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What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? Professor Joel W. Hay

Submitted by Thinking CAP on Sun, May 24, 2009 - 6:34 am

The New York Times offered an invitation to number of people to voice their opinions about legalizing marijuana. Below is the link to the page with the various submissions.

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? A Freakonomics Quorum


Below is the submission of a professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California. I will analyze it part by part.

Joel W. Hay is professor of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California.

I wonder where most of his paycheck comes from. Kind of hard to determine from his bio page, but he seems very defensive of something he’s not leveling with us about.

This is my “first pass” at his submission to the New York Times. Basically a 1.0 version without as many links to supporting evidence I’ve read, but not linked to yet. You are welcome to add comments below supplying those links. I will incorporate them in to my analysis. Thanks in advance.

With all of our current problems, Americans do not need more marijuana. Pot combines mind-altering and judgment-clouding qualities (like alcohol) with carcinogenic, respiratory, and second-hand smoke qualities (like tobacco); it is emphatically not a safe or benign substance.

  • "…all our current problems…" — Many of our current problems ARE DUE TO PROHIBITION and the self-righteous overlords who have perverted our nation’s Founding Documents!
  • To say that marijuana clouds a person’s mind like alcohol shows a gross ignorance of marijuana. Has this man even tried it?
  • Next he slams marijuana as a carcinogen, and says it’s like tobacco. Yet more ignorance. Is this man really a doctor?
  1. Anyone with any bit of knowledge about marijuana knows that people who smoke tobacco cigarettes can smoke up to 1 to 2 packs a day! Packs of cigarettes often have 20 cigarettes per pack! Granted my experience is limited, but I’ve never heard of anyone smoking 20 joints a day, let alone 40!
  2. People who want to quit tobacco have a very hard time. People who want to quit marijuana just stop and that’s the end of it.
  3. There are no reported deaths due to smoking marijuana.
  4. One need not smoke marijuana, it can be vaporized, put in teas, put in oils, and prepared in a wide variety of ways before eating it.
  • Marijuana is safe and benign for many/most people. AND is has proven beneficial for many uses.
  • Dr. Lester Grinspoon MD, Harvard, in “To Smoke or not to Smoke: A Cannabis Odyssey” writes “…the number of people who observe for themselves how relatively benign this substance is.”

    Daily pot smokers have a 30 percent increased risk of accidents, and one study found that more emergency-department trauma admissions were associated with pot use than alcohol. We don’t need hundreds of billions of dollars in new medical-care costs, traffic and other accident costs, reduced worker productivity, and lower educational achievements in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

    • It is usually a serious breach of medical protocol to not link to or name the studies one is quoting the findings of. It should also be noted that there were no links from this man’s essay to any sources. Neither he, nor the former DEA agent supplied any links to evidence. On the other hand, the writers from the “end prohibition” perspective provided many links to sources supporting their claims.
    • His prediction of “hundreds of billions of dollars in new medical-care costs, traffic and other accident costs, reduced worker productivity, and lower educational achievements” is totally unfounded and reminiscent of the fear-monger false prophets promoting alcohol prohibition. Clearly he thinks himself more knowledgeable in matters of economics than another respondent to this NYT quorum, a Harvard professor who analyzed the economics of legalization in detail.
    • Was Carl Sagan an under-acheiver? How about Lester Grinspoon, MD of Harvard? How about that under-achiever Barack Obama? Or what about that unmotivated wimp Arnold Schwarzenegger? Physicist Richard Feynman?

    It is ironic that the public health community, who so vociferously decries the dangers of tobacco with reams of scientific evidence, falls strangely silent when voters in state after state are encouraged by the pot lobby to legalize marijuana specifically as a “medical therapy.”

    • This is probably because tobacco is dangerous to consume in the quantities most people do.
    • There is no one “pot lobby.” There are in fact many groups from diverse backgrounds, interests, educational levels, and beliefs who want the evil religion of hate against marijuana to be overturned, yesterday! While it may be true (I have no evidence) that currently a majority of them do use marijuana, there are significant groups within the “pot lobby” who never have, and never intend on using it.

    There isn’t a shred of scientific evidence that marijuana is safe and effective for any medical condition.

    Moreover, THC, the active ingredient of pot, has been approved by the FDA and on the market in capsule form since 1985. As a further irony, while the Obama administration has put $1.1 billion behind scientific comparative effectiveness research to demonstrate whether medical treatments actually work, his Attorney General has decided to downplay federal prosecutions in California of medical marijuana distributors and users, apparently because state voters trump science when it comes to making medical policy for mind-altering substances.

    • It’s too bad that mean-spirited bullies trump our Founding Documents!
    • Would you rather have an all-natural product or some pill extract? Does this guy sit down to a 21st century dinner as imagined back in the 1960’s, a plate full of pills? “Hm… there’s the salad pills: yummy tomato pill, delicious olive pill, and that lettuce pill contains concentrated nutrients without all that extra water… I can’t wait to swallow that steak pill.”
    • It is the height of arrogance to say that humanity should not have access to this plant because scientists haven't figured out which parts of it do what. I am all for scientific exploration of marijuana to learn its constituent parts and learn what benefits they hold, but 1) that has been hampered by an obstinate DEA whose written mission is thwart any and all scientific and educational findings with regard to “Schedule 1” items 2) just because some people say they don’t understand how something works is no excuse to withhold it from the rest of us!
    • Studies show (haven't collected the links yet) that most people who use marijuana, and even some other drugs, do not experience any long term detriment due to using them, so the continued fear-mongering “mind-altering” is just bogus BS. In any case, read my short analysis of the claim about “mind-altering” and realize that even a book can alter your mind. This is why so many governments, and businesses, work hard to keep regular citizens from otherwise useful information.

    It is a fallacy that pot legalization will provide badly needed state and federal revenue through taxation of decriminalized marijuana. A California Assembly decriminalization bill is currently being promoted as a $1 billion pot-tax cure for the state’s fiscal headaches. The problem with this logic, as alcohol and tobacco clearly demonstrate, is that economic costs will increase by amounts far greater than any possible revenue gains. Tobacco taxes only cover about 20 percent of tobacco-related costs, and alcohol taxes only cover about 10 percent of alcohol-related costs. Raising taxes on either tobacco or alcohol enough to merely cover their medical costs and other detrimental effects would create flourishing black markets in these commodities. Raising marijuana taxes high enough to cover medical and other costs associated with legalized pot use will mean both more potheads and continued marijuana narco-trafficking.

    • Still more bogus fear-mongering. The fact is that many people already use marijuana! It’s not like California is going from zero marijuana users to hundreds of millions of hedonistic party animals with no common sense overnight! Like he wants you to imagine.
    • Again this medical man continues to imply that marijuana’s effects and repercussions are the same as tobacco and alcohol! Who in their right mind thinks drinking a few beers is anything like smoking a few cigarettes?!
    • It also seems this doctor somehow thinks of himself more knowledgeable in matters of economics than another respondent to this NYT quorum, a Harvard professor who analyzed the economics of legalization in detail.
    • He is clearly a high priest in the religion of hate against marijuana.

    The final argument against decriminalization is that it would create powerful and legal marijuana business interests who then become entrenched in the system, contributing to politicians, advertising to consumers, and pushing for even more liberal drug laws. Alcohol and tobacco are safe as long as their business interests contribute to pot legalization, and marijuana will be safe after decriminalization as long as their merchants contribute to the inevitable next round of political campaigns to legalize heroin and cocaine.

    • If he’s so worried about corrupt, powerful, business interests perverting our Founding Documents and our government I encourage him to take a look at these organizations: the prison industrial complex and humongous pharmaceutical companies, and all the affiliated industries who hang on to them.
    • He conveniently overlooks the sad fact that the gargantuan profits of the illicit drug business already have corrupted government in many ways! Top politicians in many countries have been found out to be on the payrolls of drug cartels. Ending marijuana prohibition is something those people will fight against because it means less tax-free money for them.
    • He remains intensely confused. I am certain the overwhelming majority (like 99%) of marijuana users have absolutely no interest in using heroin and cocaine.
    • There are many people from all sorts of backgrounds, education levels, etc… who have no interest in marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc… but want prohibition on all of them to end! I am sure this man knows this, but he is pretending he does not and is trying to paint all marijuana users as insatiable druggies, and every one who is against marijuana prohibition as a closet druggie. I encourage readers to investigate Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. There are also a number of other organizations and individuals who are totally against Prohibition version 2, and want it repealed. And not because they want to try these drugs out!
    • There are millions of us who want to end Prohibition version 2 and the reasons are many! End the black market, end the violence associated with the black market, regulate drugs though official means instead of pushers, take drugs out of the hands of kids who are being used by greedy adults fearing punishment, ending the financial incentives pushers have to move people from the safe and benign marijuana to more lucrative products, etc…
    • Since the laws for regulating marijuana have not been written, it is bogus to claim he knows how they’ll be written.