Deadman's picture

    Michael Phelps may have been on(to) something ...

    I can't stop stewing over the fact that the South Carolina sheriff decided to investigate Michael Phelps' notorious bong hit, with an eye toward possible prosecution.

    I know, I know, the sheriff dropped the investigation earlier this week after deciding there wasn't enough evidence to convict Phelps, who wisely did not admit to smoking the funny weed but merely apologized for using 'bad judgment.'

    But still, the fact that there was even the beginnings of an investigation is an outright travesty. I actually thought it was a joke until I read that the sheriff arrested eight students after his posse stormed the house where the party was held and found trace amounts of marijuana.

    All around us, this country seems to be going to hell, and with state unemployment at 9.5%,  South Carolina seems to be going through some particularly dark times. There just has gotta be something more pressing on the South Carolina police force agenda than going after a U.S. Olympic champion who decided to let loose one night and get stoned.

    In fact, why is this country still not having a serious discussion about legalizing marijuana?? Even 500 leading economists, including the great Milton Friedman, believe the societal benefits of legalization would far outweigh the costs. Sure, $13 billion in tax revenue and cost savings may not sound like a lot when you're looking at trillion-dollar deficits, but you gotta start somewhere (and in some states like California, those kind of dollars could actually make a dent).

    Marijuana is the easiest argument to make for legalization because few people still believe that it is more dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes. And the successful medical marijuana state initiatives have at least paved the way for us to begin a reasonable discussion about the issue.

    But frankly, if I had my way I wouldn't stop with marijuana. I'd legalize all drugs, and then tax the shit out of them. And then I'd move on to prostitution and do the exact same thing.

    I'm not about to argue that legalizing drugs and prostitution would limit their occurrence in our society by making them more expensive or perhaps less 'cool' among the younger kids. On that front, legalization has had a mixed record in countries where it's been tried.

    However, I don't think legalization would dramatically raise the levels of occurrence either, or overburden our already strained health care system.

    And these are areas where the government could actually do some good through taxation and regulation, filling in state revenue gaps (without going into more debt) and helping to combat contaminated drugs in the black market or the spread of STDs and violence in the sex worker industry.

    We are wasting so many resources - in our police stations and our courts and our jails - to fight these silly wars which can't be won, and which are funding terrorist organizations and hostile governments throughout the world.

    Laws already exist on the books to guard against drug- or prostitution-related crimes, such as driving under the influence, or forced enslavement. I strongly believe we have the right to do whatever we want to our bodies as long as we are not harming others in the process. That to me is one of the core principles of what it means to be an American.

    And could there possibly be a better example of an American hero than Michael Phelps? He brings home the gold and then possibly shows us one way to help solve our economic woes ... Awesome!!


    I'm with you, Muerte.  I thought it was totally bizarre that the reaction to Phelps wasn't, "Gee.. you mean this stellar athlete did this?  Maybe we ought to rethink some of these policies."  Nope.  It was, "Get him!  Make him do the apology circuit!"

    I've read that California is responsible for growing somewhere around a third of the nation's consumption of marijuana.  It's definitely in the billions and we could sure use the revenue.  Of course, we already have state law that makes it legal for medical use and it's trivial to find a doctor who will write you a prescription for migraines or a stubbed toe.  State and local law enforcement are pretty much turning a blind eye as a matter of policy.  Hell, Ed Rosenthal was hired by the city of Oakland to grow for them.

    There are other states with similar provisions, so it's basically down to political will at the federal level.   It would solve so many problems.  It would be a relief to our prison system.  It would be a relief to border patrols.  It would free up revenues being wasted on law enforcement (which is one of the major sources of opposition).  It would also take the bizarre feeling out of the air in Northern California, where entire towns exist simply because of the farming industry and everyone knows it.

    On a tangential note, you mentioned the UAW in your most recent vlog.  What about universal health-care?  Taking health care off of the list of concerns of the domestic automakers and the UAW would break a lot of the tension there.  It would also mean that the UAW wouldn't have to make concessions as large when it comes to wages and/or pensions.

    In a recent comment, I mentioned universal health care as one potential way Obama could create a New New Deal worthy of the name, and I hope that our current economic situation doesn't derail him (much, anyway) from pursuing that goal. It's weird that a week ago, I was talking about nationalizing the banks, and now even conservatives are beginning to discuss the possibility as maybe the best route, and I think a lot of corporate America would love to see the government take the health care burden more off their hands.

    I believe health care is a right for all Americans, not a privilege, so I'd love to see a sensible plan formulated and implemented in the very near future. Yet another area where I conveniently drop my deficit concerns (if you haven't noticed, many of my most strongly-held opinions come at the expense of consistency).

    (And as a side note somewhat related to this post, I do think this is one area where legalization gets tricky because I feel that people who do pursue clearly harmful behavior shouldn't necessarily have their health care be subsidized by taxpayers who don't engage in similar behavior. obviously, that opens up a pandora's box of potential questions - is eating fast food constantly as dangerous as smoking, etc. - but it's the one argument that people use for criminalization that makes some sense to me: Doing harm to others may just not mean the physical harm from secondary smoke or exploitation but also potential financial harm.)

    Universal health care and decriminalization of marijuana! Toss in gay marriage, Deadman, and -- guess what -- you're a Canadian.

    I'm all for gay marriage!! And I love ice hockey!! is there anything else I need to know before I move north?

    Deadman, I must warn that we experience the occasional cold snap. The current one began shortly after the arrival of the Vikings.

    DF, I'm with you on the universal health care helping with the auto bailout issue.  I was just wondering why more companies aren't all over universal heath care to relieve them of dealing with it.  I don't think it is the responsibility of any company big or small to provide the means of health care.  In a medium sized company there is at least one person dedicated to administring the paper work involved in the company health care.  I mean, come on, we have it for the children and the elderly - what about the middle?

    My read on that is that companies don't really have a vested interest in lobbying for universal health-care, which holds the very real possibility of increased tax rates.  They're already too close to pushing it off on workers who will then have to fend for themselves in the private sector.  From a bottom-line perspective, that's a better solution for the employer.

    Leon Lott certainly goes too far, and his purchase of a $300,000 armored personnel carrier ( proves he took Jim Garner's movie, Tank, far too seriously. He clearly wanted his fifteen minutes.

    That said, I have concerns about marijuana use - heavy marijuana use, not the occasional toke. As a society, we don't address heavy alcohol use very effectively. There are programs and laws and the occasional checkpoint, but many heavy drinkers quietly destroy their lives and affect their families' lives. I have no reason to believe that heavy marijuana use would be handled any more effectively. However, I have no clue how one can legislate to allow only light, responsible use of a drug without trampling over personal liberties.

    Two thoughts: First, do you have reason to believe that marijuana use, even heavy use, is anywhere near as harmful as alcohol use?  If you look at the aggregate harm caused by alcohol, it does more damage than all illicit substances combined.  In that sense, concern over the possible negatives of heavy marijuana use based on a comparison to alcohol doesn't really seem to make much sense unless there's reason to believe that the harm caused by marijuana has similar potential.

    Second, I think that we have to face up to the fact that the attack on supply has failed.  Drug markets tend to be heavily inelastic, so the amount of resources needed for 100% supply destruction approaches infinity.  It's a big, expensive brick wall that we keep hitting our heads against.  So, people are going to do drugs.  The question is: How do you address this?  What we're doing right now is both ineffective and expensive.

    I had a roommate that got stoned watching TV every night. He was a nice guy, but that's all he ever did. I had another roommate that came home and drank Jim Beam and beer chasers every night. There wasn't much difference to my eyes.

    The aggregate harm argument is tenuous because alcohol is legal and much more widely used than illegal drugs. And I think I'd rather be a drunk than a meth or heroin addict.

    Legalizing drugs will always be blocked by both conservative anti-drug lobbyists and by the drug interests that fund anti-drug lobbies.

    Then there's Michael Phelps.  Or Carl Sagan.  Or any other positive anecdote.  I think this is more illustrative of the fact that some people are ambitious and will do exceptional things with their lives while most people will spend a lot of time watching televison.  From my perspective, the number of people who spend long hours in front of the television is more problematic than smoking marijuana, but that's the choice they make.

    Even without factoring in automobile accidents and the like, alcohol consumption can be fatal.  The same thing can't really be said about marijuana consumption.  Alcohol also does demonstrable damage to the central nervous system.  Heroin, though potentially fatal via overdose, does little long-term damage in and of itself.  Methamphetamine is more like alcohol in that habitual consumption does do physical damage.  I think that the bare facts of what alcohol does to the body as a it is consumed chronically are enough to put the aggregate harm argument on very solid ground.  At the very least, it undermines using it as an argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

    I think you're right about the lobbying picture.  The possibility of changing the game lies with the public and political will to change it.

    Myth: Marijuana is harmless

    Just as most experts agree that occasional or moderate use of marijuana is innocuous, they also agree that excessive use can be harmful. Research shows that the two major risks of excessive marijuana use are:

    1. respiratory disease due to smoking and
    2. accidental injuries due to impairment.

    Marijuana and Smoking:A recent survey by the Kaiser Permanente Center found that daily marijuana-only smokers have a 19% higher rate of respiratory complaints than non-smokers.(1) These findings were not unexpected, since it has long been known that, aside from its psychoactive ingredients, marijuana smoke contains virtually the same toxic gases and carcinogenic tars as tobacco. Human studies have found that pot smokers suffer similar kinds of respiratory damage as tobacco smokers, putting them at greater risk of bronchitis, sore throat, respiratory inflammation and infections.(2)

    Although there has not been enough epidemiological work to settle the matter definitively, it is widely suspected that marijuana smoking causes cancer. Studies have found apparently pre-cancerous cell changes in pot smokers.(3) Some cancer specialists have reported a higher-than-expected incidence of throat, neck and tongue cancer in younger, marijuana-only smokers.(4) A couple of cases have been fatal. While it has not been conclusively proven that marijuana smoking causes lung cancer, the evidence is highly suggestive. According to Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA, the leading expert on marijuana smoking:(5)"Although more information is certainly needed, sufficient data have already been accumulated concerning the health effects of marijuana to warrant counseling by physicians against the smoking of marijuana as an important hazard to health." Fortunately, the hazards of marijuana smoking can be reduced by various strategies:

    1. use of higher-potency cannabis, which can be smoked in smaller quantities,
    2. use of waterpipes and other smoke reduction technologies,(6) and
    3. ingesting pot orally instead of smoking it.

    by Dale Gieringer, Ph.D.
    Coordinator, California NORML

    I never said it was harmless.  I've never heard of anyone, aside form the tobacco industry, who have claimed that inhaling incinerated particulate matter and harmful gases was anything but harmful.  Having that said, it's no more harmful than smoking anything similar, like tobacco, which is legal.  Also, as indicated by your source, it need not necessarily be smoked.  Furthermore, another harmful consequence of the current draconian state of substance laws is that we don't even have proper medical research on many substances, not just marijuana.

    Alcohol, too, is carcinogenic, but what's the LD50 of marijuana?  To my knowledge, no one has a solid answer, but it's decidedly higher than alcohol.  Or acetaminophen for that matter.

    Well, your argument seems to be just because we humans have a history of using alcohol and tobacco, which are tolerable in small doses but harmful in large doses, that it is only fair that we should be allowed to use other drugs that are tolerable in small doses but harmful in large doses, even though we spend a fortune on health care for, and suffer many adverse social effects from, people with large dose tobacco and alcohol problems. I just don't find that argument very compelling.

    The argument I find compelling is that if we legalize, and then tax at a high rate, the drugs that people are going to put in their bodies anyway, we have the money to pay for that medical care.

    I don't think that goes far enough. I want to be protected from drunk, high or stoned drivers, and I'd prefer anyone drunk, high or stoned to be protected from themselves, or at least tucked away in their own house. I have thought about the idea of restricting heavy substance use to private, licensed clubs, hotels really, that would be responsible for patrons until they were sober enough to leave.

    I want to be protected from drunk, high, or stoned drivers too. Which is why I'm glad that there are stricter drunk driving laws today than there were 25 years ago. But I don't see the correlation between legalizing drugs and people driving under the influence of them. People use drugs. And I suppose the rate of use could go up if they were legal, but I doubt it. It's not like they're hard to get now.

    I would have no idea where to get drugs.

    Again, the track record of countries trying legalization is mixed regarding usage. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes it goes down, sometimes it spikes at first and then falls. there's probably not a big enough sample size to accurately guage how legalization would affect usage here.

    But Donal, I really feel you're missing the point here. Whether or not you know how to get ahold of drugs or not, most people in America do know how to get ahold of them, esp. those that want them.

    All that money we're spending chasing dealers and users and incarcerating them could be spent on other areas (some likely on helping the addicted get help and some likely to increase prosecution of people who committ actual crimes like driving while under the influence) while billions of new tax revenue would flow into the public coffers.

    We have laws on the books already that address crimes you often see occur by drug users and dealers. Most of those crimes by the way would be greatly reduced when you take away the huge profit motive and black market activities associated buying and selling an illegal substance.

    We shouldn't compose our laws based on the assumption that some people may abuse a substance that in small quantities is not particularly harmful. you can obviously take that to extremes since there are many things in life that are addictive but that the vast majority of people enjoy in moderation.

    btw, there's a lot of good, conflicting research and stats (and yeah, DF, as I said earlier, people are going to take the stats that confimr their hypotheses and ignore the rest) on this page - - which is apparently off a service that helps students write school essays.

    I second DF's argument.

    Also, Donal, I don't know how to get drugs either, sitting here today. But I'm pretty sure that if I wanted them tonight, I could head for a bar, ask a few questions, and be on my way. I think you know that you could too and you're being just a tad bit  obtuse on purpose. The point is, if you want to take drugs, you can get them, legal or not. So why not stop spending money and other resources to try to impact the supply side (which is like trying to pick up individual grains of sand at the beach) and use the revenue from taxes to work to reduce demand?

    I'm not being obtuse at all. Adults can make up their own minds, but I am against drugs, gambling and consumerism being thrust at me and my children, and I see hands off legalization as another step in the wrong direction. And there is a part of our culture that is less familiar with and far more hostile to drugs than I am.

    And there is a part of our culture that is less familiar with and far more hostile to drugs than I am.

    That's very true. Most of them are also hostile to safe and legal abortion, but scream and yell for less government intervention. Go figure.

    (P.S. Not comparing you to them, rest assured.)

    that's a good example of hypocrisy, O. one that for some reason bothers me even more are pro-choice folks who believe prostitution should be illegal.

    My personal favorite is Christians who support capital punishment.

    I think it's axiomatic that people get high.  Laws or no laws.  Some animals do, too.

    So, the question is: As a society, how do we relate to this reality?  Right now, we do largely through very ineffective prohibition.  As I've noted, it's failed.  Doesn't work.  The whole aim of the completely bogus "war on drugs" is to eliminate supply.  However, this never happens because of the inelastic demand for drugs.  The harder you make it to get the drug, the more expensive it gets.  The more expensive it gets, the more lucrative it gets for suppliers and, thus, the more risk they're willing to take on.  It's a game you can't win, so I'd rather not play.

    FWIW, I have friends and family that aren't here because of drugs, but these personal anecdotes aren't going to color my views on the subject.  That's because I realize that they would have been better served by a society that would have treated them as someone who was sick, who was hurting inside emotionally until it manifested physically, and decided that, as a society, we ought to help them instead of criminalizing their pain.  In a nutshell, that's what's wrong with how we relate to drugs.  We let morally superior blowhards tell us what insufferably weak people these criminals are while they have their illegal housekeepers go on oxycontin runs in seedy motel parking lots.

    Ain't that America?  I've stated the above to conservative drug war proponents and been laughed at for it.

    Speaking of hypocrisy, that's the real problem with the harm argument.  Legalizing alcohol and not marijuana seems hypocritical and inconsistent on the basis assessing harm.  Then you consider that we tried prohibiting alcohol, along with considering what I've mentioned previously, it seems downright crazy to think that we're dead set on spending billions upon billions to do the same thing with another substance that is arguably less harmful.  Perhaps you don't find that compelling, but I do.

    You mention upthread that you don't want people driving high or drunk, but these things are already illegal and people are still doing them anyway.  Something else that we do that flies in the face of reality: When someone is arrested for DUI (at least here in CA), they are forced to attend mandatory AA meetings.  Why?  Because this is supposed to help people with their drinking problem.  This sounds like a nice idea, but the AA success rates are laughably low.  Oh, and it's a religious institution, so it's nice to be compelled by the state to attend meetings which force you to admit: A) That you actually don't have the will to fix the problem yourself! (this always astonishes me) and B) That the only way for you to get better is to let God help you! (though it isn't explained why he didn't help you not have a drinking problem in the first place or maybe why he didn't craft creation in such a way that getting drunk and driving cars into people wasn't even possible).

    But I digress.  Again, we put resources into a system that doesn't work.  Most importantly, the reason it doesn't work is because it's constructed on ideas that can only appear rational if one is in denial of reality.

    From CNN:

    Mexico, a country with a nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States, is undergoing a horrifying wave of violence that some are likening to a civil war. Drug traffickers battle fiercely with each other and Mexican authorities. The homicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and indications are that the carnage could be exceeded this year.


    Pastor and Hakim note that the United States helps fuel the violence, not only by providing a ready market for illegal drugs, but also by supplying the vast majority of weapons used by drug gangs.

    Pastor says there are at least 6,600 U.S. gun shops within 100 miles of the Mexican border and more than 90 percent of weapons in Mexico come from the United States.

    Reforming our nation's drug policies could have a significant impact on this situation.  Unfortunately, as it stands right now the basic equation has not changed since Iran-Contra: Drugs come up, guns go down.

    Just got around to reading the post Deadman and I gotta say - here in South Carolina it is dark 24/7, has been, is now, will be.  This is the homeland of Graham, Demint and Sanford and they are typical.  I know racist and stupid people are all over the world but SC got a little more than their fair share.

    If we take grass away from them, can we at least give the CIA an unregulated monopoly on chocolates?  Two things children can't go without: drugs and candy.

    On the topic of universal health care, minutes ago I finished watching Michael Moore's Sicko. If you haven't watched it, why not?

    And why are there HMOs in your local communities that have not yet been burned to the ground, and health insurance company executives that have not been tarred, feathered, run out of town on a rail, then burned at the stake in a neighboring county?

    Health care is a universal right, goddammit -- if the sovereign people decide it is. Let it be so!

    Ho boy acanuck, you said it.  The HMOs should be burned down (take the managers out first and put them in stocks).  I remember pre HMO days when insurance worked the way insurance should.  And then came the HMOs.  What a crock. 

    Because we have a significant section of the voting public who would rather stay uninsured (or, worse still, insured but denied coverage on a per incident basis) than become "socialist".  Like you Canuckistanis.

    Think of them as the literal "better dead than Red" crowd.

    Incidentally, I can also recommend this episode of Frontline.  I thought it did a much better job, in shorter time, of examining what the rest of the developed world is doing about health-care.

    Latest Comments