Category Archives: Culture

what’s the hangup?

The longer I look at data surrounding the use of marijuana the more I am convinced that the only people who don’t read are the federales. All the science I am acquainted with tells me that far from the menace marijuana is characterized as by those same federales, it is not only mostly benign, but often beneficial. Let’s cut to the chase.

Prohibition of many currently illicit substances in the US including marijuana, heroin and cocaine, instead of accomplishing its goals of zero use, has been shown to be largely ineffective. There may have been some short-term gains in lowering the numbers of publicly acknowledged users but at a cost that is too great to countenance in any enlightened nation. Even in the current era of hi-tech surveillance and data centers, the demand for drugs has not gone away and the market is flourishing. The criminals are always one or two steps ahead of the federales.

The obvious analog of Alcohol prohibition in the nineteen twenties and early thirties should be enough to dissuade us from this terrible campaign. But obviously it hasn’t.

The history of prohibition enforcement and legal wrangling is full of bad science and misinformation, corruption and lies. That should be enough to challenge the legal structure to draw up more rational laws. But obviously it hasn’t.

The hang-up is that we have been lied to so persistently that we are now convinced that the lies are true. And the federales continue the misinformation campaign because it is too lucrative to stop. Almost any program which makes a pretense to fight the war on drugs can be funded irrespective of the damage that accrues to the taxpayer or the drug user.

This is not a Christian nation (not that Christianity forbids judicious use of any substance in proper medical or holiday context,) nor is this nation any more moral than any other nation (even though we like to think it is,) nor are we better than our science makes us out to be (we may actually be the inheritors of the same genetic materials as monkeys.)

One of the minimal requirements for being a moral agent is that we let the facts stand as they are, no matter what that makes of our theories. We haven’t done that very well.

However strongly the demagogues shout, our science may one day win out over greedy, and amoral political rhetoric. The funds will dry up because the facts do not support the current system. I don’t think this is overly optimistic. But we have to remember this is the first time we have been faced with ourselves in such a way. Our deepest shames and most terrible behavior are all on the table at the moment and no matter how hard we squirm, I think we will soon make the transition into an enlightened society that lets science speak on its own terms. The sociology of the Drug War is going to change when we can relieve ourselves of this hang-up.

hooked: the history channel

I am watching Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way. There is some good history here, but unfortunately they fail on a number of counts. They fairly treat the prejudicial treatment of Mexicans and blacks in the story of making marijuana illegal. They give Harry Anslinger some fair play and commentary. What they also do is treat hemp and marijuana as if they were the same psychoactive substance. As you know there is so little THC in hemp as to render it entirely benign. Though they expose Randolf Hearst, the newspaper magnate, as an anti-marijuana crusader, they fail to tell how the use of hemp for paper threatened his large stock in tree-based paper. These two flaws work together to portray Hearst as an anti-marijuana crusader from an entirely moral point of view when in fact, though he was opposed to marijuana use, he was opposed to the loss of financial solvency if hemp paper took the newspaper world by storm.

When you can grow an acre of hemp every year that would replace an acre of trees every twenty years, it is easy to see where the smart money would go.

More on this later.

marijuana memo #4

I’m for legalization of marijuana under any fair set of rules. I’m not for a legalized free for all. I am for judicious medical use of any beneficial substance. I’m not for the abuse of any substance. Whatever happened to the golden mean? Where is moderation in this or reason for that matter? When will we stop believing violence cures people. We incarcerate those who don’t agree with us and assuage our damaged consciences by misusing ourselves. No wonder we’ve got such short lifespans. There’s got to be a better way.

I examine some reasons for practical consistency in our thinking.

off the jag

I have been busy lately and have not been doing much research or paying attention to the press. But a quick look at Marijuana Policy Project and NORML tells me the War is still being waged against Americans, Canadians, Columbians, Mexicans and the rest of the world by the self-righteous pseudo-protectors of our children. I watched the movie Traffic the other day for the fifth or sixth time. I’ve lost count. I am astonished every time I see the movie of the difference between the black market and the warriors.

The black market is steeped in pragmatism, rational to a fault, coolly and carefully weighing the costs of business against the risks of being caught. They use the engines of commerce in our society without the regulations of law. Even with their loss through drug seizures, which probably amounts to less than taxes would be, and their loss of low-level personnel which would be no different than any other high turnover employment, they make a tidy profit. I think of the movie Blow and the rooms full of money collected by George Jung and his partner Diego. (Perhaps it was not really so tidy.) Nevertheless, there is no danger of them going out of business except of course, at the hands of the warriors, and even then their losses could be counted as the cost of doing business.

The warriors on the other hand, in the name of the law and justice wage an irrational war against users first, then against the dealers. They are not diminishing the demand for drugs nor the production of drugs rushing to meet that demand. All the while they are destroying more families, individuals, national and international tranquility than the drugs themselves do.

This is an easy calculation. And with respect to marijuana, a calculation that a first grader could make. Funny that the warriors are fighting a “moral” cause when they are doing irreparable harm to so many lives, and doing it in the name of justice.

I know this sounds a bit angry, but you have to understand that I am a person with feelings.

curious commentary

I was reading one of the comments about this podcast found on the iTunes music store by tfoo. In it s/he applauds the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Tfoo’s mother used marijuana during chemo treatment “to great effect during her struggle with breast cancer.” This frank admission is certainly welcome even though this podcast receives only one star for my efforts. This seems to be a case where if tfoo had not had some positive contact with marijuana, there would not be even a tiny bit of sympathy for the project of fact finding I am interested in.

I am interested in finding the fairly large minority who has heard of some positive effect of marijuana use in medicine. The growing number of states that approve medical marijuana, the growing number of physicians who surreptitiously “recommend” marijuana for their patients, the patients who have found surceace in its natural and largly benign emollient will eventually win out over those who without knowing what they do because of their rudimentary moral development believe punishment cures desire and prevents further entry of the devil into our already amoral society.

Little do these moral tyros know, but it is their trust in the legal system to solve moral problems that is largely the cause of the terrible fix we are in. In my most recent meditations, I resolved that most people who are subject to the depredations of the current punitive system are adults. However, the system is designed as a method of discipline for the unruly. Have these people even had children yet? Don’t they realize that at the age of 18 or so, individuals will basically do what they want and that discipline of these sorts is an abridgment of their rights, not to mention a subversion of their adult responsibilities.

What tfoo is asking us to do, with respect to the recreational use of marijuana, is that the system of punishments currently in place, a paternalistic attempt to control autonomous persons, is to be accepted as necessary in order to eradicate that behavior. What they don’t tell us is why we should give our rights up to these persons. At least they don’t give us any factual reasons.

What tfoo does not do is spend the slightest bit of time looking at the facts of the drug war. We do not find out the cause of tfoo’s niece’s death, and I really couldn’t guess, but if his lashing out at attempts to rationalize the debate is caused by some bad experience with a drug problem, I am in perfect sympathy with his response.

My contention, of course, is that the major cause of damage to our society is not marijuana itself, but the federal prohibitions against it for both medical and recreational use. One could do less damage to themselves, their families and careers using pot for years than they could by being arrested for possessing a small amount of it.

Tfoo applauds my courage for doing this podcast, but should probably laugh at the foolishness of it. I say that though I love my current circumstances, this podcast might be reason enough for some of those who employ me to remove me from my post, though I wouldn’t call that justice. I have in the past fallen on my sword with respect to my concern for honesty and the truth, but believe that like the phoenix, the truth of my case raised me from the ashes my exile into better circumstances than those I lost. Make no mistake about some lofty notions of advancement here, I am driven by my muse to expose myself to threat even with the near certainty of large-scale grief.

I would like to offer mutual respect for tfoo’s position, but say that respect is only due for work done, not for a position gratuitiously adopted as a convenient reaction to moral ambiguity.

I welcome his response here and invite a sane discussion.

amotivational without pot

drug war heresies

I have just finished reading Drug War Heresies by Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter. Their conclusion is that policy change is necessary, but not the change legalizers or drug warriors suggest might hope for. They believe zero-tolerance policies are both unrealistic and at least the way they are practiced today, prejudicial, unfair and cruel. They also believe the proponents of legalization are as much driven by ideology as their drug war opponents and have unrealistic expectations.

The majority of the book is marked by a reliance on facts. Each analysis is couched in terms that define the limits of its reliability or applicability for any particular purpose. They make the adage false that you can say anything with statistics. They attempt to let the facts speak for themselves without any underlying bias. If you are looking for an ideological solution, you will not find it here. This makes the book appear cautious, which it is. They certainly want to see change in the current regime, they are not willing to do anything more than nudge us in the right direction.

Though they are sure that a legalization regime would reduce the overall harm done by drugs, they are as sure that the moral temper of the nation is incapable of supporting such a regime. As well, the commercial history of alcohol and tobacco tell that these industries have effectively skirted the boundaries set for them, increasing publicity and probably prevalence of use of their respective products in the society.

The European experiments with drug control are examined. They have problems not entirely unlike ours, yet the lessons learned from their policies are difficult to map onto our society.

I heartily recommend the book for its scope and concentration. On the basis of this sort of work, the probability of fair progress seems possible.

states flout federal law

I am listening to a web chat between Angel Raich who was involved in the failed Supreme Court case on medical marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann and Dan Abrahamson of the Drug Policy Alliance. Dan said that in the late nineteen twenties, early thirties, states had begun to repeal their own prohibition laws essentially saying to the federal government, “If you want to enforce these laws you will do it without our cooperation.”

It is Dan’s view that the same state of affairs is growing currently in the U.S. with respect to marijuana that existed then with respect to alcohol. This put into perspective the view I held subconsciously. The federal government, with all its political clout will end up a prince without any subjects. All the pressure it is currently putting on states to prevent or turn back medical marijuana legislation or even decriminalization statutes will be in vain in the near future.

The federal government is currently enforcing its harsh penalties against marijuana even though the base of voters that agrees with those policies is steadily diminishing, irrespective of their desire to use marijuana personally.

weeds again

I can’t imagine people getting into trouble so frequently as they do on Weeds. I also can’t imagine people getting away so frequently and unproblematically with their behavior.

I’m probably just naïve. Somebody please let me know how it really is dealing and living in the pot world.


media campaign

I found the link for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign listening to the Scientific American podcast (sa_podcast_060216.mp3) where Bruce Merkin of the Marijuana Policy Project was interviewed. This was fascinating. He and SA staffer, Steve Mersky discussed the British classification for marijuana use. The Brits downgraded marijuana to the lowest classification (C) of illicit drug in 2004. Then worrying over reports about the dangers of marijuana, set a committee of scientists to study reports of the effects. The committee reaffirmed the government’s decision to downgrade marijuana.

Merkin, who gave the link (above), says the difference between the U.S. and British policy is that the Brits have chosen to be guided by science while the U.S. has clung to mythology. The Brits recognize that marijuana is not harmless, but that its harms are relatively limited. “In the U.S. marijuana has been stigmatized in such a way as to make U.S. policy impervious to data.”

The media campaign is serious, but flawed by this mythos. In all my research, I have never heard of any responsible pro-marijuana group suggesting marijuana is harmless, but that its harms are within the bounds of tolerance for a responsible adult user. Certainly alcohol and tobacco are both more addictive than marijuana and cause quantifiable harm to hundreds of thousands of men and women each year. And the U.S. experiment with prohibition was a dramatic failure. Marijuana just doesn’t have the long-term historical association with high western culture that alcohol does.

Mentioning the benefits of medical marijuana is nearly anathema to the campaign. They allude to the use of THC for cancer and AIDS patients, but make it sound as if this is a last resort medicine because of marijuana’s inherent dangers, warning us that this is not a medicine to be used trivially!

What should we do with the campaign? Watch the movies, understand the rhetoric, teach our kids the real story and become part of the grass roots (or should I say buds) effort to wrest control of this issue from the hands of the tyrants.


I have been watching Weeds the SHO series about a mom who turns pot dealer to maintain her lifestyle after her husband dies suddenly of a heart attack. Nancy is faced with many dilemmas that she solves or doesn’t. There is pain and trouble, and everything doesn’t work out well all the time. There is tension that carries from show to show that doesn’t really fix. In fact the tenth in the series leaves us with many dilemmas that leave me waiting for the next season which is supposed to come in June/July.