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Apparently I’m guilty of creating paper thin arguments

This pot potency nonsense just won’t go away. Now it’s the Boston Globe. A lot of it is the same re-hashed stuff that’s been in other sources, but I couldn’t help notice the classic “balanced” academic who is quoted at length right up front.

Academics say both sides are guilty of selectively presenting data to bolster their positions.
In a field with limited research, partisans tend to create paper thin arguments, as easily made as they are countered, said Roger Roffman, professor of sociology at the University of Washington.
“I think [both sides] do a disservice to the general public,” said Roffman, who has written papers and edited books on marijuana use and dependence. On websites of drug policy reform advocates, “you’ll find lots of information about the very adverse consequences of criminalizing marijuana and very little mention of the very real harm associated with marijuana among some people in some circumstances,” he said.
Meanwhile, on government and prohibitionist websites, he said, “you’ll find plenty of information on the harmful consequences of marijuana abuse and very little information, perhaps, on the harmful consequences of criminalizing marijuana.”

I hadn’t heard of Roffman before — he’s a new annoyance to me. But boy, does he talk the academic game of trashing reformers without reason, just to be seen trashing reformers. It’s almost like they have to publicly trash reformers a specified number of times just to continue getting grants. Sure, they also beat up on prohibitionists, but they create the balance in such a way as to imply that reformers should join them in trying to make prohibition work better instead of being so extremist and vulgar as to suggest a range of alternatives to a failed policy.
So let’s take a look at his critique. First of all, he is upset that partisans are… uh… partisan. Guess what — the whole point of an advocacy group is to advocate. It is not my job to give the other side of the argument equal play, or worse yet, to try to find justifications for their unjustifiable policies. Yet still, drug reform activists tend to be far better than their opposites (or even, sometimes, the academics) at encouraging debate and dialog and discussing all sides. We even allow public comments (something the other side does not).
What should be jumping out like a huge red flag in this partisan business is that he has “drug policy reform advocates” as partisans on one side and “government and prohibitionist websites” as partisans on the other side. Hello… Earth to Roffman… There’s your “disservice to the general public.” When the government uses taxpayer money to promote one partisan side and tries to squelch other viewpoints, then that’s the real problem.
So with the government using our money to lie to us, a good portion of the work of drug policy reformers has to be constantly calling out the lies. Could that, perhaps, make us look partisan? And wouldn’t that be justified?
Let’s continue to analyze…

In a field with limited research, partisans tend to create paper thin arguments, as easily made as they are countered

What a meaningless statement! He doesn’t counter any argument made by reformers, nor does he point out one that is “paper thin.” He just gives this intellectually dishonest jab at… nothing… as a way to discredit without having to prove anything. Take a look at the tremendous research and scholarship that has been done here and at DRCnet, and DrugSense, and LEAP, and DPA, and NORML, and Brian Bennett’s work, and tell us to our face that our arguments are “paper thin.” Of course, Roffman doesn’t actually accuse — he just implies. No real difference than the kind of dishonest implications given by the drug czar on a regular basis.
Now what Roffman says about the government and prohibitionists websites puzzles me somewhat:

“you’ll find plenty of information on the harmful consequences of marijuana abuse…”

Actually, you’re more likely to find false or misleading information on the supposed harmful consequences of marijuana use, not abuse. They rarely talk about “abuse” in any meaningful way that actually recognizes the difference between use and abuse. So the good thing about their sites, really isn’t.
Finally, what he has to say about us is that we don’t spend enough time talking about “the very real harm associated with marijuana among some people in some circumstances” [emphasis added]. With all those qualifiers, it’s hard to blame reformers for wondering if it’s really worth their time focusing on those problem people who will be there whether or not prohibition exists, when prohibition adversely affects EVERYONE. And I admit, quite frankly, that I don’t give a f*ck about some psychologically messed up stoner who is dependent on marijuana, especially compared to people getting shot to death in their homes and spending decades in prison because nobody has the balls to face up to the fact that prohibition is wrong.
But you see, Roger Roffman is as much a part of the machinery of prohibition as the rest of the gang. It’s why he criticizes it while carefully preserving it. It keeps him able to collect government grants from NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), such as these where he gets paid by the government to conduct interventions with marijuana users. In fact, he’s been on NIDA’s dole for over 20 years.
Now as much as I get a bit incensed by the academic dishonesty of someone like Roger Roffman, I don’t necessarily believe that he is completely driven by maliciousness or corruption from his funding source. It’s quite possible one of the problems is that he sees the world in a very limited fashion.
To explain, I’m going to tell you a little story about my dad.
My dad grew up in a very conservative midwest church environment that held strong moral opposition to imbibing alcohol in any amount or for any reason. He never drank, and never associated with people who drank, so he never had any exposure to social drinking (except perhaps from watching Dean Martin and Foster Brooks).
My dad became a minister. He was an extraordinarily good minister (he’s retired now) with compassion and an open mind, but he still didn’t drink or know people who did… except those who came to him with problems. In my dad’s world-view, the people who drank were the ones who came to him with their marriages falling apart and their finances in ruins, often full of hopelessness and despair.
He never understood that there were millions of people enjoying a good 10-year-old single malt scotch with some 5-year-old aged gouda in their home (like I am tonight), a special bottle of wine with dinner, or cold beers while cheering on their favorite sports team… who had no problems with their drinking. In fact, the use of alcohol was part of who they were — good people, interesting people.
I don’t know Roger Roffman, and I don’t know if his story has any similarities, but I can’t help believing that many of these people who spend their careers immersed in the study of addiction come to believe that the entirety of the universe is caught up in their little experiment. They forget that there’s a whole world out there that needs to be able to get on with its life without the baggage of that subset — an important subset that will need attention regardless of the eventual policies, but a subset that should not be driving and shaping policy for everyone else.

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