science I am acquainted with tells me that far from the menace marijuana is characterized as by those same federales, it is not only mostly benign, but often beneficial. Let’s cut to the chase.

Prohibition of many currently illicit substances in the US including marijuana, heroin and cocaine, instead of accomplishing its goals of zero use, has been shown to be largely ineffective. There may have been some short-term gains in lowering the numbers of publicly acknowledged users but at a cost that is too great to countenance in any enlightened nation. Even in the current era of hi-tech surveillance and data centers, the demand for drugs has not gone away and the market is flourishing. The criminals are always one or two steps ahead of the federales.

The obvious analog of Alcohol prohibition in the nineteen twenties and early thirties should be enough to dissuade us from this terrible campaign. But obviously it hasn’t.

The history of prohibition enforcement and legal wrangling is full of bad science and misinformation, corruption and lies. That should be enough to challenge the legal structure to draw up more rational laws. But obviously it hasn’t.

The hang-up is that we have been lied to so persistently that we are now convinced that the lies are true. And the federales continue the misinformation campaign because it is too lucrative to stop. Almost any program which makes a pretense to fight the war on drugs can be funded irrespective of the damage that accrues to the taxpayer or the drug user.

This is not a Christian nation (not that Christianity forbids judicious use of any substance in proper medical or holiday context,) nor is this nation any more moral than any other nation (even though we like to think it is,) nor are we better than our science makes us out to be (we may actually be the inheritors of the same genetic materials as monkeys.)

One of the minimal requirements for being a moral agent is that we let the facts stand as they are, no matter what that makes of our theories. We haven’t done that very well.

However strongly the demagogues shout, our science may one day win out over greedy, and amoral political rhetoric. The funds will dry up because the facts do not support the current system. I don’t think this is overly optimistic. But we have to remember this is the first time we have been faced with ourselves in such a way. Our deepest shames and most terrible behavior are all on the table at the moment and no matter how hard we squirm, I think we will soon make the transition into an enlightened society that lets science speak on its own terms. The sociology of the Drug War is going to change when we can relieve ourselves of this hang-up.

hooked: the history channel

I am watching Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way. There is some good history here, but unfortunately they fail on a number of counts. They fairly treat the prejudicial treatment of Mexicans and blacks in the story of making marijuana illegal. They give Harry Anslinger some fair play and commentary. What they also do is treat hemp and marijuana as if they were the same psychoactive substance. As you know there is so little THC in hemp as to render it entirely benign. Though they expose Randolf Hearst, the newspaper magnate, as an anti-marijuana crusader, they fail to tell how the use of hemp for paper threatened his large stock in tree-based paper. These two flaws work together to portray Hearst as an anti-marijuana crusader from an entirely moral point of view when in fact, though he was opposed to marijuana use, he was opposed to the loss of financial solvency if hemp paper took the newspaper world by storm.

When you can grow an acre of hemp every year that would replace an acre of trees every twenty years, it is easy to see where the smart money would go.

More on this later.

marijuana memo #4

I’m for legalization of marijuana under any fair set of rules. I’m not for a legalized free for all. I am for judicious medical use of any beneficial substance. I’m not for the abuse of any substance. Whatever happened to the golden mean? Where is moderation in this or reason for that matter? When will we stop believing violence cures people. We incarcerate those who don’t agree with us and assuage our damaged consciences by misusing ourselves. No wonder we’ve got such short lifespans. There’s got to be a better way.

I examine some reasons for practical consistency in our thinking.

stubborn facts

I was just listening to Dr. Bob Melamede’s talk at the 2006 NORML Conference. And though Dr. Bob’s Cannabuzz podcast is a bit irritating because much of it is text read by computer, it is some of the most substantive science about cannabis and the human body. I have heard the following in a few of his speeches. It is astounding in its simplicity, coherence, plea for reason and behavior based on truth.

One key point to his speech is that people who are deficient in cannabinoids cannot learn effectively. So the very people who are in charge of the political system are likely to be deficient in cannaboids. They are certain about history and will not see the future. Hearing the truth about cannabis, they “cannot rewire” and learn another way of thinking. They are the primitive people reverting to the age old popular wisdom (false) about pot.

Ending his speech he says:

Science is the search for truth. My religious beliefs are that truth matters, that physics drives evolution, that evolution has selected cannabanoids to prolong life and relieve suffering. As an evolutionist, science says I must wisely use cannabis for physical, mental and global health. This is my religion. I am being denied my religion, my fact-based religion by laws made by people who have faith-based religions.

I think he is correct in this, and faith-based religions can include the secular religion of conservatism or liberalism, or God-based religions of Christianity or Islam. As a member of the Christian religion, broadly speaking, I am ashamed of my group perpetuating such ignorance. Certainly this is not universal. Many Christians are fully aware of the consequences of their beliefs. But often we are as culturally hidebound as bigots of the old South. I am not interested in getting in a shouting match with them, even though what I say may be true.

The real fact of the matter, irrespective of your religious persuasion, is that facts, stubborn facts, will remain in place in the face of irrational laws, shouting, drug wars and any well reasoned opposition. They will remain in place to speak against rules which turn out to be anti human, irrational, counterproductive and damaging to all society.

the greatest good

This is the third mjmemo podcast. In it I examine some of the harms done by the drug war. In the text found in the pages link of the same name, you will find a link to Jeffrey Miron’s lucid evaluation of the profitibility of legalizing marijuana, a link to Bio of a Space Tyrant and many interesting ideas. Don’t forget to visit for movie reviews and comments on bits of American culture.

off the jag

I have been busy lately and have not been doing much research or paying attention to the press. But a quick look at Marijuana Policy Project and NORML tells me the War is still being waged against Americans, Canadians, Columbians, Mexicans and the rest of the world by the self-righteous pseudo-protectors of our children. I watched the movie Traffic the other day for the fifth or sixth time. I’ve lost count. I am astonished every time I see the movie of the difference between the black market and the warriors.

The black market is steeped in pragmatism, rational to a fault, coolly and carefully weighing the costs of business against the risks of being caught. They use the engines of commerce in our society without the regulations of law. Even with their loss through drug seizures, which probably amounts to less than taxes would be, and their loss of low-level personnel which would be no different than any other high turnover employment, they make a tidy profit. I think of the movie Blow and the rooms full of money collected by George Jung and his partner Diego. (Perhaps it was not really so tidy.) Nevertheless, there is no danger of them going out of business except of course, at the hands of the warriors, and even then their losses could be counted as the cost of doing business.

The warriors on the other hand, in the name of the law and justice wage an irrational war against users first, then against the dealers. They are not diminishing the demand for drugs nor the production of drugs rushing to meet that demand. All the while they are destroying more families, individuals, national and international tranquility than the drugs themselves do.

This is an easy calculation. And with respect to marijuana, a calculation that a first grader could make. Funny that the warriors are fighting a “moral” cause when they are doing irreparable harm to so many lives, and doing it in the name of justice.

I know this sounds a bit angry, but you have to understand that I am a person with feelings.