All posts by Douglas Olena

curious commentary

I was reading one of the comments about this podcast found on the iTunes music store by tfoo. In it s/he applauds the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Tfoo’s mother used marijuana during chemo treatment “to great effect during her struggle with breast cancer.” This frank admission is certainly welcome even though this podcast receives only one star for my efforts. This seems to be a case where if tfoo had not had some positive contact with marijuana, there would not be even a tiny bit of sympathy for the project of fact finding I am interested in.

I am interested in finding the fairly large minority who has heard of some positive effect of marijuana use in medicine. The growing number of states that approve medical marijuana, the growing number of physicians who surreptitiously “recommend” marijuana for their patients, the patients who have found surceace in its natural and largly benign emollient will eventually win out over those who without knowing what they do because of their rudimentary moral development believe punishment cures desire and prevents further entry of the devil into our already amoral society.

Little do these moral tyros know, but it is their trust in the legal system to solve moral problems that is largely the cause of the terrible fix we are in. In my most recent meditations, I resolved that most people who are subject to the depredations of the current punitive system are adults. However, the system is designed as a method of discipline for the unruly. Have these people even had children yet? Don’t they realize that at the age of 18 or so, individuals will basically do what they want and that discipline of these sorts is an abridgment of their rights, not to mention a subversion of their adult responsibilities.

What tfoo is asking us to do, with respect to the recreational use of marijuana, is that the system of punishments currently in place, a paternalistic attempt to control autonomous persons, is to be accepted as necessary in order to eradicate that behavior. What they don’t tell us is why we should give our rights up to these persons. At least they don’t give us any factual reasons.

What tfoo does not do is spend the slightest bit of time looking at the facts of the drug war. We do not find out the cause of tfoo’s niece’s death, and I really couldn’t guess, but if his lashing out at attempts to rationalize the debate is caused by some bad experience with a drug problem, I am in perfect sympathy with his response.

My contention, of course, is that the major cause of damage to our society is not marijuana itself, but the federal prohibitions against it for both medical and recreational use. One could do less damage to themselves, their families and careers using pot for years than they could by being arrested for possessing a small amount of it.

Tfoo applauds my courage for doing this podcast, but should probably laugh at the foolishness of it. I say that though I love my current circumstances, this podcast might be reason enough for some of those who employ me to remove me from my post, though I wouldn’t call that justice. I have in the past fallen on my sword with respect to my concern for honesty and the truth, but believe that like the phoenix, the truth of my case raised me from the ashes my exile into better circumstances than those I lost. Make no mistake about some lofty notions of advancement here, I am driven by my muse to expose myself to threat even with the near certainty of large-scale grief.

I would like to offer mutual respect for tfoo’s position, but say that respect is only due for work done, not for a position gratuitiously adopted as a convenient reaction to moral ambiguity.

I welcome his response here and invite a sane discussion.

amotivational without pot

drug war heresies

I have just finished reading Drug War Heresies by Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter. Their conclusion is that policy change is necessary, but not the change legalizers or drug warriors suggest might hope for. They believe zero-tolerance policies are both unrealistic and at least the way they are practiced today, prejudicial, unfair and cruel. They also believe the proponents of legalization are as much driven by ideology as their drug war opponents and have unrealistic expectations.

The majority of the book is marked by a reliance on facts. Each analysis is couched in terms that define the limits of its reliability or applicability for any particular purpose. They make the adage false that you can say anything with statistics. They attempt to let the facts speak for themselves without any underlying bias. If you are looking for an ideological solution, you will not find it here. This makes the book appear cautious, which it is. They certainly want to see change in the current regime, they are not willing to do anything more than nudge us in the right direction.

Though they are sure that a legalization regime would reduce the overall harm done by drugs, they are as sure that the moral temper of the nation is incapable of supporting such a regime. As well, the commercial history of alcohol and tobacco tell that these industries have effectively skirted the boundaries set for them, increasing publicity and probably prevalence of use of their respective products in the society.

The European experiments with drug control are examined. They have problems not entirely unlike ours, yet the lessons learned from their policies are difficult to map onto our society.

I heartily recommend the book for its scope and concentration. On the basis of this sort of work, the probability of fair progress seems possible.

states flout federal law

I am listening to a web chat between Angel Raich who was involved in the failed Supreme Court case on medical marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann and Dan Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance. Dan said that in the late nineteen twenties, early thirties, states had begun to repeal their own prohibition laws essentially saying to the federal government, “If you want to enforce these laws you will do it without our cooperation.”

It is Dan’s view that the same state of affairs is growing currently in the U.S. with respect to marijuana that existed then with respect to alcohol. This put into perspective the view I held subconsciously. The federal government, with all its political clout will end up a prince without any subjects. All the pressure it is currently putting on states to prevent or turn back medical marijuana legislation or even decriminalization statutes will be in vain in the near future.

The federal government is currently enforcing its harsh penalties against marijuana even though the base of voters that agrees with those policies is steadily diminishing, irrespective of their desire to use marijuana personally.

the marijuana memo #2

Thanks for visiting the Marijuana Memo web site and blog. This is the second edition of the podcast. In it I discuss some of the moral implications of the war on marijuana with some references to the success and failure of federal legislation and the terrible politics that institutes that legislation.

For a full transcript of the podcast see “morality of the drug war” under Pages in the menu on the right.

weeds again

I can’t imagine people getting into trouble so frequently as they do on Weeds. I also can’t imagine people getting away so frequently and unproblematically with their behavior.

I’m probably just naïve. Somebody please let me know how it really is dealing and living in the pot world.


media campaign

I found the link for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign listening to the Scientific American podcast (sa_podcast_060216.mp3) where Bruce Merkin of the Marijuana Policy Project was interviewed. This was fascinating. He and SA staffer, Steve Mersky discussed the British classification for marijuana use. The Brits downgraded marijuana to the lowest classification (C) of illicit drug in 2004. Then worrying over reports about the dangers of marijuana, set a committee of scientists to study reports of the effects. The committee reaffirmed the government’s decision to downgrade marijuana.

Merkin, who gave the link (above), says the difference between the U.S. and British policy is that the Brits have chosen to be guided by science while the U.S. has clung to mythology. The Brits recognize that marijuana is not harmless, but that its harms are relatively limited. “In the U.S. marijuana has been stigmatized in such a way as to make U.S. policy impervious to data.”

The media campaign is serious, but flawed by this mythos. In all my research, I have never heard of any responsible pro-marijuana group suggesting marijuana is harmless, but that its harms are within the bounds of tolerance for a responsible adult user. Certainly alcohol and tobacco are both more addictive than marijuana and cause quantifiable harm to hundreds of thousands of men and women each year. And the U.S. experiment with prohibition was a dramatic failure. Marijuana just doesn’t have the long-term historical association with high western culture that alcohol does.

Mentioning the benefits of medical marijuana is nearly anathema to the campaign. They allude to the use of THC for cancer and AIDS patients, but make it sound as if this is a last resort medicine because of marijuana’s inherent dangers, warning us that this is not a medicine to be used trivially!

What should we do with the campaign? Watch the movies, understand the rhetoric, teach our kids the real story and become part of the grass roots (or should I say buds) effort to wrest control of this issue from the hands of the tyrants.


I have been watching Weeds the SHO series about a mom who turns pot dealer to maintain her lifestyle after her husband dies suddenly of a heart attack. Nancy is faced with many dilemmas that she solves or doesn’t. There is pain and trouble, and everything doesn’t work out well all the time. There is tension that carries from show to show that doesn’t really fix. In fact the tenth in the series leaves us with many dilemmas that leave me waiting for the next season which is supposed to come in June/July.

dominant culture

“The greatest evils inflicted by man on man over the face of the earth are wrought not by the self seekers, the pleasure lovers, or the merely amoral, but by the fervent devotees of ethical principles, those who are bound body and soul to some larger purpose. the nation, the ‘race,’ the ‘masses,’ the ‘brethren’ whoever they may be.”

R. M. MacIver is defending here the utility of the golden rule against ideologies that command our attention against the bohemian. I defend the bohemian, the pleasure lover, against the ideologies. As much as the ideologies command attention because they are coherent, I deplore them. But they work. It is easier to justify a rule against some behavior if you have a ready made answer against all offenses of a similar type. The trouble is that these justifications forbid the tales research tells.

I admit, I believe empiricism works. Observation is telling when we are supposed to be evaluating a decision. I believe also that the truth, as agent Mulder says, “is out there.” What we do with science is to collect data that will one day point inevitably to that truth. To preempt this natural procedure of knowledge collection because some special interest demands it is to short circuit our rational facilities in favor of some ideology.

This angers me. As much as some beliefs have the potential to connect with the “truth,” there are so many ways that those beliefs can be twisted to serve the purposes of those who would subvert it that I become pessimistic about our ability to free ourselves. Only God himself can fix this.

Unless you think this is a cop out, I challenge anyone to provide reasons for optimism about our ability to fix it ourselves. It is not that I think we can’t, but that it may have to wait for succeeding generations to actually observe the resolution to this debate.

I am under constraint. The future is coming at us all so quickly. Thinking in a linear fashion means that my opinion will be out of date tomorrow. I may yet live to see the future where we give credence to opinions that more closely match the truth than our own. I am not unhappy for this to happen. I swear I will accept the truth of the future when it occurs.

I just don’t know what that will be. I hope, however, that we vote together for freedom rather than ideology.

my purpose

My interest in undertaking this venture is to provide some outlet on a popular level for my research. The primary focus of this PodCast will be marijuana, its proponents and detractors, evidence for and against medical marijuana and lots of social issues surrounding use and abuse of the most popular illicit drug in the world.