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Davis Sweet

Davis Sweet

Posted: April 21, 2006 04:14 PM

Medical Marijuana "Slippery Slope" Smokescreen


"Representative Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana and a fierce opponent of medical marijuana initiatives, proposed legislation two years ago that would have required the food and drug agency to issue an opinion on the medicinal properties of marijuana.

"Mr. Souder believes that efforts to legalize medicinal uses of marijuana are a front for efforts to legalize all uses of it, said Martin Green, a spokesman for Mr. Souder." Gardiner Harris, F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana, New York Times

Huzzah! Heroic Indiana Representative Mark Souder has figured out the nefarious scheme of all those AIDS patients and cancer patients and glaucoma patients and other no-account pot-heads. By eliciting sympathy for their blinding pain and painful blindness, these sickos hope to make it legal for EVERYBODY to just go down to the store and buy a six-pack or a twenty-pack of some substance that'll make its customers relaxed and, possibly, giggly. Fiends!

Even if we accept their proposition that medical marijuana is a smokescreen for full-on legalization, which, having interviewed several medical marijuana activists, I can say with 100% certainty is false, it begs the question "so what?"

So what?! It's a slippery slope! First, marijuana gets the same legal status as ciggies and Michelob, then... then... we're not sure what happens after that, but it's probably pretty bad! Trust us!

They claim that legal cannabis is self-evidently intolerable. That's not logic; it's not even good rhetoric. It's just a cop-out. The problem with the cannabis legalization slippery slope, like many other purely rhetorical arguments, is that there is no there there. Legalizing cannabis doesn't actually slope down to a pit full of big, unemployed brown guys with accents just waiting to take advantage of your virginal, teenage, pink, Christian daughter. (Granted, it may slide to Bill Maher's house, where anybody's daughter is on her own. Says so right on the waiver.)

Anybody using this slippery slope argument ("medical marijuana is just an excuse for legalization") should be prepared to tell us not only why that would discount science and reason, but also what's at the bottom of that slope. Not what fantasy they can dredge up from fevered, frustrated-fiction-writer imaginations, but what science, reasonable probability, other countries' experiences, and our own past experiences with prohibition tell us. (Tip: prohibition is tailor-made for propping up and enriching gangsters, which you wouldn't think would be on the government's "to do" list. Unless they need the crime lords to help them launder money for illegal arms deals, which is just so I-love-the-80s.) It is possible to be informed on this issue; they remain, apparently deliberately, ignorant. If they had the fortitude to look honestly at all of those factors, they'd have to face the fact that their position is running on fumes.

Currently, as the NYT story linked above points out, there's a lot more ideology than science in this debate, if you can even call it a debate. Brief debate transcript:

Citizens: I know a lot of people who smoke marijuana, and they seem like they're doing all right.

Gummint: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Citizens: Seems like more than half of me has tried it, even the past couple of presidents.

Gummint: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! HIPPIEEEEEEEEEEEEES! HIPPIES EVERYWHERE!

Citizens: But Shining Example Bush isn't running around in funky costumes preaching love and stuff, is he? Oh, wait...

The prohibition forces have zero credibility on this issue. Unfortunately, they do have an obsequious Supreme Court ("Take away people's stuff and lock 'em up without due process? Why not?") and a bottomless well of similarly ignorant partisans with money whose unnamed fears they can exploit.

Try this experiment (WARNING: it's kinda scientific, so not suitable for government employees):

1. Invite the friend with what you suspect is the most pot experience to your house for tea or whatever. 2. Whip out the laptop and Google "marijuana whitehousedrugpolicy" 3. Read a few of the official positions together, noting the hysterical tone and lingo straight out of "Dragnet." 4. When you get to a blunt (ha!) assertion, like "blunts ... are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana, sometimes in combination with another drug, such as crack," ask your guest about it. Have their blunts ever been filled with crack? Have they ever seen anyone loading up a gas mask with seeds to try to get high? (If they have, feel free to giggle along with them as they recount the story of some mildly retarded acquaintance who read the whitehousedrugpolicy site, utterly failed to get high using their tips, and suffocated to death.) 5. When you get to a prison-related statistic like "3,600 inmates [whose only crime was marijuana possession] were incarcerated on a first offense," which they use to counter the "myth" that "the government sends otherwise innocent people to prison for casual marijuana use," talk about prison for a few minutes. Maybe watch Oz. 6. Shudder.

The people who allow superstition and prejudice to fog their brains control public policy. Their own figures put forty percent of your fellow citizens in the "worthy of caging" category. Which would be all right (really!) if forty percent of your fellow citizens were doing something that was demonstrably immoral or dangerous enough to warrant the "jackbooted government thug" approach. If half the country, for example, wanted to kidnap and enslave people with noticeably different melanin levels in their skin, it might make some sense for the other half to invade their breakaway state, defeat them utterly, and then let them run the government for the next hundred and fifty years (minus a hypothetical Roosevelt-Truman era where we'd actually win our wars).

No consequence of this apparently terrifying slippery slope comes close to warranting the ignorance and barbarism it takes to sustain the spectacularly failing drug war. Unless the Indiana Rep. Souders of the world are prepared to outline a legitimate, reality-based reason for this latest prohibition, they should be barred from getting their misguided mitts on our government's laws.