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Thursday, September 20,2012

The censored arguments for Proposition 64

By Paul Danish

The sponsors of Colorado Proposition 64, the ballot proposal that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, think these are three of the best arguments for voting yes:


1) Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol.

2) The consequences of a marijuana offense are too severe.

3) Law enforcement resources would be better spent on more serious crimes.

The opponents of Proposition 64 evidently agree. How else can you explain why they deliberately cut them out of the State Ballot Information Booklet (aka The Blue Book), the voter guide to ballot issues that the State of Colorado sends to every registered voter in the state before every election? About 2 million will be sent out this year.

Members of the Legislative Council, the statutory committee of the state Legislature that made the cuts, said the three arguments were taken out mistakenly. That may or may not be true. But there is no question that after the “mistake” was uncovered the arguments were kept out deliberately — first by a vote in the committee not to restore them, and then by a decision by the Legislative Council’s research director, who had the authority to unilaterally restore them but chose not to do so. The truth is that the arguments for Proposition 64 were deliberately censored.

When one side in a political discussion resorts to censorship to keep you from hearing the other side’s arguments, the censored arguments usually deserve serious consideration.

So is marijuana objectively less harmful than alcohol? Here are some metrics against which to compare the two drugs:

How easy is it to get addicted?

Alcohol: Roughly one in 10 users of alcohol becomes physically addicted (turns into an alcoholic). That works out to somewhere between 10 and 15 million Americans.

Marijuana: Marijuana is not physically addictive. It does not cause cravings, users do not have to consume ever larger amounts to get high, and discontinuation of use doesn’t produce withdrawal symptoms — unlike alcohol. Marijuana is among the least addictive drugs known to man. Legal alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are all more addictive.

How easy is it to get un-addicted?

Alcohol: Kicking alcohol addiction requires major behavior changes that can take months to years to accomplish — usually with the aid of a 12-step program. Not everyone succeeds, and those who do always feel they are in danger of backsliding.

Marijuana: Marijuana is probably the single easiest recreational drug to stop using — far easier than alcohol or tobacco. Most marijuana users who want to quit using marijuana simply stop. Since no craving or withdrawal symptoms are involved, it’s generally not a big deal.

How easy is it to fatally overdose?

Alcohol: About 400 people a year die of alcohol poisoning.

Marijuana: There are no known cases of anyone dying of marijuana poisoning. To consume a fatal dose of THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, a user would have to smoke 500 pounds of it.

How likely is use to result in violent behavior and crime?

Alcohol: Alcohol use figures in about 3 million violent crimes a year, including two-thirds of the episodes of domestic violence. When it comes to violent crime, alcohol is the drug of choice.

Marijuana: Marijuana use reduces the incidence of violent behavior, a point that is obvious to anyone who has been around pot users. The assertion in 1937 by the late Harry Anslinger, the director of the Bureau of Narcotics, that marijuana “is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” and that blacks and Hispanics were particularly likely to become violent from using it, was a brazen lie, and Anslinger knew it. Anslinger’s perjury was pivotal in convincing Congress to criminalize marijuana. The truth is that marijuana is one of the least violence-causing drugs in the pharmacopeia, and there is no known difference as to how different races or ethnic groups respond to it.

How likely is use to result in cancer?

Alcohol: According to the American Cancer Society, heavy alcohol use has been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, breast, liver, colon and rectum, and the risk increases with consumption.

Marijuana: There have been attempts for years to link marijuana to cancer, but most of the studies attempting to do so have either failed to find a connection or have been debunked. Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA spent a lifetime trying to prove that marijuana causes lung cancer (because marijuana contains more cancer-causing tars than tobacco), but eventually announced that he could find no link. A number of studies in recent years have found evidence that marijuana may actually slow or prevent a number of types of cancer. (Here, we Googled it for you.)

And so on. There are a number of other similar comparisons — like the nature and extent of impairment associated with each drug, or harm to the unborn, for instance — that show marijuana to be the safer recreational drug. I’ve been following this issue for more than 20 years; I can’t recall any cases in which alcohol comes out on top.

The opponents of Proposition 64 obviously don’t want people to know that.

Which brings us to the second and third censored arguments.

Are the consequences of a marijuana offense too severe? If marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, then obviously they are. The penalties for a marijuana offense should be no worse than those for an alcohol offense. That they are not — and that each year nearly 1 million Americans are arrested and often imprisoned for doing something that is no more harmful than drinking beer — is not only unjust and unfair, it is immoral and evil.

Would law enforcement resources be better spent on more serious crimes? Self-evidently yes.

The real lesson of the voter guide’s censoring is this: The opponents of Proposition 64 don’t believe they can win if the supporters of Proposition 64 are able to make their case to the voters.

That fact alone should prompt the voters to give the supporters’ arguments a lot of weight.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Regardless of how safe or non-addictive marijuana might be, the main reason to end the federal marijuana prohibition has to be because the prohibition causes (far) more harm than good.

Why should we spend our money on something that makes us and our children LESS safe? Nobody should be able to force us to do that!

The federal marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers $40 Billion a year and causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests every year, and yet it doesn't even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana!!

Any policy that causes more harm than good should END!



You hit the nail on the head!


You might be right but not necessarily. I think both alternatives should be checked. What if it will cause a rise in other types issues like driving under the influence of being stoned and it will cause many casualties. Again, I think it is worth an in depth checking which alternative is better and then go with it. James


@James I don't believe it would have much effect on usage rates. People who are willing or want to smoke marijuana already do. Furthermore, those that are irresponsible enough to drive under the influence of any drugs are going to do it regardless of legality--obviously--but this is the actual crime. Punishing everyone that cares to partake in the usage of marijuana, because of what a minority of what it's users MAY do, is absurd. It's as simple as punishing those that do commit this crime of DUI. I'm not sure where this idea that, once something like this is labeled as legal, everyone is going to go crazy and want to use/do it all of a sudden and then go commit more crimes. In fact, I believe the exact opposite would happen. It is good to use precaution and be concerned for what might happen, but think of what is already happening within the black market that has been created. The simple truth is prohibition does not work and only creates more problems. Refer to alcohol prohibition for instance. The best thing is to educate and promote responsibility and safety. Here are some good articles: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa157.pdf http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/07/05/ten-years-after-decriminalization-drug-abuse-down-by-half-in-portugal/


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Marijuana was made illegal for one reason…it was a way to make Hemp illegal. That is what the corporations and their controllers have always wanted. That is the product they really hate. Just look at how marijuana was first made illegal by the son-in-law of a big banker.  And then came along World War 2 and they had to make it legal again to help win the war. But as soon as the war was over they made it illegal again. That evil hemp!

 When this country was founded you could pay your taxes in hemp, in fact farmers were required to grow a certain amount of hemp on their farms. And I don’t think any of them got high doing it. In fact have you ever known anyone who got high smoking hemp??? I don’t think it is even possible but it is thrown in the same bucket as marijuana and called an evil drug by them.

Folks the drug war is costing us lots of money in many ways. First the large corporations that make money fighting the war and then the ones who sell us crap that could be replaced by hemp, which would be a lot better and much cheaper. Making marijuana legal would pretty much kill the argument for keeping hemp illegal.  Guess who doesn’t want that to happen?


"Marijuana was made illegal for one reason…it was a way to make Hemp illegal." No, MJ was made illegal for all sorts of reasons, none of them valid and all of them simply ways to forward someone's money or power agenda. Find and read any of the MJ books authored by Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, senior psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston for 40 years, founding editor of the Annual Review of Psychiatry and the Harvard Mental Health Letter, and editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter for fifteen years. The book I read was the outstanding "Marihuana Reconsidered" released in 1971.



This is an open letter to Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper, all state and federal elected officials and all law enforcement officials.

For law to be just and for justice to be, both must be impartial. Just as laws pertaining to people must treat all persons  impartially, so must laws pertaining to substances treat all substances impartially. Otherwise, the law loses its moral suasion.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is not impartial law; it is politicized law. It corruptly exempts alcohol and tobacco from its scheduling criteria.

Ask yourself how a substance able to be lethal in one sitting (alcohol) can be legal and ubiquitous, while a substance with no known lethal dose (cannabis) is prohibited and its users persecuted and prosecuted. How indeed?

A modest proposal (with a nod to Jonathan Swift):

If Governor Hickenlooper, or any elected state or federal official, or any law enforcement official actually believes cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol, then let them meet me at a mutually agreeable public venue at a mutually agreeable time.
Let this meeting be televised.
Every five minutes I will fill my lungs with highly potent organic sinsemilla cannabis smoke (minimum 12-15% THC).
Every five minutes you will consume one ounce of highly potent distilled alcohol (minimum 90 proof).
We will continue in this way for six hours.

I believe this will conclusively end the argument about the relative dangers of cannabis and alcohol.

What say you, John Hickenlooper? What say you, anti-cannabis elected officials and law enforcement officials?


To John in Oregon - In my earlier days, an eager affirmative to your modest proposal might have been "Ooh, can I sell tickets?" These days the competition that you propose would likely have to be on pay-per-view, if not interdicted by obvious safety concerns for the inevitable alcohol poisoning that would result, should any contender be found who would honor the rules of the engagement. I also believe that we should have a run-off contest, to see who will represent the pot-smokers. You may be able to fill your lungs with highly potent organic sinsemilla cannabis smoke only once, every 5 minutes; I am sure thousands would attest that it can often take less time to make a full circle, when the routine is 'puff, puff, pass.' I volunteer to represent Vietnam-era veterans, in any such exhibition, to pit my ability to function [i.e., remain conscious] under the influence of as much highly potent organic sinsemilla cannabis smoke as I can freely ingest [I'll fly, if you'll buy.] against any and all those who would choose downing alcohol.



 Proposition 64, if passed in Colorado, will create one of the most liberal marijuana laws in the developed world. Our roads will become significantly more dangerous. Crime will increase. Our kids will first find and try it the way they do alcohol...at home. The imagined tax revenue (for our schools) will disappear as prices plummet. Sounds like the perfect formula to prevent Colorado from attracting new business to the state, pushing up our health insurance costs, lowering our workforce productivity and generally reducing our quality of life and economic vitality.


Fred, you are just making accusations with no proof. PLEASE tell me how legalizing marijuana will increase the rate of crime when doing so would significantly reduce the black market for this drug. If you put a tax on it, your increasing state revenue, and how is it going to raise health care costs. Stupid people should not make stupid comments. GTFO.


Fred, you are just dead wrong. It is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Do your homework before you make yourself look like a fool. Reefer Madness is bad literature and outdated, as are your assertions.



Not that I dissagree with the arguments but, I am curious about where the 10% of all that drink alcohol become addicted came from-- that flys in the face of what most of us have observed in our lifetime.  I seriously doubt that number.



" Recent data from the National Institutes of Health reports that 15% of the people living in the United States are considered “problem drinkers.” Of this 15%, 5%-10% of the males and 3%-5% of the females could be labeled as alcoholics. Another study found that approximately 30% of people in the U.S. report experiencing an alcohol disorder at one point in their lifetime. Researchers from the University of California in San Diego have found that the lifetime risk of alcohol-use disorders for men is greater than 20%. They share that there is a risk of around 15% for alcohol abuse and 10% risk for alcohol dependence. " http://www.alcoholaddiction.info/alcoholism-statistics.htm


Well it definitely does not "fly in the face" of my experience. I don't know how well most people understand and can visualize percentages so don't think I'm being condescending, but think about it: If 10% of alcohol drinkers become dependent on it, that means that about 9 in 10 alcohol drinkers you know--the VAST majority--should have no such issues with alcohol. Looking at my friends, family members, etc., I would not say that those are surprising numbers even considering that alcohol dependence is not the same as simple alcohol abuse. Honestly I'd estimate that the percentage of CAFFEINE drinkers who are dependent on caffeine to some extent, is higher than that. Especially when you consider that children regularly drink it: Speaking of which, how many kids have you known who are frankly way too young/irresponsible to be consume alcohol, yet are able to RESIST drinking even hard liquor? Is that much higher than the percentage of adults you know who are responsible, purely social drinkers? Everyone knows people who have tried AA or some other alcoholic rehabilitation program, or is at least struggling to quit or moderate their drinking. In that respect (alone) alcoholism sort of reminds me, come to think of it, of other categories that most people at least PLAUSIBLY assume ~ 10% of people fall into. (I.e., lgbt people, if that wasn't as obvious as I'd intended.) P.S. Anyway I hope I didn't rant TOO much. I'm not a Coloradan (came here through a FB link posted by my brother who lives in Denver), but pretty much everyone in the country is looking at you guys right now (in the unlikely event you didn't already know that). And plenty of us consider Coloradan pot the best there is. So I guess what I'm getting at is you seriously do not want to screw this up, from an economic standpoint, from an historical standpoint, etc. I don't know how anyone can call himself a proud Coloradan if he isn't gonna fight to preserve its reputation as Most Unlame State, Like, Ever.


I swear that wasn't a wall of text when I wrote it.