ReeferMadness.jpg

Digging a Deeper Hole

David Frum writes:

(CNN) — Last week, I joined the board of a new organization to oppose marijuana legalization: Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The group is headed by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy…

Oh dear.

In no particular order, marijuana prohibition is a moral disaster, a practical failure, a colossal waste of public funds, a destroyer of lives, a gift to criminals, an insult to the notion of individual responsibility, and a brutal assault on the idea of limited government.

It’s grotesquely appropriate, in a way, that this new group is headed by Patrick Kennedy.

 The Huffington Post reports:

Kennedy admits to having smoked pot but also said that, as an asthma sufferer, he “found other ways to get high.”

In 2006, he crashed his car into a security barrier in Washington, D.C., and soon after sought treatment for drug dependency. He said he was addicted to the pain reliever Oxycontin at that time and suffered from alcoholism. He added that he has been continuously sober for nearly two years.

Patrick Kennedy is to be congratulated for getting his life together.

He is, however,  to be condemned for suggesting that the legal system of the United States should be organized in a way to suit the needs of a small minority unable to cope with the temptation presented by a relatively innocuous plant.

It should also be noted that, as described in the Huffington Post, Kennedy’s own problems were with a prescription drug and with alcohol. The former is, under certain conditions, legal, and the latter is freely available for anyone over the (ludicrously advanced) age of 21.  

Should alcohol be banned too?

David Frum goes on to point out that marijuana comes with health risks. He’s right. Their extent can be debated, but not their existence, even if (unlike the case, say, with alcohol) nobody has ever died of an overdose of this particular drug.

Ban pot for the under-18s by all means (and have penalties for those that inhale and drive too),  but everyone else should be free to decide for themselves whether weed is a risk that they want to run. Some—Patrick Kennedy types—will make the wrong decision—and they should be helped back on to the right path when they do, but to assume that most people are incapable of deciding this relatively trivial matter for themselves is not only an insult, but a further step down the road to the infantilization of a society that once knew how to think for itself. 

  1. Nick Stuart
    Franco: David Frum’s kids have a harder time getting tobacco than weed. Frum’s nice suburban kids might just be too afraid because it is illegal. However, if one of his kids does smoke weed and gets caught, the consequences are very bad indeed. 

    Yes, as long as it Jesus and Maria, LaShawn and Towanda, Jim Bob and Summer Rae, the war on drugs and ever tougher sentences sounds great to upper middle-class elites.

    When it’s Ashley and Jordan getting sent to Stateville and Dwight [infamous prisons here in the Peoples Republic of Illinois] and making interesting new friends for 5-to-10 years suddenly it doesn’t sound like such a good idea.

  2. Crow

    As I’ve said before, the question of the legalization or prohibition of any substance is a prudential balancing act between the principles of freedom and public order.

    I’m not a pot smoker, nor would I be were it legalized, but based on observation I think it perfectly possible for a user to have a joint on a Friday night and not be a threat to public order or their neighbors. The same cannot be said for many other illegal substances. Based on such considerations, I suppose that on pot I favor federalism and do not object to states and localities making their own decisions on the matter and observing the consequences.

    Even still, while I favor a draw down in areas of the drug war (and prison reform and reform mandatory sentencing guidelines), we should also recognize that it is not as if ending the prohibition on the streetside sale of crack cocaine (which I don’t favor) is suddenly going to turn dealers into suit-wearing, respectably bourgeois business owners and community leaders. The pathologies that lead to gang violence aren’t going to vanish by ending the drug war; it’s a fallacy to suggest that.

  3. Chris Campion

    As an aside, there’s nothing to congratulate Kennedy for.  You don’t congratulate someone for doing the things they should have been doing, all along.  In his case, not setting his life on fire is what he should have been doing all along.  It’s like congratulating someone for making sure their kids ate today.

    You’re supposed to do that.  As Chris Rock might say.

  4. Chris Campion
    Crow’s Nest:

    Even still, while I favor a draw down in areas of the drug war (and prison reform and reform mandatory sentencing guidelines), we should also recognize that it is not as if ending the prohibition on the streetside sale of crack cocaine (which I don’t favor) is suddenly going to turn dealers into suit-wearing, respectably bourgeois business owners and community leaders. The pathologies that lead to gang violence aren’t going to vanish by ending the drug war; it’s a fallacy to suggest that. · 42 minutes ago

    There are a lot of great arguments for making pot legal.  A weak one is the “it will reduce crime” argument.  As the Nest of Crows has ably pointed out, making pot legal won’t suddenly turn dealers into ice cream parlor owners, saying to themselves “Well, I guess now I have to straighten up and fly right”.

    Would legality reduce the kinds of violent crime associated with drug trafficking?  Absolutely.  To a significant degree?  Let me take a wild guess here and say “No”.

  5. PsychLynne

    Not making an argument for or against legalization.  Just pointing out that even casual, but regular, use of weed over time changes, in negative ways, two important areas of the brain–motivation centers and working memory.  Working memory is the skill we use to know where we are in a multi-step process  or when we get interrupted in the process of executing a series of steps (long division is an example).  Motivation includes not just motivation to achieve, but initiation of action steps in an organized plan.

    There are proponents of marijuana use for ADHD, pain, and chemotherapy or medication induced nausea and vomiting.  There are also viable treatments that don’t have some of the long-term consequences that marijuana does.  THC available in pill form, for those cases (typically nausea/vomiting in my experience) where other treatments aren’t working.

    So, while legalization does provide some interesting answers from the perspective of the war on drugs, it also poses some difficulties for regular users that go beyond legal problems.

  6. Spin

    We’ve already made our choice here in WA, and I am at best ambivalent, since I think we have deeper problems to wrestle with. But I will say this: every pot head I know is, well, a pot head. I don’t know anyone who just smokes pot from time to time, but I know tons of people who drink a beer every so often, or have a whiskey and a cigar every so often. There IS a social stigma to pot smoking. How else would Cheech Marin gotten famous? Every person I know who smokes pot is an addict, pure and simple. Oh, I wasn’t quite as ambivalent as I let on. Also, I posted this using the new Ricochet App for iPad. Got that Rob? ;-)

  7. Spin

    To Chris’ #14: I have a nephew served 2 years in prison for robbing a drug house at gun point. He was after the weed. No he wasn’t! He was after money for his heroine addiction. I got nothin’ but my intuition as evidence, but I would bet my last dime bag that most drug related violence is about the really good stuff.Disclaimer: that bit about my last dime bag was humor. I have never used drugs, especially not when I was in the military. Nope. “That ain’t me, I’m from buffalo.”

  8. Larry3435

    This is a slippery slope.  Legalize marijuana and the next thing you know people will be smoking cigarettes.  Gateway drug indeed.

  9. Scott R
    Franco: ….. The idea that pot is stigmatized is an absolute joke. Its illegal like speeding is illegal, but like speeding it has little stigma……

     

    At Thanksgiving dinner with his girlfriend’s family, a young man is far more apt to confess to routinely driving 5 mph over the speed limit than routinely taking bong hits.

    I’m not saying preserving the stigma is sufficient reason to keep it illegal, but it’s something to consider. There’s no question we’d end up with a more permissive culture over time with legalization. 

    Does “anything goes” Amsterdam work? I don’t know — I’ve never been there. As conservatives, though, we should be cautious, take a good look at places where “anything goes” (weed, prostitution, whatever) has been tried, and see how society functions.

    I suspect the evidence is not slam dunk. But again, I’m not sure. 

  10. Mike H
    Scott Reusser

    At Thanksgiving dinner with his girlfriend’s family, a young man is far more apt to confess to routinely driving 5 mph over the speed limit than routinely taking bong hits.

    I’m not saying preserving the stigma is sufficient reason to keep it illegal, but it’s something to consider. There’s no question we’d end up with a more permissive culture over time with legalization. 

    Does “anything goes” Amsterdam work? I don’t know — I’ve never been there. As conservatives, though, we should be cautious, take a good look at places where “anything goes” (weed, prostitution, whatever) has been tried, and see how society functions.

    I suspect the evidence is not slam dunk. But again, I’m not sure.

    OK, but you don’t seem to be taking into account (at least enough) the massive violence and death and huge costs associated when protecting the stigma. Would you be fine with calling it illegal, to signal your disapproval, but then dropping all enforcement?

    And it’s my understanding Amsterdam is far from “anything goes.” It is a European state after all.

  11. The Mugwump
    Scott Reusser

    Does “anything goes” Amsterdam work? I don’t know — I’ve never been there. As conservatives, though, we should be cautious, take a good look at places where “anything goes” (weed, prostitution, whatever) has been tried, and see how society functions.

    I suspect the evidence is not slam dunk. But again, I’m not sure.  · 9 minutes ago

    I can tell you from experience that running a brothel is not an erotic adventure.  The women are thieves, the johns are drunk, and the cops are on the take.  Prostitution corrupts and degrades everyone.  

    As for the legalized drug culture in Amsterdam, ten addicts living on the dole together in a canal barge the size of your living room is hardly civilized.  Such people contribute nothing to society.  Despite attempts to improve public hygiene through safe needle programs and the like, you find the residue of these wrecked lives everywhere.  Do you want your kids exposed to an addict passed out in the park in a puddle of his own vomit?  Or be obliged to police the place for spent needles before they can play?  This is not civilized; it’s just managed decadence.      

  12. Mollie Hemingway
    C
    ~Paules

    I can tell you from experience that running a brothel is not an erotic adventure.  The women are thieves, the johns are drunk, and the cops are on the take.  Prostitution corrupts and degrades everyone.  

    What? From experience? New post! New post! I want details! Wait, that doesn’t quite sound right. Never mind!

  13. vb

    Amsterdam is now restricting coffee house sales to locals because the coffee houses were becoming centers for international drug users and dealers.  The same lovely people also bring in foreigners to staff their brothels.

    Does anyone really believe that legalization would prevent criminals from selling to kids? 

  14. Crow
    Scott Reusser

    Does “anything goes” Amsterdam work? I don’t know — I’ve never been there.

    Let’s put it this way: A-dam is a fun city to party in and has some great bars and nightclubs, but I wouldn’t want to live there. The Dutch folks that I’ve met in my career mostly regard it as almost a different country, and most of the Netherlands isn’t like it. 

    However, it isn’t quite anything goes, so far as I recall. “Hard” drugs are still illegal there (though, like any large city, they are certainly used there). Pot is legal and prostitution is legal in one district of the city. Both are taxed and regulated.

  15. Severely Ltd.
    Scott Reusser

    Franco:

    I’mnotsayingpreserving the stigma is sufficient reason to keep it illegal, but it’s something to consider. There’s no question we’d end up with a more permissive culture over time with legalization. 

    Does “anything goes” Amsterdam work? I don’t know — I’ve never been there. As conservatives, though, we should be cautious, take a good look at places where “anything goes” (weed, prostitution, whatever) has been tried, and see how society functions.

    The ‘necessary stigma’ argument needs to be seriously reevaluated by social conservatives. This is an area where I think conservatism needs to move steadily toward the Libertarian position.

     The argument that coercion by the state is necessary to effect the right attitudes is rife with opportunities for abuse. This is so intuitive that it will be–has been–an area used by the Left to caricature the Right as nannystate scolds. Or Big Brother wannabees.

    Let’s abandon the position that it’s the state’s responsibility to establish ethics**. Return the job to family and church. We should be mocking the Left for advocating this very idea.

    Edit: **To clarify, I’m mean ethics that go beyond the non-aggression principle

  16. The Mugwump
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.

    ~Paules

    I can tell you from experience that running a brothel is not an erotic adventure.  The women are thieves, the johns are drunk, and the cops are on the take.  Prostitution corrupts and degrades everyone.  

    What? From experience? New post! New post! I want details! Wait, that doesn’t quite sound right. Never mind! · 17 minutes ago

    Let me just say in my defense that it wasn’t something I intended to do.  I got stuck in a situation, you see, in a port where during the winter the hotels maintain a “staff” to keep the rooms full.  I started to hang with sailors, and before long I was “arranging” things in exchange for free drinks.  The story involves a motorcycle, a shipload of Filipino sailors, a German captain, the madame, two dozen prostitutes, a corrupt cop, a fleet of taxis, a Peace Corp worker, and crane operator.  Arranging things is what a pimp does, so I arranged my escape.  I think there’s probably still a price on my head in the little port of San Antonio.  

  17. Western Chauvinist

    In my large family and wide social circle, I’m one of very few people I know who has never smoked pot (or anything else, for that matter). The stigma thing isn’t working very well for casual, occasional use. Given the recent homecoming bust at my daughter’s well reputed high school, I’d say the illegality isn’t very effective either.

    My support for legalization hinges largely on three items: 1) the government shouldn’t be in the business of legislating virtue; 2) marijuana is no more destructive than alcohol (fetal alcohol syndrome, anyone?), and in some ways less so (domestic violence); 3) I want to disrupt the relationship between the dealer and the buyer before the stakes get higher.

    On this last point, the dealer has every incentive to get your nephew hooked on heroin (crack, meth, … whatever is more addictive and more expensive). With marijuana as the introductory offer (and its very mild attached stigma), the dealer can establish a relationship which he plans to exploit by either lacing the pot with something stronger, or simply offering a bigger buzz for an IPO which can’t be refused.

    The marijuana shop owner has no such incentive.

  18. Severely Ltd.

    The state is not God’s little helper toward making us better people. The gist of a separation between church and state is avoiding any particular religion’s dogma being imposed on us by government. In light of that, law should only extend to the essentials that protect us from each other physically or contractually.

    If a drug is so addictive and controlling that it compels it’s users to theft or other crime, outlawing it is legitimate, but Pot is far from that. And the  gateway-drug argument is a penumbra too far.

  19. DocJay

    ~Paules, that is the best story I have ever heard!

  20. Joseph Paquette
    Reckless Endangerment: This last post is by no means an endorsement of hard drugs, but rather how dealing marijuana and becoming initiated into the illegal drug culture with that drug can be addressed in a saner/more effective manner than the one we are currently practicing. · 10 hours ago

    As marijuanna becomes legal, then it won’t be a gateway to an illegal culture.  How many people who go to liquor stores, go on to produce their own moonshine? 

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