The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: The RP’s Closing Argument

The RP’s Closing Argument

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense; Artur Davis’ Second Response; Jeff Smith’s First Response; David Host’s Rebuttal #6; Don Digarolamo’s Rebuttal #7]

To Artur: If there is any message where there is common ground in this debate, it’s been the one you’ve raised — it is critical that we revisit discriminatory enforcement practices against minorites.  We may not all agree that the drug should be legalized; but all people of good faith should insist that we treat all Americans equally in the criminal justice syste,.

To Jeff: There is no denying that you are right that we have lost the War on Drugs, and I agree that we need a cease-fire when it comes to marijuana.  I just can’t go as far as you do when it comes to harder drugs.  Society has to draw a line somewhere when it writes laws, and I simply think that the dollars we could save in reducing enforcement of harder drug use and distribution are not sufficient to countenance the lives that would be destroyed if the drugs are made more available.

To David: I appreciate your conflict on this issue as you apply your conservative values to this debate, and applaud you for understanding the need to revisit the harsh prison terms applied to marijuana users and distributors.  And no question, we can never lose the message that marijuana is terrible for kids.  Where I disagree is that I believe that it will be very easy for law enforcement to distinguish between the drugs that do great harm to society and those that don’t, as we have since Prohibition.  I also don’t think keeping marijuana illegal will do anything to help law enforcement crack down on the sale and distribution of harder drugs.  My ultimate point is that society can and must draw a line between soft and hard drugs and develop policies that protect people on both sides of the line.

To Don: I’m very grateful to you for sharing your obviously very passionate and educated views on the subject, as well as stories of how the War on Drugs has gone tragically wrong at times.  I also am fascinated by the Portgual example and want to investigate further.  However, for reasons I have elaborated in earlier posts and in my response to Jeff above, I feel strongly that we must draw a line between marijuana and harder drugs; that as a society, we cannot countenance legalizing a drug whose very use — not abuse, but simply use — causes harm to its user, and which has been demonstrated to dramatically increase the propensity to violence.

To the RP Nation:  Thank you for joining us in what has turned out to be one of the most excited and most trafficked days of the site.  I promise many more debates like these as the weeks progress,a nd I look forward to your opinions and input on topics.

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Don Digirolamo Rebuts

Don Digirolamo: Rebuttal #6

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense; Artur Davis’ Second Response; Jeff Smith’s First Response; David Host’s Rebuttal #6]

The author is an Oscar(TM) and Emmy(TM) award-winning sound engineer, as well and a student of metaphysics and reason for more than two decades.

On March 26, 2009, in a CNN town hall meeting, President Obama stated (slightly edited), “There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation, [and I don’t know what this says about the online audience, but this was a fairly popular question], and the answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.”

On the campaign trail a couple of years earlier, our President admitted that there was a time when he smoked cannabis, and when asked if he inhaled, he said he did, that was the point.

Obviously no one would suggest that President Obama has been stunted in his personal or political aspirations as a result of engaging in this (by federal definitions) immoral, illegal, and criminal activity: indeed, we elected him to the highest office in the land.

So what is the story with criminality and drugs?  People take drugs, and take them for all kinds of reasons; and I think it’s safe to say, there has never been a point in history when there have been so many drugs to choose from. 

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Don Digirolamo Rebuts

The RPs Debate Marijuana Legalization: David Host Rebuts

David Host: Rebuttal #5

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense; Artur Davis’ Second Response; Jeff Smith’s First Response]

The author is the CEO of Host Strategic Resources, LLC, a firm specializing in strategic and crisis communications, speechwriting, web development and open source software implementation.  He was the former Communications Director for Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R-FL)

A very thoughtful piece, Jonathan. I have become more open to the case for legalization in recent years, though I’m far from convinced.

First, the notion that pot is “harmless” is far from proven. Perhaps the best characterization of the evidence I have seen is that – like tobacco – the cumulative impact varies from person to person. For example, George Burns smoked cigars and lived to be 100. Likewise, there are plenty of “casual” pot users who don’t experience significant health effects.

Yet, according to a Scientific American article detailing the same peer review study you cited, “[c]hronic marijuana use has been associated with anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and depression.” Given the role of such mental disorders in violent crime, I respectfully disagree with how you dismiss the potential links between marijuana abuse and violent crime – not to mention the risks associated with impaired driving, heavy equipment operation, etc. Moreover, while marijuana may not have the addictive characteristics of cocaine, there is plenty of evidence that it can be addictive, at least for some individuals.

Thus, it appears as though one’s understanding of one’s own physiology, family health history (particularly instances of addiction) might be the most important consideration in deciding whether pot use is safe (just as it is in the case of alcohol and tobacco). This decision relies upon the judgment that comes with age. So, as part of a legalization regime, would we establish minimum age requirements – a “pot smoking age”?

Under this scenario, won’t we have the same problem all over again – kids grasping for the “forbidden fruit” – and won’t the same criminal elements hang around to meet this demand? For me, the “gateway drug” argument retains particular salience in this case. Kids will find it easier to deal with pushers than trying to obtain the drug through legal channels via a fake ID or other means. The legal availability of marijuana will certainly depress the “street price” – but pushers will still deal the drug in order to continue developing their market for harder drugs.

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The RPs Debate Marijuana Legalization: David Host Rebuts

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Jeff Smith Responds

Jeff Smith‘s First Response

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense; Artur Davis’ Second Response]

Some interesting points from Jonathan and Artur, and some fancy philosophy as well.

And I grant Artur’s point – having represented some of the nation’s poorest and violent census tracts I agree that people just want the dealers off the streets.

And when our nation has the political will to make that happen instead of spending a trillion dollars in the Middle East this past decade, then I’m prepared to entertain arguments about reforming the criminal justice system.

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Jeff Smith Responds

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Artur Davis Responds

Artur Davis‘ Second Response

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4; The RP’s Third Defense]

Two thoughts regarding Jeff’s position on wholesale legalization of narcotics, which as my earlier comments suggest, I fundamentally reject.
First, it illustrates very conveniently a common flaw in libertarian arguments, the notion that unrestrained liberty is a social good in its own right. Without lapsing too much into philosophical mumbo-jumbo, any social good actually ought to convey a value we all might enjoy, one that might somehow lift the condition of the community.  The libertarian goal that we are all free to take on more risk not only fails that standard, it essentially kicks it aside.

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Artur Davis Responds

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: The RP Defends

The RP‘s Third Defense

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3; Jeff Smith’s Rebuttal #4]

Jeff, you ignorant slut.

(OK, OK, if you are too old or too young to get the reference, click here.)

As always, Jeff’s writing is lucid, compelling, entertaining, and reliant on first-hand knowledge due to his unique experiences.

But I strongly disagree.  In fact, you help illustrate to me why marijuana legislation is such a moral issue, in stark contrast to the “harder” drugs you mention.

It comes down to this phrase from your piece:

Part of having freedom is having the freedom to do harm to yourself.

First of all, I disagree with the premise: My communitarian philosophy, in contrast to your libertarian views, recognizes the moral dimensions of public policy, and sometimes requires members of the community to sacrifice certain freedoms for the common good.  [Sorry for the big words and over-thinking, but if you’d like an excellent summary of the philosophical distinctions, click here, and if you want to read an incredible, very readable book on the subject, click here.]

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: The RP Defends

The RPs Debate Marijuana Legalization: Jeff Smith Rebuts

Jeff Smith: Rebuttal #4

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response; Ron Granieri’s Rebuttal #3]

I think drug legalization is a little like campaign finance reform, or Lay’s potato chips: You can’t do it halfway (or, you can’t eat just one).

That’s why I think Jonathan’s wrong. We shouldn’t legalize marijuana. We should decriminalize all drugs.
Prohibition has accomplished a few things. It has driven up the price of drugs dramatically given the risks that market players take every day. It has increased the potency of drugs and made them more dangerous than they would be if legal and regulated; every year thousands die from taking drugs that are laced with toxic substances. It has helped lead to the imprisonment of a generation of mostly minority young males, many of whom have substantial talents and aptitude for capitalism (and took advantage of their skills in the only thriving industry in their neighborhoods). And of course, because of the outsized profits available to those willing to risk their liberty and indeed, their life, prohibition helped give rise to an epidemic of violence that plagued inner cities for decades and has to a lesser extent hit rural America via meth. 

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The RPs Debate Marijuana Legalization: Jeff Smith Rebuts

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Ron Granieri Rebuts

Ron Granieri: Rebuttal #3

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense; Artur Davis’ First Response]

I have avoided getting into this talk because, amusingly enough, I really do not have a clear opinion.

Like the RP, I have never really smoked weed, but know plenty of people who have and who have not turned into the giggling dope fiends of Reefer Madness. I appreciate the arguments about enforcing existing law, and also the dangers of gateway drugs, but I can also see the argument that decriminalizing small amounts for personal use and regulating the trade would actually be a net plus for the treasury (combining a new tax revenue stream and lower police costs).

I do think, however, that the debate tends to gloss over the important point of social costs. Legalizing weed will require plenty of regulation, and the need for such regulations tends to get lost in all the talk about how awesome it will be to smoke ’em if you got ’em. Proponents of legalization love to point out all the damage that is done by alcohol, and they have a point.

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Ron Granieri Rebuts

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: Artur Davis Responds

Artur Davis‘ First Response

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2; The RP’s Second Defense]

I think that Jonathan’s argument regarding medical marijuana–versus social use of marijuana– is a tougher one to resolve, but I’m still inclined toward the view that legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes is easy to do in theory, hard to do in fact. Jason Atkinson is dead-on, in my view, about the abuses and subterfuges that will spring up if  the door to legalization is opened at all.
As for Jonathan’s observations regarding the resources spent on minor drug prosecutions, it’s a quite serious point. I would repeat my earlier sentiments that marijuana prosecutions remain an area of disparity and uneven unforcement. I would even go so far as to endorse the experiment in some jurisdictions of considering drug possession cases in special drug courts, where the focus is treatment and avoiding recidivism rather than incarceration.

The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: The RP Defends

The RP‘s Second Defense

[The RP’s Provocation; Jason Atkinson’s Rebuttal #1; The RP’s First Defense: Jason Atkinson’s First Response; Artur Davis’ Rebuttal #2]

I disagree with Artur’s balancing of the equities when it comes to marijuana legalization, but it certainly is a reasonable conclusion (one that I used to share), and there simply isn’t the data yet to demonstrate the relative health benefits versus the relative health risks.

That’s one reason that the California Medical Association had called for legalization, to provide the wider clinical analysis to once and for all determine whether marijuana use is more good than bad, or vice versa.

But the equally compelling reason that I support legalization is the impact on our system of corrections and criminal justice, and as a former federal prosecutor, Artur, I’d love to hear your perspective.

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The RPs Debate Legalizing Marijuana: The RP Defends

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