« "Iraq announces 21 executions in single day" | Main | Split Second Circuit upholds reasonableness of 30-year prison term for child porn convictions »

August 28, 2012

If force to choose, would you legalize marijuana or prohibit tobacco?

In part because posts on pot policy also get commentors riled up (though too often a bit too ad hominen), and in part because I fear comparisons between pot and booze can sometimes be imperfect in lots of ways, I raise the question in the title of this post in the hope of discovering what core values may drive or influence various perspective on modern drug policies. 

Of course, no state or federal official nor even any policy advocate will ever have to make a stark simple choice between legalizing marijuana use or prohibiting tobacco use.  Nevertheless, I do think it is fair to assert that it is an accident of history rather and a product of logic and science that these too seemingly similar plants are treated so differently by state and federal laws.  Thus, I am genuinely interested in hearing views, at this moment in American social and political times, how folks would respond if now forced to make consistent our legal treatment of two apparently harmful but widely enjoyed plants.

My libertarian and utilitarian instincts kick in to make this question an easy one for me.  I always favor laws that maximize personal freedom unless and until there is very strong evidence that this freedom does a lot more societal harm than good.  And the history of US prohibition of alcohol long ago and of marijuana in recent times surely suggest that prohibition policies can themselves do more harm than good.  Consequently, at this moment in American social and political times, I would opt to legalize marijuana rather than prohibit tobacco.

I am eager to hear varied views, including from folks who think this is an unfair question or an inappropriate way to think about pot policy and pot prohibition issues.  (And I am especially eager to see if commentors can keep name calling to a minimum so that the actual question in the title of the post and responses thereto can be the focus of any discussion.)

August 28, 2012 at 09:33 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e20176177b48ad970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference If force to choose, would you legalize marijuana or prohibit tobacco?:

Comments

For me, it depends on health care. If we had a seriously socialized health care system, I could get behind banning both, because paying for other people's tobacco-related maladies would be a huge burden on us all. As it is now, with both the health and money consequences largely borne by the individual, I'd favor legalizing both.

BTW, I've always assumed that on balance marijuana smoking was less likely than cigarette smoking to cause cancer due to smoking frequency (once a day vs. pack a day) and methods available (water filtration - or even eating - vs. cotton filtration).

Posted by: Gray R. Proctor | Aug 28, 2012 9:56:39 AM

Since America pretends to be the Land of the Free, it's wrong to ban either. But if we have to choose, and the choice is between a toxic substance that kills tens of thousands a year and a relatively benign one that has never killed anyone and which has therapeutic uses, that's an easy choice to make.

Posted by: Chris Jenkins | Aug 28, 2012 10:10:43 AM

|| Nevertheless, I do think it is fair to assert that it is an accident of history...||
Seriously? Chan eil idir.
I've lost a great of esteem for you, Prof.

President Obama has been smoking for years, has any THC attached to his brain cells? Has
he crashed his vehicle due to a "high" on fags?

Can any of you reasonably affirm the physiological equivalence of marijuana and tobacco?
How about coca and green tea? How about opium and melatonin?
Discretion, fair estimations, objectivity, please.

Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 28, 2012 11:32:15 AM

"As it is now, with both the health and money consequences largely borne by the individual...."

What country do you live in, Gary? Here in the United States, relatively few people bear their health care costs on an individual basis. Most people have some kind of group coverage, such as an employer plan, or else a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 28, 2012 12:39:19 PM

I am a bit confused by your comments, Adamakis. Are you saying Obama has been smoking pot for years and has had no ill impact, or are you trying to say he proves you can smoke both pot and tobacco and grow up to be Prez?

I think you are asserting that marijuana smoking is much, much, much more harmful than tobacco smoking, but I wonder the basis for that assertion. A relatively recent publication from the National Office of Drug Control (https://www.ncjrs.gov/ondcppubs/publications/pdf/marijuana_myths_facts.pdf), which sought to highlight the dangers of marijuana, had this to say on the topic:

Although some people think of marijuana as a benign natural herb, the drug actually contains many of the same cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco. Puff for puff, the amount of tar inhaled and the level of carbon monoxide absorbed by those who smoke marijuana, regardless of THC content, are three to five times greater than among tobacco smokers.

Consequently, people who use marijuana on a regular basis often have the same breathing problems as tobacco users, such as chronic coughing and wheezing, more frequent acute chest illnesses, and a tendency toward obstructed airways. And because respiratory problems can affect athletic performance, smoking marijuana may be particularly harmful to kids involved in sports.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have determined that marijuana smoking can cause potentially serious damage to the respiratory system at a relatively early age. Moreover, in a review of research on the health effects of marijuana use, the researchers cited findings that show “the daily smoking of relatively small amounts of marijuana (3 to 4 joints) has at least a comparable, if not greater effect” on the respiratory system than the smoking of more than 20 tobacco cigarettes.

Recently, scientists in England produced further evidence linking marijuana use to respiratory problems in young people. A research team at the University of Birmingham found that regular use of marijuana, even for less than six years, causes a marked deterioration in lung function. These findings, the study concludes, “may have serious longterm implications for what is currently regarded as a relatively ‘harmless’ recreational habit.”

This document certainly supports a claim that regularly smoking (unregulated) marijuana is at least as harmful, and perhaps somewhat more harmful, than regularly smoking (regulated) tobacco. But the document still reinforces my sense that, especially for infrequent/responsible users of either marijuana or tobacco (somewhat like infrequent/responsible users of alcohol or fatty foods or 64-ounce sugared sodas or semi-automatic weapons), that the harm is relatively mild and comparable.

Perhaps you can/will point to studies that do in fact document that marijuana smoking is much, much, much more harmful to users (and those in contact with second-hard smoke) than tobacco smoking. If there are such studies, I would like to see them as they would make me less inclined to support an end to pot prohibition.

Speaking of prohibition and coca leaves and accidents of history, it is my understanding that Cofederate veteran and pharmacist John Pemberton created Coca-Cola in the 1880s using coca leaves in the formula partially as a response to Atlanta passing a law prohibiting the sale or manufacture of alcohol. That reality provides, in my view, further support for the notion that history and serendipity play a much larger role in modern drug laws and practices than many realize.

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 28, 2012 12:53:52 PM


'Here in the United States, relatively few people bear their health care costs on an individual basis. Most people have some kind of group coverage, such as an employer plan, or else a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid.'

oh really, last time I looked those program costs are also shared by the employee or the taxpayer. are you on welfare because thats the only program I can think of offhand that might be totally gratis to the individual receiving the care but even that is born by the taxpayer ultimately please confine your spin to your spiderhole

Posted by: what | Aug 28, 2012 12:59:38 PM

Excuse me "what," but did I say the health care was "totally gratis" with no participation by the employee? I did not, and that would have been irrelevant.

In the typical employer-based health care program, the employee pays a portion of the premium. That portion, however, has nothing to do with how much health care the particular employee uses. That is the relevant point here. A person who incurs costs for smoking-related illness does not bear the cost alone. The financial impact is spread to other participants in the plan. That is not to say I favor prohibition, but only that the "it's my own money" argument is not valid as health care is paid for in the United States today.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 28, 2012 1:09:32 PM

You also have to include people who incur significant health care costs without insurance, which invariably are passed on to everyone else either with higher premiums, higher taxes, or higher health care costs.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Aug 28, 2012 1:51:09 PM

Doug B stated: "Perhaps you can/will point to studies that do in fact document that marijuana smoking is much, much, much more harmful to users (and those in contact with second-hard smoke) than tobacco smoking. If there are such studies, I would like to see them as they would make me less inclined to support an end to pot prohibition."

I would prohibit tobacco, because marijuana is too large of a threat to allow. Fittingly, an article was posted by the AP just last night indicating that teens who smoke pot have a significantly lower IQ for the rest of their lives:

"Those deemed dependent in three or more surveys had a drop averaging 8 points. For a person of average intelligence, an 8-point drop would mean ranking higher than only 29 percent of the population rather than 50 percent, the researchers said.

Among participants who'd been dependent at 18 and in at least one later survey, quitting didn't remove the problem. IQ declines showed up even if they'd largely or entirely quit using pot at age 38, analysis showed." http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g10wXRTmxOvirWrA3voZcY_1i5iw?docId=558034854c064a948943cd09c0ae8d43

I am no expert in tobacco (nor marijuana), but I have never heard of tobacco lowering IQ for life.

Marijuana is also linked to Schizophrenia and psychosis. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2010/the-health-impact-of-regular-marijuana-use/

I would also point out, that the "smoking cigs is worse" crowd is taking advantage of the fact that there have been longitudinal studies of tobacco for 70-80 years, documenting these issues. They are only beginning to do long-term studies on marijuana use, which leaves the results, although fairly strong research, to be seen as "inconclusive" because there just is not enough data yet for the medical world to be satisified. If/when the data becomes conclusive some decades from now, it will be far too late to put that Genie back into the bottle.

Regarding its medical uses-Marijuana is an immunosuppressant. In other words, it is harmful to people with immune system issues such as cancer, AIDS, and organ transplants, coincidentally, the very conditions most medical marijuana advocates tout it as treatment for. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html

Marijuana and tobacco contain most of the same toxins in the "tar", except marijuana has 4Xs the amount of tar. (same link)

"Mental disorders connected with marijuana use merit their own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association. These include Cannabis Intoxication (consisting of impaired motor coordination, anxiety, impaired judgment, sensation of slowed time, social withdrawal, and often includes perceptual disturbances; Cannabis Intoxication Delirium (memory deficit, disorientation); Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Delusions; Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Hallucinations; and Cannabis Induced Anxiety Disorder." (same link)

" New research being published in this week's Lancet will show how cannabis is more dangerous than LSD and ecstasy." http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cannabis-an-apology-440730.html

"Professor Colin Blakemore, chief of the Medical Research Council, who backed our original campaign for cannabis to be decriminalised, has also changed his mind. He said: "The link between cannabis and psychosis is quite clear now; it wasn't 10 years ago."" (same link)

"Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at London's Institute of Psychiatry, estimates that at least 25,000 of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. "The number of people taking cannabis may not be rising, but what people are taking is much more powerful, so there is a question of whether a few years on we may see more people getting ill as a consequence of that."

"Society has seriously underestimated how dangerous cannabis really is," said Professor Neil McKeganey, from Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research. "We could well see over the next 10 years increasing numbers of young people in serious difficulties."" (Same link)

Again, the evidence damning cannabis is getting stronger and stronger, which is why the advocates are pushing so hard NOW. More and more long-term studies are being performed and their window will likely close once the studies are released over the next 2-3 decades.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 28, 2012 2:18:40 PM

|| I am no expert in tobacco (nor marijuana), but I have never heard of tobacco lowering IQ for life. ||

Come on, look at Joe Biden.

Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 28, 2012 2:51:29 PM

Prohibition has been a massive failure. We saw that with booze, and we've seen it for the last thirty years with pot. I don't buy that if we legalize pot we have to legalize everything -- I think that drugs are different, have different considerations, and should be considered individually (e.g. you can't fatally OD on pot, at least as far as I know). It seems to me that sweeping cigs under the prohibition rug would place an additional enormous strain on our courts and on our society what with criminalization and jail penalties and all.

Pot should be legal, regulated, and taxed. Just like alcohol and tobacco.

Posted by: Guy | Aug 28, 2012 2:53:33 PM

DB:: ||"studies that do in fact document that marijuana smoking is much, much, much more harmful to users (and those in contact with *2nd-hard smoke) than tobacco smoking. If there are such studies, I would like to see them as they would make me less inclined to support an end to pot prohibition." ||

*"much, much, much more harmful" & *"would make me less inclined to support"

Prof Berman:
I am sorry, but I just don't expect anything to overcome your imprecise criterion.
How much more damaging to the lungs? How much more to the brain? Tobacco is not barely a whit deleterious to mental function, n'est pas?

Nevertheless, to address your *2nd-hand smoke interest, here is something besides mental acuity, schizophrenia/ psychosis, & cannabis psychosis:

|| Child Abuse & Neglect-Vol:36, Issue: 2/12 || (2nd hand cannabis intoxication of infant}
"[C]ase study of a previously healthy 13-month old male infant who was brought to the emergency department due to apathy, unresponsiveness, loss of appetite, and mild fever."

"The parents of the child admitted to having smoked cannabis for an extended period of time in their residence while the infant was sleeping."

"This led to the infant being passively exposed to cannabis for several hours."

2nd Hand Tobacco Smoke damages lung function.
2nd Hand Marijuana Smoke damages lung and brain function.


Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 28, 2012 3:24:59 PM

Prof Berman,

I am merely asserting that marijuana is at least sufficiently useless and destructive as to put the burden of proof for decriminalization upon its advocates.

Neither of the common arguments of equivocation (false) nor of minimalisation impress me. Neither commercial alcohol nor tobacco have proven to be analogous.

The sociological/criminological effects of marijuana usage are hard to dismiss as well:
+++++ +++++ +++++ +++++
According to a DOJ study (2008),
4%... of youth ages 12-17 who did not use marijuana sold drugs, whereas
45%.. of youth ages 12-17 who did use marijuana sold drugs.

Marijuana use was a better predictor than alcohol use of *every single delinquency studied*, i.e.:
1> school suspension,..2> vandalising property, 3> major theft,
4> attack / assault,.... 5> gang affiliation,
6> carrying handgun,.. 7> being arrested. ----------http://www.uscourts.gov/fedprob/June_2009/index.html, C.E.:
Nov 2008 DOJ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, "Juvenile Justice Bulletin"
www.ojp.usdoj.gov

Posted by: Adamakis | Aug 28, 2012 3:40:09 PM

TarlsQtr provides some useful evidence/links concerning the harmfulness of marijuana AND he backs up his claims concerns by, to his credit, actually answering the question in the title of this post. He says "I would prohibit tobacco, because marijuana is too large of a threat to allow." If others still supportive of pot prohibition would make this statement --- and even get together with some public health folks eager to come down on tobacco even harder --- I think the argument/advocacy for pot legalization would be diminished.

In addition, Adamakis raises good points about brain harms, as does the recent study showing declines in IQ for under-age smokers. I wonder if Adamakis will also be comfortable getting behind tobacco prohibition, especially because i am not sure supporters of legalize tobacco can meet their burden of proof concerning justifications for continued legalization of a different wicked weed.

I hope TarlsQtr is right that there will be growing evidence concerning the physical/menatl harms from marijuana usage so that we might move toward more evidence-based, utilitarian, public health responses to these kinds of issues. The problem with Adamakis' sociological/criminological associations is that it may be the illegality of pot, not pot itself, that makes modern marijuana users more likely to end up on the wrong side of the law. (During alcohol prohibition, all those serious involved with alochol sales were bootleggers often involved in violence; now they are rich businessmen contributing mass benefits to consumers and tax coffers.)

This all said, let's please keep this discussion on this question going while also trying to avoid debates over who really pays for the health care costs/consequences of various forms of risky/harmful behavior like using marijuana or tobacco (or alcohol or fatty foods or 64-ounce sugared sodas or semi-automatic weapons).

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 28, 2012 4:03:29 PM

It is an interesting question to pose, but the simple answer is prohibition doesn't work. We tried it with alcohol and it failed. We are still trying it with marijuana, and we are finally recongnizing that has failed as well. The amount of crime that would arise out of outlawing tobacco would be astounding. The best we can do is educate and regulate. Better to have both legal and regulated in a way that reduces crime while hindering access to minors than shove it all under the carpet and hope we can scare youth from using either. Just my two cents.

Posted by: Ben | Aug 28, 2012 4:06:32 PM

Marijuana leads to the abuse of other substances, Doritos and Krispy Kreme to name just two!

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Aug 28, 2012 4:14:36 PM

Booze prohibition and pot prohibition are not analogous. Alcohol had been a part of mainstream American life for centuries (Washington manufactured whiskey), while pot has not. This is exactly why the pot supporters push for medical marijuana first. Once it is accepted as "mainstream", it cannot be taken away even when the impact of it proves to be tragic.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 28, 2012 4:26:49 PM

Of course, all the evidence of harm being presented relates to use by juveniles. Under a tax and regulate scheme, presumably marijuana use would be deferred, as with alcohol and tobacco, until users are adults.

I grew up in a dry county where it was a 30 mile drive to the nearest liquor store. At the time, the drinking age was 19 (since upped to 21) and alcohol was difficult to acquire. By contrast, by the time I hit high school, anybody who wanted pot could buy it in the boy's room.

The studies about harm to young people are actually arguments in favor of a tax-and-regulate approach: Prohibition is the main reason pot is readily available to juveniles.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 28, 2012 4:43:13 PM

"Of course, all the evidence of harm being presented relates to use by juveniles. Under a tax and regulate scheme, presumably marijuana use would be deferred, as with alcohol and tobacco, until users are adults."

Wow. Does anyone actually believe that our present tax and regulate scheme on alcohol and tobacco gets juveniles to defer using these things until they are adults?

Hint: Visit any college campus on any weekend night and find out for yourself, if you can avoid tripping over the beer cans and vodka bottles.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2012 5:30:20 PM

Guy: "Prohibition has been a massive failure.... Pot should be legal, regulated, and taxed. Just like alcohol and tobacco."

And the way we deal with alcohol and tobacco isn't a "massive failure"? Look at the way tobacco companies have marketed their poison, selling smoking generally at the same time they were selling their particular brands. They told men that smoking made them macho and told women that smoking made them liberated, when in reality it made them both dead.

My organization takes no position on the marijuana legalization issue. My personal opinion is that, at least in California, the least bad solution would be to sell it exclusively out of government-run stores with no brands and no marketing, with a hefty slice of the revenue devoted to anti-marketing.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Aug 28, 2012 5:43:48 PM

@Bill, for college students, perhaps not. For the 12-17 year olds in the studies cited by Adamkis, et. al., definitely.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 28, 2012 5:53:56 PM

Grits --

It's a continuum. Middle school kids have, I think (although my experience with what goes on in middle school is fading) significant trouble getting alcohol, except for the stuff they get from their parents' or their friends' parents' liquor cabinets. Cigarettes I don't know about, but I suspect you're mostly right.

High school kids have less trouble getting either smokes or booze. It depends on how determined and sneaky they are and the level of parental vigilance, which varies a great deal.

College kids, Katie bar the door. They drink and smoke as much or more than anyone.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2012 6:25:14 PM

Stanley Feldman --

With all respect, there is no such thing as abusing Krispy Kreme.

Now if you'll excuse me while I head to the bakery...........

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2012 6:29:54 PM

True, Bill, it's a continuum for regulated substances. For pot, however, any kid with money can buy it. Criminals have no incentive to refrain from selling to juveniles; those who sell regulated substances do.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 28, 2012 6:42:36 PM

Kent:

And the way we deal with alcohol and tobacco isn't a "massive failure"? Look at the way tobacco companies have marketed their poison, selling smoking generally at the same time they were selling their particular brands. They told men that smoking made them macho and told women that smoking made them liberated, when in reality it made them both dead.

I'm not even disagreeing with you there, Kent. They're both essentially poisons, and responsible for a great deal of illness, death, and incarceration. Last I read, the FBI Uniform Crime Report listed that half of all violent crime in the US occurred where either the victim or the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, and smoking I'd wager is one of the leading causes of heart disease.

But prohibition insofar as alcohol was concerned was a massive failure. It didn't stop people from drinking, it just made them criminals. It didn't stop supply, it just created a black market where there was none. Which is why it was repealed. Now it's regulated and taxed. Sure, companies pay marketing firms millions to come up with ad campaigns to convince folks that it's cool to smoke cigarettes and drink booze (full disclosure I smoked two packs a day for 10 years before quitting 5 years back -- and trying many many times to quit smoking before that and I currently drink alcohol occasionally). I think the US has a relatively lax regulation scheme when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. Personally I'd like to see all the advertisements gone. Adults who want booze and cigarettes know where they can get them.

My organization takes no position on the marijuana legalization issue. My personal opinion is that, at least in California, the least bad solution would be to sell it exclusively out of government-run stores with no brands and no marketing, with a hefty slice of the revenue devoted to anti-marketing.

I'm with you. Mums the word. If you want pot, the government has you covered. It's expensive, but controlled, quality, and you don't have to go to jail for it. And, bonus, the government gets a bump to revenue in the form of taxation and doesn't have to spend the gobs of currency it currently does in prosecuting and jailing potheads (and full disclosure, I smoked pot once in high school and hated it).

Cheers.

Posted by: Guy | Aug 28, 2012 7:03:53 PM

To paraphrase Grits: "Prohibition does not work. Prohibition does not work. Prohibition does not work. Let's prohibit kids from using marijuana."

I fail to see any logic or intellectual consistency there.

Grits stated: "Of course, all the evidence of harm being presented relates to use by juveniles."

Completely untrue. The only part of my submission that was regarding "use by juveniles" was the drop in IQ. The immunosuppression, schizophrenia, psychosis, impact of taking in 4X the tar of tobacco, and all of these from the DSM4 [Cannabis Intoxication (consisting of impaired motor coordination, anxiety, impaired judgment, sensation of slowed time, social withdrawal, and often includes perceptual disturbances; Cannabis Intoxication Delirium (memory deficit, disorientation); Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Delusions; Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Hallucinations; and Cannabis Induced Anxiety Disorder] are just as relevant for adults as kids.

"All the harm relates to juveniles" is categorically false.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 28, 2012 8:33:14 PM

Yikes. The regulated "government pot" theory is a pipedream. The strength of pot increased by a multiple of 25 (yes, 25) in just one decade. To assume that Joe Toker is going to be satisfied with the bland "safe" government pot does not even begin to pass the laugh test. In fact, Joe probably would not even be able to get high off it.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 28, 2012 8:45:04 PM

Marijuana is relatively harmless. Of no surprise to anyone, chronic heavy use and use by adolescents and children can have adverse effects. But even studies that search for adverse effects can only identify areas of concern, e.g., http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2898%2905021-1/fulltext, with few clear and well-established harms. The dangers of tobacco use, on the other hand, are well known and result in the deaths of tens of thousands of people die from its use each year. Yet I have never heard of a single, reliable report of any person dying from marijuana use.

Americans have a long history with marijuana (George Washington grew hemp), and it was used for medicinal purposes throughout the 19th century. It was made illegal only because of racist fears whipped up by prohibitionists in the 1930's.

Anyway, history has proven that prohibition does little to reduce drug use. Marijuana is as popular and widely used now as it was decades ago. On the other hand, according to the American Lung Association data, rates of tobacco use have been cut in half since the 1960's, without prohibition.

No one has ever identified a single benefit to society of keeping marijuana illegal. Prohibition has not stopped people from using it. It has not resulted in any appreciable public health benefit. Yet the harmful effects of prohibition are horrifying and easily identifiable, including: the rise of vicious, violent drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and other countries, the erosion of civil rights in the United States, absurd rates of incarceration, and militarization of police organizations.

Posted by: Chris Jenkins | Aug 28, 2012 9:55:39 PM

Tarls:

One method of going about working with that is to try to do the reverse of what the cig companies have done. They have steadily been increasing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes over the years. We can start high and go lower.

Cheers.

Posted by: Guy | Aug 28, 2012 10:14:13 PM

Prohibition would require the flogging of smokers, and the summary execution of 10,000 cigarette smugglers a year. I would not undertake such an enterprise unless 80% of the American public would support prohibition, after education and indoctrination.

Unintended consequence? The devastation of pension and Social Security as no one would die in their fifties and sixties, and everyone would die in their nineties. Such a horrific result would also cause massive traffic jams as ninety year olds drove 45 mph in the left lanes of our highways, in Ford Crown Victorias.

Prohibition cannot be imposed from the top down as it was before. It must also be tested in small jurisdictions and proven safe and effective, with tolerable unintended consequences.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 28, 2012 10:14:31 PM

Let's take a closer look at these memes.

Does Weekly Marijuana Use By Teens Really Cause a Drop in IQ?

“The overall implication is that when you’re talking about marijuana, you have to take into account age of onset of use and dealing with developing, growing brains,” says Meier.

Not all experts agree, however. “Scientifically, these are extremely preliminary findings,” cautions Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University, who has studied the cognitive effects of marijuana in humans in the lab and was not associated with the research. (Disclosure: he and I are working on a book project together).

Hart notes that because only 38 people in the study— around 8% of those who ever tried marijuana— used it heavily enough to get diagnosed with dependence during several follow-up periods, he is skeptical about how generalizable the results are. He says that in his studies of people who smoke at least three times a week, “When you compare these people’s scores to a normative database on a wide range of domains including executive function, memory, and inhibitory control, they score dead smack in the middle, in the 50th percentile.”

He explains, “They are normal when not intoxicated. We test them when they are not intoxicated and when they are intoxicated. When they are intoxicated, there is some slowing of certain cognitive acts, but their accuracy doesn’t not change.” The New Zealand study, for example, did not identify whether the participants are employed or whether they are able to function in their families, which would be an important indicator of whether the drop in IQ has any real world impact.

There are also other factors—such as child abuse or other trauma —that might lead people to seek escape in heavy marijuana use and could also affect brain function. Meier and her colleagues did not examine these factors but say it’s possible that such elements could explain the results better than marijuana itself.

If the link is real, the effects on cognition could be dramatic. But intelligence and cognition is affected by a plethora of other factors, including genetic, social and environmental influences that may supersede any influence from drug use. Despite the fact that the average marijuana user starts at age 17 in the U.S and nearly 7% of high school seniors currently smoke pot every day, IQ scores have risen tremendously over time in all developed countries in recent years. Most of those same countries also experienced a massive increase in marijuana use between the 1950s and today.

TarlsQtr also cites Health_Concerns: WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL DANGERS OF MARIJUANA USE? And this from his own source: "Marijuana has often been touted as one of the safest recreational substances available. This is perhaps true; many reputable scientific studies support the conclusion that cocaine, heroine, alcohol, and even cigarettes are more dangerous to the user's health than marijuana."

And TarlsQtr repeately claims to use the "same link" for further evidence for his side against MJ, but who is the "I" who wrote that? Further, it relies on the Donald P. Tashkin, M.D. link that is not a link at all. If you bother clicking on it does not take you to the Tashkin research paper. Isn't it funny how those who think government can't do anything right at the same time think a government study like this one is gospel?

There is more to the story, pro and con.

Should marijuana be a medical option? (Where there is some discussion of the Taskin research, for example.)

In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have "no accepted medical use." Since then, 17 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana.

Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions. They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.

Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA-approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary. They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain. They say that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.


And to answer our host's question, we make a federal case out of far too much.

Posted by: George | Aug 28, 2012 10:17:43 PM

I thought I had solved this dilemma before, with an immediate, permanent, and super-effective solution. In case Prof. Berman was not paying attention. Here, from 2009.

http://supremacyclaus.blogspot.com/2009/03/legalize-adult-pleasures-but-license.html

The adult pleasure license leaves the majority free to enjoy adult pleasures, and restricts access to addicts and others having trouble or causing trouble from their enjoyment of adult pleasures.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 28, 2012 10:19:36 PM

Bill, I did it last week, something that happens twice a year. Did I buy just one or 2? No, I believe in ordering in half-dozen increments and they were all gone in one sitting. Nevertheless, your point is well taken!

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Aug 28, 2012 10:58:52 PM

Oh come on Guy. Does the meth addict prefer the adulterated version or the more "pure" version? Pot will continue to get "better" (and more dangerous)and Joe Toker will want better pot. The government will be looking to balance relative health and would not want to keep up with the new strains even if they could. The illegal pot market will stay.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2012 8:48:40 AM

In addition to your obvious Genetic fallacy...

George stated: "“Scientifically, these are extremely preliminary findings,” cautions Carl Hart,...

Of course they are. As I stated previously, longitudinal study of marijuana use is recent. What previous research is out there (which most people like you quote to show negligible impact of use) has mostly been done on 1960's-1990's pot which is hardly even the same plant as today's super strains. The strength of pot increased by a factor of 25 in one decade. It is like saying a shark is not dangerous after studying a guppy.

George stated: "And TarlsQtr repeately claims to use the "same link""

Actually, no. I used at least three different links to different research/articles. One of these quoted two UK researchers who advocated for legalized pot a decade ago and have sinced changed their minds because of all the new data showing the harm cannabis causes.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2012 9:06:31 AM

Stanley Feldman wrote: "I believe in ordering in half-dozen increments and they were all gone in one sitting."

Whenever I get that disapproving look from my bride for bringing home a "half-dozen increment," I let her know that I am merely taking advantage of "economy of scale." Unfortunately, it convinces me that it was a good choice more than it does her.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2012 9:13:06 AM

TarlsQtr --

The trick to avoiding a dirty look from your wife when you bring home a half dozen Krispy Kremes is to eat them all yourself before you GET home.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2012 9:40:20 AM

With age comes wisdom!

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2012 10:19:47 AM

Tarls:

Maybe, maybe not. I mean there still exists a black, backwoods market for illicit alcohol (e.g. moonshine) but it doesn't exactly fuel a criminal empire like it did under prohibition. Also, it may be the case at least initially that folks prefer stronger formulations, but I think they will fall by the wayside with time, given the relative ease of obtaining gubment weed.

Plus, who is to say that the government formulation even needs to be weaker than what is commercially available currently? There's nothing to say it couldn't change too, so long as we're were talking FDA approval.

I don't think that legalizing and regulating weed is going to get rid of the black market for it. There's a black market for most things. But it will substantially decrease the size and scope of it.

Posted by: Guy | Aug 29, 2012 1:31:01 PM

Bill:

Now you're talking my language!

Posted by: Guy | Aug 29, 2012 1:31:27 PM

Guy stated: "Maybe, maybe not. I mean there still exists a black, backwoods market for illicit alcohol (e.g. moonshine) but it doesn't exactly fuel a criminal empire like it did under prohibition."

True, but you can get a comparably strong bottle of JD cheaply that will do the same thing and is much safer. Government pot will be safer, likely cheap, but will not give the same high. I strongly suspect that the latter is a lot more important to Joe Toker than the former two.

Guy stated: "Plus, who is to say that the government formulation even needs to be weaker than what is commercially available currently? There's nothing to say it couldn't change too, so long as we're were talking FDA approval."

Are you and those who support legalization willing to wait a decade until the FDA approves the super pot that is out there now? Then, what strain? Even then, what is approved in 10 years will be so obsolete (again, the strength went up by 25X in one decade), it will be like the NTSB now approving the Wright brothers' plane.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Aug 29, 2012 1:58:16 PM

TarlsQtr's "Genetic fallacy..."

"The strength of pot increased by a factor of 25 in one decade. It is like saying a shark is not dangerous after studying a guppy."

The most obvious retort is why in the hell did the gov'ment outlaw guppies and make it a felony?

Do a "same link" search of the page to see the truth.

Posted by: George | Aug 29, 2012 2:08:46 PM

Tarls:

True, but you can get a comparably strong bottle of JD cheaply that will do the same thing and is much safer. Government pot will be safer, likely cheap, but will not give the same high. I strongly suspect that the latter is a lot more important to Joe Toker than the former two.

Sure, I'd be willing to grant that for some folk that'd be true. Maybe they will go outside of the system and feed the black market. But I think, as with alcohol, most people are going to go about it the safe, legal route. I mean, I think the comparison with moonshine is pretty good. Like imagine if we were talking about alcohol prohibition -- that we're arguing trying to get alcohol legalized. That you say that there's stronger stuff on the black market, and that all these booze hounds are going to prefer that stuff to the legal stuff sold in stores. I mean, there is strong alcohol available in certain regions of my state, and under the counter, but by and large most people who imbibe, and even those who do to destruction, don't really go out of their way to grab it off the black market. They just got down to the store and pick some up.

But the gubment booze still gets you drunk, even if you have to drink more than a sip of it. The upside is that it's quality controlled, regulated, readily available, and you don't have to risk breaking the law or getting robbed to get it.

So I mean I don't doubt that a black market will remain, and that some people might even prefer that route, but if they do they will die off in a few years, and most people are going to be going the legal route anyways.

Are you and those who support legalization willing to wait a decade until the FDA approves the super pot that is out there now? Then, what strain? Even then, what is approved in 10 years will be so obsolete (again, the strength went up by 25X in one decade), it will be like the NTSB now approving the Wright brothers' plane.

Well, as far as I understand it, the reason why FDA approval takes so long is that we have to take time to study the safety and health effects of new drug formulations. Cannabis is far from a new drug. We know about the relative health benefits and risks, so I don't think it would take very long at all. I mean they were already running medical dispensaries out in Cali.

Posted by: Guy | Aug 29, 2012 2:20:22 PM

Easy choice, and I side with you. Prohibition does not work for anything. Educate about the debilitating effects of tobacco. And since no harm has ever been attributed to weed, legalize it, or at least decriminalize and regulate to appease those still confused by Anslinger et al and their campaign of lies.

Richard, DOJ victim (civil disobedience regarding bad laws - drug war) and former resident of USA gulag

Posted by: Richard | Aug 30, 2012 1:24:28 AM

|| I am no expert in tobacco (nor marijuana), but I have never heard of tobacco lowering IQ for life. ||

Oh, ok. I'm no expert either but have you heard of the more than 100K people who die every year from tobacco use, from diseases like lung cancer & COPD?

How many people die every year from marijuana use?

Not counting those who are killed by police in drug raids or from the poor treatment they receive in U.S. prisons? (see: Richard Flor).


||"Does the meth addict prefer the adulterated version or the more "pure" version?"||


I believe most meth addicts, formerly known as "speed freaks", preferred the use of pharmaceutical amphetamines. Due to the drug war, those have become increasingly difficult to obtain.

The more difficult it became to get prescription amphetamines, the more we began to see the manufacture of methamphetamine in black market DIY labs.

And with those meth labs and the now-completely criminalized process of manufacturing distributing and obtaining the drug, came greater and greater risks. Not just to users and dealers, but to anyone coming into contact with the labs.

To answer the original post, unless forced to chose one, I'd choose to prohibit neither.

But with the science currently available to us, I'd have to say tobacco is about 100,000 times more harmful than cannabis - so if forced to choose, I choose tobacco prohibition.

Posted by: anon3 | Sep 3, 2012 5:24:57 AM

Personally I want a legal prohibition on marijuana and tobacco. I am not taking it regularly. and I want a ban on all these.

Posted by: How to beat a drug test | Sep 5, 2012 5:18:16 AM

i would definitely prohibit tobacco, i mean what is the need in the life of these things. A very good question to ask.

Posted by: TP Knotweed | Oct 20, 2012 4:44:02 AM

I would be all for it. Smoking it is the only reason I keep weight on and my health depends on keeping my weight up. I think it's wonderful that Colorado and California has passed recreational use all states should. Cigaretts are legal and kill thousands every year it's what is killing me. I don't smoke anymore but cigaretts are why I'm sick.. If anything should be banned it should be cigarettes. They have no medical use and do more harm than good.

Posted by: Brenda Harding | Nov 9, 2012 12:32:54 PM

You also have to include people who incur significant health care costs without insurance, which invariably are passed on to everyone else either with higher premiums, higher taxes, or higher health care costs.

Posted by: moving to london | Nov 13, 2012 7:00:18 AM

We all know that marijuana, like cigarette can cause cancer and other health problems, but not just that. It can also cause a person to be dependent on it, making him not his real self. And with that reason, a lot of crimes happen including rape, killing etc. So I will not legalize marijuana and cause more risk to public safety. To those who want to quit marijuana, you can benefit from this site. www.cannabisquitter.com/forums/forumdisplay.php/16-Marijuana-Addiction-Support

Posted by: Ricky Salazar | Jan 7, 2013 4:17:41 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB