29 May 2008

I'll give you 4 Reasons why Cannabis should be Illegal

This is the post where I finally start to give you the reasons that Cannabis should be illegal. I debunked a lot of the standard arguments in previous posts. Weak. If you really want to keep Marijuana illegal use the following 4 arguments:

1. By keeping marijuana illegal you maintain the stigma which surrounds it. For a teenager to smoke it, he must be breaking the law, i.e., disrespecting authority, and that is attractive to teenagers. By legalizing marijuana you reduce the stigma, which then may transfer to a more dangerous drug.
2. If you make marijuana legal, more people will use it. Classic Law of Demand. Lower the price (consequences), and the quantity demanded will increase, including use by some who were priced out of the market before. If we claim people smoking marijuana is a bad thing, this means more of a bad thing.
3. People smoking marijuana makes other people uncomfortable. It smells weird. People who smoke it act funny. It just makes non-smokers uncomfortable. More smokers means more interaction with non-smokers, leading to more uncomfortable non-smokers.
4. It is hard to prove you are not high. Since the THC is stored in your fat cells, it may be difficult to prove you were not impaired by the substance (even after the 2-3 hour effects had worn off). For example, if you are in a car accident the day after smoking up and weed was found in your car, that may be grounds to test you. If it is found in your system, you could face additional criminal and civil penalties. This assumes that there isn't a BAC-impairment equivalent for marijuana testing (I haven't heard of any). The legislation and litigation that would result from these disputes would further tax the judicial system. This may be partially offset by fewer marijuana possession cases, but the net cost is uncertain.

Could I poke holes in each these arguments? Sure. Can I think of any others? Not at the moment. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

28 May 2008

The Gateway to Hell?

In a previous post we discovered that our position for keeping marijuana illegal is not well supported by the self harm argument.

But what about marijuana being a "gateway" drug to harder drug which cause more deaths or emergency hospital visits? Unfortunately, these statistics don't generally support the Cannibis as a gateway drug theory (see wikipedia's article):
"The people who are predisposed to use drugs and have the opportunity to use drugs are more likely than others to use both marijuana and harder drugs," Morral said. "Marijuana typically comes first because it is more available. Once we incorporated these facts into our mathematical model of adolescent drug use, we could explain all of the drug use associations that have been cited as evidence of marijuana's gateway effect."
In fact, if you want to use the Marijuana gateway drug argument, you have to admit that the ultimate gateway drug is alcohol.
So there are a lot of numbers and they seem to favor marijuana as a substitute to alcohol and tobacco. The question is whether the numbers matter.

We can take several perspectives. The libertarian perspective says that the numbers be damned, it's none of the government's business what individual risks one chooses to take. A utilitarian perspective would say the numbers are everything and would attempt to weigh the benefits to the user against the risks. A liberal would probably attempt to devise government intervention to minimize the pertinent numbers (often neglecting secondary effects). A conservative would probably be interesting in a different set of numbers than the liberal, relying tradition and morality to justify the current prohibition.

Considering the relatively low risk of self harm, little correlation with external harm, the high cost of enforcement, and the claimed pleasurable benefits, we'll need to delve deeper into the conservative perspective in order to find arguments against legalizing marijuana.

Stay tuned as we don our bow ties and smoking caps and determine why marijuana should be illegal!

08 May 2008

The deadliest dope is legal

I think it is widely known that tobacco and alcohol cause more deaths than any other substance. In fact, tobacco causes about 440,000 deaths a year and alcohol about 80,000. This complicates our search for why marijuana should be illegal, considering marijuana, depending on your definition of "directly causes," causes between 0 and 21 deaths per year (search cannabis). But let's give it a go anyhow.

21 deaths isn't 0. So technically it is possible to overdose on cannabis (then again, maybe not, 2nd source). And there are other forms of harm other than outright death due to overdose. Behavior alteration can increase the likelihood of dangerous activity. One source claims marijuana users have a 30% greater risk of injury. Again, unfortunately, this risk is even greater for alcohol and tobacco, according to the source. So we must search elsewhere.

What about emergency department (ED) visits? This is a good proxy for harm (real or perceived) of non-fatal exposure to marijuana. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), in 2003, marijuana was involved in 79,663, or nearly 13 percent, of all drug-related ED visits. That sounds significant, except that with 25,231,000 admitted users of marijuana in 2003, 99.7% did not go have an emergency hospital visit (and this assumes each visit was a different person). This is comparable to the 99.9% for alcohol, especially considering that you have to be breaking the law to use marijuana, and are thus probably more risk-tolerant.

So physical danger to one's self is a weak crutch to use in our quest for justifying keeping marijuana illegal.

But what if it is a gateway drug? Tune if for the next episode.


The media's love for Obama's causes CNN to disregard one of the 4 arithmetic operations which has served mankind for millennia; that is, subtraction.

In classical mathematics: 267-250=17
In Obamathematics: 267-250=7

See it here: