10.11.2015

The Legitimization of Knowledge, or Why I Don't Like "Medical" Marijuana


I've read about, and had a variety of people talk to me about, the newfound therapeutic efficacy of MDMA, aka ecstasy or molly or whatever you want to call it. And while I welcome the medical establishment and the culture at large embracing this oft considered party drug, it seems to me that anyone who's ever taken it would reply with a decided Duh!

There is this peculiar movement afoot, from the rise of medical marijuana to organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and non-profits such as EmmaSofia, to justify the use of certain drugs. Big Medicine steps in, runs studies, and more often than not comes to conclusions that anyone and everyone who's ever taken the damn things already knows.

This is not a surprise as we always privilege experts and quantified studies over actual experience. What's funny is picturing this scene. Picture these doctors feeding MDMA to people and watching them roll, talking to them as they roll (Now how do you feel?), taking notes (Patients are smiling grotesquely). And then declaring: Whoa! People who were once low and blue are now happy and full of vim! Then they put some numbers to their experience — The quotient of happiness among patients in Class B increased significantly, over 40%, in Trial 1 — and, suddenly, we all "know" that MDMA can make you feel better.

Again, Duh! We give credence to someone watching an experience over someone having the experience. And yet the watchers — the clinicians — are noting the experiences of the users. There is no so-called objectivity. All there is is a filter — an often well paid filter — whom we "trust" even though he's never taken the damn drug! It's strange and funny to me that we're trained to trust people who don't experience something over people who do experience it, including ourselves. 

I can understand tests that measure and assess damage to body organs. This is something that can actually be quantified. Creatinine levels in users rose by 5% (note: I made that up). Ok, thanks to a study, I know something in general about how MDMA affects the kidneys or liver or jaw. Still, it might not affect you or me like that. And correlation is not cause — maybe the increase in creatinine was due to the doctors stressing out the users' buzz. Nevertheless, it's something to pay attention to and I support as many studies as whoever wants to fund them.

But when it comes to behavior, well, that's a hard thing to quantify. How do you measure someone's happiness or, for that matter, their suffering? It is a qualitative experience that is lived through from the inside out. Which is to say, it's the user's experience, not the doctor's.

Still, the world does reveal itself. We generally know when someone is happy or not, content or not, agitated, anxious, melancholic, depressed. Unfortunately, many of these words have been hijacked by the medical establishment. Depression is no longer a state but a condition. Like the designation pervert, "depressed" pervades someone totally. Which is absurd. In the harrowing, dark waters of feeling depressed, we also feel joy, ennui, happiness. I'm not going off on a tangent (but what if I were? So what? What constitutes sense here?). I'm suggesting that we've all come to lean unthinkingly on a certain way of making sense of states of being that can be a) dangerous; b) absurd; and c) sometimes useful.

I come back, then, to the present trend towards the legitimization of drug use. Many in my world hail this as a good thing. See? We were right! MDMA (or pot or acid or psilocybin) are good for us! I get that, I do. But I already knew that! How? From experience! I don't need some Big Pharma funded study to tell me what I already knew, what was so goddamn hilariously obvious to anyone and everyone: MDMA makes you feel great! Even afterwards! That's the whole fucking point!

So, yes, it's great from one perspective that people who live in certain states can get their weed without too much hassle (although it was easier, in many ways, before these laws). And I love that people who are suffering and might never have encountered MDMA can enjoy it and enjoy life.

But, of course, if it hadn't been illegal in the first place, they'd probably have already known about MDMA, taken it, and avoided years of suffering. Letting the medical establishment be the determinant of experience, legitimizing experience, makes things generally worse for everyone.

The how matters. That is, how we've come by so-called legalization shapes the discourse itself, shapes experience, shapes how we think and talk about things. Yes, we can go to weed shops and there are more and more studies on the efficacy of CBDs and in Marin shrinks can prescribe MDMA (so I hear). But does putting all this under the aegis of the state sponsored corporate apparatus (and the corporate sponsored state apparatus) really serve our interests?

I think I'd rather have a different discourse of legitimization and have these drugs remain illegal than enjoy the privileges of a medical marijuana card (if I did). At least, that's what I think I think.

5 comments:

TomG said...

Good point. I went to a doctor for years because he had had asthma, and he wasn't treating mine based solely on things he'd read in a book or journal. If nothing else, you can discuss your symptoms and what's going on realistically.

Daniel Coffeen said...

MDs don't seem to learn the art of diagnosis — if it's not a number on a screen or piece of paper, they don't recognize it. They barely even look at their patients, not to mention listen to them. Sounds like you found a good one — at least for asthma. They're a rare breed.

anon emous said...

Funny thing the power of the screen/paper.

My very understanding MD was in a car accident. I asked his replacement for a refill of my pain prescription. She told me that I would likely become addicted, so she couldn't do it.

She never bothered to look at any of the paper--never mind me--in the folder she held in her hand to know that I'd been managing well on the medication for almost a year.

I told her that was fine, but I'd no longer be able to work. I asked when I could drop off the paperwork to get my disability claim started.

I got my refill.

Josh Thorpe said...

It's what happens when mainstream culture appropriates punk. But regulation does have a pretty amazing benefit: the product is more consistent of quality, and it's much safer. The terrible shit that sometimes happens when some kid just wants to get high.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Anon: that's brilliant — fighting paper with paper. Well done.

Josh: yep, totally agree — it's why I qualified my conclusion....