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Enjoying drugs

As the prohibitionists scramble to come up with every weak argument to bolster their position that they can find, and the stink of fear permeates their scribblings, it’s been interesting to see the re-appearance of the old argument that alcohol is the only drug that is consumed without “getting high.”

This is, of course, the argument that Art Linkletter brought up in his famously recorded personal conversations with President Nixon.

Linkletter: “Another big difference between marijuana and alcohol is that when people smoke marijuana, they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable. You don’t see people –”

Nixon: “That’s right, that’s right.”

Linkletter: “They sit down with a marijuana cigarette to get high –”

Nixon: “A person does not drink to get drunk.”

Linkletter: “That’s right.”

Nixon: “A person drinks to have fun.”

Linkletter: “I’d say smoke marijuana, you smoke marijuana to get high.”

Nixon: “Smoke marijuana, er, uh, you want to get a charge of some sort, and float, and this, that and the other thing.”

Of course, this is just bizarre, but it keeps popping up. Even recently in comments here, we got:

The difference between alcohol and drugs is that one can consume 1-2 drinks and still maintain total lucidity, whereas other drugs have immediate damaging effects.

Of course, the first objection I have to these arguments is: What’s wrong with getting high?

To quote myself from a few years ago…

It’s an important, even essential, part of life.

We all spend much of our time trying to get high. The rush when you have a particularly rich piece of chocolate — you’re getting high. That perfect coffee drink in the morning. Three-inch thick filet mignon that’s charred on the outside and still red in the middle. Sex.

(And I’m not just speaking metaphorically here. All these activities actually cause the body to produce chemicals that make you high.)

Jogging does it for some people (not me, but bike-riding can get me high). Tiramisu with Sambuca and double espresso at Ferrara’s. A sunset. The smell of fresh air. The smell of fresh baked bread.

Solving a puzzle, winning a game, taking a bow at the end of a great performance in a packed theatre with hundreds of people on their feet.

A photograph. A poem. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Getting an “A”. Getting a raise. Being employee of the month.

Helping someone out.

Getting high is not only part of life — life without it is no life at all.

And these highs are not always consequence-free. Try eating all the chocolate you want.

Then there’s the drug that gives you the most intense highs and crashing lows — the most dangerous addiction of all

Love gives you wings. It makes you fly. I don’t even call it love. I call it Geronimo. When you’re in love, you’ll jump right from the top of the Empire State and you won’t care, screaming “Geronimo” the whole way down. I love her so bad, I just… whoa, she wrecks me. I’d die for her.

Getting high isn’t always good for you. But don’t you dare tell me that it’s wrong.

The thing is, of course, that even when they say “high,” that’s not what they really mean. They mean “stupid.” The kind of high when you’re no longer able to communicate clearly. And yes, you see that with some folks with pretty much all drugs (very much including alcohol, of course).

But pretty much every drug can be used in a sociable way, where you’re not getting “wasted.”

Now, it’s possible that someone without any firsthand knowledge (and pretty poor secondhand knowledge) might think that illegal drugs are primarily used to get “wasted.” But that’s a function of prohibition.

During alcohol prohibition, it’s been reported that per capita consumption increased 500%. When it became illegal, there was a push toward binge drinking, (and also prohibition meant that it was unprofitable to provide low-potency options).

Today, with the 21-year-old drinking age, we have unhealthy binge drinking on college campuses, due in part to the partial prohibition.

Drug prohibition has similar effects in that some people will tend to consume as much as they can when something is illegal.

Today, there is plenty of (non-wasted) social use of marijuana and other illicit drugs. But I do look forward to legalization when it becomes easier to consume drugs that way.

When I was in college (some years ago), there was a bit of a tradition of some of my friends going to the soccer games and bringing a couple of joints to enjoy along the sideline while watching the game (they didn’t do this at the football games, because the alumni were there, and the soccer team was grateful to have an audience at all). It was the equivalent of having a couple of beers with a game, and it was a wonderful way to enjoy beautiful weather and a great game on a sunny afternoon.

There are so many ways that cannabis can be used to enhance a sociable and non-wasted experience, from a gourmet meal, to a good movie, to hanging out with friends, to hiking in the mountains, to putting on some tunes and cleaning house!

It’ll be nice when people have more non-legally-threatening options to enjoy it that way.

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13 comments to Enjoying drugs

  • Ben

    If I’m not mistaken, prohibition actually decreased alcohol consumption in the US. It may be that those individuals who defied the law and continued to drink, did binge drink, because they did not have access to a reliable/steady supply. But total consumption went down.

    But suggesting that prohibition increased consumption 5x, that’s a bit much even for a hardcore legalizer like me.

  • Ben, I never know where to find good numbers regarding alcohol consumption during prohibition — they’re all over the place. The 500% is probably out of line, but most I’ve seen show at least an increase in per drinker consumption.

    Even if total consumption went down, it’s likely that part of that was from casual drinkers dropping off the map entirely, while the heavier drinkers increased their drinking.

    (The numbers I used came from second-hand reporting of the numbers from the Wickersham Commission.)

  • strayan

    Here’s a graph I borrowed and annotated from this confused account of National Prohibition:

    http://img210.imageshack.us/img210/8404/increase.png

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20331549

    Meanwhile, it takes approximately one standard drink to give me a high from alcohol. Perhaps all these people who can drink without being drunk have just ruined their ability to get the high because they’ve developed a tolerance i.e. from over-consumption.

  • Shap

    Best response to this anti-legalization argument: it’s completely legal to get as drunk as possible, so the difference is just that, a difference that has zero significance.

  • except of course that a lethal dose of alcohol is easily purchased,

  • malcolmkyle

    Here are some testimonies given before the Senate Hearings of 1926, which make it very clear that alcohol consumption increased enormously during this period of national insanity.

    We’ll begin with Judge Alfred J Talley:

    “For the first time in our history, full faith and confidence in and respect for the hitherto sacred Constitution of the United States has been weakened and impaired because this terrifying invasion of natural rights has been engrafted upon the fundamental law of our land, and experience has shown that it is being wantonly and derisively violated in every State, city, and hamlet in the country.”

    “It has made potential drunkards of the youth of the land, not because intoxicating liquor appeals to their taste or disposition, but because it is a forbidden thing, and because it is forbidden makes an irresistible appeal to the unformed and immature. It has brought into our midst the intemperate woman, the most fearsome and menacing thing for the future of our national life.”

    “It has brought the sickening slime of corruption, dishonor, and disgrace into every group of employees and officials in city, State, and Federal departments that have been charged with the enforcement of this odious law.”

    http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/HISTORY/e1920/senj1926/judgetalley.htm

    And the following paragraphs are from WALTER E. EDGE’s testimony, a Senator from New Jersey:

    “Any law that brings in its wake such wide corruption in the public service, increased alcoholic insanity, and deaths, increased arrests for drunkenness, home barrooms, and development among young boys and young women of the use of the flask never heard of before prohibition can not be successfully defended.”

    “I unhesitatingly contend that those who recognize existing evils and sincerely endeavor to correct them are contributing more toward temperance than those who stubbornly refuse to admit the facts.”

    “The opposition always proceeds on the theory that give them time and they will stop the habit of indulging in intoxicating beverages. This can not be accomplished. We should recognize our problem is not to persist in the impossible, but to recognize a situation and bring about common-sense temperance through reason.”

    “This is not a campaign to bring back intoxicating liquor, as is so often claimed by the fanatical dry. Intoxicating liquor is with us to-day and practically as accessible as it ever was. The difference mainly because of its illegality, is its greater destructive power, as evidenced on every hand. The sincere advocates of prohibition welcome efforts for real temperance rather than a continuation of the present bluff.”

    http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/HISTORY/e1920/senj1926/walteredge.htm

    And here is Julien Codman’s testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar.

    “we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it as failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before”

    “We believe that the time has come for definite action, but it is impossible to lay before Congress any one bill which, while clearly within the provisions of the Constitution, will be a panacea for the evils that the Volstead Act has caused. We must not be vain enough to believe, as the prohibitionists do, that the age-old question of the regulation of alcohol can be settled forever by the passage of a single law. With the experience of the Volstead law as a warning, it behooves us to proceed with caution, one step at a time, to climb out of the legislative well into which we have been pushed.”

    “If you gentlemen are satisfied, after hearing the evidence supplemented by the broad general knowledge which each of you already possesses, that the remedy that will tend most quickly to correct the wretched social conditions that now exist, to promote temperance, find to allay the discontent and unrest that the Volstead Act has caused, is to be found in the passage of one of the proposed bills legalizing the production of beer of an alcoholic content of 4 per cent or less. We do not claim that it will do away with all the evils produced by attempted prohibition, but it would be a step in the right direction.”

    http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/HISTORY/e1920/senj1926/codman.htm

  • ezrydn

    “1-2 drinks and you’re still lucid.” HA! This person has never been around me. One Corona and I can’t walk straight. Two and I can’t walk, period. I had an alcoholic father and it killed him and I could never acquire the taste for the stuff. I’ve had one can of beer in my fridge for the last 9 years and it’s still untouched. And what little inhaling I do to control my PTSD does not allow me sufficient quantity to reach a “high.” Yeah, poor me. LOL

  • Just me.

    Everyone just wants to say high… legally.

  • WatchinItCrumble

    Fine Drinkers, I accept your argument that people don’t drink alcohol to get high whereas marijuana smokers do and that is one of the problems with marijuana.

    So since the actual high is apparently the problem. I propose that it not only be illegal to drive with a .08 BAC , rather it is illegal to at anytime have a .08 content no matter what the consumer is doing. Testing will take place at bars, gatherings, and at home if there is probable cause and any exceeding of this limit will be meant with the full force of laws similar to marijuana prohibition. Child endangerment, trafficking, firearms in commission of crime, etc.

    Furthermore the government needs to develop test to see if anytime in the last 6 weeks BAC passed .08. Then a variation of per se laws can establish guilt with the above consequences. These tests will be conducted at random checkpoints on the nations highways and as a condition of employment.

  • Duncan20903

    Hey Pete, I think you got that Linkletter/Nixon dialogue from one of my posts. Not that I mind that at all it’s all public knowledge, but subsequent to my posting that here I found out that Mr. Linkletter repudiated his irrational stand against drugs about a year after that conversation took place. The poor man did have to bury his 21 year old daughter and was told her suicide was a result of LSD use. Whether that’s true or not I can’t say that he was unreasonable to accept what the authorities told him. Had he gone to his own grave with that belief wouldn’t have been unreasonable. To me this casts his grasping the reality of the situation as significantly impressive. From a speech he gave to the UN just a few months after the dialogue with Nixon:

    Then, part of my life died in October 1969, when our beautiful daughter Diane was lost in the aftermath of LSD use…

    …That is why I am here today.

    I am here to tell you something of what I have learned during these past two years.

    Most of my generation had fixed ideas about drug addicts and dope that have been radically altered through research and knowledge based on fact-not myth. Until recently, we thought that marijuana was addictive and invariably led to narcotics. We thought all “pushers” were evil criminals sent to school yards to entice small children into becoming dope addicts. We thought that people who took any drugs for excitement and fun, or to forget their problems, were criminals and should be put in jail.

    Today, we have learned that excessive users of psychotropic or narcotic drugs are sick people and only incidentally criminals. We have learned that pushers are often our own children searching for status or thrills or extra money. We have found out that you cannot stop drug abuse by making stricter laws, bigger jails, or by hiring more policemen. We have learned that drug abuse is a complex, perplexing subject that can never be simply, miraculously solved by some new drug or by some push-button method. And we have learned that it is not a passing fad that will go away with acid rock music or mod clothes. Drug abuse is on the doorstep of the world to stay. It is no new problem.
    http://www.answers.com/topic/drug-abuse-1

    From his NY Times obituary:

    Mr. Linkletter, rather than retreating from the attention, became a crusader against drug use and an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon on drug policy, although, in 1972, he announced that he had changed his position on marijuana. After much thought and study he had concluded that the drug was relatively harmless and that law-enforcement officials should spend their time concentrating on hard drugs.
    http://tinyurl.com/2b25wxt

    Josh Hammond writing about Mr. Linkletter’s change of heart. http://bestoftheblogs.com/Home/30014

    Emphasis above added by me.

    Wow, I didn’t know he passed away only this year. Cripes, he was ancient.

    PS, I’m not going to quit using my ‘thank you Mr. Linkletter’ approach to people that believe that getting high is the only thing someone does with MADs other than alcohol.

  • hmmm… saw on the evening news awhile back that volunteering, doing good things for others, also gets people high.

    Ban volunteers! Damn do-gooders anyway… 1000-points-of-light my ass. Just more lberals doing something for another endorphin rush.

    And good stuff on Art Linkletter there Duncan!

  • Negation

    I posted the following over on the marijuana.com forums a while back in regards to the Linkletter/Nixon dialogue:

    People have always done drugs of EVERY type in order to get completely trashed, and people have always done drug of every type in order to just get “sociable.” That will never change either. I would still consider drinking until one is “sociable” to be a mild drunkenness; any alcohol intake constitutes being drunk in my book, but there are definitely varying degrees of intoxication.

    The unfortunate part about us using “polite” words for drinking (drinking vs. getting high on alcohol [they’re identical, folks], alcohol poisoning vs. alcohol overdose [sounds pretty nasty now, doesn’t it?], etc.) is that we’ve separated the “bad” kind of drinking from the “good,” but we haven’t done so for other drugs. If someone says they’re going to have a drink or two nobody bats an eye, but if someone says they’re going to have a hit or two of a joint, most people will immediately assume they’ll be high beyond belief. There’s no separation of “high” from “severe intoxication” in most people’s minds, and that causes people to say stupid things, much like Mr. Linkletter found out.

    The whole idea that alcohol can be taken in small doses but any and all illegal drugs exist for the sole purpose of getting someone totally obliterated is nonsense and anyone who says such things is either a liar, an idiot, or more likely, both.

    I also have a gripe with the fact that non-alcoholic beer exists for this very reason, but most of those who drink to “relax” don’t use NA beer. They might not get falling down drunk, but it diminishes their argument so much to say they can drink and get relaxed and everybody else who uses drugs just does it to get wasted. What a ridiculous contradiction.

  • Just me.

    Ive NEVER gotten “wasted” from consuming cannabis. Very High? yes definitly.

    Alcohol? Hell Ive gotten so wasted I didnt know where I was or what I was doing.

    I would much rather ENJOY a good high than be wasted and not remeber it or know what I did.

    Moderation allows you to enjoy life.