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"Let My Potheads Go!"
And, hey, how about not imprisoning them in the first place?

I heard an NPR piece about Schwarzenegger's ideas for dealing with California's prison overflow. Here's a bit about it from an unsigned piece in the Balt Sun:

In California, the only state with a larger prison system than Texas, Schwarzenegger signed a plan this month that calls for the construction of 53,000 new beds, with rehabilitation services to accompany the expansion.

Analysts say the plan has the potential to overhaul the state's prison system by providing inmates new opportunities for education, job training and counseling. But they note that funding for the initiative's rehabilitation services is far from guaranteed because the state has not yet approved its budget, and many in the corrections community are skeptical that lawmakers will follow through on their promises.

"It's purely prison expansion. It's just more business as usual," said Joe Baumann, a state corrections officer who has worked for 20 years at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco. "The thing that everybody misses is the incarceration rate per 100,000 people."

Hey, guvvy, here's a hot tip for you: Don't jail potsmokers or people who aren't farming and selling haystacks of the stuff. (Which shouldn't be illegal at all, of course, but that's another battle.)

Now, I don't smoke pot, as its effect on me is comparable to being hit over the head with a frying pan and feeling like I haven't eaten for three days. But, I don't begrudge you what has to be your constitutional right to go anywhere in your head you damn well please -- as long as you aren't also behind the wheel at the time.

Legal beagle types keep telling me that drug use is illegal under the Interstate Commerce Clause...but I really have a hard time seeing how that doesn't conflict in a major way with "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."

Here is the text, from a page at Cornell's Legal Information Institute, of the relevant passage of the idiotic Controlled Substances Act:

Congress set forth certain findings and declarations in the CSA, the most relevant of which are as follows:
(2) The illegal importation, manufacture, distribution, and possession and improper use of controlled substances have a substantial and detrimental effect on the health and general welfare of the American people.

(4) Local distribution and possession of controlled substances contribute to swelling the interstate traffic in such substances.

(5) Controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate cannot be differentiated from controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate. Thus, is it not feasible to distinguish, in terms of controls, between controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate and controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate.

(6) Federal control of the intrastate incidents of the traffic in controlled substances is essential to the effective control of the interstate incidents of such traffic. 21 U.S.C. § 801.

I will be predisposed to vote for any politician courageous enough to champion intelligent drug policy -- the kind that leaves people alone if they aren't hurting others with whatever they're consuming. And doesn't put my tax dollars into jailing potheads when we need prisons for people who are a real danger to the rest of us.

State governors, more and more, are of the age where they had to have not only smoked, but inhaled, and maybe nearly drowned in bongwater.

Come on, who's going to stand up against ruining or impairing the lives of otherwise productive citizens who like to chill out with a toke after work instead of a Martini?

Posted by aalkon at June 28, 2007 11:31 AM

Comments

*...impairing the lives of otherwise productive citizens who like to chill out with a toke after work...*

I don't think this is the bargain with which we are faced. If not in prison for drug charges, many would be in for something else. Drugs are just a convenient prosecuting tactic.

If OJ Simpson toked a little more, he might have done some time.

Posted by: doombuggy at June 28, 2007 5:03 AM

Sorry, but I know a number of extremely productive people -- even a pretty famous hardworking professor and inventor -- who smoke pot.

If not in prison for drug charges, many would be in for something else.

Like what, in his case? Getting a study rejected from a peer-reviewed journal?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 28, 2007 5:24 AM

I don't think this is the bargain with which we are faced. If not in prison for drug charges, many would be in for something else. Drugs are just a convenient prosecuting tactic.

So prosecute them for those charges, and stop assuming that every person who does pot is guilty (by assumption) of those offenses. Maybe if we focussed a little less on who's carrying pot, and a little more on who's stealing cars (or committing more violent crimes), we could do something about crimes where one person is harming another.

Posted by: jen at June 28, 2007 5:33 AM

I actually can't think of a single dangerous pot head. Amusing? Oh very. I worked as an EMT in boston. I had a call to pick up someone with unknown issue and take them to the ER. I arrived to see a person who appeared perfectly OK and was complaining of stripped dry hair. Now not everyone knows this but if they want to go to the hospital you are required by law to take them. To avoid any anti-immigration grand standing the person was a native born american with private insurance. I took the person to the hospital and they were addmited. I think the addmiting nurse still hates me to this day. After they vehemently denied ever using any substances for about half an hour when it was time to pee in a cup they stated "I passed a drug test this morining, then I got backed". I spent the rest of a 12 hour shift laughing my ass off. I have actually met very dangerous people during my time there. Not one single dangerous stoner, especially when the are stoned. I also kinow a very large number of peoeple who are VERY sucessful, 7 figure incomes. So the idea that without the drug charges they would be in jail for other crimes is patently false.
Make it leagal tax the crap out of it and presto. No money spent combating a basicly harmless substance plus all the tax revenue. I fail to see why greed hasn't won out over ignorance yet?

Posted by: Vlad at June 28, 2007 6:15 AM

Sorry the sentance should have read "I also kinow a very large number of peoeple who are VERY sucessful, 7 figure incomes who smoke plenty of pot, and don't actually commit any other crimes." not
I also kinow a very large number of peoeple who are VERY sucessful, 7 figure incomes.

Posted by: Vlad at June 28, 2007 6:17 AM

I have to wonder how much Ye olde "Marajuana is illegal because the lumber industry does not want to compete with hemp for paper production" conspiracy theory is true. In that case, greed is already winning.

Posted by: Shinobi at June 28, 2007 6:32 AM

Nope, it was big pharma that was lobbying Congress to make pot, cocaine and heroin illegal. Back in the early 1900's all 3 substances were legal, and pharmacies sold cocaine and heroin over the counter. The British government in the 17 and 1800's paid farmers in the US to grow hemp. They used it to make sailcloth, rope and clothing, and they used the seeds to make lamp oil.

Posted by: Flynne at June 28, 2007 6:43 AM

V. interesting article, courtesy of NORML:
http://www.naihc.org/hemp_information/content/hemp.mj.html

Posted by: Flynne at June 28, 2007 6:48 AM

Flynne - Yes, and do you know which group was one of the biggest consumers of heroin (and fancy syringes in leather carrying cases!): women stuck on the lonely homestead while the husbands went off to sell their wares and make money. And how did these stranded women buy these things? The Sears&Roebuck catalog! That was a great History Channel show.

Making such drugs illegal had little or no basis in trying to protect people from themselves but later evolved into "protection" in order to continue the justification of keeping them illegal. It's nice to know that the government's role is that of a babysitter...

Posted by: Gretchen at June 28, 2007 7:46 AM

Too many people--from your local police department on up to President Bush--are heavily invested in the War on Drugs. I don't just mean politically or "ethically", but monetarily. So many of our local law enforement agencies receive a lot of federal, state and local tax dollars to fight the "War" that I'm afraid it's well nigh impossible to get them off the government teat. How many politicians do you know have the balls to stand up to the local sheriff or small town police captain? They're (the politicos and their handlers) constantly thinking about how it would play out in the Bumfuck Times if they dared suggest the War on Drugs isn't working.

I'm reminded of a fund raiser I attended two summers ago for a Montana politician who went on to win an important Senate race the following year. I managed to pigeonhole him at the event to ask him where he stood on the War on Drugs. He flat out told me that he thought it wasn't working and should be stopped. Then he went on to say that he could never come right out and say that because it would mean the loss of important endorsements and donations.

Oh, the lack of spine.

Posted by: Rebecca at June 28, 2007 9:30 AM

I agree with Doombuggy. If you just say

> So prosecute them for
> those [other] charges...

..it doesn't really kick the ball forward any. I think drugs of all sorts turn up disproportionately in the lives of people who do baaaaaaaddd stuff.

I don't understand why people think they can say "This-or-that person smoked dope!" as if that could demonstrate that there were no psychographic consequences at all. Dope can fuck people up, young people especially.

Absolutely: there are a lot of shitty, pointless prosecutions happening. But we shouldn't pretend that if we made this stuff legal, there'd be millions more 'hardworking professors and inventors' on the streets. And the drugs put money in the pockets of some of the shittiest people who ever lived, and I don't think you could fix that.

Posted by: Crid at June 28, 2007 9:41 AM

Rebecca, you are right, and what's sad is how misinformed the general public is about this issue, thanks to decades of government anti-drug propaganda. People think that because pot, shrooms, cocaine, and ecstasy are illegal, they are all more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. This simply isn't true.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 28, 2007 9:42 AM

Dope can fuck people up, young people especially.

So can the ready availability of Big Macs. But just as I'm able to eat a Big Mac from time to time without blimping out, I can stop at 3/4 of a glass of wine, as I did Tuesday night when Maia and I were having dinner.

We lifted prohibition of alcohol. We should do the same with pot, and some other drugs, too.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 28, 2007 9:52 AM

Do we have any info on how many people try it and then become regular users? We all focus on the people who have become addicted (to anything) but I'm curious as to what that percentage actually is. This is purely ancedotal, but of all the people I know who've tried anything harder than pot, not a one continues to use. About half still smoke pot, of course. They are otherwise law-abiding. It seems silly to focus on the worst case scenario if that isn't very common. Is it?

Posted by: christina at June 28, 2007 10:16 AM

I think the "worst case" is all they have. WEhat I find ironic is that if so many people weren't afraid for their jobs, etc., it just wouldn't be an issue. You can't prosecute pot smokers if everyone knows the judge tokes. The real 'gateway' drug is perfectly legal, it6's a joke.

I'm sure there are plenty of criminals who smoke pot. I'm sure they also drink, smoke, and eat cupcakes. Too many people partake to generalize that pot has any relation to criminality.

Posted by: Jennifer Emick at June 28, 2007 10:41 AM

> So can the ready availability
> of Big Macs.

Sure, but drugs fuck up young people in their youth, and do it through their personalities.

Posted by: Crid at June 28, 2007 11:10 AM

I agree with the investment side of this argument as mentioned by Gretchen. The Feds dumped a load of money in Northern Calif. back in the mid eighties, looking for the pot growers up in the hills. Friends I grew up with were beat cops/sheriffs excited about making tons of overtime money yahooing all over Shasta County in low level helicopter flights. They couldn't care less about the objects of the search, just what a blast it was.

Posted by: Jim Johnson at June 28, 2007 11:12 AM

-Sure, but drugs fuck up young people in their youth, and do it through their personalities.

Crid, what are you talking about? There's a huge population of individuals out there conducting their lives and various businesses, but who smoked a hell of a lot of pot in their youth, while still managing to carry on with their lives. Presently I have a window on today's youth who are good and decent kids, but smoke a hell of a lot of pot, too. Their grades are reasonable, their outlook on life seems the same, and these kids are all keeping the restaurant, hotel, and lawn-mowing industries afloat with their labor. They go to work on time, they work long and hard hours, and for the life of me I don't see where their personalities are suffering.

I recently viewed a "big" pot bust of a misdemeanor amount in our front yard after a sheriff's deputy followed a vehicle into our neighborhood, presumably because he could see that the three teens were toking. You should have heard the crowing when he found the weed! Made his day! Only one of the three boys were carrying and later we attended the interrogation of our son. Following that enlightening session, the deputy explained to us parents that smoking pot these days is akin to "starting out on beer, then proceeding to Jack Daniels." In other words, he further explained, with weed being so much stronger these days, it's pretty much inevitable that the need for a high will dissipate with pot use and before you know it, you've got a meth addict.

It never ceases to amaze me that, as human beings, we are forever making mountains out of our molehills. It's so much easier than to tackle the corners we've painted ourselves into.

Posted by: Em at June 28, 2007 12:09 PM

To all the comments that pot fucks up people in their youth... you're right. That's why it's not just enough to legalize pot. We need to legalize, REGULATE and TAX pot. Right now it's simpler for the youong to get drugs than alchohol because people who sell booze have an economic incentive to follow the regulations. Why lose your license (and a liquor license might as well be a license to print $20 bills to a decent businessman)for selling a lousy six pak to a teenager? Set the minimum age past the point where teenagers brains have finnished growing in (and we know there are huge changes going in teenage brains)and let responsible adults responsibly enjoy.

Posted by: Mark Reardon at June 28, 2007 12:10 PM

If we're so worried about young people:

Is there any evidence that keeping pot illegal does anything to keep it out of kids' hands? I'd like to see some data on this, because weed is pretty damned ubiquitous. Sometimes beer was harder to get when I was in high school (but we pretty much always managed to find both as needed). Young people will always get their hands on stuff they're not supposed to - drugs, vehicles, unhealthy food, you name it. The only thing that I think really helps is solid parents who pay attention, provide examples, and provide boundaries. The law isn't more than a minor nuisance for kids who want to get high. "Protecting our youth" as a reason to keep marijuana illegal is a total red herring, though politically useful.

Posted by: justin case at June 28, 2007 12:21 PM

"Sure, but drugs fuck up young people in their youth, and do it through their personalities."

Where is Crid, and who is this imposter? Pot doesn't do a thing to change people's personalities, at least not on a permanent basis. It wears off.

Smoking too much pot and eating too many Big Macs are precisely the same thing in my view. They both result from a failure to self-regulate and practice self-discipline. Your average teenager should know when to quit eating Big Macs and should also know to limit the pot smoking to those times when their homework is already done. It's just a basic lesson of life management.

I only eat Big Macs when I'm doing enough biking to burn it back off, and I don't smoke pot in the morning before going to work. These are simple, no-brainer issues. Pot doesn't screw people up, any more than Big Macs do. People screw themselves up because they refuse to manage their own lives and think critically.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 28, 2007 12:35 PM

Pirate Jo is exactly right.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 28, 2007 1:05 PM

I'm a product of Southern CA culture and therefore have been exposed to pot, LSD, alcohol, prescription meds, cocaine, meth, mushrooms, peyote, hashish and every other substance known to man since the age of 12.
I am now an adult and a productive member of society with 5 children and 2 grandchildren. I don't commit any crimes other than speed occasionally and my 23 year marriage is solid, my kids are well adjusted and I STILL SMOKE POT!
The laws regarding marijuana and the rational behind them are deeply flawed. This country needs more Libertarians in office!

Posted by: Ari Rodriguez at June 28, 2007 1:33 PM

> a huge population of
> individuals out there
> conducting their lives

Should I have been clearer that it takes more than one toke to turn a teenager into a viper?

> We need to legalize,
> REGULATE and TAX pot.

Good luck with that effort.

> Is there any evidence
> that keeping pot illegal
> does anything to keep
> it out of kids' hands?

It tempered my enthusiasm, which once was powerful.

> I'd like to see some
> data on this

It's presumed that you're just stalling. People who ask for studies, in business and in life, are usually status quo-ers.

> who is this imposter?

It's an Evil Twin scenario... Both grew up super-liberal, but only one came to his senses.

> It wears off.

So if you don't smoke it at all, there's no problem, right?

Look, if grownups want to torch up on a Friday night in front of a plasma showing wrestling and reruns, have at it. And I think most teenage weed abusers were going to have their problems anyway. I just had lunch in Santa Monica with a high school friend who had some fun with it and then walked away at zero cost before graduation.. This person was going to do well no matter what.

But I think y'all are being glib about it. Society owes something to the kids who don't have the best grounding, too.

I love to drink, and you'll never know how much. But let's not kid ourselves... We live on Planet Sober.

Posted by: Crid at June 28, 2007 2:21 PM

I was thinking that drug busts are, currently, an easier way for the police to put someone away.

If there are a rash of home burglaries in an area, and the police think they know who it is, they can catch that party with some weed and have them put away. Thus the perpetrator is out of action without having to do the complicated evidence gathering for a burglary conviction. I suspect every person in prison for drug charges has a potential rap sheet behind him/her that would eventually land them in prison anyway. Pot-smoking-but-otherwise-law-abiding professors don't get sent away.

Posted by: doombuggy at June 28, 2007 2:30 PM

Drug laws aren't made to protect the people who do not smoke pot. They are made for the exact reason DUI are laws are made- to protect everyone else from some dumbasses poor judgement.

It isn't the occasional pot smoker (who can control thier smoke habits) that gives rise to the title 'pot head'. It is the Tommy Chongs and whacked out stoners who give it a bad name and consequently force laws to be written.

If you want to legalize pot, here's a tip- get the productive people that Amy and you others have talked about to promote it. Not asshats like Tommy Chong. Anyone who has suffered through a Hawaii's Natural High commercial can attest to the theory of inadvertent negative advertising.

Posted by: Trickish Knave at June 28, 2007 3:06 PM

Love same old nanny state.
Do it for the kids is the same old refrain.

Crid, no one is saying you can't give an age limit, like no pot under 18 or 21. Would that be enough for the poor helpless kiddies?

Posted by: newjonny at June 28, 2007 3:35 PM

"Society owes something to the kids who don't have the best grounding, too."

No way, Crid would never say something like that! Who are you? ;-)

Crid, do you care to elaborate on that? Kids grow up in a lot of different backgrounds with an amazing variety of "grounding," and we all have different views about which types of grounding are better than others. Who gets to decide which ones are disadvantaged? Who is "society" in that case? Aren't those kids part of society, too? (Meaning, don't they owe something to themselves, as well?)

You've pretty much said that people who abuse pot would have their problems anyway, and those who have their acts together would succeed because they have self-discipline and would succeed no matter what. So it's not the weed that's the problem. Why do you think it should be illegal? It's less harmful than a lot of other things, like alcohol or junk food.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 28, 2007 4:06 PM

"If you want to legalize pot, here's a tip- get the productive people that Amy and you others have talked about to promote it."

Tell me about it. This issue gives me a crick in my back. I'd love to go down to the local demonstrations and carry a sign, just to show some support. I'm a clean-cut looking professional with a real job, whose ass can fit into a standard airline seat, and I can speak coherently. I'd love to lend whatever credibility I can to the proceedings, but I don't feel I can risk it professionally. Of course this makes me feel like a coward, but I'm in the middle of trying to make a career change and want to keep paying the bills. Pathetic, I know. But how am I going to pay for my WEED, if I don't have a JOB, man???

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 28, 2007 4:10 PM

I think you guys are misinterpretting two things.

First, I smoke weed all the time, and have for 10 years, though always repsonsibly - i.e. after homework and usually late at night with an hour or so before bed, just because it's fun - because the idea of becoming a wastoid is just anathema to me.

Thing is, I think you guys overestimate enforcement for personal-use levels of marijuana. The cops really do have better things to do. Secondly, it's pretty damn decriminalized. In Ohio, where I live, for example, a quite healthy personal amount will get you a ticket and a mandatory court appearance, not an arrest. If you get caught with an ounce, either you smoke too much, or you're selling it. Period.

Yes, I know what too much is. Because I'm Jesus, that's why. And so are you.

But the fact is the weed culture has contributed to the smokable heroin culture, and if you sincerely do not see a difference between the physical and psychological effects of drugs like heroin and cocaine versus weed and LSD - all of which I've tried, addicts to which I've known, including in my own family - then you are fucking stupid and have no business making policy recommendations, except according to your trivial right to have an opinion.

I don't believe people should be incarcerated for a couple joints, and I don't believe an industrious, curiuos, intelligent person is going to be turned into Beavis or a fanatical disciple of Tupac just because they like to smoke a spliff when they day's work is done and your tiny beautiful girlfriend who smells like peaches and is wearing that nice white tanktop with no bra is shifting her weight in your lap while the sun mellows in the sky, but for fuck's sake I really don't think anyone's actually talking about that.

Finally, it is curious to me that the people who make the most noise about the injustice of weed's illegality are usually the people who smoke most, who never have any problems because of it, and never go without. Maybe it's an... oh, I don't know... unhealthy obsession?

Me? I like rules. Rules are for fuckups. If you can regulate your own life, 99.9% chance you'll never get busted with grass either.

Posted by: dan at June 28, 2007 4:18 PM

It's presumed that you're just stalling. People who ask for studies, in business and in life, are usually status quo-ers.

Stalling? Pot meet kettle, then. People who ask for studies may just be trying to get a question answered. The last time I checked, data were more useful than personal experience when it comes to determining how people behave.

Posted by: justin case at June 28, 2007 5:01 PM

I'm watching the democratic debate on PBS right now and...wow! a dem who I like. The senator from Alaska is ALL about ending "the war on drugs." He mentioned how it's a waste of money and space to fill up jails with pot smokers who don't actually hurt people.

I'm pretty sure he's making segues whenever the clock allows. Ok, back to the t.v.

Posted by: Gretchen at June 28, 2007 6:51 PM

Aw, you don't believe that, people act on their feelings all the time in ways that are contrary to their interests as expressed in "data". I'm looking forward to doing that this very weekend! Especially on blogs, people will say "I'm waiting for the studies" when they're winding up to take a position that's totally goofy. I strongly believe it's better for a child to live in a home with two loving parents rather than on the streets of downtown LA. I haven't seen the studies, though... But you're right about the kettle, society has already established a policy, and it goes like this: Children shouldn't do drugs!

Teenagers and 20-year-olds drink, you know. We kind of expect them to... The law is just a way to express to them that they should have boundaries with alcohol. If dope were as legal as booze, there'd be as many problems with it.

> Who gets to decide which
> ones are disadvantaged?

We do that all the time... Is there anyone here who can talk about the impact of the ADA since 1991 or whenever it was signed?

Posted by: Crid at June 28, 2007 6:59 PM

Children shouldn't do drugs!

I couldn't agree more. I just don't see that the laws criminalizing pot help with this. Dealers don't check I.D.s!

people will say "I'm waiting for the studies" when they're winding up to take a position that's totally goofy.

Maybe my position is totally goofy (that decriminalizing pot would be a net benefit to society compared to the current policy), but a lot of good research on human behavior often shows counterintuitive results. It seems obvious that pot being illegal would make young people less likely to do it but adolescent thinking might prompt the opposite. Hence why I wondered whether there was data on this.

people act on their feelings all the time in ways that are contrary to their interests as expressed in "data". I'm looking forward to doing that this very weekend!

Yep. Me too!

Posted by: justin case at June 28, 2007 7:31 PM

Questions and observations:

Amy - what are you doing citing anecdotal evidence now, when you deplore its use by others?

For everyone: Considering that some drugs actually do harm, how do you propose legalizing their use?

Does this mean that you approve of smoking tobacco, now, since unfiltered hemp smoke contains many of the same poisons?

You who cite the Sears catalogue: did you know that until 1968, you could order guns that way, without age or background checks - does that mean that you endorse that ability to be restored also, since the responsible use of guns is already demonstrable?

Alcohol is a legalized drug with highly active campaigns to avoid injury and death. How will the demographic of the recreational drug user differ, supposedly being more responsible in seeking impairment?

How will critical industries detect and deter impairment in their users, such as airline pilots, nuclear plant operators, weapons custodians, etc., when legalization will require tests capable of grading impairment, as opposed to the go/no go tests used today?

---

I just want to see some consistency here. Too many people toot their own horn as "responsible enough to {insert activity here}" without being consistent. Rights require support, in the manner of the exercise of the attendant responsibilities. How can you show the responsible use of a recreational drug, almost by definition the abdication of responsibility?

You want to drug yourself willy-nilly. I get that. What I don't get is how you cull those who can be hurt and can hurt others from the process.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 28, 2007 8:27 PM

The only candidate for president that would end the drug war among all the other unconstitutional wars the government is waging is RON PAUL You must register republican and vote in the primaries or become a delegate or we will lose him. He is of real founding father material that come around very rarely. He is tops on the Internet, won the debates and the internet polls, but the corporate media is covering it up. Why? Because they love to get those matching funds from the government and Ron Paul is for the elimination of corporate subsidies and protectionism of all sorts. Socialism is a disaster everywhere. Do that and you can get rid of the whole income tax monstrosity and all the corruption and lobyists in Washington DC. He is exposing the fraud that the Federal Reserve is perpetrating and stealing your money right out of your pocket through inflation, a never ending, illegal tax on money you already paid tax on and makes it impossible to save. Don't fall for the the big government, pro war, and that includes the drug war, candidates- Hillary, Gulliani, Romney, McCain. The only choice is Ron Paul!

Posted by: Kris at June 29, 2007 1:06 AM

"The current system is ineffective at controlling supply of all manner of drugs - thereby associating marijuana with much nastier ones. It introduces young people to the criminal classes. It puts money into the hands of nasty people, at inflated prices, and almost certainly untaxed. It trivializes legal process by making a huge number of people criminals so that the law doesn't make due effort to pursue other crimes. It gives a large number of people criminal records and thereby ruins their lives - that is, it is the law, not the drug, that does the ruining. I could go on."

That's an extraordinarily large number of passive voice uses there, Norm. Drug use is not a right; alcohol use is not a right. You are aware, probably, that the vast majority of disturbances related to intoxication result from alcohol use, and not illegal drug use, right?

It may be the case that drug prohibition and enforcement result in bureaucratic waste. It may be the case that drug prohibitions are entangled in moralisms whose application to certain personalities is dubious. Your best argument, I think - that non-criminals seek out criminal distributors in order to buy the drugs (most of whom also now sell cocaine and extacy, at least, or know how to get those to the customer) - is true, and unfortunate, but is partly beside the point.

The main point is, you do not need to do drugs, and you ought not do drugs. Marijuana is a drug: about 30 seconds after smoking, you get high. 10 minutes later you are very high. EVERYONE KNOWS AT LEAST A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE WHO SHOULD NOT CONTINUE TO SMOKE POT. If you say you do not, you are lying, so fuck you. Why can't you people simply tolerate a little lifegame with The Man when you can obviously get high whenever you want, and - let's be honest - no one really gives a shit about these anonymous dope fiends?

And RON PAUL!?! Ha - what is with this ludicrous theme that a President, for 4 years, is going to be able to "do away with big government"? That has to be the most ignorant enthusiasm going, besides the socialist's. Ron Paul's candidacy is just a conspiracy to expose the retards. Consider yourself spotted, tard.

Posted by: dan at June 29, 2007 4:14 AM

passive voice? I don't see any passives ... not that grammar is relevant to this argument.

... not a right ... So what? We define rights to be whatever we want, by means of legislation. This discussion is about what rights would be better to have. Saying it is not a right in this discussion is like objecting to going over there just because we are standing here.

disturbances .. alcohol So I understand. Your point is?

... bureaucratic waste ... No, that's not the main point. The main point is that the present system wastes people's lives. Bureaucratic waste is bad enough though - all that money could be used for something else, like building a fence round Mexico.

The main point is, you do not need to do drugs, and you ought not do drugs. This is opnion, not fact.

Marijuana is a drug... Good lord. We're back to name calling (see "rights" above). Look, it doesn't matter what words you use to name something. Would you change your mind if we called it a "natural organic mood enhancer?"

I am not arguing in favour of drugs. They are fun but that's all they are. I am arguing against them being illegal because that is worse for people than the drugs are. The cure is worse than the disease. And it doesn't work as a cure, either.

Posted by: Norman at June 29, 2007 6:03 AM

A portion of the public has decided that breaking the law is what they will do. They have no interest in changing the law, first; when possible they flaunt their drug use. They enable the establishment of world-wide drug-distribution networks in the process.

These are good people?

Posted by: Radwaste at June 29, 2007 8:04 AM

No, they are not good people in my book. But what relevance are they to this debate? If breaking the law is their thing, they will find a law to break whether it is drugs prohibition or something else. But not being a "good person" is not a crime. At least I hope it's not.

Wait - are you suggesting we keep prohibition as a honey pot so they will break that law instead of, say, the law against rape and murder? I haven't heard that argument before.

... they flaunt ... Is flaunting to be a crime? Eddie Izzard's going to be in trouble.

They enable the establishment of world-wide drug-distribution networks in the process. Exactly why their activity should be decriminalised, licensed and taxed. Does alcohol or tobacco fund the world-wide etc? No. Even though they are possibly more addictive and harmful than, say, marijuana or LSD.

In the UK, a person has to apply to the local council for a license to sell booze. Local people can object; the police can object; it is all above board. I guess it's similar in the US. It would be nice if pushers were subject to the same scrutiny.

Posted by: Norman at June 29, 2007 8:53 AM

Good article and good comments, Amy.
I am in pretty much of a cruise into older age now, but I hope you kids can begin making sense of all the changes this grand experiment called America has undergone in these last 50 years.
Smoking pot is a right, covered under life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. At times in my life, I have taken two tokes just to distract myself and turn up the music, coming back to my problem the next day free of obsessing on whatever solution was eluding me. That is my right.
Citizenship has benefits, but also duties, if only to maintain a safe and secure place to live. It may be argued that children do not have full benefit of the Bill of Rights until assuming the full responsibilities of Duty gained upon reaching legal voting age. Maybe teaching them that adult behavior has not been earned by them.
Really identify what government must embroil itself into by simply asking if the problem has reached or is approaching epidemic levels. That can be defined by asking yourself how many people do you personnally know that are affected by the issue at hand. We are wasting obscene amounts of money because that is how the money tree is grown.
I am embarrassed that my generation, that I was once so proud of, has not solved this after 50 years. Time for you kids to fix it. Find who can best work and best agree and put it out there.

Posted by: JD Johnson at June 29, 2007 9:01 AM

Big Pharma is not going to let the legalization of marijuana happen. They have too much invested in doing through lab produced chemicals what THC can do for much cheaper (and probably fewer side effects).
Much as I hate to use an anecdote for evidence, I'm not a researcher so all I can do is speak from personal experience.
Pot, in combination with therapy, has kept me off anti-depressants. Something about marijuana seems to interrupt and reset the internal monologue. A few tokes and it's almost like magic, the anxiety lessens and the depression goes away, and stays away for weeks. Now if less than a joint's worth of pot can keep me anxiety free for six to ten weeks or so and costs less than my copay for prozac (which has to be taken daily), why on earth would I take the pharmaceuticals? (And that doesn't even count the intangible benefit of curing writer's block). Much as I think legalization of pot is a fantastic idea (for reasons others here have already stated), Big Pharma is going to throw it's billions around to make sure it stays legal so they can peddle the artificial stuff for their own profit. They don't want me growing my own anti-anxiety treatment.

Am I paranoid? Perhaps. But not *that* paranoid.

Posted by: Elle at June 29, 2007 9:21 AM

And Elle hits the nail right on the head!

Posted by: Flynne at June 29, 2007 9:56 AM

"It introduces young people to the criminal classes."

No - people who buy drugs do that. Moreover, since you can grow very good weed relatively easily and extremely cheaply, there would still be "criminal classes" with respect to weed.

"It puts money into the hands of nasty people, at inflated prices, and almost certainly untaxed."

No - people who want drugs put money into the hands of nasty people. Moreover, I have only very rarely bought drugs from nasty people; most were just trying to make some money on the side. The prices aren't inflated; I'm quite willing to pay the work and conveyance and criminal liability premium. Saves me quite a bit of trouble. Oh - and if it becomes legal, the realy price will $0.00, because people can grow it... Until someone grows better weed, or weed that you like better, than that offered legally, in which case, the price will go back up again. And good luck getting that tax revenuve (and yeah, I'm sure you sincerely give a shit about that, b).

"It trivializes legal process by making a huge number of people criminals so that the law doesn't make due effort to pursue other crimes."

Actually, since everyone knows it's illegal, and people do not Need to smoke weed, people do that themselves. And as I said, it's been decriminalized, and only dumbfucks get caught with it. I know dozens of habitual potsmokers, and at least a dozen growers, and not one has ever gotten caught. Rules are for dumbfucks. So I like 'em.

"It gives a large number of people criminal records and thereby ruins their lives - that is, it is the law, not the drug, that does the ruining. I could go on."

Well, it doesn't ruin their lives unless they are convicted of having a felony amount, and the felony possession is not elligible for a judicial remedy that includes expungment following rehab and community service. My little brother, 21 at the time, was caught with a couple grams of heroin when he was in a car accident, because he's a heroin addict. They charged him, but the above exception applied, and - boom, he has no record. And, by the way, it was the drugs that fucked him up, and he chose to become an addict, since it's obvious that one must repeatedly do the drugs prior to acquiring an addiction, and therefore one knowingly puts oneself in imminent danger of becoming an addict, so, while no one Wants to become an addict, guess what? You want to become an addict if that's how you conducty yourself.

Posted by: dan at June 29, 2007 9:59 AM

Gonna put this right at the end - because I am a confused person.

I purchased weed (illegally, of course) for my older sister when she was dying of cancer. Maybe it helped. I've done a boatload of all sorts of stuff in my salad days - and most dealers I knew were squingy shits (one was a remarkable women, she was the romantic exception). I have friends who were caught in the downward spiral (heroin as well as everything else) and wasted years righting themselves. I have two boys in their late teens - one uninterested in drugs, one not so. I would much rather yell "it's illegal, you fool!' at the younger, because he's ambitious enough to know a conviction would be a terrible idea - even tho' he is a daredevil hothead. We - his parents - worry endlessly.

So I'm with Crid. Cravenly.

(Although I'd be willing to support legalize, tax and regularize pot if society was reorganized from top to bottom. Which is a pathetic position).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 29, 2007 12:34 PM

I dont understand why people keep associating pot with crack and heroin. You can smoke pot for 20 years continue to stay out of prison, and pay your bills and go to work everyday and make a living. I havent heard too many cases of crack/cocaine/herion addicts that dont end in tragedy or prison, rather quickly. I dont know if they should legalize it or not because on one hand you got who knows who making the big bucks now, and who knows who's getting hurt or killed during the big, "more risky" transactions. Sure, Joe shmoe your neighborhood pot dealer makes a couple bucks, but where did he get it? and where did they get it? I think the more you go up the chain the more dangerous, unless your Joe Shmoe is growing it himself. On the other hand, you legalize it and all the sudden you got all these pot companies like tobacco companies (maybe even the tobacco companies) ruling the industry and making a fortune off it, then they start adding in shit to make it addictive like ciggarettes. I like pot, I think it should only be legal if you grow your own and dont sell it.

Posted by: Amber at June 29, 2007 12:57 PM

... a conviction would be a terrible idea ... - you said it, Jody. A conviction would be much worse than a spliff.

Posted by: Norman at June 29, 2007 2:29 PM

"A conviction would be much worse than a spliff."

Shit, knew I should have kept my mouth shut on this one, Norman!

Look, I'm not arguing a cherent position, really (and for once!). I admit I'm all over the shop and floundering in inconsistencies.

Of course I want to keep any dope conviction as a conditional threat...

All I can bleat in my defence is trying to give best practical advice to my younger son at least until his over-confidence towards life gels a little. It's all a bit fluid right now.

(Probably doing it all wrong anyway).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 29, 2007 2:52 PM

Norman, if breaking the law means that the law should be changed, why not eliminate other laws that people break - because they break them?

This is what I mean by people not thinking consistently about this issue.

I am still waiting for someone to tell me how to measure impairment, so that the public can be protected from the misuse of legalized drugs by workers in critical positions. We have zero-tolerance policies now which will be removed if you get things legalized.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 29, 2007 6:45 PM

Jody-

My advice to my kids about illegal drugs is to avoid them. The risks of conviction, and the fact that you have no idea what is in the packet you have bought, outweight the benefits. Stick to safe sex.

Radwaste-

It's not a matter of changing the law because people break it - though that argument does have considerable weight. If enough people break a law, then the law is bringing all law into disrespect, and that's a good reason for removing it. This only applies in an otherwise peaceful and law-abiding population, of course. I'm not saying there should be no law against looting because "everyone did it" after Katrina.

But that was not the argument. The argument is that the prohibition law is causing more damage than the thing it is trying to prevent. It's just a question of weighing up the pros and cons of two options: prohibition or regulation. It's not the case that one side has all the pros and the other has all the cons, but it does seem tipped in favour of regualtion to me.

Posted by: Norman at June 30, 2007 8:55 AM

Norman nailed it. I'm not pro-drug at all. The cost of prohibition is just too high.

Posted by: MarkD at July 3, 2007 9:34 AM

The cost of prohibition is just too high?

Gonna say that when your airliner's headed for the ground, the semi driver's propane tank is too much for his stoned ass to control and so forth?

Tell me how to test for impairment after you legalize a drug!

Posted by: Radwaste at July 7, 2007 3:19 PM

I suppose scientists might actually develop a test that works to find out if someone is impaired. By the way even with marijuana criminalized - those who choose to do it and then face a drug test simply follow a couple simple steps and they can pass a drug test even if they smoked it yesterday.

The tests make people feel better, but they're a joke.

Drug addiction is a health problem, not a justice department problem. outside of that - it's your choice what you want to do with your own body in so many instances that it's ridiculous that this isn't one of them. Ever hear of a guy smoking a joint and then starting a bar fight? Ever hear of a guy having a few drinks and starting a bar fight? How can alcohol be legal and pot stay illegal. It just doesn't make rational sense.

And any teenager can tell you that they can get marijuana easier than alcohol - because alcohol is controlled. Take the profit out of the drug and you get rid of the dealers.

Posted by: Annie at August 1, 2007 8:50 PM

it doesnt take a rocket scientist to see the dangers of alcohol compared to marijuana.i dont understand why im the only one that sees this.i have a 17 year old son,who smokes pot,i personally dont have a problem with it.you know what HE DOES NOT DRINK!i would rather he smoke than drink anyday.alcohol kills too many people everyday,and if he is going to do something im glad its just pot! alcohol is the absolute hardest drug there is,and its the only thing legal.there is no other drug that distorts your abilities like alcohol.why do we continue to let this go on?how many more lives will alcohol claim before we finally do something about it?i say get your head out of yor butt,and lets make some major changes,before we wipe out half the population due to closed mindedness.

Posted by: shane a webb at October 10, 2007 9:45 AM

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