Thursday, April 16, 2009

Whoever Said the Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword Never Got Stabbed By One...and Marijuana is the Illegal Drug?!?

So I'm reading the Indianapolis Star yesterday morning, specifically the story about the guy who got drunk and killed two people....with a sword. According to the Star, the guy went from a happy to an "angry drunk." Ya think?

(As a quick aside, the sword story is great news for the gun lobby. The next time someone says we should restrict firearm acquisition, they'll just say, "You take away the guns, they'll just kill with samarai swords! Guns don't kill people. People with alcohol and swords kill people").

Alcohol is allegedly responsible for around 100,000 deaths per year. You get about 43,000 alcohol-related driving fatalities, then you add the fact that alcohol-related 60% of all homicides, 40% of all fatal accidental falls, 30% of all suicides, 30% of all fire fatalities, 15% of all deaths from respiratory system diseases, and 5% of all deaths from circulatory system disease. Now tally up the alcohol-related domestic violence, rapes, vandalism, and alley urinating. I forgot to add that this year we had one alcohol-related death at my alma mater, a college of approximately 800. That number exceeds the total number of deaths I’ve been able to find in the entire country that are attributed to marijuana this year. And marijuana is the illegal drug?

When was the last time you heard somebody smoked a joint and even got angry, let alone actually killed somebody?

People may read this as me being a stoner advocate, but I don't smoke marijuana. I just no longer see the value of the massive costs for waging a drug war against a drug that is so much less harmful than many drugs we sanction.

The FBI uniform crime stat report shows that American law enforcement made 1.8 million drug arrests in 2007, but 775,000 of those were for marijuana possession alone, and 97,583 of them were for dealing marijuana alone.

Now, I do not subscribe to the semi-hysterical claim that everybody in prison is there because they got caught with a single joint. This is because I read a pretty intriguing report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and if the government says it, it must be true.

So I paid attention when the government told me that most marijuana users get a fine and diversion and that, when the report was written, ten jurisdictions - California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, and Oregon—had eliminated incarceration as an option for a FIRST offense of simple possession of marijuana. Fines in most of those states range from $100 to $300, with Oregon allowing a fine of $500 to $1,000 and Nevada authorizing a fine of up to $5,000.18.

Putting aside why Nevada felt compelled to add the $.18 instead of just leaving it at a $5,000 fine, doesn't this evidence cut both ways? We actually spent untold man hours arresting 775,000 adults so we can send them to diversion?!? What a colossal waste of law enforcement manpower that could have been used solving violent crimes or keeping officers on the street to deter property crimes.

But the government only tells HALF the truth on incarceration. How many people are in jail on other offense now because they have had probation and parole revoked for only marijuana use? Some folks I know in the Marion County Probation Department say anecdotally that ALCOHOL and marijuana use are the two most common grounds for revocation of probation. Also, the government report omits what people get for a second or third marijuana possession offense. In other words, a fair phrasing of the question might be, "How many fewer people would be in jail or prison if marijuana were legal?" That number would be higher than the government admits.

Oh, I forgot to mention that tobacco causes 435,000 deaths annually, but that's completely legal to use, too.

You may say, Chris, marijuana is a “gateway” drug. People who use it go on to harder drugs. This is true. But you know the two primary gateway drugs in every study? Alcohol and cigarettes. Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that youth who drank alcohol were 50 times more likely to use cocaine and those who smoked tobacco were 19 times as likely to use cocaine. What about marijuana? We don’t know. The number apparently isn’t significant enough for Columbia to tell us.

The time has come to either ban cigarettes and go back to prohibition or make marijuana legal. If we pick the latter, we can discourage its use through PR campaigns paid for by ever increasing taxes, which we'll use to fund healthcare. I’ll let you decide which approach makes America less hypocritical.



Eclecticvibe said...

Very good points. Add the benefit Indiana would get from the legalization of industrial hemp, and this really seems like a no brainer. Our last 3 presidents have smoked marijuana in their lives, and not been incarcerated. I'm sure there would be plenty of new farmers for all types of cannabis plants, which is good news for ag-state, Indiana.

Anonymous said...

While I am in full agreement with most of your article, I do take exception to your 43,000 automobile deaths. In 2007, there were only total 34,000 auto deaths and 2008 was around 32,000. Many but not all of these deaths were alcohol related.

iPOPA said...


You are absolutely right. I double-checked the figures and in 2006, there were 43,000 TOTAL traffic fatalities. In 2007,there were 41,000, and only 13,000 of those were alcohol-related. But that's still 13,000 higher than the number of marijuana-related traffic fatalities.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth, there most likely were marijuana related fatalities last year that came in the form of drug related murders. I don't know the numbers, but some deaths definitely occurred.

That being said, one could presume that many of these deaths would be eliminated if there were a legitimate market for pot. Obviously, this would seem to bolster your argument.

Anonymous said...

You people are stupid. Do you not realize the effects of marijuana on the human body? You scream about alcohol related deaths when guess what? MARIJUANA DOES THE EXACT SAME THING! You spout of reports of jail sentences and what not and try to justify by twisting things around to suit your needs. Oh and not to mention my Uncle is currently serving life in prison due to an attempted murder after.... wait for it..... Smoking a joint and then trying to kill his girlfriend. Stop being stupid and look up the facts people. It's out there. You just refuse to see it. The eye sees what it wants to see.