I’ve been saying this all along…

Two different magazines, with similar interests, not low-level progressives, but visible icons of the publishing world have stated unequivocally that we need to do something different from the 40 year old drug war. First the Guardian article discusses the medicalization of drugs. The second article in Harper’s discusses the geo-political backlash from the ill-advised war on drugs, and why we are going against it now.

What I’ve been saying all along is that the drug war is not a war against drugs, but a war against people. The first article, modern medical opinion, reflecting the large majority of prior medical opinions, suggests that the drug issue should be treated as a medical issue not a criminal one. In the introduction to the second article, I quote John Ehrlichman saying that the drug war was all about suppressing blacks and leftists hippies by making their favored drugs illegal.

The Guardian: Sarah Boseley and Jessica Glenza write Medical experts call for global drug decriminalisation

Boseley and Glenza conclude their remarks with a statement by Norman Lamb:

Norman Lamb, a former British government minister and Liberal Democrat MP, said that he supported the Lancet commission’s findings: “The war on drugs has failed and it is Liberal Democrat policy to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all drugs, and introduce a regulated, legalised market for cannabis. Drug use should be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue.”

Harper’s Magazine: Dan Baum writes Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs

In Baum’s conversation with John Ehrlichman:

I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” (emphasis mine)


I thought ten years ago that we would be farther along. Some of us are, but many of us still believe that violence against people is a fruitful avenue to pursue when you want them to change their behavior. But in ten years, we have finally begun something of a fruitful conversation. Baum recounts the movement from officials in Washington D.C. toward a kinder and gentler treatment of people. But the U.S. government is still a long way from recanting its politically suspicious activity over the last 100 years, especially the last 46 years of the drug war. Many and varied documentaries have come out about the terrible consequences of the prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1934. They are explicit about how the government of the people, by the people, for the people raised many of the specters of tyranny from its recent past and again took the posture of, in C. S. Lewis’ terms “omnipotent moral busybodies.”

The quote from Ehrlichman above is news porn. My God in heaven! You let them do that? How could you? I can think of only one reason. My philosophy teacher in college Chet Roberson used to say to students who spouted ignorant remarks. “Hold on to your ignorance for as long as you can. If you give it up too early, you’ll go back to it.” How does this relate to the drug war and its ignorance? Well, obviously, we learned too few lessons in the alcohol prohibition. Even the government killing people by doubling the poison in denatured alcohol was not enough to stop people drinking. (See “The Poisoners” on PBS’ American Experience. On Netflix) The rise in violent crime attendant with prohibition was not enough for the government to see its own complicity in the betrayal of the American people. The practices and advice of our forefathers was not enough, the warnings agains tyranny not enough, etc. The long drawn out battle for reasonableness against the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority is coming to a close. Now the staunchest drug warriors are blinking. Something has gone so horribly wrong that the good, and great nation is now one of the worst, and least in a variety of ways. The republic that split itself so completely from the tyranny of Britain is now one of the worst tyrants against its people in the world. Its prejudice and spite now clear for the world to see.

The so-called conservatives in their disgust for the drug user (Ehrlichman’s blacks and leftists), have played into the hands of the abusers with their self-righteous smug avoidance of illegality. What they didn’t know is that the illegalities were constructed to capture certain classes of people, again, Ehrlichman’s blacks and leftists. The so-called conservatives thought they were cleaning up the streets, and so without a question set themselves to the task of upholding those same illegalities as if they were the law of God. Jesus, in Matthew 15 and Mark 7, is explicit in the denunciation of those who exalt their tradition above the commandment of God. In this case the tradition is to put drug users in jail, the commandment requires that we love our neighbors as ourselves. And to make the “conservatives’” position even more explicitly violent in practice Jesus made sure the disciples and his critics knew what he meant. He said that it wasn’t what went into the mouth that defiled a person, but what came out because what came out proceeded from the heart. So the “conservative” clamor to cleanse themselves from the taint of sin turned on the very people who needed their charity, healing, and help, those who, for whatever reason, decided to put drugs in their mouths.

It may be now that we are prepared to abandon our ignorance. Have we learned enough of the necessary lesson not to repeat the same mistakes ad infinitum? Can we have enough explicit history of prohibition to release ourselves from its bonds and return to a world where self control under liberty is the expectation and the rule? Can we have the gumption to follow Christ into the darker parts of our world with the everlasting and all-sufficient compassion that means the healing of the nations?

the lie of the war on drugs

The modern economy is wrapped up in the black market.

The laws governing the war on drugs are not the rules by which this economy operates.

In The Guardian, Ed Vulliamy tells the story of a writer, Robert Saviano, who uncovers for us the true nature of the drug economy. Anyone who has studied the War on Drugs in the United States has recognized this implicitly, but Saviano states it unequivocally and explicitly in his book Zero Zero Zero.

Already in hiding, and under armed guard for work he did on the Mafia, Saviano shows the complicity of the governmental infrastructure of the War on Drugs with the cocaine cartels. I feel it necessary to mention not only the lack of oversight on the drug economy this implies, but the fairly frequent use the government has made (Vietnam, Iran/contra affair, etc.) of drug sales for funding gray and black ops, all while spouting platitudes about the evils of drug use, or supplying weapons to insurgents connected to the drug trade.

Now, I understand this blog deals with Marijuana, but you have to remember that the majority of the Mexican cartels’ business is marijuana, so the same theme applies. The movement to legalize marijuana under rules that would undercut the black market would stop the complicity of the US government with organized crime. Vulliamy quotes Saviano:

For some reason, he says, the Anglo-Saxon world is slower to understand the innate criminality of the “legal” system than Latin societies. “I think the Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-American world is infused by a kind of Calvinist positivism; people want to believe in the health of their society,” says Saviano, even though “what this all means is that, for instance, the City of London is a far more important centre for laundering criminal money than the Cayman Islands”.

Most of the people I have discussions with about legalizing marijuana are of the view that the government must protect people from themselves, must control behavior. “We are obligated to hate drug use, and to punish the users.” But they don’t use their senses to watch what this sort of attitude does to people in the real world, or how this compromises respect for the law, or supports the illegal trade in currently illegal (and prescription) drugs, or the violence of an underground economy where threats of death are signs of power.

So Saviano, becomes my hero for using what Michel Foucault calls Fearless Speech (Greek, parrhesia), speech that tells the truth, even as it poses threat to the speaker. (Unfortunately, Foucault’s book is out of print at the moment, but there are still some used copies.)

7 pot documentaries

Merry Jane recommends these six documentaries to educate you about pot.

A NORML Life (trailer)

Should I Smoke Dope BBC Documentary (full movie)

Super High Me (trailer)

Grass: The History of Marijuana (full movie)
(Removed from YouTube)

The Union: The Business Behind Getting High (trailer)

What if Cannabis Cured Cancer (full movie)

Here’s another documentary we should take note of.

It is available on Netflix and on YouTube for $3.99 (preview)

and Amazon.com

willie’s reserve

New models for legal weed

In the article “Willie Nelson’s Crusade to Stop Big Pot” a number of models are emerging for the distribution of weed when it becomes legal.

The article states the current reality, a good summation of the status of legal weed.

By way of first principles, let us pause to establish that legalization is here. That fight is over; legal weed has arrived; all that remains is for the last chips to fall. Some form of marijuana has already been approved in 23 states, and roughly 80 percent of the American public currently favors medicinal use. Support for recreational pot has also been rising over the past decade, with more people in favor of full legalization than against it for the first time in 2011. The following year, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to permit recreational use: It is now perfectly legal in both places to shamble into a dispensary, plunk down a stack of crinkly bills, and purchase a bag of high-grade weed for no loftier purpose than to get high. Last year, Oregon and Alaska approved similar measures, and this month, the bellwether state of Ohio will vote on a proposal to join them [ed., the proposal failed]. Next year, at least five additional states will ­consider the same question, while another dozen are working on comparable ballot initiatives, and in 15 states and Washington, D.C., possession of the drug for personal use is no longer a crime. The consensus among doctors has returned to where it stood eight decades ago, when the American Medical Association loudly opposed the decision to make pot illegal in the first place. Even the federal government is beginning to change course: Early this year, President Obama predicted that if enough states decriminalize marijuana, Congress might remove it from the list of Schedule I drugs, and he has informed officials in Washington and Colorado that the Justice Department will not prosecute anyone who complies with state laws.

Legalization is inevitable

And the American citizens will not settle for decriminalization because it requires a black market to sustain it. Decriminalization may be a step forward toward a freer society (note: Holland), but it tacitly admits that recreational use is immoral and people’s private behavior should be controlled. The issue troubling so many Americans is what message legalization is sending to the youth of the country. Well, before I go off on a tirade about what message the forced sustenance of the black market under the domain of prohibition is sending, the youth understand very well that the standard line (punish users) entails contradictions and problems of all sorts. Also the federal government assiduously avoids discussion, favoring a “we say so” attitude, and sends messages to the young that adults are hypocrites and incapable of apologizing, or changing bad policy; democracy has failed; oligarchy rules; it’s useless participating in politics; etc. They young have grown up with these messages from the federal government. These messages are the noise in the background that we all learn to ignore.

So we will legalize marijuana. Some have suggested that legalization is probably the best course for other, more dangerous drugs as well, citing the flat figures of addiction over the last 100 years. William F. Buckley, Jr. suggests in the 1995 video that of the 97 million people who have tried currently illegal drugs only about 3 million have used these drugs in the last month. Is it likely, he asks, that legalization will increase the monthly ratio of users when the large percentage of those who have used drugs in the past no longer do so by choice?

Now that it’s legal, how are we going to buy it? There are a number of corporate models that promise a good variety. Like Willie’s Reserve, Snoop Dog’s new Leafs brand is now available (registration required).

Willie’s Reserve

Here’s the Chart from the article:

types of marketing

So the international supplier — the “Starbucks” model, the celebrity licensing model, and the small grower model all promise a fair entry into the marketplace, while each aims at a particular market. These are interesting scenarios. I believe they will all make their mark, when the moral busybodies in the federal government decide with Abraham Lincoln, that prohibition is a futile attempt to control people’s desires, and is an unjust way of ruling. I can’t imagine them not sulking though.

The marijuana industry will become a full-fledged member of the capitalist community competing on price, brand, and quality. In the contemporary market though, outside the promises of your purveyor, you really don’t know what you’re getting. The standard problem of an industry seeking approval, is the transparency of its operation. Because much of the operation remains hidden because of federal statute, there are no legal controls over quality, safety, or contents. You don’t know whether you are getting naturally grown, pesticide-free weed. You don’t know whether the CBD oil you are buying has the percentage CBD it says it does, or whether it is pure and free of pollutants. This is the point where the machinery of big pharma must come in, not in control of the drug market or pricing, but in the straightforward process of producing the product where some measure of transparency and labeling is assured.

Do I think these models will dominate? The shakeout has not come for that determination to be made. Because much of the industrial production of marijuana, even in states where it is legal for recreation, still faces federal banking statutes, and the producers cannot deduct production business expenses on their taxes, they are able to carry on their business only with some difficulty and without much protection. It is only when these models get to practice their methods in a freer environment will any shakeout occur.

They may all work. And they will probably all change tactics to develop and retain market share as the market matures.

a wiser course

The following is the outline for the report generated by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in a publication called The Record in June 1994. Read the full article HERE.

This outline which is also the table of contents in the printed report with 83 pages and 203 footnotes of sources and authorities.

A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. THE COSTS OF PROHIBITION
    1. DISTORTION OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
      1. New York State
      2. Other States
      3. Federal Courts
      4. The Judiciary is Impatient with the Present System
      5. Efforts to Handle Court Congestion
    2. THE PRISON STATE
    3. EROSION OF THE RULE OF LAW AND CIVIL LIBERTIES
      1. Perception of Ineffectiveness
      2. Perception of a Self-Perpetuating System
      3. Police Corruption
      4. Poor Children are Victims of the “War on Drugs”
      5. Selective Prosecution
      6. Erosion of Constitutional Rights
      7. Forfeiture’s Heavy Hand
      8. Erosion of Privacy Rights
    4. PROHIBITION-INDUCED VIOLENCE
    5. PROHIBITION’S FAILURE TO LIMIT DRUG USE
    6. PROHIBITION THREATENS PUBLIC HEALTH
      1. Spread of Disease
        1. Sharing Needles
        2. Trading Sex for Drugs
        3. Neglect of Health
        4. Avoidance of the Health-Care System
      2. Lack of Information and Quality Control
        1. Adulterated Drugs, Designer Drugs, and Drugs of Unknown Potency
        2. Lack of Knowledge About Safer Use
        3. Using Alcohol and Tobacco Instead of “Soft Drugs”
      3. Injuries Due to Violence
      4. Diversion of Resources from Treatment and Prevention
      5. The Sense of Treating Drugs as a Public Health Problem
        1. Treatment Works
        2. Self-Help Groups
        3. Therapeutic Communities
        4. Other Inpatient Drug-Free Treatment Programs
        5. Outpatient Methadone Maintenance Programs
        6. Outpatient Drug-Free Therapy
      6. Empirical Research on Effective Drug Treatment
        1. Studies Examining the Effects of Treatment on Substance Abuse
        2. Studies Examining the Effects of Drug Treatment on the Consequences of Drug Abuse
      7. Education Works
        1. Life Skills Training Program
        2. Students Taught Awareness and Resistance
        3. Project Healthy Choices
        4. Student Assistance Program
        5. Smart Moves
        6. Seattle Social Development Project
        7. Programs for Children of Addicts
  3. TOWARD A NEW DRUG POLICY
  4. CONCLUSION

In addition, there were some dissenting voices. Read their comments here:

intellectuals support legalization 4

This interview with Milton Friedman is found at the Shaffer Drug Library

Interview with Milton Friedman on the Drug War 

The following is an excerpt from “Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs.” It is from a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national public affairs talk show that appears on public television stations. Randy Paige is an Emmy Award-winning drug reporter from Baltimore, Maryland; Professor Milton Friedman has been a Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford since 1977, and is considered the leader of the Chicago School of monetary economics. Professor Friedman won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976, and is also the recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the U.S. government in 1988.


Paige: Let us deal first with the issue of legalization of drugs. How do you see America changing for the better under that system?

Friedman: I see America with half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, ten thousand fewer homicides a year, inner cities in which there’s a chance for these poor people to live without being afraid for their lives, citizens who might be respectable who are now addicts not being subject to becoming criminals in order to get their drug, being able to get drugs for which they’re sure of the quality. You know, the same thing happened under prohibition of alcohol as is happening now.

Under prohibition of alcohol, deaths from alcohol poisoning, from poisoning by things that were mixed in with the bootleg alcohol, went up sharply. Similarly, under drug prohibition, deaths from overdose, from adulterations, from adulterated substances have gone up.

Paige: How would legalization adversely affect America, in your view?

Friedman: The one adverse effect that legalization might have is that there very likely would be more people taking drugs. That’s not by any means clear. But, if you legalized, you destroy the black market, the price of drugs would go down drastically. And as an economist, lower prices tend to generate more demand. However, there are some very strong qualifications to be made to that.

The effect of criminalization, of making drugs criminal, is to drive people from mild drugs to strong drugs.

Continue reading intellectuals support legalization 4

intellectuals support legalization 3

Walter Cronkite, recognized as one of the most trustworthy men in America during his news career, published a letter (found in the Huffington Post) telling why the war on drugs was wrong.

Telling the Truth About the War on Drugs

Excerpt from the article:

“I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost – and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.

I am speaking of the war on drugs.

And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.

While the politicians stutter and stall – while they chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people and knocked down more doors – the Drug Policy Alliance continues to tell the American people the truth – “the way it is.”

I’m sure that’s why you support DPA’s mission to end the drug war. And why I strongly urge you to support their work by giving a generous donation today.

You see, I’ve learned first hand that the stakes just couldn’t be higher.

When I wanted to understand the truth about the war on drugs, I took the same approach I did to the war in Vietnam: I hit the streets and reported the story myself. I sought out the people whose lives this war has affected.”

intellectuals support legalization 2

A. C. Grayling

Following is an essay I used in my introduction to philosophy classes. I used it because of the clear logic and aim at the rights of individuals to exercise freedom where that exercise did not impinge on the rights of others. The essay is short and well done.

Why A High Society is a Free Society

Found at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. This essay of his appeared in The Observer on May 19, 2002.
By Dr. A.C. Grayling
Dr Anthony Grayling MA DPhil (Oxon) is Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford.

Drugs Should Be Legalised – Their Prohibition Is An Intolerable Intrusion Into Private Behaviour

One measure of a good society is whether its individual members have the autonomy to do as they choose in respects that principally concern only them. The debate about heroin, cocaine and marijuana touches precisely on this. In my submission, a society in which such substances are legal and available is a good society not because drugs are in themselves good, but because the autonomy of those who wish to use them is respected. For other and broader reasons, many of them practical, such a society will be a better one.

I have never taken drugs other than alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and medicinal drugs. Of these, I have for many years not taken the two former. I think it is inimical to a good life to be dependent for pleasure and personal fulfilment on substances which gloss or distort reality and interfere with rationality; and yet I believe that heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and cognates of these should be legal and available in exactly the same way as nicotine and alcohol.

In logic [there] is no difference between legal and currently illegal drugs. Both are used for pleasure, relief from stress or anxiety, and ‘holidaying’ from normal life, and both are, in different degrees, dangerous to health. Given this, consistent policy must do one of two things: criminalise the use of nicotine and alcohol, in order to bring them in line with currently illegal substances; or legalise currently illegal substances under the same kinds of regime that govern nicotine and alcohol.

On civil liberties grounds the latter policy is preferable because there is no justification in a good society for policing behaviour unless, in the form of rape, murder, theft, riot or fraud, it is intrinsically damaging to the social fabric, and involves harm to unwilling third parties. Good law protects in these respects; bad law tries to coerce people into behaving according to norms chosen by people who claim to know and to do better than those for whom they legislate. But the imposition of such norms is an injustice. By all means let the disapprovers argue and exhort; giving them the power to coerce and punish as well is unacceptable.

Arguments to the effect that drugs should be kept illegal to protect children fall by the same token. On these grounds, nicotine and alcohol should be banned too. In fact there is greater danger to children from the illegality of drugs.

Almost everyone who wishes to try drugs, does so; almost everyone who wishes to make use of drugs does it irrespective of their legal status.

Opponents say legalisation will lead to unrestrained use and abuse. Yet the evidence is that where laws have been relaxed there is little variation in frequency or kind of use.

The classic example is Prohibition in the USA during the 1920s. (The hysteria over alcohol extended to other drugs; heroin was made illegal in the USA in 1924, on the basis of poor research on its health risks and its alleged propensity to cause insanity and criminal behaviour.) Prohibition created a huge criminal industry. The end of Prohibition did not result in a frenzy of drinking, but did leave a much-enhanced crime problem, because the criminals turned to substances which remained illegal, and supplied them instead.

Crime destabilises society. Gangland rivalry, the use of criminal organisations to launder money, to fund terrorism and gun-running, to finance the trafficking of women and to buy political and judicial influence all destabilise the conditions for a good society far beyond such problems as could be created by private individuals’ use of drugs. If drugs were legally and safely available through chemist shops, and if their use
was governed by the same provisions as govern alcohol purchase and consumption, the main platform for organised crime would be removed, and thereby one large obstacle to the welfare of society.

It would also remove much petty crime, through which many users fund their habit. If addiction to drugs were treated as a medical rather than criminal matter, so that addicts could get safe, regular supplies on prescription, the crime rate would drop dramatically, as argued recently by certain police chiefs.

The safety issue is a simple one. Paracetemol is more dangerous than heroin. Taking double the standard dose of paracetemol, a non-prescription analgesic, can be dangerous. Taking double the standard medical dose of heroin (diamorphine) causes sleepiness and no lasting effects.

A good society should be able to accommodate practices which are not destructive of social bonds (in the way that theft, rape, murder and other serious crimes are), but mainly have to do with private behaviour. In fact, a good society should only interfere in private behaviour in extremis.

Until a century ago, now-criminal substances were legal and freely available. Some (opium in the form of laudanum) were widely used. Just as some people are damaged by misuse of alcohol, so a few were adversely affected by misuses of other drugs. Society as a whole was not adversely affected by the use of drugs; but it was benefited by the fact that it did not burden itself with a misjudged, unworkable and paternalistic endeavour to interfere with those who chose to use drugs.

The place of drugs in the good society is not about the drugs as such, but rather the freedom and the value to individuals and their society of openness to experimentation and alternative behaviours and lifestyles. The good society is permissive, seeking to protect third parties from harm but not presuming to order people to take this or that view about what is in their own good.

—–

My notes found at my education site (PDF). These notes contain the skeleton of his argument in (mostly) his own words.

His argument goes beyond just the legalization of marijuana. And to be logical about our laws and behavior, it should. And though the purpose of this blog centers around marijuana, it is clear that the purposes surrounding the entire drug war and all its targets must be accounted for in the same or similar way as that which I propose for marijuana.

intellectuals support legalization 1

http://time.com/3724131/conservatives-marijuana-buckley/

William F. Buckley, Jr.

From Wikipedia (numbers cite references on Wikipedia page)

Buckley was an advocate for the legalization of marijuana and some drug legalization as early as his 1965 candidacy for mayor of New York City.[121][122] He wrote a pointed pro-marijuana legalization piece for National Review in 2004 where he calls for conservatives to change their views on legalization, stating, “We’re not going to find someone running for president who advocates reform of those laws. What is required is a genuine republican groundswell. It is happening, but ever so gradually. Two of every five Americans […] believe ‘the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and make it illegal only for children.'”[123]

Here is an interview on Buckley’s thoughts.

Click if video below does not play.

“the problem with pot”

(I posted this article originally in my personal blog http://olena.com/blog on July 18, 2013.)

I speak in response to an article in the Pentecostal Evangel dated a few days from now. I get them as a courtesy of AGWM Communications where I work. I am entirely sympathetic with the goals and aims of the Assemblies of God World Missions team and their claim to be founded on the Bible as the Word of God. This denomination is one of the most progressive and vigorous groups aimed in this world at the propagation of the good news of Christ non-prejudicially to the whole world. There is complete and sincere concern for the welfare of people and a flourishing future for individuals. I happily subscribe to their missions philosophy, the leadership, and working people engaged in this ministry.

That said, I do not always subscribe to the less than clear thinking of the magazine they put out, though for the most part it is well researched and carefully produced. The Evangel this time, focussing on Convoy of Hope has a distracting little article near the end called “The Problem With Pot.”

Let me start with a good part of the article. Andrew Carpentieri’s story is that he first became acquainted with illegal drugs through marijuana. This is not an unusual story. The good part of his story is that he found salvation in Christ and was released from the bondage of addiction to much stronger drugs into a life of liberty in Christ. I applaud him and God for this transformation. I do not dispute the facts of this story.

Now, to the bad part… Andrew’s story is woven into a fabric of half truths and misinformation that makes it look like marijuana is at fault for his downfall. Information is offered in the article that blames marijuana for Andrew’s inevitable decline into a criminal underworld, captive to addictive substances and contrary to all good sense. The chief argument used is that marijuana is a gateway drug.

In case you haven’t been listening for the last 43 years since Richard Nixon started the war on drugs, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads into the inevitable decline and further drug abuse of anyone who uses it. Dr. Mitch Earleywine1 asks the question whether marijuana use can be a “cause” of further drug abuse. He concludes that on David Hume’s criteria of causality, marijuana cannot be a cause of further drug abuse because studies do not show that. Instead there is no statistically relevant correlation between marijuana use and, as Earleywine demonstrates, cocaine use. If the gateway theory is to be believed, then there should be a strong correlation between marijuana use and cocaine use. But Earleywine shows good statistical evidence that only about 2% of all marijuana users go on to use powdered cocaine on a monthly basis. (I am condensing the statistical arguments here.) Even fewer have used crack cocaine in the last month.

If then it is statistically improbable that marijuana is the cause of addictive monthly cocaine use, then, what is the reason for calling marijuana a gateway drug? It certainly is a gateway, but not in the way the author John W. Kennedy wants you to think, (as the federal government also wants you to think). Marijuana is a gateway into the criminal underworld of illicit drug use, thievery, robbery, fraud, etc. that permeates the gray areas of modern American life. Once a person uses marijuana, they have entered the underworld economy. Outside the distaste this brings to some of us, and the harm to people it actually causes, what does it mean that marijuana is a gateway to this realm?

The story is fairly simple. It has to do with whether someone in authority is a plausible witness to the truth. (The government claims that it is a plausible witness to the truth. It claims that it knows the truth about currently illicit drugs and can decide for you how to behave when it makes laws to punish you for using them.) There is a moral sense in all of us, atheist and theist alike, that knows when it is being lied to. When the government and those who agree with it about marijuana tell the public that marijuana has no medically redeeming virtue, it is lying. We have 5000 years of evidence that people have been using marijuana for medical purposes. There was even a large section on marijuana in the medical compendium before the 1940s in the USA that described the medical value of marijuana.

Here’s the modern kicker. When a teen tries marijuana, they often say that the D.A.R.E. program has mislead them. Marijuana is not as harmful as is claimed.

[Is marijuana not harmful as the Evangel article says people claim? No, marijuana, as a psychoactive drug has potentially dangerous effects that make it necessary to avoid exposing undeveloped humans. Every group seeking legalization of marijuana, including N.O.R.M.L., Drug Policy Alliance, and the Marijuana Policy Project insist that any legalization scheme must follow a similar trajectory as lawful alcohol restrictions, preventing underaged persons from purchasing the drug. No considerate adult would recommend allowing the use of marijuana to minors except in cases of medical expediency. The Evangel article states that marijuana may cause the early onset of schizophrenia to minors who use it. That has been attested in statistically relevant ways. But in these cases, schizophrenia would have presented for those individuals before the age restrictions on legalized marijuana would have allowed them to use the drug, usually by the age of 18. But statistically relevant also is the fact that the increased public use of marijuana shows no increase in the incidence of schizophrenia. Here’s a bit I know you will like, most high school students find it easier to acquire marijuana (black market) than cigarettes or alcohol (both regulated by law). I digress…]

The young person who tries marijuana and finds that it is not as harmful as they have been told, will believe that they have been lied to. They will believe that they have also been lied to about heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, about which they may not have been lied to. You must see the dilemma this places the users of illicit drugs and the authorities in.

Marijuana has been drafted as the gateway drug. It is certainly not the cause of further drug use if we’re to take the statistics seriously, though it has been claimed to be. But the lie of the authorities leaves young people unprepared to encounter stronger and more dangerous drugs and the criminal element they have been introduced to. The legitimacy of the government message has been diluted by a patent lie and further obfuscation. It has disqualified itself from making claims of the sort it does. The fault here lies with the government not with the drug itself.

In the end of the article, Kennedy almost comes clean. He claims that the only authority that suffices to redeem a person is God, and that other authorities are not efficacious. He also moves people toward self-control. I applaud these remarks. They are correct in the best biblical and moral senses. So, I ask why has he bought the terrible story the federal government tells. Why has he woven his story into theirs, when they have done nothing well concerning this drug. He has told truths and half truths, but obscured the real truths that would cause suspicion on the authority of our government. Agreeing with the naughty government, he therefore waffles when it comes to committing to Christ the power of our own resurrection, our healing and security.

Kennedy recommends trusting Christ, but he damages his claim by siding with the fallible and clearly problematic government view about a drug it has lied about for over sixty years. Is Christ and self-control sufficient for living the life of freedom, or do we need the government to control our behavior?

My suggestion is to stick to the message of Christ and avoid the faulty “conservative” bent that seeks to lord it over people. The war on drugs is in reality a war against people who use drugs, people that we as Christians claim to care about. What a terrible hypocrisy. “The greatest among you is the servant of you all.” The federal government, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is in its own service lately, not yours.

1 Mitch Earleywine, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), pps. 50-60.

A Rational View of a Complex Topic