Reasoning about Drugs


I try to present facts and logic and solutions rather than just opinions.

Please send any reasoned disagreements to me. If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !       






The USA has no rational way of deciding which drugs should be legal and which should be illegal.

From article by Tony Newman:
Why are some drugs legal and other drugs illegal today? It's not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs - but it has everything to do with who is associated with these drugs. The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at East Asian immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws, in the South in the early 1900s, were directed at black men. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the early 1900s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans.



A drug should be illegal if:
  1. It makes people dangerous to others or themselves, or

  2. People can't "function" reasonably even when not using it, or

  3. It damages people's health severely, or

  4. It is so addictive that people quickly lose their ability to control their use of it.

Some other considerations:

Not all people will use or react to a drug the same way. But we can make judgements based on how a drug affects the overwhelming majority of people.



By the criteria I propose above (dangerous, damaging and/or very addictive), perhaps these drugs should be illegal or prescription:

By those criteria, perhaps these drugs should be legal (most are addictive, but don't make people overly dangerous to others or themselves, don't cause immediate severe damage):

Don't know:

In some cases, different forms of the drug have different characteristics. For example, using a nicotine patch is safer than smoking tobacco (lung damage, cardiovascular effects). Taking a THC pill would be safer than smoking marijuana. But the "high" probably would be different too.

I could well be wrong about specific drugs; I'm no expert. But am I wrong about the policy aspect of it ?
More info about relative effects of various drugs:
from Wikipedia
British Government's chief drug adviser
Denis Campbell's "Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer, finds study"
Christopher Ingraham's "Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say"
Christopher Ingraham's "No, marijuana is not actually 'as addictive as heroin'"
BBC article about study published in Lancet
Jenny Hope's "Cannabis 'kills 30,000 a year'"
Chart
Reuters "Drug experts say alcohol worse than crack or heroin"
Nina Larson's "Alcohol kills one person every 10 seconds worldwide: WHO"
John Tierney's "The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts"
Cracked's "5 Myths About Illegal Drugs You Probably Believe"
Jacob Sullum's "Everything You've Heard About Crack And Meth Is Wrong"
Owen Weldon's "Typical heroin user in America is a white woman in the suburbs"
Matthew Yglesias's "How the Oxy Crackdown Is Breeding Heroin Addiction"
Drugs: before and after
The Simpsons about cigarettes


My reasoning above says that alcohol should be illegal; some people seem to think that points out a flaw in my reasoning. No, looking at the facts, alcohol should be illegal. But for historical and cultural reasons, there's no chance of making it illegal, and making it illegal wouldn't work (see Prohibition). How does that invalidate my analysis ? That doesn't mean that all drugs should be legal. Our laws and behavior will never be ideal or consistent. But we should try to make them so, where possible.

From Matthew Yglesias's "The Policy Question About Legal Weed Nobody Is Asking":

... from a public health standpoint, alcohol consumption is much worse than marijuana consumption. Heavy use of either has a negative impact on the health of the user, but the nature of alcohol intoxication is that it creates a lot of negative externalities in the form of violent acting out by drunk people. ...

...

... a world in which commercially legal marijuana leads to a lot more pot smoking is potentially a much safer and healthier world if that extra pot smoking displaces a lot of boozing.

...

But is that actually what would happen? Nobody really knows. ...

From Christopher Ingraham's "Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say":
Compared with other recreational drugs - including alcohol - marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use.

...

It's important to note here that "safer than alcohol" doesn't mean "safe, full stop". Indeed, one of the more troubling lines of thought I see in some quarters of the marijuana legalization movement is that because marijuana is "natural", or because it can be used as (non-FDA approved) "medicine", it is therefore "safe".

But of course, rattlesnake venom is natural, too, and nobody would call that safe. And prescription painkillers are medicinal and responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

There are any number of risks associated with marijuana use. Most of these risks involve mental health issues, and most increase the earlier you start using and the more frequently you use.

I asked a paramedic-type guy on Facebook if he knew of any DUI arrests of people high on marijuana alone. He said that he did know of a few. I asked him because he had been posting about the 1 to 4 alcohol-related DUIs per shift that he was dealing with.

From Mark A.R. Kleiman's "We're Legalizing Weed Wrong":
Driving stoned is more dangerous than driving sober, but the difference is more like the additional risk of driving while sleepy or angry than it is like the additional risk of driving drunk. It's nowhere near as dangerous as driving while using a cellphone, even hands-free. Stoned driving should be a traffic offense, not a crime like drunk driving. Traffic risks aren't a substantial objection to legalization, though of course smart policy would discourage driving stoned, and especially driving with both cannabis and alcohol on board.

From RMHIDTA's "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado - The Impact - volume 4 september 2016" (PDF):

Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 48 percent in the three-year average (2013-2015) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the three-year average (2010-2012) prior to legalization. During the same time, all traffic deaths increased 11 percent.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 62 percent from 71 to 115 persons after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013.

In 2009, Colorado marijuana-related traffic deaths involving operators testing positive for marijuana represented 10 percent of all traffic fatalities. By 2015, that number doubled to 21 percent.

Youth past month marijuana use increased 20 percent in the two year average (2013/2014) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the two-year average prior to legalization (2011/2012). Nationally youth past month marijuana use declined 4 percent during the same time.

...

Colorado Emergency Department visits per year related to marijuana:
2013 14,148
2014 18,255

Emergency Department rates likely related to marijuana increased 49 percent in the two-year average (2013-2014) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the two-year average prior to legalization (2011-2012).

Number of hospitalizations related to marijuana:
2011 6,305
2012 6,715
2013 8,272
2014 11,439

Hospital rates likely related to marijuana increased 32 percent in the two-year average (2013-2014) since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana compared to the two-year average prior to legalization (2011-2012).

...

Marijuana treatment data from Colorado in years 20052015 does not appear to demonstrate a definitive trend. Colorado averages approximately 6,500 treatment admissions annually for marijuana abuse.

Over the last ten years, the top three drugs involved in treatment admissions, in descending order, were alcohol (average 13,382), marijuana (average 6,652) and methamphetamine (average 5,298).

Maggie Koerth-Baker's "Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana"
Reuters' "Deaths Prompt Colorado Crackdown on Pot Infused Food"
Laura Sanders' "Legalization trend forces review of marijuana's dangers"
Cancer Research UK's "Does smoking cannabis cause cancer?"
BBC's "UNODC drug report: Rise in US cannabis use treatments"
Travis Bradberry's "Study Shows Heavy Adolescent Pot Use Permanently Lowers IQ"
Adam Dachis' "How to Use Medical Marijuana Safely and Responsibly"
The Week's "The rise of legal weed in America"

"Heavy marijuana use among teenagers has increased 80 percent over the last four years. Experts say pot smoking can be a gateway that leads to kids experimenting with more serious drugs, like alcohol and cigarettes."
[from Jimmy Kimmel Live! 5/2012]

From NPR's "Science Friday" podcast 7 Sept 2012:

From Chrisbr117 on reddit 5/2014:

Re: nicotine:

... Though nicotine can have bad side effects in excess (as almost all drugs, including caffeine) and is very addictive (roughly as addictive as morphine) the main health problems associated with smoking concern the build up of carcinogens and various oxidants that cause a myriad of physiological damage that would take me a few hours to type out comprehensively. Nicotine itself is not considered carcinogenic, which is why nicotine therapies (such as a patch) are favored over cigarette use. It gives the person the nicotine fix (albeit, less effective than inhaling) without loading down your body with the huge list of added chemicals in cigarettes.

Is nicotine good for you? No, its not. It can cause hypertension, birth problems, and a few other minor problems. However, caffeine and ethanol are both "not good" for you in most contexts, and its all about weighing out their potential health risks with whatever value we place on their psychoactive effects. ...

...

Now, your friend may think an e-cig is absolutely safe. This is a dubious claim, since, not only does nicotine have some negative side effects, but the current regulations on e-cigs are effectively non-existent. This means there may be some other various chemicals that make them unsafe. They are a fairly new thing so research is insufficient. My personal opinion is that they are definitely more safe than cigarettes, less safe than nothing at all, but a potentially excellent smoking cessation therapy option that could get people to stop smoking.
Douglas Main's "E-Cigarettes Not Harmless, Should Be Regulated Like Cigs, Study Says"
Bahar Gholipour's "Poisoning from E-Cigarettes on the Rise"
Noelle Swan's "Electronic cigarettes gain foothold in American middle and high schools"
Beth Mole's "E-cigs shut down hundreds of immune system genes - regular cigs don't"
Alexandra Sims' "E-cigarettes emit harmful chemicals, research suggests"

From hoovervillian (chemist at marijuana-analysis lab) on reddit 9/2012:

Weed has less carcinogens than tobacco when smoked, in particular polyaromatic hydrocarbons. In addition, cannabinoids prevents tumor formation/proliferation, which is why no study has been able to link lung cancer to long term smoking of cannabis.

...

Different strains have different levels of THC but also CBD, CBN, THCV, and other cannabinoids. Some of these cannabinoids have psychotropic ("high") effects, and some don't. Some enhance the effects of THC and some mitigate it. The terpenes and terpenoids found in cannabis have been shown to have similar effects, though they haven't been studied to the same extent. Each strain group has its own "profile", its own combination of cannabinoids and terpenoids that produce a unique type of high.

...

> In your honest professional opinion, should marijuana
> be legalized? Should it be on par with alcohol?

Yes. It is safer, both in the short and long term, than either alcohol or tobacco, with little-to-no long term functional impairment.

...

> What would you say the biggest misconception regarding
> potency of marijuana or just marijuana in general?

The biggest misconception is that it is in some way poisonous to people or that you can get some kind of brain damage from a potency that is too high. It is completely safe at any dose ... unless you inject concentrated THC directly into your brain.

...

Smoking cannabis is risky for those whose brains have not fully developed. There is an increased risk of later psychosis. There was also a recent study that found adolescent smokers were an average of 8 IQ points below those who did not smoke when tested later in life. However, studies have failed to show long term deficits in those who started after age 18, when the brain is fully developed.

...

> What do you feel is the biggest risk for daily users?

The biggest risks are those that come with smoking anything. Burning plant material produces ammonia, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (carcinogenic), and air that is at a temperature too high for lung tissue to deal with, among other things.

[Vaporization rather than burning avoids many of these problems.]

From Mark A.R. Kleiman's "We're Legalizing Weed Wrong":
... some of the data about heavy use by juveniles, and especially about effects on educational performance, are pretty scary.

...

... if Americans started copying the European pattern of using cannabis and tobacco together, the resulting uptick in tobacco smoking could be a public-health disaster.







Drugs can be legal and regulated in various different ways:

By "legal" in the previous sections, I meant that it should have the same status we give to alcohol and tobacco today: no sales to minors, no driving under the influence, we recognize that excessive use is bad for you, quality control, labeling is regulated, taxed.

But (mostly from "After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation" from Transform Drug Policy Foundation) there are many different ways of regulating drugs:
"Decriminalization" is a bad policy. It creates uncertainty about which things are legal or illegal, gives a lot of discretion to police, requires police to probe many activities which turn out to be legal, and seems to guarantee that some illegal activities (production, trafficking) will have to happen so that other legal activities (possession of small amounts) can happen. Makes no sense. It's an attempt to be half-pregnant. And it doesn't get rid of the gangs doing the big production and smuggling and distribution. And doesn't do anything for quality-control and health risks.

I favor the "licensed sales" choice, for drugs where it makes sense (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, at least). And I'd allow "personal production", too.

Allowing "personal production" wouldn't kill all tax revenues from legalizing marijuana. We allow personal production of beer today, and that doesn't kill all tax revenues from beer sales.

From Mark A.R. Kleiman's "We're Legalizing Weed Wrong":
"Regulate cannabis like alcohol" is an ugly policy. Our current alcohol laws fail spectacularly to control the harm alcohol does to drinkers and the harm drinkers do to others; an estimated 90,000 Americans die each year of their own drinking or someone else's. Why repeat that mistake when we legalize another potentially habit-forming intoxicant? What we want is the sort of "grudging toleration" the law now extends to tobacco; we should be looking for means short of prohibition to limit the number of people whose lives are made worse by cannabis.

If there is a for-profit industry, the kind many legalization schemes create, its interests will be at odds with public health. There's no evidence that casual cannabis use is harmful, and lots of evidence that chronic heavy daily smoking isn't good for you. But if you're in the cannabis business, casual users aren't much use to you while heavy users are your best customers, accounting for the bulk of your sales. (The same is true of brewers and heavy drinkers.) So while the public interest is served by making cannabis available to those who want to use it responsibly while minimizing problem use, the commercial interest demands maximizing problem use.

...

In 1992, only 9 percent of current (past-month) cannabis users reported being heavy users (25 or more days per month). In 2014, that figure had risen to 40 percent. Those "daily/near-daily", or DND, users consume about three times as much per day of use as less-frequent smokers. Right now, there are about 8 million DND users (up about sevenfold over the past two decades). Collectively, they account for more than 80 percent of cannabis sales, which explains why cannabis stores feature the sort of superstrong pot that's way too intense for many casual users but that heavy users (who have become tolerant to the effects of THC) need to get stoned.

About half of those DND users - 4 million people at any one time - self-report the symptoms of cannabis use disorder (the new diagnostic label for what used to be called "abuse" or "dependency"). That's some combination of:
(a) using more, and more often, than they want or intend to;
(b) failing in attempts to cut back;
(c) spending so much time stoned that it interferes with their other plans and responsibilities; and
(d) coming into conflict with people they care about due to their cannabis use.

A key question to ask about any proposal for legalization is "What's the plan for stemming the growth of cannabis use disorder?" ...




Legalizing drugs such as marijuana and cocaine would have these benefits:
From Mark A.R. Kleiman's "We're Legalizing Weed Wrong":
One consequence of falling prices will be falling tax revenues, as long as taxes are based on price rather than potency. This will disappoint the voters who imagine that cannabis legalization will give them free public services. But it will also exacerbate the heavy-use problem by eroding the price barrier. The solution is simple: tax according to THC content, just as distilled liquor is taxed according to alcohol content. ...

...

In any case, cannabis tax revenues are unlikely to be high enough to be a major consideration in weighing legalization against the status quo; even at the current level, which is probably near the peak, Washington state and Colorado support only about 1 percent of their state budgets from cannabis taxes.

Online Paralegal Program's "Going Green"
Josh Voorhees' "One year in, Colorado's experiment with retail marijuana has been a sweeping success"
The Economist's "How to make heroin less deadly"
Jack Healy's "Odd Byproduct of Legal Marijuana: Homes That Blow Up"

We shouldn't legalize everything overnight; start with marijuana and see how it goes. Tweak the regulations, see how corporate production develops, study the health and public effects. Then consider legalizing more drugs.

Arguments against legalizing drugs:



From "McMafia" by Misha Glenny (on Amazon):

With narcotics, where demand is immense and relentless, prohibition drives the market towards the only place capable of satisfying that demand and regulating the industry: organised crime.

Quote from Lev Timofeev:
Prohibiting a market does not mean destroying it. Prohibiting a market means placing a prohibited but dynamically developing market under the total control of criminal corporations. Moreover, prohibiting a market means enriching the criminal world with hundreds of billions of dollars by giving criminals a wide access to public goods which will be routed by addicts into the drug traders' pockets. Prohibiting a market means giving the criminal corporations opportunities and resources for exerting a guiding and controlling influence over whole societies and nations. This is the worst of the negative external effects of the drug market. International public opinion has yet to grasp the challenge to world civilisation posed by it.
From an economic point of view, a person's decision to enter into the drugs trade as a producer, distributor or retailer is entirely rational, because the profit margins are so high. This is all the more compelling in countries like Afghanistan and Colombia where chronic levels of poverty are endemic. Time and again, narcotics-traffickers have demonstrated that their financial clout is sufficient to buy off officials even in states with very low levels of corruption, as in Scandinavia. ...

On the whole, governments do not argue that drug prohibition benefits the economy. They base their arguments instead on perceived social damage and on public morality. ...

...

Prohibition is also a godsend to terrorist networks. ... The only way you can prevent the Taliban and others from sustaining their military capacity through drug sales is to legalise narcotics. When a punter buys some grass, crack or Ecstasy on the streets, only a tiny percentage of the money covers production costs. The great bulk goes towards paying off the distribution network for assuming the risk in bringing an illegal commodity to market. ...

...

If a country supports prohibition, it is also guaranteeing that on the supply side all profits will accrue to underground networks; and on the demand side it is guaranteeing that any social or public-health problems associated with drug-taking will only come to light in the great majority of cases once they are out of control. If the UN is right and drugs account for 70 percent of organised criminal activity, then the legalisation of drugs would administer by far the deadliest blow possible against trans-national organised criminal networks.



What if all drugs were legal?
Drug War Facts
Wikipedia's "Arguments for and against drug prohibition"
Jeremy Singer about taxing marijuana
Mark Kleiman's "Cannabis Taxes Will Wind up Too Low, Not Too High"
Clare Wilson's "Better world: Legalise drugs"
Mike Adams' "The raw (and ugly) truth about the war on drugs"
Conor Friedersdorf's "America Has a Black-Market Problem, Not a Drug Problem"



From 6/17/2007 issue of New York Times magazine section:
"... physical dependence is not the same thing as addiction. Addiction - which is defined by cravings, loss of control and a psychological compulsion to take a drug even when it is harmful - ..."
Jacob Sullum's "The surprising truth about heroin and addiction"

From discussions about legalization of psychedelics, on reddit:

"According to U.S. Government statistics, only about 30% of the people who try heroin become addicted to it. This is about on par with alcohol and cigs. In the Netherlands, heroin addicts have been given clean heroin and have been able to hold down jobs and function in normal society so long as they get a 'maintenance fix' to hold them over."

"I've known a couple of regular heroin users over the years. None acted like the cliche 'addict'. They held jobs, did their thing, and went about their business like everyone else. It's a drug, not a bullet to the head."

"I read somewhere the 3 main causes of heroin-related deaths are overdose, disease and crime. If it were legal the crime factor would be removed, and it would be dispensed in or with clean medical-quality syringes. Barring incredible stupidity on the part of a user, this would solve the problem of disease. As for overdose, if it were legal the government could regulate how much heroin a person can buy at once, and more importantly can properly educate the public on how to safely use heroin including information on safe dosages relative to weight in print being included with heroin sold at pharmacies."

"I just got news that last night a good friend of mine died from a painkiller overdose. That is my 3rd friend to die from painkillers now in just over a year. All three were doctor-prescribed.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why safer drugs like marijuana and psilocybin continue to be illegal.
I do not take illegal drugs anymore, I have 3 kids now and have too much to lose at this point. But in all the years I was a psychedelic user, never, never was anyone ever killed or seriously injured and many fun times were had.
I would also like to add, that the worst crime we ever committed while on psychedelics was some minor trespassing, and once we tried to tip a cow. I know, I know, hardened thugs!"

"As an old hippie, I enjoyed my days of partaking in hallucinogenics, but I don't believe it would be a good idea to legalize them. I am in favor of course of legalizing pot, but doing psychedelics is very different. They can alter a person's mind in a very negative way, possibly forever. I don't believe that anyone should rot in prison for being in possession of this, but I just see a great deal of damage that could be done by allowing everyone to purchase and use mind-altering drugs. I know there is a positive side to this too. I still get mini-flashbacks."

"I would say No [to legalization]. I have mild HPPD ("hallucinogen persisting perception disorder") since having a bad trip / out-of-body experience in 1991. I see trails, I see red and green dots when it is dark, my short-term memory is poor. I have had it more than half my life and can no longer remember what it is really like to have normal sight. Although it is rare-ish there are a lot of people who have this condition and would not recommend you take psychedelics."

From NY Times article about Robert Aaron 13-Apr-2014:

[Heroin user for more than three decades; prolific studio and concert musician.]

... For concert tours and a three-year residence in Paris, he said, he stopped using heroin without much difficulty. ...

...

"There's a whole image that people get from the media about people who use narcotics, that they're completely crazy and unreliable", Mr. Chance said. "That's not necessarily true. There's a lot of people who are totally functional, and you would never know that they used anything. And Robert is one of them."

From another discussion about drugs, with a DEA agent, on reddit 2011:

"... if people are allowed to eat themselves into being 1200 pounds, why the hell can't they smoke pot or do any drugs for that matter ? People are allowed to ruin their lives every other way. Why can't they with non-violent drug use ?"

"I think true freedom means the right to consume drugs. I don't think we are truly free if we lock people in jail who choose to consume drugs. We allow people to take calculated risks when climbing mountains or go skydiving and sometimes people die and that's acceptable. However if a responsible adult decides to take the calculated risk of consuming a drug this is not acceptable and they are locked away in the name of safety. Also it is perfectly ok for someone to go to the doctor and get prescriptions for dangerous drugs that sometimes have deadly side effects. In my opinion people like you [DEA agent] are destroying our country and our freedoms and your war on drugs has done far more damage than good."



"I think in these situations it is best to look overseas at similar examples. For instance several years ago Portugal legalised all drugs, to treat it as a health issue, rather than a criminal one. And it has been a success in every measure. For example, from Time Magazine "illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled." "

"... the policy of decriminalizing personal use while maintaining laws against trafficking. Wouldn't this result in increased demand and equal supply, and therefore cause more money and violent power to go to drug traffickers ? I think it's got to be either illegal or legal all the way."

"I know for a fact that once some kids realize how much the stuff they hear about pot is bullshit, they start to wonder if the hype surrounding heroin/cocaine is just as bad."

"Why should dealers go to prison ?
They make their living preying on other people's weaknesses, and destroying lives, that's why.
So should bartenders go to jail too ?"
[Also casino workers, legal bookies, lottery workers ?]



DEA Agent: "I personally think "medical" marijuana is BS. It is not medicine. Dosages are not regulated and smoking is not a medically acceptable method of administration."

It really bothers me when people tell me medical marijuana is BS. If they saw me the day I got out of my first chemo compared to when I was able to smoke weed, it was night and day. After I was able to use weed, I could go through a session (5 days of chemo in the hospital) and I would feel good enough to go pick up lunch on the way home.

> Does marijuana really help you somehow ?
> Or do you just get high to feel good and forget ?

Well, both, I feel 100% better when I smoke getting out of chemo than when I don't. But I do in some ways forget that I am sick and am able to eat and feel happy. The nausea and general weakness is more than anyone can imagine, I felt so sick and weak I could not even sleep, or able to hold any food down from everything tasting so horrible and the nausea. After I smoked, while foods still tasted odd, I felt hungry and was able to eat food and be able to keep it down.

I did try using Marinol and other stuff for the nausea and appetite, but they either made me more sick (the appetite drug) or they did nothing at all.

So I am not just some punk who smokes to get high, I am really someone who needs it. Even my oncologist is impressed I was able to keep my weight up (even gaining a few pounds) during my chemo, and my chemo was one of the strongest ones there is, Doxorubin and Ifosfimide.

"I have a friend who has epilepsy and has had seizures throughout his life. Using Medical Marijuana almost completely stopped it. He smokes every day, and is now one of the most "normal" guys I know. You would never be able to guess he was using pot if you didn't see him without it. Night and day."

"Do medical marijuana dosages have to be regulated, since the LD50 is unfeasibly high ? Dosages of water aren't regulated either, but supposedly it takes less water to kill you than weed. Also, why reject smoking out of hand ? That doesn't address users who eat it or vaporize it, either."

I'm a medical student and a supporter of medical marijuana, and this is my take on that:

It's actually quite easy to control the dose of THC one puts into their body, particularly with edibles. Edibles have an exact THC content (in milligrams) on the packaging, making accurate dosing a very simple task.

However, with medical marijuana, especially regarding cancer patients, there is very little need to administer a specific dose. Smoking of marijuana is meant to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy in this instance, and should be taken until the desired effect is achieved. If you're suffering a severe headache, you can take an extra aspirin or two to achieve analgesia; if your chemo symptoms are particularly severe, you can smoke another joint. The key difference between these two examples, however, is that it is not that hard to overdose on aspirin, whereas it is impossible to overdose on marijuana. A surprisingly large number of people die of aspirin toxicity every year, but there has never been a single case of a marijuana overdose.

Each year, approximately 7,600 people die from over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, Advil, and Tylenol. 76,000 people are hospitalized each year due to NSAIDs; how many marijuana patients have to be hospitalized because they're too stoned?

"Most [prescription drug] doses are just rough guesses, you have no idea how much of a drug you need to outcompete, and the patient can't tell you either."

"I offer the counter-argument that smoking is a better way to regulate a dose than pills or the like. The thing about smoking is that each hit is a very low dosage, allowing the user to stop at any time. Yes, potency varies, but the effect of it is noticeable enough that giving yourself the same dose every time equates to getting to the same high every time. I know it isn't horribly scientific, but ask any experienced smoker and they'll tell you the same."

Do you feel that prescription pain medications are an acceptible medical practice?

If so, then why not look at the bigger picture of "there are conditions or symptoms we want to treat, and [x] substance does what we want."

THC alleviates chronic pain. This is undisputed. Now someone can grow their own, or buy a few joints from the corner shop, and deal with their pain, or we can spend a few billion dollars getting GlaxoSmith to do their voodoo to produce a THC pill cut with whatever they use so they can sell it at $50/pill.

Why not just let people smoke?



DEA Agent: "Illegality + demand = black markets. We as a society need to determine which is more dangerous: the black market (and associated problems) or legalization (and associated problems). Right now, the latter wins."

"You wanna explain how having gangs of people going around shooting at each other in addition to having drug addicts is less dangerous than just the drug addicts alone ?"



DEA Agent: "I don't have a problem enforcing these laws. I've personally seen the destruction of heroin use, crack use, etc. They devastate family members and ruin communities. So no qualms here."

"But you don't see the people whose lives aren't ruined by such drugs (they really do exist), nor do you see the people whose lives are ruined while they struggle to get the painkillers or MMJ they so desperately need in their last years."

"There are between 100,000-400,000 deaths from obesity in America every year. 400,000 from Tobacco. 85,000 from Alcohol. All illicit drug use combined is 36,000 as of 2006. Guess how much more cash is spent persecuting drug dealers, compared to the dealers of all those other luxuries ?"

"Your morality is f*cked to all hell. I've seen cars ruin lives. I've seen adultery ruin lives and families. Alcohol ruins more lives and families in a year than any of those drugs you named combined does in twenty.
People own their own bodies. If I want to buy heroin, I should damn well be able to do so without some a**hole with a gun locking me in a cage for 20 years.
Note: I don't do any hard drugs."



DEA Agent: "[Yes, the War on Drugs] is un-winnable. We [in DEA] all know that. We are putting fingers in the dike. But it's necessary."



DEA Agent: "Other than marijuana, legalization should not be an option.
[Why not ?]
Short answer: [using a drug] affects too many people other than the one using it."

"I assume you support making alcohol and tobacco illegal then ?"

Heroin is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco in terms of deaths and actual organ damage, and its debatably less addictive than tobacco (people successfully quit heroin more often than tobacco, but there's a lot of pressure to quit heroin).

Most of the harm that comes from heroin use isn't actually down to heroin itself, it's just heroin addicts tend to take terrible care of their health, sharing needles, using dirty water/needles to shoot up with, terrible diets, sleeping on the streets, etc.

It also usually coincides with a bunch of other drug use, which you combine with all the above problems leads to some pretty bad health problems.

Then the question is, do they take bad care of themselves because they're heroin addicts, or are they heroin addicts because they take bad care of themselves?

The real question is "does it make things better or worse to decriminalize?", and the answer is better.

Are you willing to have more people die, more people in prison, more people steal for drug money, just because you can't handle admitting your job [at DEA] actually makes things worse?

This is not a question of opinion, its a matter of fact. 10 years of total decriminalization in Portugal, 10 years of partial decriminalization in Switzerland all back it up.
[Jurriaan van Eerten's "Portugal: Fifteen years of decriminalised drug policy"]

Decriminalization reduces ALL harms associated with drug use. Deaths from overdoses go down, deaths from contamination go down, deaths from trade violence goes down, theft from drug consumers go down. Not to mention thousands of innocent people are spared the horror of being put in prison, and the irreparable damage a criminal record does to their life.

Or to put it another way, Criminalization increases all the surrounding dangers of drug use, and costs an awful lot of money and prison space in the process.

"LOL. 'We don't want anybody to sell drugs. Therefore, we will make it insanely lucrative.' Also, we'll incarcerate generation after generation of minorities until they shape up."

"I think it's very strange that no blame is put on the people who choose to buy and use drugs when it comes to drug violence and incarceration of users. No one is forcing you to use it. You're choosing to support a system of criminals. You weren't born addicted to drugs, you made a choice, and are now blaming the system. Why are the people who are choosing to become drug users totally blameless ? In the war on drugs, users are choosing to become 'enemy combatants'. I feel very limited sympathy for them."

"Which do you think is worse, the impact on families, communities and economies caused by sending non-violent drug offenders to prison, or the impact of the drugs themselves ?"



"I almost died from my addiction to dilaudid from a legal usage in a hospital setting, but was then stopped cold turkey upon leaving. Because the hospital had me on dilaudid for so long I can no longer use specific medications, including cough syrup. I either trip or show signs of overdosing. Now I'm in a decriminalized state and can luckily use marijuana to treat my medical issues, but the worst drugs I've ever taken were under the guise of safe prescription drugs."



DEA Agent:
I didn't take this job out of some moral position, I thought it would be exciting and different. As I have gotten older and wiser, I have come to think pretty deeply about civil liberties. Many redditors clearly have staked out black and white positions on the issue and have dug in deeply. I think it's a little more complicated and I do struggle with it.

You might be surprised to learn that I don't like cops. I teach my own kids not to talk to the police unless absolutely necessary. I think many cops have no understanding of the law or the constitution. I've had run-ins with cops while working undercover. I've seen dirty cops more often than I would like.

That being said, I feel that my work does make a difference, even though it's usually only a temporary difference. For example, I once cleaned out a big-time crack ring which had dominated a particular area of a city that had been plagued with shootings (dozens) as a result. In the 12 months after the sweep, there was one shooting, and crack was nowhere to be found.



"Just think of all the good things that would come out of legalization. Half the prisons would empty. Drug cartels out of business. Tax revenues for government. Theft to pay for drugs mostly gone. Less drug overdoses due to safer drugs and standardized dosages."



The Logic of Science's "If cannabis and vitamin B17 kill cancer, why aren't they approved by the FDA? Let me explain"
David Gorski's "Medical marijuana as the new herbalism, part 1: Science versus the politics of weed in New York and beyond"
David Gorski's "Medical marijuana as the new herbalism, part 2: Cannabis does not cure cancer"
Kat Arney's "Cannabis, cannabinoids and cancer - the evidence so far"
American Cancer Society's "Marijuana"



From SwampJew on reddit:

Psychology degree holder and former habitual pot smoker here: Marijuana only makes people who are predisposed toward psychosis more likely to manifest symptoms - temporary symptoms - and only about twice as often as otherwise would occur. Statistically speaking it is mathematically incredibly unlikely that even a quarter of the "my friend went nuts" claims [in this discussion] are true. Demand proof!

Furthermore, legalizing and regulating substances make them harder to get and easier to control. Look at any example of prohibition or legalization.

Brazil, Spain, Argentina, British Columbia, England, the Netherlands. They have less crime, less recidivism, fewer drug addicts. And their mental hospitals aren't chock full of teenagers who went nuts smoking pot.

All of you anti-legalization proponents are forgetting the cardinal rule of parenting: if you want a kid not to do something just be cool with it. Your teenager wants to rebel. They want you to hate their music, to be too cool to follow the rules, etc. They need to hide things from you. By you being ok with pot it's no longer attractive. Being able to talk about it makes it easier to educate them. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.



From "McMafia" by Misha Glenny (on Amazon):

[From a guy who grows marijuana in British Columbia and transports it to NW USA, in 2005:]

"I was offered the opportunity of doing a trip to Miami", he said. "It was a new kind of deal - for every one kilo of Bud I delivered in Florida, I would be paid one kilo of pure cocaine, the idea being that I'd then bring it back here." Dan was silent for thirty seconds. "No way ... No f**king way. What you have to understand about weed is that it attracts people who have a healthy attitude to life. It never promotes aggression, and most of the people I've come across involved in the trade on both sides of the border are decent people. The people who handle coke are very different ..."



From someone on reddit:

Explanation for "don't try meth, even once":

The dopamine "high" produced from the initial methamphetamine dose is so strong, so outrageously intense, that the receptors down-regulate, and you'll never be able to feel that good/rewarded ever again, no matter how much you increase the dose. This is referred to as "chasing the dragon". You'll never re-create that very first high. Ever. You'll believe you got "close", oh so close! Maybe just a little MORE next time would do it ?

Things like eating and sex, which used to provide Reward Pathway stimulation, are no longer pleasurable. So addicts stop eating. They waste away, because eating is no longer a "good thing" in the eyes of your Ventral Tegmental Pathway. The Reward they get from drugs is a THOUSAND times greater than the reward they'd get from food.

Imagine the feeling you get after a delicious meal, or after sex. A thousand times that. Now imagine trying to quit.



From someone on Facebook:

I'm not at all convinced that decriminalising would lead to more people trying them. When I was young I experimented with everything that was available at the time, and I tend to think that the fact they were illegal actually contributed to the mystique and desirability of them. And I have NEVER heard anyone say "oh no, I can't do that because its illegal".

I am an RN and the vast majority of drug users I've seen are recreational users, not addicts, and many are extremely high-functioning members of society. And nearly all the negative effects I see from drug use or addiction are due to their illegality and/or the lifestyle that engenders. You know, as a hospital, the cost of an ampoule of Morphine is about 50c - compare that to the street price of heroin! So, really, who wins from drugs being illegal? The drug producers and sellers, that's who!

Overdoses are almost exclusively caused by the unknown dosage of street drugs, crime due to the vastly inflated prices of street drugs and it has been well documented that the major reason for prostitution is that it is the only way to earn the sort of money needed to maintain a drug habit.

I have worked in our state's Remand Centre and sat down one night and counted up the number of inmates there on drug charges. Of a population of 450, only 60 would be left if we decriminalised drugs. And if we had a decent mental health system there would be less than 20 left! Great, state of the art, mental health programs would be one VERY good use of the money we saved by decriminalising drugs. Cigarettes are legal but smoking rates are rapidly declining in this country because we have great education in schools and public awareness campaigns. I'd be willing to bet that making tobacco illegal wouldn't have that effect.



Idea for a "good" drug to drive the "bad" drugs out of business:

The government should finance development of a legal drug to drive cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine out of business. The legal drug should provide a peaceful high and then a deep sleep, have no health side-effects, and be cheap.

Maybe Valium and Prozac and such fit this description, a little ?

Alcohol substitute:
Neil Brady's "Can David Nutt wean us off the demon drink with his alcohol substitute?"
Paul Rodgers and Richard Alleyne's "Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development"


Perhaps we could develop "sober up" pills for each kind of drug.



Some people say "all drugs should be legal":

I think they mean "an individual should be free to put anything they want into their body, and take the consequences".

But "the consequences" aren't limited to that one individual. Their family and friends may be harmed. If they drive while impaired, innocent victims of a crash may be harmed. If they can't hold a job and be a productive member of society, society is harmed. If they collapse and go to the Emergency Room, society pays much of the bill. If the money they pay for drugs goes to criminals, they are causing harm to society. And usually the punishment isn't applied until after the harm has been done to others.
Victimless crime

Some things are so dangerous, and some people so irresponsible, that it's better for society if those things are illegal. Apparently meth is very addictive right away; shouldn't we discourage people from finding that out the hard way ? Some people are irresponsible: teenagers, the mentally impaired, any of us when drunk or in a reckless mood; maybe society should try to discourage them from doing something dangerous.

Deciding which things should be legal or illegal is a judgement call, based on costs and benefits and culture and history; it's impossible to make totally consistent rules. Gasoline is dangerous but legal; we allow anyone to buy it, but only into an approved container or vehicle. Ammonia fertilizer was totally uncontrolled until the Oklahoma City bombing; now it's semi-controlled. Weapons from shotguns to pistols to fully-automatic weapons to explosives have varying levels of legality and licensing; why aren't all legal or all illegal ?

Some also say "what right does anyone else have to make rules that apply to me ?"

Living in a society means you have to accept some common rules. Common moral judgements, for example. Our society has judged that certain things should be illegal, for various reasons (morality, efficiency, danger, economics, justice, etc). So murder and rape and fraud and fully-automatic weapons and some drugs and pyramid schemes and mislabeled products and suicide etc are illegal. Nothing wrong with society deciding which things are legal or illegal.



How we decide what should be illegal:

Maybe there's a hierarchy; you choose one at level 1, which guides/forces your thinking at level 2, then everyone in your country/society gets together and agrees/fights to determine what is at level 3 ?

  1. Principles:
    • Religion A: we should obey God A.
    • Religion B: we should obey God B.
    • Non-religion C: people should be happy, free, healthy, prosperous.

  2. Morals, ethics:
    • Religion A: thou shalt not kill, because God A said so.
    • Religion B: killing believers is bad, killing infidels is okay, because God B said so.
    • Non-religion C: killing is bad, because it removes someone's freedom and health.

  3. Societal rules, laws:
    • Murder is illegal, penalty is X.



Perhaps some useful drugs can be derived from cannabis. That doesn't really have any bearing on the decision to make smoking/eating cannabis legal or illegal.
Dan Hurley's "Nicotine, the Wonder Drug?"



Hemp:

The Straight Dope's "Is hemp the answer to our environmental problems?"
The Hemp Hoax
Thomas A. Rymsza's "Kenaf and Hemp; Identifying the Differences" (PDF)
Skeptoid's "Hemp, Hearst, and Prohibition"

From skinnyhulk on reddit 1/2013:

Having grown hemp over 'ere in the UK I have this to say.

Good points: It is a very fast-growing bulk crop. It does not require much fertiliser it typically only requires a small amount of potash per Ha. Prevents soil erosion. We got about 14 tonnes to the acre last year. It grows in many soils.

Bad points: Harvesting. There are several ways to harvest: Dessication, traditional or forage.

This may sound good but dessication requires copious amounts of glyphosate and requires a bloody tall sprayer. Our crop was about 9 ft high.

Traditional combine harvesting requires constant cleaning of the headers when harvesting hemp as the natural fibres wrap around everything. It is also hard to harvest at the right moisture content as across the crop the moisture content varies so much.

Forage is really the only way to harvest however 9 ft high crops tend to be hard to mow. Then a forage harvester picks it up and either bales it or blows it into a trailer. This makes it more expensive to harvest.

The price of hemp at sale is very low. Roughly -90% less than wheat.

Processing. Unfortunately over here there are not many plants that can actually take the bales. So unless you live near a processing facility it is not cost effective to produce.

Dumbasses. These are the twats who think you are growing cannabis for smoking as opposed to hemp. They tend to take a chunk out of your crop nearest the road.

The smell tends to attract the little turds like flies around shit.

Also it is a very risky crop for a farmer to grow in order to make money off of it. Long story short if everyone grew it the price would plummet.

I know this is not an extensive pro-con comment. But this is the reason many farmers over here don't bother growing it.

...

> Did you ever harvest / sell the hemp seeds?

Unfortunately regulations require you to harvest before the plant goes to seed. And the seed must be sold under license. Getting a license to grow hemp was a pain in the arse in itself.

> Do you think that less regulation would make
> it more profitable or would it still not be worth
> the risk/hassle due to the market?

I honestly couldn't say. Markets dictate legislation anyway so perhaps not. And unfortunately there are hundreds of alternatives to hemp. At best I could see hemp markets growing well and then crashing as more and more farmers jump on the bandwagon. Similar to many other niche crops.

From someone on reddit 2/2013:

[In USA] It is not illegal to sell hemp products or to grow hemp for industrial purposes. But it is illegal to do so without a permit.

And thousands of tons of hemp products are imported to the US every year.

You can already buy: hemp clothes, and shoes, and ropes, and oils and everything else.

Most people just don't. Because hemp's not magic. And it kind of smells like skunk. And if you use only hemp products at home, you're going to look and smell pretty crunchy.

The total value of raw-industrial hemp products imported into the US is still only at $11.5 million [annually]. That's not a huge market or tax-base.

Even if the DEA lifted permit restrictions and allowed farmers to grow it freely whenever they wanted, which would make growing industrial hemp in the US far more cost-effective, it's not a giant, game-changing industry.
[Apparently, DEA has a blanket policy of refusing to issue permits. Only one has ever been issued, in Hawaii in 1999.]
[Some people heatedly deny the "smells like skunk" item; other people confirm a slight smell of skunk.]

From Ezra Soiferman's "Hemp Facts:

Farmers around the world grow hemp. Legally. And they've been doing so for thousands of years. ...

...

Over 600,000 acres of hemp grow worldwide today. Over 8,500 acres were grown in Canada in 2008.
So, what's the result ? Has hemp taken over the fabric and paper and biofuel industries in those countries ? Has it replaced fossil fuels, for energy and plastics etc, in those countries ? No.

Hemp University's "Countries growing hemp"

From USDA's "Industrial Hemp in the United States: Status and Market Potential":

The hemp industry flourished in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois between 1840 and 1860 because of strong demand for sailcloth and cordage by the U.S. Navy. However, increased production of cotton in the South, due to the development of the cotton gin, and imports of cheaper jute and abaca eventually displaced most domestic hemp production. ...

... During World War II, when imports of abaca and jute were unavailable, the Government instituted an emergency program to produce hemp as a domestic substitute. ... Production peaked in 1943 and 1944. After the war, production rapidly declined as imports resumed and legal restrictions were reimposed. ...

From /u/cryptovariable on reddit 4/2017:

Cannabis' industrial uses are also bogus.

Hempcrete? Hempcrete requires you grow plants. Concrete requires you dig dirt out of the ground. Abundant dirt. Inexpensive dirt. Dirt that doesn't require fertilizer or pesticides to grow because dirt doesn't need to be grown it just is. Also, concrete works better.

Hemp paper? Hemp paper sucks balls. You can buy some right now on Amazon.com and try it out. Don't run it through your printer unless your printer can deal with construction paper without jamming.

Hemp rope? Every so often on climbing forums some patchouli-smelling hippie will ask about switching to hemp ropes. Hemp doesn't stretch so if you fall while climbing you'll break your neck. Hemp rope also doesn't float, isn't waterproof and decays in sunlight so it is useless for nautical or construction applications. Manila hemp rope which used to be used on ships IS NOT cannabis (it comes from a banana-like plant) but apparently the fact that Manila hemp rope fell out of favor is evidence of a conspiracy by "Big Rope" to ban cannabis.

People can legally grow hemp plants almost everywhere on earth: map

France and China produce hundreds of thousands of tons of it every year. France and China have entire agricultural university departments tasked with studying its cultivation.

Those agricultural organizations, through decades of experience, have found that: It requires less of both compared to certain alternatives and more of both compared to others.

The fact that most of the 6.7 billion people on earth who AREN'T Americans can already grow it and use it for industrial purposes can only mean one of two things:
  1. Every single person in every single country on earth who isn't an American is stupidly incompetent and can't figure out how to manufacture hemp products superior to the alternatives and only the good 'ole US of A has the brains and talent to do it and hemp's legal status in one country on earth is holding back human progress because everyone else is stupid, or

  2. Hemp isn't the industrial wonder people make it out to be.
I'm betting on number 2.

Other myths about hemp: Jojoba oil is infinitely better in every single way than hemp oil for biofuel use, and jojoba is a native species to the southwestern United States that grows out in the arid rough country where the conditions would kill hemp. Jojoba produces 194 gallons of oil per acre compared to hemp's 39.



From Khoeth_Mora on reddit:
The somewhat ironic twist is that legalizing industrially-grown hemp federally would crush the entire North American outdoor cannabis market. Industrial hemp, with almost no THC, will produce massive pollen clouds that can travel hundreds of miles. In a matter of a few years the outdoor genetics will be so tainted that nothing will be worth growing. Even indoor growers will have to go to lengths to prevent pollen contamination.
From Wikipedia's "Marijuana":
"... THC production drops off once pollination occurs ..."
Study showing cannabis pollen can travel long distances: here.




Deborah Blum's "The Chemist's War: how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences"
NPR's "With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery"





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