Discussed lepers and crooks.
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books.
You're very well read
It's well known.
But something is happening here
And you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
- Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
Every once in a while a news story pops up that makes you laugh because it opens up a window on an absurdity of modern life. In this case, the absurdity involves two major national issues: Helping war-stressed combat veterans cope with life back home and the 40-year-old War On Drugs.
The New York Times  reported recently that a group of researchers want to launch a study on the benefits of marijuana for Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans who suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The question looming over the study is will a stubborn federal government mired in the Drug War allow the study to even get off the ground.
The Times reports on an Iraq veteran in Texas suffering from a leg wound and several head injuries who told them "marijuana helped quiet his physical and psychological pain, while not causing weight loss and sleep deprivation brought on by his prescription medications" It seems the "munchies" can be beneficial to someone facing loss of appetite and emaciation.
" "I have seen it with my own eyes,' he said. "It works for a lot of the guys coming home.' "
I know a number of Vietnam and Iraq veterans who use marijuana. From my very unscientific survey it seems quite plausible that marijuana could be scientifically shown to bring a sense of calmness and pleasantness into a life burdened with harsh combat memories.
Rick Doblin, at left. by unknown
One vet who uses it fairly frequently says it helps him concentrate on creative matters. He says he's not sure how much it actually helps his PTSD. He feels that is a matter of effectively addressing the issues causing the PTSD; in other words, marijuana or anything else is no replacement for the hard work necessary in recognizing why something is troubling an individual. But, still, he feels marijuana is a responsible, positive factor in his life.
Another veteran who has used marijuana off and on for decades sees its usage as positive for balancing out life's frustrations and difficulties. He laughs and says his wife will testify to how nice it makes him. But, he adds, it can be abused. "Too much of the stuff and it will make you stupid," he said. "What's important is to 'understand thyself,' then come to an understanding what effects, good and bad, marijuana has for you."
All it takes is listening to the incredible litany of horrific warnings about the side effects of legal pharmaceuticals in current TV advertisements to understand what he means. Everything can be abused and different people react to different things in different ways. The difference between legal drugs and illegal drugs is simple: One is legal and designed by a corporation to make money, while the other has been deemed illegal and, thus, is distributed by a criminalized class that makes the profits.
It's about ingesting a chemical that interacts with the body's chemistry. In the case of psychotropic drugs, this interaction shifts the balance of certain aspects of consciousness. The body doesn't care if the stuff is legal or illegal or who is making money off its use. If it has a benefit, that's good.
Rick Doblin is the moving force behind the marijuana study. He has a doctorate in public policy from Harvard. For years, he has worked to legalize marijuana. Once he got his PhD, he set up the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)  in Santa Cruz, California. The study proposed by Dr. Doblin and MAPS would involve 50 combat veterans whose PTSD has not responded to other treatments. It would be a blind study with placebos.
To get a feel for Dr. Doblin, listen to him explaining his MAPS program at a conference in Israel , then at another in Canada  and a third that addresses his long-term efforts to legalize marijuana .
Hard core drug warriors may smile and say, hey, this guy is a hippie! Doblin would probably give his trademark smirk. At one juncture in a video, he calls himself an "affirmative action hippie" they let into Harvard. He may smile easily, but the man is quite serious.