Here's What Marijuana Does To You

Last week's Weednesday Post generated several comments that took my side but the facts wrong. Specifically, a couple of commenters claimed "marijuana is harmless." That's not true. While cannabis may be have fewer harmful effects than alcohol and tobacco, someone who abstains from all three will be healthier mentally and physically than the same person smoking pot.

On the other hand, a lot proponents of prohibition throw around bad science, too. The prohibition lobby has generated tons of false "facts" to manipulate the debate.

Luckily, Business Insider cataloged what we know about cannabis--good and bad.  Take a look at this slide show. Here are the top positives and negatives of smoking weed.

Negatives Positives
It blocks memory formation Marijuana also makes us feel good
It can mess up your reward system It's better for your lungs than tobacco
THC messes with your balance It may decrease anxiety
Cannabis use may increase the risk of depression It controls epileptic seizures
Intense anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic are common side effects It relieves arthritis discomfort
Marijuana users may experience psychosis Marijuana treats inflammatory bowel diseases
Audio and visual hallucinations are common THC slows the progression of Alzheimer's disease
It robs you of sleep A chemical found in marijuana stops cancer from spreading
Inhaling marijuana causes your heart rate to increase It's been shown to alleviate PTSD

Finally, decriminalized or not, cannabis is illegal in Missouri. I think that's a really bad law, but it is the law. In fact, Missouri has the most draconian pot laws in the country. Growing, possessing, buying, selling, and smoking are all crimes. And suspicious activity--like an indoor garden--subject you and your family to SWAT raids and searches, even if you've never seen a pot plant.

 

This Is What Happens When I Blog About Cannabis Law Reform

I blog about tea party stuff 90 percent of the time. I get decent readership with those blogs, and I appreciate my loyal followers. Very much. But as long as I write about stuff only conservatives and activist libertarians care about, only conservatives and libertarians will read my blog. That means our ideas won't escape the echo chamber we've been yelling in for years.

When I write about the conservative/libertarian perspective on issues of wider interest, though, I bring in people who never otherwise read our views.

Here's what happened to page views when I blogged about cannabis reform Thursday and Saturday:

Hennessy's View Page Views

And these were not my usual readers. They came from sites like UrbanSTL.com. And those new visitors from non-conservative sites came away with a more positive view of our movement.

Before you say it, I'm not a link whore. I don't scan Google Trends to blog about the most searched topics of the day, and I don't suck up to popular bloggers to get inbound links. I've advocated cannabis law reform for years, though not so publicly as I have since January 2012.

The point is this: if you want to attract people to your views, to persuade them to at least take a listen to you, you have to speak their language and interests. Clearly, cannabis reform is more interesting to more people than, say, Great Streets projects or Blue Ways or Agenda 21.

So, to those who want to know why I'd bring up something as controversial as cannabis law reform now, I'll say this:  we won't attract advocates and voters to our other issues if we don't talk about their issues first.

Here Are My Replies to Most Serious Arguments Against Ending Cannabis Prohibitions

I repeated my New Year's Day tradition of proposing cannabis law reform in Missouri and America last Wednesday. The post has generated a lot of serious discussion. I have to thank, especially, Dennis Broadbooks and Lisa, Culture Vigilante, for raising valid issues. Many others commented as well. I will work through your comments as the blizzard rolls through this weekend. But I wanted to pull my reply to Dennis and Lisa and to link directly to their most salient comments.

Link to Dennis's Comment

Link to Lisa's Comment

My response:

Dennis and Lisa,

I’ll work through your points one by one. Though I’m responding directly to Dennis’s I’m combining several points.

1. Social Symbolism of Legalization: Dennis writes, “If we legalize something as a society that’s previously been banned, it sends a signal to our youth that it’s OK. It’s even desireable.” Perhaps some will. More, I believe, would take the move as tacit acknowledge that America’s draconian cannabis laws were wrong to begin with.

Further, it seems to me that prohibition takes away the meaning of abstinence. If I don’t smoke dope because it’s against the law, I’m merely obeying the law. If I don’t smoke dope because of its purported negative effects on me or society, I’m setting an example. In this sense, the cannabis debate mirrors speed limits. Recently, Illinois raised its maximum speed limit to 70 MPH from 55. Is that an endorsement of fast driving? And how long will that perceived endorsement hold any meaning? My kids don’t remember a time when Missouri’s limit was 55, so the change in the speed limit law in Missouri has no endorsement effect on them.

2. The Fiscal Argument. You go on to say, “You’re attempting to make an fiscal argument for the legalization of pot & I say there’s just as valid a case economically against it.” Here, I’ll ask to see your numbers. The total cost of prohibition in Missouri is about $150 million a year according to Harvard and Cato Institute researcher Jeffrey Miron. You seem to imply that legalization of cannabis in Missouri would cost more than $150 million in increased medical and other costs. But even opponents of cannabis law reform admit that studies indicate that cannabis use is less physically harmful legal substances like alcohol and tobacco. It is unlikely that the combined costs of cannabis regulation and medical treatment would eclipse the $150 million in savings from ending prohibition.

3. Abortion vs. Cannabis. I’m not sure how Roe v. Wade relates to this case, but I will add something. Cannabis prohibition seeks to deny individuals the privilege of growing and smoking cannabis. It’s government vs. the individual. But the abortion debate is another matter, morally speaking. In that case, abortion opponents ask government to intervene in the murder of a human being. The two issues couldn’t be more different.

4. On the Divisiveness of Prohibition. Lisa writes, “I think this is a very divisive issue that should be set aside until we get on a more constitutional track. Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians are busy enough trying to fight progressivism without brining the right to get high into the debate.” That’s a good question. I debated this for a long time, considering I’ve been writing a semi-regular column since 1993. I chose to make it an issue on January 1, 2013 for a very simple reason: I believe proponents of constitutionally limited government lose credibility among persuadable potential voters (especially younger people) when we oppose cannabis law reform. We lose more credibility when we choose to simply ignore the issue and hope it goes away.

Considering the history of cannabis prohibition, I could argue that it is a glaring symbol of progressivism, shoved onto America by FDR’s regulators looking for fix after the Volstead Act and Amendment 18 went away.

The fact is, others are making this an issue. Democrats are winning elections by hijacking what should be a center-right position to draw otherwise disinterested voters to polls. By championing cannabis law reform, just as we champion other regulatory reforms, we have the chance to at least neutralize the Democrats’ tactic.

I think Reason.com is more likely to draw young voters into the fight for individual liberty against a progressive statist attack on freedom. By boldly announcing our willingness to right this wrong, we become more consistent and, thereby, more convincing and attractive.

In short, if (lower-case 'L') libertarians were to get this issue out of the way, we'd find much easier sledding on the other issues.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gateway City for the link from UrbanSTL. I encourage readers to check the comments on that post.

 

The Weednesday Post: You Want the UN Deciding Your State’s Laws?

The United Nations wants our federal government to negate the laws of Colorado and Washington regarding marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder mulls it over. UNNA0001

Americans Believe In Federalism

In polls, Americans are consistent: the US government must not impose its morals on states regarding marijuana. After ballot measures in Colorado and Washington approved legalization of pot, Gallup asked whether the United States should honor the will of the people.

On this issue, Americans believe in federalism:

Sixty-four percent of Americans are against the federal government's taking steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal. Americans who personally believe that marijuana should be legal overwhelmingly say the federal government should not get involved at the state level, along with four in 10 of those who are opposed to legalized marijuana.

I don’t need a poll to tell me that Americans will not change their minds because the United Nations told them to. And if there’s any hope of left and right holding hands in protest, federal prosecution of a United Nations mandate could be the trigger.

The United Nations Believes In Central Control

The UN relies on the 1961 U.N. Convention on Narcotics, of which the United States were a signatory. According to the head of the UN’s international drug control agency,we’re a bunch immoral degenerates even for holding a vote.  In his words, ballot initiatives on legalization or decriminalization, even for medical purposes,  “undermine the humanitarian aims of the drug control system and are a threat to public health and well-being [via Reason Magazine]”

Seriously?

Besides its salute to federalism, that Gallup gave us a party ID breakdown on marijuana prohibition sentiment.  Democrats favor legalization, Independents are evenly split, Republicans favor continued prohibition.

The Party of Individual Liberty Should Mellow About Marijuana

I have long argued that Republicans are on the wrong of this issue, and it makes them look hypocritical to many, especially the young. If we are the party of individual liberty, why do we make smoking a legal issue?

I don’t know if I’ve changed any minds with my weekly Weednesday Posts, but A. Barton HInkle of Reason thinks the UN might.

Here in the U.S., United Nations disapproval can only help the cause of legalization where it needs help the most: on the right . . . Republicans favor continued prohibition, by a 2-1 margin.

They might favor it less if they knew the U.N. were, implicitly, telling states what to do. Just look at the conservative reaction to Agenda 21 -- a voluntary U.N. program that encourages bike paths and urban planning. Conservatives see it as nothing less than the first step on the road to serfdom.

(Well, perhaps the thousandth step on the road to serfdom, but why quibble?)

I hope conservatives will realize that, to many, they sound a lot like the UN on the issue. Gallup found that 18- to 29-year-olds favor legalization 60 percent to 39 percent. Those young voters might ask, “what’s the difference whether the UN imposes its views on us or if the Republican Party does?”

That’s a tough question to answer to the satisfaction of young voters. (Satisfying yourself with an answer doesn’t really do any good.)

America is in danger of extinction as a free society. Fighting to hold onto old laws that make us less free, just because they’re old, is bad policy and terrible strategy.

The Republican Party would be smart to champion decriminalization or legalization wherever it’s on the ballot or in the legislature. Get this issue off the table. Trust people to do the right thing. Trust the research that shows decriminalization doesn’t lead to significant increases in usage. And get on with the next item on the agenda.

Now go read my original post on The War on Weed

Then check out The Weednesday Post archives

St. Louis City Fathers Freak Out Because Police Sergeant Gary Wiegert Lobbies For Sane Marijuana Reforms

You'd think people would listen when a career police officer says we need to reform marijuana laws. But n-o-o-o-o.  Not in St. Louis, anyway. Gary Wiegert is a 30+ year police officer who signed up to lobby Jefferson City on behalf of tea party issues a couple of years ago. Some people freaked out over that, but Gary was instrumental in advancing tea party issues for the past 2 years.

Now, Wiegert is lobbying for some mild marijuana reforms, and the Masters of the City are freaking out.  Not the people, mind you, but the people who make money on draconian marijuana laws.

gary-wiegert

Wiegert represents an organization called Show-Me Cannabis in support of two bills currently awaiting hearings in Jefferson City—HB 512 and HB 511. As I’ve written before, the Republican party should be pushing this issue—it’s a matter of liberty and good government.

The laws would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and allow those previously convicted to expunge their records, according to Show-Me Cannabis.

HB 512:

It would eliminate the possibility of arrest or jail for marijuana and paraphernalia possession. It would also limit the fines for those offenses to $250 and, in most cases, keep the charge from appearing on the defendant's public record through use of a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS).

HB 511:

would expand the use of expungement. This bill would allow for the expungement of all misdemeanor offenses, including marijuana and paraphernalia cases, in both state and municipal courts, with the exception of violent or sex-related charges. Expungement would be available after five years with no additional similar convictions.

These small reforms would let police focus on more serious crimes, save Missouri taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, reduce crime, and strengthen society. And HB 512 mirrors the policy of Columbia, Missouri.

Neither Wiegert nor Show-Me Cannabis nor I advocate breaking the law, and Gary enforces the laws on the books. He also knows the toll those laws take on law enforcement and budgets, and the damage they do to people’s lives. Nor are we advocating use of marijuana, even if it were legal. We realize that any drug can lead to problems for individuals, families, and societies. That's why there are inpatient treatment options for marijuana addicts.

Fox 2 News’ Charles Jaco hoped to interview Wiegert this afternoon, but Gary’s bosses in the police department barred Wiegert from talking to the press. Wiegert has a meeting with those bosses on Monday at the police headquarters.

I support Sgt. Wiegert, liberty, and reform of draconian marijuana laws. I also support Gary’s right to advocate for changes to laws he believes are unjust and counterproductive. If he cannot lobby for reform of marijuana laws, I don't expect to see any police chiefs lobbying to weaken the Second Amendment—or anything else.

See my original post on The War on Weed.

 

The WEEDnesday Post: Here’s What Happens When a Missouri Teen Gets Caught With a Little Bit of Pot

Mary is a good student, and a tad independent. At 18, she’s getting ready to graduate from a Catholic high school with honors. sad-girl

And every once in a while, Mary smokes pot with her friends—friends she’s had since grade school.

Leaving a concert at US Bank Pavilion, Mary and her friends stop at Denny’s. In Mary’s purse is a dime bag of pot. It’s been there for weeks, and she hasn’t really thought it.

People at another table complained to their waitress that Mary and her friends were too loud. The waitress asked the kids to quiet down, and they did. But their laughter and singing picked up again shortly.

A pair of Maryland Heights police officers walked in Denny’s, and the older table called them over.

“Those kids are being obnoxious, and the won’t quiet down. They’re stoned are something,” one woman told the officers.

Two hours later, Mary had been charged with possession of marijuana, disturbing the peace, and related charges.

She’s dropped from her high school’s honor roll and placed on probation pending the results of trial. The local college she’d applied to withdraws the small scholarship they’d offered her and puts her application on hold.

If convicted, Mary will lose eligibility for federal student loans. Because the federal government seized control of the student loan industry, Mary’s hopes of a college education will be gone.

Missouri has among the most draconian marijuana laws in the US. Stories like Mary’s aren’t unusual.

Sure, Mary made a choice. Eighteen-year-olds make a lot of choices.

Her life isn’t ruined, of course, but it will be much more difficult than it would have been if Missouri treated marijuana consistently with dangers the weed poses.

While some find it difficult to withdraw from marijuana,far more people die or are injured from alcohol and tobacco. And yet marijuana is easier for a minor to obtain than either of those, and the legal consequences more significant.

As a first time offender possessing a tiny amount of pot, Mary faces a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, loss of student loan eligibility, possible expulsion from high school, and a felony record for life.

Marijuana isn’t worth the risk to Mary. But the ridiculous damage to Mary’s life and productivity wasn’t worth cost to society.

The Republican Party is supposed to be about liberty and common sense. Missouri’s marijuana laws violate both.