I’m no fan of California Proposition 19, the marijuana-legalization initiative, or of the way it’s been promoted, with proponents claiming imaginary, and sometimes self-contradictory, benefits.
[No, 60% of the revenues of the big Mexican drug trafficking groups don’t come from selling cannabis in the U.S. That was a made-up number from the drug czar’s office in the Bush Jr. days: utterly implausible, never supported by any actual data, and now formally disowned.]
But nothing I’ve seen from the “pro” side can match the truly heroic mendacity of the Heritage Foundation brief-in-opposition. It’s a self-parody of phony-think-tank pseudo-research, asserting both that cannabis prices would fall drastically under legalization – leading to greatly increased consumption – and that the post-Prop-19 cannabis market would have the violence, disorder, and consumer crime to fund purchases characteristic of illicit markets. (Nobody steals to support a $5/day habit, and if cannabis is legal there’s no “black market” to divert it to.)
With that as a warm-up, the Heritage folks invent an entirely new brand of pharmacology, in which cannabis is hideously dangerous but alcohol quite safe. (The trick is to compare data on moderate drinking with data on heavy cannabis smoking, and to simply ignore the facts about alcohol-related violence.)
What’s really scary is that the people running Heritage think they can produce this kind of crap and get away with it. It wouldn’t have been hard to run a draft report past any of a dozen actual experts hostile to cannabis legalization and have them spot the howlers. In the extreme, Heritage might have even gotten an expert to write the report in the first place.
What’s even scarier is that no doubt the executives at Heritage are basically correct: for an outfit that occupies the Heritage there’s simply no price to be paid for making sh*t up. People who look to Heritage for “research” have already opted for ideological reliability over quality and accuracy, and journalists either really can’t tell the difference between a real policy research outfit like RAND and a propaganda mill like Heritage or don’t think it would be “objective” to distinguish attempts to find the truth from efforts to fit arguments to pre-determined conclusions.
Even within the world of advocacy groups, there are differences in quality. I can’t imagine a comparable product coming out of, for example, the Center for American Progress. But how much does CAP benefit from the difference, given that journalists mostly won’t mention it, even if they perceive it?
As long as there’s no price to be paid, the lying will continue, with each side justifying its own liberties with the truth on the grounds that the other side did it first. It makes me cranky.