Monday, May 17, 2010

It's always gotta be 'for teh childrenses'...

...doesn't it?

His testosterone-charged youth filled with Harley-Davidsons, ultralight aircraft and ski-slope derring-do, Richard Lee hardly fit the mold of social warrior. But when an accident left the Houston native partially paralyzed, fate intervened to transform him first into a millionaire, then into one of the nation's top advocates for legalized marijuana.
Lee, 47, now a purveyor of medicinal marijuana in Oakland, Calif., is credited with engineering a successful effort to get an initiative legalizing the drug for adult consumption on his adopted state's November ballot.
John Redman, a Texas A&M University graduate who heads California's Community Alliances for Drug Free Youth, complained that legalizing marijuana for adults would make it seem less harmful and, indirectly, increase its availability to minors.
Now, I will say that I don't know much about the harmfulness of marijuana vs. tobacco. From what I understand, cannabis doesn't have nicotine as tobacco does -- but cannabis does have more tar, so I don't know exactly how that balances out. And nicotine, as most folks know, is the addictive component of cigarettes. I'd be interested to find out to what extent marijuana is addictive (as many claim it is) due to the impurities added to it to make it last longer. At any rate, again, from what I understand marijuana is already less harmful than tobacco.

However, no matter how harmful marijuana is, John Redman's argument is still full of FAIL, on a couple of levels.

First off, it's rather obvious, given his position, that Redman's advocating that teh ganja be kept illegal because of its deleterious effects on teh childrenses. Now, let me be unambiguous here. In no way do I condone partaking of any mind-altering substance by those who are not of the legal age to partake of it. Just as I would not advocate those under 18 being able to drink, I also would not advocate them being able to smoke, whether it be tobacco or cannabis. However, the harm of other already legal substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, is and has been well-established. According to the Centers for Disease Control, from 2001 to 2005 some 79,000 deaths occurred due to excessive alcohol use -- which breaks down to about 15,800 deaths per year. Far, FAR more deaths are attributable to excessive tobacco use in the United States; according to the CDC (again), some 443,000 people die each year because of it. Yet those substances remain legal; in fact, we already tried banning one of them, but said ban proved itself to be a massive failure. And I hear no one talking seriously about banning the other. Why is that? And how exactly, looking at the big picture in its entirety, has drug Prohibition produced a net benefit for society that alcohol Prohibition did not? (Ask Kathryn Johnston about that. Oh, wait...) For the life of me I don't think I'll ever understand the fundamental difference between the two.

Second, there's the matter of availability. Someone in the comments made an interesting point that I don't know that I ever would have thought of:

" isn't minors who have trouble obtaining the stuff. Had I wanted to, I could have gotten it during middle school. I would estimate that it is more difficult for the average schoolchild to obtain a cigarette than a joint. Tobacco, at least, has a legal outlet, so vendors are less tempted to peddle it to children, and its distribution has oversight."

Try as I may, I can't argue with that. There are probably still those who would grow their own and sell it to kids if it were legal, but you can get into trouble for selling weed to kids anyway, and those penalties shouldn't be any looser. There are other, arguably better ways to combat kids doing drugs anyway, among them being parental involvement in the kids' lives. Meet the kids' friends, get to know the friends' parents, ask 'em what's going on at school, that sort of thing. It strikes me that "ban it!" is a much more passive and ineffective approach, but the easiest -- and that's why so many people go for it. It's the easy way out, a short-term, shallow solution that doesn't get to the root of the problem. And the sooner we realize that, the better.