Weekly Standard Exposé: Pot Prohibition Promotes Pretense, Paranoia

Matt Labash has an amusing, informative, and frequently astute report on Michigan's medical marijuana industry in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard. As in California, he finds, it's not hard to qualify as a patient who is permitted to use cannabis under state law, and many people who do so have common complaints (such as back pain and migraine headaches) that are difficult to verify and may simply be a cover for recreational use. Likewise, the people who go into the business of supplying patients with marijuana include budding entrepreneurs and black-market dealers going semi-legit as well as sincere Good Samaritans who are keen to help people suffering from debilitating conditions such as AIDS wasting syndrome and the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. This being The Weekly Standard, Labash's emphasis is on the shadier patients and suppliers, and the title of his piece is "Going to Pot: The Medical Marijuana Charade."

But which charade is Labash talking about? It's not the claim that marijuana is a useful medicine. Although Labash is right that some enthusiasts implausibly portray pot as a wonder drug that is good for whatever ails you, he overstates the doubts about its medical utility:

Whether pot actually works as medicine is a scientific tit-for-tat too tortured and voluminous to replicate here. Suffice it to say that hardliners on both sides of the issue have blood-red fingertips from cherry-picking the literature.

The medical establishment will always resist whole-plant medicines, preferring synthetic, isolated chemicals. But double-blind clinical trials of both synthetic THC (Marinol) and oral cannabis spray (Sativex) establish beyond any reasonable doubt that marijuana is effective as an anti-emetic, appetite enhancer, and analgesic. (Cannabis also shows promise in other applications, such as controlling muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.) Compared to commonly used pharmaceuticals, marijuana is remarkably safe, especially when consumed via vaporizers or edibles, which avoid exposure to combustion products. There are several reasons (including quicker onset, easier absorption, and better dose control) why some patients prefer inhaling cannabis smoke or vapor to swallowing a Marinol capsule.

Still, it's certainly true that the most common use for marijuana is not medical, and demand for the drug would not be much affected even if a cheap, equally effective pharmaceutical alternative were readily available to patients. So it is hardly surprising that a medical marijuana regime like Michigan's or California's would invite a lot of pretending. But the root of this dishonesty is the continued federal and state prohibition of marijuana, which exposes even bona fide medical dispensaries to the risk of raids, forfeiture, arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment. (Michigan, like California, does not explicitly allow over-the-counter sales of medical marijuana.) Everyone associated with contraband is a little shady by definition. Labash would have had a grand time documenting drinking-related fakery during alcohol prohibition (which included religious as well as medical excuses), but such an account would not have been seen as evidence in favor of prohibition.

On the question of why the government is justified in treating marijuana users and suppliers as criminals, Labash is remarkably glib. Here is his response to a dispensary manager who says marijuana should be decriminalized:

Sure, I say, jabbing. Because that's exactly what a city with 15 percent unemployment that's as chronically crime-ridden and dysfunctional as Detroit needs: more drugs.

Here is Labash's reponse to "Herb," a Detroit dealer (a "friend of a friend") who offers him some pot:

I thank Herb, but tell him I never touch the stuff, figuring it will only get in the way of more important things like work, family, and drinking. 

Ha ha. But does Labash really think people should be arrested because their taste in intoxicants differs from his? He never makes that clear, but he does summarize the argument of "Smoky," a "former Office of National Drug Control Policy official" who sees medical marijuana as a tactic to achieve full legalization:

(1) Straight-up marijuana legalization is a political loser. Has been, is, will be. (Sorry Reasonoids, hippies, Barney Frank, Comicbook Store Guy, Bill Maher, you just need to get over this.) Which leads to .  .  . 

(2) Well .  .  . how 'bout if we sell it as "medical"? Turns out​—no surprise—when you ask people if their fellow citizens dying of cancer-AIDS should be allowed to have a puff or two during their last moments, most Americans say sure, why not? Which leads to .  .  . 

(3) Profit.

So, Smoky continues, "You have something (de facto legalization) that most people don't want. They really won't want it once the consequences (increased drug use, dependency, accidents, mental illness, stupider kids, less efficient workers) become clearer. But by that point the economic infrastructure will be in place to prevent a rollback. Stoners win. Everyone else loses. And I know you know there will be no tax revenue from any of this," he adds facetiously. "Still, a violation of federal criminal law, bro."

It's no mystery why this guy, who is presented as a sophisticated drug policy thinker, insisted on a pseudonym, just like the pot entrepreneurs Labash met at Detroit's Med Grow Cannabis College. The former ONDCP official needn't worry about getting busted, but he should be embarrassed by the quality of the arguments he uses to justify arresting his fellow citizens.

More on crappy prohibitionist arguments here and here. Brian Doherty described the L.A. medical marijuana scene in the May issue of Reason.

[Thanks to CK for the tip.]

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  • The Gobbler||

    I'm a regular reader of the Weakly Standard. And while I applaud their commitment to fiscal responsibility and deregulation, I find their hatred of weed and gays to be absolutely pathetic.

  • ||

    I'm just surprised that this place is important enough for him to be bashing "Reasonoids"

  • ||

    Well, libertarians are so irrelevant that they caused Great Depression 2, and will also cause the collapse of the American Health care system due to massive deregulation. It only makes that we'll also be the reason no one works, spends time with their family, or drinks alcohol.

  • omg||

    and will also cause the collapse of the American Health care system due to massive deregulation

    This is so happening. One of those massive government programs (probably medicaid) is going to pop, and we are all going to hear about how "deregulation" killed the program, and how Aunty Jenkins just can't get by now that the g-men don't pick up the bills, and rage-filled op-eds about how libertarians are worse than satan.

  • ||

    Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933 - Now google 'The Great Wall Street Crash' and see when that happened!

    During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

    http://1929crash.com/

    If you have liberty then expect prosperity, but there’s most definitely no chance of prosperity without liberty.

  • ||

    Why the fuck do these people hate weed so much? Is it KULTUR WAR baloney, hating on the dirty hippies? It's completely irrational, and entirely stupid.

  • T||

    They do it just to piss you off, Epi. You loom large.

  • ||

    While your response appeals to my ego--which I love--it still doesn't answer the question.

    HURR DURR POT SMOKERZ ARE DOPES THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT DOPE HURR DURR

  • BakedPenguin||

    They've come to their well-thought out conclusions after seeing documentaries like "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "Half-Baked".

  • ||

    Dazed and Confused?

  • ||

    Because the next thing you know, those dope smokers will be listening to that Negro music, hanging out in pool halls, driving in an unsafe and dangerous manner, stealing from honest citizens to support their filthy habit and ultimately, leading to sexual relations between unmarried persons.

    What part of this don't you get?

  • stoner||

    I get everything but the sex.

  • ||

    Don't worry, jerking off is just as immoral.

  • waffles||

    thank God for that

  • ||

    PRISONS FOR PROFIT FOR PROHIBITION:

    One in every hundred Americans is now locked behind bars and one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As the prison population is growing faster than the government can build prisons, private companies see an opportunity for profit.

    The US government's outsources prisons and prisoners to the private sector. It is therefor in the interest of this sector to forcibly stand in the way of any criminal justice reform that would cut into their revenue, even if this results in sacrificing public safety or citizens rights.

    Here's a transcript of a 2008 PBS special:

    http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/419/transcript.html

    Though the average citizen does not know it, they very likely invest in the Prison-Industrial-Complex through the purchase of stock in the more than 2000 mutual funds in operation, as these derive at least some of their profits from inmate labor or prison construction. Companies such as Disney, General Electric, American Express, TWA, and Microsoft all make a portion of their profits from this industry

    http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandai.....ipline.pdf

    The following link will show you the very close relationship between Prohibition and the Prison-Industrial-Complex:

    http://www.hermes-press.com/prisons_drugs.htm

    The fact is, prison-for-profit prohibitionists don't care! They don't care that, historically, the prohibition of any mind altering substance has never succeeded. They don't care that America has the highest percentage of it's citizens incarcerated of any country in the history of the planet. They don't care about spawning far worse conditions than those they claim to be alleviating. These despotic imbeciles are actually quite happy to create as much mayhem as possible. After all, it's what fills their prisons and gets them elected.

    Here's what the UK Economist Magazine thinks of us: "Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little" http://www.economist.com/node/16636027

  • ||

    Labash would have had a grand time documenting drinking-related fakery during alcohol prohibition...but such an account would not have been seen as evidence in favor of prohibition.

    Exactly right. We have a broken, illegitimate prohibition which simply cannot be attacked in a straightforward manner (something "Smokey" readily admits). But when people resort to half-measures and back-door solutions, it's evidence that maintaining the prohibition is our only smart choice? Fucking lunacy.

    Lies stacked on top of lies. Maybe some day we'll be adults about all of this, but I'm not holding my breath -- a very high percentage of cannabinoids is absorbed almost immediately upon inhalation anyway.

  • Zeb||

    I think that part of it is that it has been illegal for so long that people have no picture of what legalization would look like, so they are scared of it. With alcohol prohibition, it was only illegal for a relatively short time, so most people still could imagine legal alcohol, even if they didn't like it too much.

  • ||

    And the most vocal proponents of prohibition had a decade to realize that it wasn't alcohol that made their husbands beat them and gamble away paychecks.

  • Sober 1920's Husband||

    Bitch just wouldn't shut up about being allowed to vote.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Zeb is essentially right; mental inertia is a powerful thing.

    Along those lines, people "think" legalizing drugs will mean that all of the bad effects of prohibition (violence, etc.) will remain, while more people will become users. They don't get that the violence will go away, and drug use will remain relatively stable. They believe it will be a deadweight loss rather than a near total gain.

  • 1.5"||

    I knew thousands of underage drinkers in college who really wanted to smoke weed, but just wouldn't let themselves try because it was illegal.

  • ||

    Exactly.

  • ||

    For those of you who are still living in some strange parallel universe, one where prohibition actually works, here is part of the testimony of Judge Alfred J Talley, given before the Senate Hearings of 1926:

    "For the first time in our history, full faith and confidence in and respect for the hitherto sacred Constitution of the United States has been weakened and impaired because this terrifying invasion of natural rights has been engrafted upon the fundamental law of our land, and experience has shown that it is being wantonly and derisively violated in every State, city, and hamlet in the country."

    "It has made potential drunkards of the youth of the land, not because intoxicating liquor appeals to their taste or disposition, but because it is a forbidden thing, and because it is forbidden makes an irresistible appeal to the unformed and immature. It has brought into our midst the intemperate woman, the most fearsome and menacing thing for the future of our national life."

    "It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law."

    http://www.druglibrary.org/sch.....talley.htm

    And the following paragraphs are from WALTER E. EDGE's testimony, a Senator from New Jersey:

    "Any law that brings in its wake such wide corruption in the public service, increased alcoholic insanity, and deaths, increased arrests for drunkenness, home barrooms, and development among young boys and young women of the use of the flask never heard of before prohibition can not be successfully defended."

    "I unhesitatingly contend that those who recognize existing evils and sincerely endeavor to correct them are contributing more toward temperance than those who stubbornly refuse to admit the facts."

    "The opposition always proceeds on the theory that give them time and they will stop the habit of indulging in intoxicating beverages. This can not be accomplished. We should recognize our problem is not to persist in the impossible, but to recognize a situation and bring about common-sense temperance through reason."

    "This is not a campaign to bring back intoxicating liquor, as is so often claimed by the fanatical dry. Intoxicating liquor is with us to-day and practically as accessible as it ever was. The difference mainly because of its illegality, is its greater destructive power, as evidenced on every hand. The sincere advocates of prohibition welcome efforts for real temperance rather than a continuation of the present bluff."

    And here is Julien Codman's testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar.

    "we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it as failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before"

    "We believe that the time has come for definite action, but it is impossible to lay before Congress any one bill which, while clearly within the provisions of the Constitution, will be a panacea for the evils that the Volstead Act has caused. We must not be vain enough to believe, as the prohibitionists do, that the age-old question of the regulation of alcohol can be settled forever by the passage of a single law. With the experience of the Volstead law as a warning, it behooves us to proceed with caution, one step at a time, to climb out of the legislative well into which we have been pushed."

    "If you gentlemen are satisfied, after hearing the evidence supplemented by the broad general knowledge which each of you already possesses, that the remedy that will tend most quickly to correct the wretched social conditions that now exist, to promote temperance, find to allay the discontent and unrest that the Volstead Act has caused, is to be found in the passage of one of the proposed bills legalizing the production of beer of an alcoholic content of 4 per cent or less. We do not claim that it will do away with all the evils produced by attempted prohibition, but it would be a step in the right direction."

    http://www.druglibrary.org/sch.....codman.htm

  • ||

    Did anyone else see this story over the weekend?

    CBS radio correspondent charged in marijuana case

    Respected and obviously highly functional and successful reporter gets busted growing pot and not one news report ever bothered to question as to whether this was a legitimate bust and maybe, just maybe, they should get a quote from NORML or LEAP. No, just tut-tutting about how he could let this happen. Fucking tools.

  • ||

    Police executed a search warrant at the home Saturday after a tip from an area resident, police said.

    It was probably legit, since the stuff was growing in his yard. That wuz stoopid.

  • ||

    I didn't mean whether or not they busted him with the plants, that's a foregone conclusion, but whether or not they should have bothered.

    The guy has a successful career at CBS Radio, lives in Georgetown, where house start at $800,000, he and his wife are clearly productive members of society and yet, all the chattering classes and other journalists can do is tsk-tsk him?

    Isn't this one of the clearer signs of the immorality and pointlessness of the Drug War? No, they're all too busy chanting HURR DURR DRUGS BAD HURR DURR. The guy might as well been a crackhead mugging an old lady at knifepoint.

  • T||

    He can't be a productive member of society if he smokes dope. He's just a leech, dragging us all down. Better to throw him in jail, where we can pay for his room and board. We can't have him out walking the streets, paying his own way. What will the children think?

  • ||

    Gotta love the "intent to sell" charge -- because quantity alone establishes intent. Also, bonus points for the "pound per live plant" bullshit equivalence.

  • ||

    Add to that, the Federal Judge who's just been busted for cocaine and guns:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=federal judge busted&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

  • RC not the cola||

    I know cali is completely worthless, but if they pass prop 19 it would be a nice step towards sanity.(thats assuming sanity can come from cali)

  • ||

    I wonder what FedGov's contingency plans are?

    (First step, miscount the ballots.)

  • ||

    Wildfires.

  • Wind Rider||

    Aside from some punk that Bill Kristol handed a megaphone to, who the fuck is Matt LaBash, other than Jim Treacher's love doll over that The DC?

  • Jim Treacher||

    Jealousy is such an ugly emotion...

  • ||

    I wonder... if you go on the Weekly Standard blog and make a joke about Weakly Standard or Standard Weekly/Weakly, do they have to drink?

  • T||

    I suspect they don't have a drinking game, mainly because they're a bunch of tools.

  • ||

    They have to smoke a party bowl.

  • The Gobbler||

    That was my hope...

  • Dello||

    "(increased drug use, dependency, accidents, mental illness, stupider kids, less efficient workers)"

    Stupider kids? They vote for the Republocrats: How much stupider can they get?

  • ||

    They really won't want it once the consequences (increased drug use, dependency, accidents, mental illness, stupider kids, less efficient workers) become clearer.

    [citation needed]

    He left out a few consequences:

    (1) Fewer of their friends and children thrown in jail.

    (2) Less cop and court time wasted hassling people for possession.

    (3) Budget savings from cutting the pot enforcement budget.

    (4) Tax revenues from sales of pot.

  • ||

    But, but, what will the police do with all their fancy SWAT teams and surplus military equipment?

    Arrest people who commit actual violent crimes? They shoot back, you know.

  • 1.5"||

    Unfortunately, they'll still have crackheads, cokeheads, and junkies to fuck around with.

    Double unfortunately, these people are typically less sympathetic than your average pot smoker.

  • Jonas||

    "Pretty peppy party, pal," is all I can think of when I see this post title.

  • ||

    They really won't want it once the consequences (increased drug use, dependency, accidents, mental illness, stupider kids, less efficient workers) become clearer. But by that point the economic infrastructure will be in place to prevent a rollback. Stoners win. Everyone else loses. And I know you know there will be no tax revenue from any of this," he adds facetiously.

    ...which is exactly why alcohol is illegal.

  • ||

    Have you ever watched the drug war clock as it ticks away all our hard earned tax dollars? http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm

    Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933 - Now google 'The Great Wall Street Crash' and see when that happened!

    During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

    http://1929crash.com/

    If you have liberty then expect prosperity, but there’s most definitely no chance of prosperity without liberty.

  • ||

    Here are some facts concerning the situation in Holland:

    ”Cannabis coffee shops" are not only restricted to the Capital of Holland, Amsterdam. They can be found in more than 50 cities and towns across the country. At present, only the retail sale of five grams is tolerated, so production remains criminalized. The mayors of a majority of the cities with coffeeshops have long urged the national government to also decriminalize the supply side.

    A poll taken earlier this year indicated that some 50% of the Dutch population thinks cannabis should be fully legalized while only 25% wanted a complete ban. Even though 62% of the voters said they had never taken cannabis. An earlier poll also indicated 80% opposing coffee shop closures.
    http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/a....._legal.php

    It is true that the number of coffee shops has fallen from its peak of around 2,500 throughout the country to around 700 now. The problems, if any, concern mostly “drug tourists” and are largely confined to cities and small towns near the borders with Germany and Belgium. These problems, mostly involve traffic jams, and are the result of cannabis prohibition in neighboring countries. “Public nuisance problems” with the coffee shops are minimal when compared with bars, as is demonstrated by the rarity of calls for the police for problems at coffee shops.

    While it is true that lifetime and “past-month” use rates did increase back in the seventies and eighties, the critics shamefully fail to report that there were comparable and larger increases in cannabis use in most, if not all, neighboring countries which continued complete prohibition.

    According to the World Health Organization only 19.8 percent of the Dutch have used marijuana, less than half the U.S. figure.
    In Holland 9.7% of young adults (aged 15–24) consume soft drugs once a month, comparable to the level in Italy (10.9%) and Germany (9.9%) and less than in the UK (15.8%) and Spain (16.4%). Few transcend to becoming problem drug users (0.44%), well below the average (0.52%) of the compared countries.

    The WHO survey of 17 countries finds that the United States has the highest usage rates for nearly all illegal substances.

    In the U.S. 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. No one else was even close. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the U.S. again leading the world by a large margin.

    Even more striking is what the researchers found when they asked young adults when they had started using marijuana. Again, the U.S. led the world, with 20.2 percent trying marijuana by age 15. No other country was even close, and in Holland, just 7 percent used marijuana by 15 -- roughly one-third of the U.S. figure.
    thttp://www.alternet.org/drugs/90295/

  • ||

    In 1998, the US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey claimed that the U.S. had less than half the murder rate of the Netherlands. “That’s drugs,” he explained. The Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics immediately issued a special press release explaining that the actual Dutch murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, or less than one-quarter the U.S. murder rate.

    Here’s a very recent article by a psychiatrist from Amsterdam, exposing "Drug Czar misinformation"
    http://tinyurl.com/247a8mp

    Now let's look at a comparative analysis of the levels of cannabis use in two cities: Amsterdam and San Francisco, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health May 2004,

    The San Francisco prevalence survey showed that 39.2% of the population had used cannabis. This is 3 times the prevalence found in the Amsterdam sample

    Source: Craig Reinarman, Peter D.A. Cohen and Hendrien L. Kaal, "The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy"
    http://www.mapinc.org/lib/limited.pdf

    Moreover, 51% of people who had smoked cannabis in San Francisco reported that they were offered heroin, cocaine or amphetamine the last time they purchased cannabis. In contrast, only 15% of Amsterdam residents who had ingested marijuana reported the same conditions. Prohibition is the ‘Gateway Policy’ that forces cannabis seekers to buy from criminals who gladly expose them to harder drugs.

  • ||

    Small closed minded people whom think they are always right show off their pure ignorance again. I notice drinking is high on his list!! That harmless huh. FOOL!!!!!

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