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April 8, 2010 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Philadelphia is going to decriminalize Marijuana. Or maybe they aren't. Well, the police aren't going to stop arresting people. “We’re not going to stop locking people up,” said Lt. Frank Vanore. “We’re going to stop people for it. . . . Our officers are trained to do that,” Vanore said. “Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A.

The bottom line:

Under the new policy, people charged with possession for personal use will still be arrested, handcuffed, searched, detained, and fingerprinted. Then, regardless of their criminal history, their case will be heard by a special late-afternoon summary court in Courtroom 408 at the Criminal Justice Center. This "quality of life" court handles offenses such as public drinking and disorderly conduct.
posted by furiousxgeorge (85 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bunny Colvin would approve.


(obligatory reference from The Wire, the first of many I'm sure...)

posted by spoobnooble at 3:58 PM on April 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


“We’re not going to stop locking people up,” said Lt. Frank Vanore. “We’re going to stop people for it. . . . Our officers are trained to do that,” Vanore said.

This police officer seems to have forgotten he is not also a prosecutor, judge, and jury.
posted by mek at 3:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Baby steps. And sure, it's not a very healthy baby, and its legs are sort of constricted by some sort of red ribbon, but, you know. It'll get there eventually.
posted by Caduceus at 3:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Check back in November. California has legalization on the ballot and a poll from last year shows support for legalization is in the mid-fifties.
posted by mullingitover at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2010


People arrested with up to 30 grams of the drug...may have to pay a fine but face no risk of a criminal record.

Under the new policy, people charged with possession for personal use will still be arrested, handcuffed, searched, detained, and fingerprinted.


I'm assuming that there's some provision in the new policy that mandates the destruction of all the paperwork and fingerprint files that the police generated when they arrest someone? If not, then, these two comments seem to be in opposition of each other.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't snort the bottom line. It's a bummer, man.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2010


So freakin' retrain them. How hard is that to think up?
posted by adipocere at 4:04 PM on April 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


This police officer seems to have forgotten he is not also a prosecutor, judge, and jury.


More like all of them think that way.
posted by MrLint at 4:04 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


In some other, somewhat related news:

NEDERLAND, COLO. — Voters in the town of Nederland voted on Tuesday and approved a ballot measure that removed all local penalties for private adult marijuana possession, making the mountain town the third Colorado locality to legalize marijuana in the past five years.

It has certainly been an interesting past couple of years for the anti-prohibition lobby, and I hope it keeps up. Good on Philadelphia for pseudo-decriminalization.
posted by deacon_blues at 4:05 PM on April 8, 2010


So freakin' retrain them. How hard is that to think up?

Obviously, Philadelphia has robot cops that can no longer be controlled.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:09 PM on April 8, 2010 [24 favorites]


So freakin' retrain them. How hard is that to think up?

Obviously, Philadelphia has robot cops that can no longer be controlled.


Everyone warned them about renaming their precincts "Skynets," but did they listen? Nooo.
posted by Caduceus at 4:12 PM on April 8, 2010


their case will be heard by a special late-afternoon summary court in Courtroom 408 at the Criminal Justice Center.

For some reason this cracks me up.
posted by contessa at 4:15 PM on April 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


No way those dopers are getting up in time for morning court.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:18 PM on April 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I smoke one little j' and my mom got scared...
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 4:20 PM on April 8, 2010


City of Brotherly Nug?
posted by geoff. at 4:20 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 4:24 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was Courtroom 420 unavailable?
posted by snofoam at 4:26 PM on April 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

It's a very easy way to turn minorities and the poor into a criminal underclass, thus ensuring a ready source of cheap labor and good profits for the privatized prison industry.

That's the best argument for prohibition I've ever heard.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:29 PM on April 8, 2010 [41 favorites]


A decriminalization bill was just introduced in RI.
posted by knave at 4:29 PM on April 8, 2010


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

Illegality keeps the price artificially high.

(Not saying it's a good argument--legalize the hell out of it, I say--but keeping it illegal ensures a nice high demand and price for those who already grow it.)
posted by John of Michigan at 4:33 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


(obligatory reference from The Wire, the first of many I'm sure...)

Cheesesteaksterdam!
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:34 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Illegality keeps the price artificially high.

(Not saying it's a good argument--legalize the hell out of it, I say--but keeping it illegal ensures a nice high demand and price for those who already grow it.)


Which is nicely contributing to the continued growth of the Mexican drug syndicates and their transformation into paramilitary organizations capable of taking on the Mexican government. We can't decriminalize this stuff too soon if we want to avoid more of that violence spilling over our borders (or driving refugees over them).
posted by Caduceus at 4:43 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


a special late-afternoon summary court

Look, I'm really trying to beat the rush hour traffic. Can you just give me the gist of the charges?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:43 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

The smell of pot hung heavy in the air as men with dreadlocks and gray beards contemplated a nightmarish possibility in this legendary region of outlaw marijuana growers: legal weed.

If California legalizes marijuana, they say, it will drive down the price of their crop and damage not just their livelihoods but the entire economy along the state's rugged northern coast.


Don't balance the budget on the backs of bud-farmers! Save Humboldt County — keep pot illegal!
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:44 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe showing Reefer Madness to all new police officers was a bad idea.

With cuts to municipal budgets, it would seem like a good thing all around for police to leave the pot-heads alone, and focus on other things, while being able to tax the sales.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:00 PM on April 8, 2010


Is it possible that if the locals stopped arresting, the DEA would sweep in and do it anyway?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:06 PM on April 8, 2010


Sorry to sidetrack, but can anyone explain to me what the impact of the Cali initiative would be in case it passes? The ballotpedia link is not helpful:

"Impact if successful

According to Marcus Wohlsen of the Associated Press, "...full legalization could turn medical marijuana dispensaries into all-purpose pot stores, and the open sale of joints could become commonplace on mom-and-pop liquor store counters in liberal locales like Oakland and Santa Cruz."


I mean, it's just some AP person spouting off. Anybody have a more authoritative source or comprehensive idea? Is it really gonna be - "hey, I'm gonna pick up a sixpack of Corona and a couple o' buds at the liquor store"? And how soon after it passes?
posted by VikingSword at 5:08 PM on April 8, 2010


"We’re not going to stop locking people up"
Yeah, that's not a waste of time, effort and tax dollars.

"We have to be smart on crime," said District Attorney Seth Williams, who took office in January. "We can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers."

I'm an educated man but I can't fathom what would prevent anyone from simply declaring a war on drugs.
Successful prosecution of a war on drugs - yeah, plenty of gigantic obstacles, reams of corruption, bricks of greed and glad bags filled with stupid preventing that.
I would also think being smart on crime would include ending prohibitive laws that enable the existence of international crime cartels, fund underground markets and foster corruption.

Not that this isn't a nice move. But there's plenty of room for economic abuse.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:11 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

This is because there are no good arguments. Just stupid people. Do you know how popular Yahoo! Answers is? How like 90% of it seems like the dredge of society talking to each other? This is how most of the world is. I'm not being entirely cynical, but just realistic.

See most of these decisions take place (unfortunately) where the smart, erudite people avoid. Like for example the Kansas House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee. I'm sure its something needed, much like we need water and sewage. However, anyone who is smart and interesting is not going to be involved in this committee, that's fine for again, 90% of the time. But let's take a look at how Kansas banned K2 (and quick FYI, K2 is a synthetic cannabinoid so it is not under the analog drug act, which means it is legal. And before you go googling, K2 is a poor substitute for weed that just barely gets you high and anyone with access to even Mexican brick weed would prefer the latter ...). Kansas banned K2 as soon as it could, and here is how the hearing went:
Though he wasn't familiar with any scientific research on K2, he said, "I've got a daughter in high school, and this is a dangerous drug. The concern is selling it to kids.") ... Morris' statement to the committee is essentially the same as it was at Olson's press conference: that K2 is a sort of super weed, able get a smoker higher than any real marijuana, while paralyzing unsuspecting teens in dreamless, dark comas.

Their testimony is a weird mix of Internet innuendo and third-hand anecdotes. One officer says the first thing his department did upon hearing about K2 was search YouTube for clips and read the video comments. Another says he heard about a blog telling of a teen who went into a coma for 12 hours after smoking K2. A woman who works with high-school students says she fears for the teachers if a student goes into a violent frenzy from synthetic cannabinoids.
How do you deal with this? I think the first step is taking the very powerful tool of banning substances out of the hands of people who normally deal with the minutiae of parole violations. Give it to people who at least don't take Youtube comments and blog posts as fact.
posted by geoff. at 5:13 PM on April 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


Five years ago I would never have foreseen how rapidly things have shifted in the last two years, like a dam breaking (damn!). I have started to believe I will see this amazing plant fully legalized in my lifetime. Makes me a little less sad to be turning into a fogey bit by awful bit.

Yeah, cops are going to need to get over the loss of their usual method of acquiring a personal stash, racking up an easy collar record chasing non-violent people doing nothing to harm anyone else, and having a tool to racially profile. Not to mention the number of SWAT teams and fancy police technology installations that have been paid for by departments' share of property seizure revenues derived from the deprivation of scary drug criminals of due process and civil rights offered to murderers and child molesters. Deal with it, law enforcement. If it weren't for the prohibition on drugs, we'd need half of your current number doing your job. That's because all of this is unproductive, wasted social effort, the self-perpetuating bureaucracy of the prison-industrial complex.

The emperor has no clothes. They're trying to make a common weed of extraordinary practical value and very little provable relative danger illegal. It's fucking insane.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:25 PM on April 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


Yea, sorry law enforcement dudes. Is someone harshing on yer job security there? Bummer.
posted by snsranch at 5:29 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


*sighs*

Guys. It's societal engineering. How productive will your citizenry be if they're high all the time?

This is sold to parents as, how successful will your kid be if he's high all the time?

This is about 60% of what's going on.
posted by effugas at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Not saying it's a good argument--legalize the hell out of it, I say--but keeping it illegal ensures a nice high demand and price for those who already grow it.)
Anyone who grows pot and thinks it should stay illegal should immediately report to jail, thereby eliminating themselves from the voter pool.

And of course it would put the Mexican drug syndicates and national-park growers out of business as well.
posted by delmoi at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great use of police resources.
posted by caddis at 5:48 PM on April 8, 2010


Don't balance the budget on the backs of bud-farmers! Save Humboldt County — keep pot illegal!

Perhaps it's time for the MGAA, the Marijuana Growers' Association of America, to form and lobby the government to maintain the artificial conditions of scarcity that underwrite their ongoing profits?
posted by acb at 5:49 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


VikingSword, the AP article is somewhat misleading. You should read the text of the initiative, but the basic deal is that possession of small amounts will no longer be a criminal offense in California, and nor will cultivation or transport. Individual counties will be able to make their own decisions about whether or not license establishments that wish to engage in retail sales.

The AP is correct insofar as those counties could license the sale of marijuana to adults over 21 by liquour stores etc., if they saw fit to do so. But that seems a very unlikely prospect, at least in the forseeable future.

FWIW I've just completed a semester course at Oaksterdam University, which is an enterprise of Richard Lee, the man behind the (most popular and well-organized, but not the only) ballot proposal for decriminalization. I got a lot out of it, although not in the manner I had anticipated.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:51 PM on April 8, 2010


If I see pot legalized in my lifetime, I will finally forgive Norml for ruining Hash Bash. But only then.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, anigbrowl. I see it'll still take years and years before we're all adults about pot - it should be no more difficult to buy than alcohol, but that probably won't happen in my lifetime (or the next 30-40 years).
posted by VikingSword at 6:12 PM on April 8, 2010


Coppers need to chill out and smoke a bowl.
posted by Elmore at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2010


Well...it's the right month for it.
posted by The Whelk at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2010


...on the books the laws will still be the same. However, when the case gets to court prosecutors will treat the case like a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor; there will be no jail sentence or criminal record, just a fine. The change in policy came after incoming District Attorney Seth Williams made a deal with Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery to save money for the city.

Sounds to me like the cops are saying they are going to do exactly what they are supposed to do in a case where the laws haven't changed. The prosecution side has decided to deal with the offenses in a different way: that does not give cops the license to ignore what are still crimes, any more than they can ignore public drunks. Pass real legalization or decriminalization that actually codifies it as a non-arrestable offense if that's what you want. Someone correct me if I'm wrong in my interpretation here, I'm certainly no legal expert.
posted by nanojath at 6:18 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


This police officer seems to have forgotten he is not also a prosecutor, judge, and jury.

Huh? Arrests involve none of the above.
posted by toastchee at 6:24 PM on April 8, 2010


What's with all this "buying" and "selling" wankery? If the California ballot initiative passes this November, what's to stop California residents from exercising our lawful rights under Section 3(a)(ii): "Cultivate, on private property by the owner, lawful occupant, or other lawful resident or guest of the private property owner or lawful occupant, cannabis plants for personal consumption only, in an area of not more than twenty-five square feet per private residence"

This summer I'm growing six kinds of heirloom tomatoes and seven kinds of open-pollinated squash in my yard. But next summer...?
posted by Asparagirl at 6:24 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


NEDERLAND, COLO. — Voters in the town of Nederland voted on Tuesday and approved a ballot measure that removed all local penalties for private adult marijuana possession, making the mountain town the third Colorado locality to legalize marijuana in the past five years.

After dealing with a few stoners showing up at coffee shops thinking it was "the other Nederland", they just decided to make it easier for everyone.
posted by qvantamon at 6:35 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

puritans i rest my case
posted by DU at 6:39 PM on April 8, 2010


I think it's cute how some people actually believe that pot will be decriminalized in the States. The fact is, it will always come down to the cop and the guy with the bag of weed. Sometimes it's cool and you can keep your weed, sometimes it's not and your life is completely ruined. That's America. *lights bowl*
posted by weezy at 6:51 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like the cops are saying they are going to do exactly what they are supposed to do in a case where the laws haven't changed. The prosecution side has decided to deal with the offenses in a different way: that does not give cops the license to ignore what are still crimes, any more than they can ignore public drunks.

Well, don't think you are technically wrong but I look at it a little differently. In New York State, adultery is a crime. It's a misdemeanor. Same as the possession of 30g or less in the big bad Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Now, I bet you don't think it would be an appropriate, wise or valid use of the manpower, tax dollars and police force of New York to go out and arrest, charge, prosecute, and potentially jail, fine or otherwise govern people cheating on their spouses, do you?

Me neither.
posted by bunnycup at 6:55 PM on April 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


I don't think there's anything "appropriate, wise or valid" about the criminalization of marijuana, my posting history on the topic is quite clear. I'm questioning the apparent attitude that the cops continuing to exhibit exactly the same behavior towards exactly the same law isn't the indication of some sort of police revolt against the tide of decriminalization as some seem to be implying. The dubiously relevant issue of legacy morality laws that are basically never enforced aside, it just seems to me that this is the way cops would react to any change in prosecutorial handling of a law which people were routinely arrested for: not at all. The change is not occurring on their side of of the legal equation.
posted by nanojath at 7:20 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Won't someone think of the poor cops? Instead of following their noses to a stoop full of tranquil stoners waiting for the pizza guy and arguing over which Transformer could win in a fight against Thor they're going to hafta meet their monthly quota of teenager arrests by doing actual police work! TEH HORROR
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find your suggestion that a history of not enforcing morality laws is not relevant to the topic of not enforcing morality laws both hysterical and nonsensical. Your defensiveness was an added bonus. I neither know, care nor assumed how you feel about the topic but no, I'm not going to go back and read your obviously compelling past thoughts on the subject.
posted by bunnycup at 7:38 PM on April 8, 2010


Wow, what the hell. Okay then.
posted by nanojath at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I mean, it's just some AP person spouting off. Anybody have a more authoritative source or comprehensive idea? Is it really gonna be - "hey, I'm gonna pick up a sixpack of Corona and a couple o' buds at the liquor store"? And how soon after it passes?

Here is some non-partisan bureaucrat spouting off.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:35 PM on April 8, 2010


Won't someone think of the poor cops? Instead of following their noses to a stoop full of tranquil stoners waiting for the pizza guy and arguing over which Transformer could win in a fight against Thor they're going to hafta meet their monthly quota of teenager arrests by doing actual police work! TEH HORROR
posted by BitterOldPunk


Ebongysterical
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:37 PM on April 8, 2010


I think Police revolts and municipal-level Coups d'Etat will start being more commonplace. Believe it or not, the big motivation will be the introduction of self-driving cars. If a car is simply a comfortable place to sit in between locations, instead of a vehicle piloted by an impatient human, then traffic violations will simply cease to exist. Without traffic violations, the massive revenue gained from traffic violations goes away, as does the budget for massive police forces, especially in the suburbs.

Then the police unions will fight tooth and nail to keep officers employed, and if you can't ticket out-of-towners, you have to go after the stoners, and build them up into a massive threat to life, limb and property, as well as a Moral Obligation to Keep Our City Clean.

In the next ten to fifteen years, we will see more than one takeover of an American city by the police... they'll arrest the elected Mayor and City Council, the prosecutors and the judges, and run the place through puppet proxies... or even through decree, depending on how bold they are. (Maricopa County? How's it going out there?)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:51 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the next ten to fifteen years, we will see more than one takeover of an American city by the police... they'll arrest the elected Mayor and City Council, the prosecutors and the judges, and run the place through puppet proxies... or even through decree, depending on how bold they are.

Look, I enjoy a good bit of hyperbole as much as the next guy, but come the fuck on dude.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am pretty pro legalization. But I have to quibble a few points.

Mexican Mafia, these guys move weed, but they also move all the other drugs. While it will impact them a bit, they will still be well funded.

As far as harmful effects, they are pretty mild in the scheme of psychopharmacology. But amotivational syndrome and mental illness seem related. It could use a lot more research. These both could use more research, but it is inarguable that pot has many effects on people and not all them are 100% positive.

Last, please don't let R.J. Reynolds start supplying this.....
posted by psycho-alchemy at 9:16 PM on April 8, 2010


mmmbacon: "So freakin' retrain them. How hard is that to think up?

Obviously, Philadelphia has robot cops that can no longer be controlled.
"

I thought that was Detroit.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:22 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


come the fuck on dude
I want to hear more dystopia and would like to subscribe to the newsletter.

But seriously, the argument that legalisation of marijuana would cause job losses ie. "is someone harshing on yer job security there?", or that prohibition is a proxy for coppers' job preservation is fantasy. Name the drug with the most extensive legal framework surrounding its use, the closest association with violent crime and dangerous behaviour and the largest number of officials employed for regulation and taxation of commerce. It'd be alcohol, with daylight second. Legalisation creates an industry, it doesn't destroy it.
I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal
Smoking causes cancer. I've never heard a good argument for tobacco to be as legal as it is, either.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:29 PM on April 8, 2010


Look, I enjoy a good bit of hyperbole as much as the next guy, but come the fuck on dude.

Oh, I may have indicated that this will happen in the future. No, it's actually happening now.

I'm only suggesting the problem will get worse, and not better... everyone from the feds to the city attorney has been pretty much powerless to stop Sheriff Joe, and this is in a major American city.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:39 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pathetic quote by Lt. Frank Vanore in the FPP. He sounds like a sore loser being interviewed at the end of a Judge Judy "trial."

Finger in the dike.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:48 PM on April 8, 2010


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

Marijuana prohibition instills in our children a healthy distrust of authority.
posted by afu at 10:24 PM on April 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Obviously, Philadelphia has robot cops that can no longer be controlled."

I thought that was Detroit.


Town by town, America fell to the Robot Police.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:28 PM on April 8, 2010


Smells like corruption to me.
posted by Brian B. at 10:47 PM on April 8, 2010


According to the article, it seems to be in the interest of the city for the cops to arrest more people for possession of small amounts of marijuana. By replacing criminal proceedings with a fine, they're expecting to increase revenue.
posted by honest knave at 12:04 AM on April 9, 2010


As far as harmful effects, they are pretty mild in the scheme of psychopharmacology. But amotivational syndrome and mental illness seem related. It could use a lot more research. These both could use more research, but it is inarguable that pot has many effects on people and not all them are 100% positive.

It's a confusion of cause and effect. Those with mental illness are often more likely to self-medicate, especially in America where mental illness is still so stigmatized and poorly treated. It's not that the neighbor's boy smoked a ton of weed and became schizophrenic; the neighbor's schizophrenic boy wasn't properly treated, so he smoked a ton of weed in an attempt to regulate.
posted by explosion at 4:04 AM on April 9, 2010


It's not that the neighbor's boy smoked a ton of weed and became schizophrenic; the neighbor's schizophrenic boy wasn't properly treated, so he smoked a ton of weed in an attempt to regulate.

I can see this as the case in many instances, but in the two cases I know firsthand (where a heavy stoner was diagnosed as schizophrenic), the smoking began when the guys were in their early teens -- long before symptoms of schizophrenia generally manifest. I don't think either of them were self-medicating for a mental illness at that point (unless you consider adolescence to be its own form of insanity).

I'm fully in support of weed being legalized, but I also think one of the benefits of legalization will be increased funding for studies that investigate precisely what its effects might be with regard to mental illnesses. While I understand that some people like to downplay or scoff at the idea that weed can have a role in exacerbating or triggering certain mental illnesses -- no doubt because they're afraid that it might hurt legalization efforts -- I also think it's irresponsible to dismiss, outright, this possibility. My precious, delicious alcohol can do awful things to people with certain mental or other medical conditions, and I'm glad I know about its potential for ill; the knowledge just helps me to be a more responsible drinker.
posted by artemisia at 5:27 AM on April 9, 2010


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

Hmm. I will make an attempt.

It would be difficult to regulate DUI drivers that are high. With alcohol, states generally have established legal limits that can be tested for (blood alcohol level of X = DUI). This can be tested for with a relatively non-invasive, simple, and reliable breath test.

However, with weed, how do we set the limit? How long will it take to find a measure of marijuana intoxication that is acceptable for driving? Also, the only way to test THC levels in the body at a given time that I am aware of with any kind of accuracy is with a blood draw, and who is going to want to be subjected to a blood draw on a traffic stop? Plus, it's hard to process such a blood test and takes a lot of time and resources.

The argument could be made that it would be not much different from people on prescription medications driving, or other non-alcohol drugs. In this case, police generally have to call out a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert), someone with extensive training on recognizing the symptoms and levels of impairment different drugs induce, and then make the arrest based on field sobriety tests and the DRE's expert testimony. DRE training is expensive, however, and not all departments have DRE experts available at all times (smaller departments may not have anyone with DRE training). This is okay, though, because non-alchol DUIs are not very common in relation to alochol DUIs.

However, fully legalized pot would lead to a LOT more people driving high, and a lot more people in a situation where there is not an impartial, scientific test to determine if they are okay to be on the road.

I also wonder about the interesting scenario of someone who does not smoke marijuana getting a contact high from, say, being in a bar with people smoking weed, not realizing they are impaired, and driving. I'm not saying that is likely at all, but it's interesting to think about from a prosecution standpoint. You could almost consider the driver in this situation a victim, seeing as how they could have no intent to become high, yet have that thrust upon them.

In any event, with as many problems caused by drunk drivers as there are, I am fearful that also having marijuana freely available would spike deaths and injuries on the road significantly, and the policing of that would be complicated and expensive.
posted by Menthol at 6:29 AM on April 9, 2010


I've never heard a single even halfway good argument for keeping marijuana illegal.

The argument I've heard often enough is being high impairs one's driving and unlike an alcohol breathalyzer test, there's no similar on-the-spot test. I have no idea how valid that argument is though?
posted by jmd82 at 6:50 AM on April 9, 2010


Or without having refreshed preview, what Menthol said.
posted by jmd82 at 6:51 AM on April 9, 2010


It's true, it will be necessary to devise some sort of sobriety test for marijuana. That thought doesn't really bother me though.
posted by Mister_A at 7:11 AM on April 9, 2010


Stoned drivers are safe drivers: Two decades of research show that marijuana use may actually reduce driver accidents.
posted by gman at 7:16 AM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fiasco de Gama: "Smoking causes cancer."

Coughcoughcough

posted by mullingitover at 9:13 AM on April 9, 2010


Last, please don't let R.J. Reynolds start supplying this.....

Exactly. I'm on the fence about this one, especially after reading about the development of today's plants portrayed in Botany of Desire. The illiegality that has been in place helped spur development of the freakin awesome buds we have today, and I fear that the opposite could happen if it is legalized and subsequently commercialized.

But on the other hand the fear of prosecution (persecution?) will go away too. So there's that.
posted by Big_B at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2010


Smoking causes cancer. I've never heard a good argument for tobacco to be as legal as it is, either.

How about mind your own fucking business? :-)
posted by callmejay at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also tend to wonder whether smoking would be the dominant form of cannibis consumption, if the price wasn't so high. A lot of people smoke weed not because the act of smoking is itself pleasant, but because it's the most efficient way of getting high from relatively small amounts of weed.

But even if weed were legalized tomorrow, nationwide, it's not like attitudes on smoking in general are going to change. You'll still be just as unwelcome to spark a bowl indoors, or in many outdoor public places, than you are to smoke cigarettes. But unlike tobacco, where your ingestion methods are basically limited to smoking or chewing (which is perceived by many people to be equally, if not more, gross than smoking), you can always cook marijuana and eat it. I've never tried eating or cooking with tobacco (though apparently, you can) but my understanding is that it makes you really ill, in a way that marijuana doesn't.

A lot would depend on how the legalization worked — are people allowed to sell processed marijuana products (e.g. space cakes), or just the raw plant components? What about concentrated cannaboid distillates? If these were allowed, smoking might not be the dominant form of ingestion anymore.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 AM on April 9, 2010



It's a confusion of cause and effect. Those with mental illness are often more likely to self-medicate, especially in America where mental illness is still so stigmatized and poorly treated. It's not that the neighbor's boy smoked a ton of weed and became schizophrenic; the neighbor's schizophrenic boy wasn't properly treated, so he smoked a ton of weed in an attempt to regulate.


Or it's a real effect that has a tiny effect size.

The War on Drugs is another religion that made the mistake of trying to justify itself with scientific language. Science has a nasty way of resisting bullshit, though. Anything studied well enough will prove to have a few risk. What's amazing about marijuana is how safe it is, given that it's something with crazy effects that is consumed by burning and inhaling. No increased risk of lung cancer or cardiovascular disease (probably). A slightly increased risk of head and neck cancers. Maybe a slight trigger to some mental disorders.

A 25% increase in Disease X that only affects 1 in 10,000 isn't enough to justify locking up hundreds of thousands of people. Smoking a joint every day is an order of magnitude less likely to kill or harm you than eating a hamburger and fries for lunch every day.

Here's a plant that can make a stressed-out type-A personality say "wooooah, I never realized how much you can *smell* after the rain. I can smell the dead leaves and the flowers at the same time! It's like being a dog! Let's go smell stuff." The next morning they can be back at their job in a law firm like nothing ever happened. American could use more of that.

The only reason it's illegal are the usual fears... relinquishing control, letting your guard down, realizing you're wasting your life, saying what's on your mind, enjoying something your pastor says god would punish you for, etc. Oh, and fear of brown people rioting, seducing all the white women, and turning your kids on to rock and roll and crack cocaine. That's always big among law-and-order types, too.

The Man knows that the only thing separating the People from the Truth is Marijuana.
posted by paanta at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, fully legalized pot would lead to a LOT more people driving high

I think you're going to have to substantiate that claim.

It would be difficult to regulate DUI drivers that are high

So? Besides the question of whether being high actually impairs driving, I don't buy this at all. If your project is to preserve the status quo of marijuana's illegality, I can understand the thinking that leads to this argument. But in a free society, everything must be permitted unless a compelling argument can be made for its prohibition, based on harm to others or what have you (SEE: John Stuart Mill, On Liberty). The burden of proof is on those who want prohibition, but folks like to pretend it's the other way around. When we start with the premise that marijuana use is basically harmless and should be permitted, I think this argument looks pretty silly.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2010


fully legalized pot would lead to a LOT more people driving high

This is based on the assumption that more people will regularly smoke pot once it's legalized, and I have some doubts about that. Despite its illegality, pot is not difficult to encounter. A 2003 study showed that 40% of Americans over the age of 12 have at least tried pot. It's widely available throughout the US. Those who want to try it have ample opportunity, and those who smoke it regularly have very little difficulty finding a steady supply. Based on this, the idea that legalized pot will cause a statistically noticeable increase in stoned drivers makes little sense to me.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2010


Another says he heard about a blog telling of a teen who went into a coma for 12 hours after smoking K2.

That's nothing. There was this one time, at band camp....
posted by three blind mice at 3:58 PM on April 9, 2010


"In a study of the relative risk of driving while impaired by cannabis, Swann (2000) reported the results of tests of the presence of the active ingredient of marijuana, Delta-9-THC, in fatally injured drivers in New South Wales, Australia. He found that, in 4.3% of the 544 fatalities, cannabis was the only drug present, the driver was fully responsible for or contributed to his or her own death, and the levels of Delta-9-THC were sufficiently high to indicate that the driver was impaired."

"Caplan, Levine, and Goldberger (1989) reported marijuana present in 7% of the 269 fatally injured drivers tested in Maryland over an unspecified 10-month period..."

"Rivara, Mueller, Fligner, et al. (1989) found that about 10% of 160 fatally injured occupants in King County, Washington (Seattle) in 1986 were positive for THC, and that 2% were positive for cocaine."

"The results of tests of blood and/or urine from 347 fatally injured drivers in Washington State were reported by Logan and Schwilke (1996). Drugs most commonly encountered were marijuana (11%), cocaine (3%), and amphetamines (2%), together with a variety of depressant prescription medications including narcotics, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and anti-depressants."

"The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Institute on Drug Abuse investigated 168 fatal-to-the-driver trucking accidents in eight states over a one-year period in 1987-1988 (Crouch, Birky, Gust et al., 1993; National Transportation Safety Board, 1990a; National Transportation Safety Board, 1990b), and found a higher percentage positive for marijuana (13%) than did the above studies, and about the same percentage positive for cocaine (8%)."

"Soderstrom, Triffilis, Shankar, et al. (1988) tested 393 car drivers only for alcohol and marijuana admitted to the same trauma unit in 1985-1986, finding 16% positive for marijuana alone, and 17% for marijuana plus alcohol."

--various articles at www.nhtsa.dot.gov
posted by Menthol at 9:12 AM on April 10, 2010


Seeing how corporations do anything and everything to get people to buy as much stuff from them as possible... I'm actually quite worried about what'd happen if drugs were fully legalised. I thought about this a lot during an intense K trip I had a few days ago, by the way.
posted by yoHighness at 11:12 AM on April 10, 2010


Menthol,

I've always thought that the right way to test people driving is some kind of electronic test that measures reaction speed. That would work for all drugs that affect reaction speed, which are the ones that matter for driving. Of course it would also catch people driving while very tired, some people think of that as a downside. These people are a) wrong and b) Puritans, all I care about is that the people I'm compelled to share the road with are able to react fast enough not to kill me, how they got that way doesn't matter to me.
posted by atrazine at 5:34 AM on April 11, 2010


He found that, in 4.3% of the 544 fatalities, cannabis was the only drug present, the driver was fully responsible for or contributed to his or her own death, and the levels of Delta-9-THC were sufficiently high to indicate that the driver was impaired."

What is the rate of cannabis smoking generally? If it's more than 4.3% then we may have an improvement here.
posted by Brian B. at 6:33 AM on April 11, 2010


However, with weed, how do we set the limit? How long will it take to find a measure of marijuana intoxication that is acceptable for driving? Also, the only way to test THC levels in the body at a given time that I am aware of with any kind of accuracy is with a blood draw, and who is going to want to be subjected to a blood draw on a traffic stop?

There is a cheek swab test for THC. Moreover, we're seriously lacking in studies as to what effect marijuana intoxication even has on driving, so expanding the police state to cover these investigations is a little premature.

I agree that reaction tests are the superior method of driving evaluation and we have made a big mistake moving away from them.
posted by mek at 8:59 PM on April 13, 2010


@fiasco de Gama:
Smoking doesn't cause cancer, smoking tobacco does.

A large fed funded study, seeking to study the correlation of heavy use of smoked marijuana and cancer, unexexpectedly found strong evidence to the contrary. Chagrined as they were, the reserchers tried to find otherwise, but concluded that smoking marijuana might even confer a protective effect in users against lung cancer:

The new findings "were against our expectations," said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years.

"We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use," he said. "What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect."


The researchers worked hard to find flaws in their methodology, and/or data, in part because their unexpected findings could imperil their ability to get further funding for subsequent research....
How fucked is that?
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:53 PM on April 21, 2010


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