June 2          Julie Zauzner of the Harvard Crimson surveyed the class of 2013 and reported, “38 percent of students have tried marijuana, and 3 percent use it more than twice a week. Of marijuana users, 44 percent started at Harvard; the rest started before college.”  Zauzner inquired about the graduating students’ work plans. The leading occupation is going to be “consulting” (16%), followed by “finance” (15%).  

This astonished your correspondent, who thought the word consultant implied expertise and a detailed understanding of the business at hand. The labor lawyer Rachel Bien ‘splained me: “These consulting firms (Bain Capital, for example) will call anyone a consultant and then claim they are ‘overtime-ineligible’ even though the straight-out-of -college hires do grunt work, like plugging numbers into spreadsheets and ordering lunch for more senior members of ‘the team.'”

The Crimson’s commencement issue included a piece about the class of 1963, which held its 50th reunion in Cambridge last week. I’d been asked to give a TED-type talk and put together my first-ever powerpoint presentation. (I have speechified here and there, but always off the cuff.)  The title was “Ask Your Doctor if Marijuana is Right for you” —a soundbite suggested by Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD.  It opened with slides of Dennis Peron and the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club —an amazing, wonderful scene!  Then I told them how Tod Mikuriya, MD used to interview patients at the club. And about the press conference at which Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey called Tod’s practice “a Cheech and Chong show.”

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey ridicules Tod Mikuriya on CNN 12/30/96.

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey
ridicules Tod Mikuriya on CNN 12/30/96.

McCaffrey said it was preposterous that any one drug could be effective in treating such a wide range of conditions. Medical marijuana was, he declared, “a hoax.”

But in this period, I recounted to my old classmates, the scientists were figuring out how the cannabinoids in marijuana work in our bodies. They found that “endogenous cannabinoids”  are made  on the membranes of cells in response to overloads of chemical information, and get squirted back to the sending cells to say “tone it down.” The endocannabinoids are retrograde messengers. As conductors of the Neurotransmission Orchestra, they play a role in almost every physiological system. But don’t tell the Drug Czar.