By Fred Gardner December 18,  2015     My friend Mike Krawitz says his attempt to get the World Health Organization to review its classification of marijuana has been sabotaged by invisible forces. A formal review by the WHO is a prerequisite for changing the UN’s “Single Convention Treaty” banning narcotic drugs (which marijuana is not, BTW). The US government —represented by Harry J. Anslinger himself!— imposed the Treaty on the world in 1961 and now claims it is an obligation that prevents the US government from legalizing the herb.

Krawitz is an Air Force vet, about 50 years old. In November he and Steph Sherer of Americans for Safe Access testified in Geneva at a meeting of the WHO’s “Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.”   Krawitz continues to believe that the system has some integrity, and seemed shocked to learn once again that the fix was in. The World Health Organization had turned to a Single Expert to conduct not the required “review” on the status of marijuana, but an “update” that lacks  legal impact. Which would is just as well, because the WHO’s chosen expert was… Dr. Bertha Madras, the anti-hero of the new O’Shaughnessy’s.

This woman gets around. In O’S she makes her entrance in Dr. Lester Grinspoon’s article —rising to make a speech in the guise of a question after Grinspoon had given a talk at Harvard Medical School. She accuses the distinguished professor emeritus of corrupting the youth!  

Madras then shows up in California testifying in a criminal case, convincing a federal judge that “Science” justifies marijuana’s Schedule I status.

A third appearance in the paper by Dr. Madras had to be cut from the end piece about hokey neuroimaging studies. She is the developer and foremost advocate of a lucrative  scheme known as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment). SBIRT fixes addicts up with helping professionals and helping professionals up with reimbursement sources. 

The following is Bertha Madras’s authorized description of her self: 

She is principal editor of books “The Cell Biology of Addiction” (2006), “The Effects of Drug Abuse on the Human Nervous System” (2012), and co-editor on “Imaging of the Human Brain in Health and Disease” (2012). As an educator, she developed and taught a course on addiction biology for 4th year HMS medical school students, and created an international course titled the “Cell Biology of Addiction” at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In public policy, she served as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). At ONDCP, she advocated for medicalization of the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders. She mainstreamed Drug and Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in healthcare systems as a component of the national drug control strategy. She also spearheaded approval of billing codes for these services resulting in reimbursement by Medicaid and health insurers, adoption by federal agencies. SBIRT was endorsed by the UN. In service to public education, she directed creation of a museum exhibit, a CD (licensed by Disney Corp), “Changing your Mind: Drugs in the Brain” for the Boston Museum of Science and has delivered hundreds of presentations on the biology of drugs and addiction. She holds 19 patents, is a recipient of a NIDA Public Service award, a NIH MERIT award, American Academy Addiction Psychiatry Founders’ Award, and the Marian Hirschman Award. A brain imaging agent strategy shedeveloped was cited by The Better World Report, 2006, as one of “25 technology transfer innovations that changed the world”. Her experiences in translational neurobiology, government, and public service afford her a unique perspective on science and public policy.

The New O’Shaughnessy’s is far from perfect.  The print job was a screw job (I went down to Hayward to look at prufs and told them it was inked too red and they assured me the colors would be “balanced”), and there are prufing gaffes that make me wince. But the analysis we arrived at —actually, that Tod Mikuriya arrived at many years ago— is well worth reiterating in the winter of 2015/16: it is the addiction specialists who provide the rationale for marijuana prohibition. Psychiatrists have inordinate power within the medical establishment, and addiction specialists have inordinate power within psychiatry. It’s not the oncologists who are imposing marijuana prohibition. 

Bertha Madras is our own private Anslinger. Kathy Bates could play her but I think Roseanne Barr would be brilliant.