NORML Reactions

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I caught the last day and a half of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference in the city of St. Francis this weekend. Lessons learned include:

1. Peter Bagge moves (free) units: On Friday I came upon a forlorn stack of about 40 or 50 copies of Reason, unloved and unread on a lonely display table. (This was a very San Francisco crowd, and one organizer told me she'd heard some unkind cracks about our rightwing pennyboyism, or whatever imaginary hobgoblin it is that that would make a NORML crowd dislike the only major political magazine that is unequivocally in favor of drug legalization.) Since the fine May issue deserves a bigger readership, I opened a bunch of issues to Peter Bagge's excellent cartoon feature on the War on Drugs, "The Beast That Will Not Die," and arranged them in a more attractive display. This worked like a charm, and by the end of the show only a handful of Reasons remained. (And since this is a tale of people who won't even pick up free issues of the mag, what better time to point out that if you were a subscriber you'd already be a proud owner of Bagge's feature, along with excellent pieces on oil production, global gambling, and the great fellatio scare!)

2. I Already Know the Perfect Theme For Next Year's Conference: "Stop acting like patients and start acting like human beings!" If only I had a dime bag for every conference attendee who identified him/herself as a "patient" or used phrases like "When I began to think of myself as a patient." I had not thought hypochondria had undone so many! I also hadn't realized the degree to which California's pot economy has been medicalized since the passage of Prop 215. There's something depressing in seeing all these able-bodied Californians griping about their slipped discs, slightly-aged hippies walking around with canes, red-blooded Americans who have been pantomiming ill-health so long that it's become part of their personalities. Isn't pot supposed to make you feel good? I revert to my earlier statement that, in legalization terms, medical pot has long passed the point of diminishing returns. For all the value there is in having a dependable source of high-quality weed at competitive prices, becoming a lifelong malingerer is just too demeaning.

3. California has the best weed in the country! I'd like another dime bag for every time some schmo from D.C. or New York marveled at how incredible the pot is out here, in comparison to the skunk weed back home. Now I know what all those drug warriors are talking about when they use the old chestnut, "Hey I'm no square, but the stuff that's around now is not your father's Chronic!"

4. Where have you gone, Rae Dawn? I didn't get to see keynoter Tommy Chong, but in one crowd of about six or seven people, and later in a group of three, I brought up the name of his briefly notable daughter, and drew unamimous conversational blanks. I'd like to chalk it up to weed-induced memory loss, but I think I was just showing my age. (But Rae Dawn Chong is still working!) On the plus side, I was assured that Cheech Marin remains supportive of the paraphernalia offender.

5. NORML needs a promotional budget: Maybe I should stay more up to date on drug war issues, but I didn't even know they were holding their conference blocks from my home until I saw it on KRON 4 News.

6. I'm a big square: An exchange between NORML outreach director Karen Malovrh and me, about where next year's event should be.
TC: You should stay in the west but skip San Francisco. L.A.'s a lot cooler, or you should really have the next one in the Big V.
KM: Yeah, we've been thinking about doing it in Vancouver.
TC: Vancouver? The Big V is Vegas!

So ringadingding!

NEXT: A Surreal Complaint

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  1. ok, much as I love you guys I think “the only major political magazine that is unequivocally in favor of drug legalization” is a stretch. The Economist favors it for one, and how “major” are you really? No offence, but you are published by a non-profit.

  2. I gotta disagree with the word “only,” the word “major,” and the phrase “only major.”

  3. As much as I like Reason, I gotta agree with citizengnat. The Economist is unequivocally in favor of drug legalization. They may not talk about it quite as much as Reason, but they also don’t have Jacob Sullum on staff, so there you go.

    A few years ago I wrote a letter to the editor of the Economist on the subject of drug legalization. (I agreed with them in an amusing way, so they printed it.) A local judge wrote me a note to the effect of “Hey, nice to see a letter from a local making a really good point!”

  4. (And since this is a tale of people who won’t even pick up free issues of the mag,…

    It’s an old marketing saw that when you give something away for free, people think it isn’t worth anything. The idea of “Superior Goods” accounts for this, doesn’t it.

    I worked in a gourmet food store/restaurant way back when, and when we wanted to move vino we’d do one of two things–cut the price in half or double it. The highest priced vino was always among the fastest out the door.

    Reason as fine wine? …absolutely!

    California has the best weed in the country!

    I suspect the stuff in Northern California is better than elsewhere. Someday, they’ll talk about hippies disappearing into the woods back in the 70s the way they talk about monks starting to make wine in the middle ages.

    Isn’t smokin’ it supposed to be tolerated in parts of Vancouver? …or is that you used to be able to buy seeds there? …or that prostitution was legal or somethin’?

  5. The Nation supports drug legalization as well, no?

  6. The Nation supports drug legalization as well, no?

  7. The Nation supports drug legalization as well, no?

  8. The Nation is for drug legalization as well, no?

  9. US News & World Report also favors drug legalization… I think I saw that somewhere in the back…

    If you really had any guts, you’d have opened them all to p.66! YEAH

  10. Wait — you guys support drug legalization?!

  11. Ken,

    As a newcomer to Vancouver, Canada (for work! NOT for political reasons! 😉 ), I can assure you that smoking weed is pretty much tolerated in this city. To the point of having actual Amsterdam-style cafes… Selling I guess is tolerated too, but not cultivating in large quantities (judging from local newspapers announcing “RCMP busted 1800 plants!” every day 😉 ).

    By the way, it is also a good example of how (partial) decriminalization might even curb the demand — I’ve never refused a joint in NY, but just shake my hand in “No, thanks” jesture over here.

    But it would be great if someone in Reason would pick up a story of Marc Emely, the owner of Amsterdam Cafe who is now facing extradition to the States for doing something which has been so far tolerated in Canada).

    Speaking of Amsterdam Cafe, an elightening first-hand story — no, me and my wife are not “smokers”, but in a first month or two decided to stop by that place to check it out — just for fun. Well, we did have a small one inbetween two of us, and have ordered the herbal teas, or whatever was required to stay on premises. At such a point I (as a smoker of different, legal, stuff) decided to puff up on it a bit — after all, the air was the thick shade of blue anyway, and no “No Smoking” sighns were posted. In like 15 seconds a disgrunted patron stood up, call the waitress and said, pointing at me: “He! He! This guy! He is smoking a CIGARETTE!!!…”. Yes, I was escorted to the patio, but it was worth the laughs afterwards.

    Blue Skies!

    Paul

  12. Even National Review runs a lot of pro-legalization stuff.

  13. OT: I just saw the RPG photo, the same one, in yellow and white stripes, on Mind of Mencia. Carlos is a very funny man and MoM is a great show on Comedy Central.

  14. LMAO@Paul being sent outside for smoking tobacco in a weed cafe…

  15. Too many acronyms in the above posts! This is a pot-smoking thread, give us a break!

  16. Worked for me. If it wasn’t for Peter Bagge’s cartoons, I probably never would have subscribed to reason. You guys should lock him in a room and make him do a page each month.

  17. I Already Know the Perfect Theme For Next Year’s Conference: “Stop acting like patients and start acting like human beings!”

    Totally harsh. Absolutely correct.

  18. Paul:

    Awesome story, and I believe it 100%.

    It’s bizarre how modern liberals want to criminalize tobacco on one hand, but legalize pot on the other. It makes no sense. How would open smoking of pot in public be any different? Would the modern liberals here allow pot cafes?

    Man, I’m feeling grouchy. Pot smokers are ineffective enough. Add modern liberalism, and you may as well put the movement into a political coma. DOA.

  19. Pot smokers are ineffective enough. Add modern liberalism, and you may as well put the movement into a political coma.

    Lack of support from the Democrats may be the best thing that ever happened to the drug legalization movement.

  20. I revert to my earlier statement that, in legalization terms, medical pot has long passed the point of diminishing returns. For all the value there is in having a dependable source of high-quality weed at competitive prices, becoming a lifelong malingerer is just too demeaning.

    Except for the fact that this is the only way to change the law-for now. As enough people have moms and dads and aunts who have used the stuff, we’ll completely get rid of the stigma. After the cultural foundation is gone, the marijuana prohibition will tip over like a house of cards.

    (The rest of the Drug War will remain a house of cement.)

  21. It’s bizarre how modern liberals want to criminalize tobacco on one hand, but legalize pot on the other. It makes no sense.

    Well, why not? Tobacco smoking is extremely harmful as far as recreational drugs go, while cannabis smoking is, for most users, practically harmless. Not that I agree with criminaizing tobacco, but I don’t think those two positions on tobacco and cannabis are necessarily inconsistent.

  22. Ah, Rae Dawn Chong.

    I first saw her in American Flyers in 1985.

    What a hottie.

    Damn I’m old.

  23. Patrick:

    C’mon. There are definitely respitorial repercussions, or so I have heard. Wheezing, coughing.. and to the nose of a non-user, the smell of skunk is probably just as offensive.

    Of course, we will probably never know the true carcinogenic effects of weed smoke, since every fucking “study”‘s results are pre-determined.

  24. Patrick:

    C’mon. There are definitely respitorial repercussions, or so I have heard. Wheezing, coughing.. and to the nose of a non-user, the smell of skunk is probably just as offensive.

    Of course there are respiratory effects of smoking weed. My point wasn’t that weed has no potential ill-effects, only that if you rank-order all recreational drugs in terms of their adverse health effects, tobacco will be at or near the top, while weed will be at or near the bottom.

    Of course, we will probably never know the true carcinogenic effects of weed smoke, since every fucking “study”‘s results are pre-determined.

    Oh, I think our understanding of weed’s effects on cancer risk has improved greatly in the past few years. The evidence available right now is pretty clear that cannabis smoking has, at most, a very modest effect on risk of respiratory/head/neck cancers. See for instance:

    http://www.geocities.com/cannabinoidscience/lc.html

    And beyond that, we know that any cancer-causing effect of cannabis smoke is due to the pyrolysis products created when cannabis is burned, and therefore would not apply to modes of ingestion that do not rely on combustion.

  25. Paul B.:
    But it would be great if someone in Reason would pick up a story of Marc Emely….

    Yes, only his name is Marc Emery 🙂

    Cavanaugh’s complaint about “malingering” among Golden State stoners reminds me of the Szaszians’ philosophically rigid objections to the entire medical-marijuana movement. But I got my doctor’s note in a spirit of enlightened cynicism. My “bad faith” gives the nanny state the finger.

  26. Patrick:

    Dude, you make some cromulant points. And, trust me, I’m no fan of “tobacco”, since these assholes put so much shit-additives in it there’s very little leaf left in the mix.

    But public health policy in regards to tobacco smoke isn’t based on science. It’s based on pissy-pants getting offended by the smell (and, for the record, I personally hate the smell, too). And the fact that pot smoke would be just as offensive to the non-user has me believing that people would be whining about it just as much.

  27. There is some interesting data on how cannibis smoking affects the lungs vs tobacco smoking. UCLA did a long term study comparing pulmonary function tests in each kind of smoker, and found cannibis smoking did nothing like the damage tobacco smoke inflicts upon the lungs.
    Also, eating cannibis is about the safest manner of getting intoxicated a human can use. But for the danger of being in an intoxicated state, there is no ill effect.

  28. Cannabis smoking doesn’t increase the risk of lung or UAT cancers.

    Back on-topic, the Economist doesn’t support drug legalization; it supports reformulation of policy from first principles, which may not necessarily mean legalization.

  29. But for the danger of being in an intoxicated state, there is no ill effect.

    Do you mean to say that, despite claims to the contrary, my roommates weren’t really “dying” of the munchies?

  30. I’ve been to the cafe in Vancouver (and even smoked openly on the street at a jazz concert there before the cafe existed). That doesn’t surprise me about cigarette smokers being led away. The ability of cigarette smokers not to see the ties between their plight and that of marijuana smokers is quite odd. Vice versa.

    Oh, and best pot in the nation? I’d have to say that it’s here in the pacific northwest. After much research into the matter, this is my considered opinion. However, if NAFTA were to apply to pot, I suspect that B.C. Bud would be the preferred brand.

  31. My earlier comment was held back for approval. Does this go through?

  32. It does, so here’s my original comment:

    Cannabis smoking doesn’t increase risk of lung and UAT cancers.

    The Economist doesn’t support legalization per se; it supports a reformulation of drug policy from first principles.

  33. b-psycho & Mr. Nice Guy: Thanks for having some laughs with me!

    brian423: Sure, I’ve realised that I misspelt Marc Emery’s name when I read my post afterwards… At least I’ve got the Mar*C* part right! 😉

    And to B.D.:
    The ability of cigarette smokers not to see the ties between their plight and that of marijuana smokers is quite odd.

    Did you really imply that I, as mostly tobacco smoker and whiskey drinker, look down on the MJ-enjoying folks and their plight? Why else would I mention Marc Eme(err…)ry in my earlier post?

    As a matter of fact, I can accept the argument that though my nose is not good enough to notice a drop of tobacco smoke in an ocean of weed one, other people’s can be — after all, the guy did smell me out from like 8 feet — in a way some people can not tell a difference between $8 bottle of wine and $80… But still it was funny, at least to me! 😉

    Totally off-topic, why Reason can not implement slashcode-based (a-la slashdot.org) system of growing comments in trees? It is free, and Free, and would be so much more convenient! 😉

    Paul

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