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Right Wing Freaks Try to Suppress Pot

The debate whether to legalize marijuana rages on.  CJLF takes no position on the question; my own view is that, as a matter of on-the-ground reality, possession of personal use amounts of pot is already de facto legal or quasi-legal in many areas of the country, and that making pot de jure legal will send the wrong message about its hazards and, more broadly, about the hazards of drug use.

It would appear that I am joined in this view by the right wing zealots at the John Birch Society the British Lung Foundation, which has just issued a report.   A BBC summary begins:

The British Lung Foundation carried out a survey of 1,000 adults and found a third wrongly believed cannabis did not harm health.

And 88% incorrectly thought tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than cannabis ones - when the risk of lung cancer is actually 20 times higher.

The BLF said the lack of awareness was "alarming"....

A new report from the BLF says there are established scientific links between smoking cannabis and tuberculosis, acute bronchitis and lung cancer.

There is a sensible debate to be had about whether criminal law is an apt tool to suppress drug use.  There is absolutely no sensible debate about whether pot is healthy.  It isn't.  The only serious question is whether its health effects are bad or extremely bad.


Same goes for sugar, right?

What is you thought on how Bloomberg is trying to reduce sugar use in NYC?

Absolutely. Same goes for sugar. If people are unaware of how bad high sugar intake is for you, then public education to raise awareness is in order.

In fact, the BLF report itself draws a similar analogy, "We therefore need a serious public health campaign - of the kind that has helped raise awareness of the dangers of eating fatty foods or smoking tobacco - to finally dispel the myth that smoking cannabis is somehow a safe pastime."

When I was Counselor to the Administrator at the DEA (2003-2007), it was her view and mine that education was indispensable, and we always sought more for our education and public outreach budget. But education and enforcement are not mutually exclusive.

It seems to me that any intelligent debate must start with an acknowledgement that pot and good health just don't go together. I hear all the time that smoking pot is medicinal; it's no such thing, and the AMA has explicitly declined to endorse smoked pot as medicine. The active ingredient in pot (THC) does have some medicinal properties for some illnesses, but, like any other true medicine, it must be controlled for doseage level and adulteration, something that virtually never happens with so-called "medical marijuana."

Once we get the facts straight about dope, then we can have a discussion about whether -- because society allows various unhealthy substances to be consumed without criminal penalties -- it's a good idea to add to the list, and thus to our public health problems, by legalizing yet another.

I think Mayor Bloomberg looks great in a dress, sort of.

I share your views, Kent and Bill, but I fear that good education on these issues and blanket prohibition of pot are in serious tension. If Bloomberg completely prohibited sugared drinks, would you expect NYC black market providers to tell customers about the real harms of sugar (or instead would they assert that sugar is not really as bad as everyone says)?

Legalizing and regulating pot like tobacco and booze seems to me to be the most likely regime to ensure effective and accurate education on these fronts.

Do you guys really believe that marijuana possession is illegal due to the drug's perceived effect on users' lungs?

woods1028 --

I don't recall saying that marijuana possession is illegal because of the perceived effect on users' lungs. It's illegal because it is a harmful drug, both to the user and, too often for comfort, to others. The new British study, which you do not dispute, confirms this long pre-existing fact.

Unless you're in favor of also legalizing meth, heroin and Ecstasy (are you?), presumably you think that the degree of danger is relevant. That is why the British study is something those interested in this issue should know about.

As Bill notes in the original post, CJLF has taken no position on prohibition/legalization of marijuana.

As noted in our About page, opinions expressed by C&C's outside authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of CJLF.

Doug --

Because even its advocates would keep pot illegal in some significant areas (for example, they would not allow its sale to high school kids, who are a significant part of the market; and they would not permit its consumption while or before driving), there will continue to be a black market, just as there is a black market now for booze (to those underaged) and cigarettes (to avoid taxes).

If we legalize pot, that will send a message that it's just not that bad, so go ahead, everything will be fine. It will also, partly for that reason, increase useage, and the more that gets used, the more damage it will cause.

The debate would be somewhat different if we were writing on a clean slate. But we aren't. The proposal is to move pot from de jure illegal to de jure legal. That is certain to be seen as a green light among the adolescent audience -- in other words, exactly the audience most likely to indulge without the limits maturity brings, and most likely to lack, or not to care about, information about pot's hazards.

The actual penalties for simple possession of user-only amounts are minimal when they are imposed at all, which is, relative to the actual incidence of use, very seldom. The idea that people's lives are ruined because of a simple possession arrest -- an idea that constantly resurfaces with the commenters on SL&P -- is baloney. But even if it were true, the remedy is easy: Walk away from pot. Very little in life is easier than that. As you know, almost nothing strikes me as sillier than for those who can easily provide their own remedy (quit doing pot) to go on some outraged campaign about how THE LAW should change, while they stay stoned.

I think arguments that the CRIMINAL law should change are based in part, Bill, on the reality that a failure to walk away from pot has a profound impact on certain persons (but not others) because pot is illegal, rather than legal and regulated.

Many people ruin their own lives by drinking alcohol and smoking cigs, but the criminal law (i.e., government efforts to harm/condemn/hurt citizens) does not make their problems worse. I will tell me kids not to smoke pot excessively whether it is legal or illegal, just like I tell them not to drink or drive too fast or eat candy excessively. But I get to make that choice with my kids without the nanny state adding complication except in the arena of pot.

I fear that what really drives your disaffinity for pot legalization is a disaffinity for the people who want pot to be legal. That is fine, but not a real justification for big government in this setting (just as I think people who dislike those who like guns is not a good reason for big government gun control).

Unless and until you are prepared to justify government prohibition of any/all harmful/risky behaviors (including, e.g., a decision not to buy health insurance, which can be costly to the person and those around them), I think you should not be so eager are ready to support prohibition of a substance that, though harmful, is not so harmful that it justifies all the costs and collateral consequences that result from trying to (sometimes) enforce prohibition. We figured this out with alcohol in the 1930s, and I suspect by the 2020s we will finally get to this point with weed.

...speaking of the 1930s...:::

DB: : :"Legalizing and regulating pot like tobacco and booze seems to me to be the most likely regime to ensure effective and accurate education"

We need to legislate and regulate in order to educate?
We need to educate in order to reduce use & abuse?

"a focal point of the temperance crusade in 1903. The Harrison Act of 1914
classified cocaine as a narcotic and prohibited its use in the United States
except as a local anesthetic. During that same year, all 48 states passed
similar laws."

From 1930 until the '70s, a precious few even dabbled with the substance, despite a dearth of drug education.

One may characterize such as "regulation", but was it not closer to the "blanket prohibition" you decry?

```www.neurosoup.com; ecstasy.com.ua


It's illegal because it is a harmful drug, both to the user and, too often for comfort, to others.

The implication here -- from the post, not the study -- is that marijuana legalization is a bad idea due to the same reasons that New Yorkers can't smoke in bars: the effects of both substances are extremely unhealthy in the long term. But is that the actual reason that the portion of the public which does not favor legalization (45% of the population, give or take?) feels that way?

I don't think there's any way that you can answer that affirmatively: those against legalization most likely aren't for cigarette prohibition, are they? Apparently 88% of the public thinks cigarettes are more unhealthy than marijuana: there's obviously some overlap between those who perceive cigarettes to be more harmful and those who are anti-legalization. There's another (misperceived) reason people think pot is "harmful", and it has nothing to do with smoking tobacco-like effects.

As you imply, however, whether marijuana is "healthy" or not shouldn't be the source of discussion. There are plenty of extremely unhealthy legal substances that even the most strident paternalist would not want to ban. The question is whether the benefits of drug prohibition outweigh the costs, another question which I doubt can be answered affirmatively.

Your comment is very well stated. It is amazing to me how on one hand people will talk about freeing American Corporations from so much needless regulation and then speak like zealots when it comes to individual liberty issues.

The vast majority (if not all) of the regulations that are proposed would reduce the harm of some service or product to somebody. So, it's not a question of harm. It's a question of degrees of harm. There is no question booze and smokes cause exponentially more harm than marijuana. Yet, companies are allowed to make a profit pushing these products to good, hard working Americans, products that inevitably find their way to our children. Nevertheless, our government has decided that these negative externalities aren't to throw entrepreneurs in prison for trafficking.

In my opinion, in order for the government to be correct in banning a product and putting people in prison for marketing the product there needs to be wide consensus that it should be banned. Child pornography is a good example.

There is nowhere close to a society wide consensus that marijuana is a product that needs to be banned. As our society presses on toward tolerance, more and more jurors in marijuana cases will lean toward nullifying these laws because they are blatantly hypocritical. Like Jim Crow, McCarthy, mixed and gay marriage-marijuana prohibition will die a cowards' death.

Still, the bitter, hardline drug warriors like Bill O. squeal on about how this or that study out of the hundreds the government commissioned in the last 30 years found marijuana to be slightly harmful to those who choose freely to use it. They'll say this is finally the proof from which they've sought to justify their carnivorous zeal for tearing fathers from sons and mothers from daughters--to clear their own conscience for scapegoating some poor schmuck trying to support his family while lobbyists for big tobacco write the laws he's charged with "enforcing."

So, you are correct sir, when you say that it's not the marijuana these people seek to persecute. It is WE who hold the audacity to question the false logic of bureaucrats that drug warriors detest because our liberty is a threat to their authority and they will take any position no matter how immoral to keep from being mocked.

Two observations.

First, you say that, "In my opinion, in order for the government to be correct in banning a product and putting people in prison for marketing the product there needs to be wide consensus that it should be banned. Child pornography is a good example...There is nowhere close to a society wide consensus that marijuana is a product that needs to be banned."

Which is why it's only half-banned. As I said, it remains de jure illegal but, for by far the most part, de facto legal. Only an infinitesimal percentage of the actual use of pot ever winds up getting prosecuted. Your over-the-top rhetoric would be better reserved for some government policy that causes truly devastating harm, e.g., out-of-control entitlements and runaway debt that is certain to lower the standard of living when the next generation gets handed the bill.

My second observation is this: If you're going to use ad hominem crap like, "the bitter, hardline drug warriors like Bill O. squeal on...," you'll be doing it on another blog. I approved your comment this time because it has, along with that sort of stuff, some legitimate points of argument. Personal attacks on bloggers are tolerated on some blogs (I have been called a "douche" on one of them), but they will not be tolerated here, and I will not approve any future comment from you that tries it. This is CJLF's house and you will behave respectfully while you are in it.

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