Marijuana

The War on Pot: Not a Safe Bet

The worst you can say about pot is that it produces intense, unreasoning panic-in drug warriors.

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As recreational drugs go, marijuana is relatively benign. Unlike alcohol, it doesn't stimulate violence or destroy livers. Unlike tobacco, it doesn't cause lung cancer and heart disease. The worst you can say is that it produces intense, unreasoning panic. Not in users, but in critics.

Those critics have less influence all the time. Some 18 states permit medical use of marijuana, and in November, Colorado and Washington voted to allow recreational use. Nationally, support for legalization is steadily rising. A decade ago, one of every three Americans favored the idea. Today, nearly half do—and among those under 50, a large majority does.

These trends have diehard drug warriors screaming bloody murder. Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., has formed a new organization to stop what he imagines to be the "300-miles-per-hour freight train to legalization." He says that such a change would be especially harmful to teenagers.

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske insists that even allowing medicinal pot "sends a terrible message" to adolescents. Mitchell Rosenthal, a psychiatrist who founded the substance-abuse treatment group Phoenix House, says there is "mounting evidence of the dangers it poses, especially to young users."

They might have a point if existing drug laws were keeping weed out of the hands of wayward kids. In truth, they're about as effective as a picket fence in a tidal wave. In a 2009 survey, high school students said they found it easier to get than beer. In 2011, 23 percent of 12th-graders said they had used weed in the preceding month.

In the past five years, drinking and cigarette smoking have dropped by more than 10 percent among high school seniors. But pot smoking has risen by 23 percent. Alcohol and tobacco are legal for adults. Marijuana is not.

What these trends indicate is that authorizing the sale and use of a substance does not necessarily mean more people will use it. There is no contradiction between letting adults make up their own minds, with some government regulation, and providing effective education for youngsters about the hazards of underage consumption.

No one, after all, is talking about putting pot in vending machines or handing out blunts at Taylor Swift concerts. The idea is to treat pot like booze—permitting its sale and use to adults in a government-regulated market, with penalties for behavior (like driving under the influence) that endangers other people.

The tolerance-fuels-use theory is thunderously lacking in real-world support. In the Netherlands, where "coffee shops" are allowed to sell pot, teenagers are far less likely to use it than their American peers.

The experience here falls short of bloodcurdling. "In the states that have passed medical-marijuana laws, youth marijuana use has decreased," Amanda Reiman, policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told me. In California, "the number of 7th, 9th and 11th graders reporting marijuana use in the last six months and in their lifetimes all declined" after 1996, when the state passed its medical marijuana law.

The alleged harms of cannabis on the teen mind and body are generally exaggerated. Critics have trumpeted a study last year that said teenagers with a heavy habit turn out to have lower IQs as adults than their peers who avoided the stuff.

But a new assessment by Norwegian scientist Ole Rogeberg, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the IQ differences might well stem from differences in income, education and other factors. "The true effect," he said, "could be zero." It's pretty clear that heavy drinking is a far bigger danger to developing brains.

Those worried about the welfare of potheads might also want to take into account the dangers that exist only because cannabis is illegal. Criminals who grow or supply the stuff have little incentive to monitor quality, prevent adulteration or assure consistent doses.

A kid who gets his hands on beer doesn't have to worry about getting toxic chemicals or nasty fillers. Buying pot in illicit markets may also expose users of all ages to violence, robbery or extortion. But you don't see innocent bystanders getting killed in shootouts among liquor store owners.

The alternative to legalization is sticking with a policy that has produced millions of arrests, squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and turned many harmless people into criminals in the eyes of the law—all while failing to stem the popularity of pot. For kids or adults, there is nothing healthy in that.

NEXT: Fly the Friendly Skies

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  1. Alt text: This bud’s for you!

  2. But you don’t see innocent bystanders getting killed in shootouts among liquor store owners.

    No, but you do see that activity amoungst the criminals that rob them, Chapman. Which easily could be cited as a consequence of WOD stupidity with relation to crime, i.e. robbing a liquor store to fund a grossly price-inflated product that’s also a consequence of WOD and its demonstrably failure. You almost had me convinced you had this one a slam dunk until you posted that nugget of stupid.

    Also, Portugal would like to have a word with you about her glaring omission…

    1. Im missing the stupid.

      That statement is factually accurate. Im not sure what robbing of liquor stores has to do with anything, any more than robbing of convenience stores or any other small store in bad neighborhoods.

      1. That statement in question is accurate, but Chapman, in his usual inept way, fails to flesh out how the statement bolsters his case.

        “The sun rises in the East, yet you don’t see sun gods drawing pistols at dawn,” is also a factually accurate statement, yet also does nothing to bolster his case.

        If Chapman had written about “dry counties” and how so-called “illicit stills” can cause similar types of crime, like shootouts and such, yet liquor store owners don’t because booze in “wet counties” is legal and liquor store owners don’t shoot each other, then it would have provided a better case.

        1. I thought the case was pretty obvious without needing to be drawn out.

          Fact: Illegal pot leads to drug shootouts
          Fact: Legal alcohol doesnt

          Unstated Fact: Back during prohibition, we add alcohol shootouts

          The latter is unstated, but a known part of the narrative. Whether is was Amendment 18 prohibition or modern dry county prohibition.

          Yeah, he could have explicitly stated it, but I dont see how relying on basic knowledge makes his statement stupid.

          1. Prohibitionists are not known for being terribly bright, robc. Sometimes, things need to be explicitly stated, as there are plenty of people out there, even “well-meaning” ones that have noted knowledge deficits.

            Also, it helps to point out the idiocy of “dry counties”, as newer readers of Reason and (shudder) Chapman may not be aware that there are “dry counties” in the USA.

            To put it another way, just because you know higher level mathematics and physics and can see in your mind a mathematical equation or system of equations in 3D, doesn’t mean someone else can and may need to watch Mythbusters to better illustrate a physics concept.-)

          2. Yeah, he could have explicitly stated it, but I dont see how relying on basic knowledge makes his statement stupid.

            I got this one.

            Because it’s really stupid to expect people to have an adequate grasp of basic knowledge. You should know better! It’s basic knowledge that most people don’t have basic knowledge.

      2. His point was fine. He could have added “as they used to during prohibition days” to make his point stronger.

    2. Portugal would like to have a word with you

      Except she’s too high at the moment

    3. They’re not robbing the liquor store for the liquor, they’re robbing it because its a cash based business with less safeguards than a bank. Taxi drivers can face similar and sometimes “worse” risks since their store is mobile. Has nothing to do with what is being sold.

      1. They’re not robbing the liquor store for the liquor, they’re robbing it because its a cash based business with less safeguards than a bank.

        I am aware of that; the “grossly price-inflated product” is cannabis itself in non-MMJ and MJ legal states. Perhaps I should have said, “grossly price-inflated recreational or medicinal product” to clarify my own point. Which is unnecessary, as that is Chapman’s thesis here and explicitly stated.

        1. I am aware of that; the “grossly price-inflated product” is cannabis itself in non-MMJ and MJ legal states.

          Do you know how much the stuff costs even when purchased legally? It’s fucking ridiculous! Yeah, it’s a little cheaper than the illegal stuff, but not by much. It should be cheaper by an order of magnitude.

          1. Honestly, sarc, I don’t know, as I am not a connoisseur or dealer of said medicine. I am only familiar with Marinol, since that is the only form legally RX’d in OK, and not in UKR, incidentally.

            Also, there is a chemical company named Marinol in UKR.

            I mostly gauge the pricing issues by comments here and SIV’s ranting about how growers in CA voted against legalization to keep prices artificially…ahem…high.

            I have heard in Okieland it is fairly inexpensive, but may be just schwag and not higher quality product.

            UKR, I understand that it isn’t cheap, and the local mafia types like it that way.

            1. It’s still three digits an ounce when there is no good reason, other than legal cartel status that is, that it shouldn’t be two.

              1. As long as production is illegal or semi-legal at best, black market prices will prevail. It will be interesting to see what happens to prices in CO and WA.

          2. I must disagree on the price being too high. Back when I was (allegedly) buying it illegally, I could buy a half ounce of pretty decent bud (not the high-end stuff, but still pretty good) for $30.
            Now, unless you are a total pot-head, or sharing with everyone in the world, a half ounce should last at least a week; it would last me at least two weeks.
            Compare that with my beer bill every week, or the amount someone spends who likes decent Scotch, for instance.
            The stuff is so cheap that even where it is illegal, most low level “dealers” who sell directly to the consumer don’t really make any money, they just end up getting their stash for free.

        2. If it is a non-cash business, robberies would not occur at liquor stores nearly as often…

  3. The worst you can say is that it produces intense, unreasoning panic.

    Thus spaketh a man who has never heard Phish.

      1. and as South Park explained, there is only one cure

  4. “Unlike tobacco, it doesn’t cause lung cancer and heart disease. ”

    Citation needed. Seriously. Last time I ran into a comparison between Marijuana and Tobacco (and it’s been a while) it was being said that pot had more tar and similar or greater amounts of carcinogens. To the best of my knowledge no studies have been done on cancer rates among chronic pot smokers, and I would be deeply suspicious of any that had. But the above statement strikes me as, minimally, lacking in evidence, and bordering on pot-head propaganda.

    1. I agree, but I think it is valid, because even chronic pot smokers dont smoke as much as tobacco smokers.

      Pot may be worse PER stick, but tobacco addicts smoke a lot more sticks.

      1. Function to do with illegality and price signals? If there wasn’t a legal risk, would potency reduce but overall usage spike (beer use vs liquor use post prohibition?)

      2. Yeah, but you also exhale tobacco smoke immediately.

    2. It’s a throwaway argument as its no part of the remain illegal discussion. otherwise smoking in general would be banned (though we’re incrementally getting there).

      1. it may be a throwaway line, but it’s cloaked in an absolute. Some might say cigars are relatively benign, too, but it doesn’t make them entirely correct. Chapman could have just easily avoided the line altogether since the pot discussion has little, if anything, to do with lung cancer.

      2. And when smoking is banned, hey ho for the days of Prohibition!

        Seriously; the banners NEVER learn.

    3. Agree with you C.S.P. It would be pretty hard I suspect to find chronic dope smokers who didn’t also smoke a fair bit of baccy (wholly unscientific assumption based on potheads I have known and loathed)

      1. As far as I know there are no known cases of lung cancer among pot smokers who did not also smoke cigarettes.

        Pot does leave behind some nasty coatings in the lungs, but it does not numb the cilia in the air passages like tobacco does. This allows a pot smoker’s lungs to clean themselves out while tobacco gunk stays and accumulates, causing all kinds of problems.

        At least that’s my anecdotal observation as a person who has smoked both.

        1. Difficult to say, sarc, one way or the other. Because cannabis is listed as Schedule I and discrete testing is not permitted, we can’t conclusively say one way or the other, and anecdotal first and second hand information is both post hoc ergot propter hoc and unreliable.

          I am not saying you are wrong, but I would very much like to see a discrete, controlled, reliable study done since combustibles are being inhaled.

        2. Also, ergo, not ergot.

          RC’z law? Ruling?

          1. I’d give it to you, but it’s not the slam dunk it’d be on a LSD thread.

    4. There have been some studies done, and while pot smoke has more of the things in it that people think cause cancer, it does not seem to correlate to lung or throat cancers nearly as strongly as tobacco.

    5. Point taken, but you don’t have to smoke it to enjoy it, you know.

    6. “Unlike tobacco, it doesn’t cause lung cancer and heart disease. ”

      Citation needed.

      Yeah, that’s not really how that works. If you disagree, you show your work. It isn’t on someone else to prove a negative.

      1. Bullsh*t. He made a broad assertion, without foundation, and I called him on it.

        The thing about the debate on legalizing marijuana is that BOTH sides are full of it. Which is why I favor legalization. I don’t buy the pro-pot narrative, but in an absence of evidence, I will always come down on the side of fewer laws.

        1. None of that changes the facts. If no one has ever successfully linked it to lung cancer or heart disease, two things tobacco has been definitively linked to, you can state that, unlike tobacco, it doesn’t cause lung cancer and heart disease. That statement remains valid until it is proven otherwise.

          Your opinions about the people making the arguments doesn’t change the basic rules of logic. Whether you “buy” the pro-pot narrative is just as irrelevant as whether your neighbor thinks you NEED an AR-15. Either show where marijuana use has been definitively linked to heart disease or lung cancer, or save your inaccurate culture war bullshit for another issue.

          1. If you are going to invoke the rules of logic, then you have to say that it hasn’t been proven that tobacco causes cancer. Thereis a large body of goddamned suggestive statistical evidence, but the researchers don’t have a proposed mechanism, much less a demonstrated one.

          2. Under the rules of logic, Chapman is making an argument from ignorance, which is customarily understood to be a fallacy.

    7. The closest thing to a scientific study that has been done, thanks to Schedule I status, is the 2006 UCLA study that found no link between heavy, long-term marijuana use and cancer. But there have been other, smaller studies as well, and no link has ever been found.

      Citation:
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/re…..083353.htm

      Good job repeating the “It has more tar and carcinogens, so OF COURSE it causes cancer” crap you learned in DARE, though. Speaking of propaganda…

      1. If the “tars etc. cause cancer” model is the accepted narrative (and if it isn’t I want to know what the hell all the fuss about smoking is about), then a statement that drawing tarr-laden smoke into the lungs does not cause cancer needs some backing.

        You appear to have that. Good. It should habe been referenced by the article, or the assertion should have been left out.

        BTW; i favor legalizing pot …. AND telling the anti-smoking fascisti to p*ss up a rope and stand under it ehile it dries.

        1. I know you do, but repeating the evidence-free assertion that “pot just has to cause cancer, I know it” as evidence is aggravating know matter what the source is.

          1. OK; here is where I am;

            There is a large body of statistical evidence that smoking tobacco causes cancer?.but no demonstrated mechanism. The assumption that exposing the lungs to smoke heavy in certain compounds that have been labeled “carcinogens”is the cause of the correlation is widespread. Along comes Mr. Chapman, who says, in effect “Inhaling the carcinogen laden smoke from tobacco causes cancer, but inhaling the carcinogen laden smoke from pot doesn’t”. I want to see the evidence, hear an admission that it still isn’t proven that smoking tobacco causes cancer, or not run into “pot is harmless” arguments that have not been tested.

            I think that Pot, like booze or (for that matter) broccoli probably causes some harm. I think the “anything that causes harm must be verboten” model of public discourse is grounds for chasing the nannies so far back into the hills that they’ll have to ship in daylight via UPS.

            1. Fair enough.

              1. I realize, in retrospect, that I’ve been a trifle cranky on this subject. I just get tired of pro-pot arguments that rely on pot being harmless because that isn’t the reason to legalize pot. The reason to legalize pot is that banning it has accomplished nothing good that I know of, and a good deal of harm.

                1. I just get tired of pro-pot arguments that rely on pot being harmless because that isn’t the reason to legalize pot.

                  I’m with ya. Every goddamn article at Reason has at least a throwaway line dedicated to the idea that marijuana is utterly and completely free from any harmful side effects. It’s teh magical drug! It’s not enough to just be in favor of legalization because it’s the morally right thing. You also have to be a stoner apologist. It’s really fucking annoying if you’re not a stoner.

  5. Also, I’d love to see Patrick Kennedy ACTUALLY try and stop a 300mph freight train. Might serve an object lesson in metaphor usage.

    1. Speaking of things that ought to be illegal!!

  6. I tried pot back in…uh….82? 81? I didnt like it. I dont smoke it.
    When it becomes legal I still wont smoke it.
    Anyone who does want to smoke it, well, I just couldnt care less.

    Fucking drug war is morally obscene.

    1. Funny, because the drug warriors consider it to be a moral crusade. Seeking pleasure through the use of chemicals is, to them anyway, morally obscene. Drug warriors will never be swayed by logic or reason because their opposition to drugs is not based in logic or reason.

      1. “…will never be swayed by logic or reason because their opposition to drugs is not based in logic or reason.”

        This also applies to the war on the second amendment.

      2. But seeking pleasure through make-believe entities like God, Allah, Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc… is completly acceptable and constitutionally protected.

        1. Religion sucks, religious people are gullible assholes, and should not be allowed to enforce their superstitions on the public. Fuck you Christian, Moslem, Mormon, Hindu, and every other of your stupid, ignorant ilk.

          1. always good to hear from the areligious community and its special brand of “we know best.” Because not believing in something automatically makes you a morally superior being.

            The part about should not be allowed to enforce their superstitions on the public? It applies to you, too. Not seeking pleasure through such entities is also Constitutionally protected.

            1. gaoxiaen does not represent the “areligious community.” Hell to most of us not needing to be part of some community is one of the perks. People who turn their atheism into a new replacement for religion make no sense to me.

          2. When atheism has a track record better than Protestant Christianity, then I will be prepared to listen to rants like this. However ostentatiously atheistic regimes murdered Something like one hundred million people in the twentieth century.

            Atheism is a religious belief. You are certainly free to hold on to it. But keep it to yourself.

            1. Atheism is a religious belief.

              No it’s not. gaoxiaen is still an asshole though.

              1. Yeah, it really is.

                I am not an atheist. I am merely “not religious”.

                Atheist are by and large the most religious people you will ever meet. Even a guy like Penn Jillette, his vaunted skepticism which I admire goes out the window. He feels compelled to prosyletize that his view is the One True View, at least once per show regardless of topic.

                Let’s not get started on the Michael Newdow douchebags who are like the Atheist equivalent of the Westboro Baptists.

                1. It’s the difference between a lack of a certain belief in god, and a certain belief in a lack of a god.

                  Atheists are religionists who worship and find meaning in the Vacuum.

                  1. Militant atheists =/= atheists.

              2. As I understand it, Atheism is the faith, in the absence of proof, that there is no God. Sounds like a religion to me.

                Militant Agnostic; I don’t know, and you don’t either!

                1. Atheism is not faith, it is an absence of faith.

                  Not to be confused with anti-religion (Christianity to be specific) humanism which puts faith in government and worships state sanctioned violence.

                  1. Right you are, sarcasmic. Atheism is, as the word breaks down, “without theology.” Atheists such as myself simply don’t care about theology or religion. I don’t care about disproving the existence of god …. I just don’t care one way or the other. I’m happy without religion.

                    P.S.: Did you hear of the dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac? He lies awake at night, wondering if there really is a dog.

    2. Suthenboy, you ought to give pot another chance.

  7. Sounds liek a pretty good plan to me man, Oh wow.

    http://www.AnoTimes.tk

  8. There are not enough blunt’s for a Taylor Swift concert. Whoever the fuck that is.

    1. I know. That’s why I through all the burning pot into the ventilation system.

  9. Hey man! Stop bogarting the AC diffuser!

  10. No one, after all, is talking about putting pot in vending machines or handing out blunts at Taylor Swift concerts.

    Why the fuck not?

  11. “with penalties for behavior (like driving under the influence)”

    It will be interesting to see how DUI is determined for cannabis smoking. If sobriety is attached to a specific legal THC level pot smokers will have a serious fucking time determining whether or not they can drive legally.

    1. Well, considering one of Reason’s “cases to watch” regards cops lobbying to be able to draw blood without a warrant, you could end eventually up with diabetic testing type units that test for drug levels.

      1. in WA, we can do them without a warrant in the following circ

        collision
        PC that a driver is DUI
        same driver caused serious bodily injury to another party

        1. Out of curiosity, is the blood ever used to add DNA to the database, or is that something completely different?

          1. totally different. we do cheek swabs of felony arrestees for DNA

        2. You list three circumstances. Must all apply or just any one?

  12. more news from the legalized front…

    we still get calls from RP’s wanting to complain and wanting police action for kids smoking pot – in cars, in the parks, etc.

    our sgt. has cancelled them repeatedly. iow, dispatch gets the call and the sgt. says we won’t go unless the RP wants contact.

    it’s still illegal for minors to smoke it, and it’s an infraction for anybody to smoke it in public, but this is just another example of how the mindset is changing, and the war on pot is ending.

    unless the caller demands contact (rare), we won’t even GO. pretty strong indication of the change we are undergoing.

  13. White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske insists that even allowing medicinal pot “sends a terrible message” to adolescents

    Yes, individual liberty, the concept that this country was founded on, what a terrible message to send our children.

  14. 2013 Happy New Year,NFL,NBA

  15. The government should have about as much to do with pot as they do with the tomato plants in my garden. Deregulate Pot!

  16. The analogy of marijuana cultivation and commerce among adults to that of alcoholic beverages and tobacco is faulty. That way lies excise taxation, absurdly burdensome license fees and regulations.

    Liberty requires replacement of the state’s prohibition that never should have been with law that treats the plant and its products like any other agricultural commodity, punishing only the selling or gifting of marijuana to children.

    When I say any other agricultural commodity think herbs like thyme sold by weight, on scales certified accurate by the Sealer of Weights and Measures, and subject to the warranty of merchantability.

    Of course, the profits of those engaged in the commerce of cannabis would be subject to income taxation and the activities of that commerce take place in a manner in accordance with other generally applicable law.

    This way the plant will be freed for an agronomy that values it more for its seeds and stalks and less for its leaves and flowers.

    As John Admas wrote almost 250 years ago, bye and bye we shall need a world of hemp more for our own consumption.

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  18. “They might have a point if existing drug laws were keeping weed out of the hands of wayward kids. In truth, they’re about as effective as a picket fence in a tidal wave. In a 2009 survey, high school students said they found it easier to get than beer. In 2011, 23 percent of 12th-graders said they had used weed in the preceding month.”

    This pretty much proves the old dinosaur drug warriors in DC dont have a case, or a clue.

  19. Need I remind you of Chapman’s “keep the drinking age at 21” article?

    FIRE CHAPMAN!!!!!

  20. Good article, but come on, it doesn’t cause lung cancer? That sounds like wishful thinking unless you assume that tobacco smoke doesn’t contribute to lung cancer either. Distorting the facts doesn’t help the cause.

  21. I hate drug, and why someone can not live without drug

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  28. Yeah, he could have explicitly stated it, but I dont see how relying on basic knowledge makes his statement stupid.

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