Friday, March 05, 2004
Advocates of Reasonable Drug Policy Labeled "Zealots"
This story by Linda Slobodian of the Calgary Herald is another classic example of poor research leading to poor "journalism" that serves only to prop-up government myths about marijuana use and effects of the criminalization of the drug.
The article starts off with some "declarations" of those who supposedly support marijuana decriminalization, such as the fact that police resources used to fight marijuana possession are a waste of taxpayer dollars. The article continues, "Those declarations are what devout users...trot out in their unfaltering, religious-like defense of marijuana." Excuse me??!! At least those individuals in favor of removing criminal penalties for consuming pot have well-reasoned, legitimate arguments to support their cause. This cannot be said for drug crusaders whose best and most baffling argument seems to be that "yes the current prohibition regime doesn't work, but anything else we could try would just be much worse. We can't take that risk." Ms. Slobodian thinks she is making a case in her article for the continued criminalization of pot. However, she unwittingly outlines many good reasons why marijuana should be legalized.
I'd like to point out a few things Ms. Slobodian got wrong. First of all, supporting marijuana decriminalization does not mean that one "supports marijuana". Those who support the decriminalization of pot do so for various reasons. Some note the fact that the current regime fails most any cost-benefit analysis, while others oppose marijuana criminalization for philosophical reasons, maintaining that our current system is simply unjust. Most advocates of marijuana decriminalization are not advocates for marijuana use. They are not trying to get more people to smoke pot, and they recognize that marijuana is not "harmless".
Further, one does not have to use marijuana to recognize the hypocrisy and harm that current marijuana laws exact on our society. Our current regime puts hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens behind bars every year, and has severe costs to society.
Ms. Slobodian notes that marijuana provides money to organized crime. This means that it is per se bad, and presumably should remain illegal. Um...if it's not illegal, the bad guys won't get to make money off of it anymore. The author also points out that a lot of police resources are spent tracking down marijuana users. Again, she somehow thinks this fact supports her position that pot should remain illegal, failing to recognize that police resources could be freed up to go after real criminals if marijuana was legal.
Slobodian trots out the discredited claim that THC levels are much higher now than they were in the 60's, and so pot, although it was o.k. for your parents to smoke at the original Woodstock, has somehow morphed into an evil demon unfit for consumption at Woodstock '94. Calgary Police Chief Jack Beaton was quoted in the article as saying that because of this huge surge in potency, "marijuana is now addictive." NORML explains how the U.S. Government arrived at its conclusion that pot is more potent now than it was back in the day. The government compared marijuana that was not very good quality to begin with, and had been sitting in police lockers for years (thus degrading THC levels) with later samples of good quality marijuana. Thus they concluded that THC levels had increased dramatically. This myth of increased overall potentcy has since been discredited in several studies.
Finally, Ms. Slobodian notes that "even the Marijuana Party of Alberta declares in its mission statement that 'one must be of the minimum age of 18 to consume marijuana or grow marijuana'", and again somehow believes that this helps her make a case for criminalization. Apparently, advocates of marijuana legalization for adults are responsible individuals who understand that it's not appropriate for children to use this drug. Much like we've decided as a society that it's not appropriate for kids to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. How can this author possibly think that this statement adds credence to her argument that pot should remain illegal? The article explains that the Marijuana Party "would like to see provincial dollars diverted to 'better use, such as stopping terrorism or enhancing social health and education programs.'" Sounds reasonable enough.
Ms. Slobodian concludes her piece with an inflammatory statement by Beaton in response to the Marijuana Party's above statements. Beaton spouts, "They have a vested interest. I would like to hear someone from that party that doesn't smoke marijuana talk intelligently about an issue." I guess when you've had your head buried in the sand for so long, and are so completely wrong about something, the only way you can cope with well-reasoned arguments against your view point is to engage in ad hominem, childish attacks.