March 17, 2006

Harrell on Drugs.

Not that I want to add to Jeff's headaches these days. But it appears that he might be softening his stance on drugs ever-so-slightly. At least, with respect to Mary Jane.

I think a lot of people smoke weed regularly when they're in high school or college, and then stop later on because it's too much of a bother and they're busy. And I still think alchohol is more dangerous than weed, because of the collateral damage it causes: stoned people do not mow people down when they drive.

In no way do I see the coercive effect of the State as the correct instrument for solving the problem of drug addiction.

And I honestly think people can get addicted to damn near anything: shopping, eating, keeping messy files (I have friends who do this), gambling, surfing the internet, watching television, taking warm baths.

I also had a friend who used heroin on a semi-regular basis for a while. Then he stopped. Just like that—no willpower involved; no support group. No nothing.

So I am, and remain, a libertarian on this issue. Legalize hard drugs so we can regulate 'em, tax 'em, and re-funnel enforcement money into treatment programs. And sell Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Ambien over the counter, please. Pretty please.

Don't make me ruin my middle-aged skin with too many hot baths.

Posted by Attila Girl at March 17, 2006 09:21 PM | TrackBack

The last reason to legalize drugs is to tax them. The state is sucking plenty of cash out of our pockets the way it is. The fact that the drug war has been pretty ineffective combined with philosophy of individual liberty are more persuasive to me.

This is from someone who has never done anything stronger than Everclear. Really. No one believes me when I tell them I've never done any drugs and never had the opportunity, not that I was looking.

Posted by: Sean Hackbarth at March 17, 2006 09:34 PM

Well not that I'd really enthusiastically support taxing drugs either.

But it would still be a darn sight lighter burden on society to legalize/tax/regulate than to prohibit/wage war/destroy liberty.

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 17, 2006 09:47 PM

The last thing I want is for the state to have more money. They can't spend the stuff they don't have fast enough the way it is.

Drug legalizers just have to drop the "tax it" part of their arguement. It has nothing to do with how ineffective the drug war is and liberties is may violate.

Posted by: Sean Hackbarth at March 17, 2006 09:53 PM

Okay, try this: if street drugs were at least decriminalized and enforcement efforts weren't going into analyzing people's electricity bills to see whether they might be growing marijuana, a big cash drain would be removed from the Feds, and they might be able to do something useful with that time and money.

Also: drugs would be a lot cheaper without them being illegal, and all of those secondary crimes--the theft and prostitution to support costly habits--would cease.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2006 07:03 AM

Have to disagree. People on pot do mow down people. That is why most laws have been changed to driving under the influance and not while drinking.

It is just that alcholhol is much more prevalant. I am extremly familiar with what alcholhol does to ruin lives. I am not therfore in favor of adding more drugs to ruin more lives. But I also understand that trying to ban drugs is not working well either. The war on drugs is as big a failure as the war on poverty.

I have another thought on controlling this problem.

1. Give any addict an identity card. With this they can purchase drugs legally and cheaply from government outlets.

2. If you are not already an addict and can prove it, no card. Therefore no new addicts.

3. Make it a capital crime to import drugs, and enforce it.

4. Card holders can not hold any job that requires lucidity, truck driver, nuclear power plant operator, etc.

5. Card holders may at any time join a government sponsored program to quit.

6. The US buys all of the drugs from foriegn countries and also all siezures are used to supply government drug outlets.

This would take away the incentive for drug dealers to sell. Anyone who gets addicted can quickly abandon their dealer and get drugs cheaply from the government.

This would make drug importation nonprofitable and lethal if caught.

This would allow us to monitor drug traffic and users.

The only problem would be that the government would be helping drug addicts slowly kill themselves. But after a generation or so this would taper off.

If we can control cigarettes we can control drugs, we just have to hard enough to let a generation of addicts die.

Therefore there is absolutely no way the people of this country would try this. We will instead continue on this path of futility.

Posted by: Jack at March 18, 2006 07:36 AM


I agree with you that much of the 'War on Drugs' is an exercise in futility. A sizeable portion of homo sapiens just like the feeling of 'getting high.' (and if National Geographic is right, monkeys and birds seek out fermented fruit for the same reason).

What it comes down to is attempting to find a reasonable and pragmatic approach to minimize the ill effects of drug addiction; to the addict and to society as a whole.

As you know, CA has three, count 'em, three state programs overseen by the courts that are 'rehab in lieu of jail' for addicts. PC1000 (diversion) PC1210 (prop. 36) and Drug Court.

Yep, some people "graduate" from these programs (PC1000 is first time offender and if such a person can keep clean for the 2 year probation they can have the case dismissed) but the 'graduates' are WAY out numbered by the ones that fail and keep rotating through our doors.

The drug of choice we see in the judicial system...even outstripping people arrested for alcohol related crimes ... is meth. Cheap and easy to manufacture, those addicted to it really lose all sense of judgement (as opposed to people who use pot or functionally addicted to heroin or alcohol -- judgment can sometimes be impaired but not wholly absent).

I think the decriminalization/regulation route is probably the best...with these strict caveats. The drugs are ONLY available through government run stores AND they are taxed at a non-profit rate (taxes calculated and retained within the drug-store system NEVER going into general funds).

We must still be vigilant in prosecuting people who do crime while 'high'... public intoxication, DUI*, child neglect/abuse, etc.

Ironically, here we are discussing addictive drugs that have a profound and noticeble effect on personal judgment, while those who use an addictive drug that does NOT affect judgment are being hounded and new laws enacted against them.

Nicotine and the newest draconian law banning almost all smokers in Calabasas.

Posted by: Darleen at March 18, 2006 08:22 AM

Whoops...forget to explain my "*"

Jack... you're correct about the laws concerning DUI

In CA a DUI is a two part charge... VC23152 (a) - driving under the influence, VC23152 (b) - driving with a BAC of .08 or more

First time DUI offenders who want to plead out are usually offerred to plead to count 'b' and have 'a' dismissed. This is because then there is no question that the DUI was for alcohol and not an illegal substance.

Posted by: Darleen at March 18, 2006 08:29 AM

Never done any drugs, Sean? Check out Andrew Weil's Drugs from Chocolate to Cocaine and see if there might be one int there you have dabble in.

Driving: The studies show that the impairment from alcohol and that from using marihuana (trhe federal government spelling) are approximately the same, but that those impaired with marihuana are morelikely to compensate for the i9mpairment than those impaired with alcohol,

The key is to do as Thomas Szasz suggested, backed by fellow conservative Wm. F. Buckley, and leggalize all drugs, BUT to hold those who cause harm to others while under the influence in full responsibility. At the time Szasz suggested this, "I was drunk" was a valid positive defense in many states.

For those wanting to decriminalize drugs and dispense them from govefrnment run facilities to needy addicts: take your lewft-wing, big-government, statist control back to the USSR where it belongs. In fact, this was tried in Britain without much success.

To those with the get tough attitude, get real. We CAN'T buy up all the dope in the world. We can't even buy up all the poppy in Afghanistan.

Asw William S. Burroughs (the author of Naked Lunch) told us 40 years ago, the only solution to the drug problem would be to decrease demand at the most basic level. So long as there is demand, there will be illegal traffic.

I'm not so sure about the notion that drugs will be cheaper if legalized. In fact, i buy legal drugs and they are not cheap.

One thing is sure, hoever. heroin is a fairly safe drug developed to be a safe means of pain relief. In the early seventies, a retrospective study of drug deaths was done in NYC, and NO (I reapeat, NO) case was found of someone who died from heroin alone. Some deaths were attributed to heroin taken concomiitantly with other respiratory depresseants, like alcohol, barbituates, or, most commonly at the time, quinine, a common cutting agent.

What was noted was that there were usually no deaths among those rich enough to support their habit and take care of their health. In this population, it was noted, It was common for people to simply quit one day, usually in their forties. They often attributed this to just growing up.

The above-mentioned Cr. Weil ran a heroin detox facility in San Francisco where he had great success using only aspirin (for the flu-like sypmtoms of withdrawal) and a kind companion in a darkened room.

We should also note here that quittihjng is always a success, no matter what the future brings. A person who quits for a few months and then relaposes is more successful than one who never quit. Itr may take a few tries. Unfortunately, rather than building on these successes to encourage more, family and mental health workers tend to see the relapse as a failure and excoriate the addict, making the matter worse.

The fact is that someone who quit for two weeks should be encouraged to think that he now knows that he can quit for two weeks. And he certainly knows he can qwuit for one day.+

My message, in brief: we sjhould avoid all putative solutions which begin with, or have embedded in them, anything like, "the government should...."

Posted by: Averroes at March 18, 2006 12:17 PM

I'll get/publish some hard stats on this, but what I'm hearing from law enforcement is that almost no one has trouble driving while stoned, versus the awful results of driving drunk. Of course, it's illegal to drive under the inflluence of any drug that conceivably could affect your driving ability, and if the cop thinks your cold medicine is making you a hazard, you can be busted for that.

I'm not advocating driving stoned, I'm pointing out that the double standard between alcohol and pot is particularly obscene when one examines the effects on driving.

Sean watches television; as far as I'm concerned, that's a drug.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2006 04:48 PM

Attila girl

You might also take in to account the number of people who smoke pot and are sitting at home and not driving. After all you don't go down to the local bar order a few joints and try to drive home.

A couple of items to consider are;

People drink to relax and socialize, they do not have to get drunk to enjoy themselves.

People who smoke pot ALWAYS do it to get high. They always try to get a buzz on.

Pot lasts in the blood stream for months. I have yet to hear of a reliable test to tell if someone who gets in an accident smoked pot that night or yesterday. This makes the determination of whether they are high when they are in an accident harder to prove.

And having several pot heads in the family I also know that it is usually what they become. Little or no ambition. This is in no way says that booze is especially safe. The alcholholics far outnumber the pot heads in the family.

One thing I find kind of hillarious (being from MT) is that while you are trying to ban smoking cigarettes in CA there are people in CA that still want to legalize pot. What,... doesn't it cause cancer too?

Mean while, fearing incarceration and huge lawyers fees, I will sit back in my recliner, have a scotch, and stay home in front of the fire place, totally safe from arrest. Especially since it is snowing out.

Posted by: Jack at March 18, 2006 06:50 PM

Whoops one more comment.

I absolutly positively think that heroin should be legalized for terminally ill patients. I have absolutly no fear that they might become addicted. And anything to ease their pain is fine with me.

Posted by: Jack at March 18, 2006 06:57 PM

Jack, I'm not sure I see the difference. People who drink alcohol, do it solely for the effects, else why drink? Relaxation and social lubrication are definitely a couple of the effects of alcohol.

Just as a couple of drinks will give you a mild buzz and facilitate relaxing with friends, so can a shared joint. Too much alcohol and you're drunk and disoriented--too much pot and you're blazed out of your mind. It's a matter of degree.

I think you're making a false distinction.

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 18, 2006 08:55 PM

Statistics in this area will be very misleading because the major emphasis in this area has been the elimination of alcohol-related, motor-vehicle-fatalities. Pot testing remains a problem for reasons the other commenters mentioned, especially for tests where blood is not drawn. From talking with police, pot is involved in most accidents, but so is alcohol. The States Attorneys direct the police to go with the alcohol tests because they are more likely to get a conviction. Further pressure comes with State, Federal and Local money designed to take drunk drivers off the road. This has ticked off a lot of cops since the 70's. As a result, pot is not mentioned in most of the reports. So every time you hear of one of those "inexplicable" rear-end collisions where a driver plowed into the car ahead and then applied his brake, think pot. Or drove miles on the wrong side of the road, or spaced out and didn't see the traffic signal...Or caused a major mass transit accident... Nobody should be operating any machinery using any drug.

Pot use today isn't sharing a joint with friends with the 20-something set. They get up at 8 PM and fire up a hollowed-out blunt--the equivalent of 5-6 joints. They finish off a couple of those before realizing its after midnight and time to do some partying at clubs. They wind down after drinking by having a couple more.

Posted by: Darrell at March 18, 2006 09:43 PM

Um. I know people who have a joint on a Saturday afternoon, and then maybe a bowl on alternate Wednesday nights, while holding down demanding jobs.

And, um, some of us are so absent-minded that we probably shouldn't drive at all. I once put window-washing fluid in my radiator, and I don't think it gets more absent-minded than that. No chemical assist needed at all.

I really don't see the difference between a hit on a joint vs. the weak gin and tonics I make for myself with shocking regularly. Each will deliver a degree of relaxation that's just this side of being stoned/tipsy. I've had cigars that affected me more biochemically than my average experience with pot, which doesn't do much to/for me (except for a couple of times when I've had a lot).

And I just don't see much of a material difference between passing a cigar around after midnight after a party vs. doing the same thing with a joint. The cultural connotations are quite different--and one will hype you up like caffeine or sugar, whereas the other will relax you a little. Other than that, there's no huge difference, if everyone's over 30 and no one's driving.

Re: pot vs. alcohol, all I know is what the cops tell me. And make no mistake: the cops on the scene know when someone is very stoned. You can smell it on their clothes if they've had any marijuana recently. Cops know.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2006 10:30 PM

BTW, Jack--i think the attitude toward smoking these days borders on hysteria. The fact that I live in California doesn't mean I support the ridiculous measures being taken here--and elsewhere--to curtail individual liberties in such a ridiculous fashion.

When I was a teenager I smoked half a pack a day all summer one year because I was seeing a friend who smoked. Then I stopped. The nicotine didn't work its way into my brain, pervert my soul, remove freedom of choice, and chain me to tobacco for the rest of my life.


Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2006 10:37 PM

I've weblogged over six years. I must be addicted.

Posted by: Sean Hackbarth at March 18, 2006 11:01 PM

I thought of bringing that up, but it would have been too easy ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 18, 2006 11:36 PM

That's the whole point. The cops do smell it all over then clothing and car, but it goes unreported unless there are fatalities and alcohol wasn't involved. Judges haven't accepted the "smell test" as proof of the level of impairment. And even the stupid manage to toss any leftovers before the cops arrive when an accident is involved, so there isn't even a possession charge linked to the accident.

Posted by: Darrell at March 19, 2006 07:07 AM

And even the stupid manage to toss any leftovers before the cops arrive when an accident is involved

Well, there's stupid and there's stupid ... like the two guys passing a joint between them at a red light with a cop car in the lane next to 'em...

true story ...

Or the guy busted for cultivation because his next door neighbor's home had been burgled and when the cops came to take a report they just couldn't miss the 3-4 foot plants growing on the FRONT patio next door...

Posted by: Darleen at March 19, 2006 08:13 AM


What do your friends in the CHP tell you about the frequency/danger level of marijuana use in traffic accidents (that is, vs. pot)? I don't qualify as an experienced user, but those who are tell me the motor coordination simply doesn't suffer in the same way, and one is much more likely to forget where one is going.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 19, 2006 08:52 AM

Hello America,

18 years a cop..this is what I learned. Having us chase Willie Nelson smokin dope on his back porch = less time to go after DUIs and pedophiles. Chasing medical marijuana gardens in California by my fed colleagues = less time to go afte people flying airplanes into buildings.
In 18 years I went to zero calls for service generated by the use of pot. I checked with the National Hwy Safety Administration. The number of people killed by a person high only on pot is so small they don't keep a separate category.
FYI, all fatals are given autopsies, etc. We know what you had for lunch + plus any drugs in your system.

Pot is a poor choice, as are all mind-altering drugs. Having cops chase pot users decreases public safety greatly.

PS..Yes, a blood test can determine exactly the level of pot in your blood. To my knowledge, no state has set a level which would be the threshold for intoxication. Most have gone to 'per se' = any amount = DUID. It is a foolish level but politicians almost always take the easy route.

PSS. Drug prohibition is a liberal approach ie using government police, punishment and prison to try stop an adult from putting something in their mouth in the privacy of their own home. Jefferson is rolling over in his grave.


Posted by: Howard at March 19, 2006 09:19 AM

Okay--so as a legal matter, one hit on a weak joint while it's going around at a party makes someone stoned. Charming.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 19, 2006 10:49 AM


Truly we have very few DUI where its solely cannabis in the lab analysis (I can't think of any off hand, but most 1st dui's are direct filing so I might not even see 'em), or even cannabis mixed with different drugs. Howard above makes very valid points.

Alcohol #1 followed by meth. Usually meth abusers are too far gone to even get behind the wheel, but occassionally they do. Alcohol being legal and widely available goes toward it being the drug-of-choice abused.

Posted by: Darleen at March 19, 2006 05:12 PM

Okey-doke. i don't want to be provocative--or perhaps I do--but I'm wondering if legalizing pot would make 20% of the alcohol abusers switch over.

I'll specify that no one should drive under the influence of anything, but if 20% of the drunk drivers out there were replaced by mildly buzzed/totally stoned drivers, what would the difference be in the traffic casualty rate?

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 19, 2006 08:00 PM

Atilla, i'll repeat, since i investigated this years ago, and it was reported in reputable scientific journals.

Both alcohol and pot have a negative and similar effect on reaction times and other physical measures. in the test where actual diriving was done and recorded, it was noted that those who drank alcohol tended to actually drive faster than they normally would, while those on pot would tend to drive more slowly tgan normal, compensating somewhat for slower reaction times. (I actually know quite a few people who were pulled over while high for driving suspiciously slowly.)

marihuana smoke cause cancer? Yep. it's the tar.

For your final question, it MIGHT reduce causalty levels, since pot smokers tend to drive like little old ladies.

But best is to drive only when unimpaired, while fully awake.

Posted by: Averroes at March 19, 2006 08:53 PM

Now you're going to tell me I shouldn't talk on my cell phone while I'm driving.

But I have to. After all, there's NO INTERNET IN THE CAR!

I need an IV drip . . .

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 19, 2006 10:39 PM

Legalize pot!! Legalize pot!!

Or raise their prices/taxes! All that junk food (in my case, Pepperidge Farms’ Milano cookies) can potentially do more harm to my health than an occasional weekend toke.

If pot were legalized maybe the chemist that work for cigarette companies could work on a joint’s THC “delivery mechanism” and alter it so that its effects make you crave spinach salad and grapefruit over Chitos and Big Macs.

Posted by: Yolanda at March 20, 2006 08:40 AM

"Now you're going to tell me I shouldn't talk on my cell phone while I'm driving."

Yep! The scientific evidece is that talking on a cell phone in a car impairs your ability to drive, and that this is true whether or not you are using a "hands free" system!

And of course, more and more evidence is coming forth that sleepiness is the most common impairment among drivers.

Of course, if you were driving on a private road with no other drivers, or only those who knew your predilections and agree to assume the risk, there would be no problem. Unfortunately, driving is usually done on public roads, and impaired drivers, impaired for any reason, is a public health problem.

btw, i don't know of any studies about driving and internet use. You could take the first step in the science by getting one of those new wide area accounts, and using your laptop to surf the net while driving. I will await your anecdotal report, which may lead to more formal research.

Posted by: Averroes at March 20, 2006 03:22 PM

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