I'll let onlookers decide whether this is a discussion of politics on Hacker News (disfavored by many of the users who have been here longer than I have) or a discussion of something else. On my part, I'm curious about one empirical question: Richard Branson claimed in his blog post on the current law in Portugal (which "decriminalizes" marijuana but still treats marijuana possession and use as an administrative offense)
that marijuana used had declined since Portugal changed its law. That's an interesting claim. Do we have strong evidence from before-and-after policy comparisons in other countries that use of marijuana declines if use of marijuana is responded to by administrative sanctions rather than criminal penalties? If so, that would be food for thought for people like me (a generation older than most HN participants) who have seen a lot of promising young people in two generations "burn out" from marijuana use. Criminal approaches to social problems are harsh and expensive. If they are also less effective in dealing with reducing marijuana use than administrative approaches, and voters can be convinced of that, perhaps there is a path forward toward reforming marijuana laws on the basis that marijuana should be neither casually used nor a ground for imprisonment. (I think the actual enforcement practice in my state, Minnesota, largely is of the form of diverting users of marijuana to drug treatment programs.)
"Do we have strong evidence from before-and-after policy comparisons in other countries that use of marijuana declines if use of marijuana is responded to by administrative sanctions rather than criminal penalties?"
I don't think this is a fair question. What's important isn't what percentage of people are using one specific drug, or even abusing one specific drug, but rather how healthy their overall patterns of drug use are. If marijuana were legalized tomorrow and everyone who currently smokes cigarrettes switched to marijuana then obviously there would be a huge increase in marijuana use, but it would be great news from a public health perspective.
Similarly, in ~2020 when MAPS (maps.org) gets FDA approval for using MDMA to treat PTSD then we will see more people using MDMA, but this will undoubtedly be a good thing.
Rates of alcoholism, arrests for public intoxication and deaths related to alcoholism under Prohibition in the United States were several times higher than either before or after.
One factor in this, however, was the quality of alcohol being consumed. The drinks in a speakeasy frequently contained various poisons ranging from methyl alcohol to organophosphates to carbolic acid. Thankfully the US Government has largely seen the wisdom of not poisoning its citizens.
My understanding of drug treatment programs is that you may pay for them or face worse consequences. I was not raised to believe that justice should be so purchased.
On the subject of young people: pot dealers do not check IDs. Medical science indicates that marijuana interferes with pre-adult brain development. No one is proposing that marijuana be made more available to young people, or more generally that making it more widely available carries much innate benefit. The push for reform is simply an observance that, as with our other Prohibition, the cure is worse than the disease.
EDIT: Just to point out, possession of marijuana has been legal in Alaska for decades. For the most part, nobody cares. Some people smoke, some don't, nobody does it in public.
My source was The Poisoner's Handbook, which suggests that deaths were not tracked well or at all in most of the US. The book gives statistics for New York City but a cursory examination of its sources does not seem to list where those statistics were obtained from. The best source for statistics likely doesn't exist, but likely bets would include hospital records and any statistics published by whatever coroner/medical examiner's offices you can find.
One source  seems to suggest that deaths were lower but rising. Deaths from poisoned alcohol tripled between 1920 and 1925. The author of the latter paper (Mark Thorton) has written extensively on the subject, his book The Economics of Prohibition may be informative.
I agree that this is a political discussion probably worth removing, however I can't resist responding.
You want hard data to show whether or not marijuana use goes down, in order to combine that information with your totally unsubstantiated "burn out" theory to come to a decision? Don't you think the "burn out" theory is just as deserving of real evidence to support it?
An anecdote from someone with first hand experience seeing "burn out" happen is neither a theory nor unsubstantiated. An interesting question, however, would be whether there is something that predisposes some people to marijuana use, and whether that predisposition is associated with susceptibility to "burn out," even if marijuana hadn't been involved.
It's a theory in the colloquial sense of the word, and it is unsubstantiated in the only sense of the word. You are also working under the assumption that marijuana users experience "burn out" and trying to distinguish cause from correlation, but your underlying assumption has no evidence.
What I should have said is that the OP has made an observation, and your argument would be more convincing if you explained why that observation was incorrect, and what is the correct explanation of what he observed.
Portugal has decriminalized more than marijuana. They decriminalized "hard drugs" too like cocaine and heroin for example. Yet, in a few years, backed by some additional health policies related to drugs, they saw all metrics used to monitor drug usage improving a lot.
I looked through the comments and was surprised that mostly there seems to be a discussion on if we should legalize it or not...
I was mostly intrigued by the principle and the layout of the site.
In todays time it seems like an awesome principle to just make a collection of noteworthy people and get people to twitter (generally: contact) them to get their point of view in order to use this quote for your cause.
Combined with a nice layout, catchy URL and clever use of social media, seems like things like this could be done with more causes than just this one.
While i know that most of you will think "Well, not really a revolution, it has been done before. Where have you lived the last few years of your life to be intrigued by something like that" I personally never saw it in such a well executed form and manner.
How about doing the same with gay marriage.
-) group feature is awesome
-> how about additionally making groups for the parties (e.g. "Republican Party Member"), guess that would be nice feature
-) how about a search function for looking up specific persons
I saw on the news in Seattle some interviews with people on both sides of Washington's marijuana initiative, which is basically a full legalization initiative.
There was strong opposition from a group I had not expected to be against it: medical marijuana advocates. They had two interesting arguments against full legalization.
1. They believe that it is going to raise prices compared to current medical marijuana prices, and
2. They are worried that the limit it sets for blood THC levels for DUI is below the level found in the blood of medical marijuana users. Many medical users would basically be unable to legally drive. (I've read that when one is using marijuana medically, the intoxicating effects of a given dose or much lower than when it is used by a healthy person, and so medical users driving while on medical marijuana are not actually driving intoxicated, but the proposed law does not recognize the distinction).
and one more quote: "If voters pass I-502, officers would be held to the same standards as they are today: They would still require probable cause to stop a car, evidence of driver impairment, and any tests would have to be conducted by a medical professional". (http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/10/20/why-do-...)
"You can legally be prescribed codeine, an opiate, by a doctor and take it, but this doesn't mean you can drive while under the influence."
There is no per se DUI for codeine. No one is objecting to the concept that marijuana users could get charged with a DUI if they are actually intoxicated. Rather they are against per se DUI limits, because the science shows them to be arbitrary and capricious. If the science supported per se DUI limits then I'm sure most people would support them.
I'm sick of these bullshit arguments. You want to drive, drive sober or don't drive at all. I have to be on the road with you too, and I don't want to drive from your drunk or druggy ass.
I can't go to work and operate machinery drunk, high or doped up. I don't drive drunk, or high because it's irresponsible and should be a criminal act regardless of level of intoxication. DUI limits should be zero tolerance, and I can't wait for the day it is with alcohol.
All DUI limits are arbitrary. Alcoholics can drive competently well above the legal limit. People can drive competently buzzed off of weed, completely stoned. I know people who have made 5-hour drives whilst on acid.
Just because 1 person can drive drunk, doesn't mean you should allow thousands of others to as well. The limits are arbitrary because intoxication effects people differently. The only effective and rational way is to restrict driving to those who can do it competently: the sober.
I drink and I smoke weed. You won't find me driving until 12 hours after I've last consumed.
Edit: for the record, yes there is a DUI charge for opitates. It's called a DUI or DWI depending on the jargon. On top of that, they would just charge you with distracted driving or careless driving.
"Just because 1 person can drive drunk, doesn't mean you should allow thousands of others to as well."
I think this is the appropriate stance to take with alcohol because there is lots of data establishing that driving while above .08 does have a greatly increased relative risk. With marijuana though there is lots of research, but it all shows that that drivers under the influence of marijuana are much less dangerous than drivers who are at the legal limit for alcohol.
What no one like talking about though is that if you want to really understand what's best from a public policy perspective, you need to understand that the absolute risk of driving while intoxicated is actually relatively small. If you drive 10 miles at a .08 your risk of dying would be ~1 in 4,000,000, as opposed to ~1 in 20,000,000 while completely sober. I'm certainly not advocating driving while intoxicated. But that being said, if you want to decrease your overall odds of dying then driving half as much in general would be much more effective than not driving while intoxicated once or twice a year. And similarly, good public transportation would be much more effective at reducing fatalities than harsher DUI penalties.
So far we've spent $1.5 trillion enforcing the war on drugs in the last 40 years, which combined with the lost tax revenue would be enough to build the entire nationwide high speed rail corridor roughly 3 times over. If we really want to reduce fatalities over the next 40 years, then we'd be much better taxing and regulating drugs and using the money to redesign our cities and nation around an internationally competitive public transportation system.
Question on marijauna and driving: how would the level be tested? I read a comment elsewhere in the thread that there's no easy way to do it like with a breathalyzer -- would someone have to be brought into the station and given a blood test? If so, the threshold seems to be a bit on the academic side, because that's a lot of effort on the part of the police and it seems like that alone would restrict it to the people driving truly terribly.
And at the risk of being too blunt: I'm not too concerned about drunk (or high) drivers increasing their own chances of dying. (Though, yes, if everyone drove less everyone would be less likely to die.)
Though on a policy side, I imagine it would be a lot easier to lower the limit than raise it, so I'd favor erring on the "too high" side (who wants to run up against a "HE/SHE WANTS HIGHER DRIVERS ON YOUR STREETS" campaign?).
So there are basically four ways to test for the presence of marijuana: saliva, blood, urine, and hair. Because smoked marijuana is only intoxicating for 4 - 6 hours, ideally we want to use a test that will only pop positive if someone has used the drug within the last 4 - 6 hours. Saliva testing roughly fits this profile. With blood you would still pop positive up to a day later, with urine up to a week or more later, and with hair testing up to several months later.
The good news though is that saliva testing is easy and cheap, and can be done in the field by police officers, unlike with blood testing. I think ultimately per se limits that are enforced with saliva testing (but not with the other methods) are reasonable, but the limits need to actually be based on science, not just pulled out of someone's ass.
(Of course this is assuming that better studies eventually do support per se limits for marijuana, which they don't seem to currently.)
Completely agree. I drive for a living, and while I'm not the best I'm well above average in my driving competency.
What I see on a near daily basis is terrifying. I almost t-boned someone because they decided to pull across oncoming traffic to get into a parking lot of a hotel, whilst towing a 30ft boat trailer, on one of the rainiest days of the year, with oncoming traffic coming down a very steep highway overpass. I slammed on my breaks as soon as I saw the idiot start turning. I laid on my horn and basically had to sit there as my ABS chugged away hoping I don't hit him, and hoping my work trailer's brakes don't lock the wheels, lose traction and jackknife into an adjacent lane. I missed the guy by literally less than a foot.
What trumped it, the guy had no license plate on his trailer! I couldn't report the moron even though I wanted to.
This time of year is seriously the worst, when all the cyclists stop biking to work and get back in the car. You get people running red lights and stops, no clue how a 4-way stop works, etc. etc. Speaking from experience once those bikes disappear crazyness on the road increases 10-fold. I know correlation /= causation, but it sure as hell is the biggest coincidence I've ever seen.
>DUI limits should be zero tolerance, and I can't wait for the day it is with alcohol.
Alcohol will persist in your blood past 12 hours, as many people in Russia (which has zero tolerance on the books) found out. So in US you will go to jail by your own argument. Still want zero tolerance, then?
So while it's legal, how bout, you don't get to drive while stoned until we figure out a good level that is safe. Or you know we could just keep weed illegal. Pick one or the other. You don't get to have legal weed, and no DUI level or it just reverts to "JAIL!"
I genuinely don't know much about this question. What makes them more capricious than DUI limits for alcohol for example? People vary in their metabolism and intoxication levels there - is there much greater or less predictable variance with marijuana?
I also have to admit that trying to in effect argue that people should not be prevented from "driving stoned" (yes, I know that's not really what they're saying - I hope!) is a peculiar strategy to get the majority of people onside. I rather like a drink. But I wouldn't argue in favour of drink driving.
"What makes them more capricious than DUI limits for alcohol for example?"
Because if you look at the NHTSA data, it's very clear that the risk for someone driving at .08 is about 5x the baseline risk. If there was similar research showing that driving at 5ng/ml of marijuana had the same 5x increased risk then it would make a lot of sense. But that is not in fact the case. What they are essentially saying is that it's ok to drink and drive until your risk of killing someone is 5x increased, but it's illegal to smoke and drive even if your risk factor is only 1.1x or whatever.
Some States (Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin) have passed “per se” laws, in which it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of a prohibited drug, or its metabolites, in the driver’s blood. Other State laws define “drugged driving” as driving when a drug “renders the driver incapable of driving safely” or “causes the driver to be impaired.”
One difference between marijuana and, for instance, alcohol is fat solubility.
Marijuana is fat soluble. Therefore if you smoke it regularly, it is always in your fat, and therefore always detectible in your body. Alcohol is not fat-soluble, so you get drunk, and not too much later it is out of your system.
However, as anyone who has tried it knows, marijuana does not keep you impaired for a month or so as it passes through your system.
How about for 1 hour after when you drive? That's the point. At what level is it safe to drive. .08 isn't that high of a level, what's the equivalent for weed. Personally I just don't drive when I've had any alcohol at all. Given the research that I've seen, the levels in the WA law are reasonable as a starting point. Lobby to bring them up or just be happy you're not getting pinched for holding.
Regarding the second point, although the proposed level may not be ideal, there should definitely be a limit of some kind. I'm all for legalization, even for recreational use, but there is nothing funny about impaired driving.
Most studies find that marijuana use doesn't actually significantly impair driving ability. The increased risk is somewhere between 1.0 - 1.3x. In comparison, there are several other drugs with up to a 4x increased risk that are completely legal with no limits.
It's a little bit counterintuitive since clearly you can be so intoxicated that you are whited out, but the results are very consistent across numerous different types of studies. I certainly wouldn't recommend driving after smoking, but epidemiologically speaking there is little to no increased risk when averaged out across the entire population.
Most studies find that marijuana use doesn't actually significantly impair driving ability. The increased risk is somewhere between 1.0 - 1.3x
Uh that meta-analysis of 9 studies you posted disagrees:
Specifically, drivers who test positive for marijuana or self-report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. The increased risk of crash involvement associated with marijuana use is generally consistent across studies that were conducted in different geographic regions and driver populations, used different research design approaches, and were based on different methods for measuring marijuana use.
Further, one of those studies showed a 3.3x increase in crashes for high levels of THC-COOH in urine.
And as anyone who has been sufficiently stoned will tell you, there is no way in hell you should let them behind a wheel (or frankly, anyone who is mentally incapacitated). There is an upper limit just as there is for any number of prescription drugs that affect mental performance.
Most studies find that marijuana use doesn't actually significantly impair driving ability.
I've conducted such studies, albeit in less than scientific environments. Truth be told, even without the bias of wanting to see the day where the vox populi regarding recreational use has swung the other way, driving after a few puffs of marijuana has always made me a more considerate driver.
This isn't the same as "I drive better when drunk" but instead "I tend to care less about some guy going before me at a four way stop when it's not his turn" et al
There isn't a scientific explanation, again but it's purely anecdotal; I become more relaxed and forgiving behind the wheel and honestly? Less angry drivers the better.
Yes, they found a statistically significant increased risk, but the risk was lower (roughly half) than driving at .08, which suggests that it should not be illegal. Also, if you read the actual article including the discussion at the end they discuss why they think their combined risk is an overestimate. In fact the main reason I linked to that study is because of their arguments in the discussion, which are not only critical to understanding the paper at hand, but also for understanding the quality of the findings of other similar studies.
DWI seems to be the go-to talking point on the fear mongering side. If somebody's driving is impaired (for whatever reason), then they can be cited for that infraction (the actual driving failure). If they want to "test" the suspect, have them take a test for response times and accuracy.
Sleep deprivation can be as debilitating as drunk driving, yet you don't hear people wailing about letting those with untreated sleep apnea on the roads. And how about those cell phones, eh?
> so medical users driving while on medical marijuana are not actually driving intoxicated, but the proposed law does not recognize the distinction).
Maybe they should fight that number over the proposition as a whole. As far as I'm aware (probably quite unaware), THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid. Testing for THC over other cannabinoids (CBD) is the way to go testing inhibition. Just because a doctor can prescribe certain opiates to me doesn't mean I should be able to operate any type of vehicle. I worry a little about medicated vehicle operation, not because it may be 'unsafe', rather in the event of accident you know what would be blamed.
On point #2, I don't see how the initiative makes the situation worse than it is today. Is Washington different from where I live in CA? Here if the cops find any amount in your blood they're 90% of the way to a DUI conviction.
People that want to smoke pot, can easily get it, legally, or illegally. But it's much better to offer a controlled environment for the users, instead of 'making' people go to dealers. This part is the biggest reason why Mary Jane is a gateway drug, which lots of people use as an argument why pot shouldn't be made illegal.. Think of how much money could be going to tax instead of 'criminals' abroad.
In the Netherlands, they have started requiring users to register for a weed card, which has been enforced in multiple provinces. Foreigners are no longer able to use coffeeshops. Just Dutch nationals that choose to be registered at a shop. The effects? More dealing on the street. People don't like being registered. Slowly but surely more and more people are registering, and the rest are getting it through their friends, or illegal dealers which is the worst situation.
Open it up as much as possible. No registrations, just show your ID, if asked, when buying at 'coffee shops'. Governments will be able to educate the users more. Grow it as a government, allow 'farmers' to grow too. Tax it.
The difference between the TechCrunch article headline and the HN headline is curious (the word "legalization" is left off of the HN headline, at least in its current form). I wonder whether this was deliberate, or just random chopping to some arbitrary character limit.
Regardless, the change is important. There is a big difference between "supporting pot legalization" and "supporting pot". I often wonder whether efforts toward the former are hampered by the fact that all sides in the debate tend to think of it in terms of the latter.
Where I live in Mi there are billboards that say, "WE GROW THE BST OG!" All over the radio are ads to get your marijuana scripts. The biggest problem we are having here is the law left the question of dispensing medicine to each individual charter. So most around the state have passed 'moratoriums' waiting for a bigger rule to follow behind. But there are plenty of places dispensing medicine. Its amazing to me that a few states can legalize gay marriage and the democrats will put it on the ticket, but 17 states and the district of Colombia go medical and there is no discussion about it.
(I live in CA, and I have 3 MJ dispensaries in a 10-minute walk from my house; 7 more if I want to drive five minutes.)
You have raised an important point. This has turned out to be a problem in CA.
Pharmacies don't want to touch MJ because it's illegal under federal law. The regulatory arm of the state of California doesn't want to touch it for the same reason. Some cities attempt to regulate it, some don't.
Because the dispensaries produce a lot of cash profit (in violation of prop 215, but whatever), they have been able to fund lawyers to sue cities and invalidate all regulations. It turns out it's really hard to craft a regulation, even a simple one for licensing, that holds up to court challenge. The city of LA has given up and explicitly called in the Feds to raid the MJ shops. (The feds get them for tax evasion -- kind of a catch 22 because it's hard to report this income on your federal return; as mentioned, they're not supposed to profit but there's no way to check.)
I voted for Prop 215, but I really had no idea how quickly it was going to turn to shit. Pothead idealism meets serious potential for quick profit.
"We need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts, and if somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems that we have in society that are appropriate for law enforcement to do."
Guess which (former) political figure summoned this wonderful word storm :)
I don't care if people smoke in their homes, but tell me how you are going to stop people from driving stoned and killing me.
Because people are arrogant about it and think they are perfectly fine and that it's not like alcohol - right now the fear of being caught with it in the car slows down that arrogance, once it's legal it's going to happen all the time.
Also there has to be some severe penalty for public smoking because I don't want you smoking it next to the playground just because you are now allowed to.
"I don't care if people smoke in their homes, but tell me how you are going to stop people from driving stoned and killing me."
In addition to the fact that marijuana doesn't actually significantly increase driving risk, the overall driving fatalities may actually decrease if people switch to smoking instead of drinking or using benzos. Driving fatalities have actually fallen more in medical marijuana states than across the rest of the country:
That being said there is some uncertainty because driving after mixing alcohol with marijuana is significantly more dangerous than driving after consuming either alone, but so far all the data seems to suggest that if anything legalizing marijuana will actually save thousands of lives per year.
Just go with "You'll get an effing DUI if you do" and you'll pay the normal alcohol tax on being an asshole and lose your license and if you hurt someone you'll be in mega bonus lawsuit land. Stop with this BS "MJ is safer than alkehol", who cares, if you're disabled, you're disabled, DONT....DRIVE. Also, drive stoned for me and prove it doesn't do anything. My friends couldn't pull it off with college aged reactions, you must be superman if you can.
I believe that public intoxication laws are already in place to prevent the people that insist on using marjiuana on playgrounds.
Also, I don't see how making the drug legal would affect the amount of people that choose to drive while under its effects. Being caught with alcohol while driving is almost (if not as) bad, and yet it doesn't stop people from drunk driving.
If the current penalties remained in place for smoke-driving there would be no increased incentive to drive while stoned. In general, I think the problems you bring up are perfectly valid, but I see no fundamental reason society should deal with them differently than with alcohol.
I believe the problem he's referring to is not simply making it a crime to smoke and drive, but rather the difficulty in determining if someone is actually stoned since there is not currently a BAC test equivalent.
The thing is a lot of people exaggerate the effects of marijuana to being this wholly disorienting experience. In truth, it just makes everything seem hilarious and almost every food combination a scientific discovery. Moreover, unlike alcohol where you feel empowered (i.e. go out and drive), it more or less gives you a "not right now" feeling and you stay put.
That being said, there will always be unintelligent misinformed people who take it too far. Don't let it frighten you.
How about a web site that shows celebs and tech leaders who support a woman's right to choose? Who are against it? For gun control laws? How about a web site against Italy's "articolo 18", which is much more relevant to startups than pot is?
Please, take the politics elsewhere. There are tons of sites for discussing politics. This is one of the few really good places for hacking and startups, so please let's keep it free of flame-bait.
It's in the guidelines, too, for what it's worth:
" Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic. "