October 18, 2010
"Former surgeon general calls for marijuana legalization"
The title of this post is the headline of this new CNN piece. Here is how the piece starts and ends:
Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders told CNN Sunday she supports legalizing marijuana.
The trend-setting state of California is voting next month on a ballot initiative to legalize pot, also known as Proposition 19. The measure would legalize recreational use in the state, though federal officials have said they would continue to enforce drug laws in California if the initiative is approved.
"What I think is horrible about all of this, is that we criminalize young people. And we use so many of our excellent resources ... for things that aren't really causing any problems," said Elders. "It's not a toxic substance."...
Elders stressed the drug is not physically addictive and pointed to the damaging impact of alcohol, which is legal. "We have the highest number of people in the world being criminalized, many for non-violent crimes related to marijuana," said Elders. "We can use our resources so much better."
October 18, 2010 at 08:30 PM | Permalink
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I am a student and I completely agree that the decriminalization is long over due. It doesn't make sense that alcohol is allowed to so much damage to a lot of people in society and marijuana known as a relaxant is treated this way.
Posted by: Janet Hill | Oct 18, 2010 9:12:43 PM
Jesus said, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (Matthew 7:12).
I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana.
We can change the world when we vote.
Posted by: Conservative Christian | Oct 19, 2010 9:09:23 AM
Conservative Christian --
"I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana."
How about 105 tons? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/18/AR2010101804964.html
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 19, 2010 11:20:26 AM
Not sure where you're going with that, Bill. The good Dr says the substance is much less dangerous than alcohol and we are wasting resources fighting it. And you respond to a commenter with a "big" seizure?
Thinking of Kentucky Bourbon alone, last year they produced ~700,000 barrels, x 30 gallons, x ~7 lbs/gallon = about 770 times as much weight of bourbon whiskey alone as that mj seizure. Would it seem more sinister if we had a masked gunman next to all the barrels, prohibition style?
Posted by: Texas Lawyer | Oct 19, 2010 11:44:31 AM
105 tons sounds like a drug cartel. Exactly what prop 19 will defeat.
Posted by: anon | Oct 19, 2010 12:51:04 PM
Bill often talks about the slippery slope - first pot is legalized then meth. I often wonder why he doesn't advocate the criminalization of alcohol, since his logic would seem to suggest that alcohol,too, should be made illegal.
Posted by: DGR | Oct 19, 2010 1:16:04 PM
I would be OK with a law that allowed possession of marijuana up to a reasonable amount like 100 tons. I agree that 105 may be a little overboard.
Posted by: Anon | Oct 19, 2010 1:25:01 PM
Much like her failed and aborted 18 month term as US Surgeon General, Elders' argument is unfocused, muddled, and wildly inaccurate.
MJ enforcement by police is not the boondogle proponents make it out to be. Few are jailed solely for possession of small quantities. Many departments simply issue non-criminal tickets.
Moreover, smoking MJ does result in dependence on the drug. More than 30 percent of people who are 18 and over and who used MJ in the past year are either dependent on the drug or abuse it that is, they use it repeatedly under hazardous conditions or are impaired when they are supposed to be interacting with others, such as at work. This is according to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which I presume the discredited former Surgeon General is still a member.
Posted by: mjs | Oct 19, 2010 4:04:17 PM
MJS - I'm curious whether you think alcohol should be criminalized (since many are dependent on it and/or abuse it and/or use it under hazardous conditions).
Posted by: DGR | Oct 19, 2010 5:01:55 PM
Alcohol is primarily used in moderation and without anti-social effect. MJ can be debilitating from the first joint.
The two martini lunch is not as problematic as the one joint coffee break!
Posted by: mjs | Oct 19, 2010 5:22:44 PM
MJS- I bet you really believe in the old propaganda Movie "Reefer Madness".
Posted by: Anon | Oct 19, 2010 6:58:59 PM
Anon: Never saw the movie. How about a more substantive argument.
Posted by: mjs | Oct 19, 2010 10:09:50 PM
Texas lawyer, anon and DGR --
"Conservative Christian" doubted the propriety of imprisonmment (with sex fiends) and forfeiture of Granny's home for, as he put it, "a little marijuana." His chosen phrasing invites the question I asked, to wit, what about if it's over a hundred tons.
Alcohol IS illegal for a large portion of the population that wants it. Would you change that? In addition, it isn't me who launches the slippery slope argument that ends in meth. It's those who say marijuana should be legal because, in a free country, everyone should be able to decide for himself what substance is, or isn't, too dangerous to put into his own body. That principle applies no less to meth (or crack or LSD or Ecstasy or what have you).
I didn't invent the fact that legalization's main argument comes complete with a slippery slope, I merely noticed it. If you want to blame me for that, feel free. But it's there whether you admit it or not.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2010 12:53:14 AM
When Joycelyn Elders is against you, you can rest easy. To those who have her (and Al Sharpton and Ramsey Clark, etc.) on their side, my sincere condolences.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2010 12:57:46 AM
Assuming arguendo that Prop 19 would take cartels out of the marijuana business, it will not "defeat" them. They will simply shift toward other illegal drugs, including especially cocaine.
As a poster on a different thread has argued, the only way to get criminals out of the illegal drug business -- and thus to "defeat" the cartels -- is to legalize everything for everyone. Is that what you propose?
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2010 8:44:42 AM
Bill- No, I wouldn't legalize alcohol for the portion of the population for which it is illegal. What I'm curious about is whether you would criminalize it for the portion of the population for which it is legal. Would you?
Posted by: DGR | Oct 20, 2010 11:05:31 AM
I would consider raising the drinking age, as statistics show that younger people (specifically those in their early 20's) are more prone to the trouble that alcohol causes than older ones. Other than that, I'd leave it be; on the other hand, I would scarcely want to add to the problem by tossing dope into the brew when we've already got enough health problems from tobacco and booze.
Now answer a question of mine: Since, as legalizers are wont to say, in a free country, a person should be able to make up his own mind about what is or is not too dangerous to put into his body, why doesn't that principle apply equally to both marijuana and meth?
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2010 11:46:05 AM
Most big drug cartels do not deal in just one illegal drug.If you take marijuana away the cartels will feel the pain.Law enforcement could then deal with the harder drugs.
Posted by: anon | Oct 20, 2010 12:56:58 PM
Alcohol is primarily used in moderation and without anti-social effect. MJ can be debilitating from the first joint.
MJS you call this a substantive argument against prop 19? Weak!!
Posted by: anon | Oct 20, 2010 1:01:21 PM
Bill: That principle (that one should be able to decide what they put into their body) does apply equally to pot and meth, of course. It's not the reason I think pot should be legalized though. For me, it's a simple cost/benefit analysis, and I think the costs of pot prohibition outweigh the benefits. I do not think that's the case with meth.
So here's another question: Why should we "leave the alcohol problem be" - other than by raising the drinking age? Why not try to fix the problem?
Posted by: DGR | Oct 20, 2010 1:45:50 PM
Mr. Otis at 8:44 A.M.:
"the only way to get criminals out of the illegal drug business -- and thus to "defeat" the cartels -- is to legalize everything for everyone."
No, I am concerned about a 4G war being prosecuted by the cartels on our southern border.
No, I am concerned about Mexico, the seventh largest economy in the world, which is our largest trading partner and our third largest supplier of oil, being destablized by a 4G war funded from the pockets of US drug users.
No, I am concerned that the cartels' 4G tactics of assassinating government officials, police, military, media, judges, lawyers, their families, and random acts of terror against the general population can be easily exported north.
No, I am concerned that the DOD would like to take the War on Drugs from the criminal justice system and try their "solutions" for the cartels.
No, I am concerned that the War on Drugs has absolutely no chance of success as long as the cartels have gazillions of cash from the pockets of US drug users to hollow out Mexican institutions to create safe havens from where they can operate with impunity, both in Mexico and the US.
The solution is to turn off the cash spewing from the pockets of US drug users to the cartels by the complete legalization of all street drugs. The invisible hand of the market will cause retail prices of street drugs in the US to collapse. After all what single factor explains the difference between the retail price of a bushel of green beans and a similar quantity of a street drug?
Posted by: Fred | Oct 20, 2010 7:14:45 PM
"So here's another question: Why should we 'leave the alcohol problem be' - other than by raising the drinking age? Why not try to fix the problem?"
I'd love to fix the problem, but the law is not all-powerful. It can do some things. For example, it can suppress (although not eliminate) the use of mind-altering drugs like marijuana by making them illegal, and it can suppress (although not eliminate) the use of alcohol by making it illegal to a significant segment of the potential market, and illegal during a very frequent activity (driving). In addition, the consumption of alcohol is culturally ingrained in a way the consumption of dope isn't, so the latter is more easily addressed than the former.
It's a matter of degree, DGR, and it's not black and white. Marijuana is not in any practical sense as illegal as it's portrayed here. The huge majority of users are left untouched by the law. Among the others, the huge majority are simple possession offenders who never see the inside of a jail and pay a nominal fine. Virtually all law enforcement considers simple possession pretty far down the list of interests. Sure, you can come up with horror stories, but they are anomalies, and anomalies should not shape overall law.
On the other hand, alcohol is not as legal as it's portrayed here; again, we have shades of gray. It is prohibited by law to a large segment of the potential market, and the everyday activity of driving is illegal when you're under the influence (which is thousands of offenses each year). There are also social pressures against drinking -- try it at the office party and see what happens.
People also differ as to the costs and benefits of the "drug war" (and the war against drunk driving, for that matter). I view the costs of enforcement as less than you do, and the benefits as greater. Reasonable people disagree and take your position, but mine is far from a minority, particularly among medical professionals. With very, very rare exceptions, doctors do not want their patients smoking dope.
The cost analysis is influenced in particular by the view held by some, although it seems not by you, that the marijuana exacts a cost to liberty. But since you have (prudently and correctly) disclaimed the libertarian argument (as justifying legalizing hard drugs as well and pot), the liberty argument is not, I take it, one that rings your bell.
I might mention that one reason I view the cost of marijuana prohibition as not the gargantuan mess others take it to be is that marijuana smokers have it in their own hands to reduce the cost to zero -- by quitting. Even for those fond of the libertarian argument, this should be only so heretical. Among the many freedoms Americans enjoy, the "freedom" to ruin your health by puffing on these things is trivial. The breast-beating idea that the Revolution was fought so we could all get blasted is historically incorrect and, basically, nonsense.
Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2010 9:50:35 PM
Here is a link to all of the articles the LA Times has done on the war in Mexico back to June 2008: http://projects.latimes.com/mexico-drug-war/#/its-a-war
Posted by: Fred | Oct 20, 2010 11:06:33 PM
might mention that one reason I view the cost of marijuana prohibition as not the gargantuan mess others take it to be is that marijuana smokers have it in their own hands to reduce the cost to zero -- by quitting. Even for those fond of the libertarian argument, this should be only so heretical. Among the many freedoms Americans enjoy, the "freedom" to ruin your health by puffing on these things is trivial. The breast-beating idea that the Revolution was fought so we could all get blasted is historically incorrect and, basically, nonsense
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