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Excellent reponse to marijuana “scare” article

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I blogged earlier about the Nevada initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Naturally enough, those opposed to the initiative are writing articles. What is not so natural, though, is that those articles are filled with lies and misrepresentations. Here’s an excellent response to one such article. The newspaper is to be commended for runnning it. The response:

The Nevada Appeal printed a downright nasty opinion piece about the marijuana initiative on Sunday. Author Guy Farmer says we are “East Coast potheads” who will make marijuana available to kids at corner stores and want to increase methamphetamine addiction in Nevada. Isn’t that considerate? He sprinkled some personal attacks in with the outright lies.

We have a simple response for Mr. Farmer: Our marijuana laws aren’t working. Anyone who wants to use marijuana can get it, and the thriving criminal market for marijuana is funneling profits to violent gangs and drug dealers. What’s the solution? Tax and regulate marijuana. Take it out of the criminal market, gain control over how it is bought and sold, and take money out of the hands of criminals.

Now a few specific comments that we would like to address …

Key Farmer quote #1:

If you want to make marijuana available to your children and grandchildren at local convenience stores, that’s your business.

In truth, the initiative places strict controls on where and to whom marijuana can be sold. It specifically forbids the sale of marijuana at convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, casinos, dance halls, or any place that sells alcohol. No one under the age of 21 will be allowed to enter a licensed retail store, and these stores cannot be located with 500 feet of a church or school. Furthermore, the initiative increases the penalties for anyone selling or giving marijuana to a minor. In other words, we are not putting marijuana in the local convenience store, and we are taking the sale of marijuana out of the hands of drug dealers who do not card.

If you oppose us, fine. We can agree to disagree. But don’t fib — it’s unbecoming. (Although, before we accuse Mr. Farmer of lying, perhaps we should keep in mind he may have written this piece against the initiative without actually bothering to read it.)

As his attack continues, Mr. Farmer relies heavily on the so-called “gateway theory,” even quoting Congressman (and noted fanatical prohibitionist) Mark Souder.

Key Souder quote:

“Far from being a ‘benign’ substance, marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug that is frequently the first step into the abyss of lifelong drug addiction.”

The gateway theory is simply a myth. In fact, the very report that Souder quotes contradicts him! The authors of the report — from the Christchurch Health and Development Study in Christchurch, New Zealand — specifically note that their conclusions can be used to argue for the relaxing of marijuana prohibition laws just as easily as for strengthening them. The study explains that the criminal market, rather than marijuana itself, may be the actual “gateway” that encourages hard drug use. That’s a key piece of information Mr. Farmer doesn’t clarify for his readers.

Key Farmer quote #2:

And just last month the Appeal published a graphic example of how marijuana can lead to the use of hard drugs. It was the story of 17-year-old Cyndle Bell of Carson City and her personal battle against meth addiction…. [which] reported that Cyndle “started drinking at 11 and smoking pot at 12”

If you re-read the above sentence carefully, you’ll notice this young woman started drinking before she started using marijuana. Wouldn’t that make alcohol the gateway? Maybe she took some ginseng, or her parents were divorced?

Maybe Mr. Farmer believes we should ban alcohol as well? Since alcohol is a far more dangerous substance than marijuana, he would have a stronger case. Anyone remember how that one turned out … ?

Key Farmer quote #3:

So let’s join our civic leaders in supporting the Partnership Carson City coalition designed to alert local parents and children to the costly and noxious effects of methamphetamine and other dangerous drugs, including marijuana.

Here it seems suspiciously like Mr. Farmer is comparing marijuana to methamphetamine. Judge for yourself: the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports 500 methamphetamine deaths last year. And the number of deaths from marijuana? Zero for last year. Actually, that’s zero for all of recorded medical history.

Key Farmer quote #4:

But when [a change in marijuana laws] becomes an expensive community health and law enforcement problem, as illicit drugs clearly are in Carson City, then it’s everyone’s business, and we don’t want any part of it.

Several points on this one: (1) Despite what Farmer notes, marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and other illicit drugs — in fact, it’s not as dangerous as either alcohol or tobacco, two substances that are controlled through systems of taxation and regulation. (2) Taxing and regulating marijuana wouldn’t create a law enforcement problem because under that system, marijuana wouldn’t be “illicit.” (Here, Guy, we’ll help you out. According to Merriam-Webster, “illicit” means “unlawful.”) (3) Finally, the initiative wouldn’t create an expensive health problem. In fact, according to a 2002 UNLV study, the initiative would generate $14 million in tax revenue to fund drug and alcohol education and treatment programs.

We’re happy to correct Mr. Farmer’s misunderstandings. In fact, we’re willing to help him out — he can send us any future pieces about the marijuana initiative, and we’ll review them for further inaccuracies. That way the people of Nevada will know they’re getting the whole truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to the marijuana initiative.

Written by Leisureguy

5 July 2006 at 11:14 am

Posted in Government, Health, Media

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