Friday, May 17, 2013

Musings on the weed.

Started as a way to screw over migrant Mexican workers in the Southwest during the Great Depression, the banning of Marijuana has always been bad policy. There has always been a core of undiluted malevolence to the policy.

Flash forward to the sixties when smoking weed became part of the long dark night of the culture wars. The enforcement of the ban took on yet another aspect, that of hippie bashing. And then in the Regan Eighties that particular meme was placed on steroids by the wide-eyed, sainted wife of Don Reynaldo, Nancy Just Say No.

We have been very stupid about this for a very long time. Our whole drug policy reeks of moral panic and out of control Puritanism. We have allowed this panic to feed an utterly ruinous policy that shreds our forth amendment rights and feeds a demonic Prison-Industrial Complex. Nothing good has come our second period of Prohibition.

We need a radical rethink of the whole policy on drugs and the ban on Marijuana is a great place to start. I’m going to blow past most of the arguments for and against to go to what I consider the big guns.

The first big gun is that I don’t know of a substance that brings more enjoyment with so few downsides. Marijuana is ridiculously safe. First there is no LD50 worth mentioning; there is no way to overdose on weed. Maybe there are some who are allergic to MJ, who would suffer a reaction, but I have not heard a word of it. No one has died in gutter from the stuff. Trust me when I say we all would have heard, and seen, the results, of a fatal Marijuana overdose. The government and the Just Say No crowd would be showing us the images and trumpeting the news like the Second Coming. This is not Heroin, cocaine, barbiturates, alcohol, etc. which can and do kill if you take too much.

Going a bit deeper, there is no real proof of any real long term harm with Marijuana. Yes, there are “studies” that “show” some sort of possible harm but every last one has a matching study that says, in essence, “not so fast.” To put not so fine a point most of the studies pointing to harm are crap. There methodology is flawed, the sourcing is highly suspect, the results are contaminated at best or utterly worthless at worst. Besides, like it or not, we have been doing a very long-term epidemiological study since the 1960′s.

Yes, my dear and fellow baby-boomers in one way or another you and I have participated either as a test subject or as a control. If we really wanted to put an end to the debate the government could do a two to four year study and really look at the morbidity. The CDC could go through the data with a fine tooth comb and find out even the most trivial of causalities. “Hey, what did you know? It seems that long term and heavy use of marijuana causes excessive nose hair growth; go figure.” But we already know one thing; nothing really serious has occurred. No spike in cancer. No spike in respiratory disease (kind of a surprise to yours truly). No real proof of addiction. No real proof of habituation that causes any real harm. No sudden uptick in the number of people sporting two heads. Nothing. Bupkis. All the anti-drug forces have is anactodal evidence; e.i. garbage that can not stand the light of double-blind studies.

I’m not saying that weed is totally harmless, no drug is. Every drug out there has some sort of adverse reaction or side effect. Every drug out there has what the medical profession calls contraindications, reasons you do not take a drug. What I am saying is that compared to almost all the drugs out there, medicinal and recreational, weed is remarkably benign. It maybe be even safer than Aspirin. Hard to prove that surmise because we have spent so much time and effort demonizing hemp. MJ is illegal, so it’s really hard to get data points on use.

Unfortunately we, the unwashed public, will never get that mother of all epidemiological studies finally putting the debate to rest. The opponents of reform are way too clever for that. Deep inside they know their talking points are pure bull-puckey. Besides, there is the political a political gold mine to be reaped in hippie-punching. There are Red Team flag waving considerations that take precedent to sensible policy. It is way too much fun and way too profitable to demagog drug policy. Logic and science just get in the way; there are elections to be won by waving the bloody red shirt. Thus, even if we did get that epidemiological study it would be of no matter. Idiot Progressives would still playing a no-win game.

The argument Progressives should make is that there is gold in them thar hills. Allowing MJ to be sold legally will raise money for strapped federal, state, and local coffers. Being the evil bastard that I am, I would make it federal law linking the sale of tobacco to the sale of MJ. States would have to chain the age of tobacco use to the age of MJ use. Any prohibition placed on MJ would have to also apply to tobacco. Loss of a license to sell MJ would incur a loss of license to sell tobacco because it is same license — a license to sell tobacco and MJ. Yes, I do enjoy putting a finger in the eye of Red State yahoos.

I doubt we can re-purpose even part of 42 billion dollars thrown down the rat-hole of our present drug policy. That, unfortunately, is a battle for another day. It is going to be a hell of a fight just to legalize pot. If Progressives are smart they will use a little political Jujitsu and stress how by decriminalizing MJ, which is the most used illegal drug and a “gateway drug,” we can concentrate on the “more serious drugs” and prevent there use by slamming the gateway of MJ shut. While this argument will hold no water for Deep Red partisans, it will help with the mushy middle. When the Reds start screaming about the how the moral hazard legalized pot will present to our innocent youth, the Progressive counter must be “all the more reason to legalize it and then regulate it.” Progressive can then make a strong push for stricter enforcement of relevant laws on selling booze and cigarettes (plus MJ) to minors. I particularly like this notion because, as pointed out before, I just love sticking a finger in the eye of Red State hypocrites.

For me the three points for legalization are:

Marijuana is benign, no real harm has been shown after near fifty years of use by a large section of the population.

Legalization of Marijuana will help in the battle against more dangerous drugs by:
1. Closing a gateway. Less people may be tempted by “harder” drugs because the gateway drug of MJ is slammed shut by legalization. Why go to a suspect dealer when you go to a 7/11 for your weed?
2. Resources can be re-targeted to interdiction of harder drugs once MJ is legalized gaining more bang for the buck.

And finally the truly big enchilada; there is a ton of tax and other monies to be made by legalization. Granted, once legalized the farmers are going to get screwed, MJ is going to become a commodity and its value per pound will plummet, but everyone else will make out like bandits. There is gold in them thar green hills and all sorts of taxes that can be had for cash strapped governments, local, state, and federal.
Post a Comment