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Thoughts about "Pete's Couch":

This Slate article about the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's new anti-marijuana ad, "Pete's Couch" prompts the following question: If one of the greatest harms of marijuana use is that it makes you lazy -- as one would expect it to be if the federal government is producing ads about it -- why is marijuana use a criminal offense?

Antares79:
Laziness is obviously a huge problem impacting public welfare and interstate commerce. It can be remedied only through harsh criminal sanctions (viz. the high productivity of drug convicts) or legalization of Adderall and Speed. Take your pick. /sarcasm
9.26.2006 4:03pm
gab (mail):
Pot is a "gateway" drug. It leads to staying in bed all day, playing videogames 'til all hours and generally shirking one's resposibilities. This type of behaviour has been considered criminal in this country since the days of the Puritans.
9.26.2006 4:10pm
Revonna LaSchatze:

Pharmaceutical industry doesn't want competition.
Nor do alcohol and cigarette lobbies. (?)
9.26.2006 4:11pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Lazy, ambitionless, criminals slack off on committing crime, which means they don't do their part to keep the criminal justice system expanding.
9.26.2006 4:41pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
All the comments are very cute, but pothead lazy people still have kids. My brother-in-law is one of those example potheads that many of you don't see as a problem, because you don't know people like him. He's pretty darn smart--but he was drinking heavily and smoking pot by 13. His life ever since has been a train wreck, with two failed marriages, frequent jail time for domestic violence, at least one incident of not terribly severe physical abuse of a stepchild, multiple DUIs, and one memorable incident where he was so drunk that not only did he not realize that he had gone down the wrong way on a one-way street, but he didn't even realize that he had been in a traffic accident (with a police car responding lights and sirens to another crime) until the enraged cop dragged him out of car without opening the door. By his own admission, he only steals from friends, because he lacks the courage to break into a stranger's home.

I wish that I could say that my brother-in-law was a wild exception among the potheads that I have known over the years, but he really isn't. One of the problems with living in the ivory tower is that you are hanging around with people who share your general values. I'm sure that pothead law professors are substantially more responsible than potheads like my brother-in-law.
9.26.2006 4:57pm
M (mail):
Clayton,
It sounds like it's the drinking doing the real trouble for your brother-in-law. Should we outlaw that, too, and not just like during prohibition but also w/ serious penalties for possession?
9.26.2006 5:05pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):
Clayton, why do you attribute your brother-in-laws problems to smoking pot, when you note that he was abusing alcohol at age 13. There are plenty of studies that demonstrate that alcohol abuse is much more damaging than marijuana.
9.26.2006 5:09pm
bob montgomery:
This Slate article...prompts the following question

That's kind of an odd phrasing, since the article actually did ask the question:
And, logical next question (as others have noted): If smoking pot is the safest thing in the world, does not lead to the use of harder drugs, and, worst case, causes you to veg out on a couch for several hours, why is it a criminal offense?
9.26.2006 5:19pm
Entropy:
Pot-induced laziness is not necessarily its most harmful characteristic. Advertising that pot makes you lazy might be an effective way to deter kids from using pot, especially in the format of a 30-second commerical.
9.26.2006 5:20pm
jim:
I know people who have smoked pot daily for 30+ years and who managed to live happy, productive, socially responsible lives. That doesn't mean I condone their behavior, but it does mean that a pot smoker does not a lazy man make.
9.26.2006 5:29pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Well to answer a rhetorical question the answer is because people have a great deal of difficulty diffrentiating between X is bad and the type of people who are associating with doing X are bad. For instance take Clayton's argument, despite totally lacking in any reason to credit causation to weed people are tempted to take it as showing weed is bad.

Of course once a drug is illegal it makes sure that the respectable upstanding parts of society won't be seen doing it so all the examples of people you see smoking pot are lazy nobodies or sometimes abusive criminals. Since people don't evaluate these questions intellectually based on studies they have read but instead evaluate them emotionally it makes it very hard to convince people that this sort of experience is misguided. Additionally in many of these cases the choice is between blaming the drug/drug dealer and admitting that your family member really is a no good asshole. I think it is way easier for most families to say that their brother/son/daughter was changed by drugs than to admit they are a criminal sort of person who did lots of drugs as a side effect.

Not to mention the common puritanical motivation. If you say using drugs is bad you don't have to feel jealous that you didn't try them. Many people either didn't or are scared of using pot. If there is nothing wrong with using pot they have to fess up that they missed out/are too scared to try. If they say it is wrong and bad to use they get to take the moral high ground. It is the same reason old people often complain about how soft kids are today and how the conviences and opportunities (including mostly consequen ce free sex) ruin their character. If instead they admitted that these are changes for the good they end up feeling jealous and sad that they didn't get to enjoy these things while if they say they are bad and harmful they get to feel superior.
9.26.2006 5:37pm
Matt Tievsky (mail):
Clayton:

Others have noted that alcohol may have harmed your brother more than pot.

But I'd note something else--according to your description, it sounds like marijuana prohibition has not done any good for your brother-in-law. Of course, you might respond that prohibition prevents other, more deterrable people from going down the same path. But the very fact that those people are deterrable suggests they are the most likely to be responsible users.
9.26.2006 5:38pm
Perseus (mail):
If one of the greatest harms of marijuana use is that it makes you lazy -- as one would expect it to be if the federal government is producing ads about it -- why is marijuana use a criminal offense?

As George Will would say, because statecraft is soulcraft. One could make an equally good (if not better) case for limiting the number of hours that lazy Pete sits on his couch watching the boob tube.
9.26.2006 5:49pm
Wikstrom (mail):
[" ... causes you to veg out on a couch for several hours, why is it a criminal offense? "]


...the 'Commerce Clause' de facto permits Congress & colleagues to criminalize any behavior they choose.

Is there some problem with that situation ?
9.26.2006 6:12pm
Revonna LaSchatze:
If this didn't scare the kids, forget about the Pete's Couch propaganda working.
9.26.2006 6:27pm
JBL:
They are also evading the taxes they would be paying if they had jobs.

And it is entirely possible that the government could require them to hand over their assets (time and labor) to a private enterprise (like maybe a local fast food franchise) for economic development purposes; the fifth amendment only requires just compensation ($5.15/hour).

I suspect that the reason for pot being illegal has relatively little to do with any sort of objective comparison of smoking pot vs. other potentially harmful activities and more to do with political/logistics issues. As a practical matter it is much easier to keep an illegal substance illegal (even if it is fairly common) than to criminalize a legal (and common) substance. And it is easier to criminalize a substance than to regulate other forms of behavior (like vegging in front of the TV while sober). And historically there were a number of powerful lobbies other than alcohol involved in the decision, notably textiles (or so I hear). So the current law, though not rational, may be explicable. It's not about what you can justify, it's about what you can pass through congress.

None of which of course really presents a good answer to the question. Oh well.
9.26.2006 6:50pm
Anthony A (mail):
Clayton's example is not stated terribly convincingly; as others have pointed out, alcohol may be as much a part of the problem for the particular person in question.

However, not all pot smokers become lazy. Some pot smokers just become irresponsible without being any less energetic, which is not something society particularly wants to encourage. Also, for some people, pot triggers various mental disorders, some of which result in violent behavior, or irreversible damage.

I'm not necessarily convinced that even those issues warrant criminlaizing pot, but they are real issues, which are more severe than just "pot makes people lazy".
9.26.2006 7:39pm
Joe7 (mail):
Advertising that pot makes you lazy might be an effective way to deter kids from using pot, especially in the format of a 30-second commerical.

Not a chance. Anti-drug commercials have no effect in reducing drug use and, in fact, may actually encourage it. They and the bizarre anti-smoking ads are just so politicians can claim they are doing something.

(BTW, the illegality of pot is not based on rational science. Alcohol is, in fact, a far worse drug than pot. It is also not a gateway drug [proven repeatedly.] The bottom line is it makes you high and isn't booze so it's illegal. Decriminizle marijuana and you'll save a whole lot of money in this country.)
9.26.2006 7:39pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
The party line is that marijuana is a gateway drug. While only ever smoking marijuana will merely make you lazy, it can serve as a "gateway" through which you move on to other drugs. Which, in my experience, is true for one and only one reason.

All of them are regulated identically.

Once you step over the line and smoke some weed, there's no line between you and any other drug. Sure, you had a line between you and mushrooms. You had a line between you and LSD. You had a line between you and cocaine. You had a line between you and heroin. But it was all the same line. You're on the other side of that line now, where you are literally forced to associate with people on the same side of that line. (Only they can sell you more weed.) And surrounding you is this veritable candy store of drugs.

Oh, sure, drugs are bad! Everybody knows that. But marijuana wasn't really that bad, was it? Maybe cocaine isn't that bad. Hell, crack is just cocaine with a little baking soda, it can't possibly be any different. Maybe people are lying to you about LSD, too. And heroin. And methamphetamine.

So yes, marijuana is a gateway drug. You have to pass through that gateway to smoke marijuana, and you're then faced with the temptation of everything else. But the war on drugs is the gate. It's the prohibition that lumps all of the drugs into one category, and treats all of their users like they're the same kind of people, and effectively equates any drug to every drug. Marijuana would not be a gateway drug if it was legal, because it would be out here with normal law-abiding citizens.

I believe that if we legalised marijuana, the people who smoke it would rapidly discover that it does not make the world a more peaceful and mellow place after all. In fact, I'll bet they find that culturally, the vast majority of the American public does not approve of marijuana and it has nothing to do with the law.

Gays have already discovered that. It isn't that the culture was unkown, or that the behavior was criminal, or that people were afraid of what they didn't understand. It's simply that most people who aren't gay disapprove of most people who are. They don't really know why, and they don't really care.

Pot smokers will find the same thing. We don't disapprove of pot smokers because it's illegal, we just generally disapprove of pot smokers. Legalisation will remove the rational basis of most arguments, but it won't make people like you.
9.26.2006 8:15pm
A-Man (mail):
One of the campaign commercials against pot stated "20% of DUI's are due to Marijuana...it's more dangerous than we all thought."

In another commercial the connection was made between buying Pot and supporting terrorism.

Finally how many times has the police blotter reported on a stoned guy causing a domestic violence incident?

The reality is that if 20% of all DUI's are from pot, the other 80% are from alcohol. Buying foreign oil supports terrorism and the vast majority of domestic voilence cases involve alcohol.

I even had a manager once say to me "If you get a DUI some night, the guys will understand, it happens to everybody. If you get arrested for smoking pot you'll be fired."

It's funny how society works!
9.26.2006 8:59pm
Nate F (mail):
A-Man,
Additionally, it's worth noting that those marijuana DUI's are almost always given because people were observed smoking it while driving. I have been in cars with stoned drivers before, and should they be driving? Probably not. Are they in worse shape than the average person is at 0.1 BAC? I certainly don't think so.
9.26.2006 10:39pm
tdsj:
When he was DEA Chief, Asa Hutchinson spoke at Yale. He said something like "If you all had grown up smoking pot, you'd probably be working in a gas station right now instead of sitting here at Yale."

That seemed like a strange thing to say. Insulting, elitist, and just weird. (Plus, I venture to guess that most of us there did, in fact, grow up smoking pot.)

But maybe part of what the government tries to do is to channel people into productive roles. Maybe the law and the criminal law isn't just about preventing harm, but also sometimes about forcing benefits, forcing work, forcing productivity.
9.26.2006 11:03pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
logicnazi, you were off to a great, logical start, but you leap to conclusions about puritanism and people being resentful of not having the stones (sorry) to try pot themselves.

First, as an aside, Puritans get an unfair bad rap. There's more complexity there than the stereotype would suggest.

Second, people have varied reasons for doing or not doing nearly any human behavior.

Caliban, I tend to support legalisation, but the "artificial gateway" logic doesn't hold up. Wherever we draw the line - at alcohol, pot, mushrooms, or gummy bears - crossing the line puts you into the world of all those other illegal drugs. That's a cost that will have to be paid somewhere, and won't go away if we just move the gate to the other side of weed.
9.26.2006 11:11pm
Arbusto Spectrum:


But maybe part of what the government tries to do is to channel people into productive roles. Maybe the law and the criminal law isn't just about preventing harm, but also sometimes about forcing benefits, forcing work, forcing productivity.


I know plenty of pot smokers who lead extremely productive lives. They went to top schools, do well in demanding jobs and have great families. I also know people who would never touch the stuff who are deadbeats.
If government is trying to force work and productivity (which it has no business doing), drug laws are counterproductive. How many people are in jail because of them? Tons. You and I get to pay for that....

Your quote of Asa Hutchinson is a great demonstration of the absolute ignorance of the policy makers and policy enforcers.
9.26.2006 11:19pm
bruce (mail):
Pot, just like all other drugs, is illegal because non-white people use it and it messes with their dark skinned minds, causing them to commit crimes against white people and white people's property (including the raping and sexual enslaving of white women). Oh and it also makes these dark skinned people ten times as strong as normal, and impervious to white cops' bullets. This is the ONLY REASON pot--and every other drug--is currently illegal.
9.26.2006 11:24pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton, why do you attribute your brother-in-laws problems to smoking pot, when you note that he was abusing alcohol at age 13. There are plenty of studies that demonstrate that alcohol abuse is much more damaging than marijuana.
I don't dispute that alcohol is part of his problem, and I certainly know plenty of people who alcohol has helped to destroy. If there were some magic way to make alcohol disappear overnight, I would.

I agree that alcohol is probably a larger problem to our society right now than marijuana. But pretending that marijuana (like other intoxicants, legal and otherwise) isn't a problem for many users is astonishingly ignorant.

I agree that opiate prohibition has been a major disaster, fueling substantial drug trafficking organizations. You could persuade me to repeal heroin laws before marijuana laws, simply because it seems that more people have enough sense not to be using needles than smoking pot.

What angers me is this libertarian pretense that there's really no problems with intoxicants. The loss of inhibitions is the reason that all intoxicants create serious risks to people that have the misfortune to hang around with regular abusers, and that's true for alcohol, marijuana, heroin, meth, and a variety of other drugs that libertarians of late have decided are really not problems in the least.

Yes, I know that there are a bunch of people who smoke pot as responsibly as they drink alcohol. But there's an awful lot of potheads who use it as responsibly as a lot of people use alcohol: that is to say, not at all.

I voted for decriminalization of marijuana for medical reasons when it was on the ballot in California a few years ago. My daughter tells me that for much of her generation, this was regarded as, "Oh wow, I guess there's nothing wrong with it." If we repealed the laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors, I suppose that you would all consider that just so cool! But look at the damage that it does even to somewhat responsible adults, and ask yourself if it makes sense for 15 year olds.

By the way, I've spent too many years talking to pothead evangelists to take any of them seriously when they claim that marijuana doesn't do any damage. A fair number of them were walking advertisements for the destructive effects--and didn't even realize it.
9.27.2006 12:17am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Bruce, I think you ought to either smoke more pot, or not smoke anymore, but in any case, do the opposite of what you've been doing. You scare me.
9.27.2006 12:53am
bruce (mail):
Mike, I certainly do not believe the statements in my last post, but those are the reasons drugs are illegal. Read Jacob Sullum's great book "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use" and you'll see I'm (sadly) correct. Drug prohibition stems entirely from pure, unabated racism. Pot is banned because it makes mexicans/hispanics steal, murder, and rape white women. Opium is banned because it made chinese rape and sexually enslave white women. Cocaine is illegal because it makes black people steal, murder, and rape white women. PCP and other dissociatives are illegal because they make black people invincible such that (white) cops can't bring them down.


Of course all of these excuses are total BS. But they're the actual reasons for prohibition. And I'm not smoking anything.
9.27.2006 2:04am
Unregistered User (mail):
Basic public choice: The goal of governments is to maximize revenues. From the gov't workers point of view, you are a chattel. If you are lazy, even if you're happier, you're bringing in less tax revenue, lowering their power.
9.27.2006 4:27am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Bruce writes:


Drug prohibition stems entirely from pure, unabated racism. Pot is banned because it makes mexicans/hispanics steal, murder, and rape white women. Opium is banned because it made chinese rape and sexually enslave white women. Cocaine is illegal because it makes black people steal, murder, and rape white women. PCP and other dissociatives are illegal because they make black people invincible such that (white) cops can't bring them down.
So what race was Prohibition aimed at? White people.

Laws regulating intoxicants have been around for a very long time, even in completely homogenous nations. Libertarians tend to ignore it, because it doesn't fit this elegant model of "drug control = racism" but Britain in the 19th century went through a major struggle within the Liberal Party about efforts to discourage drinking. There was both the rising temperance movement, for the same reasons that we had one here--and at the same time, the "beer barons" as they were known were major funders of the Liberal Party.

Intoxicants, when used to excess, cause all sorts of unpleasant social problems: impaired driving; murder; rape; industrial and home accidents. Oddly enough, many economic crimes such as burglary and robbery take place under the influence of alcohol or heroin. There's a reason that we have the expression "Dutch courage" to refer to alcohol--it lets people do things that when sober they would never be crazy or bad enough to do.
9.27.2006 10:34am
Entropy:
In my first post, I wrote,
"Advertising that pot makes you lazy might be an effective way to deter kids from using pot, especially in the format of a 30-second commerical."

And Joe responded,
"Not a chance. Anti-drug commercials have no effect in reducing drug use and, in fact, may actually encourage it. ..."

Previous anti-drug ads may have been ineffective or even counterproductive. They tried to scare non-users away from drugs. These current ads are more reasonable, as the Slate article mentions. Equating getting stoned with wasting your youth sitting on a couch is a different approach that might work.
9.27.2006 10:57am
Entropy:
In my first post, I wrote,
"Advertising that pot makes you lazy might be an effective way to deter kids from using pot, especially in the format of a 30-second commerical."

And Joe responded,
"Not a chance. Anti-drug commercials have no effect in reducing drug use and, in fact, may actually encourage it. ..."

Previous anti-drug ads may have been ineffective or even counterproductive. They tried to scare non-users away from drugs. These current ads are more reasonable, as the Slate article mentions. Equating getting stoned with wasting your youth sitting on a couch is a different approach that might work.
9.27.2006 10:57am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I wrote yesterday:

By the way, I've spent too many years talking to pothead evangelists to take any of them seriously when they claim that marijuana doesn't do any damage. A fair number of them were walking advertisements for the destructive effects--and didn't even realize it.
And today, I receive an abusive email from someone reading this line of comments who is a reminder that there is something more obnoxious than a reformer smoker, and that's a pothead evangelist:


One only has to see the car you drive to figure what kind of a moron you are. I enjoyed reading your pot post but couldn't find any negative examples of pot use. Everything you mentioned was booze related as are more crimes in this country than all illegal drugs combined, but of course booze is fine. As cigarette taxes zoom, it's been years since anyone raised taxes on alcohol. Why do you think that is. It's the drug of choice of politicians, cops, and the religious right of course, not to mention the power of their lobby. I bet when your brother in law isn't drinking, and just smoking, 99 and 44/100 % of people would pick him to stand next to rather than an opinionated, egotistical idiot like you. Enjoy your your (rich) kiddy car. Can't think of a more uncomfortable ride in my sixty years. Gotta have a real big ass or a kidney belt to ride in one of them for more than a few minutes at a time, which do you have? Really impresses the young honeys though doesn't it? And, of course, it also advertises your financial position. Have a real need to impress people do you? You should fire up a doobie yourself. You'd sell that ridiculous car, buy yourself some decent clothes, and mellow out a little. You need it.
The religious right supports alcohol? There's a reason that about 30% of Americans never drink--and it is because a fair number of evangelical Christians have persuaded themselves that alcohol consumption, in any form, is a sin.

Does anyone else hear a lot of envy? (And remember, Corvettes aren't even particularly expensive cars.) I guess this guy may be suffering from "Pete's Couch" syndrome.
9.27.2006 11:00am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Previous anti-drug ads may have been ineffective or even counterproductive. They tried to scare non-users away from drugs. These current ads are more reasonable, as the Slate article mentions. Equating getting stoned with wasting your youth sitting on a couch is a different approach that might work.
Especially if you have some examples of this around you. I watched one of my schoolmates go from a smart, engaged, thoughtful computer geek to a guy who strummed a guitar (without ever actually playing anything on it), and nothing else, over a period of about six months of serious pot use.

I have at least one relative whose mild bipolar disorder turned into an acute, disabling bipolar disorder shortly after his introduction to marijuana at 14. He did not recover until he was 30. Another relative did likewise--again, shortly after her introduction to marijuana at 12--and straightened out, after tremendously expensive treatment. There are some correlations between anxiety disorders and marijuana use as well--although there's some question as to the direction of causality on this. But for serious potheads--and for those who consider a good theory preferable to empirical data--so what?
9.27.2006 11:06am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Clayton,

A Corvette or high end SUV are expensive cars when one is a pot smoking, couch sitting, aging hippie driving a copy of Al Bundy's famous Dodge.

There is no question in my mind that alcohol abuse by the very small percentage of persons who are alcoholic is devastating to the alcoholic's life, relationships with people, and relationship to society in general. However, there is also no question that alcohol use is only addictive in a small percentage of the population, but marijuana use is psychologically and in some senses physically addictive in 100% of its regular (meaning daily or 3 or 4 days per week). There is also no question that regular long term marijuana use rewires a person's brain and significantly impairs linear reasoning abilities in manner that does not happen to regular, but non-alcoholic, users of alcohol. Marijuana contains over 300 substances most which have never been studied for health effects on humans. Marijuana places more tars and other carcinogens in the lungs than regular cigarettes, and certainly has all the ill health effects and likely more ill health effects than does regular cigarettes.

Finally, I find arguments that marijuana should be legal because other possible evils like acohol and cigarettes are legal completely unpersuassive. It makes no sense to unleash another evil upon society just because some other evils or possible evils have been unleashed.

Says the "Dog"
9.27.2006 11:20am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
P.S., Alchohol should remain legal if for no other reason than to give some evangelical puritans and radical muslims something to bitch about.

Says the "Dog"
9.27.2006 11:24am
Freethinker:
Go to this link to see what one nobel laureate thinks about drug prohibition.

BTW, anecdotal evidence means nothing. Policies should be judged by their real-life consequences (from a macro perspective), not by their intentions.
9.27.2006 11:34am
Tom (www):
What, the government has no business making a substance illegal whose sole purpose is to induce intoxication? With all due respect, that is what differentiates pot from alcohol, which people can ingest without getting high.

Moreover, the pro-pot argument that goes "alcohol causes problems just like pot does. Why not ban alcohol too?" actually cuts against legalization. If one legal substance is producing bad social consequences through its abuse, why in the world would we want to legalize another substance that produces bad consequences when used in the normal fashion pot smokers use it?
9.27.2006 1:02pm
Randy Bean (mail):
It's hard to know were to begin on a thread like this. To answer the original question, the answer is that there is nothing remotely criminal about possessing, selling, or using drugs.

The real crime in all of this is the prohibitions themselves. I beleive one of the Ten Commandments is that "Thou shall not bear false witness". When a person defines behaviors as criminal when said behaviors don't meet any meaningful definition of criminality, that person is bearing false witness. Ironically, and sadly, it's usually those that claim to live by the Ten Commandments that provide most of the political support for drug prohibitions.

Many posters above have touched on what prohibtions are about, that is social engineering.

To JunkYardLawDog -- Funny, unlike you, I find the arguement that pot should be legal because alcohol is legal highly persuasive. In my mind, comparable behaviors should be treated equally before the law, otherwise injustice ensues. The person that gets drunk everyday is no different morally than the person who gets high on pot everyday. Under current laws however, their treatment under the laws are dramatically different. Is this not the definition of injustice?

Also to JunkYardLawDog -- As for unleashing evil by legalizing pot, first off, it was "unleashed" several millenia ago, not withstanding recent attempts at social engineering using drug prohibitions. And so far, said drug prohibitions have failed to un-unleash pot. LOL. Secondly, you want to talk about evil, drug prohibtions have led to the militariztion of the police, no knock raids, violent black markets, corruption in law enforcement and the courts, and handed criminal records to millions of non-violent drug users and distributors. You should be proud.
9.27.2006 1:43pm
TJIT (mail):
Clatyon,

Sorry to hear about your friends and relatives who have substance abuse problems. Substance abuse is crushingly difficult issue and it is real tragedy for all of those involved.

Back to the topic at hand I would like to try a thought experiment

Guns can be misused, some people misuse guns, therefore all guns should be prohibited.

Compare to

drugs can be misused, some people misuse drugs, therefore all drugs should be prohibited.

I slightly modified a paragraph from one of your posts.

Guns, when misused, cause all sorts of unpleasant social problems: murder; rape; industrial and home accidents. Oddly enough, many economic crimes such as burglary and robbery take place using the influence of a gun.

I completely agree with your comments on the bad effects of intoxicants. I also completely agree with bad effects guns had on the mother of a young child who was murdered by someone using a handgun.

But I don't support her efforts to ban handguns because crimminalizing handguns will not stop future problems and will merely crimminalize law abiding responsible gun owners.

I think the exact same reasoning applies to drug prohibition.
9.27.2006 1:50pm
TJIT (mail):
What strikes me about drug prohibition is how rarely the collateral damage caused by drug prohibition is recognized let alone acknowledged by prohibition supporters.

Drug prohibition allows groups like the shining path and the taliban to raise funds to support their terror activites.

Drug prohibition has led to an increasing number of paramilitary police raids with increased risk to innocent civilians and the police.

Drug prohibition is a budgetary hardship on many states because of the vast expense of prisons and legal activities to prosecute drug prohibition.

Since drug use is a consensual crime that happens in all segments of society drug prohibition has turned all of us into crimminal suspects.

One of the worst aspects of drug prohibition is its impact on effective pain control for medical patients. Untold thousands of people have suffered and/or died in excruciating agony because of the many myths surrounding effective pain control with narcotics and the DEA prosecution of physicians who specialize in pain control.


The more one looks at the collateral impacts of drug prohibition the less supportable the current policy is.
9.27.2006 2:13pm
Hoya:
To break the gun/pot analogy in the previous comment, one has to be willing to make the unpopular claim that while guns are for the most part good things -- good for protection, good for hunting, etc. -- pot is for the most part not a good thing. Intoxication is, as such, a bad, not a good. Before anyone goes ballistic because of an appeal to what's actually good and bad, keep in mind that any sane view on appropriate criminalization, including Mill's good old harm-to-others principle, requires some account of what is basically good and what is not.
9.27.2006 2:54pm
uh clem (mail):
The more one looks at the collateral impacts of drug prohibition the less supportable the current policy is.

The problem is that many people look at the collateral impacts of drug prohibition and mistakenly blame it on the drugs rather than the prohibition. That lack of clearheadedness is exasperating, but it's all too common. See for instance the "I helped" ad campaign where the ONDCP claimed that drug usage helps terrorists.
9.27.2006 3:14pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Guns can be misused, some people misuse guns, therefore all guns should be prohibited.

Compare to

drugs can be misused, some people misuse drugs, therefore all drugs should be prohibited.

I slightly modified a paragraph from one of your posts.
No, you didn't. I've gone back and re-read wha t I wrote, and there's nothing even close to this above. I've several times emphasized that my younger enthusiasm for decriminalization of all illegal drugs has been tempered by reality, and while I would support decriminalization of opiates, I'm not persuaded that decriminalizing marijuana or meth is a particularly good idea. I also don't think that prohibition is the most effective solution to the problem of intoxicant abuse--but decriminalization does send a message of acceptability to those looking for an excuse.

I will point out one fundamental difference between guns and alcohol: guns are a necessary tool of self-defense. Dietary alcohol, marijuana, and other intoxicants are luxury goods, at best. I also have no objection to reasonable regulation of guns, alcohol, and other intoxicants. Laws prohibiting sale of guns to minors are completely reasonable; ditto for laws regulating sale of alcohol.
9.27.2006 3:54pm
Jay Myers:

If one of the greatest harms of marijuana use is that it makes you lazy -- as one would expect it to be if the federal government is producing ads about it -- why is marijuana use a criminal offense?


"In a collectivist society, where man works for society, loafing must be considered a crime, just like robbery!"
Che Guevara in Cuba's official newspaper Revolucion.

Any other questions?
9.27.2006 3:59pm
Crunchy Frog:
Clayton, I do feel sorry for your situation, but you are beating on a straw man. Nobody here is advocating for the legalization of pot smoking by 13-year-olds. The question is, should adults, whose brains are presumed to be fully wired by now, be empowered to decide for themselves whether to take it.

By the way, I've always wondered if the invention of a breathalyzer-type machine calibrated for THC would help solve the debate. Clearly, too much makes you stoned, and thus unable to operate a motor vehicle, but how much is too much, and how do you measure it?
9.27.2006 4:01pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

What strikes me about drug prohibition is how rarely the collateral damage caused by drug prohibition is recognized let alone acknowledged by prohibition supporters.
I certainly recognize the collateral damage. That's part of why I think that both educational efforts and private efforts to discourage drug abuse (such as the various drug testing programs that many employers now have) are more effective than prohibition. But even these efforts get enormous negative response from the pothead crowd, who seem to be unwilling to admit that there are any hazards connected to intoxicant abuse--other than whining, "Well, alcohol's worse! So it's okay to add another intoxicant to the mix!" It is an inconsistent position, no question, but the question is whether our policy should be half-wrong (alcohol legal, marijuana not) or completely wrong (everything legal).

We've been wrestling with the alcohol problem, and various regulatory attempts, for several hundred years. A number of colonies attempted to discourage drinking in bars by prohibiting sales of "spirits" in quantities less than a half-barrel. The idea was, "Take your rum home, and drink it there." (And this before DUI was a concern.)

Perhaps Prohibition's fault was to focus on all alcoholic beverages. While I don't pretend that beer and wine are negligible in the social damage that they cause, it does seem as though distilled alcohol may have some more damaging results. A complete ban, however, just had the effect of encouraging the trade in distilled alcohol, because it was more efficient to move 86 proof alcohol, not 6 proof. Perhaps limiting beer to 3.2%, or even something a bit lower, as some counties in Texas do, would have been effective in removing some of the social problems, without creating the enormous illegal markets.
9.27.2006 4:02pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Clayton, I do feel sorry for your situation, but you are beating on a straw man. Nobody here is advocating for the legalization of pot smoking by 13-year-olds. The question is, should adults, whose brains are presumed to be fully wired by now, be empowered to decide for themselves whether to take it.
1. This isn't just my situation. The problems that I am talking about are widespread, and yes, they involve alcohol as well as illegal drugs.

2. I am actually not hostile to the idea that adults should be free to make their own decisions--but I do want there to be some admission that decriminalizing every drug isn't a bed of roses. The pothead evangelists refuse to admit that there are a number of people who start smoking pot, and it takes over their lives (and those of anyone who has the misfortune to be near them.

3. Sorry, but the "pot is God" crowd DOES want every 13 year old free to smoke pot. I'm from California; I've heard all this crap for decades now.
9.27.2006 4:07pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The problem is that many people look at the collateral impacts of drug prohibition and mistakenly blame it on the drugs rather than the prohibition.
Yet the ad that started this whole discussion was focused on the effects of the drug itself--not prohibition. Only a seriously in denial pothead would pretend that a person who spends a big chunk of every day smoking pot isn't going to have some deleterious effects from it. And that was my point: there are some destructive effects from regular intoxication, and this is true of marijuana, as it is for alcohol, and a lot of other intoxicants. A fair number of people are so in love with libertarian ideas--or their joint--that they refuse to admit that there is a problem.

Imagine if someone defending alcohol insisted that consistent, high use of alcohol (say, a sixpack a day) didn't have some deleterious effects on at least a significant fraction of the population. You would rightly recognize them as liars or fools, because we all have experiences with people who we have seen in this situation. The same is true for marijuana, as anyone who has grown up in a place where marijuana is as socially acceptable as alcohol can tell you.
9.27.2006 4:14pm
Fub:
After reading this thread, I tend to agree with those who say that cannabis detrimentally affects many people's reasoning capacity or even makes some people crazy.

It is obviously a remarkably powerful drug. Just the fact that somebody, somewhere, uses it causes many other people to obsessively assert transparently irrational and factually confused justifications for its continued prohibiton.
9.27.2006 4:25pm
TJIT (mail):
Clayton,

In the interest of being more clear I should have said

-------------------------------------------------

I slightly modified a paragraph from one of your posts, it is posted below.

Guns, when misused, cause all sorts of unpleasant social problems: murder; rape; industrial and home accidents. Oddly enough, many economic crimes such as burglary and robbery take place using the influence of a gun.

---------------------------------------------------------

The stuff in quotes below was my writing I did not mean to imply you had written anything similar.

"Guns can be misused, some people misuse guns, therefore all guns should be prohibited.

Compare to

drugs can be misused, some people misuse drugs, therefore all drugs should be prohibited. was my work I did not mean to imply you had written anything similar"

Thanks,

TJIT
9.27.2006 4:28pm
TJIT (mail):
Clayton,

You said

"That's part of why I think that both educational efforts and private efforts to discourage drug abuse (such as the various drug testing programs that many employers now have) are more effective than prohibition."

First, the pervasive employee drug testing programs that exist today would not be present if it were not for a broad spectrum of regulatory requirements, legislative activity, and other measures by the DEA, NIDA, and other government agencies. These agencies have worked hard to either require or encourage employee drug testing and spent considerable efforts to make drug testing as pervasive as possible. The idea that employee drug testing was driven by private employers is flatly wrong.

Second, it nicely illustrates my point about how prohibition has made criminals out of all of us. Requiring 100% of your employees to go urinate into a cup on command in order to catch the 2% to 5% of your employees who might have a prohibited substance in their system treats the 95 % to 98 % of the employees who have done nothing wrong like common crimminals.
9.27.2006 4:44pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

First, the pervasive employee drug testing programs that exist today would not be present if it were not for a broad spectrum of regulatory requirements, legislative activity, and other measures by the DEA, NIDA, and other government agencies. These agencies have worked hard to either require or encourage employee drug testing and spent considerable efforts to make drug testing as pervasive as possible. The idea that employee drug testing was driven by private employers is flatly wrong.
Can you explain to me why I have never had to submit to drug testing, if this is "pervasive" and imposed by the goverment? I took a new job in 1987; in 1995; in 2000; and in 2001. Some of these employers were tiny. Some were DJIA firms whose names are household words. But I've never been asked to pee into a cup.

And you've proved my point, by the way, about how the potheads have been driven crazy by this.

Second, it nicely illustrates my point about how prohibition has made criminals out of all of us. Requiring 100% of your employees to go urinate into a cup on command in order to catch the 2% to 5% of your employees who might have a prohibited substance in their system treats the 95 % to 98 % of the employees who have done nothing wrong like common crimminals.
Again: how did I miss out on the fun?

One of the companies that I worked for, DSC, did have a drug testing policy in some jobs where the risks of accidents were perceived as high. As was explained to me by someone who was familiar with the program, DSC gave everyone a month's notice that drug tests were coming. Then, if an employee failed the drug test, they were given a month to prepare for another drug test. Then, when they failed the second drug test, they were sent to drug counseling. If they refused that, they were fired.

What does this tell you, if someone can't stay clean long enough to pass two drug tests a month apart? That someone has a drug addiction problem.
9.27.2006 4:55pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

After reading this thread, I tend to agree with those who say that cannabis detrimentally affects many people's reasoning capacity or even makes some people crazy.

It is obviously a remarkably powerful drug. Just the fact that somebody, somewhere, uses it causes many other people to obsessively assert transparently irrational and factually confused justifications for its continued prohibiton.
You don't recognize the absurdity of potheads insisting that there are people who smoke a lot of it and it has no deleterious effects? Sorry, but those of us over 25 have been around enough potheads to see that there are people for whom pot is destructive (just like alcohol). It isn't every person who smokes pot, just as alcohol doesn't destroy everyone who enjoys a beer. But don't you find it just a little curious the religious zeal with which the potheads need to defend that there's nothing wrong it, and it doesn't cause any problems? There's some defensiveness there that makes very little sense.
9.27.2006 4:59pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

After reading this thread, I tend to agree with those who say that cannabis detrimentally affects many people's reasoning capacity or even makes some people crazy.


When you are one the drug, you may not be able to reason properly; I don't think there is any evidence of long term loss of IQ or "reasoning" capacity with pot. Sounds like another urban myth like LSD messes up your chromosomes and will make you have retarded children.

Perceived laziness certainly isn't a valid reason to be against marijuana.

The real potential downside for some people isn't often discussed as much as the urban myths: If one is predisposed towards anxiety and depression -- if one has a seratonin imbalance, for instance -- that can lead to some very unpleasant experiences on the drug. Most people who have such bad experiences though quickly stop using the drug.
9.27.2006 5:00pm
TJIT (mail):
Clayton,

I am vey sympathetic to your concerns about how changing from the current drug prohibition environment might impact society and especially the young. I read your blog and you have made a lot of sense when discussing that issue.

It's hard to not become emotionally attached to arguments on either side of the issue of prohibition. Having a technical background I just think everyone would benefit if we stepped back and explored some of the following issues in a more quantitative, dispassionate manner.

1. Is the current system working 2. What is it costs 3. What could we do to improve the system 4. Should we move from prohibition to another system. 5. What would the new system look like 6. What would the costs of the new system be.

Not an easy thing to do but I think it would be more productive then a lot of the ongoing debates we as a society have on this issue.

Thanks,

TJIT
9.27.2006 5:04pm
TJIT (mail):
Clayton,

I am very disappointed you have resorted to ad hominem attacks rather then make substantive arguments. I would prefer to have a reasonable discussion of the issues hopefully this is not an impossible task.
9.27.2006 5:43pm
TJIT (mail):
Clayton,

You said

------------------------------------------------------

"Can you explain to me why I have never had to submit to drug testing, if this is "pervasive" and imposed by the goverment?"

----------------------------------------------
The biggest reason you may not have had to work in a drug tested environment is simple luck.

Approximately 60% of todays employees work for companies that require drug testing. I said drug testing was pervasive, not universal and there is a difference. Your comment contained no reply to the issure of the crimminalizing of innocent employees who work for companies that do drug testing.

You make the mistake of extrapolating from your experience and thinking it applies to everyone else.

When I was in engineering school someone in my project group smoked a fair amount of pot. This person was also sharp as a whip, worked to pay his tuition, and when project work needed to be done you could always count on him to be there on time and make substantial contributions to getting the project completed.

I did not extrapolate from my experience in that case and say I knew a pot smoker who was smart responsible, and a good worker therefore all pot smokers are smart, responsible, and good workers.


Clayton you also said,

----------------------------------------------------

"And you've proved my point, by the way, about how the potheads have been driven crazy by this."

---------------------------------------------------

OK ad hominem attack but I've seen better.

However, if I was the excitable type the difficulty in having a reasonable discussion on the issue might drive me crazy

Cheers,

TJIT
9.27.2006 6:24pm
bruce (mail):
Clayton, Prohibition with the capital "P" (as in alcohol) was not due to racism, but religious fanaticism. I do realize alcohol is a drug, but when I said "drug prohibition" I meant the normal understainding of the phrase.
9.27.2006 7:28pm
Not A Dry Eye In The House (mail):
Bruce wrote:
Prohibition with the capital "P" (as in alcohol) was not due to racism, but religious fanaticism.

Er, no, that's really not correct at all. Yes, there were churches involved. But the Progressive movement, most especially including the Suffragettes, were also very, very, very heavily involved in promoting Prohibition of alcohol. Recall that the Amendment extending the franchise to women and the Amendment extending the Volstead Act to the entire country were both passed within a very few years of each other. It may be painful for modern libertarians, and liberals, to realize this: Prohibition was in large part pushed onto the American scene by their own intellectual ancestors and ancetresses. It was intended to free the working man from his nasty old habit of drinking in saloons, enabling him to visit public libraries &take night classes, improving his mind and making him a better person for women and children to be around. Prohibition was, in short, the first liberal social engineering project. When it failed, as such things tend to do, there was a large number of excess government agents with nothing to do. Enter Harry Anslinger...
9.28.2006 2:45am