My Response to A Time When Marijuana Is Legal

Marijuana_Raids

Marijuana_Raids

This issue is so massive that it makes me tired, just trying to figure out where to begin my response.

I guess the best place to start would be to suggest you listen to our audio interviews with Superbowl Champ, Mark Stepnoski, and Yale Law School educated, Seattle criminal defense attorney, Jeff Steinborn. You can find those interviews on our AUDIO INTERVIEWS page to get some real, concrete insight into this whole issue.

Let me say that I am not a regular cannabis consumer. I certainly _have_ smoked pot—more than once. And I also inhaled. So, I’ve had plenty of first-hand experience. And it’s not the evil, addictive, demon-drug the government and big-industry have made it out to be. Do your research and get the facts. Don’t believe the propaganda. Then come to your own, educated conclusions.

The following excerpts are from the May 27, 2013 edition of the NY Times and are letters to the editor. READ THE FULL TEXT for yourself here.

I will reply, per item below, in the body of the text –

NYT -“To the Editor: Bill Keller gets it right: the question is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized, since whatever system emerges is going to put children at risk. Pot is high risk for children because the part of the brain that censors dumb and dangerous behavior is not yet developed, while the pleasure-seeking part is fully functional. So teenagers will do risky things, like driving while high. They’re also far more likely than adults to become addicted.”

TPJ – There is so much wrong with what Mr. Rosenthal states here, as fact, that simply is not true. At least he starts by saying that the question is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized. But that’s the only lucid part of his statement. That he goes on to say that whatever system emerges is going to put children at risk infuriates me. This assumption is a red herring intended to elicit an emotional response and isn’t based on fact. The most significant threat to children currently, where marijuana is concerned, is the potential for arrest, possible conviction, and incarceration, of themselves or their parents, and the emotional damage resulting from being forced through the legal system. Add to those risks the HUGE side-effect of being denied access to government-funded student loans for attending college, something not even rapists and murderers are denied access to, and you begin to see the real risk to children.

His claim that the part of the brain that censors dumb and dangerous behavior in children is not yet developed is laughable. I’m not a scientist…but I have raised seven children to adulthood…so I have a little experience in this area. And let me tell you, even a 2-year-old knows all too well what dumb and dangerous behavior is. Children are very good at preventing harm to their person, and recognizing when they have done something they shouldn’t have. 

Contrast that with the fact that violent crimes are committed, to an overwhelming degree, not by children or even teens, but by mature adults, and his claim doesn’t hold water.

As far as teenagers doing risky things, like driving high—well, don’t get me started about drunk driving statistics and the fact that a person is FAR more likely to drive drunk than high in the first place. And while there may be those who do drive high (and I’m not advocating that behavior, by the way), the difference between driving under the influence of alcohol vs. driving under the influence of marijuana is night and day. Alcohol increases brash and brazen behavior and emboldens a person to think they’re completely capable of operating machinery when, in reality, judgment and reaction time may be significantly impaired. Conversely, under the influence of marijuana, the opposite is more likely. When a person has consumed cannabis, they tend to become hyper-aware of any impairment. Because of this, consumers are less likely to find themselves behind the wheel. But if a person does choose to drive stoned, they are typically more cautious than they would be if not under the influence.

Mr. Rosenthal’s statement that “they are more likely than adults to become addicted” is utterly unsubstantiated. There is no scientific data to support the belief that marijuana has any addictive properties. Cannabis has been used by large populations of people, worldwide, for thousands of years. The effect is perhaps akin to a coffee addiction, at most, when it comes to any physically addictive properties in marijuana. And let’s not even begin discussing all of the “perfectly legal,” highly addictive, pharmaceutical drugs on the market such as Suboxone, Revia, Vivitrol, and others. Physicians prescribe these chemical substances to addicts at “rehab” and “intervention” facilities to manage (treat?) mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders that are far more damaging and detrimental to the health of those consuming them (including children) than marijuana could ever be.

According to Phoenix House’s 2012 annual report: “At Phoenix House, they are able to detoxify in a controlled environment WHERE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS DISPENSE AND MONITOR MEDICATIONS…A commitment to the use of every available and appropriate treatment tool is evident in INCREASED EMPLOYMENT OF PHARMACOTHERAPIES at Phoenix House. Medications such as Suboxone, Revia, and Vivitrol, which control drug cravings, are being used conjointly with other treatment tools. For a number of clients, concurrent medication-assisted treatment allows them to gain the strength they need to maintain sobriety and succeed in recovery.” Suboxone is an opiate and highly addictive with strong potential for abuse itself, and carries a laundry list of side effects, including possible death.

I’m not necessarily saying that these particular pharmaceuticals are used to treat marijuana “addiction.” But the fact that these rehabilitation centers are treating drug addiction with other addictive substances seems problematic and counter-productive to me.

NYT – “Pot smoking changes brain anatomy, retards maturation and impairs learning, memory and judgment”

TPJ – Show me the evidence. This statement is an example of the propaganda used to support the continuation of The Drug War. There isn’t any scientific data to support such claims.

NYT – “At the programs of Phoenix House, the overwhelming majority of adolescents we have treated used no drug more potent than marijuana.”

TPJ – Ahhhh…now we get down to the crux of the issue. “At the programs of Phoenix House.” Follow the money. This guy has ulterior motives. He is money-motivated, as is almost always the case. Mitchell S. Rosenthal, M.D. is founder of Phoenix House and served as President and CEO from 1967 to 2007. A quick look at the organization’s listing with the Better Business Bureau tells us that the current President and CEO, Howard P. Meitiner, receives annual compensation totaling $637,898. Not too shabby, especially for a non-profit. Mr. Rosenthal was deputy commissioner of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency (ASA) at the time the organization was formed. As of July 2010, he was elected to the Board of Directors at The Partnership for a Drug Free America. (see http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/dr-mitchell-s-rosenthal-founder-of-phoenix-house-elected-to-the-board-of-directors-of-the-partnership-for-a-drug-free-america ) 

Another interesting note is that Phoenix House received $61,865,683 in government contracts and grants (representing almost half of their total income of $112,223,034 in 2012). Much of their business comes from the judicial system referring individuals to them who are arrested on drug-related charges. Victims compelled to participate in rehabilitation programs, or else face jail time. And those without insurance have to pay this penalty out of their own pocket.

CANNABIS REHAB IS BIG BUSINESS!

According to information posted at http://www.addictionrecoveryguide.org/treatment/residential/centers#pho , treatment cost ranges from $375 to $1300 a month on the low end (with most programs lasting over a month—up to 90 days appears to be the norm for marijuana treatment) to nearly a whopping $40,000 a month on the high end.

NYT – “So once the legislators are through, it will be up to parents to protect children, convincing them that legal does not mean “safe” despite what government allows. Somehow Mr. Keller did not add the greatest dilemma to his list, which is just how any system of legalization can help parents to do this. MITCHELL S. ROSENTHAL, New York, May 20, 2013, The writer, a child and addiction psychiatrist, is the founder of Phoenix House.”

TPJ – It has never been the government’s job or responsibility to be in the business of regulating morality or personal choice. The role of government in society is not to monitor, prevent, or treat any kind of individual behavior. It has always been, and should always be, the parent’s responsibility to educate themselves, to the best of their ability, and then teach their children the truth about the world we live in. Then it is a parent’s job to prepare their offspring to become contributing members of society.

I found an essay that elucidates my thoughts on this very well. The author doesn’t provide personal information, so I can’t credit them, and the site is old, but the logic is solid, regardless. I’m pasting some of that essay here:

“The thing that separates a government…from any other civic or social organization is that governments may legally initiate the use of force. Nothing and nobody else may do this… Only government has this power, which is called the police power. And politics is nothing more than deciding how this power should be used.

Everything that a law demands that you do, or forbids you to do, is at gunpoint, if necessary — at the threat of death. Perhaps not for the offense itself, but if you are stubborn enough about not accepting the penalties that government places on you for breaking its laws, you can easily find yourself under the barrel of a policeman’s gun.

The defining characteristic of government IS the legal use of force. And if the use of force is legal, then it also should be just. In fact, the reason that mankind ever formed governments in the first place was to protect ourselves from others using force to kill us (violating our right to life), or to make us do their will (violating our right to liberty), or to take what was ours (violating our right to property). Everybody agrees that when somebody comes to hurt or kill you, or to enslave you, or to rob you, you can defend yourself. Government is the same thing, only in groups. The point of having a government is to organize force for the defense of a group or community (be it a neighborhood, a town, a city, a state, or a nation). And the government IS us. So at what point does it become justice for the government to do by force that which it is unjust for US to do by force?

The answer is, “Never.” The role of government is to defend our lives, our liberty, and our property, from those who would violate them, and to punish those who do so by making them pay us restitution.

It is neither our job nor that of the government to use force to stop us from being stupid, or hateful, or immoral, or discriminatory, or to help the poor, or provide medical care, or schooling, or art, or homes.

If we are going to have a just society, we must limit government to its core functions: protection of life, protection of liberty, protection of property, punishing those who transgress those rights, and gaining restitution from them for their victims.”

NYT – “To the Editor: Bill Keller suggests that legalization of marijuana is a foregone conclusion. The voters in Washington State and Colorado have proposed that one way out of an intransigent public health problem, costly law enforcement, spiraling prison costs and reduced tax revenues is to legalize a known addictive substance.”

TPJ – Here we go again…marijuana is NOT a known addictive substance. See my comments above.

NYT – “It is wishful thinking, however, to believe that a government-regulated marijuana marketplace will raise enough money to offset the harm that today’s highly potent drug inflicts on communities across America.”

TPJ – Well, I may have to write a Part 2 to this post in order to properly address the cost to the American tax payer of law enforcement and prison costs associated with monitoring, harassing, arresting, and incarcerating millions of non-violent citizens simply because they choose to consume a harmless weed. 

The potential upside, from a financial standpoint to the government for legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana, similar to alcohol and tobacco consumption, is staggering.

As far as the harm marijuana inflicts on communities across America, I think my position is clear by now that “the cure is worse than the disease.”

NYT – “The only chance we have to get ahead of the coming epidemic is by adequately financing treatment programs so the infrastructure of marijuana production, distribution and retail is matched by broad-based community services. PETER PROVET, President and Chief Executive, Odyssey House, New York, May 21, 2013”

TPJ – Of c-o-u-r-s-e it is…Once again, Mr. Provet is monetarily motivated and has a vested interest in ensuring The Drug War remains alive and kicking. Just look at what we are already paying to fund these programs: “The requested Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Drug Control Budget is $25.6 billion. This represents an increase of $415.3 million (1.6%) over the FY 2012 enacted level of $25.2 billion. And the FY 2013 request includes two new Departments and two new bureaus to the National Drug Control Budget.” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/the-national-drug-control-budget-fy-2013-funding-highlights)

Grrrreeeaaaat…that’s just what we need to fix a massively failed Drug War. More money and more bureaus and departments to manage it. 

According to the government’s own websites:

“Unfortunately, the success rates of treatment are rather modest. Even with the most effective treatment for adults, only about 50 percent of enrollees achieve an initial 2-week period of abstinence, and among those who do, approximately half will resume use within a year.” (http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/available-treatments-marijuana-use-disorders) 

And from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America:

“In one study, 71 percent returned to marijuana use within six months.” (http://www.drugfree.org/join-together/drugs/study-examines-new-treatment-for-marijuana-dependence)

This whole issue is a mass of confusion, deception, misdirection, lies, and abuse. And none of it is to benefit the American public. When it comes to marijuana “addiction” far, far more benefit goes to those who administer these programs.

I maintain that the only time the government should become involved in the private lives of its citizens is when a violent crime has been committed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

Tracy

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