More Dope on the Docket

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Lawrence Solum has a summary of oral argument in Ashcroft v. Raich. Slightly frightening exchange:

Stevens: If you reduce demand, then you will reduce prices? Wouldn't it increase prices?

Barnett: No, if you reduce demand, you reduce price.

Stevens: Are you sure?

Barnett: Yes.

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  1. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
    I bet Diana Ross knows the answer.

  2. Clement: It would not be a good idea for the courts to second guess Congress.

    But it’s apparently a great idea for Congress to second-guess doctors. Not to mention state legislatures.

  3. “Stevens: If you reduce demand, then you will reduce prices? Wouldn’t it increase prices?”

    Theoretically, the Senate is supposed to smoke out the duds beforehand, right? I forget, is it possible to impeach a Supreme Court Justice?

  4. Ken,
    Yup. Good luck getting 2/3 on that bad boy.

  5. But it’s apparently a great idea for Congress to second-guess doctors.

    Given that there’s no consensus among doctors as to when, exactly, marijuana should be given to patients, second-guessing of doctors is inevitable. Medical marijuana supporters second-guess the doctors who think marijuana is harmful, and medical marijuana opponents second-guess the doctors who think it is beneficial.

  6. Dan-

    It’s true that people on both sides of the medical mj issue are second-guessing a segment of the medical community. The difference is that one group of second-guessers wants this issue settled by people getting information and making their own decisions (if the proponents are wrong about medical use of mj then the evidence will bear it out) and the other group wants to send people to prison.

    I’ll take the information proponents over the incarceration proponents any day!

  7. “…think marijuana is harmful”? Who can honestly say marijuana is harmful?

  8. Oh, and Justice Stevens just failed my Litmus Test For High Public Office (LTFHPO).

    LTFHOP comprises several sections:

    1) Demonstrate economic literacy at the level of econ 101
    2) Demonstrate basic statistical and mathematical knowledge at the level of introductory statistics classes taught to social science majors (the intro classes are trivial, as I learned when I minored in economics, although the more advanced classes are actually quite good, hence my Advanced Statistics for Econ class was full of grad students as well as mathematicians and physicists).
    3) Understand that the set of all things covered by the term “interstate commerce” is a proper subset of the set of all things covered by the phrase “commerce.”

  9. thoreau,

    I’m not defending the government’s decision to criminalize marijuana, I’m just pointing out that second-guessing of doctors is inevitable.

    And I’d also like to point out that there are plenty of people on the pro-legalization side of the fence (such as, well, pretty much *all* the non-libertarians) who are vehemently in favor of the government banning all manner of activities for extremely dubious reasons. Describing medical marijuana supporters as “information proponents” isn’t really accurate. Medical marijuana supporters are more likely to be left-wing potheads than libertarians — you’d have no trouble whatsoever finding medical marijuana supporters who also support “hate crime” laws, draconian gun control, etc.

  10. Dan,
    Vicodin is pretty nasty stuff too. It does a number on the liver. The question is whether the damage done by the smoke is less severe than what the smoke is supposed to alleviate. I want the guy that can look at my chart and vitals to make that decision, not some guy who was elected because he voted to build a rainforest or naval base in his home county.

  11. Dan-

    No doubt on other issues the proponents of medical mj would oppose freedom of choice. Well, in case you didn’t notice, that’s true on almost any issue. There’s a lot of people out there who might support gun rights but oppose personal choice on, oh, say, medical mj. That doesn’t change the fact that, at least on the issue of gun ownership, those people favor freedom of choice.

  12. Mo:

    “I want the guy that can look at my chart and vitals to make that decision,”

    Really? I want that guy to educate and advise me so I can make the decision.
    Unfortunately the paternalism of legislators, MDs, activists and countless other parties taking an interest in their, er- my well-being is limitless.
    I say to them all, leave me the hell alone and quit narrowing down the so-called “public interest”.
    The State exists for the people as individuals, not the people for the State. Communism tried that and failed.
    End of rant.

  13. Ok, new rules. No more economically illiterate Supreme Court justices. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised since Stevens often votes to sanction government regulation of business. But this exchange is really a freighting revelation!

    Tricky Dick definitely did a number on us with this guy.

  14. Well, Stevens is 84 1/2 years old, and it was pretty cold in D.C. today, so maybe all the synapses weren’t firing.

    That, or he just demonstrated why Clarence Thomas is actually (and surprisingly) pretty smart to keep his yap shut during oral argument.

  15. Sounds like someone who’s been in government too long. In government, the goal is keeping the enterprise going, not making a profit: In Chicago, when the number of people using public transportation took a dive, they raised the bus fares to bring in more money. It’s a whole different world.

  16. Given that there’s no consensus among doctors as to when, exactly, marijuana should be given to patients, second-guessing of doctors is inevitable.

    Super. Let’s let the medical professionals and researchers work it out and leave the nannies in Washington out of it.

  17. Did Justice Stevens actually say that out loud?

    – Josh

  18. Clement: Yes, the price would go down. Congress is trying to increase the price for marijuana by creating a black market.

    I find that statement fascinating.

  19. Geeeeez…

    It’s thing like this that make me wonder if maybe giving SC justices lifetime terms was a huge mistake.

  20. Via C-SPAN, I watched the post-argument press conference that happened on the steps of the Supreme Court building today. Proponents and opponents of medical MJ had a chance to speak, and to answer reporters’ questions.

    The opponents’ statements were the well-worn cliches we have been hearing for decades; to the extent that those statements showed up in oral arguments and the briefs filed by the anti-MJ side, I hope Barnett’s side was armed with the well-established counter-arguments. If any of those long-refuted drug warrior arguments ends up being persuasive to the court, it had better not be because the pro-freedom side was without a defense or counterattack. (I will say that, from Barnett’s comments on the court steps, it did seem as if he and his team were all over the case. But to judge from the kinds of questions asked by reporters, and allegedly asked by the Justices, I think that Barnett’s team needed to be five-times better than the opposition to have an even chance at victory.)

  21. Heh, I wish our tax-funded ONDCP would put out some ads explaining the government’s reasoning in creating a black market and driving up the price of MJ. Maybe in the same spot as the one talking about how illegal drug profits go to terrorists…

  22. Some one should look up the governments own 1999 Institute of Medicine Report. They said that under certain circumstances smoked marijuana IS medicine.

    Then some one might want to look up DEA Law Judge Francis Young’s 1988 decision where he says that marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.

    Then that some one might want to check out the 1972 Compassionate IND program. Where originally there were about 11 people given marijuana by the government. Those still alive are still being supplied by the government.

    Then there is the Israeli and British research on marijuana.

    Then there is the 1937 Pharmacopia.

    In addition there is 5,000 years or so of historical medical use of the drug.

  23. The fallacy that marijuana does not work for every one son no one shouldbe alloed to use it is just that a fallacy.

    Humans of varyinggenetic make ups respond to different drugs differently.

    Heroin was touted as a non-addictive opiate because the first 10 that tried it did not become addicted.

    Susceptability to addiction is thought to be 50% genetically detemined.

  24. I failed to mention that 20% of the population is thought to be susceptable to drug addiction but only half of those in that population who try drugs gets addicted.

    Some think the other factor is trauma. Shell shoch for soldiers, child abuse for the rest of us.

    In a word. PTSD.

  25. Heh, I wish our tax-funded ONDCP would put out some ads explaining the government’s reasoning in creating a black market and driving up the price of MJ.

    That’s the last thing they want to explain. I know somebody involved in the drug trade, and I know who some of his or her friends are. Some of our public servants are controlled by people who DO understand supply and demand.

    I know this sounds paranoid, but remember that drug dealers only need a handful of well-positioned people to do their bidding. Most public officials support prohibition because they really believe in it or because it’s popular. But their efforts are encouraged and monitored by a handful of well-compensated and well-positioned double agents. The double agents aren’t always in high profile jobs (that would be too obvious), but a trusted staffer can be just as effective as a Judge, District Attorney, or legislator, and a detective knows as much about day to day police procedures as the sheriff or police chief.

    The 2 things you need to know about drug dealers is that they have a LOT of money and NO scruples. Legalization will be VIGOROUSLY resisted if it ever becomes a serious possibility. Tails will wag dogs. Drug dealers who have made too many enemies will be offered up as sacrificial lambs to “prove” that we can win the war on drugs. Legislators will receive threats and bribes before close votes. Anti-drug lobbying groups will receive large checks from banks in the Cayman Islands. Candidates opposing legalization will receive large suitcases stuffed with $100 bills (don’t ask why the bills are so “dusty”).

    Drugs are illegal because prohibition is good for the drug dealers and good for the public employees who get funds to “fight” the “war on drugs.” And it’s even better for the people who work 2 jobs, if you know what I mean.

  26. I used to be an idealist about the drug war. Unfortunately too many people are armed with facts and forget that there’s an “ization” in legal/decriminal-ization. The drug war will be rolled back when we figure out how to to do at least two things.

    1) concentrate the benefits of rolling back restrictions to a relative minority.

    2) figure out what to do with the criminal empires that will be displaced by rolling back drug laws.

    Medical marijuana will be a failure because it’s essentially unAmerican. MJ collectives? No way. You need patentable goods to provide a relative minority highly concentrated profits. Legal profits. There’s probably only one thing more powerful in this country than the black market drug industry, and that’s the pharmaceutical cartels. Cut them a piece of the action and you won’t have to worry about the drug war for long.

    The black market industry has to be either dismantled very very slowly or rerouted so that we don’t have explosions of violence and war over increasingly limited profits in underground trade. When alcohol prohibition got repealed, gangsters were integrated into a liquor industry that was now legit. The problem is, what do we do with them now? We got a much larger elephant needing to be stuck somewhere.

  27. Under the government?s theory, virtually all human activity is economic,

    …it’s remarkable to see a Republican appointee spouting Marxist theory. Do these people have any principles?

    Barnett: The premise is that it is possible to differentiate economic activity from personal activity. Prostitution is economic activity, and there may be some cross substitution effects between prostitution and sex within marriage, but that does not make sex within marriage economic activity. You look at the nature of the activity to determine whether or not it is economic.

    …this just makes me proud to be an American

  28. The idea that nearly all human activity is in some way economic isn’t Marxist — it’s very common among all economists.

    Where they’re wrong, in my opinion, is not wrongly classifying ‘economic’ activity, but in thinking that having an economic value qualifies any behavior as commerce under the intentions of the framers.

  29. Pavel, would you be surprised to learn that the tobacco companies (who now fund anti-pot campaigns, along with beer companies) bought up names like “Columbian Gold” & “Acapulco Gold” etc. when it looked like sanity would prevail and they’d legalize & tax weed in the ’70s? Then Carter’s staffers got stoned in the White House, which somehow annoyed the Republicans more than later blatant “Contra” drug-running for the CIA into Slick Willies airports under the Bonzo administration.

    Sigh. I’m just overflowing with respect today!
    Not-Daniel…

  30. Anon, am I reading you right? “Drugs are illegal because prohibition is good for the drug dealers?”

    Drugs are illegal because the Great Unwashed have gotten used to waiving any liberty that could conceivably get them hurt.

  31. Let`s see, if I plant four buds in a pot in my home i`ll effect the balance of inter state commerce , raise the cost of blackmarket pot,and destroy the world as we know it.
    What great wisdom from the guys in the black dresses.
    What if I pee in my front yard? Will I totally destroy the enviorment and cause global warming?
    Guess I`ll have to install indoor plumbing next.

  32. In fairness to the SC, this was a government brief quoting a 9th Circuit ruling. We haven’t got another Dred Scott on our hands (yet).

  33. GH, the Great Unwashed only surrender the liberties that somebody else tells them to surrender. If drug prohibition didn’t benefit so many people the Great Unwashed would be told that the best way to solve the drug problem is going to a 12 step meeting. All of those resources would be concentrated on something else that’s mutually beneficial to cops and criminals.

  34. wow, lots of goofy conspiracy stuff here today but I wanted to say something about Mo’s vicodin comment. As in most of the commonly prescibed “pain pills” Vicodin is a combination of a narcotic (no significant liver toxicity) and acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol). Tylenol is toxic to the liver when mixed with alcohol or in doses greater than 4g/day. The two reasons that the drugs are mixed are: 1. the pain relief is additive (two different mech. of action) and 2. so we can tell patients if they take too much their liver will crap out and they’ll die thus reducing overdose potential. That’s one of the reasons that there’s more of problem with oxycontin abuse — no tylenol to knock off the abusers.

  35. thoreau,

    I hope by “basic statistics,” you don’t mean chi-squared and standard deviations, and so forth. I had to do that shit as a grad student in the poly sci department at Texas A&M, which was dominated by numbers crunchers. I’ve loathed it ever since.

  36. This case has nothing to do with the merits of the drug war. It has to do with whether Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce give it the power to tell an individual he cannot grow a plant in a pot on his deck and smoke it.

    Anybody who says it does has no commitment whatsoever to the constitution.

  37. Bill B,
    Thanks for the info regarding the reason vicodin is damaging to the liver. My point was regarding the willful ignorance of the justices and DEA. It bothers me when people say, smoking things is bad for you, so it can’t have any possible medicinal value. Unless these people are complete morons they should know there are hundreds of medicines that aren’t good for you to take on a daily basis, but are used to prevent a more damaging disease. I mean shit, look at chemotherapy, that messes a person up more than just about any treratment. Of course, to paraphrase thoreau, cancer is worse.

  38. Pavel, would you be surprised to learn that the tobacco companies (who now fund anti-pot campaigns, along with beer companies) bought up names like “Columbian Gold” & “Acapulco Gold” etc. when it looked like sanity would prevail and they’d legalize & tax weed in the ’70s?

    I would, because it isn’t true:

    Since the 1960s, there has been an almost universally prevalent belief that large tobacco companies, such as Phillip Morris, in anticipation of cannabis legalisation have registered trade names such as Acapulco Gold and Panama Red. I have known many swear this to be true. In fact, it is not. In 1970, a group called Amorphia sent somebody to go through the files of the United States Patent Office and found that nobody had registered the name Acapulco Gold. Amorphia applied for the name, hoping to use it to market rolling papers. The application was refused because Acapulco Gold is a generic name for a kind of marijuana, and generic names cannot be copyrightedl l. It doesn’t really matter, of course, because Marco Polo’s Bullshit will outsell Panama Red if it provides a better smoke.

    This copyright mythology has helped engender the belief that tobacco companies will be the ones to market legal cannabis. Actually, there is no reason on earth to think that tobacco companies rather than other companies are more likely to get into the legalised cannabis business.

  39. Even if you didn’t know the facts, you could guess that the tobacco companies would not have bothered registering “Acapulco Gold” and “Panama Red” as trademarks. Registrants have exclusive rights to use their trademarks, and those rights never expire, as long as the registrant continues using the mark in interstate commerce. You have to use it or lose it; you can’t just register it, then keep it on the shelf until such time as you are willing or able to use it to brand the commodity you want to market.

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