Arguments Against Decriminalization Fail

Arguments Against Decriminalization Fail
Posted by FoM on April 29, 2002 at 07:22:36 PT
By Thomas J. Scaramellino
Source: Harvard Crimson
To the editors: Kevin Sabet’s recent letter “Staff Position on Pot Ignores Growing Cost,” April 17 criticizing decriminalization of marijuana is typical of drug warriors who are willing to manipulate the facts in order to perpetuate a self-interested political agenda. Sabet’s claim that drug use has gone down in the past 20 years is based on a government survey that asks people to admit to illegal activity. 
Perhaps a more accurate measure of the effect of drug use on this country is the number of overdose deaths and emergency room visits, which the government’s own Department of Health and Human Services reports has escalated since the early 1980s and is currently at a record high. The same is true for Sabet’s ridiculous claim that the Dutch saw an exorbitant rise in marijuana use after decriminalization. The conclusion is drawn from a survey, and of course teens will be more willing to admit to an act once its legal. Rates of marijuana use are lower in the Netherlands than they are in the U.S. This is especially true for younger teens, where 7.2 percent of Dutch children age 12-15 have tried marijuana compared to 13.5 percent of U.S. children the same age. The prevalence of marijuana use among teenagers and hard drug use overall in our country is largely a product of prohibition and not the drugs themselves. High school students have easier access to marijuana than alcohol because there is a black market for marijuana that targets kids. Why doesn’t the federal government—as the original Crimson editorial suggested—regulate marijuana like alcohol so kids don’t have such easy access to it? Sabet downplays the damage that marijuana prohibition causes to society. In the U.S. last year, approximately 734,000 people were arrested for marijuana offenses. That is 734,000 people who dealt with the humiliation, anguish and monetary damage that entails being handcuffed, fingerprinted, forced to appear before a judge, making bail and serving probation. Would we tolerate this treatment for the use of alcohol or cigarettes? Is it such a stretch of the imagination to conceive of drug warriors—like Sabet, McCaffrey and many politicians on Capitol Hill—as playing into the hands of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries which benefit from cannabis prohibition? The public has been manipulated far too long for the benefit of corporate America. It’s time we put this government back in the hands of the people. Thomas J. Scaramellino ’05 April 23, 2002 The writer is president of The Harvard Coalition for Drug Policy Reform. Source: Harvard Crimson (MA Edu)Author: Thomas J. ScaramellinoPublished: Monday, April 29, 2002Copyright: 2002 The Harvard Crimson, Inc.Contact: letters thecrimson.comWebsite: Articles:Staff Position on Pot Ignores Growing Costs Marijuana 
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Comment #10 posted by Jose Melendez on April 29, 2002 at 11:39:30 PT
ha ha!
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Comment #9 posted by Jose Melendez on April 29, 2002 at 11:38:49 PT
I am so embarresed, No wonder they did not print the letter. 
Oh, well...By the way, Dr. Russo, thanks for going to the NORML conference, and everything else you do. 
Jose Melendez
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Comment #8 posted by Ethan Russo MD on April 29, 2002 at 11:28:31 PT:
Correcting My Correction
That's Shafer with one f. I hate Mondays when the brain does not run on all cylinders.
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Comment #7 posted by Ethan Russo MD on April 29, 2002 at 11:26:34 PT:
1 Other Correction
It was the 1972 Shaffer Commission that Nixon savaged.The LeDain Commission preceeded it in Canada, but also recommended decriminalisation, as they spell it.
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Comment #6 posted by Jose Melendez on April 29, 2002 at 11:23:22 PT:
error, corrected
Of course, I later fact checked my letter, and found the evidence is even more damning of the war on (some) drugs than I originally wrote:Table 4.1 - Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations clearly shows that a mere 5.6 percent of drugarrests for were for sale/manufacture of marijuana, while 38.4 percent were for posession of this, the most benign psychoactive substance known to Man. 
What if YOUR drugs were illegal?
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Comment #5 posted by Jose Melendez on April 29, 2002 at 11:18:23 PT
part 2
The truth, of course, is that both drugs are used to self-medicate, in the same way that pharmaceuticals such as the selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors that are so casually pushed on television are used. If you drink too much alcohol, you will certainly die from that poison if it is not purged from your system via vomiting or a stomach pump. Cannabis is chemically food, and abuse leads to sleep and/or the munchies. Yes, some people smoke pot to socialize and feel better, but at least we stoners know when to say when, and have been proven safer behind the wheel than not only drunks and pill poppers, but also sober people. 
That's right, a University of Toronto study reviewed the research done in countries all around the world of driving performance using driving simulators. That work shows conclusively that marijuana does not increase a 
driver's risk of causing an accident. 
Research that shows the comparative safety and efficacy is consistently ignored or suppressed by those that would maintain the status quo on marijuana laws, which are clearly arbitrary, capricious and based on lies and perjury. Official Congressional testimony in the 1930's against cannabis includes one particular expert witness who claimed under oath that smoking a joint turned him into a bat, enabling him to fly about the room. 
Barry McCaffrey himself came under fire from the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving when his office refused to include messages against teen drinking in the anti-drug propaganda budget. The claim was made that including such truthful information would "dilute" the message to kids that illicit drugs are harmful. This despite the fact that alcohol is responsible for 100,000 annual U.S. deaths, while cannabis deaths from overdose are still zero after over 5,000 years of historically demonstrable use. In fact almost every single death involving marijuana use has been clearly and unquestionably linked to the prohibition of that herb. 
Not long after the Office of National Drug Control Policy refused stubbornly to tell the truth about alcohol (the real gateway drug, second only to nicotine in the form of cigarettes) Congress conveniently stepped in to prohibit that agency from including anti-drinking messages in their ads, which in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug Free America tend to demononize marijuana while ignoring the hazards of alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. Coincidentally (sarcasm intended) board members of the PDFA continue to receive large donations and payments from the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries for speeches on drug abuse. The Partnership only recently stopped accepting funds from Big Tobacco. 
The complaint that marijuana use has been shown to "adversely affect brain regions involved in learning, memory and stress response; those that integrate the cognitive functions; and the reward center of the brain" is dubious, especially considering that a recent study shows that a reduction in intelligence quotient is minor even for heavy pot smokers, at about a 4 point loss immediately after use. This is more than compensated for by the 5.8 point I.Q. increase above the average after effects of marijuana had subsided. Just as in golf, handicapping tends to improve skill and performance. 
Interestingly, and again conveniently, Mr. sabet ignores the conclusions of the 1998 Institutes of Medicine report on the subject, which says: 
"Until a nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system becomes available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. One possible approach is to treat patients as n-of-1 clinical trials, in which patients are fully informed of their status as experimental subjects using a harmful drug delivery system and in which their condition is closely monitored and documented under medical supervision, thereby increasing the knowledge base of the risks and benefits of marijuana use under such conditions. We recommend these n-of-1clinical trials using the same oversight mechanism as that proposed in the above recommendations." 
By the way, that nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system is already available, the authors of the IOM report knew this to be the case, yet neglected to include that fact. 
Of course, there is ample documentation of the lengths to which heavily funded prohibitionist beaurocracies such as the National Institutes on Drug Abuse have gone to avoid participating in studies that might show that cannabis is safe, effective and non-toxic. But that will be the subject of another letter. 
Suffice it to say that it is "high time" that marijuana prohibition is exposed as fraud, since the very same people that disingenuously pretend cannabis is dangerous actively ignore the relative (deadly) hazards associated with the substances that would be forced to compete on an even field with safe, legal marijuana. Interestingly, those same substances are manufactured by companies that pay the very highest campaign contributions to those lawmakers and officials that pretend they are being "tough on drugs". What do they say while 6 million Americans die every ten years from legal substances and over 7 million are jailed in that same time period for marijuana? Tough. 
Arrest Prohibition - Drug War is TREASON! 
Jose Melendez founder, - technology with substance - Arrest Prohibition
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Comment #4 posted by Jose Melendez on April 29, 2002 at 11:17:40 PT:
Sabet's position exposed, corrected.
From: Jose Melendez (airjos 
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 2002 10:32:27 -0400 
To: (letters 
Subject: Sabet's position exposed, corrected. 
As I prepared to expose and correct each and every false assertion by Kevin Sabet in the op-ed entitled "Staff Position on Pot Ignores Growing Costs", I 
had a chance to read the Crimson's requirements for letters and got to this line: 
3) Letters that point out factual misrepresentations or errors will not appear as letters to the editors, but may be published as clarifications or corrections in the news section of the daily paper. 
It disappoints me that my letter might not be published simply because I will be pointing out that Mr. Sabet's position is not based on the truth. In fact, Sabet, a former speechwriter for Barry McCaffrey, takes liberties with the truth with just as much skill as our nation's former drug czar. 
From Crime in the United States: 1997, FBI Division of Uniform Crime Reports; Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998; pages 221-222: 
Table 4.1 - Arrests for Drug Abuse Violations clearly shows that a mere 5.6 percent of arrests for marijuana were for sale/manufacture, while 38.4 percent were for posession of this, the most benign psychoactive substance known to Man. 
Table 4.1 on page 216 in the most recent report on this subject for the year 2000 also tends to dispute Sabet's position that marijuana users are not being jailed. Interestingly, those numbers show that while drug warriors have ratcheted up their witch hunt on marijuana users to 40.9 percent, arrests for marijuana sale/manufacture dropped slightly across the board in all states. 
The next false and misleading statement by Mr. Sabet complains sarcastically that it must have been inconvenient to describe the "Dutch pot experience" yet forget to report consequences, such as teen use and ecstasy proliferation. The suggestion that teen marijuana use increased 200 percent in the Netherlands also conveniently omits any references to the source of such figures. However, from the document titled: Licit and illicit drug use in Amsterdam III: Developments in drug use 1987 - 1997; at: 
- Drug use is temporary for most users. 
- 80 percent of all lifetime users of cannabis have quit after 10 years 
since initial use. 
- The age of first use is lowest for alcohol and tobacco. At the age of sixteen 50 percent of all lifetime users has started using these substances. 
- It seems that, at least in Amsterdam, the coffee shop does not offer acquisition possibilities for non-cannabis. 
Note also that Sabet's former boss also tended to release unsupported statements as "facts" that implied for example that ""The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States.", and blamed those numbers on drugs. 
Unfortunately for that position, the Dutch Government spoke out against this lie, and it was revealed that the murder rate for the US is actually over FOUR AND A HALF TIMES that of the Netherlands. This is despite, and in my opinion because of, the fact that sentencing for marijuana use in the U.S. is very often higher than those for murder or other violent crimes. 
The 1972 LeDain Commission report was most likely cited by the Crimson staff report because the recently released audio tapes of President Richard Nixon prove that any objections to the results of that study were based on prejudice, not science. Nixon goes on in the tapes to claim and complain that while people drink alcohol to socialize, that they only smoke marijuana to get high. 
This article on
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on April 29, 2002 at 09:25:41 PT:
How much of Mr. Sabet's work
Is based upon self-serving ingratiation of himself with DrugWarriors...and how much is tied to his faith? And how much of the distinction should be weighed?Biography: Kevin A. Sabet you do a Google search, you come up with all kinds of interesting things concerning Mr. Sabet: you examine the articles, you find some of his writings...and in reading those and other matters you find he's learned dissembling and obfuscation from his loving masters:From: 2000-2001 UC Berkeley Prestigious Scholarship Winners the summer of 2000 Kevin worked in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under General Barry McCaffrey where he prepared correspondences for the President, helped revise the White House's stand on drug legalization, and drafted speeches for General McCaffrey.Children, can you say, "mouthpiece"? Sure, you can!From CNN's TalkBack:
FIGHTING THE DRUG WAR: IS LEGALIZATION THE ANSWER? the following exchange:BATTISTA: OK, we're back. And trying to work out all these little technical snafus today. Mike Gray, (Author of seminal work DRUG CRAZY) let's kind of start over again here. How did we get into this mess and why do you think the current policy isn't working? GRAY: As I said, Bobbie, the problem is that when we began this mess we did not have a drug problem in the United States. In 1914, the rate of addiction was three people per thousand; now it's 15 people per thousand, that's a five-fold increase. That's what we bought with a trillion dollar drug war that took 80 years. The Dutch have had quite a different experience. Back about 20 years ago, when the United States really started cracking down drugs, the Dutch decided to go the other direction and they made marijuana freely available to anybody over 18 and they stopped cracking down on hard-drug users as long as they weren't a public nuisance. And today, the difference is dramatic. We in the United States, our drug use is -- we use twice as much marijuana as the average Dutch. We use three times as much heroin. We snort five times as much cocaine. And so this is a clear indication that our policies of repression don't work and the Dutch policies which are much more liberal are tremendously successfully in decreasing the rate of addiction. BATTISTA: Are you advocating legalization then as part of the answer? GRAY: Absolutely. Legalization is the only answer. Now, when I say legalization, I'm not using the term like Bill Bennett or the White House would use the term. It's not -- I don't mean free crack-vending machines in the school lunchroom. I'm talking about tightly regulated government control. Right now, the mob is in control. The one thing that we all should be able to agree on is we should be able to get -- keep drugs out of the hands of our children. And the policies that we've been using for the last 80 years have not only made drugs readily available to children, they've put children in the frontline as drug runners in the marketplace so dangerous they have to be armed. BATTISTA: Well let me ask one of those young people, because Kevin is 20 years old, and Kevin, you feel like young people are at the heart of this whole discussion, and that you should be the ones holding the dialogue on where this goes, correct? Why do you feel that way?All right folks, get your BS, dissembling, and obfuscation detectors fired up and running at max revs, 'cause here it comes... KEVIN SABET, CO-FOUNDER, INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN ACTION: Well, I think it's important that youth have a, you know, are not put to the side during the anti-drug debate, and really put to the forefront of the agenda, which is what we're seeing going on right now. But to comment on what Mr. Gray was saying about our -- the drug war, unfortunately, you know, we're not living in the early 1900s anymore and 1914 is what he eluded to. We're living in the 1990s and on the brink of the 21st century, where there are sophisticated criminal, ruthless cartels that are invading our streets and our inner cities, where there's a multi-billion dollar movement to legalize all drugs and make them available here in the United States. So I think it's really important to look at the context of the time, and if we want to take about the Dutch example, their percentages among youth and among children and adolescents during the time where before they didn't have these policies until the time where they really liberalized it, really just destroyed the whole Dutch generation with 15 percent use in '84. Here we are now at 45 percent in '96. They've caught up with Americans, who always traditionally had larger uses of marijuana. See what I mean. Sabet simply cannot help but twist facts; he's a baby bureaucrat in training...and studying very hard to be a full fledged ivory-tower DrugWarrior like Billy Bennett.
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Comment #2 posted by lookinside on April 29, 2002 at 08:06:44 PT:
ditto, GF...
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on April 29, 2002 at 07:34:24 PT
This man has spoken wisely.
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