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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Andrew Stuttaford on the dangers of marijuana and the sensibleness of the drug war

Here's Andrew Stuttaford from the National Review writing at The Corner about the Michael Phelps pot-smoking incident:

In the meantime, I merely note that this broken wreck of a man's failure to win any more than a pathetic fourteen Olympic gold medals (so far) is a terrifying warning of the horrific damage that cannabis can do to someone's health—and a powerful reminder of just how sensible the drug laws really are.

Destroying society, one gold medal at a time.

And speaking of the dangerous link between winning gold medals and marijuana:

Oh, and here's reason's Radley Balko on the "apology" Phelps should have given:

Here’s a crazy thought: If I can smoke a little dope and go on to win 14 Olympic gold medals, maybe pot smokers aren’t doomed to lives of couch surfing and video games, as our moronic government would have us believe. In fact, the list of successful pot smokers includes not just world class athletes like me, Howard, Williams, and others, it includes Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, the last three U.S. presidents, several Supreme Court justices, and luminaries and success stories from all sectors of business and the arts, sciences, and humanities.

h/t Fr33 Agents (There's more reaction links from the libertysphere on that site. Worth a look.)

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on February 3, 2009 in Marijuana reform | Permalink


Great post.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-02-03 3:54:27 PM

P.M., do you really think a single outstanding exception shatters a well-established rule? Of course pot won't hurt your health if you only smoke it twice a year. Nothing short of curare will hurt your health if you only take it twice a year. The fact that a top athlete has been photographed smoking dope once in his life does not make dope harmless. Give it up, already.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-03 3:55:54 PM

You're right, Shane, my mistake.

Marijuana is a super-dangerous drug.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-02-03 4:08:52 PM

Shane, you can say a lot of things are bad if consumed regularly. Smoking, french fries, licorice, salt, trans fats, etc.

Posted by: TM | 2009-02-03 4:22:49 PM

Do you guys at the WS post these marijuana legalization stories just to bait Matthews into endlessly posting rebuttals so your blog can make some top ten list?

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-02-03 4:30:39 PM

Would that it worked that way, The Stig. The number of comments on a blog has no impact on the overall status of a blog on any top 10 list (unless it's a top 10 list specifically for comments).

We post a lot on marijuana because putting an end to the war on marijuana is one of our central issues. You'll see plenty of posts about marijuana in the future, just like we have in the past.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-02-03 4:38:59 PM

That list is very misleading: how many still use drugs? Very few I'll bet, such as Palin and Obama. It may be something one does while young, but eventually learns there's nothing of value in it. Drug dealers should be executed.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-02-03 5:03:29 PM

TM, those things you mention will only add things to your waistline and maybe build up arterial plaque, both of which you can burn off with good old exercise. But a joint will make you stoned no matter how hard you run afterward, assuming you don't trip and fall flat.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-03 5:04:37 PM

P.M. wrote: "Marijuana is a super-dangerous drug."

Adolescent petulance does not become you, P.M.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-03 5:04:56 PM

Stig wrote: "Do you guys at the WS post these marijuana legalization stories just to bait Matthews into endlessly posting rebuttals so your blog can make some top ten list?"

Forgive P.M., stig; he's on a bit of rag lately. The emotion in his posts is palpable; they are uncharacteristically fervent.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-03 5:17:46 PM

Funny old guy.

More children in treatment for marijuana dependence than alcohol dependence? What is he talking about? Marijuana is not physically addictive, so what sort of treatment is he talking about. He made that statistic up as he was going along.

Kids are less likely to get caught smoking pot than sneaking booze. I know this from experience. Every time I went to highschool, drunk, I ended up having to hide 'til I sobered up. I could breeze through a math test when I was smoking dope.

Working for a living is a different story. I tried to run a chainsaw after smoking a joint one time. Never again. I've juggled chainsaws when I was drunk. I can't do algebra after smoking either. I won't do algebra after drinking, so not much difference there.

I've done a lot of crazy things, but the worst thing you can do to yourself is get hooked on prescription drugs, especially pain killers. Once you get hooked on painkillers, it's very unpleasant getting off them. You don't even realize that your personality is changing. Your ambition just slips away, slowly. When you first take them, you feel good, but eventually you just take them so you don't feel bad. At least booze and pot still get you high, even after years of use.

Posted by: dp | 2009-02-03 6:49:43 PM

dp, marijuana may not be physically addicting in small quantities at irregular intervals, but if you take enough of anything that sets off neurotransmitters in your brain, and take it often enough, your brain will acclimate to its presence and will not be able to function well if it is suddenly withdrawn.

It's true that marijuana does not produce the DTs, the shakes, or any of the other withdrawal issues that plague users of narcotics or even raging alcoholics, but that's not to say giving it up is easy. Many pot smokers who started in the 1960s are still going strong, having risked prison for over 40 years, for...well, what, exactly?

As for the likelihood of getting busted, keep in mind your experience is anecdotal; as always, "YMMV" applies. Being drunk can be more obvious than being stoned, but you are more likely to be caught *in the act* of smoking than drinking, because drinking is silent and the smell is undetectable until you get rather close, whereas when the doper in our four-level condominium lights up, you can smell it from cellar to attic. Pot STINKS.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-03 7:05:38 PM

The new pot stinks a lot worse than when I was a kid. It's disgusting.

Anyone who's smoked steadily for more than 10 years probably doesn't really get high anymore. Like you say, Shane, it's just another bad habit. I'm not sure if people like that are affected by the dope, or they were losers to begin with, and the dope just came with the package.

Posted by: dp | 2009-02-03 10:04:25 PM

Try to remember that this is only a pissing contest between pot smokers and a government that is never wrong. Pot smokers know bullshit when they see it but after 60 years of trying to brainwash the public, government is in such a well worn track that it's much easier to maintain the well worn "Reefer madness" line. Love that movie. Anyone who has ever tried a joint must wonder what the hell the fuss is all about.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-03 11:19:50 PM

Very inspiring, Peter. Too bad there's not one demonstrable fact in the entire post. Opinions are like assholes--everybody has one.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-04 6:23:07 AM


Opinions are like assholes--everybody has one.

Agree completely. After 60 years, billions spent on enforcement, billions more on lost taxation and 70% of the population still not giving a damn, it was not meant to inspire. It was meant to show the perils of bullheaded stupidity.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-04 5:48:29 PM

So should we give up the war on crime too, Peter? After all, we've spent way more on that than we have on curbing pot use and we're just as far away from victory, there will always be crime, so why bother? See the parallel?

Do you now see how fatuous your reasoning is? The fact that a policy will never yield 100% results does not make it a failure. NO policy yields 100% results in a sample of 350 million people.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-04 6:21:13 PM

That is not my reasoning, I have indicated this already.

My reasoning is this: If 1) there is nothing intrinsically immoral about x, 2) the activity does not harm others, and 3) any harm that does result to others is of the wrong sort, and 4) the cost of continuing an attempt to eliminate or reduce x is sufficiently high (greater than $0 might be sufficiently high), then "give up" trying to eliminate or reduce x.

Nothing about my view implies the necessity of a 100% success rate. Nothing about my view implies anything about our treatment of theft, murder, rape, and so on.

And you're right, the strawman that you've set up really is fatuous. But I don't know anyone who has made that argument.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-02-04 7:12:11 PM


1. I do not accept your opinion--and that is what it is, an OPINION--that there is nothing intrinsically immoral about getting stoned. It's mildly immoral to get DRUNK. Society looks down on drunknenness and drunkards; being drunk in a public place is illegal; people are expected to consume alcohol in moderation. But you can't consume pot at all without getting stoned. Unless your opinion is accepted, your whole argument falls flat. You have to prove it; it's enough enough for you to simply say it.

2. Ah, yes, the canard of the "victimless" crime. Whether you like it or not, those acts which society deems pervert its essential morals are frequently outlawed. The baby boomers currently running things have a lax attitude toward pot, but they're an anomaly. And pot remains illegal.

3. There is a "wrong sort" of harm? What would the right sort be?

4. "Greater than $0 might be sufficiently high" is a flippant barb, not worthy of being given serious consideration, nor shall I.

B. Those rebuttals were specifically directed at Peter's arguments. And quit harping about YOUR view, YOUR opinion, YOUR take on things. You're one man, and your vote is worth no more than anyone else's. It doesn't matter what you believe. It only matters what you can prove.

C. They weren't thinking very hard, then. The parallels between the "unwinnable" war against drugs and the "unwinnable" war against crime are many: There will always be drug use/crime; great quantities of money are spent fighting drug use/crime; drug use/crime can climb for several consecutive years despite stepped-up enforcement; fighting drug use/crime entails warehousing people in great numbers because great numbers commit drug use/crime. The fact that no one else YOU KNOW has made an argument does not make it invalid.

Your problem is your thinking is too egocentric. You're still putting yourself in the centre of your arguments. Quit hogging the stage and craft some arguments that can stand alone, if you're able.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-04 7:47:22 PM

always be crime, so why bother? See the parallel?

No, I don't see the parallel. I see many drugs that are very harmfull and must be fought no matter what the cost.I also feel the penalties for drug use are much too soft and that pushers should be sent to Baffin Island. In my (most humble)opinion, pot is not one of these drugs. To even call it a drug is a insult to the real drugs.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-04 7:55:07 PM

Pot activates neurotransmitters, alters mood and consciousness, impairs higher brain function, and can even be a hallucinogen, Peter. Yet Aspirin, which does none of those things, is a drug.

The parallel is obvious. I've listed many reasons above, but for you I'll keep it simple: Both the war on drugs and the war on crime are considered "unwinnable."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-04 8:04:50 PM


"but for you I'll keep it simple":
Thank you. I bow to your superior intellect. The only problem is that you can not see past your ingrained opinion on this subject. There may be two sides to this subject, but they are both yours. Your last post is not up to your usual standards. It shows frustration and to be honest, makes no sense as a reply to my last(simple) post.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-04 8:33:17 PM

Interesting how you manage to diss the style of the post while sidestepping the basic assertion, Peter. (Really, did you think I wouldn't notice?) I stated explicitly why the two "wars" share parallels; in fact, one is a subset of the other. Furthermore, you have offered several opinions, but not a shred of proof--not one single fact have I seen you post. So before criticizing the quality of my posts, I suggest you take a look at your own.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-04 9:10:16 PM


"--not one single fact have I seen you"

The facts are more than 60 years old. It's the simple logic and common sense that seem to elude you. Your inability to separate pot ( in moderation ) from the destructive drugs that should and must be controlled. You have some great posts on many subjects but go off the deep end as soon as it comes to this one. Between this and your animosity towards baby boomers it makes for interesting speculation on your childhood. Your literary eloquence does not translate into a thoughtfull dicussion. Your distain for anyone who does not see it your way makes for very interesting, yet, predictable posts. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-04 10:09:07 PM

The facts are as old as the plant, Peter. What is it with the pro-pot clique's obsession with "Reefer Madness?" Marijuana was restricted by the Tax Act of 1937, true, but it was retained for medical use. In 1942 it was removed from the pharmacopoeia by doctors who felt that the minimal relief of symptoms it offered was outweighed by the psychoactive side effects, paranoia specifically. It wasn't a corporate conspiracy or rabid politicians, although there was a measure of anti-marijuana hysteria at the time.

You realize, of course, that you have still not offered a single fact, only more opinion. When asked for facts, you simply throw a number of years out and then start in once again on the structure of my posts. This suggests that you are not dealing from a solid factual base and that you are desperately trying to hide it. Your own posts contain the unmistakable signs of bitterness and a whiff of petulance, both quite common among the pro-pot crowd, so one wonders just how personal this is for you.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-05 12:06:39 AM

"so one wonders just how personal this is for you".

Not very, but since you and I are the only ones kicking this dead horse we might as well close it off so you can recharge your batteries and lay in wait for the next fool who dares challenge your perception of what a dangerous drug is. Keep pissing into the wind and carry that flag proudly.
This is bitterness and a whiff of petulance ....signing off.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-02-05 8:11:30 PM


You are truly ridiculous. You expect us to believe that one single exception, and then another single exception, and then that whole list of single exceptions, plus all the other single exceptions not on the list, are going to prove the exception to a very well established (and never broken at any other times in the history of man no matter how long cannabis has been around) rule.

Jesus, man, won't you think of the children?

Posted by: Janet | 2009-02-06 8:24:53 AM

Your challenge might have been more successful, Peter, if you'd done more than pee on my shoes.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-06 8:40:18 AM

So Janet, if we are to decide that all laws passed since the dawn of the 20th century are invalid (based on the fact that the acts criminalized had never been illegal before then in the history of man), wouldn't that pretty much put you back into the kitchen, disenfranchised, barefoot, pregnant, and subject to repeated thwacks of hubby's stick (provided it wasn't thicker than a man's thumb)?

By the way, who's on this litany of exceptions? Remember, we want pot SMOKERS, not just people who've tried it once or twice in their life. If we were to use that kind of logic in categorizing people, everybody would be a thief.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-06 8:44:08 AM

I hope you're paying attention, Janet:

Legalizing marijuana would result in your being barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen somewhere.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-02-06 9:17:57 AM

Janet did cite the marijuana laws' relative newness as grounds for their invalidity, P.M. Speaking logically, that standard would then have to be applied to all laws of that vintage or newer.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-06 10:08:16 AM

Where did she write that, Shane? And what was the context?

It is unlike Janet to make a silly argument, so I'd like to see proof of the silly argument before I'll believe it.

(And I agree with you, that is a silly argument. When a law was passed has no bearing on whether or not it is just).

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2009-02-06 10:23:54 AM

Granted, her rant was a little difficult to follow, P.M., and was unspeakably sarcastic in tone. Both uncharacteristic of Janet (a poser maybe?) But the gist of her post seems to be that cannabis is as old as man, and that only a stupid new law (that incidentally is probably older than she is) prevents man and marijuana from enjoying the harmonious relationship they ought to.

Her post is right above at 2009-02-06 8:24:53 AM. The sentence in question is: "You expect us to believe that one single exception, and then another single exception, and then that whole list of single exceptions, plus all the other single exceptions not on the list, are going to prove the exception to a very well established (and never broken at any other times in the history of man no matter how long cannabis has been around) rule."

Mind you, depending on how you interpret the above, the "rule" she mentions could mean not the laws restricting marijuana, but the rule that "all pot users are losers," and (sarcastically) citing Phelps (and a raft of unnamed others) as the exceptions that prove that rule.

She could have been a bit clearer. Oh, well. Maybe I'd better just think of the children.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-06 11:14:43 AM

Shane Matthews needs to chill out, man. He's totally ruining my buzz.

Seriously, Shane Matthews is the textbook busybody and I don't care for him.

Posted by: Jason | 2009-02-09 4:01:34 PM

Yo Citizen Jason:

don't you have the underside of a bridge to spraypaint ?
this is boy gossip of the worst kind

Posted by: 419 | 2009-02-09 4:57:19 PM

Jason, this is probably going to come as a painful shock; in fact it's probably going to go against everything you've ever believed: We don't live for your buzz, man.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-02-09 6:01:47 PM

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