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The New York Times Calls for Marijuana Legalization (nytimes.com)
349 points by ingve on July 26, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 189 comments

Two plugs I always make during any drug law discussion on HN:

One - The Economist's 2009 article "Failed states and failed policies" - http://www.economist.com/node/13237193 (you might have to Google the title to get around a paywall)

Two - The documentary, The House I Live In - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125653/ (trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0atL1HSwi8)

Both make such a fascinating case that drugs should have never been a crime and punishment issue, but rather one of public health. I highly recommend both for a read and a watch, and both will articulate the case far superior to anything I would be able to write here.

> a crime and punishment issue, but rather one of public health

Not disagreeing with anything you said, just providing a thought.

Common opinion dictates that we need the state to take care of public health; thus, in common opinion, public health is an issue of crime and punishment.

If you take it as a principle (as I do) that we need sepration of state and public health (as with church, as with education), it has interesting implications.

Update: Most glaring example is Obamacare. You have to pay a fine (punishment) if you don't get insurance and it imposes massive burdens on doctors. I am only adding this because I got massively downvoted. I guess people didn't understand that what I said was just a matter of fact. Our society does support the idea that public health is actionable on a "crime and punishment" level and in general that is still the modus operandi.

> in common opinion, public health is an issue of crime and punishment.

Mh? It isn't illegal to get an STD, and you don't get punished for having an STD; yet our society actively tries to limit STD transmission. Not sure I'm understanding what you're arguing for/against.

Coincidentally, California issued an arrest warrant today for a man with TB who refuses to stay in a hospital. The state does have the power to make personal health issues criminal.


AFAIK in a lot of places knowingly transmitting an STD is a illegal. I guess the key part is 'knowingly.'

Knowingly, and presumably without the consent of the receiving party.

I haven't read those laws, but I can only assume that it is not illegal to have and STD and have sex with somebody if they are fully informed and accept the risk. Those laws are almost certainly more about consent than limiting the spread of disease.

Sodomy and fornication were illegal and prosecuted, mostly because they spread disease.

No, mate. It's illegal because bible. Those are justifications. For example, you are far less likely to transmitted diseases by sucking cock, but under sodomy laws, it's a crime.

Sure, it's illegal because Bible, but my take is, it's wrong in the Bible for rational reasons. The only thing is, they were rational for the time and place they were created in. Many of the rules various religions teach seem nonsensical, backward and barbaric to us today, but if you look at them through the lens of the context in which they were written, there's often a kernel of reason in them.

Case in point, sodomy and fornication may have been considered wrong because they spread of diseases. Many of the diseases we can treat easily today were probably debilitating and fatal back then, and they imposed a cost that society then could not bear.

Another example, adultery: most of the animal kingdom has no concept of marriage, but a desperately poor society may not be able to tolerate any bad blood brewed by adultery. When your primary resources are the productive youth of your society, you'd prefer them to be united in their toils (be it farming hunting of wars) rather than killing each other over petty jealousies.

Some parts of Islam seem overly brutal to us, but (AFAIK) it was forged in a society that mostly lived an unbelievably harsh tribal life in the desert. Consider theft in that context. Even a minor theft could cause somebody to lose their life, and hence thievery in general was deterred with very harsh punishment.

Sure, some rules were made purely for the benefit of a select few, but that doesn't affect the point that many others were reasonable for their time.

The problem with religion is that people still assume these rules as God's (with a capital 'G') own truth when they no longer make any sense in the modern day.

The "ancient public health initiative" explanation of religious taboos is a specious argument.

Yes, there are arguments to prove eating pork in the biblical middle-east was more dangerous than eating other kinds of meat. But to say that some wise and beneficent scholars recognized this fact implies there were prototype longitudinal surveys coupled with an ancient germ-theory of disease. It also doesn't explain the dozens of other prohibitions that have no relation to public health.

I suggest the book Purity and Danger[1] by Mary Douglas. She's a structural anthropologist who posits these religious taboos as extensions of the symbology dominant at the time.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/Purity-Danger-Analysis-Pollution-Routl...

Such things are only ever made illegal when there's someone else that wishes to make life on earth a living hell to promote the sales pitch of a better life after death.

I don't understand what you are trying to say. The state can take care of public health issues without making them into issues of crime and punishment. There is an entire government agency (CDC) devoted to just that.

The state has methods at its disposal other than crime an punishment. For example, they can try to influence the behavior of their citizens by education or taxation, like they do with cigarettes or alcohol.

I think the argument made in retort would go along the lines of - What happens if you don't pay the tax, or don't turn up to school?

All over a governments abilities boil down in their extreme to their monopoly on violence.

This is a common belief among libertarians, but it doesn't reflect how governments actually work. Governments that have to rely on physical force tend to be unstable, very small, or limited in their ability to effect policies.

Most people's decisions whether to follow or disobey laws are more heavily influenced by social pressures and conventions than the fear of imprisonment or physical assault by cops.

Incidentally, what usually happens when you don't pay taxes is you get nasty letters. If you have wages they might be garnished, and if you have assets they may be seized. Employers comply with garnishments and banks comply with seizures mostly for social reasons, not because of a fear that they will be imprisoned or shot for selflessly protecting a deadbeat.

That comment is very much in need of some sort of citation. I find it extremely hard to believe that a significant portion of people pay taxes because of social pressure and convention rather than the fear of punishment.

A reasonable thought experiment is to imagine what would happen if the government convincingly announced that it would no longer perform any physical enforcement of any laws. I for one wouldn't immediately go out and murder or burgle anyone, because my reasons for not doing those things are firstly my ethical intuition that such an act is wrong and secondly the fact that people are likely to fight back. But you better believe that I would immediately disregard some laws, particularly ones prohibiting so-called victimless crimes.

I would make essentially the exact opposite argument as you. I think that most people believe that government is not primarily in power because of violence, I think they're wrong, and I think history (ancient to modern) makes it extremely clear that they're wrong.

I'm not going to engage with you (we've had this conversation before at excruciating length) but I do want to call one thing out: the government supporting and enforcing laws is necessary for the laws to be perceived as credible. People will only accept prohibitions of behavior they wish to engage in if they believe it is a credible restriction instituted by a legitimate authority.

Governments that rely on violence may be perceived as legitimate by force but they frequently lack credibility.

Locke's _Two Treatises of Government_ is one of the earlier sources for this model, but it's a common theme in liberal political theory.

I don't recall our previous conversation, and I don't share your professed reluctance to engage in discussion. I agree that the vast majority of people in many countries (probably all developed countries) perceive their country's government as a legitimate authority. But whether most people in a society perceive their government as a legitimate authority is entirely orthogonal to whether the government uses violence and the threat thereof to enforce its rules.

I think that there is a non-negligible chance that I personally would follow the tax laws. (Although it seems very likely that at some point in time I would choose not to, it seems plausible to me that I might for some significant amount of time opt to follow the non-enforced laws, possibly even most of it (provided that the government was still stable and such) )

Not that I inherently oppose the use of violence to ensure that certain things that society has agreed on are enforced, Just that in many cases, I believe I would follow a current law set by a government even if there was no chance of punishment by the government (other than perhaps a public record)

(This is not to say that this is true of the majority of a given population, just that I believe that it is probably true about some people because I think it is probably true about me. (though I of course could be wrong in how I model myself) )

Note that I am claiming that there exist laws that I would follow without enforcement, but would not follow if they were not laws, but I am /not/ claiming that, for all laws, whether or not I follow said law is not affected by whether it is enforced.

I believe that most people would feel that they have a civic duty to contribute a portion of their income to the government. I just think the portion would be smaller than their actual tax rate for the vast majority of people.

That seems fairly likely to me. ( I don't think this contradicts what I said.)

It's worth noting that the sole reason the government can garnish your wages and seize your assets, is because they have the understood threat of eventual guns to back up it all up. Without the guns and the threat of potential violence, they could never manage it. You're confirming the parent.

Try seizing houses from people without the threat of guns and violence, see how that works out.

I addressed that. Employers cooperate with garnishment orders because they wish to continue to be perceived as law-abiding, and because they have accepted the proposition that paying a reasonable amount of tax is a civic duty. The same is true of banks.

What possible motivation would employers have to shelter a lawbreaking employee, at no benefit to themselves? Why would the threat of violence be remotely necessary?

> Employers cooperate with garnishment orders because they wish to continue to be perceived as law-abiding

What makes you think that? As far as I know, there is no easy way for a third party to determine whether any given company cooperates with garnishment orders, so how can this incentive exist?

> and because they have accepted the proposition that paying a reasonable amount of tax is a civic duty.

I imagine that most citizens think some level of taxation is a civic duty. But I also suspect that a large portion of citizens think their own level of taxation is too high, and would give less to the government if the government changed its rule to "give us whatever you think is appropriate to fulfill your civic duty."

The way I have heard it described is that governments have a monopoly on the "legitimate use of force." That is, if someone commits a crime, or doesn't pay taxes, or doesn't hold up their end of a contract, the government is the only entity allowed to physically (or otherwise) force someone to do something (go to jail, pay a fine, etc.).

I like this definition better because it avoids some of the objections people have responded with. 1) it avoids the word "violence" - the use of force does not require violence, and I think most people would hope that governments wouldn't use violence in their enforcement of laws (though we know that in practice this is often not the case), though the threat of force is more consistently necessary) and 2) it acknowledges that it's not a monopoly on the use of force, as the reality is that many people use force, but on its legitimate use.

I know it's even called "monopoly on violence" in the wikipedia article, so it's not that I think you're mistaken, but rather I prefer this definition. The article mentions the term "monopoly on violence" in English is indeed common, but also controversial.


For the nth time, the government doesn't have a monopoly on violence, otherwise there'd be no such thing as the right to self-defense. Even insofar as the state does have coercive powers, it does not follow that all state activity is based on coercion, any more than an individual's legal capacity for violence means that its the locus of their life's activities.

Both education and taxation are higher level activities that fall under "crime and punishment." It's a crime to not pay taxes, or to not send your children to school, and the government punishes you if you commit those crimes.

> It's a crime to not pay taxes, or to not send your children to school, and the government punishes you if you commit those crimes.

In the US (and a few other countries), homeschooling is legal. In addition, if you don't pay your taxes, the IRS might take your stuff or paycheck (as others here have said), not necessarily throw you in jail.

Homeschooling could easily be described as "sending your children to school" The mere fact that the school is located in your home doesn't really matter.

And plenty of people go to jail for tax fraud. Al Capone probably being the most notorious example.

Actually, AFAIK, Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion; Wesley Snipes is a good example of imprisonment for tax fraud. Those are related, but not strictly the same (for example, Wikipedia says that in Switzerland tax evasion is a misdemeanor, but tax fraud is an actual crime). I have no trouble believing that plenty of people go to prison for tax fraud.

It may seem like there's a thin line between them, but IMHO tax fraud requires a lot more effort and ill intent than tax evasion (it may even be possible to not even know all the taxes you have to pay, like use tax in some US states).

>Common opinion dictates that we need the state to take care of public health; thus, in common opinion, public health is an issue of crime and punishment.

What's with the libertarians fondness for hyperbole? In common opinion, public health if firstly seen as a service the society provides in developed countries, especially if viewed in contrast with countries that do not have a functioning government. Secondly it is seen as based on rules. Yes, if you break every rule this amounts to crime down the road, but common belief in post-adolescents is that your precious personality is not constantly raped if you follow rules.

>Update: Most glaring example is Obamacare.

To most Europeans, Obamacare is simply the US catching up with other industrialized countries. I doubt anyone here except for a sub-percent minority sees this as the state stealing from its citizens by forcing them at gunpoint to pay up.

"Common opinion dictates that we need the state to take care of public health; thus, in common opinion, public health is an issue of crime and punishment."

Your logic is incorrect. The vast majority of the time in fact, public health is absolutely not an issue of crime and punishment.

I sincerely believe the only people who are against legalisation of marijuana are those who don't understand it's effects on a person and those who are easily susceptible to propaganda and fail to do their own research on the subject. I can't think of even one legitimate reason for it's prohibition. If you argue for prohibition based on health consequences or risk to society you should also be arguing for prohibition of alcohol and it has been proven beyond doubt that alcohol prohibition was a really bad idea.

I'll bring up a point here only because I feel like the HN crowd is on the younger side. Its not until your late 20's and really 30's that you start to find out about and see people you've known in the past that were intelligent, productive people who's lives have been completely destroyed due to their drug addictions. And yes, I've certainly had friends who are 40+ and barely hold down a job and live off friends and family because they were/are addicted to marijuana. It definitely happens, don't kid yourself.

I don't know if the correct solution is to criminalize it, but please keep in mind that drugs change who you are. That is truly the unique thing about them compared to other addictions. And again, if you think heavy marijuana use doesn't change a person, you don't know any heavy marijuana users.

For example, banning alcohol and marijuana probably isn't going to work, but selling bottles of cheap vodka at the grocery store 24/7 is setting up a lot of people who are trying to get clean to fail.

As an obvious counterpoint: I'm pushing 40, have known dozens of people who have smoked every day since their teens. I've noticed absolutely no difference between their success rates and the success rates of others. Many of them are highly successful and productive, and some even blame much of their success on their pot smoking. The people that I saw fall apart were the alcoholics, junkies, and cokeheads, going between jail, rehab, and prison - and often coffins.

I think that you yourself will be surprised when it's more accepted by law - you'll find that many people you know and respect smoke, and they keep it from you because they're afraid of your judgment.

edit: There's actually one difference that I've noticed between my pot smoking and non pot smoking friends - the smokers tend to be small business owners, contractors and freelancers more often than the non-smokers, who are more wage-laborers. I don't have a theory about it, but I've noticed.

> "edit: There's actually one difference that I've noticed between my pot smoking and non pot smoking friends - the smokers tend to be small business owners, contractors and freelancers more often than the non-smokers, who are more wage-laborers. I don't have a theory about it, but I've noticed."

My guess is that simply reflects a difference between those who are in a position to drug test, and those who are in a position to be drug tested. That would be interesting to study though.

> because they are addicted to marijuana. It definitely happens, don't kid yourself.

As a somewhat-in-denial marijuana addict that now recognizes the health impact it has had on me over 10+ years of regular use, and have seen lots of people placated by marijuana use I think you are assuming causation where there is only correlation. I'd consider myself somewhat high-functioning, but often wonder at where my mind and body would be today had I taken better care of myself (now that I'm in my 30s).

More to the point though:

> selling bottles of cheap vodka at the grocery store 24/7 is setting up a lot of people who are trying to get clean and recover their lives a lot more difficult.

If a well functioning government is thought of as a securely-running application, outlawing cheap vodka at grocery stores at 2am is like monkey patching. Allowing monkey-patching into production creates vectors for bugs. Allowing the state the outlaw victimless crimes is like allowing monkeyh patching in production.

If the problem is that there are people who are abusing themselves by drinking too much vodka: then using resources to find and help those who need it, and separating the ones who are causing harm to others from everyone else, is going to be a better long term solution.

While the idea of "lets just make it really hard for people to get vodka, then they will drink less.. problem solved!" is great, the reality is that sometimes people will go to great lengths to get their vodka anyway. You just created criminals out of the very people you were trying to help by legislating vodka distribution laws.

>And yes, I've certainly had friends who are 40+ and barely hold down a job and live off friends and family because they are addicted to marijuana.

Is the evidence available strong enough to suggest that it's the marijuana causing this? Marijuana is often used by those suffering from depression and anxiety as a form of self-medication.

In BC, Canada the province's leading medical doctors have come out in strong support of legalization.

Supporting legalization is quite different from supporting usage.



I never thought that about alcohol and it's advertised like crazy.

There is no possible way a 12 year old is going to take from five sentences that drugs are safe for 24-7 consumption. In fact, I'd argue that stigma and prohibition are more likely to cause a 12 or 14 year old to try pot than anyone asking if substance abuse might have other underlying causes.

In studies marijuana has been shown as less addictive than caffeine. Sure people can use it to waste away their lives but unlike alcoholics they are making the choice to do it. Everybody has things they struggle with. Junk food. TV. Alcohol. Tobacco. There are many, many ways in which you can waste and ruin your life. Adding one more to the list isn't going to make a huge difference. Not to mention the fact that many lives are ruined because people are prosecuted for using marijuana sensibly and causing no harm to others.

Very interesting, can you cite one of these studies? I'm not doubting you but I'm curious about the research.

A downvote when requesting the facts. Interesting.

By far the most damaging drug is alcohol. Far, far and away the most damaging, in every objective study and analysis. We tried alcohol prohibition and found out that very every ill caused by alcohol being legal we would create even more ills by making it illegal.

The same is true of other drugs, and this is an important thing to understand about society in general and its relationship to law. We cannot legislate morality. We cannot run people's lives. We cannot, fundamentally, stop people from making major mistakes with their lives. Even life threatening mistakes.

Nor should we.

Liberty means the ability to fuck up your life. And to the extent that all of our lives are intertwined in a modern society it means to a certain degree the ability to fuck up other people's lives too. That's part of the bargain. But in every instance liberty has proven to be superior to oppressive collective control, even when that control attempts to be benevolent. Ultimately responsibility must devolve to the individual, because regardless of the law it does anyway. As you yourself point out people are still having their lives ruined by drug use. And those drugs are very, very illegal. It's tempting to imagine you can get rid of something by making it illegal, but in some cases, recreational drug use being the prime example, it often just causes even more problems.

People get addicted — to their detriment — to video games and bacon too. It doesn't mean that those are meaningfully addictive substances.

Many people go into "self-destruction mode" without needing any drug at all. Usually triggered by tragedies or just some phases of life, like middle life crisis and puberty. Plus many times drug addiction is a reaction, not a cause.

Its not until your late 20's and really 30's that you start to find out about and see people you've known in the past that were intelligent, productive people who's lives have been completely destroyed due to their drug addictions.

Maybe in your case. I was seeing people badly damaged by drugs (alcohol and heroin, mostly). I also know the only reason some kicked the heroin addiction was because they were allowed to ask for help without fearing imprisonment, since drug usage is not a crime in my country.

Are you the real Fred Durst (aka, Limp Bizkit)?

If so, I wouldn't doubt that you have a lot of friends addicted to marijuana.

In terms of a response to your post, I am less than 4 months away from turning 30 years old. All of my friends were "potheads" in high school (and college). Zero of them had their life destroyed by it. They are all productive, upstanding people. If anything, I think the fact that some of them were stigmatized so heavily by being potheads really set them back.

Now, this is just anecdotal and I may not represent a "representative sample". So that's just my experience.

Its interesting, I'm near your age (31), and had lots of friends who smoked pot then and now. I can count on one hand the number of people who on the surface appear to have smoked themselves stupid. They however never stopped with pot, and were most likely clinically depressed. They got hooked on a cycle of anti-depressants, adhd meds, harder drugs (ecstacy, etc), and alcohol. So I would guess that pot really had little bearing on their outcome, perhaps softened the blow the demons they were battling caused them.

> "Its not until your late 20's and really 30's that you start to find out about and see people you've known in the past that were intelligent, productive people who's lives have been completely destroyed due to their drug addictions."

I wish I was unaware of addiction, particularly alcoholism, while growing up.... It sounds like you had a nice sheltered childhood.

Nevertheless, my experiences have not rendered me a prohibitionist.

And yes, I've certainly had friends who are 40+ and barely hold down a job and live off friends and family because they were/are addicted to marijuana. It definitely happens, don't kid yourself.

Cause or effect?? Marijuana isn't addictive in the since that cigarettes and heroin are. It's highly likely that your friends that are unsuccessful are merely using marijuana to medicate for other issues.

Correlation is not causation.

Legalize it,

But there are some real issues to be worked out, as someone who had a friend sent to hospital after being hit by a stoned driver who blew through a stop sign. Whats the legal limit?

I'm not sure how easy it is to detect if someone is "under the influence" as the drug is detectable for weeks in the blood (in this case the join was in the car).

We already have this situation with prescription drugs. I agree it should be worked out, but failure to do so is not in itself a problem; same with prescription drugs, while there's a lot of ambiguity around when a person is under the influence, as it were, it just makes it so arrests have to be for actual occurrences. Reckless driving, or an accident caused by it. As you mention yourself, the driver ran a stop sign; all the marijuana does is add an additional offense, it's not like the driver walks scot free because the system is unable to respond to his drug usage.

Legal limits for alcohol are pretty arbitrary. Someone who's driving way over the limit isn't going to get caught unless they're driving dangerously anyway.

> unless they're driving dangerously anyway

"Driving dangerously" should be the metric. Not whether your body contains chocolate milk, weed, alcohol, oxycotin, aspirin, or whatever.

It's a pretty lousy 'after the facts' metric though. Driving dangerously is generally not visible until you're faced with a situation that requires all your attention, and then it's probably too late.

Too many people under the influence of alcohol or drugs are under the impression that because they can drive in a straight line and stop at red lights they are not dangerous and are being 'careful' and 'responsible', yet their judgement and reflexes are nonetheless impaired and this makes them dangerous.

Besides, you can't reasonably equate aspirin and chocolate to the dramatic effects that even a moderate amount of weed and alcohol have on your attention and brain response.

I'm all for the decriminalisation of drugs but I'm also in favour of zero tolerance if you choose to get behind the wheel.

There's apparently a breathalyzer in development[0] that can detect use within the past two hours.

[0] http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/thc-breathalyzer-could-help-pol...

if it works, that would solve the problem of detection.

>> But there are some real issues to be worked out, as someone who had a friend sent to hospital after being hit by a stoned driver who blew through a stop sign. Whats the legal limit?

Sorry that happened to your friend. Was it proven that the driver was stoned? If so I'm guessing they have an accurate way to measure it. Either way this is always going to be a problem. Look at the number of people killed by drunk drivers. The only solution is harsh prison sentences imo. Some people, willing to take the risk of DWI, disregard the danger they pose to others and if they can't understand that they should be severely punished. DWI shouldn't just lose you your license and get you probation. The punishment should be much more severe.

As for your question on the legal limit - there shouldn't be one. If you get in the car you should not have had any marijuana in the last 24 hours.

The problem is the studies that show that MJ use is far less of an impact on driving than talking on a phone... The paranoia over stoned drivers is a little high (no pun intended)

Not saying it should be ignored as an issue all together, but it seems to be the last issue the opposition can attach itself to and sound sane, and its getting a little carried away.

With self driving cars on the horizon it will at some point become a moot point.

Even if that's true the drugs effect is different on each person and the amount you take will vary the effect it has on your driving ability. A couple of puffs probably won't make a difference. But you can also take enough that it's hard to even get out of a chair. The easiest solution and one that should appease everyone would be a total ban on driving within 12/24 hours of last taking marijuana imo.

I get that... its a legitimate concern, as I said. However, its no more legitimate than the other 100s of prescription drugs that can cause drowsiness or slowed reaction time. Or driving with the flu, or driving tired.

Thats the point - there are literally 100s of other ways to be just as (if not more) impaired while driving and be completely legal. We don't parade those issues around (namely because the big pharma companies would like people to not realize just how impairing their products are)

The difference is that there is a large enough group opposed to legalization that they make this issue a primary one in their fight against legalization and blow it vastly out of proportion to the actual scale of the problem.

That's true with alcohol, too, though, it effects people differently. .08 was basically just resolving legal ambiguity by picking a reasonable BAC; it's not like at .079 you can operate a car safely but at .08 you're a danger to everyone on the road.

You can actually be arrested for an 'OUI' in some states, an Operating Under the Influence, for when you are clearly impaired, but fall below the legal cutoff for a DUI. This would likely necessitate being the same sort of thing, a legal recognition that you were driving recklessly, and you exhibit the signs of recent marijuana usage (or if we have some way of actually measuring it, then that too).

12/24 hours?? Have you ever smoked? I'd say the effects mostly wear off within 2 hours...

A total ban on driving for 24 hours is scientifically unsound, and would only play into fearmongers' hands who want more legally dubious checkpoints and reasons to do intrusive tests on drivers.

That only applies to a point. I've been high enough that I had trouble walking (fun with poorly calibrated edibles...); driving would have been impossible. Luckily 'couch-lock' tends to limit how much mischief people get up to while heroically high.

There is no reliable way to chemically measure intoxication from marijuana. All the tests show is the presence of THC in the system. Hair tests can detect use as far back as 6 months, urine tests for 3 weeks, blood tests for 72 hours (typically used in accident investigations). Saliva tests, having a shorter duration of ~12 hours would be more ideal, but have an effectiveness cutoff of 50ng. The current legal limit in CO and WA is 5ng.

All that said, there's little correlation between the amount of THC in one's system and the level of intoxication. A chronic user (no pun intended) will have a much higher concentration of THC in their system and be affected less by it as compared to say, a tourist coming in and trying it for the first time in 20 years.

Lots of marijuana activists claim that driving while high does not impair your driving ability. Anyone who's ever been extremely stoned knows that even basic tasks like walking or talking are difficult, let alone driving.

I don't really mind a nearly-zero-tolerance policy for driving while on any kind of drug. Some people are way more tolerant to weed than others, and may be nearly sober even with a THC concentration that makes someone else couchlocked, but I think it's better to err on the side of caution.

> Lots of marijuana activists claim that driving while high does not impair your driving ability.

[citation needed], as I could be considered one and believe it should be handled similar to DUI, and I've never met another "marijuana activist" that thought differently.

The risk of driving after using marijuana is comparable to the risk of driving after using penicillin, which isn't illegal. Furthermore, the risk is far less than the risk of driving at .08, which is legal in most states. While I'm not advocating that people drive while stoned, it's not clear that there is a legal problem that needs to be solved.

> The risk of driving after using marijuana is comparable to the risk of driving after using penicillin, which isn't illegal.

[citation needed]

> Furthermore, the risk is far less than the risk of driving at .08

[citation needed], again

> which is legal in most states.

No, driving at or above BAC 0.08 regardless of impairment is illegal in all 50 states, and in most states driving with any impairment due to alcohol is also illegal (though a lesser offense) even if the BAC is below 0.08.

Instead of saying [citation needed], why don't you just Google it? For reference:


And your point about .08 being illegal is pedantic. Driving at .0799 would be legal, and the risk is identical.

> The risk of driving after using marijuana is comparable to the risk of driving after using penicillin

Source? I would drive in neither case, but I certainly feel far more able to drive after a penicillin than after a few drags off a joint.

Marijuana delays reaction time. Does penicillin?

benadryl does. And nyquill. Allegra and claritin can as well (though to a lesser degree). thats not mentioning the 100s of prescription drugs that do. None of them need a roadside test, why does MJ?

I've got to query this, I don't believe antibiotics like penicillin cause any motor/visual impairment

Some antibiotics may cause problems. Quoting from http://www.drugs.com/cdi/amoxicillin.html :

> Amoxicillin may cause dizziness. This effect may be worse if you take it with alcohol or certain medicines. Use amoxicillin with caution. Do not drive or perform other possibly unsafe tasks until you know how you react to it.

That said, I can find nothing similar for penicillin. Eg, it's not listed in the "impressive list of drugs [which] may cause vertigo or dizziness" at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3853661/ , though several other antibiotics are listed.

Antibiotics and other medication can destroy your hearing. Common anti anxiety medications effect your sense of balance to the point falling.

I don't agree with the GP however. There are significant differences in effect between the strains of MJ that it isn't rational to make statements like the GP.

http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/medicines-that-cause... http://www.drugs.com/clonazepam.html

Citation definitely needed. I don't recall feeling the slightest bit impaired after taking penicillin.

Driving stoned is NOT fun. Physics feel all weird. I don't recommend it. It is scary.

I've heard anti legalisation advocates suggest that prohibition of alcohol would indeed be a positive thing and were alcohol a new drug then it should be criminalised. However prohibition attempts (of alcohol) are doomed to fail because of how much drinking is entwined with our culture. For example pubs or bars being focal points of the community, wine being a common meal accompaniment etc. Marijuana doesn't have the same culture built around it , except for a minority of stoners.

Thats a very, frankly, stupid comment. And short sided.

MJ has a HUGE group of people who use it medicinally. My wife can not eat or drink without it, due to chronic nausea to the point that without it, she throws up every 20 minutes. Medicine like Zofram barely help even at max dose, which carries with it other side effects.

Calling everyone who smokes stoners is the equivalent of calling everyone who drinks a glass of wine an alcoholic. I regularly enjoy MJ - and I think it would be short-sided to consider me a stoner, considering im a successful father of 2 with a great salary and a happy family.

The good news is - the "minority" you speak of is people like you... the outdated mentality is in the minority now, with the majority of the country FOR legalization - even in traditionally red states like TX.

You're missing the point. The number of people who use marijuana even occasionally is much smaller than the number of people who drink alcohol and there is no society wide culture based on marijuana use. For example it's not generally accepted practice to toke up at a wedding or an office party.

This makes the practicalities of banning marijuana different to those of alcohol but is not necessarily a comment on the ethics of doing so.

I was under the impression that tobacco and alcohol companies are against legalization and have the largest hand in keeping it illegal.

Possibly, though I imagine that tobacco companies would probably find away to be the biggest beneficiaries if it suddenly became legal.

By a long shot. I'd say they could start producing joints with exactly the same production lines they already have. You'd see tobacco+marijuana cigarettes too - a highly marketable combination of high and addiction.

> You'd see tobacco+marijuana cigarettes too - a highly marketable combination of high and addiction.

Damn, right there's almost good enough reason to oppose legalization.

Not only that, but there is a substantial body within countries like the United States who benefit a lot from it being legal. For instance, the for profit prisons incarcerate non-violent drug offenders. Also, law enforcement relies heavily on policies such as seizures as a source of funding. These types of institutions also have a lot to lose when it comes to drug legalization...

Is that an argument against legalization or an argument that there needs to be better access to treatments for addictions of any kind? Especially since throwing someone in prison doesn't exactly limit their access to drugs.

- Anybody in the black market is going to be against legalization

- How to deal with driving under the influence is not a question with a perfect answer yet


I didn't downvote you.

1. The person that crashed into you (sorry, that sucks) could have done the same thing after drinking alcohol. It's legal. Do you also recommend prohibiting it? I think most people would agree driving under the influence of marijuana should be illegal. Punishments should be severe. But even now with prohibition that doesn't stop stupid people doing stupid things. Illegal or not, the world is full of idiots and there's very little we can do about it.

2. I don't mean to be insensitive but your sister-in-law made that decision. It's her right. You have no right to enforce your views on her. I have seen many people addicted to alcohol and it's horrible. But they have an excuse - it's highly addictive. Marijuana isn't. It is less addictive than caffeine meaning that if she is choosing to spend her days on the couch, high, it's a choice she's making.

1. Yes I do think that it should be made illegal on the basis that it causes a number of deep social problems in the UK. If you've ever seen an English town after closing time, you'll know what I mean.

2. I completely agree with you but do you think that legalising it is going to reduce the health impact? No, it's going to make it socially acceptable.

Shit or get off the pot: Cite your sources regarding addiction.

Edit: Ask for proof/sources = down vote. Hey everyone, fuck science.

1. I've seen the problems it can cause. I'm from the UK and there are many things our government can do to vastly improve the situation without banning alcohol. One simple one is extending opening times. Having relatively early closing times leads to everybody leaving bars and clubs drunk at the same time. Not a good situation but an easily solvable one.

America showed the hell that can come from alcohol prohibition. Only an idiot would look at that and consider it a solution to some anti-social behavior on the weekends.

2. I'm not sure it will make it socially acceptable. From what I've seen in the Netherlands a lot of young people think it's 'uncool' to smoke marijuana. And regarding the health impact if it is legal the government will be able to put out advice on minimizing the health consequences (e.g. using edibles, not mixing with tobacco, vaporizing instead of smoking etc.).

As for sources - Google it. I did and found several sources in seconds. The sources vary on specificity but the general message is people can become dependent but that it isn't very addictive.

There is nothing scientific about making unsubstantiated claims, demanding we take away people's rights based on those unsubstantiated claims and then complaining about other people's sources. If you'd like to take this conversation in the direction of well-researched science, that would be fantastic, but by all appearances you are only here to grind your axe.

"This thing causes problems. So, let's make it illegal."

That isn't the obviously good idea you seem to think it is. Outlawing things that people like also causes problems: it criminalizes responsible use as well as irresponsible use; it creates a black market which feeds organized crime; it has been a major factor in the militarization of our police departments, so that now there are lots of little towns with SWAT teams, which do get misused.

There are costs to making these things illegal, and so the question you have to ask is whether the benefit outweighs them. In the case of marijuana, it is increasingly clear that it does not.

Because you basically just advocated prohibition of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, and included in your list of reasons 'I don't like the smell'.

Never mind that prohibition was already tried and already failed.

Well I'll add one more:

The physical and mental health problems and associated healthcare burden.

This is not insignificant and totally shrugged off by the "pro-legalisation" side of things.

The first time I smoked marijuana I was 13 years old; prohibition doesn't work, and while MJ has its burdens, prohibition has far more. We should focus on treating the addicted as human beings needing help rather than criminals to be thrown into prison.

Isn't prevention better than cure?

People keep saying "prohibition didn't work" but I'm hard pressed to find a conclusive paper on the subject. Perhaps you could enlighten me?

Edit: Ask for proof/sources = down vote. Hey everyone, fuck science.

> Isn't prevention better than cure?

That's oversimplifying; couldn't we drastically reduce the number of automotive deaths by outlawing driving?

Marijuana isn't an absolute evil with no redeeming qualities, and prohibition brings along a bevy of its own problems. So then we're really talking about which method, legalization or prohibition, is better in the aggregate.

When I say that prohibition doesn't work, I'm talking literally; something like a third of people in the US have smoked marijuana, and a sizable percentage (including me, a productive salaried software developer) smoke regularly despite the potential legal ramifications. I've gone on vacation with no connects and found a dealer inside of a day, which is to say that no one who wants to smoke is being stopped by prohibition.

When you take that with all of the bad things that prohibition causes, I don't know how you can rationalize its continuation.

> Isn't prevention better than cure?

Sure, but prohibition isn't prevention.

> People keep saying "prohibition didn't work" but I'm hard pressed to find a conclusive paper on the subject.

Assuming, arguendo, your suggestion that there is no conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of prohibition, then, given the money, lives, etc. that have been expended on prohibition, the absence of conclusive evidence of its effectiveness is, itself, a pretty strong reason not to keep tossing lives and treasure into that pit.

I guess you're in the UK so you're unfamiliar with the American experiment with alcohol prohibition. Here's a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_State...

Hey, light up dude. Take a puff, you'll see how fallacious your comments are.

Actually, the cost of addiction recovery for all drugs other than alcohol is small, literally to the point of insignificance in most cases, compared to the cost of alcohol abuse and addiction, and ridiculously small compared to the cost of the Drug War.

in other words, by any rational measure, it's a risk worth taking.

This is not insignificant

Well, today we already have those costs, plus the even larger costs of law enforcement. The choice is not between "pot is illegal and nobody uses it" and "pot is legal and it causes social problems".

We are already dealing with those problems, legal or not. At least if we legalize and tax it we have a means of paying for it.

We already have those problems -- how will legalizing pot make them worse?

I'll explain it, though I didn't downvote you.

Marijuana is illegal right now. That didn't stop that bad stuff from happening to you or your sister. Turn it into a public health issue and people like your sister-in-law will have more resources to get help.

I also have skepticism that marijuana caused someone to crash into your car. It has not been proven that weed has much if any effect on driving ability, especially for those experienced with the drug.

You are quite clearly an absolute dire example of a complete fucking moron if you think that smoking weed doesn't affect your driving.

It affects your judgement, your motor skills, slows your reaction time and so can the withdrawal symptoms.

I'm not even going to link a page because it's that easy to find supporting information that is credible.

You don't know what you're talking about, I bet that you are not a stoner.

I've been smoking for many years, and have many friends that do. The majority of stoners will tell you that it's very safe to drive while high. Why? When you're high each and every one of your senses are heightened, making you more 'aware' of things going on around you, making you a safer driver. And in addition, the feeling of slight paranoia usually makes you drive pretty slow and careful. I have no studies to back that up, but most stoners generally agree on this.

Never heard of one single incident of smoking and driving causing accidents. Alcohol and driving on the other hand, oh boy, been there done that, never doing that again (irresponsible teenager at the time). Vision blurry, misjudgement is distance, etc., very dangerous side effects for driving usually only associated with alcohol, and not marijuana.

Btw, I'm one of those productive stoners, can't stay away from my programming hobbies when I'm high. I enjoy marijuana, but I'm not exactly an advocate of legalization. There are many dangers with Marijuana from my experience, but driving certainly isn't one of them.

I am completely in favor of legalization. That said, I feel obligated to point out that "the majority of stoners will tell you it's very safe" and "most stoners generally agree on this" does not a convincing argument make.

My own anecdote: sitting passenger in a car with someone stoned and thinking traffic was going too fast, racing by him. On I-95 in the middle lane, going approximately 25 mph. And he insisted he was actually safer when driving stoned due to that slight paranoia you'd mentioned. I mention this here only to underscore the reliability (or lack thereof) of the source you're using.

Think you are right, my assertion is purely anecdotal, but I stand by it based on my many years smoking pot.

Many retrospective studies of crash incidents have not found an increased risk with marijuana use. In my personal experience, it's effects are slight but drivers appear to compensate for their impairment by driving slower and being more careful in other ways, hence the findings of the recent survey study below (the lead researcher is quoted in the NY Times article).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24411797 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/health/driving-under-the-i...

The study’s lead author, Eduardo Romano, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, said that once he adjusted for demographics and the presence of alcohol, marijuana did not statistically increase the risk of a crash.

Based only on the abstract (the text is behind a paywall), it appears the first paper only discusses "the drivers' risk of being killed in a fatal crash", and not overall crash incidents, which is the point of your first sentence.

In addition, the abstract's conclusion starts "Although overall, drugs contribute to crash risk regardless of the presence of alcohol, such a contribution is much lower than that by alcohol." (Emphasis mine.) This seems to contradict your statement that there is not an increased risk with marijuana use. (The NYT article seems to confuse the two when it talks about "risk of a fatal accident" in one paragraph then "risk of a crash" in the second.)

Instead, I think the paper you want, which is a bit older (from 2012) but not behind a firewall, is http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276316/ . It says:

> Experimental studies have shown modest functional impairment, but debate exists over how well these experimental studies translate into real-life driving situations (41). Epidemiologic studies, however, have shown contradictory results (39, 42, 43). ... it is unclear whether marijuana plays a significant role in crash causation.

The paper itself is a meta-analysis. They write:

> Results of this meta-analysis indicate that marijuana use by drivers is associated with a significantly increased risk of crash involvement. 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.

It then very emphatically points out that this conclusion is not strong enough for public policy decisions, and that there are many possible confounding factors.

This conclusion is also mentioned in the NYT link you posted: "Still, it is clear that marijuana use causes deficits that affect driving ability, Dr. Huestis said. She noted that several researchers, working independently of one another, have come up with the same estimate: a twofold increase in the risk of an accident if there is any measurable amount of THC in the bloodstream."

Thus, I think it's enough to suggest that your first line is likely incorrect.

I took the NYT quote from Eduardo Romano to mean that after controlling for some of those confounding factors, there was no evidence of increased risk. I posted the NYT article because the abstract didn't mention much about marijuana specifically.

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.

Without having read the study, do you know if this statistic controls for age or anything else? If so, I stand corrected.

Thanks for your polite tone, it's not every day I get called a "fucking moron" before 7 a.m. :)

Like I said, I think the NYT quote confuses two points - no evidence for increased driver fatalities; and evidence for increased number of accidents. While I can understand how you made the inference you did, as I pointed out, elsewhere in the same NYT article points out that the accident rate is 2x that of other drivers, so there is an internal inconsistency. The simplest correction which makes it match external evidence is assume that the Romano quote omitted the "fatal" accidents context.

The study I linked to says: The data were stratified and analyzed according to study design, type of drug assessment, study time period, study location, or age of the study subjects. A more than 2-fold increased crash risk associated with marijuana use was found in each of the subsets of studies

Table 2 shows the age breakdown as "<25" and "all ages." See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276316/table/tb... .

I didn't downvote, but I will say that what worries me far more than the effect of any drugs is your apparent desire to use the Government to impose your personal tastes and opinions on the population. Stoners will occasionally crash cars and waste their lives (at least in some peoples' opinions - is it not their life to live as they choose?) and that can be terrible for the people affected. A widespread desire to ban things that you don't like based on scant evidence and enforce those bans with increasingly military-like police forces is what leads to things like the US imprisoning a greater percentage of the population than actual police states.

I ask that you reconsider your desire to impose your views of how other people should behave on them, using Government force if necessary. People who lead their societies down that path have a nasty tendency to find the things that they personally like get banned next.

That sounds an awful lot like collective punishment, something I almost always oppose.

On the other hand, I definitely sympathize with the smell, the obnoxious behavior, the litter, and even the smoke itself. Were I a supreme dictator with no care for the needs of my subjects and having some method of enforcing 100% compliance, I'd ban all smoking and public displays of alcohol and sleep soundly at night.

Unfortunately (nah, fortunately) for the two of us, life doesn't bend to such whims. In any society where I'd want to live, I'd much rather the individuals who cause harm (minor, like litter, or major, like property damage or personal injury) be slapped and slapped hard by the law, but those who are responsible and cause no negative external effects are free to do what they like.

Yes I know this is idealist. I'd like people to act responsibly and consider others but to be honest this is beyond a not insignificant proportion of the population. I live in the UK. This class of drug is banned and it should stay so. The police don't go around locking people up - they do slap wrists and that keeps it under control.

When it gets too much or puts people in danger, through drug driving or mindless paranoia caused violence, they have the power to say "stop - that's enough" and solve the problem there and then through the courts. If legalised, that power diminishes into a non-absolute method of control.

We have laws against drinking and smoking in certain places as well already and things have improved massively since these were introduced.

The deep problem we all know, and this is written in many a paper freely googlable, is that smoking, alcohol and drug consumption have observable and statistically obvious negative health effects and negative effects on society. In the UK, this means healthcare budget being sucked up.

Comparing the UK and the US here is absurd. I live in the UK too and pratically speaking marijiuana is decriminalized. The police do not prosecute ordinary users and "small time growing" is often a warning or a fine.

Compare that to america where a tremendous number of college-age kids are imprisoned, where vast swathes of the black population are put away, where police meet their targets for funding by prosecuting weed smokers. It's a completely different world.

The "drug driving" is not being legalized anywhere. Illegal things are still illegal. "Mindless paranoia caused violence" is, as far as any one can tell, a myth. But even so, that's a HEALTH issue - not solvable by police.

As for "negative effects on society" and "health care budget" - these are phrases meant to restrict lifestyles available to people on the basis of your own fear, self-interest and jealousy. "Freedom" if it is to mean anything is the ability to enjoy: to have your life be - to you - enjoyable and worth living.

Fair points.

Regarding your latter points, I assume you have never talked to NHS mental health staff who have to deal with addicts on a regular basis? Not a pretty job and actually puts you right in there to see the effects in action.

I fear no one, but "freedom" should always encompass the ethic of reciprocity.

That point is what's missing from all discussions on the subject otherwise it is just self-interest.

"The police don't go around locking people up - they do slap wrists and that keeps it under control"

Perhaps that is why you were downvoted. Note the NYT is an American newspaper, and was addressing marijuana policy in the USA. You may be unaware of the consequences of drug prosecution here (losing voting rights, prison time, lost professional opportunities, propery seizure, and so on), but given the difference your blithe dismissal sounds ignorant and insensitive.

It annoys me when people use healthcare cost as something to be counted against recreational drugs. It seems to me that this reasoning could equally be applied to every avoidable burden on the health system.

As an analogy. As far as I know heart disease is one of the main causes of healthcare costs and death. Obesity leads to an increased risk of heart disease. Does this mean that we should have a government mandated diet to eliminate obesity?

Very much so. Isn't public health about reducing avoidable risks and keeping the population healthy?

Isn't the goal of public policy to balance the interests of all of the involved constituents? Public health is about taking effective measures to keep the population as a whole healthy, and part of that is finding effective ways to reduce those bad things.

In that context, you're getting slapped because you're ignoring the fetid mess that the US drug policy has caused, and that our current drug policy is not being very effective for public health or public spending: (a) It's horribly racially biased: https://www.aclu.org/billions-dollars-wasted-racially-biased...

(b) It's incredible expensive (ibid), to the tune of billions of dollars per year in paying for enforcement, incarceration, and lost productivity;

(c) It doesn't obviously reduce use rates! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448346/

You don't have to be a fan of drug use to appreciate this mess. I'm not - speaking personally, I'm about as negative about the issue as one can get, for drugs, alcohol, and tobacco all together. But that's not the point. Barring some actually worthwhile, cost-effective, and fair method of enforcement, which nobody in the US has stumbled upon yet, we need to stop pissing away money putting nearly 1% of our population in jail [1] where not only do we burden them forever with a criminal conviction, we introduce them to a lot of real criminals and set them on the path to real crime.

Putting someone in jail in NYC for a year costs $167,000 [2]. Surely we could do some more effective prevention and education with that money. Or take it and try to reduce alcohol DUI fatalities or tobacco use, both of which are currently more deadly than pot use.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_Sta...

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/nyregion/citys-annual-cost...

I for one do not want a nanny state. I would much rather have personal freedom to do what I want with my body rather than sitting down to a nice hot government ration #323. There are some things that make life worth living and not all of them are good for you. If that means that I have to pay higher taxes then so be it, that is already the price to pay for living in a welfare state. In any case any perceived burden can be offset with a vice tax.

You need to have an extremely addictive personality or have some completely lack of self control to become addicted to marijuana, meaning in your logic we would have to ban coke (the black drink), donuts, cooffe and one hundred other substances that can kill you if you abuse them hourly.

Luckily it's not your right to inflict your views on the rest of us. It is your right to vacate an area that has an odor you disagree with though.

In this case, I disagree. A couple of opposing views:

- What if I was in an area first, say a park? Does the right to light up trump my right to be somewhere in that case?

- What if I have to be there? Does the right to light up mean that I miss my bus because I'm walking to another stop or do I just have to live with it if there is no other nearby stop?

Though I support legalization of marijuana, I agree with you: smoking of any substance should be prohibited where other people have to smell the smoke.

Well, it depends on what the rules are. If you are in a park (first, last, doesn't matter) and someone has the right and chooses to exercise that right to light up, you can either move, ask them to move, or deal with it. Same applies to the bus stop.

Let's use an analogy:

What if someone was burning a tyre in my neighbour's garden directly affecting my health?

You can't up the ante and claim it's analogous. Burning a tyre releases a tremendous amount of thick black smoke, burning a joint releases several orders of magnitude less smoke, and unless you're within 10m of the person you realistically are not going to be affected.

For effect: "What if someone built a rocket launch pad next to my house and it was directly affecting my health?"

Doesn't that depend on how far my neighbour is away? Perhaps we have 500m long gardens...

The analogy is valid as is "pissing over my fence onto my head", "kicking a football through my greenhouse", "catapulting dog shit into my garden" etc etc.

A smell that you don't like isn't comparable to destruction of your property or having toxic waste thrown on you.

I have a neighbour that often cooks curry; I can't stand the smell of curry. Even though the smell comes in through my windows, I don't have the right to force them to stop cooking. I just close my windows.

This is a step in the right direction. I strongly believe that marijuana legalization is good for the economy -- personally I've come up with brilliant, practical ideas while stoned[0]. Many of which I have gone on to implement and generate wealth. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Think Steve Jobs and Apple etc.

[0] I hope the nomenclature evolves re marijuana. "stoned", "bong", "skunk", "chronic", etc conjure up images that are too tightly aligned with negative stereotypes IMO.

We have plenty of negative names for alcohol and tobacco, though. Booze, fags, etc.

Not a user, but after being a bartender for years - and knowing many who do consume marijuana - there seems to be no logical reason to punish (let alone _incarcerate_) people for something which is ultimately less destructive than what I was allowed to push for so many years.

Yeah, alcohol is far more likely to result in police incidents. Here in Boulder I often think that if all the drunk college students were getting high instead, the worst thing that would happen is all the restaurants will get overrun at 2 am.

So the real question now becomes - which organizations with political clout are still fighting to keep Marijuana illegal?

I've actually never smoked weed in my entire life (seriously). I have no interest in smoking weed once it is legal either. But I'm very sick of paying to support a stupid wasteful policy. So who are the people that are actually fighting to keep it illegal? I honestly can't find them, I'd love to read their arguments.

Really? Illegal drugs are an enormous business, I'd guess the people currently making money from it would be fighting to keep it illegal. The same goes for the police/DEA/etc who are paid to enforce the law.

No I understand that, but it's a lot more nuanced than "it's the police!".

Which specific lobbying groups are for and against it? What factions of the two political parties are hardline for keeping it illegal? What newspapers and TV stations? What arguments are they making?

Here's an interesting report on these big-pharma funded groups:


To the Americans around here: do you think this will have any important effects? It seems to me it could have, if it had been done ten years ago, our if the NYT was a newspaper aligned with a more conservative line, but nowadays I'd expect most readers of the Times to think "took you long enough!"

I think this is a big deal. The New York Times is hardly universally respected, but it has a lot more credibility than the image normally associated with the marijuana legalization crowd. I would expect Sunday morning news programs to mention this editorial tomorrow.

Yep, this has the potential to become one of those phase-change situations where there is movement from "it will never happen because it's always been this way" and "why is this still broken?" Like gay marriage.

In these kinds of issues, the NYT is typically a lagging indicator, so it's nice to see them leading for a change.

Yeah, take a look at the trend in the graph in one of their other columns [0]. The balance of opinion is changing very fast.

[0] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/opinion/sunday/high-time-t...

I think more importantly is that this is just another in a long trend of signs that people are not scared of saying marijuana should be legalized anymore.

Take someone like my mom, born in the 50's: she was raised in a conservative household, and when authority figures told her "marijuana is bad", her instinct was to believe them. So she's been against it her whole life. But I can tell she's kind of dubious about that position--the reality she's seen doesn't match the horrors she was warned against. But when you've held one position for so long it's kind of hard to change without losing a little face.

Having a respected media outlets come out and say they've rethought their position might give her cover to rethink her own position.

I'd expect most readers of the Times to think "took you long enough!"

The Times did not say anything here that wasn't known to be true 20 years ago. They just waited until it was a more popular thing to say. The Times would do well do understand why they were unable to write this editorial in 1994. What has changed except popular (uninformed and unscientific) perception?

General legalization and amnesty is the way to go. This piecemeal recreational legalization is only happening in the whitest states in the country, and not helping the primary victims of the drug war.

Keep your eye on DC. It is neither the "whitest" nor even a "state" but it does have a full legalization ballot initiative set for November that will almost certainly pass if Congress doesn't block it.

It's now on my radar. Thanks.

I can't use marijuana because it would have incredibly bad effects on my life, but I support legalization.

I tend to be bored easily. Normally boredom inspires me to get out of the house, do something productive, write some code, etc. Marijuana is a boredom cure. After using it, I could stare at a wall for five hours and be deeply fascinated and content. I cannot afford to waste time staring at walls. I need to be productive. Therefore marijuana is a bad idea for me, but I don't believe the state should make that decision for everybody.

Full legalization has a single major hurdle for me: testing for a person's level of "high". Think of this as a blood alcohol content breathalyzer test. There is a definite method for determining the amount of alcohol inside a person's body and laws use these limits for punishment.

This is highly important. No body wants someone "high as a kite" operating a vehicle. It is not in the public's best interest to have very high people driving just like having severely drunk people driving. Its all about safety.

You could frame the argument that marijuana is similar to other medicines (OTC or prescription, labeled with "do not drive or operate machinery") but the attempts to legalize marijuana for all uses - recreational - negates this point. If people can use marijuana at all times, any time, than a method of ensuring a using person is not endangering others is needed.

To sum, legalization requires a definitive method to measure "highness" to ensure safety for the public. Once this occurs and people know the rules and levels at which they can be high, then legalizing makes sense.

Why do you need to test a person's high? I don't care if a person has had too much to drink, too much to smoke, or taken to many prescription pills, if they are driving poorly under the influence of drugs, they should get a DUI. Having a test just makes the prosecutor's job easier, but the officer could always arrest the people he suspects are too high to drive and get a warrant for a blood draw.

I find it very unlikely that you've given this a thorough cost-benefit analysis. For one thing, automobiles were invented after alcohol but before breathalyzers, and we got along more or less just fine without having to put a bunch of people in jail for having alcohol. I see no reason why legal marijuana use would be much different.

Additionally, it's self-evidently not "all about safety". That's insane. If so, why let anyone drive at all? That's another option - there's no test for if you are driving tired, but that provides similar levels of driving impairment to alcohol, plus there's already quite a bit of illegal use of marijuana. If we ban all driving, no one can kill each other with cars, problem solved, and there are no safety implications here, because driving is not critical to your safety. Police, ambulances and firefighters can still use their vehicles, because safety is the only thing that is important.

I'm not sure why people are so terrified of drunk and high drivers. I've ridden my bicycle drunk and I've driven while tired and the latter was far far more dangerous. Old people and distracted soccer moms in SUVs are more dangerous than some guy who smoked a joint an hour ago IMO.

Neat animation effect as your scroll down the page. Is it using SVG to animate the morph from star to cannabis leaf?

Yeah - Mike Bostock of the d3 fame works for the NYT and was almost certainly behind that

From the end of Part 1 of the editorial series:

> On Monday at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, will be taking questions about marijuana legalization at facebook.com/nytimes.

At 4:20? Holy crap, I thought the NYT was way too stuffy to do such a stunt. I've been a reader for many years, and the only things I can count on in life are life, death, and the sleepy character of the NYT editorial page. I think I'd better pay closer attention.

Kind of off topic, but can we talk about how beautiful of a webpage that is?

I would have preferred the page-length banner to be to the right side of the article. I think it's easier to read when the left side is simple, so that you can track to the next line easily.

Ironically this comment is probably the only "on-topic" comment in this entire thread, considering that this is HN. :)

If you feel a post is not HN material, you can always flag it. It's in the guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I'm truly curious: which problems related to marijuana use (intoxicated drivers, access by children, etc.) do people think might worsen in a state where marijuana is legalized?

It seems obvious to me that marijuana legalization would alleviate the two aforementioned issues by raising awareness of marijuana-related DUIs and eliminating distribution networks that sell to children, but I probably haven't considered other problems associated with widespread marijuana use.

I was really glad to see states starting to do something about this, but this should really be changed at the federal level. It's less bad for you than alcohol and cigarettes. The war on it is just so costly and absurd on so many levels.

I'm pretty neutral on marijuana legalization. If anything, I'm for it as I feel like it's a bit of a red herring for the media to discuss and ignore other, more important, issues.

That said, NYT, the morphing graphic of the stars in the US flag turning into pot leafs? That's just tasteless. Let's not go from illegal to "symbolizing our country" in one op-ed, eh?

> That said, NYT, the morphing graphic of the stars in the US flag turning into pot leafs?

I hadn't even noticed that, way to shoot their cause in the foot. What a silly, and disrespectful graphic. It doesn't even use the right values for blue and red before the morph. Granted, I take our flag pretty seriously, and personally can't stand it when people wear it as shirts or have some bastardization of it plastered on their mug.

Indeed. That is certainly tasteless. I have no strong opinion either way really. It certainly should be legal for medical purposes and any other use should be heavily regulated (especially where under age people are involved).

Even decades ago, people as influential as Milton Friedman were arguing this and explaining the costs at length:


Is there any explanation why the editorial board of the Times is writing this now, after many decades of harm have already been done? Has something changed or do they just feel as if the bandwagon is big enough that it is OK for them to climb aboard?

That's an Op-Ed, not necessarily the position of the National Review's editors.

The NYT isn't just running a series of articles on legalization, they are taking a stand as a newspaper in favor of it.

I thought NR was for legalization from way back? Quietly anyway. Definitely Bill Buckley personally was pro-legalization from at least the 70s onward.

Edit: and the piece is by a sitting Republican congressman, who is a somewhat legendary figure in movement conservative circles.

Alright - here's the position of the National Review's editors:


Supporting marijuana legalization isn't solely a left-wing stance, and the NYT isn't particularly early to the position. William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of the National Review, was in favor of legalization as far back as the mid-1960s.

And in a decade or two, legalization of prostitution.

It was legalized where I live years ago. Sex Workers pay income tax, and can make work related deductions. They can call the police if they have any trouble with clients. It is just another service industry.

The only restrictions imposed apon them is where they are allowed to operate their business. (Not near schools, playgrounds etc).

Nice XSS attack against the comment-page there. Oops.

I've lost many friends and family to drugs and alcohol. Tremendous loss. Most can use with no consequences, but not everyone. I believe legalization will result in more casualties.

Well, all the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. So by resisting the change you are helping inflict damage on more lives.

> we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

What a fucking racists! The article started so well.

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