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April 4, 2014

If it clearly saved thousands of innocent lives on roadways, would most everyone support medical marijuana reforms?

The question in the title of this post is my sincere inquiry, directed particularly to those most concerned about modern marijuana reform movements, as a follow-up to this extended (data-focused) commentary by Jacob Sollum at Forbes headlined "More Pot, Safer Roads: Marijuana Legalization Could Bring Unexpected Benefits." Here are excerpts (with key research links retained):

The anti-pot group Project SAM claims drug test data show that marijuana legalization in Washington, approved by voters in that state at the end of 2012, already has made the roads more dangerous. The group notes with alarm that the percentage of people arrested for driving under the influence of a drug (DUID) who tested positive for marijuana rose by a third between 2012 and 2013. “Even before the first marijuana store opens in Washington, normalization and acceptance [have] set in,” says Project SAM Chairman Patrick J. Kennedy. “This is a wakeup call for officials and the public about the dangerousness of this drug, especially when driving.”

In truth, these numbers do not tell us anything about the dangerousness of marijuana. They do not even necessarily mean that more people are driving while high. Furthermore, other evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana could make the roads safer, reducing traffic fatalities by encouraging the substitution of marijuana for alcohol....

According to State Toxicologist Fiona Couper, the share of DUID arrestees in Washington whose blood tested positive for THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, rose from 18.6 percent in 2012 to 24.9 percent in 2013.  That’s an increase of more than 33 percent, as Project SAM emphasizes with a scary-looking bar graph. At the same time, the total number of DUID arrests in Washington rose by just 3 percent, about the same as the increases seen in the previous three years, while DUID arrests by state troopers (see table below) fell 16 percent.

These numbers do not suggest that Washington’s highways are awash with dangerously stoned drivers. So why the substantial increase in positive marijuana tests?  Lt. Rob Sharpe, commander of the Washington State Patrol’s Impaired Driving Section, notes that additional officers were trained to recognize drugged drivers in anticipation of marijuana legalization. So even if the number of stoned drivers remained the same, police may have pulled over more of them as a result of that training....

As Columbia University researchers Guohua Li and Joanne E. Brady pointed out a few months ago in the American Journal of Epidemiology, [a recent] increase in marijuana consumption has been accompanied by an increase in the percentage of drivers killed in car crashes who test positive for cannabinol, a marijuana metabolite.

But as with the increase in DUID arrestees who test positive for THC, this trend does not necessarily mean marijuana is causing more crashes.  A test for cannabinol, which is not psychoactive and can be detected in blood for up to a week after use, does not show the driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the crash, let alone that he was responsible for it. “Thus,” Li and Brady write, “the prevalence of nonalcohol drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.”

Another reason to doubt the premise that more pot smoking means more deadly crashes: Total traffic fatalities have fallen as marijuana consumption has risen; there were about 20 percent fewer in 2012 than in 2002.  Perhaps fatalities would have fallen faster if it weren’t for all those new pot smokers.  But there is reason to believe the opposite may be true, that there would have been more fatalities if marijuana consumption had remained level or declined.

While marijuana can impair driving ability, it has a less dramatic impact than alcohol does. A 1993 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, concluded: “The impairment [from marijuana] manifests itself mainly in the ability to maintain a lateral position on the road, but its magnitude is not exceptional in comparison with changes produced by many medicinal drugs and alcohol.  Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort.  As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”  Similarly, a 2000 report commissioned by the British government found that “the severe effects of alcohol on the higher cognitive processes of driving are likely to make this more of a hazard, particularly at higher blood alcohol levels.”

Given these differences, it stands to reason that if more pot smoking is accompanied by less drinking, the upshot could be fewer traffic fatalities. Consistent with that hypothesis, a study published last year in the Journal of Law and Economics found that legalization of medical marijuana is associated with an 8-to-11-percent drop in traffic fatalities, beyond what would be expected based on national trends.  Montana State University economist D. Mark Anderson and his colleagues found that the reduction in alcohol-related accidents was especially clear, as you would expect if loosening restrictions on marijuana led to less drinking. They also cite evidence that alcohol consumption declined in states with medical marijuana laws.

Anderson et al. caution that the drop in deadly crashes might be due to differences in the settings where marijuana and alcohol are consumed. If people are more likely to consume marijuana at home, that could mean less driving under the influence.  Hence “the negative relationship between legalization and alcohol-related fatalities does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol,” although that is what experiments with both drugs indicate.

Arrest data from Washington are consistent with the idea that marijuana legalization could result in less drunk driving. Last year drunk driving arrests by state troopers fell 11 percent. By comparison, the number of drunk driving arrests fell by 2 percent between 2009 and 2010, stayed about the same between 2010 and 2011, and fell by 6 percent between 2011 and 2012. The drop in drunk driving arrests after marijuana legalization looks unusually large, although it should be interpreted with caution, since the number of arrests is partly a function of enforcement levels, which depend on funding and staffing.

Two authors of the Journal of Law and Economics study, Anderson and University of Colorado at Denver economist Daniel Rees, broadened their analysis in a 2013 article published by the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Anderson and Rees argue that marijuana legalization is apt, on balance, to produce “public health benefits,” mainly because of a reduction in alcohol consumption. Their projection hinges on the premise that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes. If marijuana and alcohol are instead complements, meaning that more pot smoking is accompanied by more drinking, the benefits they predict would not materialize.  Anderson and Rees say “studies based on clearly defined natural experiments generally support the hypothesis that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes.”  But in the same issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, co-director of the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center, and University of South Carolina criminologist Eric Sevigny conclude that the evidence on this point “remains mixed.”

study published last month by the online journal PLOS One suggests that the substitution of marijuana for alcohol, assuming it happens, could affect crime rates as well as car crashes. Robert G. Morris and three other University of Texas at Dallas criminologists looked at trends in homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft in the 11 states that legalized marijuana for medical use between 1990 and 2006. While crime fell nationwide during this period, it fell more sharply in the medical marijuana states, even after the researchers adjusted for various other differences between states. Morris and his colleagues conclude that legalization of medical marijuana “may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault,” possibly because of a decline in drinking, although they caution that the extra drop in crime could be due to a variable they did not consider.

One needs to be very cautious, of course, drawing any firm conclusions based on any early research about impaired driving, car crashes, and marijuana reform. But let's imagine it does turn out generally true that legalizing medical marijuana helps produce a 10% drop in a jurisdiction's traffic fatalities. If extended nationwide throughout the US, where we have well over 30,000 traffic fatalities each and every year, this would mean we could potentially save more than 3000 innocent lives each year from nationwide medical marijuana reform. (One might contrast this number with debated research and claims made about the number of lives possibly saved by the death penalty: I do not believe I have seen any research from even ardent death penalty supporters to support the assertion that even much more robust use of the death penalty in the US would be likely to save even 1000 innocent lives each year.)

Obviously, many people can and many people surely would question and contest a claim that we could or would potentially save more than 3000 innocent lives each year from nationwide medical marijuana reform. But, for purposes of debate and discussion (and to know just how important additional research in this arena might be to on-going pot reform debates), I sincerely wonder if anyone would still actively oppose medical marijuana reform if (and when?) we continue to see compelling data that such reform might save over 50 innocent lives each and every week throughout the United States.

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

April 4, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

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"...a 2013 article published by the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Anderson and Rees argue that marijuana legalization is apt, on balance, to produce “public health benefits,” mainly because of a reduction in alcohol consumption. Their projection hinges on the premise that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes."

Nice premise. Where's the proof?

"But let's imagine it does turn out generally true that legalizing medical marijuana helps produce a 10% drop in a jurisdiction's traffic fatalities."

Let's imagine President Ryan makes me Attorney General.

Let's imagine Obama could actually outthink Putin.

Let's imagine your premiums are really going down.

Let's imagine the IRS actually does turn over the Lois Lerner emails.

Let's imagine that if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.

Hey, look, this "let's imagine" game is SO COOL. That it should pass for anything resembling a serious legal proposition is, ummmm, a different matter.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 12:52:23 PM

I attended quite a few college mixers in my day and never once did I hear, "No, I will not take that beer because I am smoking pot" or vice versa.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 4, 2014 12:58:14 PM

TarlsQtr --

I kind of think you're right about that, but I had so much dope to go with my beer that, after I threw up in the frat basement, I forgot everything.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 1:21:07 PM

Whether or not legalized marijuana will be a substitute for alcohol is an interesting question, but not one that I think can be answered via anecdotal memories from college frat parties. Like Tarls and Bill, I think the goal for most frat party attendees is to get as intoxicated as they can as quickly as they can, and I doubt many college students would turn down a drink of alcohol because they were smoking marijuana instead. But my guess is that older users, having been through the college experience of experimenting and testing their limits with various intoxicants, would sometimes (perhaps often) choose to smoke marijuana instead of drinking alcohol. The allure of getting as fucked up as possible dissipates once people enter the workforce.

Posted by: Curious | Apr 4, 2014 1:31:06 PM

When the law gets dictated by "Let's Imagine" scenarios, you get crappy laws that result in the opposite intention of the law. Just look at sex offender registration laws for proof.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 4, 2014 1:40:04 PM

The problem, Curious, is that "getting fucked up" often includes a later decision to stay out of the workforce.

"High levels of cannabis use are related to poorer educational outcomes, lower income, greater welfare dependence and unemployment and lower relationship and life satisfaction. The findings add to a growing body of knowledge regarding the adverse consequences of heavy cannabis use."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18482420

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 4, 2014 1:58:58 PM

Tarls, that seems like a bit of a non sequitur. The question was whether or not people will substitute marijuana for alcohol (which, the post suggests, would improve public health).

Anyway, as for the study you cite, I agree that there may well be a connection between heavy marijuana use by adolescents and poorer long-term life outcomes. I expect the same is true for alcohol. I differ from you, however, in how I weigh the costs and benefits of marijuana legalization versus marijuana prohibition. In my opinion, the cost of the marginal increase in adolescent marijuana use that will likely accompany marijuana legalization does not equal the costs of marijuana prohibition, both in terms of the social ills associated with incarceration and black markets and the lost benefits of responsible marijuana use.

Posted by: Curious | Apr 4, 2014 2:08:16 PM

Marijuana and alcohol are different drugs, with different neurotransmitter action and different subjective intoxication effects. They have vastly different social context histories and still inhabit different social status, even in states which have marijuana legalization of differing extent.

The idea that an appreciable number of folks will switch out their booze for pot is clinically ignorant. And, really, do we need to invent phantom "benefits" to convince people that decriminalization of marijuana might be reasonable public policy? It actually makes pro-legalization folks (and I lean pretty strongly toward legalization myself) seem desperate.

Posted by: Wayne-O | Apr 4, 2014 2:15:05 PM

Eric Knight --

"When the law gets dictated by "Let's Imagine" scenarios, you get crappy laws..."

Nailed it.

I mean, HELLO.

Let's imagine that if we increased the number of executions to 100 a year, we would wipe out childhood cancer worldwide.

Good grief.

And here I'd thought all these years that legal argument consisted of evidence rather than imagining. How could I have been so wrong?

On the other hand, Doug might have a point. I can just hear New Wave defense allocution, "Let's imagine if my client were innocent..."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 2:41:53 PM

Wayne-O: "And, really, do we need to invent phantom "benefits" to convince people"

Good thought.

C.E.: “possible death”
DHMCarver : “one cannot say that the death was "linked"”

Convenient disbelief.

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 4, 2014 3:12:43 PM

Let's imagine, Bill, that the federal drug mandatory minimum sentences cannot possibly be reduced without a huge spike in violent crime. Isn't that game of let's imaging at the heart of most of your claims against the SSA? If that is not a serious legal proposition, why did you deliver it so forcefully to Senators earlier this week?
http://www.crimeandconsequences.com/crimblog/2014/04/senate-deliberations-on-the-sm.html#more

Notably, Bill, I do not believe you could possible point to a single study conducted by anyone anywhere that would support your critical claim that violent crime would rise if we cut the federal prison population or reduce federal drug sentences. Moreover, we have 7 years of experiences since the US Sentencing Commission cut federal crack sentences in 2007 and 3 years experience since Congress further cut federal crack sentences via the FSA. Can you point a single study conducted by anyone anywhere to even suggest that violent crime increased as a result of those legal changes?

In contrast, I have evidence that is the foundation of my inquiry: as highlight/linked above, a "study published last year in the Journal of Law and Economics found that legalization of medical marijuana is associated with an 8-to-11-percent drop in traffic fatalities." In other words, a recent study published in a prominent peer-reviewed journal support the notion that medical marijuana has saved lots of lives.

I know you want to imagine that evidence medical marijuana reform might improve public safety does not exist because it neither fits your world view nor your policy preferences. But I know you would be quick to fault (because you have faulted repeatedly) folks who let their world view and policy preferences prevent them from considering evidence about the relationship of incarceration and public safety. All I am seeking to for you to take seriously the early evidence suggesting medical marijuana reform might improve public safety and tell me if, were that evidence to continue to mount, such evidence might change your perspective on medical marijuana reform.

Critically, I am not asking here about recreational marijuana reform, and I am especially eager in this post to draw a distinction between these reforms (as the research evidence does, though as Jacob Sollum does not). But, perhaps not surprisingly, rather than seriously consider this issue based on the evidence to date, you would rather distract and distort the conversation. Hmmm. I think this ultimately tells me a lot about both the forcefulness of this kind of evidence AND about your fears of it.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 4, 2014 3:35:01 PM

Bill & Eric

Why are the two of you all of a sudden so hostile to Stephen Breyer?

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 4, 2014 3:38:59 PM

Let's imagine that our drug policy were based on real science and actual concern for public health and safety. Yes, I know, it's a ridiculous fantasy, but maybe some day we'll see it happen.

Posted by: C.E. | Apr 4, 2014 4:40:03 PM

Doug --

You base an entire post on imagination, then say I'm the one trading in it.

Far out!

Where's the proof of the critical premise that pot and booze are substitutes? There isn't any that I saw. So what to do instead? Go on offense!!!

"Let's imagine, Bill, that the federal drug mandatory minimum sentences cannot possibly be reduced without a huge spike in violent crime. Isn't that game of let's imaging at the heart of most of your claims against the SSA?"

No, isn't. What's at the heart are 50 years of FACTS over 50 states. For at least the 20 years after 1960, when your famous trust-our-judges-because-they're-wonderful theory held sway, and we had no mandatory sentencing, crime skyrocketed.

Do you deny it?

Do you claim that soft sentencing and relatively light use of incarceration was unrelated to the crime explosion?

Then we wised up, and by huge bi-partisan majorities, instituted mandatory sentences and mandatory minimums.

And what has happened over the last 20 years as we have done that?

Crime has plummeted.

Do you deny that?

Do you claim these two things are unrelated?

"In contrast, I have evidence that is the foundation of my inquiry: as highlight/linked above, a "study published last year in the Journal of Law and Economics found that legalization of medical marijuana is associated with an 8-to-11-percent drop in traffic fatalities." In other words, a recent study published in a prominent peer-reviewed journal support the notion that medical marijuana has saved lots of lives."

Very smooth. Note how you slide from correlation in the first sentence ("is associated with") ever so quietly to causation in the second ("medical marijuana has saved lots of lives)."

Do you think you might want to talk with a student in your class who tried the same thing?

You say that my take on this is dictated by my worldview and my "fear" of pot. I assure you that, like the rest of my generation, I do not fear pot. But I don't think it's going to improve the world, either.

As for worldview: I would venture that it's more accurate to say that your worldview is driving your train. I've seen this before here -- when California crime has gone up in the last couple of years as the realignment and Plata-driven prison releases go forward, did you ever put up a post titled, "If there clearly were an upsurge in crime, would most everyone support building more prisons rather than continuing to release criminals?"

Maybe you did. If so, I missed it.

Generally, you've been hot to trot with the notion that, if drug availability increases, well-being in the country will increase with it. And you haven't limited in to pot, either. Indeed, in our dialogue on C&C (America's top pro-prosecution blog!), you said that heroin itself -- that's right, good 'ole fashioned smack -- was such a minimal problem that it shouldn't be dealt with by criminal law AT ALL, and that it would be more effective to have it become merely a tort.

Actual suggestion: See if you can get Nancy Pelosi to invite you to testify in the House if and when the SSA ever makes it there, and I'll see if I can get in the witness chair beside you, and we'll lay it all out on C-Span.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 4:51:07 PM

You continue to dodge the public safety evidence, Bill, and I continue to find this telling. The crime rate and sentencing story/evidence is much more dynamic/nuanced than you acknowledge, and I will do a distinct post on this topic this weekend.

To continue this thread, let us try to stay on topic with a basic question: Is there any public safety research/evidence which could impact your views on MY reform? If so, what would it be?

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 4, 2014 6:42:49 PM

Doug --

"You continue to dodge the public safety evidence, Bill, and I continue to find this telling."

Nope. I continue to look at the elephant in the room -- the massive crime reduction with tougher sentencing, benefitting all our citizens -- while you continue to demand that I look at the cat. And the Cheshire Cat, at that. The article you put up essentially blanks on advancing any evidence for the key proposition of the public safety debate: That pot is substitute for, rather than a supplement to, booze.

As for what research would influence me -- the same kind of research that changed me from a death penalty agnostic years ago to a supporter today. The research showed that claims that we're executing innocent people are essentially fabricated, and based on an utterly one-sided and selective views of the evidence.

Show me some research not sponsored by George Soros and his druggie pals, or by researchers who are not afraid they'll get in hot water for going against the Required Academic Mantra That Pot Is Wonderful, and I'll take a look at it.

P.S. One reason I'm so skeptical of the claims in favor of pot is that the pot lobby has shown itself to be incorrect -- to put it charitably -- in its past claims.

Example: We heard over and over from the proponents of legalization in Colorado that regulation would end the black market and tamp down on crime. Only it ain't so, as we can see on this staff entry on C&C just today:

"The black market for marijuana sales is still thriving in Colorado despite a recently passed law making the drug legal. Cheryl Chumley of The Washington Times reports that legalizing marijuana in the state has actually enhanced the black market, as marijuana 'customers' are able to purchase the drug tax-free from black market dealers as opposed to buying it in a state regulated store. Police are also worried that recent increases in violent crimes are connected to the drug's legalization."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 7:06:40 PM

C.E. --

"Let's imagine that our drug policy were based on real science and actual concern for public health and safety. Yes, I know, it's a ridiculous fantasy, but maybe some day we'll see it happen.

I used to hear that same argument often. Often, that is, until the AMA came out point-blank saying that pot is a "dangerous drug" (that's a direct quotation) and should remain illegal.

On a dime, I started hearing that the AMA -- formerly thought to have more expertise in public health than lawyers -- had turned into a political club run by Puritans.

If we legalize drugs, that will remove one barrier to their use. When barriers to use are removed, more will be consumed.

Question: When our citizens consume more drugs, will we have a stronger or a weaker country?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 9:39:45 PM

One may be referring to this recent survey.

http://www2.potsdam.edu/alcohol/files/Teen-Marijuana-Use-Up-Drinking-Down.html#.Uz9e2VfqGSo

I have often proposed that all new laws and regulations be pilot tested in small jurisdictions, such as counties. If proven safe, effective, and free of obnoxious unintended consequences test at a state level. Once proven at that level, go national.

Each new law and regulation is unauthorized, human experimentation, an international crime against humanity, unless proven safe, effective, and free of obnoxious unintended consequences.

Such testing would validate the law by means other than the point of a gun, as is the case now.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2014 9:46:06 PM

Daniel --

Before I get to your question about hostility to Justice Breyer, I want to go back to a question you declined to answer several days ago.

The thread was about whether 2014 could be a banner year for executions. Your comment was to the effect that executions are timed for tough-on-crime politicians to play to the public.

I then asked you to provide the evidence that the timing of executions -- generally, the carrying out of sentences imposed many years ago -- is influenced by people running for office.

I pointed out the following statistics:

Number of executions in 2008 = 37 (lowest in many years)

Number of executions in 2010 = 46

Number of executions in 2012 = 43

Here are the data for the off years:

Number of executions in 2009 = 52 (highest in many years)

Number of executions in 2011 = 43

Number of executions in 2013 = 39

In other words, over the last several years, there were 134 executions in off years, and eight fewer, or 126, in election years.

I don't believe it would be very smart for me to answer your question now, while you have left unanswered my previous question to you. I'm happy to have a dialogue with you, but a dialogue is not a one-way street.

Accordingly, I'll ask again how you draw your conclusion that executions are politically timed to get votes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 9:54:23 PM

Bill, you have you own blog to cover topics and discuss issues off from the ain post. For various reasons, I am eager to try to keep comments in posts related to the post.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 4, 2014 11:05:00 PM

I have often alluded to two facts.

One is that most catastrophic events result from the cluster of several factors in one place and time, often a dozen. The catastrophe may be entirely prevented by the prevention of one of them, even a weak trivial one.

The second is the finding that if one stops and tests all cars and drivers, even in daytime, 10% will be legally drunk. Obviously, much fewer than 1 in 10 cars on the road crash. It is a clue of an impaired driver that they drive slowly, tentatively. So the blood alcohol level is insufficient to cause a crash. One additional factor may be aggressiveness, either inherent in the driver even if sober, or brought out by alcohol in something called pathological intoxication. Most of us want to sleep after a lot of drinks, some of us go into a rage and want to fight. Another factor is something called acute tolerance. The level of intoxication and impairment is far greater at a blood level if it is on the way up, and less if the same blood level is on the way down from its peak. So drivers with the same alcohol level may not be impaired if they have peaked on level already.

So if marijuana gets people high with less impairment, and if marijuana is less likely to cause aggressiveness the above hypothesis may turn out to be provable.

There is no substitute for real world measurement. I would urge states collecting taxes from marijuana sales to assign at least 5% of the taxes to research into its impact on public safety.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 4, 2014 11:20:16 PM

Doug --

When my wife and I were called kapos, which of course was not related to anything you posted, you lodged no objection.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 4, 2014 11:53:42 PM

Bill.

I left your question unanswered because I honestly didn't see it; so with apologies to Doug for going off-topic let me answer it now.

I do not have any statistical data to back up my assertion, only a sense of what I see in the press. So thanks for the data you provided because I found it illuminating. So perhaps it is not the case that the executions are /timed/ for an election year but rather that the press /plays up/ executions during an election year because the topic becomes more salient. Further, perhaps it is not so much the number of executions scheduled but that really bad apples are saved for election years. Finally, it is entirely possible my impression gained from observing the news media is wrong--that has been known to happen.

BTW, my comment about Breyer was a reference to the fact he is known for his wild hypotheticals, ones that put Doug's to shame.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 5, 2014 12:11:22 AM

Daniel --

Thank you for your direct and responsive answer.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2014 12:16:57 AM

Daniel --

Speaking of Breyer's wild hypos: In a SCOTUS case I was involved in many years ago, Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000), Breyer asked at oral argument something to the effect that Miranda warnings had been seen by millions of people on TV, so how could we get rid of them now?

I felt like standing up and shouting, "Is that supposed to be a legal argument?" but refrained. I figured it wasn't such a good idea to get physically escorted out.

My side lost the case 7-2, incidentally.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2014 2:42:03 AM

In part because of what SC and federalist do, Bill, I do not try to tell people not to call others names. I try to rely on self policing there. As for staying on topic, I often tryo to encourage folks to do this AND I will happily start new posts if/when a good off-topic debate gets started. Apologies for not making these choices clearer, and also for failing to get a fresh thread started. (Though note I just did a DP data post based on a Slate article that might make a better forum from your DP debate.)

I hope you accept these apologies.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 5, 2014 1:56:40 PM

Doug --

No apology necessary. Your blog is a great resource. I'm grateful you put so much time into it. Not for nothing is it rated Number One in the recent survey you noted.

I have come to accept name-calling. Kent, federalist, Adamakis and other more conservative types have repeatedly been called bloodlusters, barbarians, fascists, and more.

That is one thing. Going after a commenter's FAMILY, which has happened twice over the last couple of weeks, once from Tom and once from Greg, is in a different category entirely. It's beyond unacceptable.

I agree that even minimal self-policing should be enough to prevent it. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case.

This is a widely read blog, so, believe me, I understand that policing it would take up a great deal of time, most of which would be wasted. If someone tried making a derisive reference to a person's family on C&C, however, I feel quite confident in saying that the comment would be taken down that day and he would be banned for life.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2014 4:03:11 PM

This is an area where I reluctantly have to agree with the ACLU, policy reviewed here.

https://www.aclu.org/free-speech/hate-speech-campus

And Prof. Berman has shown some courage in following its principles.

At C&C, I was welcome only if I stopped my fundamental criticisms of the lawyer profession. Because they were inseparable from criminal law policy and Kent just cannot understand that, I have never returned. Ever. So the original material and ideas can only be seen here.

Bill should try to understand that personal remarks are a sign of surrender in the traverse. In a tribunal, they end the trial for the utterer. A judge will rejoinder the remark in stern tones. The befuddled jury will then take this as a signal as to which way to decide the case. So, it is a kind of malpractice for a lawyer. For the non-lawyer, personal remarks are meaningless noise, to be ignored. Some have developed the technique of inducing frustration and irritability in the other side, just to get the outburst, as an advocacy tactic.

I have used the term of art, lawyer dumbass, but it is a code for a very specific and widespread effect of the law education. I have enumerated its elements.

I have called the profession a criminal cult enterprise, but can demonstrate every element of that phrase.

I have been called unhinged, insane, ironically by people who believe in mind reading, future forecasting, and the setting of standards of behavior by a fictional character. Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Ding.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 5, 2014 10:49:33 PM

SC --

Although you have characterized the legal profession in unflattering terms -- like being vile feminist stooges, etc. -- I have never once seen you call a commenter a bad name, putting you ahead of the decided majority.

I admit to calling you unhinged. Some of your broad characterizations of the law and lawyers left me not a whole lot of choice, in my opinion.

But you have a gentleman's manners and in some ways are one of the more mature and informed commenters here.

Just as you are correct in saying that those who use slurs defeat themselves, I would ask you to consider whether you're doing yourself any favors by painting lawyers in such broad and florid terms.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 6, 2014 12:03:28 AM

"Kent, federalist, Adamakis and other more conservative types have repeatedly been called bloodlusters, barbarians, fascists, and more."

I notice that you do not dispute the /accuracy/ of these characterizations. Oh wait, I suppose my rejoinder falls under "Some have developed the technique of inducing frustration and irritability in the other side, just to get the outburst, as an advocacy tactic" (rolling my eyes).

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 6, 2014 3:02:56 AM

Bill: I have also made it clear that I love the rule of law, the lawyer, and even the judge. My fervor is from love. One does not spend so much time, effort, and creative power on a subject without love. I am also aghast when strangers in conversation ask if I am a lawyer rather than what I am.

"Vile feminists and their male running dogs," represents frustration and failure on my part, just at the massiveness of the mistakes made and their horrible impact on the nation. I am knocking over my King when I do that, and have surrendered, in failure, as everyone else who gets insulting is failing.

I am persuaded by facts. If I misunderstand a legal decision, I can be set straight and turned around. I have admitted that the lead level effect is a factor in the drop in crime. I provided counter examples, which I hope stimulated the theorist, not suppressed him. There is no conflict between the lead theory and the incapacitation theory (from mandatory guidelines) of the drop in crime once one accepts the multi-factorial causation of catastrophes. I have not been given credit when I congratulated the legal profession on its spectacular achievement of helping to drop crime 40% without changing the system drastically.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 6, 2014 6:56:31 AM

Daniel --

"I notice that you do not dispute the /accuracy/ of these characterizations."

Consider them officially disputed. Happy?

"Oh wait, I suppose my rejoinder falls under "Some have developed the technique of inducing frustration and irritability in the other side, just to get the outburst, as an advocacy tactic" (rolling my eyes)."

It's fine and natural for commenters to get frustrated. It is not fine -- indeed it's despicable -- for commenters to take out their frustrations by slurring the FAMILY MEMBERS of their opponents.

If they can't handle their frustration better than that, they don't belong on an adult blog.

The main problem with juvenile guttersnipes is not that they go out of their way to see themselves as "victims" of "provocation." The main problem is that they're juvenile guttersnipes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 6, 2014 9:55:38 AM

You can't prove that the correlation between lower traffic deaths and the availability/substitution/use of marijuana. I can say that anecdotally, there seem to be more marijuana impaired drivers on the road with the attitude "It's legal now" and also more collisions attributed to marijuana impairment. Could it be better detection? I ask this because the lower death rate you attribute to legalizing marijuana could be more properly attributed to safer cars. Lets also not forget that traffic fatality rate has been falling prior to the legalization.

I agree with a previous poster, marijuana advocates seem desperate.

Posted by: Ted | Apr 7, 2014 1:07:50 PM

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