Reefer Madness

When you go to school at Berkeley, you’re gonna run into a lot of potheads.  It’s inevitable.  I can’t count how many times I’ve seen stoned idiots, stumbling about, reeking of reefer.  Not all marijuana users are brain-dead teenagers and twenty-somethings, though.  Many people use the cannabis plant for legitimate medical purposes, like pain relief and inducement of hunger for those who have wasting diseases.  11 states have laws that allow for the use of marijuana for those who suffer terminal or severe illnesses—medical marijuana, they call it.  Today, however, federalism prevails as the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that federal laws prohibiting the use of cannabis supercedes any state laws.

I just don’t get it.  Doctors are allowed to write prescriptions for very strong pain relievers and narcotics, such as morphine and oxycontin.  Just a few weeks ago I was stumbling around on a legal vicodin trip.  So why not marijuana?  It’s not like doctors are trying to give this drug to Joe Everyman, or the bum on the street.  Some of the people who have been arrested under this law are normal people who suffer severe (and often untreatable) illnesses.  For example, one of the defendants in the case—Angel McClary Raich—has an inoperable brain tumor in addition to other problems. She says that marijuana is the only substance that alleves her pain and helps her hold down enough food. What this ruling effectively does is tell her that she must suffer for the rest of her (probably short) life, because marijuana is BAD.  It doesn’t matter that she’s a suburban mother of two with an extreme medical case, in the eyes of the law she’s just as guilty as the teenager getting stoned in his parents’ basement.  How retarded is that?

What effect will this really have, I wonder.  More than 95% of all marijuana arrests are carried out by state authorities—only large scale (and most likely illegal) weed operations attract the attention of the Feds.  So if a state that had an exemption for medical marijuana stumbles across an ill person blazing up, will they really bother to arrest them?  Also, I am slightly bothered by the fact that the ruling against the state laws allowing medical marijuana were based on the notion of interstate commerce.  I mean, the two women in the case both grew their own, or had a caretaker to grow it for them.  How is that interstate commerce?  If that can come under the umbrella of interstate commerce, what else can?

—Iolite

29 thoughts on “Reefer Madness

  1. And to think this administration has the balls to call themselves conservative.

    Sort of like the other recent mandate stating that foreign cruise ships must conform to U.S. laws.

    I guess we could call that arm chair imperialism?

    wink

  2. Well, Bachalon, your example of armchair imperialism is a hard call.  It’s about handicapped access on foreign cruise ships, and there are good arguments on both sides.  Your argument against the ruling (I’m assuming) is the same as presented in the article: conflict with international laws about safety and structural modifications.  Another argument might be that the cruise lines are a private, and a luxury, service, and as such should not be required to provide handicapped access at their (considerable) expense.

    On the other hand, apparently (some) cruise lines are aggressively advertising their accessibility but not providing it- for instance, to the restaurant.  And there’s certainly precedence for laws requiring private business to provide access- for instance, movie theaters.  And if ships want to dock in American ports, I think that reasonable standards can be reasonably imposed upon them.

    Some accommodation is in order, but it will have to be a compromise.  I speak as someone who has spent a fair amount of time on ships, and who has worked for years with handicapped people.  I even borrowed a friend’s wheelchair and went around Berkeley in it a couple of days, to see what it was like trying to get around.  Of course, Berkeley is “crip heaven”, as my friend put it- nowhere else on the planet is as handicapped-friendly.

    This is not the most egregious type of armchair imperialism indulged in by the Americans by any means.

    As to the laws against marihuana – utter idiocy.  If marihuana “should” be illegal, then we should criminalize a very long list of other drugs, starting with alcohol and tobacco.  The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was motivated politically.  The G-Men had no one to shoot at after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and marihuana was mostly used by undesirables anyway (blacks and musicians), so they were fair game.  Sort of like the Albigensian Crusade.

    Marihuana (unlike heroin, tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine) is not physically addictive, and there is no known overdose.  Sure, it can be abused.  And it’s quite possible to become psychologically addicted to it, as one also can become addicted to a relationship or a computer game.  But to make it illegal is stupid.  And to criminalize the medical use of marihuana is worse than stupid- it’s criminal.

  3. Well said, Zilch.  I just can’t see the point in wasting so much time persecuting prosecuting happy potheads when there are murderers and rapists out there, not to mention much worse drugs.  Priorities, people!

  4. Yes, shana, the demonization of marihuana is nothing short of bizarre, and a criminal waste of time and money, to say nothing of inhumane.  I saw Reefer Madness for the first time last year, and it is mindboggling that it could ever have been taken seriously.  But as Heinlein said, “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity”.

  5. Lemme preface this with the fact that i’ve tried most of the more popular Western drugs out there, but it’s grass (or, from my youngin’ days—beka’a hash!) that i prefer best, by far.  That said, i read, listened and watched a lot of Supreme Court (SC) watchers regarding this case, and i have to say i agree with the majority’s decision.

    Many of you are criticising this decision based upon irrelevant reasoning.

    I, too, believe marijuana should be legalized.  But, i also believe drugs like alcohol should be criminalized or at least more stringently regulated.  One need only count the incidents of stoned versus drunk rioting concert goers pillaging surrounding subdivisions to understand this position.  Or, sit down and keep drinking booze while i keep smoking bowl after bowl, and we’ll see who dies first from toxicity.

    The SC’s majority opinion, though, isn’t about science, social-value, or common-sense.  As they said, the case is about Law, and nothing else.  Whether the defendants in the case were, or were not, selling grass isn’t the issue.  It’s about commerce.

    Yes, that’s right—you can influence a commodity’s commerce by the mere production of said commodity.  If that seems strange, brush up on free/regulated-market theory.

    The legalized production of a commodity (grass), regardless of whether you sell it or not, obviously influences the commerce and flow of the commodity.  A decision to allow home-grown-use would surely influence (read: trounce) Congress’ constitutionally sound laws to regulate the substance inter-State.

    You may disagree with this idea behind the decision.  But, this isn’t a position based on science or values. It’s a decision solely decided within the rigors of US federal laws, and nothing else.

    It’s more reasoned to criticise the decision on those legal guidelines, in the confines of how it was truly decided.  The SC is about making sure laws and judicial decisions respect current US laws, and is not a body legislating based upon science or upon ideas of what is good/bad; That’s Congress’ job.

    You might dislike Congress’ stamp-act law regulating marijuana based upon science or what is good for the in-pain or dying, but that’s an entirely different issue (and different fight)than this case.

    rob@egoz.org

  6. You may disagree with this idea behind the decision.  But, this isn’t a position based on science or values. It’s a decision solely decided within the rigors of US federal laws, and nothing else.

    So much the worse for the “rigors of US federal laws, if you ask me.

    Rob, you say marijuana should be legalized, but you agree with this SCOTUS decision, which has the effect of superceding state laws allowing medical marijuana, and thus criminalizing it.  So the exact way the law is formulated is more important to you than simply achieving decriminalization somehow?  Bizarre- that’s an aesthetic I can’t get behind.  Me, I would say that it’s more important to get these patients some relief now; and if the SC is the instrument behind it and not Congress, that’s   expedience.  I somehow doubt that the US Government or its ideals would be seriously shaken because the path taken was not “rigorous”.  Congressional legalization is a looong ways away, given the political climate.

  7. Plus, I hesitate to trust that SCOTUS is always making decisions based on law alone.  Certainly, that’s the ideal, and they couch it in such terms, but can we be sure that’s really what’s going on?

  8. shana, I think we can rather be sure that that’s not what’s going on.  A surgical separation of interpreting the law from one’s own ideas of good and bad is not possible in any case.  Laws are not mathematical formulas- they embody ideals.  And insofar as laws are not absolutely clear (and they cannot be, dealing as they do with human complexity) and are in need of interpretation (unlike math), there will always be bias in their interpretation.

  9. People need to better understand how our Republic operates.

    So the exact way the law is formulated is more important to you than simply achieving decriminalization somehow?  Bizarre- that’s an aesthetic I can’t get behind.  Me, I would say that it’s more important to get these patients some relief now; and if the SC is the instrument behind it and not Congress, that’s expedience.  I somehow doubt that the US Government or its ideals would be seriously shaken because the path taken was not “rigorous

  10. oh no not weed..

    this is the first Ive heard about the topic in a while.. …It only leads me to ask more questions:
    Whatever happened to the war on drugs?
    Where Is the money going that is earmarked for it?
    How successful is this war?
    Is it being bilked to fund other stuff?
    Is it funding crap like the war on terrism.

    If they thought they could make money at it they would overregulate and tax the hell out of it…
    …just like all other medicines. But if they do that I want a damned McDonalds tax as well.

    Sounds like the FDA needs a piece of it and states need to give it the tobacco treatment.

    So much for free choice.

    Hemp for war.

  11. If the SC had done so, they would have, quite literally, been assuming the duties and rights of Congress.  They would have destroyed Congress’s power, in total.  Watergate, Iran-Contra, Clinton-Lewinsky would seem incredibly minor in comparison.  Oligarchy anyone?

    So we were only two votes away from oligarchy, rob? Whew, that was close!  Nope, I don’t buy it.

  12. If the SC’s opinions couched their decisions in Reason alone, and not within existing laws, then you would have the constitutional crisis i describe.  The SC always (always) forms their opinions in the context of existing laws.  Anything else would be the Revolutionary Founders’ defintion of tyranny.

    It is possible to form an opinion that medical marijuana is legal in the context of your right to persue life, liberty, and happiness, etc.  If so, they would then need to explicitly negate Congress’ various anti-marijuane laws in their opinion.  But, the SC also votes on things (that whole democracy thingy getting in the way again, i know), and that was not the majority’s opinion.

    The integrity of the system IS important, imo, and not something easily ignored.

    rob@egoz.org

  13. I’m shocked that I’m saying this, but I completely agree with what Rob Adams has said. He’s quite right on what the role of the Supreme Court is supposed to be and they have decided properly with regards to this particular case despite how much I wish the law were otherwise.

    This isn’t an issue of the law being unconstitutional, which would allow the SCOTUS to strike it down, so it’s a law that will have to be changed the hard way: By voting in people who are willing to change it.

  14. The decision was a disaster. I’m hugely dissapointed in Scalia who is apparantly only a federalist when it suits him. On the bright side, Clarence Thomas emerges as the best legal mind on the court:

    As Thomas noted in his dissent, if government agents can raid a woman’s house and arrest her for six marijuana plants she was growing for her own use, there is simply no limit to what else it can do. Enumerated powers are meaningless.

    http://www.theagitator.com/archives/021590.php

  15. A few things…

    [1] Les, i’ve called back the gay-mafia hit squads; The kitties’ pelts are safe from my SoHo furrier.

    [2] Zilch’s post (0643am), which i actually didn’t read until after posting my subsequent reply, brings up an interesting question/problem:

    “If the SC had done so, they would have, quite literally, been assuming the duties and rights of Congress.  They would have destroyed Congress’s power, in total.  Watergate, Iran-Contra, Clinton-Lewinsky would seem incredibly minor in comparison.  Oligarchy anyone?”

    [quote=“Zilch”]So we were only two votes away from oligarchy, rob? Whew, that was close!  Nope, I don’t buy it.

    If the Supreme Court (SC (“scotus” is too male-genital-sounding for my tastes, not that that is a bad thing ;-] )) suddenly did hand the Land an opinion entirely based upon things like science, social-standards, or anything else without explicitly referencing current US Law, then yes, we would have a classic, Revolutionary-era definition of tyranny.

  16. (ok, me dumb—i neglected to copy-past the rest of the text..  ahem)

    The closest we’ve come to this is Watergate when Nixon tried to fire Cox.  In short, the Executive branch (Nixon) was trying to over-whelm, trounce the Legislative branch (Congress).  Fortunately, Nixon backeddown, ultimately resigned, and left the WhiteHouse, averting a collapse of our Constitution.  (Interestingly, during the time of he decided to resign the military was ordered to ignore Nixon’s orders, out of fear he might, in some paranoid-deluded state, attempt to have the WHouse surrounded and secured and not leave the Presidency.)

    Should the SC had down some opinion, without any reference to precendence), we would have a different type of crisis, but a very powerful constitutional crisis. I wonder how that would, or could, be resolved.

  17. Should the SC had down some opinion, without any reference to precendence), we would have a different type of crisis, but a very powerful constitutional crisis. I wonder how that would, or could, be resolved.

      You mean like telling a state to stop a recount on ballots? wink

  18. Given the current status of the law, I think that the SC acted accordingly. It appears what needs to be challenged are the federal laws themselves.

    It would appear that under the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even the casual user should be protected.

    If one peruses happiness (smoking a joint) while living his life in America, he should be at liberty to do just that

  19. It would appear that under the notion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even the casual user should be protected.

    Howdy Strange, if you haven’t already, you should read Peter McWilliams’ “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do:  The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes In Our Free Country”.  It changed the whole way I look at just about everything. 

    Incidentally, McWilliams, an AIDS sufferer, died choking on his own vomit after being busted for using medicinal marijuana to keep his nausea under control.

    —Joe

  20. If only SCOTUS would take their role this seriously ALL the time…

    Lemme just say I smoke weed just about every day (I abstain from it VERY rarely), but I’d like to think that I’ve fully retained my ability to be articulate.  Anybody who says marijuana should be illegal is completely ignoring the objective logic that is so unfortunately absent in such jurisdiction.

    By the way, I’ve heard rumors of overdose levels: You’d have to smoke 73 pounds in one hour.  Which, I would think, would kill you from smoke inhalation LONG before the THC could even make a scratch.

  21. I ran into one of my son’s old friends in a coffee shop today.  Although he is very bright, he smoked weed daily in high school and his first two years of college.  Now, I think he only smokes it rarely.  He and his girlfriend (Our neighbor’s daughter) are moving to Urbana where he he has been accepted to major in aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois.

    Not everyone fits the stoner stereotype, nor is weed always a ticket to loserville.  I know plenty of losers whose drug of choice is prime-time TV.

  22. LOL  LOL  LOL  DOF, sad, but true!!!  Unfortunately there are enough of those burn-outs wandering around that when the government pumps out their anti-drug propoganda, the sheeple buy into it.  The last two posts are correct that not all potheads burn-outs, nor are all burn-outs potheads.  Carl Sagan supposedly smoked one joint a day. 
      Unfortunately, Rob is right insofar as commerce is concerned.  The link between growing your own and general street price of mj is there, although the government’s insistence that interstate commerce is involved is somewhat tenuous.  The average home grower’s mj (even if he is a cash cropper) will tend to stay within the state boundaries.  There are some exceptions of course, like a grow co-op that involves vacant houses and some of the large outdoor grows in parks.  In general, the only other time you will see interstate involvement will be with the big shipments of mj from places like Mexico and Canada, but this is separate from a person growing for personal use.
      If you are saddened by the SC decision, take a look at this pending legislation.  Talk about fostering a climate of fear and distrust! mad

  23. Joe, that’s an excellent book and a big influence on my libertarian leanings. It changed my whole outlook on the war on drugs and other consensual crimes. You don’t even need to buy it. You can read the whole thing online for free by clicking here.

  24. Unfortunately there are enough of those burn-outs wandering around that when the government pumps out their anti-drug propoganda, the sheeple buy into it.  The last two posts are correct that not all potheads burn-outs, nor are all burn-outs potheads.

    I do my part to fight the stereotype (on this topic and abortion)…by being very vocal about it while decidedly NOT fitting the stereotype. If some more of those perfectly normal people, who also happen to dig the reefer, would be more vocal about it more often, I think it would go a long way to removing the effectiveness of the government’s play on society’s ‘pot/drugs=wastoid’ button.

  25. oe, that’s an excellent book and a big influence on my libertarian leanings. It changed my whole outlook on the war on drugs and other consensual crimes. You don’t even need to buy it. You can read the whole thing online for free by clicking here.

    Great link Les, and as a conservative Christian I wholeheartedly agree. I think we could de-escalate the current culture wars. And as a Christian, I think this would actually promote the spread of religion because people can no longer rely on the government to tell them what is right and wrong.

    But consensual behavior is a two-way street. What if a store owner wants to hire someone for $3.00 an hour? What about the Open Space laws in California that tell people that they can’t build a home on their own property, even though California has the most expensive housing prices in the nation? What about federal regulators that declare certain workspaces hazardous and force the owner to pay for upgrades even though his employees have freely decided to work there? What about the 40 hour work week laws that force an owner to pay overtime if an employee wants to work more than 40 hours a week – or that force an employee to take a second job and have an unpaid second commute added to his work week?

    Keeping the government out of consensual behavior makes socialism impossible. It makes the European model impossible. It makes post-New Deal America impossible. Do you really want that?

    I suspect that many only care about keeping the government out of consensual behavior when it is the forms of consensual behavior that we approve of that is prohibited.

  26. But consensual behavior is a two-way street. What if a store owner wants to hire someone for $3.00 an hour? … What about the 40 hour work week laws that force an owner to pay overtime if an employee wants to work more than 40 hours a week – or that force an employee to take a second job and have an unpaid second commute added to his work week?

    I won’t say that deregulating everything is the answer to all our problems.  And if America is to become a more libertarian society, it won’t happen overnight, but gradually (can you imagine the chaos?  out of the blue, Bush goes on TV and says, “All drugs are now legal!  Heroin!  Coke!  Meth!  Guns too!  No more waiting periods or background checks!”).

    Consensual behavior is indeed a two-way street:  if an employer wants to attract hard-working, loyal employees, he’s going to have to pay more than $3/hour, and overtime, too.  People may take his job because there’s nothing else available, but they won’t be happy, and as soon as the guy down the street starts paying $4/hour, the world (or at least that town) will be beating a path to his door.

    Besides, money isn’t everything:  I wouldn’t take a job as a waiter even if it paid $100K (more than twice what I make now).

    We can only speculate on the immediate effects of legalizing drugs and deregulating the workplace.  I’m going to daydream a bit here:  I’d like to think that there would be “meta-effects” as a result of a more libertarian society—things might be kinda crazy at first as people get used to changes, but eventually things would settle into a different kind of thinking.  Scam artists might run wild at first, feeling they can now claim anything they want and prey on ignorant consumers who have no protection (“Nobody forced you to buy that Junomatic Perpetual Motion Machine.”), but after a while, people would (I hope) wise up and start asking more questions and become better informed.  The commercial industry would realize the public isn’t a bunch of suckers and have to be create more durable, reliable products and be candid about ingredients in food. 

    I wish I could think of better examples to present here (I’m at work and not prepared to write a thesis!). 

    —Joe

  27. Here is a link from the Marijuana Policy Project.  You can use it to send an e-mail to your Congressperson asking that they support the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment.  It is an attempt to give states back their self-determination on medical marijuana policy.  Here is some of the proposed language of the amendment:

    None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent the States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington from implementing State laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana in those States.

  28. Haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I will. smile

    The crazy thing is, when you have a legitimate use for marijuana, using it just makes you feel NORMAL, not high.

    The government doesn’t want us to touch marijuana because if they made it legal, they’d have a hard time making any money off it.  Because anyone can grow MJ anywhere.  They’re not going to make any MONEY off it, therefore it must be PROHIBITED.  Likewise, the drug companies aren’t going to get any money for it either.  It’s hard to up the price of something that can be produced SO cheaply.

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