Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Legalize Marijuana

I was struck by the idiocy of the furor around the picture of Michael Phelps taking a hit from a bong.

This kid is clearly one of the most incredible athletes in the world right now and he was forced to do the mea culpa circuit for smoking pot.

Utterly insane.

The original laws against Marijuana were racist in nature, specifically targeting Hispanics. The arguments used against pot were complete fabrications about how Hispanics and Blacks who smoked became crazed beasts who might even look at a White Woman.

I remember a great propaganda film called Reefer Madness that I saw when I was in college. It portrayed pot users as wild beasts, capable of murder and rape. I went to college in the 70's. Most everyone I knew smoked from time to time. None of them were murders or rapists.

And now, any attempt to legalize pot run into a hailstorm of illogic and outright lies.

The biggest lie is the "gateway drug" lie. The only reason pot is a gateway to more serious drug use is that its illegal. Once you have crossed the line into illegal drug use, there are fewer barriers to cross before you graduate to seriously harmful drugs.

Marijuana is not physically addictive (unlike both alcohol and tobacco).
Marijuana is much less physically harmful than alcohol.
Marijuana is not a gateway to other crimes of violence like alcohol is.

Alcohol leads directly to the deaths of around 200,000 Americans a year. Tobacco leads to the death of perhaps 400,000 every year.

Show me a study that links any deaths to Marijuana.

I have no doubt that people high on pot have done stupid things like drive and ended up dead or killing other people. Nothing close to the number killed in the same way by Alcohol. But I am sure it happens.

Marijuana use probably leads to lung cancer. Pulling smoke into your lungs and holding it there is not actually going to be good for you. But since most smokers that I know smoke maybe a joint a day, I doubt it has the same impact as a pack of cigarettes.

Its another testament to Republicans and their fondness for belief based laws that marijuana is still illegal.

My poison of choice is alcohol. Despite all the drugs I could have tried in college, I never did for no reason other than I just didn't care to. But I should have the choice. The same way I can choose to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.


The Coach said...

"Belief-based" laws - as if there is any other kind.

(Many) Democrats believe that a fetus is not a human being. (Many) Republicans believe that a fetus is a human being.

Both try to pass laws based on their beliefs.

Democrats believe that taxing those with greater incomes more to subsidize those who make less is the way to make society function better. Republicans believe that people should earn and pay their fair share.

Both implement taxation policy based on those beliefs.

Many Democrats are against the legalization of marijuana and there are Republicans who are for it. Your ad hominem attack against Republicans as racist, thought-less, belief-based, unreasonable idiots does nothing for your argument to "legalize it" except give us a straw man to put up as a smoke signal of your lack of argument here.

Not that you don't have some plausible and reasonable beliefs about marijuana and your right to poison yourself with it.

Relativism isn't going to do it for me - just because Alcohol is both legal and worse isn't really a good argument. It may be true, but it's a non sequitur.

You believe that because Marijuana is less dangerous, less addictive, and less likely to cause accidental death it should be okay to do?

Fine - but don't deny that it's based on your beliefs about the role of government and about your perceived sovereignty over your body regardless of others.

Uncle Walt said...

My lack of argument here.

What is my lack of argument?

I state the truth that:

There was a clear racist intent in the passing of laws against the use of marijuana.

Marijuana is not addictive

Marijuana does not cause people to become sex crazed murderers.

One fact taht I didn't mention. We, as a society, are paying something on the order of $40,000/year to keep something 300,000 people in prison in this country for the simple possession of pot. Thats $1.2B a year or so that could well be used for better things.

Those are my arguments. I am arrogant to think they make for a good argument.

When the issue is raised, those who would continue the status quo don't bother refuting the facts of my argument. Perhaps because they can't argue the facts. So they make up arguments.

Arguments that don't justify the cost to society of these idoitic laws.

I am a firm believer in the law. And I think that holding onto and enforcing laws that don't make any sense is destructive to respect for the law and therefore destructive to society. I believe that laws need to have a justification other than inertia.

I think the relativistic argument is valid. Marijuana, Alcohol, and Tobacco are all three drugs that have been in use in society for millenium. Arbitrarily defining one as illegal without a defendable reason is just that, arbitrary. And the law should not be arbitrary.

And thats what this law is.

Its arbitrary.

And we have 300,000 people in prison in this country because of this arbitrary law.

That's wrong and its a waste of money.

As an aside, whatever I might think of Republicans and many of their beleif based policies, I did not and would not accuse Republicans generally of racism. There is a racist wing to the Republican party, that used to be the Racist wing of the Democratic party. Both parties now completely repudiate and reject the racist elements in either party. I mentioned racism only because of the role racism played in the intitial passing of these laws. I believe I clearly stated that racism is no longer a significant factor in any continuing support for these laws.

You focused on my assertion that
"Its another testament to Republicans and their fondness for belief based laws that marijuana is still illegal." I try to be careful with my words, and these words were deliberate.

I have heard no reasonable fact based reasons for keeping pot illegal while alcohol and tobacco (both of which are far more destructive and costly to society) remain available to any adult.

I see no reason to keep sending (mostly) young men to prison for using the drug of their choice.

Its not just about my ". . .beliefs about the role of government and about your perceived sovereignty over your body . . .". Its about the arbitrary and essentially unfair nature of the current laws.

Though I do feel that the government needs to present a compelling argument before we should let it tell us what we can and cannot do.

Don't you?

Do you have a reason for continuing this practice?

Or just your beliefs.

The Coach said...

Walt -

I didn't say I'm against legalizing it. I said I'm against your contention that "belief-based" laws are the domain of Republicans (or conservatives or bigots or whatever label applies to the people you're attacking) and that there are such things as laws that are not based on belief.

I totally agree with you that there must be compelling reasons for a law to be put in place and kept there. But even the compelling arguments you request are still going to be based on belief. That's my point.

But to the potential refutations of your argument on its merits:

"There was a clear racist intent in the passing of laws against the use of marijuana." - The origin of the law is an effective rebuttal only if it is the only reason the law is still in place. A law's original motive may be repugnant, but if the law's effects are desirable then the expired motive is not justification for removing the law. The baby and the bathwater. We don't throw out "thou shalt not murder" because it is attached to sacred texts we find repugnant; rather, we throw out and repudiate the repugnant origins.

Marijuana is not addictive - define addiction. If we limit addiction to chemical, physical dependence on THC itself, then you are correct. If we include psychological dependence (whose chemical underpinnings are under debate), then your argument is undermined.

Marijuana does not cause people to become sex crazed murderers - wow, this is a straw man any way you cut it. I wasn't aware that people used this as a legitimate argument against marijuana use anymore (if it was ever a serious argument from anyone but scare-tactic parents and youth pastors from the 1960's).

I again disagree with your contention that relativism works as a counter-argument. If alcohol and tobacco are worse (in addiction and consequense), then they should be banned or controlled rather than the other way around. I recognize that the tobacco and alcohol lobbies would never allow this to happen; nevertheless, your argument to expand legality based on some worse things which are already legal doesn't lead to only one logical conlusion. That's why it's a non-sequitur.

Now, I know you will disagree that these refutations actually refute your argument, and this is where beliefs come in. You have yours, and clearly the anti-marijuana/pro-enforcement lobby has theirs. They are beliefs based on interpretations of the facts.

You assert that you have heard no "reasonable fact based reasons" for keeping marijuana illegal. Yet it is your belief about the reasonableness of these reasons that prevents your acceptance of them. It appears that no argument will be reasonable to you. If a scientific study finds that marijuana is addictive, would you accept it? Of course not; your goal is not to follow where the research leads but rather to lead the path to legalization, and so long as the science fits the position you hold, you use it as part of the argument.

It still seems to me that your argument is really: Marijuana should be legal because the government shouldn't be telling me what to do to my body.

Do you believe the government should get to control what you do with and to your body?

Uncle Walt said...

I find it interesting that, although you rejected my arguments for legalization, you didn't really present any justification for pot being illegal.

How are the ". .the law's effects are desirable . . ." to use your term?

I mention the legal availablity of alcohol and tobacco as a comparison. While I agree that outlawing tobacco and alcohol would remove the comparison, that is still not a justification for pot being illegal.

I accept that you don't find my reasons for repeal to be compelling, but I don't see anything in your reponse that justifies the current law.

What is the justification for the state to restrict my access to this weed?

Does the use of pot cause enough harm to society to justify the cost to society of enforcing the law?

I don't know why you assert that I only ask for science based evidence if that evidence supports my position. In all my posts, have you seen anthing that indicates that I would or have ignored the science behind a subject based on my personal prejudices?? What have I said or done for you to assume that I am dishonest in that way??

You close with this:

"It still seems to me that your argument is really: Marijuana should be legal because the government shouldn't be telling me what to do to my body.

Do you believe the government should get to control what you do with and to your body?"

In then end, that is exactly my argument. The government should not be in the business of telling me what to do with my body as long as I am not endangering others in the process.

You seem to be saying, and I apologize if I am misintrepting you, that you believe that the state does have the unfettered right to regulate my private actions, even when those actions do not pose a threat to anyone else.

Do you really believe that the state has that right?

Even if my actions do not harm anyone but muself?

The Coach said...

Walt -

I'm certainly not saying that the state has the unfettered right to control your body or what you do with it.

I'm not interested in putting forth arguments for the "illegalization" of marijuana. I'm just trying to remove false arguments and get the underlying argument out of you.

The American ideal is that people have inalienable rights (attributed by our founding fathers as the Creator - a belief), among those the right to do for and to themselves what they wish.

I do also have a belief that I, personally, should tell you that some of the things you might do to yourself are not good for you and that I should say "Stop it!"

This does not translate into legislating your morality until it infringes on someone else's rights.

Marijuana, alcohol, tobacco - fine. It's your body. You can damage it if you wish. It's your brain; you can suppress your own emotions through your choice of medication. But not while it impacts others - heck, let's just say minors - in fact, if you want to get stoned, shnockered, or (what do you call it when you smoke tobacco? stinky? cancerous?) with other consenting adults, go right ahead and defile yourself.

I'm even for people being allowed to smoke in restaurants and - heaven forbid - bars; I'll cast my vote with my money and not frequent such establishments.

I am, however, for fettered interference with your body when it affects other people - and yes, our belief-based viewpoints will impact who/what is a "people."

I think we can agree that the state has an obligation to interfere with behavior that does actually impact other people's rights.

And I think we can both agree that the private use of a consenting adult's drug of choice does not fall into that category.

Regarding dishonesty regarding science - I'm asking a rhetorical question: if science says MJ is addictive, do you change your position? I don't think you do; I think you simply change your tact (or is it tack here?). You stop arguing that it's safe and go straight to your underlying argument: the right to do privately what you want.

Uncle Walt said...

I guess I missed your conclusion.

Do you think that pot should be illegal?

If so, why?

Uncle Walt said...

As for the argument that pot is safe, I never argued that it was safe. Just that its not physically addictive. And that its less harmful to the body than alcohol and probably less harmful than tobacco (since tobacco is physically addictive).

Were pot physically addictive, I would still argue that the state has no business protecting an adult from themselves.

You question was not rhetorical.

". . . If a scientific study finds that marijuana is addictive, would you accept it? Of course not; your goal is not to follow where the research leads but rather to lead the path to legalization, and so long as the science fits the position you hold, you use it as part of the argument. . . "

You state that I would reject the findings a study that demonstrated that pot was addictive. What have I said or done to convince you that I would be that dishonest?

The Coach said...

Walt -

My rhetorical question is not an accusation or even an assertion that you're being dishonest (or even would be dishonest)

I'm not saying that you would "reject" the validity of the study; I'm saying that you would not reject the study as substantive for the illegalization of marijuana -- for the exact reason you give: it's not the state's business to protect you from yourself.

I'm saying you use the science as part of your argument as a prop while it agrees with your conclusion.

I don't think it's disingenuous to use a support that works for what it's worth; and I don't think it's disingenuous to abandon that support when it no longer holds true but the rest of your argument still holds water.

It's irrelevant if pot is safe or unsafe because it's an issue of your right to poison yourself.

My whole point is to clarify your argument. People who are against pot are naturally defensive - and if a part of your position has a hole in it, they'll throw out the whole argument. If you want pot legalized, people like me want you to give the actual argument you're positing. I don't need fluffy "it's dangerous/less addictive/racist in origin" ancillary arguments.

This is a constitutional rights issue, not a relative merits issue, and I want you to frame it as one or the other.

Look, I don't use want to use pot. I don't want to use alcohol. I don't want to smoke tobacco. But I do believe that you should have the right to behave irresponsibly so long as it doesn't impact other people negatively.

If a study shows that pot causes irresponsible behavior that impacts others, then I'm against it - just as I'm against drunk driving. But until such a thing happens - I'll sign on your dotted line.

Uncle Walt said...

I agree that the core argument is one of personal freedom. The right to be do stupid things.

But I was making two parallel arguments. One was personal freedom. The other was comparative. I think both arguments are valid. You don't agree about the comparative argument.

The issue of pot being addictive or not was to compare the effects of pot to roughly comparable legal drugs and to argue that the the disparity under the law was at best nonsensical and at worst actually corrosive to societies respect for the law.

I don't believe I ever argued that pot was absolutely safe. Just safer.

And I return to the beginning of this thread, an issue on which we seem to agree

Legalize Pot.

Liz said...

An aside - I think it's the ultimate hypocrisy that Kellogs opted to not renew Michael Phelps contract because he admitted to smoking pot, but Kellogs signed the contract even though Phelps got a DUI several years ago. How can they be mad at him for smoking pot - endangering only himself - but they aren't mad at him risking the lives of others by drinking and driving? And! It seems really stupid for Kellogs to piss off their customers. Think of all the stoners who get the munchies and crave cocoa krispies and fruit loops. If they boycott Kellogs, they will be begging Michael Phelps to come back :)

Uncle Walt said...

Hypocrisy is not an attribute I give to corporations or their managers. They are trying to read the market. They are not amoral, not immoral. They don't care about consistency, they only care about sales.

The hypocrisy is in their percieved customer base. They believe, and they may be right, that their customers will forgive and forget a DWI, perhaps with a muttered "there but for the grace of god go I", but cannot forgive hitting a bong.

Completely illogical, but that is not uncommon.

Tammi said...

Because I don't have time for any extended discussion, but feel the need to weigh in, this will be my only comment. People know where to find me if they need clarification :-)

1. Walt is correct -- the addictive properties of pot are not comparable to the addictive properties of other illicit drugs.

2. That being said, the idea that it doesn't kill people has never lost anyone due to someone who is high driving and killing them. Pot can kill that way the same way as alcohol can. Walt is also right -- the numbers are far less than that of alcohol, but I would submit that data is almost entirely due to the fact that people having a tweek aren't intending to move/go anywhere other than the kitchen for munchies. If you could go smoke out in a restaurant, I could not be any more confident of anything in the WORLD that those numbers would change because people have to get home.

3. I have lost people. Don't argue with me about it because they are actually dead and I can't talk to them anymore. Your opinions don't matter to me on that end. Sorry for the bluntness.

4. That being said, part II, the hypocrisy of letting people off on DUI while claiming the downsides of pot is nauseating. My issue is that one cannot control the level of "highness", while I could have a glass of wine and drive an hour later. Pot tends to take you from "zero to 60", or maybe "zero to 35" depending on the quality. And no, I have never smoked it. I had enough with percoset.

5. Drug selling should be prosecuted. Drug usage, up to a point, should be treated as an addiction and health care issue. Anyone who pays attention to recidivism rates knows this.

6. Michael Phelps issue -- HUGE hypocrisy. Although, if one wants to laugh a bit, check out the "Really" SNL segment from last weekend. Seth Meyer kills me. Especially the last line.

7. I don't date guys who smoke pot anymore than I would date a guy who did crack, or drinks too much. It shows a lack of concern about your own body, and while that's your choice, it's my choice to be with you.

8. That's all. Have a good day.

PS -- why was my word verification "cheat"??