Voters in Massachusetts are set to decide on the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes this fall, prompting the state’s governor, attorney general, and the mayor of Boston to come out against the idea in a recent op-ed for The Boston Globe.
While it’s unlikely these officials actually wrote the op-ed – the real author is probably a staff member for one of them – they did allow their names to be assigned to it, giving the ideas expressed therein the weight of their combined offices.
Considering the amount of conjecture, hyperbole, half-truths, straw man arguments, invalid comparisons, and outright lies are contained within the piece, that idea was probably a mistake. While the commenters on the article have ravaged its contents, I don’t want to be left out. This kind of stuff is just too fun.
The piece starts by listing the measures already passed in Massachusetts that have liberalized the state’s cannabis laws. In other words, the state already decriminalized cannabis use and allowed medical marijuana so we really don’t need to do anything more, and even though those things haven’t had any undue consequences, going further down the same path surely would.
What about the children?!?
The article then moves into the number one claim now made by legalization opponents: legalization leads to higher incidents of use, especially among teenagers. The esteemed authors claim that teen use in Colorado is up, even though it has remained relatively flat. It is true that Colorado moved up on the list when it comes to teen use, but only because other states saw declines in teen use, as did the U.S. as a whole. And let’s not forget that people in all age brackets are more likely to admit to use of a substance if it’s legal in their state.
But let us get to the heart of the matter: the claim that legalization makes marijuana more available to minors. Under prohibition, there is no regulation whatsoever regarding who purchases cannabis. As has been said many times, drug dealers don’t check ID. The theory goes that taking sales from black market dealers and shifting them to regulated retail shops where the owners have an incentive – their license – to not to sell to minors will somehow increase availability to teens. This doesn’t pass the logic test.
But what about more adults using cannabis, thereby increasing supply in the state? Won’t that cause more cannabis to fall into the hands of minors? Possibly, if you accept the original premise that more people would use cannabis under legalization. In any case, plenty of kids pinched their parent’s stash or got smoked out by a friend under prohibition. I would submit that moving sales to a regulated market and telling kids the truth about cannabis in relation to other substances that they might experiment with is the best way to help them make the right decisions. Not only that, but legalization also mitigates some of the “cool” factor that cause kids to try cannabis in the first place.
Should people under 18 be using cannabis for recreational purposes? No, but compared to the other things they can try, marijuana is the safest, which brings us to the next argument: “marijuana is not safe.”
This is your brain on drugs
According to the article, cannabis use by teenagers leads to brain shrinkage, permanent impairment, and even lower IQ scores. These claims come from cherry-picking certain studies while ignoring other studies that have shown brain shrinkage effects could be caused by a host of other factors not accounted for in the original studies.
And what of the lower IQ claim that is used in just about every news article that deals with teen marijuana use? This comes from one study done in 2012 which has since been thoroughly discredited.
Having taken care of the teenager issue, these Massachusetts officials then train their sights on the claim that the costs of increased emergency room visits will wipe out any savings gleaned by law enforcement and any tax revenue raised by the state. That’s a pretty wild claim which has sadly been made many times before, often with no stats whatsoever to back them up, so let’s tackle it.
Reports of cannabis-related issues in emergency rooms are on the rise in places like Denver – that much is true. But what is being left out are the possible reasons for it. The first is that with marijuana being legal, those who are high on cannabis feel more comfortable going to an emergency room, while the second is that most people who make these emergency room trips are tourists and/or have consumed edibles. A combination of the two often happens because it is illegal to smoke in public or in Colorado hotels. Many tourists come to Colorado to check out the “weed scene” but are perhaps not very experienced with edibles due to the nature of the black market where they live. In any case, they are forced to consume edibles because they can’t buy joints or use bongs or pipes; there is no place they can use them legally.
Their lack of experience with edibles combined with their ignorance of the correct dose leads to them eat too much when they don’t immediately get high the way they would with a joint or bong. Before you know it, they have eaten too much of the edible and have become way too high. Their pulse races and their anxiety increases as they wonder what’s going to happen to them.
Even though they are in no danger of dying and the effects will wear off in a few hours (depending on how much they ate), they panic and go to the hospital, hoping the doctors there can help. After all, it’s legal in the state, so it’s no big deal if you tell a doctor the truth about what happened. Viola, increased trips to the emergency room, especially by tourists. Visits by Colorado residents, who are allowed to smoke on their own private property, have remained essentially unchanged.
What about the children?!? Part 2
Reports of children eating edibles is also on the rise. Again, some of that is likely due to parents feeling more comfortable contacting authorities if their child accidently gets a hold of an edible. Much of it is also due to marijuana edibles looking exactly like regular edibles. A pot brownie looks just like a regular brownie on the surface and parents must be responsible enough to make sure their edibles are out of the reach of children. Better labeling will also help, but the notion that prohibition does a better job of keeping edibles from kids again fails the logic test.
The evil capitalists!
The op-ed authors couldn’t finish without taking the requisite shots at evil rich people who are trying to legalize weed so they can make a buck off it. This is an attempt to get the liberals and hippies to think twice about the legalization they most likely support. Is smoking your dope worth making rich white men even richer? Remember Big Tobacco?!?
The theory here is that Big Marijuana will lie about the horrific effects of this devil weed and get unsuspecting citizens hooked on marijuana. Of course, this assumes that people aren’t already intimately familiar with the effects of cannabis and that somehow drug dealers and cartels getting rich is preferable to entrepreneurs creating jobs and paying taxes on what they sell.
“Decades of research have now debunked the myth that marijuana is harmless”
What else would you expect for the big finale but an outright lie? Decades of research has only solidified our knowledge that marijuana is safer than any other recreational substance known to man, including water. Research has shown us dozens upon dozens of medical uses for this amazing plant, that all come with negligible side effects when compared to prescription drugs on the market today.
And if the last few decades have taught us anything, it’s that the lies that have built the walls of prohibition are cracking and crumbling and falling down. The rise of the Internet has shone a bright light on those lies, exposing them for the world to see. If you’re going to advocate for criminalizing people who have not infringed on the rights of anyone else, you better come with something more substantial than bullsh*t.
Note: Passing mention was made in the op-ed to the “gateway theory,” but D.A.R.E. doesn’t even push that crap anymore. “Mental health issues” were also raised, but we have covered that topic before as well.