Read “5 Pro-Pot Myths That Must Be Busted” by Russ Belville from High Times magazine.
Read “The Devil in the Details: Why Russ Belville is Slightly Wrong About His ‘5 Pot Myths That Must Be Busted'” by David Malmo-Levine.
Awfully nice of you, David, to spend 3,000 more words on my article than the article itself had. Of course it was “superficial”, it was a 400 word assignment.
Context also matters. This was written for the 16-25 year old pot smoker who is likely to a) click into HIGH TIMES and b) likely to spout bumper sticker slogans like “Cannabis Cures Cancer”, “Marijuana is Harmless”, “Hemp Will Save the Planet”, “The Founding Fathers Smoked Pot”, and others that lack the nuance you’ve so eloquently brought to the discussion. It was you, David, who assumed it was written for you and “prominent activists” – all I wrote was “reformers”, and that’s anybody who wants to see prohibition ended.
As far as who I’ve surrounded myself with, I’m proud to number among my friends leaders in every major national marijuana and drug reform organization in North America, as well as some of the most cited researchers on the subject, many of whom you see on your TV on a regular basis.
But for fun, here are some more superficial debunks of your debunk of my debunk debunking the pro-pot myths than needed to be debunked (sheesh, more debunking here than an angry drill instructor in the barracks of a disobedient platoon…)
1) Let’s see, I’m right on the Jefferson quote, right on the Lincoln quotes, and right on the Washington/Jefferson quotes, but I should have called them “marijuana quotes” instead of “hemp quotes”. Sure you don’t mean “cannabis quotes”, if we’re going to be all politically correct?
My point was to illustrate which presidents from whom we have admission of pot smoking (Obama, Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, Pierce, Taylor, Jackson, & Monroe) vs. those we can only infer from their diaries and actions (Madison, Jefferson, Washington) that lead us to believe they were separating female plants for psychoactive purposes. I believe they did, but there’s not *proof*.
I have been evolving my view on this as I’ve been exposed to more research. See http://www.hightimes.com/read/11-us-presidents-who-smoked-marijuana
2) I point out that “hemp can save the planet” is naive when there is much about the planet that needs saving that hemp will not alleviate. One example, the plundering of heavy metals from African mines for the production of iPhones – will hemp replace palladium? David jumps into all the hemp biodeisel links he can find and assures me everyone will be able to retrofit to biodiesel by just putting $500 into a kit for their car.
Right. You got $500? Does the two-job, minimum wage single mom driving her 14-year-old Accord? Maybe in Canada you can get your government to fork over $500 to every citizen (per car? what about motorcycles, boats, jet-skis, snow machines, and ATVs?) to retrofit their gas engine for biodiesel, but down here, we just cut Food Stamps.
David complains that it is all about overregulation, that’s why hemp doesn’t flourish even though it’s legal everywhere else but America. I’m not sure how China became the home of overregulation, but OK. Most of the case he presents for why the overregulation exists owes to the restrictions on hemp required of maintaining marijuana prohibition.
So it’s not as if legalizing hemp in the USA ends, for instance, the Test Pledge that keeps hemp below 0.3% THC, or ends the extreme regulations on testing – that doesn’t begin to happen until marijuana’s legal, and even Canada hasn’t done that yet.
Now, none of this is to say legalizing hemp won’t have massive positive benefits for the planet. But like the next one on the list, it stakes far too expansive a claim when the reality of what it can do is enough – we don’t need to over-sell it.
3) Even as I wrote it, I could hear the screeching of the Cannabis Cures Cancer crowd. Sorry, folks, if that were true, Michelle Rainey and a whole bunch of my friends would still be alive. David does a great job link-farming every positive story someone has of cannabis curing their cancer, but even he admits that I’m right – right now, we have no definitive proof behind the expansive statement Cannabis (in the treatments we’ve developed) Cures (for all time) Cancer (of every type in every stage on every person.)
Polio is cured. If you get a vaccine for polio, you will not get polio, end of story. Syphilis is cured. If you get it, we have shots for you that 99% of the time make it go away. When you can guarantee a cancer patient that taking cannabis and nothing else will definitively eradicate his cancer, then you have a cure.
Now, like the hemp one above, I don’t say cannabis isn’t the most promising development in the treatment of cancer ever discovered. But again, 400 words. “Cures” is a present-tense verb. That cannabis “may cure” in the future I don’t dispute in the article or now; David created that strawman out of the word “treatment”, assuming “treatment designed to last forever, a.k.a. ‘management’ a la diabetes.” “Treatment” owns no such natural inference; e.g., treatments for syphilis are cures.
4) Here I tried to disabuse people of the faulty math that assumes since pot arrests equal a certain percentage of police time and effort, legalizing pot will reduce costs by that percentage.
Think of it this way: Cop goes to work at 8am, goes home at 5pm. Cop works 8 hours a day, for which we pay him a full day’s salary. In that day, Cop spends 2 hours dealing with a petty pot arrest. So, 25% of Cop’s day equals pot arrests.
Now we legalize pot… so we only have to pay the cop 75% of his salary? Of course not! He still makes his pay for an eight hour day, whether he’s chasing potheads, rapists, or doughnuts.
Same with courts – take the Public Defender (PD). PD works eight hours and her caseload is twice what she should have. Now pot’s legal, PD’s lost half her cases to defend… so now she only has to work part-time? No, she’s going to redirect that time to her caseload, now that it’s dropped to more manageable levels.
But what about jails and prisons? David thinks there aren’t enough “real criminals” to replace the 750,000 pot arrests. Right, but most of those pot arrests, let’s face it, don’t do serious time And jails are overcrowded as it is, no longer stocking them with pot prisoners isn’t going to get any of them closed any time soon, nor reduce their staffing levels. Perhaps there is savings in not funding the food and health care costs of pot prisoners, but the costs of heat and lights in the prison is virtually the same.
There are more than enough “real criminals”, David. The clearance rates on property crime are somewhere in the 25% range and for violent crime it’s in the 50%s. But I will concede that legalizing marijuana will help reduce law enforcement costs in the long-term, especially as it works to end the overall war on drugs – I just caution about making too much hay with those numbers. The reason why we legalize should be that it’s wrong to cage pot smokers, not that it’s too expensive.
5) David still thinks this article was directed at well-educated activists who are careful to distinguish that “proper moderate marijuana use as intended is relatively harmless compared to other substances one might ingest” or something like that. I was very clearly debunking people who claim “marijuana is harmless” because nothing you ingest aside from clean air is.
In closing, David encourages me to become the Activist Rhetoric Police and point out who, just who?!? is making these claims? And I just point back to the internet, television, and every activism event I’ve ever been to, especially the ones where people really believe an all-volunteer effort to collect signatures statewide in California with no serious financial backing can successfully legalize 99 plants, 12 pounds, a $10 tax limit, and immediate amnesty and expungement for all pot prisoners. It’s that kind of woo-woo New Agey hippie dippie yippie politically naive activism I’m seeking to debunk, because if the hippies hadn’t blown their credibility with the mainstream by promising marijuana was going to solve all the world’s problems, it might have been legal by now.
It doesn’t matter how great cannabis is. What matters is criminalizing people who use it, no matter why. Even if cannabis was just some nasty addictive habit that kills 400,000 a year through lung cancer and emphysema, it’s wrong to jail its users. Even if cannabis was some non-medical intoxicant that killed 50,000 through cirrhosis and accidents, it’s wrong to jail its users. When we promise pie-in-the-sky about how great cannabis is, we shift the argument to proving or disproving that, rather than acknowledging the immorality of caging people for their personal vices.
I don’t know if the tone of this reply conveys it, but you have my thanks for going into such depth, David. This is how I sharpen my opinions, through Socratic method with intelligent people like you. It’s so much more refreshing than “you’re an asshole!” See you Vancouver some time…