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A Healer on the Lam

'Doc' Humes Tries to Bring Marijuana Into Medicine

By Joseph L. Contreras

The mavericks among us always have a way of standing out from the rest of the crowd. Whether we react with ridicule or quiet admiration, we can rarely ignore them. The story of Harold L. Humes Jr. '54 has all the features commonly associated with the life of a maverick, a man who insists on swimming upstream. He has unorthodox theories, an unusual physical appearance, and has often been the focus of sensational charges. But his case has failed to attract the kind of interest usually directed toward men of his temper. It is even more difficult to account for the neglect of Humes's case when one takes into account the nature and focus of his crusade.

Humes, or "Doc," as he prefers to be called, has put forth an intriguing claim: that he has successfully developed a painless procedure to detoxify heroin and amphetamine addicts through an unusual therapy combining medical-grade hashish and massage. Humes bases the validity of his technique on some ten years of experience applying the technique in "crash pad clinics" which he ran in cities as diverse as Rome and Princeton, New Jersey. His practice is part of a one-man campaign to return cannabis to the national Pharmacopoeia, the official list of drugs sanctioned for medical uses, from which cannabis was eliminated in 1937 when the Marijuana Tax Act was passed by Congress. The act eventually led to the nationwide illegalization of possession of the drug.

But another matter, somewhat related to this legalization drive in behalf of marijuana's medical applications, also occupies Humes's mind these days. He is wanted in New Jersey on four felony counts, including possession of a dangerous substance (marijuana), assault and battery on a police officer while armed, and two counts of resisting arrest. The arrest warrants on these charges were issued four years ago, arising out of two 1973 incidents in Princeton. Humes left New Jersey before the case was ever brought to trial, and after three years elapsed he was convinced that he should expect no further action on the matter from the state of New Jersey. A minor traffic violation by Humes last March led police in Hamilton, Mass., to run a check of Humes's record through the National Computer Information Center--the federal Justice Department's criminal record data bank--which revealed Humes to be a "fugitive from justice." A bail of $25,000 was set for Humes, an unusually high amount for an otherwise routine traffic ticket, and he gained release after three days in jail when the bail was posted. Humes appealed to Ben Jones, assistant legal counsel to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, in a May 24 meeting to reject New Jersey's request to extradite Humes in order to have him stand trial on the four-year-old charges. The meeting failed to convince Jones to grant Humes's petition, and on May 27 Jones issued a Massachusetts state arrest warrant on Humes. However, Humes has yet to be picked up at his apartment near Harvard Square.

Fifty-one-year-old Humes definitely has the look of a maverick. Chain-smoking as he explains his case in the kitchen of his modest residence, Humes's craggy face and grizzled beard call to mind the image of what a long-haired Ernest Hemingway in his later years might have looked like if he had been alive and become a flower child in the late '60's. Humes's biography reads like the resume of a dabbling jack-of-all-trades. After completing at Harvard an undergraduate education that began at MIT, Humes threw himself into literary pursuits. He co-founded the literary magazine Paris Review in 1953 and later wrote two novels, The Underground City (1957), which was based on the French Resistance movement of World War II, and Men Die (1959), a fictional examination of the psychology of nuclear warfare. Humes taught a creative writing course for one semester at Harvard in 1958 before his career took a turn to the scientific. Humes founded a corporation for technology research and development in 1961, but the dramatic rise in narcotics abuse in the mid-'60s caught Humes's attention and prompted him to launch into an independent, unsponsored research program examining alternative detoxification methods for drug addicts. Humes traces his first "breakthrough" in this endeavor to 1967, when he began operating his first detoxification clinic in Rome. Humes claims to have gotten 125 addicts off their habits, most of them heroin users. However, his initial experimental program came to an abrupt halt in 1967 when police closed down his operation while Humes was away from Rome. Upon learning that the clinic had been put out of business, Humes then fled to Paris where he spent about five months in 1968 pursuing his research into detoxification methods and participating in the Paris uprising of that year. Humes returned to the United States in 1969 and set up shop in Princeton, lecturing informally at various campuses in the area on his work with drug addicts and his theories about the therapeutic applications of cannabis.

His concern about the effects of marijuana took on a new dimension during his four-year stay in Princeton. Humes says he began to notice a "heavy influx of treated grass" coming into the Mercer County, N.J. area in the early '70s, and he decided to look into the matter by systematically collecting samples of the worst batches of chemically-strengthened marijuana. Princeton police placed Humes under arrest for marijuana possession on July 16, 1973 during a routine visit to serve him with another arrest warrant for a probation violation. He was taken into custody for having collected the samples. A month later, Humes was arrested again for allegedly striking a police officer with a walking stick. On August 12, 1973, Humes was charged with assault and battery on a police officer and two counts of resisting arrest.

In a two-page circular detailing his case, Humes dismisses the felony counts pending against him in New Jersey as "trumped-up charges," as one item in "the repertoire of the campaign to diseredit" him as a serious researcher. He asserts that "the continued suppression of the use of cannabis in medicine is a scandal of gigantic proportions," and he affixes the blame for this state of affairs on large manufacturers of patent medicines and various clandestine intelligence agencies which have, he claims, sought to impede his research.

"I would like to challenge the Harvard Medical School to convene a medical jury to undertake an investigation of this detox process case," Humes says, adding that the medical and legal professions in the U.S. find themselves in the midst of a 40-year-old "blunder" on the issue of recognizing cannabis as a legitimate medicine. Buttressing his contentions, Humes cites the 1893 Indian Hemp Commission Report published in Victorian Britain, that attests to the usefulness of cannabis in treating ailments ranging from menstrual cramps to migraine headaches.

Humes argues that the restoration of marijuana to the Pharmacopoeia is particularly necessary in American society today in light of behavioral trends that have accelerated in recent years. "This nation is suffering from an epidemic of anxiety neurosis," Humes says, an epidemic that is "approaching pestilential proportions." In presenting his case for the reintroduction of marijuana in a medicinal context, Humes says that therapeutic methods using cannabis could be successfully applied to patients suffering from this modern neurosis. He draws a parallel between the symptoms of a heroin addict going through severe withdrawal and an individual suffering from an "acute anxiety neurosis episode." Humes attributes the rise in the incidence of arson, rape, and other types of crime to this widespread upswing in anxiety neurosis, saying that the acceptance of his therapeutic method would go a long way toward alleviating this nationwide problem.

The self-styled "street corner scholar" has encountered major difficulties in obtaining recognition of the validity of his methods from the established medical community, and all indications suggest he will continue to run up against similar reactions in the future. Humes does not possess a medical degree, and documentation on the ultimate success of his treated patients is lacking. Humes has not operated one of his "crash pad clinics" for the detoxification of addicts for over a year, choosing in recent months to concentrate on the anxiety afflictions of elderly Cambridge residents. And his current legal difficulties do not promise to improve his methods' chances for acceptance.

Humes says he deliberately committed the traffic violation that resurrected the New Jersey charges in Hamilton last March hoping to bring attention to the massive quantities of information collected by the National Computer Information Center on private citizens. The transcript of the March 28 trial of Humes on the traffic violation charge shows that the arresting officer said Humes told the officer he was "trying to get arrested." The Salem court where the trial was held found Humes guilty of driving a vehicle without proper registration and without a driver's license.

Humes says he arranged the hearing with Jones, the governor's assistant legal counsel, primarily to try to persuade the state of Massachusetts to join Humes in a criminal libel suit against the state of New Jersey. Humes claims he was never served the warrant for his arrest issued by Jones, but a state police officer yesterday gave a different version of the sequence of events leading to Hume's present at-large status. According to the officer, who asked not to be identified, a suspect on whom an "out-of-state" warrant is issued has 90 days in which to file a habeas corpus petition to establish whether he is in fact the suspect that the authorities of the other state are seeking to extradite. This three-month period expired for Hume around August 1 of this year; when no such petition was filed, Humes should have appeared before the Salem district court at the beginning of August. After consulting consulting the file on Humes, the police officer said that Humes called the court offices on August 2 from New York, informing the court that he had left Massachusetts and did not plan on returning to the state for his scheduled appearance before a trial judge. A default was issued on the arrest warrant, and the spokesman said that the warrant remains in effect today.

"The continued suppression of the use of cannabis in medicine is a scandal of gigantic proportions," Humes says.

Mark Miller and Oliver R. Trager, two Cambridge residents who share the apartment with Humes, have begun circulating a petition in Cambridge calling upon the Massachusetts judicial system to conduct a thorough investigation of the Humes case. Currently without counsel, Humes says he is considering surrendering himself to the authorities to hasten the resolution of the charges pending against him, and to publicize his alternative detoxification treatment. He adds that he is still weighing a lawsuit against the National Computer Information Center, but has taken no serious action thus far. In the meantime, Humes keeps a close eye on the daily papers for information on drug shipments and fluetuations in the gold market. Humes draws a correlation between them based on the contention that most large-scale purchases of heroin are made with gold. The issue of drugs--their medical use as well as their recreational abuse--is destined to figure prominently in Humes's life for some time to come, even if its significance to Humes may one day take the form of a jail cell's iron bars.

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