Josh Marshall, ignorance proudly on display

This may be the most incoherent (and utterly stupid) argument against legalization I’ve ever heard, and it was publicly presented by a professional columnist and publisher of a massive internet conglomerate of news and opinion sites who holds a doctorate in American history.

I just don’t know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it’s that I’m getting into my 40s. And maybe I’m a hypocrite. I of course know people who smoke grass. And I don’t have any problem with it. Decriminalized? Yes, I think probably so. But that’s not the same as legalization. It’s very different actually. And let me be clear that I think our drug laws are catastrophic. They create endemic violence first in our major cities and now along the borders and it’s led to generations of Americans rotting in prison. The whole war on drugs is an unmitigated disaster. And the fact that people can’t use marijuana for clear medical reasons is crazy. But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?

I remember, many years ago, talking to my father about the idea of legalization. And bear in mind, my Dad, God bless him, smoked a decent amount of grass in his day, said he didn’t like the idea. One reason is that he was already a bit older by that time. But he had this very contradictory and hard to rationalize position which was that he was fine with people smoking pot but keeping it at least nominally illegal kept public usage in some check. Again, how to rationalize that in traditional civic terms? Not really sure. But frankly, I think I kind of agree.

Wow. That’s just unbelievable. I’ll leave Jacob Sullum to properly fisk the ridiculous statements Josh makes.

What really gets me is that he is so willing to accept the damage caused by prohibition. Does he really not care about those costs? Is he saying that he’s fine with continued prohibition because at least nobody like him (of his class/color/position) is suffering?

I wonder what would happen to Josh if he made a similar statement about abortion, or gay rights…

I just don’t know if I think abortion should be legalized at all. Just decriminalize it. Most women know doctors who will take care of them in secret if they need it, and having the doctors subject to arrest will at least somewhat keep the frequency of abortion in check.

— or —

I just don’t know if I think homosexuality should be legalized at all. I mean I’m fine with two men having sex, but keeping it at least nominally illegal keeps it from being, you know, public. [not real quotes]

He’d be torn apart by the liberal masses.

A question for liberal pundits and politicians: given the widespread and rampant destruction and racism of prohibition, why is it that you are more squeamish about defending a person’s right to ingest a relatively harmless plant, than you are about defending the right to kill babies or the right to stick a penis in someone’s anus?*

*obligatory disclaimer before people get upset: That statement was entirely for effect. I am essentially pro-choice and very much pro-gay rights.

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26 Responses to Josh Marshall, ignorance proudly on display

  1. strayan says:

    These people who think prohibition keeps public usage in check can only be described as willfully ignoring the evidence:

    “The adult smoking prevalence declined by more than 40% from 22.7% to 13.3% [in 2008] since the passage of Proposition 99 in the 1988.”

    Show me some figures like that for prohibited drugs.

  2. strayan says:

    Prop 19’s biggest shortcoming was failing to draw on these statistics.

  3. Dano says:

    That’s the mindset that the prohibitionists count on. Often people like this are afraid of utter anarchy that will undoubtedly unfold when the flood gates holding back marijuana open for all of society to sample. It just isn’t going to happen! Sure, there will be examples of stupidity, hilarity or disasters, but most people are going to be able to control themselves just fine.

    So it’s time for people espousing ideas like this to come up against cold, hard facts that dispel the rumored “facts” espoused by those that are supposed to be our leaders. Of course we won’t win all of them over, but all we need is one over 50% to make this a victory in 2 years. Not going to be exactly easy going, to teach those that already “know” about marijuana, but it’s a task that only the anti-prohibitionists will do.

  4. Nothing is quite as disgusting as a drug user that somehow seems to think HIS usage is a-ok but that everyone else pretty much deserve the criminalization because THEY can’t handle it.

    “Faith drives a wedge between ethics and suffering. Where certain actions cause no suffering at all, religious dogmatists still maintain that they are evil and worthy of punishment. … And yet, where suffering and death are found in abundance their causes are often deemed to be good. … This inversion of priorities not only victimizes innocent people and squanders scarce resources; it completely falsifies our ethics.”
    — Sam Harris

  5. kaptinemo says:

    And to think this man is seen as a leading light in the ‘blogospere’.

    That the prohibs have intellectual ‘blind spots’ big enough to drive a ‘boomer’ submarine through is a given. I don’t expect anything less from such limited minds.

    But for an (ostensible) ‘liberal’, who by implication has more on-the-ball intellectually, this is nothing less than an abdication of reason…and thus calls into question everything else he may have said or written.

    But many ‘liberal’ people with the same inclinations towards priding themselves on their (supposed) intellectual superiority above their ‘mouth-breathing’ conservative opponents will read this drivel and nod their heads in agreement.

    Once again. I am reminded that drug law reformers are Albert Nock’s living, breathing examples of what he called The Remnant, the tiny fraction of Humanity that understands and values true freedom as opposed to its’ heavily marketed plastic substitute.

    Such as they fought for Prop19, while their supposed ‘betters’ sat back and continued to let The State rape their less fortunate brethren courtesy of drug prohibition, and many of those so abused being the every minorities that said ‘liberals’ loudly champion.

    Oh, yes, quite a few ‘liberals’ have blind spots, too. Comes from having those planks sticking out of their eyes why they berate the dust specks in ours…

  6. Scott says:

    “Does he really not care about those costs?”

    The only people who apparently sufficiently care about those costs outside of our movement are the people directly and significantly affected by such costs.

    Those people make up the vast minority of our target audience, and it’s why I feel the ‘War on Drugs is destructive’ facet of our movement will never be the driving one.

    The Controlled Substances Act is most vulnerable with respect to its so-called constitutional basis.

    The ‘New Deal version’ of the Commerce Clause — i.e. “to regulate any activity having a substantial affect on interstate commerce” as opposed to the original “to regulate Commerce, with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”, the prior existing unethically only in Supreme Court decisions — is that sole basis.

    That does not mean challenging the law in court where the corrupted part of our judicial system will likely wield its power against us.

    It means strongly and constantly challenging the law in the public mainstream, focusing on Republicans whose constituents are seriously negatively affected by the ‘New Deal version’ of the Commerce Clause. The CSA completely conflicts with the stated principles of conservatism, and it’s time for the likes of Sean “I support our nation’s drug laws” Hannity to be thoroughly immersed in that fact.

    The ‘New Deal version’ of the Commerce Clause literally undermines our Constitution. Justice Clarence Thomas explained it excellently in his dissent of Gonzales v. Raich:

    “Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything–and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

    The legal precedence established by such an obviously outrageous interpretation of our Constitution (your thought activity always rationally has a substantial affect on interstate commerce, since they determine every part of your buying and selling decisions) does not just set up a serious fall for people affected by the drug war.

    Such legal precedence ‘legalizes’ the fall of “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” (i.e. our fundamental “unalienable” rights specified in our Declaration of Independence).

    The real Tea Party (not the Republican one mentioned in the mainstream media) is deeply feeling the impact of such corruption, but they generally do not know that the ‘New Deal version’ of our Commerce Clause is solely the “constitutional” basis for all that angers them (e.g. serious private sector interference, ‘nanny state’ laws, etc.)

    My organization solely focusing on this area will hopefully be up and running soon.

  7. primus says:

    I discovered Josh Marshall and Talking Points Memo a couple years ago, and followed it for a few months. I stopped because I found his views irrelevant and one-sided, very critical of one side and genuflecting to the other. He is a big fan of Washington DC and its power. His blog is only relevant to morons.

  8. Matthew Meyer says:

    OK, so the “argument” doesn’t hold water.

    But this perspective…call it the “thin green line” version of prohibition…is perhaps the biggest obstacle to changing laws.

    This is what all those 40-somethings with teens were thinking about. “Yeah, pot’s not that bad, but do I really want Janie to be able to get it legally? Wouldn’t that send the wrong message?”

    You have to make these people FEEL that legalization is OK, not just THINK about reasons it makes sense in theory.

    Personally, I think Prop 19 helped a lot in this respect, but there is a long way to go.

  9. Maria says:

    I’m under the impression that the costs argument doesn’t seem to be working with as many people as we’d like. People ‘claim’ they care about waste, cost, and spending… but when it comes down to it, not enough actually want to do the math, or to spend a little time and review what things are *really* costing our society.

    They definitely won’t spend the time if it doesn’t impact them directly. Even providing them with the numbers on a silver platter doesn’t seem to do the trick. Tax cuts impact them directly, insurance hikes as well, but the costs of the drug war? Not in their immediate realm.

    And it doesn’t help that in their minds, our numbers are as suspect as the governments. People don’t trust the government, not that many real world (ie. not media pundits) people trust the governments data and know they fudge a lot. Never mind that this in itself should be a red flag for many intelligent people! That the government has an agenda to protect and has resorted to twisting ‘suspect’ data against it’s own populous to protect the agenda.

    No matter how many facts, figures, stats we pull out. It’s not enough to get past that sometimes incoherent, and evidently a bit frightened solid wall of ‘meh.’ that Mr. Marshall has so aptly displayed.

  10. pfroehlich2004 says:

    I think facts actually have done quite a bit for us. Go to and look at public support for marijuana legalization -basically flat at 25% from 1975 to 1995. Then, BOOM! 25% to 46% in the last fifteen years!

    I’d love to see some VERY detailed polling on exactly why so many people have suddenly changed their minds, but I’m betting it has a lot to do with the internet allowing us to finally challenge the non-factual BS trotted out by the drug-kzar and prohibitionists in the mainstream media.

  11. darkcycle says:

    In this world there are stupid conservatives in numbers to match the stupid liberals. I understand that liberty and in particular, personal liberty is very important to many on this blog. It is important to me too. And I understand that this liberty is supposedly the underpinning of the conservative viewpoint. That being said, can you explain to me how the harshest and most draconian laws were initiated by conservatives? Carter was very pro decriminalization, if not for outright legalization. It was that conservative demigod, the Great Ray-Gun who restarted this war on drugs with a vengeance. Kennedy reportedly used marijuana medicinally and had plans for it’s outright legalization. Nixon, another conservative, ignored the Shafer commission and began the modern iteration of the thing. I could go on, but I won’t, save to mention that corporations who directly benifit from prohibition (petroleum, pharma, coal, chemical industries etc.) couldn’t exactly be called liberal, they overwhelmingly support conservatives, probably because they know they can count on those conservatives to mindlessly support prohibition.

  12. darkcycle says:

    And I’m a little tired of people turning an issue of Right and Wrong into and issue of Right and Left.

    • Pete says:

      darkcycle, it’s not about right and left. There’s not one side that’s at fault. All sides are at fault. But I feel that it’s useful to challenge those sides when they fail to do what’s right, whether they are on the left or the right. Just because I yell at liberal politicians and pundits this time doesn’t mean that I think the drug war is just the fault of the liberals, any more than when I yell at the tea partiers for being insufficiently concerned about small government, or at conservatives for trying to legislate morality.

  13. darkcycle says:

    That was my point Pete, we are all stuck in this stew together, and the meat blaming the potatoes just pisses off the peas.

  14. darkcycle says:

    Yes, I used the Dan Quayle spelling.

  15. Maria says:

    Yup. Facts and stats, the usage of, have done an astounding job at shifting opinion and mainstreaming the idea that the drug war is BS. It’s a prong that needs to be kept up. With every new study, new poll, new analysis, we need to grab it and push the truth out. But it’s not the only prong we have, can’t be in order that we reach those that don’t engage with them at all or find them suspect no matter who they are coming from.

    What MM said above, “You have to make these people FEEL that legalization is OK, not just THINK about reasons it makes sense in theory.” Where all those facts and stats coalesce and go ‘bing’ in someones head. That’s the tough bit.

  16. Ed Dunkle says:

    Prohibition idiocy is a bipartisan effort. Josh Marshall is a left wing blogger, but he’s normally civil and intelligent. His take on pot is very disappointing.

    From today’s front page at Talking Points Memo:

    Tom Foley, the Republican nominee for governor of Connecticut, has now conceded to Democrat Dan Malloy — and went out of his way to remove any doubt about the outcome of the election.”

    That doesn’t strike me as terribly mean spirited or unfair.

    *Speaking in an evil Star Wars voice* “He could be a powerful asset.”

  17. Servetus says:

    There is an underlying assumption in Marshall’s dribble that the only means of social control is crime and punishment. That’s a very primitive concept. In fact, it’s totalitarian and a crime against humanity under circumstances in which no proven victim exists until the law intervenes.

    It almost appears as if Marshall objects to the rest of the population having a smoke strictly on his own unexamined moral grounds, whatever those moral grounds might be, as he admits he hasn’t inhaled in 20 years for ‘purely personal reasons,’ reasons which he never divulges. He’s uninvolved in the subject of cannabis in the same way he’s uninvolved with abortion—he’ll never need one.

    Josh Marshall should stick to writing about things he’s really interested in and has some knowledge of. Prohibition is simply not his topic. As for his age affecting his ability to reason, he’d better reverse course on his attitudes right now unless he wants to be conducting underground rallies for neo-Nazi skinheads in his 60s.

  18. this battle is not a political one — it is a moral one.

    those insisting we continue this madness support destroying the lives of and even killing people over what they do to themselves. i can’t even think of something more repugnant.

    we have all of the ammo we need — but we need to start addressing this as a purely MORAL issue. no one has the right to kill you in the name of preventing you from possibly harming yourself.

    we can only win the game when we explain why drug war is wrong. the individual bits and pieces are the whats that can be successfully addressed with the facts at our disposal.

    but we will continue to spin (and attempt to crawl to glory one little bit at a time) until we focus ourselves on moral outrage.

    this is not about drugs (and damn sure not about pot) — it is about our character as a nation and a people.

  19. DdC says:

    “I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air.”
    ~ Margaret Thatcher

    NO Con Promises!

    ap·peas·ing: pacify, conciliate; especially : to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions usually at the sacrifice of principles

    “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile –
    hoping it will eat him last”.
    ~ Winston Churchill

    Virtues of Ganja

  20. darkcycle says:

    As far as Marshall is concerned, I don’t think he examined his position thoroughly before he tossed it out there. I’m not excusing it, but I don’t think he actually meant to hold the harms caused by marijuana as equivialnt to the harms caused by prohibition. I’d be interested to see if he modifies his position based on the response he’ll undoubtedly get.

  21. TrebleBass says:

    Marshall’s position, I think, is the position of people who have gotten so much anti-drug propaganda that after having gone through plenty of reasons in their head why it’s so stupid to continue prohibition, they still just say, “nah, something bad’s gonna happen. I know it’s absurd and horrible to continue prohibition, and i can’t really prove legalization is going to be anywhere near as catastrophic as they had always told us, but, it’s just bad, it’s just bad”.

    It’s as if we had all grown up in a cave and we had always been taught: “if we go outside, something’s gonna eat us.” And we’ve come to a point in history where a lot of people are saying, “i bet nothings really going to happen if we go outside, but….. let’s just not..”, and some of us are pleading and yelling, “what the hell are we still doing in here?! Let’s just go!”

  22. Windy says:

    darkcycle, I understand that as a professed liberal you would, of course, prefer to place all the blame on the conservative side for the war on drug(user)s. But you have neglected to recall that it was your own liberal VP, Joe Biden, who literally WROTE the law which created the ONDCP, the position of “drug czar” AND the requirement that that office MUST lie to the People and that it is mandated that the czar do all within his power to prevent and distort any move toward relegalization of drugs. After the creation of the CSA, that Biden law has caused more harm than any other concerning the war on drug(user)s. He, of course, is not the only one on the left side of he aisle who is a rabid anti-drug warrior (there are as many as there are on the right).

    The ONLY argument we should make, IMNSHO, should be the BLATENT UNCONSTITUTIONALITY of ANY law which intends to regulate what a free individual may do to, or with, his/her own body/property/life when such activity does not violate the equal rights of another! None of the other arguments has had much effect, but this one should be primary to anyone who truly supports the Founding ideals of this union, left, right or libertarian.

  23. Wanna know who to blame? Go have a look (note the page changer, there’s 3 pages):

    It’s a CNN exit poll from Prop. 19. Page two with the Tea Party was … interesting. Certainly fits in with the idea that this is a highly moral issue.

  24. Pingback: David Borden: What’s Up With Liberals Against Marijuana Legalization? » Grubbyhub Blog - Get Your Latest Info Here!

  25. Sell Art says:

    I like this post.The only people who apparently sufficiently care about those costs outside of our movement are the people directly and significantly affected by such costs.I know it’s absurd and horrible to continue prohibition, and i can’t really prove legalization is going to be anywhere near as catastrophic as they had always told us, but, it’s just bad.

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