Coeur d’Alene Press: POT: An unsafe experiment

Hotels at night on Lake Coeur d'Alene
Hotels at night on Lake Coeur d’Alene

It’s rare that an op-ed on marijuana calls out our organization and, specifically, our spokesperson by name. This one is going to deserve some response.

Hello, Mr. Belville. I’ve been expecting you, as well as a reference to “reefer madness.” Everything I stated in my article was current information and easily googled. You’re the one using the same old, tired arguments (e.g. pot’s not as unhealthy as alcohol and cigarettes, so I get to be unhealthy too.) That’s been scientifically debunked.

Easily googling… The data on tobacco and alcohol killing people are pretty easy to find.

Data on cannabis killing people, on the other hand, is difficult to find, because it is impossible to fatally overdose on THC, its chronic use doesn’t cause cancers, and its impairing effects on drivers is negligible. But if we google hard enough and accept data from marijuana opponents, this is the worst we could find:

From Family Council

In an eight-year span, motivated opponents of marijuana legalization could only find 279 deaths they attributed to accidents caused by cannabis use. Almost as many people die from alcohol per day.

Some of my sources included Alex Berenson, author of “Tell Your Children” and Dr. Kevin Sabet (SAM).

That explains a lot. For those who don’t know, Alex Berenson is the author of Tell Your Children, a tome that portrays marijuana use as an inevitable harbinger of psychosis which always progresses to death. After rising to the top of the reefer madness charts, Berenson later became (and still is) one of the top purveyors of COVID–19 conspiracy theories.

Kevin Sabet is the author of Smokescreen and other books and founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). He’s the “quarterback of the anti-legalization movement” and prior to the emergence of Berenson was considered the king of reefer madness. Here’s our spokesperson debating Sabet way back in 2012 in Texas.

Further, William Brangham, (PBS) states: “Legalization was sold, in part, as a way to put a dent in the drug trade, but, in many states, the police say the black market for marijuana has increased since legalization.” With great insight Brangham explains, legalization “is a complicated social and political experiment this country is now [quickly] running…”.

We’ve heard this one a lot, yet never seen any proponent do the math to make the proof. Consider: before legalization, 100% of the tokers buying 100% of the marijuana purchased was from the black market. For the purposes of keeping the math easy, let’s say that’s 100 people in a state buying 100 ounces.

Now a legal marijuana shop opens up. Let’s say only half of those marijuana smokers go buy an ounce from the legal store. That’s 50 ounces gone from the black market. So, for the black market to even stay the same as it was before legalization, those other 50 people still shopping from the black market still need to buy 100 ounces—2 ounces each instead of one.

In other words, every marijuana sale in a legal shop equals the increase in black market sales that would be necessary for the black market to remain steady. If Colorado has sold a billion dollars in legal weed, then Colorado’s black market needs to sell an addition billion dollars on top of what it is already selling, in order to break even.

This all assumes marijuana remaining at a steady price, which, of course, it has not. Marijuana prices plummet after legalization, leading to yet more ground the black market has to make up just to break even.

Experiments don’t always end well. Just because we’re in the middle of one doesn’t mean it’s something that’s good for our nation, or something that our citizens will continue to support. Those opposed to legalization are late to battle; and proponents have powerful lobbyists behind them, spending millions, (Open Secrets) while those at the top are making millions. Your stance that the people voted for it, is a weak argument.

Late to the battle? Opponents of legalization have had the full force of federal and state prohibition on their side since 1937! How many billions of taxpayer dollars funded anti-drug TV ads, police lecturing schoolkids, researchers studying for every bad effect, TV shows’ scripts edited to promote anti-drug messaging, and all the community anti-drug coalitions? You’re not late to the battle, you’re just losing it.

Finally, there are states (MS, SD, MT, MA) who recently attempted to overturn legalization. (e.g. SD successfully showed laws were unconstitutional.) Just as legalization wasn’t attained overnight, repeal won’t be either.

Not true at all. In Mississippi, medical marijuana passed with over 70% of the vote. What’s happening there is an anti-pot mayor has sued to argue the initiative was improperly placed on ballot. Mississippi’s laws require that no one Congressional district can supply more than 20% of the signatures. The problem is that law was written when Mississippi had five Congressional districts; now it only has four, so mathematically, it is impossible to abide by that law, and now the courts have to sort it all out.

In South Dakota, again we have a situation where the state overwhelmingly passed marijuana legalization, but the losing opponents are trying to overturn it in court. A lower court has ruled that legalization violates a state “single subject rule” because it covers taxes, licensing, and cultivation—separate topics. The state Supreme Court will have to decide.

In Montana, again legalization passed overwhelmingly, and again the losing opponent is trying to overturn it in court. But those efforts have proved fruitless as the legislature has finally approved legislation to regulate cannabis and it awaits the governor’s signature.

And Massachusetts? We are unaware of any attempts there to repeal their decriminalization (2008), their medical marijuana (2012), or their legalization (2016) laws. The other three states are hardly cases of “the state” trying to overturn legalization; they are cases of sore losers trying to have courts overrule the voters.

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