Drug War

Waiting for the Man

The long road to marijuana legalization

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It's true that California may pass Proposition 19 and become the first state to legalize marijuana. It's also true prohibition isn't going anywhere.

If polls reflect a growing appetite for legalization of marijuana, why is it that so few elected representatives of note—and by "so few" I mean "no"—support it? If the war on drugs is by all metrics a failure, why is there not a single elected official in D.C. working on the terms of surrender?

They're a bunch of gutless weasels, you say? Perhaps. But they're also notoriously sensitive to public sentiment. And even if they oppose the drug war, what incentive do they have to act?

Sure, we can claim that illicit drugs are harmless. But having partaken in youthful "experimentation," I can say with empirical certainty this is untrue. If drugs are harmless, why did I try to convert Pez dispensers into bongs or choose journalism as a career?

To say that drugs are innocuous might be far less ludicrous than nearly anything scaremongering drug warriors contend, but it still makes for terrible politics.

We can argue that no law can stop motivated users from getting stoned. True enough. Rational people understand that demand will be met one way or another. Voters, though, are notoriously irrational. And few elected officials can make the case that lawlessness is a reason to disregard laws—that is, unless they aspire to be former elected officials.

We could argue that legalization wouldn't trigger any increased usage. Yet we know that casual use would probably increase.

We could argue that legalizing drugs would provide government with a great source of revenue. (No worries; the "wealthiest among us" would pay their fair share.) But a new Cato Institute study by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock at New York University finds that there would be a rather unexceptional $17.4 billion in yearly national budgetary improvement from legalizing marijuana.

(For a number of reasons, there would be far more savings if we legalized potent narcotics. Then again, as it's nearly impossible to buy cough medicine without asking a cashier for permission, the prospects of heroin and methamphetamine party samplers remain murky at best.)

Or we could keep pretending that pot has profound medicinal value. In Denver, a sham medical pot industry has blossomed, and coincidentally there have been mass outbreaks of Andromeda strain and cooties among 20-somethings. This makes a mockery of real sickness and threatens to turn one-time public support into deeper skepticism.

Meanwhile the most honest arguments for legalization are also the most politically unattractive:

If people want to get stoned, it's none of your business. (Now that's a campaign slogan!) If an employer wants to test me, fine. If government wants to bray on about the troika of evil—drugs, cigarettes, and Happy Meals—so be it. But the trade-offs are clear. Today we're creating international crime syndicates, we're locking up nonviolent citizens, and we're not altering behavior.

Yet no matter who's in power, nothing changes. President Barack Obama made little effort to curtail the drug war. The Drug Enforcement Administration still ignores state law. Conservatives feel a moral obligation to continue prohibition. (Individual freedom ends where your rolling paper begins.)

The minority that wants real reform? Politically speaking, our bad arguments are terrible and our good ones are worse.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his website at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.

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  1. Turning a pez dispenser into a bong isn’t so crazy. It showed some ingenuity in solving a problem just like molding aluminum foil into a pipe. Now becoming a journalist is plum crazy!

  2. Worship the Aqua Buddha, David!

    1. Tell it, brother. I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.

  3. The minority that wants real reform? Politically speaking, our bad arguments are terrible and our good ones are worse.

    Well, try these arguments, which I have found to have at least some traction with conservatives:

    (1) You work hard for your money. You pay more to the government than you should in taxes. Do you think your hard-earned money is well spent by giving three hots and a cot to some 28-year-old pizza delivery guy who just wanted to relax on a Saturday night with four episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants and a box of Mallomars? Wouldn’t you rather have the cops that YOU are paying chasing the kids who keep stealing your newspaper?

    (2) Speaking of cops… white people really love their dogs. And one consequence of the War on Drugs is that innocent dogs (including innocent dogs owned by innocent owners) get plugged by the SWAT team. Is that a rational response to some guy who just wants to watch The Wizard of Oz while seeing if it lines up with Dark Side of the Moon?

    (3) You may think that marijuana is harmful, that it ruins your life, that a single joint has the same effect on your ability to drive a car as a quart of bourbon, that it leads irreversibly to smoking crack in a bathroom stall of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and that it will cause you to rape white women while listening to negro jazz. But you know who’s telling you that? The government. Are you going to believe the government, or are you going to believe me, a guy who has smoked quite a bit of weed, and hasn’t totaled his car or raped any (white) women, at least not while listening to negro jazz.

    (4) I know that you think that the federal government doesn’t have any business telling you to buy health insurance, or not to eat greasy burgers. But the constitutional authority is just as weak for prohibiting pot as it is for making you buy health insurance. And the arguments advanced for banning trans-fats and other yummy things are the same as the ones you’re making for keeping pot illegal.

    Anyway, I don’t know if these are great arguments, but I’ve found them to be more effective than making libertarian appeals to non-libertarians.

    1. I suspect few people give a fuck about adults toking in their apartments. In fact in a 25% unemployment economy among young men, quite a lot of Californians might be glad to encourage potential competitors for the few jobs there are to spend lots more time zoned out, leveling up, pwning n00bs, sleeping in ’til noon and whacking off to Internet pr0n. Rock on, dude!

      But people do, generally, feel strongly that crack and coke and meth should be illegal, given the appalling damage they do to people, often right away — not prohibiting their sale seems as “reckless” to most people as not prohibiting the sale of patent medicines full of mercury that might kill you. So that’s one aspect of the story. I don’t think much of what people consider the “War on Drugs” is really a war on private adult weed smokers; it’s a war on crack dealing and meth labs, with which people are pretty OK. Are you willing to draw a line between grass and the harder stuff?

      Secondly, you’ve got loads of parents worried about their high-school kids getting stoned, in part because they worry (not unreasonably) that emotionally immature adolescents won’t be able to handle the altered mental state as well as an adult, and might end up doing something monumentally stupid and potentially irreparable (hurt themselves, someone else, commit gross social screw-ups that burn bridges needed for, say, college admissions or first jobs) and probably also in part simply because they feel it’s a distraction and/or escape from dealing with the reality of school and maturation. (They get cranky about World of Warcraft or Halo for much the same reason.) Are you willing to draw another line between under- and over-18 use of weed?

      If you are willing to draw those two lines, then indeed I think the position commands majority support. But without those two lines, it’s far from clear. The California vote will be interesting.

      1. If it wasn’t so easy for high school (and younger) kids to get pot, you might have an argument. I think you’ll find that if you ask a few HS kids what’s easier to get….pot/coke (both illegal), or booze, they’ll inform you that pot/coke/heroin are very easy to obtain and booze is quite difficult (unless they have a shitbag parent that buys their beer for them).

        1. It’s not an argument, D, it’s a statement of how people feel. And I assure you that no anxious parent whatsoever is going to listen to your argument — hey! there’s nothing you can do to stop it anyway! — and respond oh THAT’S all right then, let us do away with these drug laws that inconvenience the local college boys on Saturdays. Dream on.

          Politics is the art of the possible. I’m just pointing out that there are, in the mind of the majority (e.g. those over 35) two bright lines in the “Drug War” about which they feel strongly. If the goal of potheads is to get their adult recreational drug o’ choice legalized, it would be expedient to agree to keep those boundaries sharp and clear.

          Or, of course, one can continue tilting at windmills. You never know, they might fall down one of these days. (I should note that even if they do, there’s zero guarantee they might not get back up again. The degree to which alcohol and drug use is regulated, frowned-upon, seen as a matter of individual liberty or social crusade has waxed and waned over the decades.)

      2. I suspect few people give a fuck about adults toking in their apartments. In fact in a 25% unemployment economy among young men, quite a lot of Californians might be glad to encourage potential competitors for the few jobs there are to spend lots more time zoned out, leveling up, pwning n00bs, sleeping in ’til noon and whacking off to Internet pr0n. Rock on, dude!

        I have no numbers on how many people believe this, but I know from experience that one of the first arguments that prohibitionists reach for is the “pot makes you lazy” argument. What follows immediately from that is the conclusion that people are going to lay around smoking weed and cashing welfare checks. Conservatives don’t want that. I get their point, even if their facts are a little bit off: it’s hard to have a half-libertarian government. If you have welfare programs that pay people to sit on the couch, then anything that provides additional incentives to sit on the couch will cost taxpayers more money. It’s essentially the same difficulty that exists with opening the borders in the presence of a welfare state. You can’t just change one law; you have to overhaul other laws, too.

        Are you willing to draw a line between grass and the harder stuff?

        Yes, at least for now. And I that’s what Prop 19 is doing. I don’t know of many people in favor of total legalization of all substances who are opposed to taking an incremental approach.

        Secondly, you’ve got loads of parents worried about their high-school kids getting stoned, in part because they worry… that… adolescents won’t be able to handle the altered mental state as well as an adult, and might end up doing something monumentally stupid and potentially irreparable… and probably also in part simply because they feel it’s a distraction and/or escape from dealing with the reality of school and maturation. (They get cranky about World of Warcraft or Halo for much the same reason.) Are you willing to draw another line between under- and over-18 use of weed?

        Of course. I don’t know anyone who actually says “legalize pot for minors.”

        Beyond that, you raise two interesting issues. First, to the extent that parents fear that their kids will get high and do something irresponsible, sure, that’s a rational fear. But these parents are partially misinformed: their kids are far more likely to do something destructive to themselves or to others after drinking than after smoking weed. One of the challenges for those who support legalization is getting prohibitionists to understand that not all intoxication is equivalent. I tell prohibitionists all the time that I would rather get in a car with a driver who had smoked a joint than with a driver who had consumed three beers over the course of an hour. So yeah, parents can worry. But they live in a world with legal, cheap alcohol. If they’re comfortable with that, they should be even more comfortable in a world where at least some of that drinking is swapped for bong hits.

        Second: I actually knew a dude who was addicted to some sort of online RPG. Failed out of college because he played that shit nonstop. So I understand that concern, too. But look, at some point you just have to be a parent. Parents can manage to deal with xbox, alcohol, pussy, and whatever other distractions exist to tempt their kids. And pot is already pretty much freely available. Legalization isn’t going to change anything. Good parenting will go a lot further than any law has gone to prevent kids from getting stoned.

        1. “If you have welfare programs that pay people to sit on the couch”

          Like the 50″ tvs in everyone’s houses? (even the ones on welfare)

          ;))

          1. Oops, that made no sense. My cut/paste skillz are horrible.

          2. Oops, that made no sense. My cut/paste skillz are horrible.

      3. Something I learned as a parent: never make a rule you can’t enforce. When the kidz understand they can do what they want despite the rulz then all kinds of bad things happen.

        THIS is what parents –and social conservatives — need to be made to understand about drug laws; they will never be fully enforceable. Sure, you’ll get the occasional bust, but the vast majority of the rule-breaking continues unabated. And the societal cost in terms of respect for the law, and the rulemakers, is incalculable.

      4. Carl, well, it’s not age 18 but Prop 19 does draw a line between those over and under 21. It also increases the penalty for a person over 21 supplying someone who is under 21.

        Are we willing to draw a line between cannabis and hard drugs? For crying out loud we’ve been screaming for that for decades. There’s no National Organization for the Reform of Methamphetamine Laws. There is no Cocaine Policy Project. There’s no lobby among heroin users to re-legalize that drug. The small percentage of people that are in favor of reforming those laws are in favor just out of general principal, like the police officers and prosecutors who are members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). http://copssaylegalize.blogspot.com/

        The black market is just as much a failure in hard drugs as it is with cannabis if not moreso, but I do see that the ignorant know nothing prohibitionists would go ballistic if we tried to bring sense to the market for hard drugs.

        The Swiss voted better than 2-1 to keep Switzerland’s heroin addicts supplied with heroin because they think that’s a better policy for society overall.
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7755664.stm

        Of course there’s the example of Portugal’s across the board decrim of all the popular MADs and the subsequent fall in usage and concomitant increase in voluntary drug rehab admissions.

        But you are correct that there’s no way that the irrational know nothings in the US will make a decision based on factual evidence so it really isn’t worth pursuing. Perhaps after a few years of cannabis re-legalization the subject might need to be revisited.

    2. I think they are great arguments.

    3. I’d count those as libertarian appeals.

      1. The reason that I don’t is that none of them rely on an assumption that there is a general right to be left alone, our that government doesn’t have the power to regulate personal behavior. Well, okay, the greasy hamburger one does.

        Rather, I try to appeal to the conservative understanding that government costs too much and accomplishes too little, even if it has the power to criminalize pot.

  4. I would add:

    If you are worried that smoking pot might ruin somebody’s life, I would only point out that getting arrested and jailed is going to do far more harm than getting high every will.

    1. But what if someone was high and in a rocket-powered car doing 500 miles-per-hour down your driveway at your house while performing brain surgery on your wife and sexting at the same time!

      Ever think about that, tough guy? Huh?

      1. I know I do…and it gets me hot. Real Hot.

      2. Wherever you go, there you are.

      3. According to the laws of physics, it’s impossible for someone high on pot to go faster than 32mph. If combined with sexting, the maximum speed is reduced to 27mph, which due to traffic, is about the maximum speed possible on Southern California freeways.

  5. There’s much more of a money argument than you note. The taxes generated from legalizing pot is less than the equation. We could reduce the DEA budget significantly, reduce the costs of imprisoning so many non-violent offenders, and we’d have more people making money and paying taxes instead of being a net loss to society’s pocketbook.

    1. No one looks at the big picture. There will be pot tourism, more black lights sold, the wacky paint that goes with black lights, more pink floyd albums sold, hemp shirts, hemp pants, hemp cereal, hemp oil, hemp towels, etc., pot themed restraunts, bars, and tourist destinatins. There will be a napa valley of pot somewhere. Pot tasting bristos.
      I want to get a job that shoves it in the face of every statist cocksucker who thought the status quo of prison-rape, corrupt cops, and clogged legal systems were acceptable.

      1. Not for long.

        Pot legalisation will lead to cashiers asking “pot or tobacco” when you stop at 7-11 for a pack of Marlboros.

        Pot tourism will only exist for any length of time if there’s only a few states involved.

        Once it goes universal, pot becomes nothing special.

    2. I was explaining to my ultra-conservative father, who is beginning to have doubts abot the WoDs, that if marijuana was legalized, Iowa farmers would find a way to produce so much of it that the price would crater and the Feds would have to offer price supports like with tobacco.

      1. Look on the bright side: that scenario might be the best way to get rid of Ag subsidies.

    3. “”We could reduce the DEA budget significantly, reduce the costs of imprisoning so many non-violent offenders, “”

      The problem is we are talking about an industry that politicians love. Plus since the war suffix was attached, the industry sees legalization as retreat. So it becomes a gotcha game in politics.

      Besides it would hard for them to tout their tough on crime stance if they give pot some slack. Voters love tough on crime politicians.

      1. Unfortunately, there’s too many elected justice officials that believe if they want to keep that “tough on crime” distinction, they need to garner as many convictions as possible, even if it means a huge amount of innocent people. “I can’t be seen as soft on crime, you make sure that evidence NEVER sees the light of day in court!”

        And I should know… I live in a county whose miraculously level-headed district attorney has led an effort to overturn DOZENS of convictions because of withheld evidence. Makes you wonder how many of these appalling mockeries of justice were politically motivated… and how many more of these travesties are out there, undiscovered, in other parts of the nation.

    4. I think the only way to get law enforcement on board is to promiswe not to cut their funding and let attrition over time reduce their numbers. They can sit at the donut shop eating donuts and drinking coffee until they’re vested in their retirement plan. I don’t even think we should even go as far as making them go through the Donut Abuse Resistance Education program.

  6. It’s also true prohibition isn’t going anywhere.

    I don’t believe this. It isn’t so much that I have faith in humanity. I don’t. It simple economics. I was in the army 1986-1990. And I remember a lot of these alarms about how military industrial complex was going to take over the world. Well that didn’t happen. The Berlin Wall fell and the that industry saw budget cuts.

    There is supposedly a BIG offensive going on in Afghanistan right now.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11415410

    If we can only put 8000 combat soldier into battle, the military industrial complex is a a shadow of the 500,000+ troop we put into the Persian Gulf War.

    And likewise with prohibition. It is already happening. Cops are losing their jobs.

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.s…..be_la.html

    Oh sure, they will still arrest people for weed, but there will be less cops to arrest people. Sure maybe most people like cops beating up on hippies and such, but they also like having nice roads, parks, and lots of other services than the populace will refuse to live without.

  7. a guy who has smoked quite a bit of weed, and hasn’t totaled his car or raped any (white) women, at least not while listening to negro jazz.

    This!

  8. David, you left out the argument that ending prohibition would bankrupt a lot of criminal organizations.

    1. Conservative response (which I hear all the time because I keep getting banned from Free Republic for my pro-legalization posts, and I don’t exactly pass many libertarian purity tests.): “Gangsters will just move on to other illegal activity.”

      I don’t need you to explain why that’s wrong, but prepare to hear that response.

      1. Responding anyway..”Gangsters will just move on to other illegal activity.”

        Yes we already know that, hence the stimulus funds creating more government jobs.

        1. You’re presuming that the criminals are leaving profits on the table today because they’re too tied up with cannabis production and distribution?

          Hard drugs is not a commodity that has much if any elasticity of demand. The people that want that shit want nt that shit, and the people who don’t don’t. One of the biggest flaws in the know nothings ‘reasoning’ is that an increase in supply will result in an increase in demand. It is absurd to claim that the criminals can easily make up the $10 billion per year in revenue from cannabis by throwing a few more kilos of cocaine in the secret compartment of their vehicle. Seriously, why the heck wouldn’t they just do that now? What, they don’t want another $10 billion? Is smuggling the pot making the gangsters too lazy to sell cocaine?

          Well at least that fiction isn’t as absurd as the people who think the cartels will continue their business as usual after obtaining a license from the government.

    2. Makes you wonder where some of the money being donated to the anti-Prop 19 effort is coming from. I wouldn’t put it past the drug cartels.

  9. I question whether there would be a tax windfall from a MJ ‘regulate & tax’ scheme.

    We know that a lot of cultivation has moved stateside, and while some of it is controlled by foreign cartels, most is not. There’s profit at all levels of distribution and sale, almost all of which stays in the US.

    That profit doesn’t evaporate, it gets spent on taxable goods. Some of it may, suitably laundered, even be taxed as income.

    Given that legalization would tend to push prices down and shorten distribution chains, there’ll be a lot less profit to tax. In the case of home-growing, likely none (realistically — who’d buy tax stamps?).

    By all means legalize, for the right reasons. Just don’t expect it to save the CA budget.

    1. ^^^^ This. I shy away from the tax-revenue arguments for just this reason.

      If weed is at $200/oz, I give my dealer $200 and he spends it on rims for his Escalade, which he pays tax on.

      If weed drops to $0 because I grow it in my yard, I take that $200 and spend it on rims for my own Escalade, and I pay tax on that.

      The tax revenue isn’t going to change much. It’s just a question of who pays it, and when.

      1. Yeah, but now your dealer, deprived of his livelihood by the State, and already accustomed to a life of crime, heads to your house, jacks your Escalade AND your rims, and sells it to buy HIS rims–and a mega stereo for his Esacalade.*

        And all you got is free pot. Sucker.

        *bonus–if your dealer is black he can claim the whole ‘legalisation thing’ is racist(and he will). This will create a whole new level of white guilt that might get Obama that ‘president-for-life’ title he’s always wanted.

        1. Ok, but maybe since the police aren’t engaged in the “war on drugs” anymore they are actually policing to protect person and property and it’s not so easy to jack the Escalade.

      2. Why would you put a $200 set of rims on a $50 thousand Escalade? You got no style man…

    2. I don’t expect it to help California’s budget, but not because there won’t be any taxes collected. It’s because the idiot California lawmakers will see that money coming in and promptly spend 125% of the revenue to restock the pork barrels.

      The California Board of Equalization reported that in 2009 California pocketed between $50 million and $100 million in sales and use taxes collected from the medical dispensaries.
      http://tinyurl.com/24na57e

      Everyone claiming the protection of Prop 215 and SB420 has the right to grow just as much as their little hearts desire. Plant and possession limits were tossed out by the California Supreme Court in Kelly v. California in 2008. So the argument that no taxes can be collected on the distribution chain is hogwash.
      http://www.canorml.org/news/100mil.html

      Mendocino county requires a per plant tax and sells zip-ties that the grower attaches to the stalk. They’re working on adding RFID chips to the zip-ties.

      Really guys, it’s annoying enough listening to such baseless arguments when it’s coming from a know nothing. If you’ve never been on the inside don’t pretend as if you know what you’re talking about. What you’re missing is the fact that these taxes are being pushed by the growers and retail vendors because they know that once they get the politicians hooked on the money we won’t be bothered anymore. We are intent on shoving this money down the lawmakers throats because we know that money does to a politician that which crack cocaine does to a junkie. We are pissed off by being treated like criminals. We crave and deserve legitimacy. We want our grows inspected and kept up to code. You are mistaken if you believe more than a small minority in the industry are criminals and almost all the crims are working in the cartels distribution chain. Yes, we break the law but that’s because it is an immoral and reprehensible law. Breaking the law is not in and of itself enough evidence to call us crims. Well, if you insist ok, but remember that the Founding Fathers were all guilty of High Treason and only avoided being tried and executed because they won the war. Those who helped runaway slaves to get away from their masters were certainly guilty of some pretty serious felonies. Likewise the people that helped Jews escape from Nazi Germany were righteous people despite committing felony after felony. No, I’m not suggesting that the repression of potheads is a moral equivalent of being held in involuntary servitude or being murdered by the government for having been born into the wrong religion. Just because the government suppression of potheads doesn’t rise to the level of treating human beings like chattel, buying and selling them and even issuing titles like we have on automobiles doesn’t mean that it’s right or that we should be dismissed out of hand.

      There was this jailbird back in the ’60s who said “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

      So was Martin Luther King Jr a crim? The software limited me to two links, but you can Google “Martin Luther King JR” Birmingham jail and find the letter I’ve quoted above.

  10. On the eve of the Prop 19 vote, I’m much more optimistic than David is.

    Once weed is straight-up legal in California, you’re going to see users coming out of the shadows. It’s not going to be a hippie/loser/darkie/burnout/beaner drug anymore. It’s going to be something that people’s siblings, (adult) children, and friends do, all without turning into anal rapists. Curious visitors to the state will try it, discover that it didn’t fuck up their lives, and change their position on prohibition. On the federal level, once weed is legal in California, the state’s federal officials aren’t going to be able to win election to the House or Senate without promising to work towards legalization. (Well, some conservative representatives, but a minority statewide). California will fall, and that will be the beginning of the end.

    1. I certainly hope so.

    2. Plus the added benefit of Hollywood to broadcast this message around the country and the world.
      Before I became a libertarian, it was actually watching Entourage that changed my mind about weed being legal.

  11. People like the Old Guard and authority figures simply painted themselves into a corner with their scare tactics and misinformation.

    What are they gonna say: “Hey, we’ve been lying all these years about geef — not only does it chill you out, it’s mind-blowing for sex”?

    1. I attempted the physical act of love one time when I was stoned. I got wood only with great difficulty. Then I got dizzy from the thrusting and just wanted to go back to the couch.

      The moral of the story is: don’t oversell the sex angle. YRMV.

      1. I get the idea, mastubatin’ pete, that you problem may be because you love yourself more than you love him/her.

        1. If I were gay, do you think I’d have to beat off? Hell no. I’d be getting hook-up after hook-up, advertising for the opportunity to receive milky loads in my power glutes.

          No such thing as too hairy.

          Brothers welcome.

          1. Brothers or brothas?

            1. I see that I need to explain this one, at least somewhat. The “milky loads” thing is obviously a reference to Andrew “Milky Loads” Sullivan. Back when he was advertising for anonymous bareback sex, one of his ads stated “brothers welcome.”

              Which, you know, goes a long way towards explaining his Obaminfatuation.

      2. I can say definitely that weed is an aphrodisiac and that sex is more enjoyable under the influence of weed than without it. Anyone who has used good weed will verify this statement…
        -Wm S. Burroughs

  12. Jesus said to treat other people the way we would want to be treated. I know I wouldn’t want my college kid to go to jail with the sexual predators, or my parents to have their house stolen by the police, if they used a little marijuana.

    Let’s change the world. Let’s get registered and vote.

    Citizens and college students in California can register at
    w w w . sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm .
    (just fill out the form and mail it in).

    And you can request a ballot by mail at
    w w w . sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_m.htm .

    In other states, Google your state name and the phrase, voter registration. Print off the form and mail it in (or drive it down to City Hall).

    Five minutes. Register to vote. Change the world. Right now.

    Pass it on

  13. Politicians should want all the voters to be high so they can do whatever they want.

  14. Why does this guy write for Reason?

    He quotes a paper by Jeffrey Miron and all he mentions from it is that it will give the government additional revenue to expand. Not to mention the fact that he says that drugs are not ‘harmless,’ but refuses to consider whether keeping them outlawed is more harmful than the alternative.

    Come on.

    Get this guy off your website.

    1. File this comment under “M” for “Missing the point.”

      Harsanyi is no drug warrior. He’s simply pointing out that a number of pro-legalization arguments stretch the truth or over-promise.

      1. but that the counterpoints to those ones stretch the truth of over-promise to a far greater extent.

      2. I dunno 🙂 Harsanyi packs his pipe with quite a lot of strawmen. While someone somewhere probably at one time or some time in the future said something like “drugs are harmless”. I mean … WTF … who ever said drugs were harmless? You can drink yourself to a painful, horrible death using only ordinary tap water.

        Drugs can be *relatively* harmless. Like smoking pot is relative to drinking, or Ecstasy use is relatively less harmful than horseriding.

        It would have been better to simply make an analysis of bad arguments in favor of legalization and be clear about that. There’s enough of that without having to make things up or take the most marginal of arguments or try to make it sound like these are majority positions among those who want reform.

        Some of his own claims I’d even call outright wrong (or maybe the premises for the argument that are not made explicit … the old audiatur et altera pars problem with unstated premises).

        Opinion polls have long shown that the percentage of people who want reform of cannabis laws – not sure if that’s “real reform” in his book? – make up a fairly large part of the population.

        However, when these same people are asked “what do you think you neighbor will vote” they lean on what they believe to the the majority position as defined by the mass-media.

        That politically correct method of estimating leads to wrong guesses.

    2. Josh is right.

      And while we’re all missing points, etc. Nobody is suggesting Harsanyi is a drug warrior. He’s merely a really shitty proponent of… not sure, exactly. Considering he unequivocally states, incorrectly, that no elected representatives of note supports legalization, per se. Let alone he offers almost no arguments or solutions himself, only displaying his apparent apathy.

      Sure, we can claim that illicit drugs are harmless.

      I mean, really? Who the hell argues that? So since this women drank so much water it killed her, shall we ban Dihydrogen Monoxide?

      IMO, he’s not doing anybody any favors.

      1. He’s a sincere proponent of getting government off our backs, as well as out of our bedrooms and refrigerators. Read his “Nanny State” book when you get a chance.

      2. He generated this discussion, did he not?

        1. It pretty much happens everyday here, with or without him.

  15. “If the war on drugs is by all metrics a failure, why is there not a single elected official in D.C. working on the terms of surrender?”

    All that depends what you mean by “failure,” my friend. If you assess “success” by whether the War on Drugs has stopped the use of drugs in America, or whether the costs of fighting the War outweigh the somewhat-questionable “benefits” we have attained from it, you are right that it has failed.

    But if you assess “success” from the perspective of a member of the government-run and government-supported law enforcement/prevention/treatment industry, the War on Drugs is a dream come true: A never-ending, ever-escalating guarantee of employment, money, status, increasing power, expanding jurisdiction, and a growing bureaucracy, all justified by the need to fight a “menace” that can never actually be defeated, thus making it all the more necessary that the “menace” be fought. And because the “menace” is so great and so threatening, especially to children, they need not trouble themselves with cost-benefit analysis, because they are fighting an Unmitigated Evil….

    The problem is that the latter have far more influence in government circles than do the former. And as long as that remains the case, there will be no change in federal drug policy.

  16. I don’t know what David Harsanyi has against Ron Paul. Harsanyi’s writing is ok, but he either ignores or hates on Paul.

    Like this article: saying no “representatives of note” support legalization of marijuana. Would it hurt you so much, Harsanyi, to at least call out Rep. Paul, who has consistently said that the Federal government has no business regulating marijuana? I realize that this is not quite the same thing as legalization, but it is by far and away the best that a “representative of note” has to say about it.

    But that’s Harsanyi’s problem. He can’t bring himself to think of Rep Ron Paul as noteworthy. Too bad.

    1. Ron Paul is “notable” mostly for holding unorthodox views for a Republican.

      Don’t get me wrong; I like the guy. But I read Harsanyi to mean “in a position of power or influence.” Ron Paul is one guy out of 435 who happens to vote oddly. Name someone in a position of leadership in either party who wants to end the drug war. I’ll give you Barney Frank, maybe, and he’s the chairman of a committee having nothing to do with drugs.

  17. Mmmmhmmm… dem pot gives ye squirrel aids. Yup, it makes dem negros rapes our white womens. Can’t dun have it. No, sir.

  18. The main obstacle for legalization, nationally, is that the only state pushing hard for it happens to be fucktarded and going down the shitter. It might be unrelated to MJ, but it definitely taints the issue by association.

    1. +1 for the use of “fucktarded”.

    2. It might be unrelated to MJ, but it definitely taints
      the issue by association.

      I know he was a weirdo and a pervert, but what does Michael Jackson have to do with California’s current fiscal woes?

  19. Why do we assume that everything must be taxed?? I agree with the legalization of all currently illegal intoxicants but unless the Fair Tax is enacted, don’t tax it. By the way, if you are buying weed at $200 an ounce, your dealer probably knows how to get rims for his Escalade that are not sold legally much less taxed. Black market salesmen know others that ply the trade in other commodities…..and more power to him. Just call me Ragnar!!

    1. I don’t mind that people want to recover the revenue that’s currently going uncollected because pot sales are not subject to sales tax. I’m certainly not opposed to sales taxes generally, or even additional excise taxes on products that produce negative externalities when consumed.

      What bothers me more is the “regulate” portion of the “regulate and tax” position. It’s not as if unregulated marijuana is harming anyone. I don’t know why we need to hire more government drones to “regulate” a product that’s doing just fine without the government measuring THC content.

  20. Reason’s number one liberty issue. There are more articles on drug legalization than any other issue.

    1. To be fair, the WoD is the basis for any number of threats to our liberty (“our” meaning all citizens, not just drug users). Killing it and the agencies that prosecute it, at least at the federal level, would have a huge, positive ripple effect on civil liberties.

  21. This is cynicism based on an idealistic expectation of how the progress to legalizing marijuana should be.

    Unfortunately, the road to legalization will be winding and bumpy.

    Just because some stoners have skirted the medical marijuana laws when they’re perfectly healthy doesn’t mean that cannabis has no medical value.

  22. “Or we could keep pretending that pot has profound medicinal value.”

    Or you could stop pretending to be anything but a hack… The case for marijuana’s incredible medical utility is so vast and irrefutable that I’m only used to arguing about it with drug warriors and the willfully uninformed — which are you, exactly?

    1. Seriously, where did this come from? The fact that some people — or even a lot of people — claim a medical need when there is none says nothing about the actual medical effectiveness of a given substance.

      A lot of people get Oxycontin in order to get high too — does that mean it doesn’t kill pain? What a stupid assertion. Cannabis makes all sorts of sick people feel better, and the mechanisms by which this takes place are better understood every single day. The medicinal potential here is indeed “profound”, and to claim otherwise because medicinal value is often exploited as short-cut to legal recreational use is just stupid.

    2. My favorite question to pose to politicians is: “Have you ever watched someone you love die of cancer?”

      In 1995, when my mom was still living, she was prescribed Marinol. Nobody kicked down our door. The government didn’t give a shit about “abuse potential” for a highly refined version of what I now use to get high.

  23. Pete, if you ain’t gettin’ horny after you smoke weed, you need to buy some better shit. It’s the best libido enhancer and sensual experience booster ever grown.

  24. Do the blogger and commenters here not understand how politics work? Control of the agenda matters.

    Put legal pot on the ballot, put voters in the booth when they’re primarily there for some other reason, and it will do far better (depending on what else draws the voters into the booth) than it will do from elected office holders. Meanwhile elected office holders are wise to be anti-pot because practically nobody will vote against them for being anti-pot, but a significant number will vote against them for being pro-pot. See, the drug laws are not a priority with voters, except that they will be a priority with some voters if the candidate is pro.

  25. Drugs are harmless and should be legal. It’s the people who take them who are dangerous. Ban people.

  26. What a jerk!

  27. If polls reflect a growing appetite for legalization of marijuana, why is it that so few elected representatives of note?and by “so few” I mean “no”?support it?

    You’ve got to be kidding. Did you see Barack Obama back in March blow off the potheads in one of his dog & pony shows? The topics were supposed to be chosen by popular vote over the Internet. Cannabis and Cannabis law reform won that honor hands down, and he simply and very disrespectfully rewrote the rules and declined to address the issue. Your argument here is a logical fallacy called an appeal to authority.

    Medical cannabis receives 75-80% in polling. Yet there are a lot of politicians who won’t support the notion that doctors and scientists should make medical decision, not politicians with a political agenda.

    Ah well never mind. I just noticed you called medical cannabis a sham. It’s just mind boggling to me that in the face of the mountains of evidence that cannabis is good medicine that people can still assert the poppycock that this medicine is a sham. Really, you’ve got to have your head up your bung to claim that.

    1. I also had a major problem with his dismissal of medical marijuana, but this is far from an appeal to authority. He’s not citing low establishment political support as a reason for preserving prohibition or as evidence that legalization is unpopular. He’s pointing to it as evidence that political reality is still stacked up against legalization, despite public opinion.

      Saying that the political climate does not provide incentives for politicians to jump on board with legalization is not the same thing as saying that legalization is a bad or unpopular idea because of the lack of mainstream political support.

      I think there are problems here, but appealing to power certainly is not one of them.

      1. Oh please. That was a purebred appeal to authority. Not only that but he used fiction spun from whole cloth as the platform of his argument. He claimed no politicians in DC are ‘working on the terms of surrender’ and I proved that he was either intentionally omitting the approaching 200 members in Congress that are in trying to promote a more sane public policy, or is incompetent at researching his specious claim.

        Then I guess it was where he called medical cannabis a sham, and suggested that we just forget about helping sick people by getting them effective medicine. The only way one can believe that cannabis is not effective medicine and that medical doctors should not make medical decisions is if one has an ulterior motive or is stupid beyond belief.

        I do admit that it seems to me that when it comes to war on (some) drugs propaganda and the people that issue these fictions that I wonder why Mr. Darwin is doing his job.

        Yet this issue is constantly represented as if support has been going down since the laws have past which is demonstrably untrue. Did the article’s writer post even one factual piece of information in his idiotic pack of lies? Is David Harsanyi even the writer’s legal name?

        Bald faced lies, half truths, and hysterical rhetoric. A classic combination in the world of prohibitionist propaganda in order to fool the gullible into believing that the epic failure that is the war on (some) drugs is actually somehow working.

        1. Haha. All that writing, without a single word put toward justifying your charge that the piece can be described as a “purebred appeal to authority”. You can’t just make something true simply by saying it.

          1. Just as you can’t make it not so by insisting that it is and ignoring the plain evidence that it is in fact, an appeal to authority. Perhaps the problem is that you don’t know what constitutes an appeal to authority.

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=“appeal to authority”

            Believe whatever nonsense fiction you like.

  28. Hey, wait a second, didn’t you say that there weren’t any lawmakers who support allowing medical doctors to make medical decisions?

    The Rhode Island legislature has overriden not one, but two vetos by their know nothing Governor and put into place a medical cannabis and a medical cannabis distribution chain.

    The lawmakers in New Mexico and New Jersey didn’t need to override any vetoes because their Governors had no problem signing legislation to bring relief to the sick and suffering.

    Then there is the compassionate IND program from the Feds which still supplies about 12 ounces a month to 4 lucky patients.

    My bad, you said lawmakers in DC. Well, this year the DC Council voted unanimously to set up the framework for a medical cannabis distribution chain. DC’s law will pay for cannabinoid medicine for the indigent.

    (con’t)

  29. Oh, you meant **Federal** lawmakers? OK, how about Ron Paul and Barney Frank? They’ve been introducing legislation every year for at least 5 years.

    Bills pending in Congress:
    H.R. 2943: The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act

    H.R. 2835: The Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act

    H.R. 3939: The Truth In Trials Act

    Congressman Sam Farr’s Truth In Trials Act would protect state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients and providers from charges in federal court.

    Last year Barney Frank filed a bill that would eliminate federal penalties for personal possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. It would also make the penalty for using marijuana in public just $100.

    Those bills didn’t pass but there was approaching 200 Congressmen that voted in favor.

    Is that enough Federal lawmakers on board to get you to confess that you’re clueless on the issue? I can give more in depth examples if you’re still suffering from the cognitive dissonance.

    (con’t)

  30. Last year Maine’s voters approved adding a regulated distribution chain to their medical cannabis exception. Wow, how many know nothings from California, Colorado, and California have I heard say, well if you held another vote today it would lose. The same voters gave the thumbs down to treating gay people as if they were human in the same ballot.

    The AMA, the BMA, and the CMA are all on board the medical cannabis train. The CMA has been on board for approaching a decade.

    The American College of Physicians recognizes cannabis as medicine.

    The International Cannabinoid Research Society members aren’t a bunch of whacked out hippy alternative medical practitioners. I think it notable that Dr Donald Tashkin is a member. For those unaware, for a decade and a half Dr. Tashkin was the ONDCP’s ‘go to’ guy when they needed ‘research’ ‘proving’ that cannabis is dangerous to ingest. Dr. Tashkin has repudiated all of the bogus research that he did at the behest of the ONDCP, and has published a study in 2006 saying that cannabis doesn’t cause lung cancer.
    http://www.scientificamerican……ds-no-link
    Regardless, the ONDCP still trots out his work when it suits them. The ONDCP has no compunction in presenting bald faced lies as fact when it suits them to do so.

    (still more coming)

  31. Bayer Pharmaceuticals has made a substantial investment in GW Pharmaceuticals. GW Pharmaceutical’s entire existence is to make whole plant cannabis compounds and sell them to sick people by prescription. Oh well, one of the nice things about the ignorance of the masses in this case is that GWP’s stock is cheap. I’ve put my money where my mouth is. There is simply no doubt that the endocannabinoid system is essential for keeping human beings healthy and happy. I do think that Bayer just might have a better idea of what is medicine and what is not than know nothing laymen or politicians with a political agenda.

    (almost done)

  32. Some people give this idiotic line that the people were ‘scammed’ and that the result is not what they’d intended, as if that were true. So why do current surveys show that 75-80% of the people in the US actively support allowing doctors and scientists to recommend the use of cannabis as medicine? It’s been 14 years since California passed Prop 215 and support for allowing doctors and scientists to make the decision of what’s medicine has only increased.

    The only reason that these ‘vague’ medical cannabis laws have taken root is because it’s the only way to get the needed medicine to the patients because of the idiotic and cruel Federal laws that prohibit doctors and scientists from making medical decisions, instead leaving it to politicians with a political agenda.

    Has anyone reading this ever woke up sick and thought, ‘well I’m sick, I’d better call a politician’? Perhaps you go to a doctor, but make sure to get a second opinion from a politician? If not, have you ever known anyone who did think that? Then why are we letting politicians with a political agenda decide what is medicine and what is not? The decision should be left up to accredited scientists and licensed medical professionals. Did you know that doctors can prescribe cocaine and methamphetamine? Look up the brand name Desoxyn and google “prescription cocaine” if you don’t believe me. But the fact that so many know nothings have no clue that there already is medical cocaine and medical meth seems to me to support the notion that doctors do a pretty good job of dispensing these substances appropriately.

  33. Yes, the list I’ve presented has all been a shameless appeal to authority argument. Then again at least my appeal to authority has some basis in reality unlike the guy who uses an appeal to authority argument claiming the is no support in DC for medical cannabis. But I do believe that anyone who can look at the list of authorities that recognize cannabis as medicine and claim that it isn’t must be living in an alternative bizarro universe. The know nothings claim that potheads are lazy, unmotivated worthless piles of human flesh that only sit in our mothers’ basement eating Cheetos and watching Cheech and Chong movies over and over. Then they proceed to claim that these same worthless dregs have scammed 3 countries, 14 States and the District of Columbia, Bayer Shering Pharmaceuticals, the Boards of pharmacy of 2 states (so far), and 75-80% of the voters into believing that cannabis is medicine. If the potheads really scammed all those people while sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, and worshipping Cheech & Chong then not only should cannabis be legal, it should be mandatory for everyone because it makes you a friggin’ genius. Well I guess it could be the Cheetos, we’d need to do some studies to be sure.

    …and people claim that potheads are out of touch with reality. Sheesh!

    (done)

  34. If you’d asked me in 1970 whether pot would still be illegal in the Year of Our Lord 2010, I’d have said, “Are you crazy?”

    “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”
    -G.K. Chesterton

  35. I don’t think arresting a million people a year for a weed is very popular with the voters any more. And I think the politicians are starting to figure that out.

  36. “Or we could keep pretending that pot has profound medicinal value.”

    Google “storm crows list” genius. Then stop pretending that Cannabis is NOT the closest thing to a literal panacea that exists.

  37. No good arguments? How about seeing what the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition say, for example: http://leap.cc/Publications/En…..on_Now.pdf
    The document was written by Jack Cole, 26-year veteran of the New Jersey State Police and 14 years an undercover narcotics officer. See what you think of his arguments against drug prohibition. Jack and other members of LEAP have been actively campaigning in California in support of Prop. 19.

    Also search YouTube for videos of Jack Cole, Peter Christ, Neill Franklin, and others giving presentations and interviews.

    The side with no rational arguments is the prohibitionist.

  38. totally decriminalize, but no legalization….Fucking govt been chasing potheads since nixon…taking property, freedoms from us citizens..and only NOW, that all the cities fucked up thier budgets, is it ok to tax and sell it?….fuck them, they have no moral right to that profit…belongs to the hippie mafia

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