Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Applying the Government’s Logic

Our government has its own sort of “logic” that it applies to the war on drugs. I’ve been analyzing it and trying to make sense of it in previous pieces. In case you haven’t read any of my earlier work, I’ll sum up my conclusion simply: It’s twisted.

So I started wondering, what if the government started applying that logic to other aspects of our lives? How insane would that be? OK, probably not as insane as the war on drugs. But still.

The other day I listened to a podcast featuring David Murray, senior policy analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Dr. Murray made what I thought was a good analogy between medical marijuana and aspirin. Aspirin contains a synthesized version of a chemical found in willow bark. Since the stone age, people have been taking willow-bark potions to relieve pain. However we recently discovered the active chemical in willow bark and have been able to synthesize it. It’s a wonder of modern science that allows us to take this age-old remedy in pure form in controlled doses. Dr. Murray indicated that the only way the FDA would approve any cannabis-derived drugs would be if they too were isolated and synthesized like aspirin. (And that sounded like a big “if” to me.) OK, fair enough. If that’s possible, I’m sure patients would be happy to take their medicine in some form other than smoking it.

But it may not be that simple. Unlike willow bark, there are many active substances in cannabis that have a wide variety of beneficial effects. Isolating one or a few of these chemicals might not have the same effect as consuming the natural plant. In fact, this will probably turn out to be true, as some synthetic cannabis derivatives already in use are being shown to be much less effective than the real thing. To me, this is not surprising. Can you get the same benefits by taking your vitamins in pill form that you get by eating fruits and vegetables? Hardly. There are still a few things that mother nature does that humans still can’t really reproduce. (Ever hear of a thing called “artificial intelligence”?) Some may prefer taking pills, but many prefer to eat natural foods. Happily, at this point in time, we have that choice.

But I’m not a physician. And besides, what worries me more are the implications of this kind of logic. That’s right, you’re way ahead of me on this one. I’m anticipating that any day now willow trees will be added to the list of controlled substances. I mean, what if people started making their own willow bark tea whenever they had a headache. Even worse, what if willow bark proved to be more effective, and people stopped buying aspirin? It makes no difference that people have been using this remedy since the beginning of time. Today, in the good ol’ U.S. of A., people can’t be permitted to administer natural, home-made remedies to themselves. It would be chaos. Dogs and cats living together. And what kind of message would it send the kids?

The only reasonable and logical thing to do is to make it illegal to possess any part of a willow tree. If you are found with a willow tree on your property or some willow bark on your person, you need to be sent to jail as soon as possible for as long as it takes to teach you a good lesson. Of course if you’re found with a whole grove of willow trees (or whatever you call a group of them), that would probably take the rest of your life. Just think how much safer John Q. Public will feel knowing that people who think they have the unalienable right to use home remedies and harm no one by doing so are safely behind bars. I know I’ll sleep a lot better. Especially after I finish cutting down all my willow trees. And make myself a nice cup of tea.

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