This issue is so huge that it makes me tired just trying to figure out where to begin with my response.
I guess the best place to start would be to suggest you read all of the information and feedback on our Drug Law Reform, and War Stories pages, and especially, I would encourage you to listen to our audio interviews with Superbowl Champ, Mark Stepnoski and Yale Law School educated, Seattle criminal defense attorney, Jeff Steinborn on our Audio Interviews page to get some real, concrete insight into this whole issue.
Let me say that I am not a pot smoker. But I certainly _have_ smoked pot. More than once. And I also inhaled. So, I know first-hand what the experience is like. And it is not the evil, addictive, demon-drug the government and big-industry have made it out to be. Do your research. Get the facts…not the propoganda…and come to your own, educated conclusions.
The following excerpts are from the May 27th, 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.”
~TracyThinks – There are so many things wrong with what Mr. Rosenthal states here, as fact, that are simply not true. At least he starts out by saying that the question is no longer whether marijuana should be legalized. But that is 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 is a red herring intended to illicit an emotional response and is not based on fact. The greatest risk 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 that the HUGE side-effect of being denied government funding 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 is not yet developed is just laughable. I’m not a scientist…but I have raised 7 children to adulthood…so I have a little experience in this area. And let me tell you, even my 2 year old grand daughter knows all too well what dumb and dangerous behavior is and she is very good at preventing harm to her person…and recognizes when she has done something she 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 on 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 are those who do drive high (and I’m not advocating it here, btw) the difference between driving under the influence of alcohol vs. driving under the influence of marijuana are night and day. Alcohol increases brash and brazen behavior and emboldens one to think they are completely capable of operating machinery, when in actuality their judgment and reaction time are impaired. Conversely, under the influence of marijuana, the absolute opposite is true. A person who has consumed pot becomes hyper-aware of their abilities, and because of this, is more likely to choose not to drive. But if a person does drive high, they are usually more cautious than they would be if not under the influence.
His statement that “they are more likely than adults to become addicted” is completely unsubstantiated. There is no scientific data to support that marijuana has any addictive properties. It has been used by large populations of people, world-wide, for thousands of years and is perhaps akin to a coffee addiction when it comes to the physically addictive properties in marijuana. And let’s not even begin discussing all of the “perfectly legal”, highly addictive, pharmaceutical drugs such Suboxone, Revia, Vivitrol, and others that are being prescribed by physicians 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 hope to 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 being 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 is propaganda to support the continuation of The Drug War. There is no 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 at 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. And, 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 is a result of the judicial system referring individuals to them who have been arrested on drug related charges and are compelled to participate in rehabilitation programs, or else face jail time. And those without insurance coverage have to pay for this penalty out of their own pocket.
DRUG rehab is BIG BUSINESS! According to information posted at http://www.addictionrecoveryguide.org/treatment/residential/centers#pho , treatment ranges anywhere from $375 per day at one facility, or $1300 a month at another, 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 $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 any system of legalization’s job or responsibility to be in the business of regulating morality or personal choice. Government’s role in society is not to monitor, prevent, or treat any kind of personal behavior. It has always been, and should always be, the parent’s job to educate themselves, to the the best of their ability, and then teach their children the truth about the world we live in, and prepare them for functioning in it as a contributing member of society.
I found an essay that elucidates my own thoughts on this very well. The author doesn’t provide personal information so that I can 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 goverments 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 neccessary — 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. And 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 stay 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 administrate these programs.
I maintain that the only time government should become involved in the private lives of it’s citizens is when a violent crime has been committed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time,