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Some thoughts on the marijuana thing- which, since I've never used the stuff much, I can put together somewhat coherently

First off, yes, marijuana IS harmful. Some contemporary studies show that chronic use can cause a substantial drop in a person's IQ. It does brain damage which doesn't seem to be reversible.

I think it's ridiculous to compare marijuana to cocaine or heroin or other opioids. But it's also ridiculous to compare it with alcohol. Marijuana use has never had the social acceptance and cachet of beer or wine or cocktails. Prohibition sought to close the barn door after the cow had already escaped; the cannabis cow only has her front hooves out the door at this point. And given the unprecedented ignorance of the population of the Western world these days,  do we really need to be encouraging the use of yet another drug to muddle the mind?

I distrust the current spate of "scientific studies" purporting to show that marijuana is relatively harmless because the results of those studies publicized by the avid pro-pot population heavily cherry pick the data and because only studies whose findings are favorable to the social and legal acceptance of pot get any real publicity. Also, the social attitudes of those who do the studies tend, as a rule, to call their objectivity into question. The same is true of those who do the peer review for those studies and is emphatically true for those who publicize them.  This article from Psychology Today on the problem of confirmation bias-  the tendency of scientists to let their own personal beliefs and prejudices compromise their objectivity-  illustrates the problem. Confirmation bias aside, we are suffering from a crisis in the credibility of scientific studies for other reasons so severe that even mainline scientific publications suggest that a majority of published scientific studies probably reach conclusions which are in fact false. This article explains some of the reasons, including chronic methodological sloppiness (why, in the current cultural climate, am I not surprised?), a trend toward smaller sample size, and a variety of other issues the public seldom hears about, much less inquires about. And it doesn't even take confirmation bias into account.

So sorry, pro-pot folks. I'm listening to what you say, but you haven't persuaded me yet.

I agree that the legal status of marijuana ought to be a state issue. So there. I've ranted my rant. Now we come to another extremely important related subject which is getting almost no attention whatsoever- and what it is getting is amazingly ill-informed and badly reasoned.

The Obama administration made the decision to stop making the enforcement of Federal laws against marijuana a priority due to the increasing number of states which have legalized the stuff. On balance, I agree with that decision. The limited resources of our Federal law enforcement agencies are better used elsewhere. But in doing so. it opened a can of worms which recently started wriggling all over the newspapers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed that decision. Once again, Federal law enforcement agencies are being let loose on those who grow and sell pot- including those who do so in states which have repealed their own laws against it. The growing, possession, and sale of marijuana were illegal everywhere in the United States- including those states which had repealed their own laws against them- before Sessions made that decision. It's just that the law wasn't being enforced.

Was that a smart thing to do? Reasonable people might disagree about that, just as they might disagree about whether pot should be legal at all.  But ours is an age in which people hold strong opinions backed up by little evidence and less reasoning. To say that the Trump administration should have continued the Obama policy is one thing. But the question is being cast in terms which are very dangerous.

We fought a civil war at one point in our history whose outcome essentially established the principle that despite the plural ending of its name, "the United States" is a singular noun. Before Fort Sumter, people habitually said, "The United States are." But after Appomattox, people said, "The United States is." The war established the principle that, whatever the Founders may have originally intended, we are not a loose confederation of sovereign republics, but rather a single republic composed of subdivisions which, if considerably more than mere provinces,  are also considerably less than nations in their own right. And it has been a settled principle of law for a very long time that Federal law takes precedence over state law. In other words, if Federal law forbids something and state law permits it, it is illegal, just as something would be illegal within the borders of a given state whose legislature enacted a law against it even if Federal law permitted it.

Neither the Federal government nor the individual states have the legal right to nullify each other's laws. Specifically, the fact that a state legalizes something that Federal law still makes illegal only eliminates the penalties under state law. It does not make that thing unqualifiedly legal even within the borders of the state which has legalized it. The fact that it is legal under state law does not automatically make it legal under Federal law!

Many people seem confused about that. They seem to reason (?) that because marijuana should be a matter of state rather than Federal law, the Federal law against it is rendered invalid, or superseded, or something, by the fact that the state law against it has been repealed. It has not been.

Maybe Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration should have left the Obama policy in place. But they didn't. Maybe the Federal law against the growing, sale, and possession of marijuana should be repealed. But thus far, it hasn't been.

Yes, the wisdom of the Trump policy is at issue here. Absolutely. Yes, the wisdom of the Federal marijuana laws is a legitimate topic of debate, and perhaps- perhaps- the law should be repealed. But until it is, it remains the law, and legitimately so. Similarly, whether or not the Trump administration should be enforcing the Federal marijuana law, it is within its legal and constitutional rights to do so.

There are many issues which are debatable here, and let a thousand flowers bloom. By all means, let's debate them. But as long as Federal law forbids the growing, sale, and possession of marijuana, those things are against the law, even in states which have repealed their state laws against them.

The issue here is nothing more or less than the rule of law. And that ought not to be debatable.


SteveH said…
Marijuana has been shown to hasten and acerbate the first psychotic episode in the development of schizophrenia. I saw this first hand happen with my son. Schizophrenia only affects ten percent of the population and mostly males so who cares, right?
An ADHD group to which I belong is full of people who are convinced that people with ADHD should be smoking boo. Right. That makes a whole lot of sense. You take somebody with a shrunken frontal cortex who has trouble with executive functions and get them stoned. That will REALLY help!

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