Logic and the marijuana war

Pot is safer than beer. Denying that fact isn’t “anti-drug;” it’s just anti-truth.

A pro-pot group rented video-billboard space outside the Indianapolis Speedway for the weekend of a NASCAR event to run a video with the following voicetrack:

If you’re an adult who enjoys a good beer, there’s a similar product you might want to know about – one without all the calories and serious health problems, less toxic so it doesn’t cause hangovers or overdose deaths, and it’s not linked to violence or reckless behavior.

Marijuana: less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way.

A group that calls itself “anti-drug” objected.

This campaign falsely claims marijuana is safer than alcohol and promotes illicit drug use in a state where marijuana is illegal.

The billboard company chickened out, either out of cowardice or because it didn’t want to offend its beer-company advertisers.

The New York Daily News repeats as fact the claim that the objecting organization is “anti-drug.” “Anti-truth” would be closer to the mark.

The logical negation of “Marijuana is safer than alcohol” would be “Alcohol is no more dangerous than marijuana.” How could anyone concerned about drug abuse make such a recklessly false claim promoting use of the intoxicant that kills, injures, and addicts more people than all the illicit drugs combined? “Less harmful than alcohol” is a low bar, but cannabis clears it easily.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Logic and the marijuana war”

  1. re: “The logical negation of ‘Marijuana is safer than alcohol’ would be ‘Alcohol is no more dangerous than marijuana.'”

    No doubt my addled-brain had muddled the clarity of thy logic, but, could you expand on that statement?

    This, the MPP message, makes lots of sense: “Marijuana is safer than alcohol.”

    It instantly shows a 10-year-old the hypocritical nature of the laws which jail people for pot and not for booze.

    Your assertion, on the other hand, leaves me baffled:

    “Alcohol is no more dangerous than marijuana.”

    It is a false statement; and I just don’t “get” the logical connection to the issue of jailing people for pot and not booze.

    Why? Because alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis, having a lethal dose and lots of known, documented, chronic, and deadly diseases caused by the abuse of alcohol. (Cannabis cures cancer – with many other health benefits.)

    But what am I not getting here? “Alcohol is no more dangerous than marijuana,” seems contrary to reality. Booze is a great deal more dangerous than pot.

    1. But what am I not getting here? “Alcohol is no more dangerous than marijuana,” seems contrary to reality. Booze is a great deal more dangerous than pot.

      Better go back and re-read, OB. Mark pitched a change-up and you’re whiffing! Mark isn’t disagreeing with MPP, he’s disagreeing with the group that got their ad pulled by saying the claim was false.

      Another tid-bit from the linked article:

      A Grazie spokesman who declined to divulge his name confirmed the ad would be pulled.

      A what spokesman? Misspelling? You be the judge.

      “We in no way support marijuana at family events,” the spokesman said.

      Yeah, booze is advertised and sold all over this “family event”, but safer alternatives are not supported.

        1. Yep. I was going for a play on words. As in “a Crazie spokesman” said…
          I’m always forgetting to add winkie-faces to tongue-in-cheek remarks.

  2. Ah … ok! So Mark is agreeing with the statement that pot is “less harmful than alcohol” and is decrying the censorship of the billboard. Dang … I agree with him. Threw me. My bad.

  3. We can look forward to the marijuana industry lobbying against the decriminalization of cocaine with dubious arguments. (I am not here advocating such decriminalization, I don’t know enough about it.)

    1. That may be, but the arguments would likely be less dubious, unless one believes cocaine is safer than marijuana.

      Another factor is the different interactions of concurrent uses of multiple drugs. Pot and alcohol’s effects largely build on each other — consuming more of one will usually mean the other will be consumed less to avoid getting too high and passing out. Concurrent cocaine and marijuana consumption is less so — the effects of one blunts the effects of the other to a degree, and the consumer may actually consume more of either one or both than they might if they were using only one of them as a result of the blunting effect. Same goes for coke and booze — the disco bars of the ’70’s and ’80’s sold plenty of booze despite (and probably to some degree because of) the popularity of the coke-spoon necklace in those places.

      1. Depends on how it’s delivered. At very low dosage in a carbonated beverage? Possibly it is.

        1. Not following the line of reasoning here. At very low dosage in a carbonated beverage, neither drug is particularly harmful, nor is alcohol. At that dosage level it makes little sense to rate the relative harms when there’s practically no measurable harm from any of them. Consumed in mass quantities, the sugar content would kill you first. And what plausible objection to the return of original Coca-Cola would Big Ganja have?

        2. I remember the “New Coke” marketing fiasco of the mid-1980s. I was amused that the company claimed that Coca-cola Classic was compounded from the “original formula”.

          Where did anyone think the beverage got its name?

      2. In my experience cocaine is safer than marijuana under certain important circumstances. For example, driving under the influence of cocaine is safe. The same cannot said for marijuana. In fact, driving under the influence of cocaine might be safer than driving sober given that it makes you alert and focused. It’s interesting to think about – we value public safety over personal liberty when it comes to drinking and driving. But we value personal health (and moral purity) over public safety when it comes to stimulants and driving. If we really valued public safety we might have check points on the highway late at night, where the police give you cocaine if you are too sleepy. Now that would be weird… but safer than driving sleepy.

        1. I wouldn’t say drivin’ that train high on cocaine is safe. Depends upon how high one is, I suppose. I haven’t seen much in the way of scientific studies on the subject.

    2. Pot legalization activists are running into an unexpected and ironic opponent in their efforts to make cannabis legal: Big Marijuana.

      Medical marijuana is a billion-dollar industry — legal in 18 states, including California, Nevada, Oregon and Maine — and like any entrenched business, it’s fighting to keep what it has and shut competitors out. Dispensary owners, trade associations and groups representing the industry are deeply concerned — and in some cases actively fighting — ballot initiatives and legislation that could wreck their business model.
      […]

      Big Marijuana lobby fights legalization efforts

    3. “I am not here advocating such decriminalization, I don’t know enough about it.”

      Think on this for a moment James. If you don’t know enough about cocaine to advocate decriminalisation, what is the logical corollary? That you know enough about cocaine to advocate continued criminalisation?

      If, in truth, you don’t know enough about cocaine to advocate criminalisation then you should, by default, believe it should be lawful to consume cocaine.

      1. If, in truth, you don’t know enough about cocaine to advocate criminalisation then you should, by default, believe it should be lawful to consume cocaine.

        Certainly as a logical operation this doesn’t follow. I think from James’ previous comments we can assume two things about his beliefs:

        1) There is positive value in allowing people to behave as they wish;
        2) There are negative consequences of people consuming cocaine.

        Your comment follows logically from what we know about you based upon your posts: you put enormous weight on the first of these and almost no weight on the second when it comes to advocating policy choices. It is also clear that you hold in contempt anyone who does not weight them in the same way you do. In fact, there are times when it seems as if you hold the argument I quoted as if it were based in sheer logic rather than in subjective preferences.

        There’s no reason, however, why the rest of us should take you seriously when you do so.

        1. I hold in contempt anyone who believes that cocaine use should attract criminal sanctions.

          I hold in contempt anyone who feels as though the onus is on me to provide a good reason to permit the lawful consumption of cocaine.

          That said, please explain how the outcome of a cost/benefit analysis can be used to determine whether consuming a substance for personal reasons should be a criminal offence.

  4. I normally bristle at the term “pro-pot” to describe cannabis law reform groups. Being opposed to the prohibition of a substance is not the same as being in favor of the substance or of the opinion that more people should consume it, but in this case, it is a pro-pot message.

    1. It seems to have been MPP’s (unspoken) discovery that sensible cannabis laws simply cannot be advocated for on the basis of “freedom of choice.” All of their most successful campaigns–but particularly the SAFER campaigns in Colorado–have made the superiority of cannabis into a central message of the “public education” effort.

      Put more succinctly, it’s easier to sell “harm reduction” than “autonomy for adults.”

      This is a terrible indictment of the American public which is overwhelmingly ignorant. They simply cannot logically disentangle the difference between “not prohibited” (AKA “allowed”) and “endorsed.”

      The American People demand to be treated like children. (Cf., The War on Terror.) Vox Populii vox dei

      What was in that the great Baltimoron H.L. Mencken said about Americans?

      the American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages, and that they grow more timorous, more sniveling, more poltroonish, more ignominious every day.

      Without a doubt, no one in history has ever understood the American Citizenry better than H.L. Mencken. Here’s Mencken on our prior presidente

      As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

      What I wouldn’t give to hear what he has to say about B.H. Obama!

      1. Intelligence may be overrated. In raw brain power, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton may be near or at the top of the list. See how that went. Although they were both interesting and entertaining.

  5. The anti-drug group is called the Drug Free America Founation. It’s headed by one seriously evil dude named Melvin Sembler. He was the CEO of a chain of “rehabs” called Straight Inc. that tortured and abused the teens in ithier keeping in the ’70s and ’80s. He finally got shut down in 1993 and then started DFAF. Calvina Fay was, I belive, hired as it’s public face after that and IIRC didn’t have any connections to Straight. Haven’t figured out how to post links from an ipad but google “straight inc abuse” and you’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know.

  6. Money, or morals, which more influenced the ad buyer?

    The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) paid $2,200 to run a pro-pot commercial, to be seen 72 times outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of this Sunday’s Brickyard 400. After board operator Mike Estojak was made aware of the terrifying propaganda brainwashing the masses about their perception of weed, he killed it.
    The ad will not air during the race after all. The media group that solicited it from the Marijuana Policy Project decided to drop it due to pressure from anti-drug groups. The video ad began running Friday afternoon, but will not be shown as crowds intensify at the racetrack this weekend.
    In a statement released late Friday evening, MPP said that the ad buyer, Grazie Media, “approved the ad content, and accepted payment for the ad,” but is “dropping it after receiving pressure from an organization that claims marijuana is not less harmful than alcohol.”
    That organization, Drug Free America Foundation, a.k.a. Save Our Society From Drugs, “opposes the ad because of its message that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol and less likely to contribute to violent and reckless behavior.” Save Our Society from Drugs is a Florida-based nonprofit founded by Mel and Betty Sembler. The Semblers have been waging a war on marijuana for decades.
    Before they led Save Our Society from Drugs, and its sister nonprofit, the Drug Free America Foundation, the Semblers were at the helm of STRAIGHT, Inc., which operated drug abuse treatment centers, mostly for teenagers, from 1976 through 1993. Former clients of the rehab center recount episodes of brutal beatings, rape and systematic psychological abuse.
    At one facility in Yorba Linda, California, state investigators found that STRAIGHT Inc. subjected children to “unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse…and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”

    [Because chid abuse and torture is less harmful for them than drugs?!! How’s that again?]

    In 1988, Fred Collins, an 18-year-old college student, paid a visit to his brother, who was in treatment for drug abuse, at an Orlando STRAIGHT Inc. clinic. Counselors accused Collins of being high on marijuana because his eyes were red, and held him against his will for months. The abduction, strip-searches and other abuses ended when Collins managed to escape. He was one of many to win judgments against the chain of drug rehab clinics before it was forced to close after investigations and lawsuits began to mount in several states.
    Though the STRAIGHT drug rehab clinic no longer exist, the Sembler network of anti-drug nonprofits have proliferated, in part because of the family’s extensive political connections. Mel, who served as a major fundraiser for George H.W., Jeb and George W. Bush, was appointed as the Ambassador to Italy in 2001. Betty Sembler, awarded “honorary agent status by the DEA,” has led various anti-drug commissions and task forces on the state and federal level.
    Three years after STRAIGHT shut down, the Semblers changed its name to the Drug Free America Foundation, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Drug Free America Foundation, a nonprofit that shares resources, an office and staff with the Save Our Society group financing the Amendment 64 opposition in Colorado, has a contract with the federal government to help small businesses develop their own drug-testing programs for employees.
    Sembler hasn’t renounced his sordid legacy with the STRAIGHT clinics. An online biography of Mel Sember posted by his nonprofit proudly touts his role in founding the scandal-plagued rehab centers. The biography cheerfully claims, that during “its 17 years of existence, STRAIGHT successfully graduated more than 12,000 young people nationwide from its remarkable program.” There is no mention of the child abuse scandals that led to its downfall.

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