Marijuana fancies and fallacies

De-bunking is good clean fun. But it’s advisable to stay as bunk-free as possible while doing it.

The premise of John H. Richardson’s Esquire blog post is that the opponents of marijuana legalization generally, and the Washington State and Colorado propositions specifically, ignore some facts, invent fact-substitutes, and generally make arguments that can’t withstand logical scrutiny. The structure of the piece is to quote two of those opponents and then have a supporter of legalization, presented as an expert, team up with the omniscient and infallible narrator to correct the errors of the foolish and wicked opponents and reveal The Truth to the – presumably grateful – reader.

The first half of the strategy works fine. Richardson finds two remarkably unintelligent and slippery opponents of legalization: the Republican consultant who ran part of the anti-Prop-19 campaign in California, who uses his personal authority as a recovering drug abuser to spout a bunch of drug-war slogans, and the flack for the Washington State medical marijuana industry now fighting full legalization there to protect itself from competition[*] See update below. Richardson has no problem showing the inadequacy of their arguments.

The problem is that the article features not two purveyors of pseudo-fact and false argument but four: the two targets, the purported expert, and the reporter himself.

For example, here’s the reporter criticizing the drug warrior:

Chabot does not believe that nearly 45,000 Americans are in prison for marijuana possession. “These are typically hard-core gangbangers who pled to a lesser charge to avoid a trial,” he says. “Only 0.7 percent of people are actually in prison for marijuana possession. It’s really a very, very finite small amount.”
(For the record, 0.7 percent of America’s 2,266,800 state and federal prisoners is 15,867 people.)

Just one thing: there aren’t 45,000 Americans in prison for marijuana possession. There might be 45,000 people in prison convicted of marijuana offenses (for some of them, along with other offenses) but at least 95% of them are in for production or sales, not mere possession. There’s a difference.

Richardson asserts: “Most experts say that alcohol causes 75,000 deaths a year while marijuana causes pretty much zero.” Zero is the correct number if counting acute overdoses only: none of the chemicals in cannabis smoke has known lethal dose. But using that counting rule, the number for alcohol is somewhere south of 1000. Most alcohol deaths are from chronic health effects, crimes, suicides, and accidents. Cannabis does some lung damage (though, despite the presence of “tar” in cannabis smoke, apparently it doesn’t cause lung cancer); we won’t know until the Boomers get a little bit older how much of that lung disease is fatal, especially in combination with cigarette smoking. But the Kaiser Permanente study suggested that heavy pot-smokers had about 1/3 more accidents than otherwise similar people who didn’t smoke, and there’s clearly a non-zero death toll from stoned driving (again, especially in combination with alcohol, but also with cannabis alone). It would be surprising if there were zero suicides or fights, though cannabis tends to be calming rather than agitating. So “pretty much zero” cannabis deaths is pretty much wrong.

Then Norm Stamper takes the floor. If Chabot is a recovering drug abuser, Stamper is a recovering drug law enforcer: former Seattle police chief now affiliated with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Stamper rolls out the usual arguments: “We have spent many billions of dollars enforcing marijuana prohibition to essentially no avail; all it does is increase crime.”

No avail”? None at all? Really? The fact that cannabis is much more expensive to get than it would be as a legal product, plus all the social stigma and risk of arrest, has zero impact on consumption? I suppose that might be true, in some alternative universe, but why should anyone believe that the Law of Demand has been repealed for this product alone?

More from Stamper: “There are 60,000 people dead in Mexico as a result of the drug war in the last five years, 50 to 70 percent of the cartels’ profits are derived from marijuana.”

The estimate of Mexican drug traffickers’ revenues from cannabis has always been a vagrant statistic, living with no visible means of support, ever since someone at the National Drug Intelligence Center dreamed it up sometime in 2006. No one ever produced any data or calculation supporting it. Finally, after Beau Kilmer and his team at RAND did an actual calculation that came in around 20%, the federal government officially disowned the number. But the anti-prohibitionists still love it.

Still more from Stamper, still without any hint of criticism from the reporter:

“I really do believe in my heart of hearts that we really will reduce access [to minors]. Regulation works. Kids know it’s easier to score marijuana than peach brandy at a liquor store.”

In Stamper’s heart of hearts, maybe. Back in consensus reality, no. Half of all teenagers report that they could get alcohol within a day; for cannabis, the number is 31%.

There’s more, but that sample should suffice. There are people making serious and responsible arguments on both sides of the debate over legalizing cannabis at the state level. But there are people making nonsense arguments on both sides, too. The b.s. isn’t one-sided.

* Update See Steve Sarich’s comment below. He denies being a flack for the medical-marijuana industry.

Comments

  1. Uncle Vinny says

    A few typos need fixing, please!
    Need the closing quote-mark at the end of this sentence: Richardson asserts: “Most experts say that alcohol…
    Than, not that: “…had about 1/3 more accidents that similar people…”
    Then, not the: “The Norm Stamper takes…”
    Another that/than problem: “…more expensive to get that it would be as a legal product…”
    Has produced? Produces? “No one ever produce[s] any data or calculation supporting it.”

    While I was reading I was going crazy because I think your argument is really important, but the typos were very distracting. Yes, I’m like this at parties.

  2. slutherz says

    who cares? if anything, that whole “people go to jail for pot”, is more of a way to get the ball rolling. you could still say that prohibition is turning decent otherwise upstanding citizens into criminals for no good reason. whether its on the first step or the second. and even if people don’t go to jail they still don’t really have a future because of Poorly based prejudice. as for the “no avail” thing. congratulations, you’ve stop people from enjoying the most non deadly benign drug there is. as for the whole drug cartel’s profit thing. im 20 DBg Are you telling me i should’ve known that the government was telling me a lie about marijuana, before i even knew what marijuana was. as for kids being able to get legal substances easier. LEGAL legal LEgaL. of course not all kids are going to tell you that they buy weed. Not all kids are stupid(or have been arrested yet; to where they don’t give a flying.) i could probably say that, most likely every single person i know; that smokes pot, has never taken a survey about their pot use. there’s no way i can know for sure, but; based on my knowledge, i can say barely if any. it just, your ability to take something at ‘bs face value’, and make it even slightly more accurate; with common sense, isn’t very astounding. On any side of the legality spectrum for that matter.

  3. slutherz says

    Listen hear. if your argument is that the pro legalization side exaggerates (a LITTLE) to “get the ball rolling” on fixing the very important problem of pot prohibition, congratulations. And don’t kid yourself it is important. im not saying it’s the most important (however sad it is that 60,000 diseased Mexicans is not dubbed ‘one of the most important’ is), but it is important. if it weren’t important i couldn’t name off other hundreds of millions of problems that are less important. starting with, /1/ Hang Nail.

  4. says

    In order to “legalize” anything that is currently illegal, you must remove the laws that made it illegal in the first place. Initiative I-502 does not remove even one statute from the Washington State codes that makes marijuana illegal on a state level…..not one. I-502 even leaves marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic under the state law.

    The sponsors are mischaracterizing this law as “legalization” as part of a slick, and well financed, marketing strategy. Not only will every law making marijuana illegal still be in place, but new, and more dangerous prohibitions for “per se DUIDs” will be added to the state laws.

    In theory, you’ll be able to “own” an ounce of marijuana (though you won’t be able to get it anywhere for the at least the next two years), but you better not actually use it because having the active THC in your blood will now be illegal…and that’s what they’ll now be looking for. The penalty for this crime will be MUCH harsher than simple possession. This really raises the bar in the war on drugs, especially for those under 21 years of age. For those under 21 there is a new “zero tolerance policy” that’s not currently in the state law.

    Under I-502, the written statement from a law enforcement officer, stating that, in his/her expert opinion, that you “appeared stoned”, will now be prima facia evidence and provide probable cause to have your blood taken. If you are found to have ANY measurable amount of active THC in your system, you will be found guilty of “driving under the influence of drugs”. This is a criminal charge that will stay on your record forever.

    The latest study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse has proven that active THC can stay in your blood for up to 30 after last use. That means that the joint you smoked two weeks ago will still be in your blood system today…. even though you’re not impaired whatsoever. If you get pulled over for a broken tail light, you could be in for the worst ride of your life.

    This is not a “scare tactic”. This law hasn’t even been passed yet in Washington State and an 18 year old girl was pulled over for a broken tail light Thursday night, her car impounded, she was taken for a blood draw, and even though the results won’t be known till next week, she was jailed for twelve hours and had to post a $1,000 bond to get out of jail. This was based only on the cops statement that she appeared “stoned”. We’ll help her beat this charge, but if I-502 passes, no attorney would be able to help her. Any trace of THC in her system would convict her. Oh…and she’s a legal medical cannabis patient under Washington State law. She will ALWAYS be driving illegally under a zero tolerance law every time she gets behind the wheel. There is no exception for legal patients.

    I’m a legal medical cannabis patient and I wake up in the morning at 4-5 times the legal 5 ng/ml limit under I-502. This is the same situation that 60,000 other medical cannabis patients will find themselves in if I-502 passes. Is there any wonder why the medical cannabis patients in Washington State are opposing this law?

    This has nothing to do with greed, or economics….this is a matter of protecting our Fourth & Fifth Amendment rights! When a law enforcement officer’s signed statement that you “appeared stoned”, is all they need to take your bodily fluids for testing….we have a truly dangerous Constitutional issue in this country that everyone needs to be seriously concerned about, whether you use cannabis or not.

    If this law passes, and you are young and black…you’ll have a whole new level of legal challenges you will not be able to successfully overcome.

    Legalization is a worthwhile goal that nearly half of America now supports. Fighting decades for legalization and then settling for something that doesn’t legalize anything, is just snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Passing bad legislation with the argument that “it’s better than nothing” is what’s wrong with this country now. Can we please focus on passing truly good legislation and finally end this war on our own population?

    Let’s not pass ANY new laws that include any new penalties for cannabis users….and then call these laws “legalization”. We should, at least, all be able to agree on that one principle.

    Steve Sarich
    Spokesman
    NO ON I-502 Campaign

    • Freeman says

      Passing bad legislation with the argument that “it’s better than nothing” is what’s wrong with this country now.

      Exactly. The DUID bs is a deal-breaker for me. I’m no fan of impaired driving — bad driving habits are a pet peeve of mine and stoners waiting for the stop sign to turn green are no exception — but the I-502 proposal defies the reality of the disconnect between latent THC levels in the blood and impairment. If we can’t get it legalized now without a DUID clause, we either need to come up with an accurate method for measuring mj impairment, or we need to take some more time and convince some more people to join the cause so that we have enough political support to get the law passed without such unacceptable compromise. Pro-relegalizers should keep in mind that prohibition is better than no weed at all, and work to improve on the status quo rather than make things worse.

      I grew up in Washington State, and it’s a fantastic place to visit, but I-502 passes, I won’t be back.

      • zengardener says

        It is already illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. I-502 sets a limit that is more lenient than Zero which is an improvement. The standard set addresses the amount of active ingredient in the blood-stream, not the latent amount that can be found in the body for weeks. There are different kinds of tests.

        • Freeman says

          zengardener: You raise some interesting points, parts of which I am somewhat unfamiliar with.

          It is already illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. I-502 sets a limit that is more lenient than Zero which is an improvement.

          I’m not sure I can agree with that. With no limit set, I would think it would be easier to defend against a DUID charge based on a THC test alone in the absence of any evidence of impairment. I am aware of no scientific studies supporting evidence of significant impairment at the proposed level and a few that would seem to dispute it. As with Alcohol, anything at or over the limit set by the state becomes per se evidence of impairment, automatically. I would expect that factor alone to result in very significant increases in marijuana DUID arrests, impaired or not. I really don’t see that as an improvement in the absence of persuading evidence that the limit is reasonably set and can be accurately and reliably measured.

          I’m interested in learning more about these tests that can presumably detect active ingredient in the bloodstream separate from latent residuals. How well do they work? (The bar for reliability seems pretty low when the subject is illegal drug-testing, while there seems to be reasonable repeatability and reproducibility associated with commonly-accepted BAC testing procedures). How good is the correlation between active ingredient detected in the bloodstream and actual impairment, i.e. is there a generally strong, well studied and well-understood correlation as in the case of alcohol? What are the costs of administrating these tests and how do they compare with the more common tests we’re more familiar with in terms of materials, training, and equipment?

          Can you recommend a site where I can learn more on this?

    • slutherz says

      look it all boils down to this. things won’t get better until they get a bit worse. i got my life to live, things to do. i don’t have time to figure out and then change legislation. my contribution stems at ignoring pot laws and leaving snarky comments online. the point is this is one state, one law that can be changed. and if this means that pot smokers are going to have to take the bus or get a non smoking friend to lend them a ride, so be it. if changing this absurd law means many many smokers and non-smokers (which is the one to focus on in my statement)have to get arrested and be violated by the law for enough people to wager support to end prejudice against users of pot; again, so be it. the fact is that the state or/and the feds don’t have the resources to enforce this. and even if they try they will just end up digging the hole; America is in, even deeper. and then they will be the ones having to watch over their backs for those who don’t take kindly to having our country destroyed with absurdity.

    • says

      Whenever someone tells you terrible things will happen if we legalize pot, don’t believe them, especially if they make their living on the continuation of marijuana prohibition.

      “In order to “legalize” anything that is currently illegal, you must remove the laws that made it illegal in the first place.” Who says? This word-parsing from pot-smoking I-502 opponents is designed to obfuscate the obvious: after I-502 passes, you can possess an ounce of marijuana with no criminal or civil penalty whatsoever. That may not be “as legal” as some would like, but “legalized drugs” runs the gamut from caffeine to morphine.

      “[H]aving the active THC in your blood will now be illegal.” No, it won’t. You could walk right into the police department with an ounce in your pocket and eyes bloodshot as hell, with more THC in your blood than both Cheech and Chong, and the cops could only sit there and stare at you. More misdirection, as only having >5ng THC in blood while driving will be criminal.

      “If you are found to have ANY measurable amount of active THC in your system, you will be found guilty of “driving under the influence of drugs”.” Wrong, you will have to have an amount >5ng active impairing THC in your system. You will also not be “found guilty”, as if a test result bypasses the entire process of a trial. It does mean a judge will tell a jury that the presence of >5ng in your system is proof of your impairment. Attorneys can still argue you weren’t impaired, cops failed to follow procedure, and all the other tricks that keep alcohol per-se DUID attorneys in business.

      “[A]ctive THC can stay in your blood for up to 30 after last use.” Completely bogus. Inactive metabolites on pee tests can show up for thirty days. But in Dr. Erin Karchner’s work, she had 25 frequent heavy pot smokers maintain observed abstinence for seven days. One of the 25 had a 7ng reading on Day One. None showed a reading >5ng on Day Two. If you’re going to cite NIDA studies, provide a link, please.

      “…pulled over for a broken tail light Thursday night… she was taken for a blood draw…” Thanks for illustrating the misleading nature of your contention that “Under I-502… you “appeared stoned”, will NOW… provide probable cause to have your blood taken”, as what you allege will happen “Under I-502″ is happening now. You also neglect to mention: was she stoned? Just because you think all cops are bringing in people who, scare quotes, “appear stoned”, doesn’t mean that they weren’t, in fact, too stoned to drive.

      “There is no exception for legal patients.” For some reason, these medical marijuana profiteers think that a sick person who smokes marijuana all day every day deserves special driving while high privileges, but a healthy person who smokes pot all day every day shouldn’t get that exemption. Tolerance to marijuana’s impairment doesn’t correlate with your health – if you smoke it a lot, you develop a tolerance. Either we have an intolerant marijuana standard for all marijuana smokers or we don’t, but arguing for special rights for patients is the most craven part of all this Patients Against (This) Legalization nonsense.

      “I wake up in the morning at 4-5 times the legal 5 ng/ml limit under I-502.” So, how many times in the past decade have you been pulled over and arrested for a DUID? And if you do get pulled over and arrested at 20ng-25ng active THC in your system, do you think you really could beat that DUID charge. With your record?!?

      “Passing bad legislation with the argument that “it’s better than nothing” is what’s wrong with this country now.” Like the Emancipation Proclamation, that ushered in “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws? Like the Affordable Care Act that ends the cap on insuring pre-existing conditions and allows kids up to 26 to stay on parents’ insurance? Like passing domestic partnerships and civil unions that were “better than nothing” but lead to a vote on legal gay marriage this election? All politics is about passing the legislation you can now and working to improve it in the future.

      “Can we please focus on passing truly good legislation?” Sure, after we pass the one that has actually made the ballot. Because the “truly good legislation” you support has been proposed multiple times before and failed to gain half the signatures it needs and none of the big money donors. And it won’t gather either of those in an off-presidential election year, either, so your next shot at “truly good legislation” is in 2016, after another 32,000-40,000 marijuana arrests in Washington.

      Here’s what really changes with I-502 that has Steve Sarich terrified: the demand will evaporate for $150 doctor’s permission slips to smoke pot if you’re not really that sick and can get by with an ounce. The wholesale price of marijuana on the legal, medical, and illegal markets will plummet. The lure of profits in legal state-licensed growing will reduce the growing of medical-collective gardens. And after a few months or years, after consumers are enjoying marijuana stores, after society didn’t collapse, and after the state has enjoyed some tax revenue, people will remember the ganjapreneurs who predicted doom and gloom and not shop in their stores when they (expectedly, hypocritically,) jump on the legal marijuana production and sales bandwagon.

  5. says

    We can really sit here and argue the validity of facts and statistics on cannabis all we want, and at the end of the day we’ll have errors on both ends, as the illegality and subversion of science by the government doesn’t allow for proper testing.

    What we should really be focusing on here is the comparison between two legal substances(in fact, one that was prohibited federally similarly to cannabis) — alcohol and tobacco. There’s plenty of facts about these two substance out there that would have them both illegal if they were introduced into society today. It’s undeniable that alcohol and tobacco cause hundreds of thousands – if not millions of people – to suffer and die each year. While cannabis has no recorded overdose, and hasn’t been recognized as a contributing factor to other crimes(as it does pacify/relax it’s users, does not impair motor functions, and has no physical withdrawal that would create an addict that turns to theft/crime). You mention that alcohol overdose has taken less than 1000 lives a year. This is a deceptive trick to delude the argument and denounce the validity of cannabis’ safety by focusing on one particular fact. Yet alcohol still takes hundreds of thousands of lives in cases of dehydration(overdose ‘essentially’), drunk driving ‘accidents’(28 people dying — EVERY SINGLE DAY), emergency room visits(~1.2 mil/year), and more. Where has cannabis caused this much trouble for social and personal health, beyond factors of breaking the law?

    Do I even delve into tobacco? I find it funny that this article didn’t really touch upon cigarettes at all(beyond tipping the hat to cannabis for non-cancerous smoke[and in some cases - cancer healing smoke]), and though the article isn’t trying to necessarily disprove the legalization argument as much as demolish the arguments someone else has made for legalization, I feel the need to bring up some facts about big tobacco. Using tobacco may lead to cancers of the lung, mouth, throat, as well as heart and lung diseases, and stroke. That’s just using tobacco. Using cannabis gets you high and is ‘virtually’ cancer free, causes no strokes, no known heart problems. And that’s completely disregarding the medical benefits of cannabis, which there are little to none with tobacco use. Then there’s the product of these possibilities, the death and injury tolls: 1 in every 5 Americans dies daily from tobacco related causes. That’s 443,000 people every year. Dead from a perfectly legal substance. And it’d be interesting to note here, that one of the major factors in the high mortality rate is the physical addiction of the drug. That’s right, just like heroin, cocaine, meth, and much other illegal/medically-regulalted substances that society loves to look down on, the users bodies grow attached the chemicals in the drug and require them to normality. That means that 19.3% of Americans are in a battle with addiction, nearly 69% of those cigarettes smokers wish they could quit. We’ve got nearly 1/5 of our population hooked on a drug that if they tried to quit, they’d feel the wicked effects of withdrawal symptoms. None of which, might I add, occurs with cannabis use. Cannabis is only psychologically addicting, like anything else in this world ranging from sugary foods and soda to the internet.

    Here I thought was an interesting statement: “It would be surprising if there were zero suicides or fights, though cannabis tends to be calming rather than agitating.” It’s difficult to say how cannabis would contribute to those situations, as the drug isn’t a direct correlation to crime. Cannabis does not enrage someone, it pacifies them. So fights? Unrealistic if you’re high, unless it’s a domestic or personal issue — aka dealing with shady drug dealers who may be armed(thanks to prohibition), family squabbling, issues with a spouse/colleague/neighbor, etc. All incidents that have much more important contributing factors. And then there’s suicide. Do you know what the number one cause of suicide is? Unregulated depression. And someone who is abusing substances, whether it be cannabis, alcohol, or even caffeine, is at a higher risk of falling deeper into the pit of depression and thus close to suicide. To say that cannabis caused a significant enough number of suicides or fights to warrant illegality is completely illogical. It’d be comparable to saying that Valium may spark feuds with friends. Cannabis and valium have effects that relax the user, while alcohol has been known to provoke more violence and even tamper with portions of the brain dealing with decision making. It’d be much more likely for alcohol to cause suicide and fighting than cannabis, and yet it’s legal and fairly socially acceptable(way more than anyone could say about Mary Jane).

    I could go on for ages.

    The point? Stop nitpicking the facts. The problem with prohibition is all the propaganda that’s propagated by the government and it’s unwitting citizens. Pro-legalization and pro-cannabis activists have been fighting the same illogical arguments time and time again since the birth of the War on Drugs. Lies that cannabis is a gateway drug, that it’s deadlier than a cigarette, that it’s impairing – particularly for drivers, that it’s physically addicting, etc. And in order to forge a proper rebuttal, we have to look beyond the overwhelming anecdotal evidence over thousands of years of recreational and medicinal cannabis use, and point to limited scientific studies on the subject(thanks to restrictions made by nearly every government worldwide). Studies that haven’t been rigorously tested, replicated enough, tested broadly or accurately enough. Not to mention that most, if not all, studies that come out against cannabis are skewed to project more propaganda disguised as actual science. The most recent blunder I can point to a very popular study that spread quickly over the news wire and virally: “Marijuana lowers IQ in teens”. As if pro-cannabis studies aren’t scrutinized enough, I wonder what kind of magnifying glass these anti-cannabis studies go through. I won’t delve into it much, as it’s a whole other discussion, but the short and thick of it is that IQ has nothing to do with human potential. This has been proved by the endless number of innovators and brilliant minds out in the world that score low on these standardized IQ tests, but excel stupendously in their field of study/interest. These tests do not test the full capabilities of human beings. It’s a limited scope forced onto our youths in an attempt to fashion a structured school regimen, which suppresses creativity through the indoctrination of memorization. But I digress. The point of the article was to put the children up on a pedestal and use them as a weapon of fear. Not only is cannabis on the streets and in the schools, but it’s making your kids stupid! What a moving sentiment, for any parent looking to pick a political affiliation.

    While you point fingers at both parties, pro and anti legalization, for their holes in their arguments — one look at the anti-legalization side shows exponential use of more deception and fear-mongering than any pro-legalization argument. I suppose you could argue that cannabis loyalists get pretty fatalist when they talk about the War on Drugs and the numbers of deaths in Mexico, and that some of the statistics weren’t worth shit thanks to more governmental deception/mismanagement. Although it’d be completely ignorant to say that there isn’t a horrible, bloody mess going on down in not only Mexico but the entire Americas from Canada to South America. One look at any non-mainstream publication that highlights the drug trade or cartel activity in Mexico, and you’ll see plenty of pictures of beheaded and brutalized victims laying in streets – or mutilated bodies hanging from highway signs. Most of those were innocent villagers or citizens caught in the crossfire of this War on Drugs, many of them non- cannabis and heroin users. While we might not be able to draw big and pretty numbers, I’d say that the issue in Mexico is a much bigger concern for any human being than if they’re child is experimenting with – in cannabis’ case – a fairly harmless substance. Which seems like something you’d want to address: Mass murdering drug-funded gangs/cartels spread out worldwide, or ~50% of our kids in high school trying pot at least once. And mind you, our sitting president(as well as many previous others) have admitted to trying cannabis at least once in their lives. So to skew the argument and paint the picture that approximately 50% of high school students will be losers for the rest of their lives, or impacted irrecoverably intellectually, is quite sensational. One of those 50% could easily be our next president.

    I’m still having a hard time downplaying innocent people dying daily in Mexico, South America, and even in the USA, from the drug cartels.

    At the end of the day pro-cannabis has a few facts wrong, but we know in our heart of hearts were right. Dismiss it as a belief or religious view, rather than grounded in science, but stoners know whether from personal experience or historical evidence that we’ve been smoking for thousands of years and it’s brought nothing but good to the users and their societies. Meanwhile anti-cannabis is founded in fear and lies that were spread out a couple hundred years ago by rich, racist, and greedy entrepreneurs — and perpetuated to this day by a social stigma that hangs a stench over any stoner.

    Sorry if it’s a little preachy. It’s difficult not to pull out the soap box and spit out the rhetoric – or dive into diatribes against the opposing argument.

    Legalize it!
    Measure 80
    Initiative 502
    Amendment 64

  6. Michael says

    I am not an expert on this topic and maybe I am missing something, but I am amazed that nobody, including the original post, seems to mention the fact that one of the great costs of prohibition is the deprivation of law-abiding citizens of the joy of smoking a joint once in a while, not to mention making smoking too expensive for those who enjoy it and don’t cause any problems. Imagine if we prohibited ice cream or chocolate. And then started arguing whether legalizing it would result in greater consumption and adverse health effects. Of course, it would result in greater consumption. Because people would enjoy it! Also, shouldn’t the presumption be that these things should be legal? People who want to enjoy pot shouldn’t be forced to demonstrate that it is relatively harmless. It’s people who want to prohibit it should have the burden of showing how harmful it is to society.

  7. Skyfer says

    Those of us who live in Seattle are always amused when Norm Stamper is trotted out as a law enforcement expert, given that he resigned in disgrace after ordering his officers to tear gas peaceful protesters at the WTO summit. What’s next, a sermon on non-violence from Don Rumsfeld?

  8. Jillian Galloway says

    We keep hearing about “legalizing marijuana for recreational use”, but what it really appears to be is an attempt to legalize marijuana as a far safer alternative to alcohol.

    According to the CDC, alcohol kills 80,000 people every year in the U.S. while marijuana kills none, and marijuana’s addiction potential is only about that of coffee.

    Since marijuana is far safer and far less addictive than alcohol, we could GREATLY reduce the amount of harm and addiction in society by giving people the right to switch from the more harmful drug, alcohol, to the less harmful drug, marijuana.

    Paranoid old men in the federal government keep marijuana illegal by making your children LESS safe.

  9. Matthew Meyer says

    Dear Mark Kleiman,

    I think when Norm Stamper says we haven’t got anything to show for our drug war billions spent, he means that we haven’t achieved the reductions in use and availability that the policy aims at. If you’re arguing that prohibition serves as a price support for cannabis, you’ve got a point–one that Norm Stamper would likely agree with.

    • Freeman says

      So would Milton Friedman:

      “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.”
      -Economist Milton Friedman

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