Right-Wing Think Tank's Marijuana Policy Paper
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Right-Wing Think Tank's Marijuana Policy Paper
Posted by CN Staff on September 20, 2010 at 15:34:40 PT
By Steve Fox
Source: AlterNet
California -- If you want to read one of the most absurd "policy" articles about marijuana in history, go quickly to the website of the Heritage Foundation to read "Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No." I say quickly because it is truly so absurd, I believe it will be taken down from the site soon. Seriously. I have been working in marijuana policy reform for almost nine years now. I think I have heard all of the arguments against creating a legal, regulated marijuana market more than a few times. While some arguments have some legitimacy, most are distortions of the truth, intellectually inconsistent, or flat out wrong.
But this new piece from Charles Stimson, which just went up on the Heritage Foundation site last week, is batshit crazy.It is honestly hard to know where to begin. My real desire is to start where he did -- comparing marijuana to alcohol -- as this is my passion and it is also where he truly jumps the shark. But I think I will leave the best for last. Instead, I will start by providing some of the other creative assertions he sprinkled throughout the piece. Consider them outrageous appetizers before the main course of ridiculous. In no particular order:He quotes one random study that concluded, "long-term use of marijuana may alter the nervous system in ways that do promote violence." He backs this up not by citing acts of violence by marijuana users, but by describing a couple of areas (the Netherlands, California) where the sale of marijuana was supposedly linked to an increase in crime. At times, it is as if he was not able to complete the most basic research to determine whether his claims had any merit. "It is impossible to predict the precise consequences of legalization, but the experiences of places that have eased restrictions on marijuana are not positive. Already, California is suffering crime, dislocation, and increased drug use under its current regulatory scheme."Here are the actual consequences: Since California made the medical use of marijuana legal, the number of violent crimes in the state have steadily declined, from about 274,00 in 1996 to approximately 174,000 in 2009. Of course, as an intellectually honest person, I would not claim that is due to medical marijuana being legal. Other states have seen similar declines. But to assert that legal marijuana has caused an increase in crime in California is pure fantasy. In addition, if one were to look at cocaine use in California to determine whether "drug use" has increased in the state, it actually deceased between 2003 and 2008. Other times, he proves that his research, even when he attempted to conduct it, was not very reliable. Check out this section in which he calculates that a 25 square-foot plot -- about the size of a full size bed -- could produce up to 240,000(!) joints a year: "Under [Prop. 19], any resident could grow marijuana for "personal use" in a plot at home up to 25 square feet in size. One ounce of marijuana is enough for 60 to 120 marijuana cigarettes. One plant produces one to five pounds, or 16 to 80 ounces, of marijuana each year, and 25 square feet of land can sustain about 25 plants. Therefore, an individual will be able to produce 24,000 to 240,000 joints legally each year."Proving that he is unable to see the forest through the marijuana plants, in one section he makes a powerful case for the need for a regulated marijuana market. "The lack of FDA approval means that marijuana may come from unknown sources, may be adulterated with foreign substances, or may not even be marijuana at all. Pot buyers have no way to know what they are getting, and there is no regulatory authority with the ability to go after bogus manufacturers and dealers."Seemingly unaware of the fact that tobacco use causes about 400,000 deaths in the U.S. annually and marijuana produces no deaths, he suggests that marijuana is as bad as cigarettes and would result in similar health care costs: "If the heavy taxation of cigarettes is unable even to come close to making up for the health and other costs associated with their use, it seems doubtful at best that marijuana taxes would be sufficient to cover the costs of legalized marijuana--especially considering that, in addition to the other dangers of smoking marijuana, the physical health effects of just three to four joints are equivalent to those of an entire pack of cigarettes." Stimson makes no attempt to hide his support of criminal sanctions (and public embarrassment) as a means of reducing marijuana use. "Marijuana's illegal status 'keeps potential drug users from using' marijuana in a way that no legalization scheme can replicate 'by virtue of the fear of arrest and the embarrassment of being caught.' With increased use comes increased abuse, as the fear of arrest and embarrassment will decrease."Eventually, Stimson gets himself in such a lather, he suggest that the "best option" for dealing with marijuana use "may require changes in sentencing guidelines for marijuana users charged with simple possession." One of my favorite parts of the article is when he makes the argument that creating a legal marijuana market in one state will increase profits for Mexican drug cartels. "Legalize marijuana, and the demand for marijuana goes up substantially as the deterrence effect of law enforcement disappears. Yet not many suppliers will operate legally, refusing to subject themselves to the established state regulatory scheme-- not to mention taxation--while still risking federal prosecution, conviction, and prison time. So who will fill the void? Violent, brutal, and ruthless, Mexican DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] will work to maintain their black-market profits at the expense of American citizens' safety."Apparently, he was not paying attention last month when more than 2,000 businesses in Colorado voluntarily subjected themselves to state regulations - and taxation - by applying for licenses to cultivate, sell and manufacture marijuana and marijuana-infused products. But wait! Stimson suddenly realizes that some legitimate businesspeople in America might actually start cultivating and selling marijuana. Well, that's a relief. Except it isn't. "As competition from growers and dispensaries authorized by the RCTCA cuts further into the Mexican DTOs' business, Californians will face a real possibility of bloodshed on their own soil as the cartels' profit-protection measures turn from defensive to offensive."Given all of this crazy, what could possibly be worth saving until the end? Well, as promised, it is his comparison of marijuana and alcohol. As a co-founder of the organization SAFER, which is dedicated to educating people about the relative harms of the two substances, and a co-author of Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?, I was actually excited to see him start the article by tacking this topic. I assumed he would make a strong argument about how both substances have their harms and it is irresponsible to encourage the use of either one. I was wrong. He threw caution, science and evidence into the wind and went off as if he was receiving a grant from Anheuser-Busch to produce the article. What Stimson wants every health conscious American to know is that alcohol is a much safer substance than marijuana. To put his assertions in context, let me start by providing you some basic facts about the two substances. For starters, marijuana is less addictive than alcohol. Not only is a user less likely to become addicted to marijuana than to alcohol, but the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol are far more severe. One can actually die from alcohol withdrawal. The most severe symptoms associated with marijuana withdrawal are generally anxiety and irritability. Marijuana is also far less toxic than alcohol. Just ten times the standard intoxicating dose of alcohol can be fatal. By comparison, in thousands of years of use, there has never been a marijuana overdose death. While marijuana is essentially non-toxic, alcohol is a poison, which is why its use can lead to vomiting and hangovers. More strikingly, the health effects of alcohol cause approximately 33,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The comparable number for marijuana is zero. Finally, alcohol is associated with violent behavior; marijuana is not. This is not just backed up by criminal justice statistics, but by our collective experiences. We have all seen alcohol-fueled violence. What you don't see is marijuana-fueled violence. Undaunted by the facts, Stimson launches into his "alcohol is safer than marijuana" public service announcement. "Nearly every culture has its own alcoholic preparations, and nearly all have successfully regulated alcohol consumption through cultural norms. The same cannot be said of marijuana. There are several possible explanations for alcohol's unique status: For most people, it is not addictive; it is rarely consumed to the point of intoxication [author's note: huh!?]; low-level consumption is consistent with most manual and intellectual tasks; it has several positive health benefits; and it is formed by the fermentation of many common substances and easily metabolized by the body."Alcohol differs from marijuana in several crucial respects. First, marijuana is far more likely to cause addiction. Second, it is usually consumed to the point of intoxication. Third, it has no known general healthful properties, though it may have some palliative effects. Fourth, it is toxic and deleterious to health. Thus, while it is true that both alcohol and marijuana are less intoxicating than other mood-altering drugs, that is not to say that marijuana is especially similar to alcohol or that its use is healthy or even safe."In fact, compared to alcohol, marijuana is not safe. Long-term, moderate consumption of alcohol carries few health risks [unless you consider things like breast cancer a risk] and even offers some significant benefits. The effects of regular marijuana consumption are quite different. Marijuana has toxic properties that can result in birth defects, pain, respiratory system damage, brain damage, and stroke."Finally, in a wonderful example of a kettle calling a (non-black) pot black, Stimson ends the section by accusing advocates of marijuana policy reform of deceiving the public: "To equate marijuana use with alcohol consumption is, at best, uninformed and, at worst, actively misleading. No, telling the public that alcohol carries few health risks and is less harmful than marijuana is, at best, reckless and, at worst, intentionally dangerous and socially irresponsible. But it's OK, Mr. Stimson, we round-earthers can handle the insults based on your own ignorance. We've been ignored. We've been ridiculed. Now we are enjoying the fight. Because next, we win. Steve Fox is director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project and co-author of “Marijuana is Safer: So why are we driving people to drink?.Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Steve FoxPublished: September 20, 2010 Copyright: 2010 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #12 posted by Abaca on September 22, 2010 at 14:13:14 PT:
If this poor "Fellow" has any influence in the goverment of this country............I shudder....
 That an educated person can write such absolute drivel is beyond me. 
This is like those "fellows" in Bell Ca. that get paid ridiculous amounts of money for doing nothing....Sorry...for doing nothing but harm to all of us out here. God ...How does such an uninformed idiot get to have such an important job........WOW!!!
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Comment #11 posted by dongenero on September 21, 2010 at 08:35:00 PT
Stimson on Prohibition
I guess it's a glimpse of where we go if we put conservatives back in power. Not to be a fear monger but, if they regain control they will bolstered by the support and ramp up the culture wars. You can see it in the conservative's political rhetoric of intolerance and unreasonableness.Heritage Foundation is a core conservative group behind Republicans since the Reagan era. They were BIG proponents of GW's foreign policies. (Those were policies?). They are also still proponents of the Reaganomics, "trickle-down" myth.I think their belief is we just haven't gone crazy enough in our war on American citizens. 
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Comment #10 posted by GeoChemist on September 21, 2010 at 02:50:51 PT
Time to call another
prohibitchionist out. If I get a reply, I will post it, but don't hold your breath..............
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Comment #9 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on September 20, 2010 at 23:56:22 PT
Well, well, look what this guy is infamous for....
"The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation's top law firms were representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms' corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.The comments by Charles Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, produced an instant torrent of anger from lawyers, legal ethics specialists and bar association officials, who said Friday that his comments were repellent and displayed an ignorance of the duties of lawyers to represent people in legal trouble."
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Comment #8 posted by shielde on September 20, 2010 at 21:11:26 PT
Random thoughts
"To begin with, an astonishingly high percentage of criminals are marijuana users. According to a study by the RAND Corporation, approximately 60 percent of arrestees test positive for marijuana use"
 - Actually they should have re-worded this to 100% of marijuana users are criminals to fit their arguments.I always love when they say marijuana causes paranoia, the only paranoia I've ever had after using marijuana was that I might be arrested but that might just be my personal experience."The act does not answer these or other practical questions regarding implementation. "
- The reason there is an act and not a law and the practical applications for the law is that the persons in elected office are more worried about being elected than doing the will of the people, therefore the people are forced to do their best to enact their own voted on act and let the persons in office clean it up.". They also know that marijuana is the starter drug of choice for most criminals. Whereas millions of Americans consume moderate amounts of alcohol without ever “moving on” to dangerous drugs, . . ."
- No they don't "move on" to dangerous drugs, they "move on" to their doctor and get a prescription for anything and everything that has been approved by the FDA and therefore must without a doubt be safe and nonaddictive."it is a Schedule I drug that cannot be bought, sold, possessed, or used without violating federal law"
- unless of course the person was one of the few who got into the "study" group before it was closed"for example, police officers, airline pilots, and machine operators—used marijuana recreationally but remained sober on the job, the long-term cognitive deficiency that remained from regular drug use would sap productivity and place countless people in danger. "
- as opposed to a hang over"Drug overdoses already outnumber gunshot deaths in America and are approaching motor vehicle crashes as the nation’s leading cause of accidental death"
- I agree overdosing is becoming a problem but that is not a related issue to this discussion unless of course you use a derivative maritol, although I'm not certain if it has an overdose risk"There is no doubt that if marijuana were legalized, more people, including juveniles, would consume it. Consider cigarettes: While their purchase by people under 18 is illegal, 20 percent of high school students admit to having smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days"- From the same reportgroup surveyed used in the past 30 days - cigarettes - alcohol - marijuana 2007 then 2008 numbers All high school seniors - 21.6 20.4 - 44.4 43.1 - 18.8 19.4All 10th graders    - 14.0 12.3 - 33.4 28.6 - 14.2 13.8All 8th graders     - 7.1 6.8 - 15.9 15.9 - 5.7 5.8I just realized something while typing this out, yes 20% of high school students may have admitted to smoking during the past 30 days but seniors are typically age range 17-19 thus some high school students turned legal to buy cigarettes during their junior year therefore the data is somewhat miscued "The most commonly used illicit drug is marijuana, especially among the 20 million Americans over 12 who were users in 2008"- actually for those 12 and older the most used illicit (defined by - not permitted) drug according to the data above would be alcoholpart of the conclusion
"California cannot repeal that law or somehow allow its citizens to contravene it. "- no they cannot repeal the law but they can repeal state laws and they most certainly can allow its citizens to contravene it. The enforcement would be left to Federal level which does not have a habit of stepping in without the consent of the local officials (which is why local officials should be following local laws when the contradict higher laws)Also I seem to notice, possibly incorrectly, that they do not allow comments.
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Comment #7 posted by Totalrod2 on September 20, 2010 at 20:59:44 PT
What else can I say? This guy is a piece of work. They must be getting desperate.
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Comment #6 posted by John Tyler on September 20, 2010 at 20:36:03 PT
240,000(!) joints a year from a 25 square foot super garden. That is nothing short of miraculous. It reminds me of something like Jesus passing joints to the multitudes at Woodstock or something. It is a miraculous plant though after all. 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on September 20, 2010 at 16:03:20 PT
Paint with Light, Comment #4
You are correct. What are they thinking!
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Comment #4 posted by Paint with light on September 20, 2010 at 15:59:56 PT
Conservative Think Tank.Isn't that an oxymoron, or is it an "oxymaroon"?A conservative think tank is where a bunch of conservatives get together, get tanked, and try to think.It isn't working.Legal like alcohol.
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Comment #3 posted by Paint with light on September 20, 2010 at 15:53:39 PT
Looks like NoCowLevel beet me to the punch by 5 minutes.Legal like alcohol.
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Comment #2 posted by Paint with light on September 20, 2010 at 15:51:02 PT
link to article
I did not see a link to the article mentioned above.It is difficult to believe that somebody could write the things in the Heritage report with a straight face.Here is the link, said something about flat-earthers a few months ago.It seems Steve Fox in the article above has picked up on that description."But it's OK, Mr. Stimson, we round-earthers can handle the insults based on your own ignorance. We've been ignored. We've been ridiculed. Now we are enjoying the fight. Because next, we win."Yes, next we win.Legal like least.
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Comment #1 posted by NoCowLevel on September 20, 2010 at 15:45:52 PT
Link the author is refering to you go gents.Quick glimpse over it and I really couldn't believe any of that is actually on there.
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