Sometimes the Salem Statesman Journal's editorial positions are so poorly thought-out, they end up making the case for an opposing view. Such happened with yesterday's abysmally illogical "Legalizing marijuana would fuel failure."
Download Legalizing marijuana would fuel failure
So thank you, editorial page editor Dick Hughes. Likely you've convinced more people to vote for Measure 91, than to oppose it.
Let's start with the title of the editorial, which is explained in its first sentence.
The War on Drugs is a failure.
Bingo! This would have been a great two sentence opinion piece if the editorial had gone on to say, "So vote for Measure 91."
Which it should have, since nowhere in the editorial is there any explanation of why attempts to partially fix the failure through legalization of an herb with proven medicinal properties, happily used by a substantial percentage of the adult population, that is much less addictive that tobacco, alcohol, and prescription pain-killers, should be kept illegal, thereby turning many millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals, with all of the needless social, law enforcement, and judicial costs this entails.
Instead, the Statesman Journal editorial tries to argue that (1) marijuana is a gateway drug to more harmful substances, and (2) legalizing marijuana for adults in Oregon would increase use by minors.
The first contention is demonstrably false, something Hughes would have recognized if he had done more factual Googling of "marijuana gateway drug myth" and less subjective moralizing. Inaccurately, the editorial says:
Marijuana can be addictive. And marijuana can be a gateway drug.
Drug abuse experts tend to say "dependence" rather than "addiction." Yes, some people do become dependent on marijuana, about 9% according to one study. This is much less than the dependence rate for alcohol (15%) and nicotine (32%), which are both legal.
Further, people become dependent on all kinds of things.
Last night HBO's John Oliver show had a lengthy segment about sugar being as addictive as cocaine in certain ways. People also become dependent on/addicted to shopping, jogging, golfing, sex, making money, watching sports, and all kinds of other stuff.
A Forbes article, "Research shows cocaine and heroin are less addictive than Oreos," casts more light on how simplistic and misleading the Statesman Journal's contention, Marijuana can be addictive, is.
It would be easy to mock Schroeder and Honohan’s discovery that cookies are addictive, especially since they started out knowing that Oreos are “highly palatable to rats” and then concluded, based on the maze experiment and biochemical analysis, that Oreos are highly palatable to rats.
But the study inadvertently highlights an important truth: Anything that provides pleasure (or relieves stress) can be the focus of an addiction, the strength of which depends not on the inherent power of the stimulus but on the individual’s relationship with it, which in turn depends on various factors, including his personality, circumstances, values, tastes, and preferences.
Which brings us to the even more untrue editorial contention, Marijuana can be a gateway drug.
This is part of the long-discredited "Reefer Madness" attitude toward marijuana. Modern research provides a much different understanding than Dick Hughes' reliance on unsubstantiated anecdotal references to a few local law enforcement officials who aren't experts in this area.
Circuit Judge Dennis Graves, who presides over the Marion County Drug Court, sees that often. So do Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau and Sheriff Jason Myers.
Voters should trust solid research regarding the "gateway" hypothesis rather than biased statements from local opponents of marijuana legalization. Check out these links:
Another Marijuana Myth Bites the Dust -- The Real Gateway Drug is Alcohol
Marijuana: The Gateway Drug Myth
Risk of Marijuana's 'Gateway Effect' Overblown, New Research Shows
I found these easily. So could Dick Hughes and other Statesman Journal editors, if they had chosen to base the newspaper's editorial on objective facts rather than subjective feelings. Here's a few excerpts from the above-linked articles.
A study in the August edition of The Journal of School Health finds that the generations old theory of a “gateway drug” effect is in fact accurate, but shifts the blame for escalating substance abuse away from marijuana and onto the most pervasive and socially accepted drug in American life: alcohol.
...Marijuana is not a gateway drug. People who have tried marijuana may eventually go on to try harder drugs in search of a stronger high, and experimentation may lead them down a dangerous path toward addiction. However, the science shows overwhelmingly that for most people marijuana is not a gateway drug.
...New research from the University of New Hampshire shows that the "gateway effect" of marijuana -- that teenagers who use marijuana are more likely to move on to harder illicit drugs as young adults -- is overblown. Whether teenagers who smoked pot will use other illicit drugs as young adults has more to do with life factors such as employment status and stress, according to the new research. In fact, the strongest predictor of whether someone will use other illicit drugs is their race/ethnicity, not whether they ever used marijuana.
This fits with recent research from Colorado showing that teen use in that state, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults in 2012, is down, not up.
Teen Use Down, not up: Survey data released in early August 2014, indicate that marijuana use among high school students continues to decline, despite warnings that legalization would make pot more appealing to teenagers. 37% of high school students reported that they had ever tried marijuana, down from 39 percent in 2011. The percentage who reported using marijuana in the previous month (a.k.a. “current” use) also fell, from 22 percent in 2011 to 20 percent in 2013.
So the concluding words of the Statesman Journal editorial are utterly without support.
The drug war has failed. But Measure 91 is an even worse "solution."
Ooh! Scare quotes around "solution"!
Don't worry, though. There's nothing to fear from legalizing marijuana in Oregon via Measure 91. This is made even more clear in the cogent comments on the Statesman Journal editorial, which I'll include as a continuation to this post.
Regulating and taxing marijuana will make it less available to minors, as is the case with alcohol. As I said in one of my comments, sellers on the black market don't ask for ID. Purveyors of alcoholic beverages do. Other commenters had equally wise things to say, in sharp contrast to the unintelligent editorial.
Vote Yes on Measure 91.
The Statesman Journal acknowledges the War on Drugs has failed. Yet its editorial didn't give a single reason why Measure 91 isn't a big step in the right direction toward a coherent drug policy.
Evidence from Colorado and Washington shows that marijuana legalization is working in these states. Oregon needs to join them.
Click below for the best reader comments.
Steve Buckstein · Top Commenter · Senior Policy Analyst & founder at Cascade Policy Institute
Measure 91 won't add marijuana to the mix of harmful drugs; it's already in the mix.
For those who admit that the drug war is a failure, the question before us is whether or not to move towards a less harmful approach. While not perfect, Measure 91 does exactly that and should be supported.
Herb Reason · Top Commenter
The large majority of adverse effects regarding cannabis are associated with heavy, regular adolescent use. This is exactly what a legallized and regulated approach can reduce.
We are not legalizing for kids. Currently it is so available to kids that studies don't just ask if they can get cannabis, they ask how many hours it would take them to get it. A third of teens say it would take less than a few hours. The federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "fairly easy to obtain". Their figure has changed little since 1975, never dropping below 81% in three decades of national surveys.
Nearly all of the health concerns regarding cannabis and teens are due to long-term, regular use. Regular teen access will not increase with legalization, and will likely decrease as the main supply channels are moved above ground where they can be easily monitored. At the very least we would take the cannabis they are getting from the criminal drug dealer of unknown character, with unknown potency, unknown purity (it could be laced, contaminated, etc), who never ID's, and put the supply in the hands of licensed, regulated retailers who are not going to try and also sell hard drugs, or even have access to hard drugs.
The federal organization SAMHSA has shown that, despite greater acceptance, more lenient laws and legalization for medical purposes, the perceived availability of cannabis to youths aged 12 to 17 has dropped from 55% in 2002 to 48.6% in 2010. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that medical marijuana laws have not led to increased teen usage [Choo et al. 2014; Lynne-Landsman et al. 2013; Harper et al. 2012; Anderson et al. 2012].
Teen usage dropped in Portugal since they decriminalized in 2001. The Netherlands have tolerated sales for years in 'coffee shops'. Both countries have lower usage rates, 3.3% and 5.4% respectively, than the U.S. which is 13.7%. Note that in the same time frame in which the war on drugs has been waging, tobacco use has dropped from about 45% to 18%, without criminalizing millions of tobacco users, whereas cannabis use went up.
This peer-reviewed study has shown that lenient cannabis policies are not associated with elevated adolescent use:
"the data provide no evidence that strict marijuana laws in the United States provide protective effects compared to the similarly restrictive but less vigorously enforced laws in place in Canada, and the regulated access approach in the Netherlands. "
Simons-Morton et al. Cross-national comparison of adolescent drinking and cannabis use in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands. Int J Drug Policy. 2010.
Herb Reason · Top Commenter
For this prohibition to continue it needs to be established that:
1) Cannabis is significantly harmful (at least more than alcohol)
2) The prohibition will significantly reduce usage
3) The direct and indirect costs of prohibition to an American society are less than any gains from 1 and 2 (don't underestimate the value we place on freedom and liberty)
None of these 3 requirements have ever been established. This is a prohibition built on lies, half-truths, prejudice, and greed. It is very costly (in many more ways than just money), harmful, unfounded, unjust, and more importantly, un-American.
After decades of research, the relative safety and medical efficacy of cannabis have been established well enough to conclude that it is significantly less harmful and more useful than alcohol. The vast majority of preventable harm related to cannabis is caused by the very laws that are supposed to "protect us" from it. Many people greatly underestimate these detrimental effects of cannabis prohibition, if they believe there are any at all. Some of these effects are:
•Increased deaths of countless people involved on all sides of the "war", including law enforcement and bystanders
•The spending of 100's of billions of our dollars seeking out, arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating otherwise law-abiding citizens
•The loss of billions in tax revenue from production, distribution, and sales, which can be used for all substance abuse treatment
•The redirection of valuable police time from solving and preventing true crime
•The filling of our jails with non-violent offenders, exposing them to true criminals and forcing the release of dangerous criminals early
•The empowerment and expansion of underground markets as a very popular substance is placed within them
•Increased crime as dealers and buyers have no legal recourse to resolve disputes
•Increased exposure to hard drugs as many cannabis consumers buy from suppliers who have access to them, even push them
•All sales are placed in the hands of criminals who never check ID (over 4 million pounds per year)
•Increased likelihood of contamination with anything from pesticides and molds to other drugs.
•The prevention of adults from choosing a recreational substance safer than alcohol
•Increased corruption within the legal system
•The invasion of our civil liberties, which in America we hold in especially high regard
•The prevention of people from receiving effective medicine
•The prevention of people from receiving decent employment, scholarship money, and student aid due to their "criminal" record, which affects not just them but their family as well
•Increased support of tremendous multinational criminal networks
•Increased public mistrust, disrespect, and disdain for our legal system, police, and government, which is devastating to our country
Considering these great costs, it is unreasonable to continue this policy against a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol. Why are we forcing police to deal with something that is, if anything, a minor public health issue? Why are we criminalizing people for something that is safely enjoyed by millions of Americans, something that 58% of Americans believe should be legal?
Cannabis prohibition is a travesty of justice based on irrational fears and paranoia from an archaic era that needs to end now. Cannabis must be legalized and regulated similar to alcohol. Prohibition policies do not work for popular things that are safely enjoyed by many...especially not in a country that values liberty, justice, and freedom.
"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." -Abraham Lincoln
Urge your legislators to implement a cannabis policy similar to that of alcohol. Please consider what the following cannabis legalization organizations have to say. Help end this harmful, unjust, unfounded, and more importantly, un-American prohibition by joining their mailing lists, signing their petitions and writing your legislators when they call for it.
MPP - The Marijuana Policy Project - http://www.mpp.org/
DPA - Drug Policy Alliance - http://www.drugpolicy.org/
NORML - National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws - http://norml.org/
LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - http://www.leap.cc/
Skip Munk · Database/Software/Web Developer. at Self-Employed
"The War on Drugs is a failure. But by legalizing marijuana for adults' everyday use, Oregon would merely compound that failure."
Let me first say that I agree completely with the first sentence of this opinion. The War on Drugs is a failure, as was alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and 30s. In fact, the only people to benefit from prohibition, then and now, have been organized crime. To the Editorial Board's credit, they acknowledge this point in their third paragraph. I further submit that my seventh grade history teacher used to refer to the adage: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it" (Winston Churchill).
I will take the relationship of alcohol and violent behavior one step further and tell you that I have personal family experience with this scenario. At the same time, I will tell you that I have attended many parties where very little alcohol was around, but there was plenty of weed, and no one even contemplated fighting or any other violent actions. Instead, everyone was enjoying music and discussing various issues revolving the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, and the awesomeness of a sunset or starry sky.
The Editorial Board quotes Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau as saying: "As with alcohol, not everyone who tries marijuana will become addicted. As with alcohol, not everyone who uses marijuana will move on to meth or heroin. But many people will. The typical path for a heroin addict starts with marijuana and alcohol." I must agree with everything Mr. Beglau says, up to the point of the "typical path for a heroin addict".
Circuit Judge Dennis Graves is quoted in this piece as saying his "current court caseload includes marijuana addicts, and he said the drug greatly depresses motivation, fueling a cycle in which the drug users drop out of school, fail to get their GED, go without jobs, and wind up being totally dependent on others for their existence." I would call this statement a logical fallacy.
The American people have been sold a bill of goods regarding marijuana for the past seventy plus years. A package of propaganda based upon half truths, logical fallacies, and out-right lies. Legalizing regulating marijuana for use by responsible adults will open up an entire industry, create jobs, stimulate the economy, and allow for open and unbiased research on all the benefits and risks.
Brian Hines · Top Commenter · Portland State University
Methinks Dick Hughes, editorial page editor, doesn't like criticism. Strange, for an opinion page journalist, since the editorial page trumpets the "town square" nature of the SJ opinion section, where diverse views are welcomed.
Perhaps Hughes didn't like my mentioning him by name in my comment. I will correct this by instead referring to him as The Editorial Page Editor, a more exalted yet less personal term.
I enjoyed reading the other comments, all of which also favor legalization. Might as well point out another obvious factual falsity in this editorial: regulation of a substance, such as alcohol or marijuana, makes it more difficult for minors to obtain, not easier.
The pot dealer on the street doesn't ask for ID before selling to someone. The OLCC liquor store or other purveyor of alcoholic beverages does. Teenagers, almost certainly, find it easier to get marijuana now, than alcohol. Measure 91, as others have noted, doesn't change any current marijuana law concerning those under 21.
It regulates the sale of marijuana, which makes it tougher for youth to get pot if, as is likely, the black market is much reduced after the passage of Measure 91.
Here's my deleted comment. Hopefully it will stay up this time.
Wow, this anti-marijuana legalization screed is another misguided and poorly argued editorial by The Editorial Page Editor -- whose simplistic moralism doesn't serve the Salem community well.
Gosh, Salemians, whose newspaper editorial slant are you going to believe? On one side, favoring legalization of marijuana, is the New York Times, Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Mail Tribune, and Pendleton's East Oregonian.
On the other side, The Editorial Page Editor and his Statesman Journal editorial page. It'd take too long to point out all the inaccuracies and faulty reasonings in his opinion piece. Here's one example.
He faults Measure 91 for something that more knowledgeable observers of marijuana policies say is part of the forthcoming "gold standard" for the country after the initiative passes November 4.
Namely, the reasonable $35 per ounce taxation level. Washington taxes at a much higher level, which supports continued buying from the black market and drug cartels.
So it doesn't make sense for Oregon to have a higher taxation rate, one of the reasons cities shouldn't be allowed to impose their own local taxes -- which Measure 91 prohibits, but some cities hope to get around.
Yet The Editorial Page Editor then criticizes Measure 91 for not raising more revenue for schools, drug abuse prevention, and such. But if it did, that would promote a black market, which Hughes worries will continue after Oregon legalizes marijuana.
Can't have it both ways, The Editorial Page Editor: you want Measure 91 to have both higher and lower taxation rates.
Bottom line: this is another in a long line of poorly thought-out Statesman Journal editorials. There are a few (not many) reasonable reasons to oppose marijuana legalization. The Editorial Page Editor managed to miss them.