If you support prohibition, and claim not to be corrupt, then give us our laboratory

There are two main reasons to support prohibition.

  1. You are corrupt. You support it because you make money off it, or it gives you power or status, despite the damage it causes to society and people.
  2. You actually believe that prohibition is necessary to protect society and people.

This post isn’t for the people in #1. They shall have their own reward, and be first against the wall when the revolution comes suffer the fate of The Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

This is about the second category: people who think prohibition is protecting society and the people, and that legalization (in any form or scheme) would result in some amount of increased damage.

Here’s the problem with their view:

The whole thing rides on a balancing act between:

  1. An uncertain and unknowable increased amount of problem usage of a particular drug due to legalization of any sort…. and
  2. All the known damage caused by our present prohibition scheme (violence, black market profits, enormous criminal justice costs and backlog, corruption in government and law enforcement, lack of trust in police, attacks on liberty, increased dangers of drug use, lack of regulation, damage to individuals and families, etc.)

In order to make this argument, the supporters of prohibition have to claim that (a) would be of greater damage to society than (b). That’s a pretty strong claim. Especially when they have NO data to support it.

It all boils down to claims made based on “common sense” or what appears to actually be their gut instinct or bias.

Common sense tells you that legal cocaine would be used and abused as much as alcohol.

Well, no. It doesn’t. Nor does any of the data that we do have.

Of course, when we point to Portugal, or Amsterdam, we’re told that that’s not a true picture of legalization, since those countries haven’t actually fully legalized any drugs.

Exactly. Nobody has. Nobody has been allowed to do so. So there is no data to show what would actually happen in the case of legalization. At least we can point to actual data from halfway measures to bolster our case. All the prohibitionist can do is point to “common sense” that has been pulled from some nether region.

If anyone truly believes that they want what’s best for society, the path is clear. Vague claims of uncertain futures are simply not enough.

Give us our laboratory.

“To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the Nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” – Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

If you, in your support for prohibition, truly believe that you’re right, then you shouldn’t fear the laboratory, whether it’s the laboratory of a single state, or a single country.

We have given you a world-wide exclusive laboratory for decades to try prohibition. Unless you can give better proof of its efficacy, and data regarding alternatives, then you cannot in good conscience deny a laboratory for legalization.

If you do, then it seems certain that you are in category 1, not category 2.

The corrupt have plenty of good reasons to fight against a laboratory. Imagine the thought processes behind the fact that the DEA has, for decades provided full government-grown quality-controlled and tracked marijuana to a handful of patients through the Compassionate IND program, and yet, they never showed a single bit of interest in studying those patients.

The corrupt aren’t interested in science, or the data from a laboratory. All they’re interested in is preserving their structure, regardless of the cost to society.

Give us a laboratory. Start small – pass the Barney Frank/Ron Paul bill to end the federal ban on marijuana. It won’t legalize marijuana (it’s still illegal in the states), but it will allow some courageous state to step up and try it. And then we can learn.

I maintain that if you don’t support the laboratory, you are corrupt. Convince me that I’m wrong.

What if other scientific fields were handled the way we handle prohibition vs. legalization?

For almost 2,000 years, bloodletting was a medical practice performed to balance the humors in the body, and to thereby cure or prevent disease. In most cases, it was harmful to patients (although the “doctors” of the time didn’t think so), and it almost completely unused today.

Imagine bloodletting as the main medical practice today and some scientists tried to appeal for alternatives…

Scientist: We’re concerned that a lot of patients are dying and that bloodletting isn’t doing much to help them; may even be hurting them.

Barber/Doctor: Nonsense! Bloodletting is curing many people, but can’t save them all. Just imagine how many more would have died if we didn’t do bloodletting, or if we tried your “medical” techniques.

Scientist: Well, we don’t know, do we, since you won’t let us try any other medical techniques. Just let us have a laboratory, so we can see if alternatives to bloodletting can work.

Barber/Doctor: You must be high on cheese mold. Here, let me bleed you and get rid of some of those bad humors you have.

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28 Responses to If you support prohibition, and claim not to be corrupt, then give us our laboratory

  1. Nick says:

    One of your best posts ever Pete.

  2. daksya says:

    Pete, there are those in Category-2 who believe that

    a)legalization, once enacted, can’t be reversed. So, it won’t truly be an “experiment” i.e. something which can be trialed and then shut down.

    b)that if one state is allowed to legalize, then that will, of itself, undermine both prohibition and its enforcement in the remaining states, especially neighboring ones. Much of the rhetoric in the US is absolutist i.e. drugs are evil and that even debate of legalization is unthinkable and “sends the wrong message”. Allowing legalization, even in a contained fashion, undermines that rhetoric.

    The trouble is unlike a tax rate increase or some accounting regulation..etc, the activity of drug use is supposed to carry inevitably grave consequences. Having fostered such a viewpoint leaves category-2 prohibitionists little room for compromise or laxity.

    • Pete says:

      Daksya – you’re right, I’ve heard that argument before and know a few that use it. I find that to be a remarkably anti-democratic statement. Maybe such prohibitionists are in both category 1 and 2; category 1 in terms of using the drug war to continue to secure their position of power over others (in this case, because they know better than the people).

    • Francis says:

      Wait a minute. The know-nothings claim that ending prohibition would result in this dystopian nightmare with millions of new addicts dying in the streets right? You’re telling me that they also claim that such a policy change would be irreversible?! Um… how does that make sense? I would think they’d be confident that after getting even a brief glimpse of the veritable hell on earth that reform would unleash, we’d all come crawling back to the politicians and beg for prohibition’s return? Heck, if I didn’t know better, I’d think their real fear is that ending prohibition might actually work.

    • Francis says:

      Ok, now I’m actually curious. What exactly is their rationale for saying that legalization, once enacted, can’t be reversed? It can’t be that it’s impossible for a political entity to go from granting legal status to a drug, even a widely-used one, to prohibiting it. Hmm… what could I use as an example to prove that statement? Oh I don’t know, how about the original prohibition of alcohol?! Of course in that example, the people went crawling back to the politicans to beg for the end of prohibition.

      • dt says:

        They conjure up a fear of lobbying money from the new drug industries, the reverse of the corruption that exists today. But in effect, those lobbyists would also represent consumers.

        Great post Pete!

      • Francis says:

        Thanks for the response, dt. Yep, that’s pretty dumb. Why the hell should we expect this new drug industry lobbying to overwhelm the lobbying from (to name a few), the private prison industry, prison guard unions, police unions, social conservatives, and alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical industries (I’m guessing some of those players won’t be too keen on the new competition) who would be clamoring for prohibition’s return?

        Also isn’t it pretty cynical to think that special-interest lobbying alone can thwart the will of the people when it comes to getting legislation they want passed? …Oh wait… *sobs quietly*

  3. kant says:

    Although I agree with you Pete, I could see a person that supports prohibition still saying “if we’re right you letting innocent people die”. I think it would be better say “let us to research in a lab” I don’t mean let a state legalize. I mean let researchers actually have access to cannabis.

    Even those deathly afraid of the assumed dangers of legalization can’t argue against research expiriments…unless they are actually corrupt.

    • DdC says:

      Still swatting flies instead of fixin’ the screen door…
      Got it down pat about the different factions feuding,
      Still missing the point of why. $$$

      unless they are actually corrupt.

      Ya think?

      Cannabis Shrinks Tumors: Government Knew in 74

      The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects.

      Most Americans don’t know anything about the Madrid discovery. Virtually no U.S. newspapers carried the story, which ran only once on the AP and UPI news wires, on Feb. 29.

      The ominous part is that this isn’t the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice — lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.

      The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research…

      In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, “We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared.” …

      Health officials in Geneva have suppressed the publication of a politically sensitive analysis that confirms what ageing hippies have known for decades: cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco. According to a document leaked to New Scientist, the analysis concludes not only that the amount of dope smoked worldwide does less harm to public health than drink and cigarettes, but that the same is likely to hold true even if people consumed dope on the same scale as these legal substances.

      Cover-Ups, Prevarications, Subversions & Sabotage

      In 1974, California Governor Ronald Reagan was asked about decriminalizing marijuana. After producing the Heath/Tulane University study, the so-called “Great Communicator” proclaimed, “The most reliable scientific sources say permanent brain damage is one of the inevitable results of the use of marijuana.”
      (L.A. Times)

      Dr. Heath/Tulane Study, 1974

      The Hype: Brain Damage and Dead Monkeys

      Reports of the study have also been distributed by the hierarchy of drug rehabilitation professionals as part of their rationalization for wanting to get kids off pot, based on supposed scientific studies. It is used to terrorize parent groups, church organizations, etc., who redistribute it still further.

      The Facts: Suffocation of Research Animals
      The monkeys were suffocating! Three to five minutes of oxygen deprivation causes brain damage “dead brain cells.” (Red Cross Lifesaving and Water Safety Manual) With the concentration of smoke used, the monkeys were a bit like a person running the engine of a car in a locked garage for 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time every day!

      The Heath Monkey study was actually a study in animal asphyxiation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

      Nahas’ Prescription for Bloated Police Budgets
      Incredibly, a famous study which found that cannabis reduces tumors (see Chapter 7), was originally ordered by the Federal Government on the premise that pot would hurt the immune system. This was based on the “Reefer Madness” studies done by the disreputable Dr. Gabriel Nahas of Columbia University in 1972.

      This is the same Dr. Nahas who claimed his studies showed pot created chromosome, testosterone (male hormone) damage, and countless other horrible effects which suggested the breaking down of the immune system. Nahas’ background is in the OSS/CIA and later the U.S. where he worked closely with Lyndon LaRouche and Kurt Waldheim.

      In 1998, Nahas is still the darling favorite of the DEA and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) yet no anti-marijuana studies of Nahas’ have every been replicated in countless other research attempts. Columbia University specifically disassociated itself from Nahas’ marijuana research in a specially called press conference in 1975!

      Old, discredited Nahas studies are still trotted out by the Drug Enforcement Administration today and deliberately given to unknowledgeable parents’ groups, churches, and PTAs as valid research regarding the evils of pot.

      Urine Testing Company
      After his resignation, Carlton Turner* (Drug Czar under Reagan 1981-1986) joined with Robert DuPont and former head of NIDA, Peter Bensinger, to corner the market on urine testing. They contracted as advisors to 250 of the largest corporations to develop drug diversion, detection, and urine testing programs.

      Just as G. Gordon Liddy went into high-tech corporate security after his disgrace, Turner became a rich man in what has now become a huge growth industry: urine-testing.

      Constitutional GOPerversions & Their Pathetic Apologists

      Drug War Clock

      The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second.

      State and local governments spent at least another 25 billion dollars.

      Arrests for drug law violations this year are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.6 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2009.

      Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.

      Police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for cannabis violations in 2009. Of those charged with cannabis violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. An American is arrested for violating cannabis laws every 30 seconds.

      Since December 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year. About 25 per cent are sentenced for drug law violations.

      “Medicines often produce side effects.
      Sometimes they are physically unpleasant.
      Cannabis too has discomforting side effects,
      but these are not physical they are political”
      ~ The Economist March 28th 1992

    • Pete says:

      The bloodletters could make the same argument. It doesn’t wash. It’s time for them to prove that they’re right, because we can prove that people are dying because of prohibition.

      Again, I’m not saying that people won’t make arguments against the laboratory. I’m just saying that there are no such arguments that hold up to reason.

      • Duncan20903 says:

        Well there’s where your proposal fails Pete. Reason? WTF are you thinking? We’re talking about people that want to urine test the hall monitors in the AV club, the Glee Club and even the Chess team.Holy cow, just thinking of pee testing the white & nerdy proves them mentally unbalanced and not likely fans of “reason.”.


      • kant says:

        @pete &Ddc

        Yes I know there is already a mountain of research. But my point was not to try and convince prohibitionists. As Pete mentioned they are either corrupt or (in my opinion)utterly irrational/set in their ways.

        In my view we shouldn’t be focusing on prohibitionist but rather everyone else. When we say “let states experiment”, prohibitionists say “omg think of the children”, the rational person thinks “it’s probably better safe then sorry”.

        But if we say “federal law prohibits medical research, simply let us do research”, prohibitionists will say “there’s already lots of research showing how damaging it is”, hopefully the rational person will say “a law prohibiting research? what? well there’s no damage/risk to medical research”

        Part of our difficulty in the courts is that they don’t generally recognize research done outside of the US.

        I think that arguing for medical research would be more effective at showing how absurd prohibitionists can be AND when US based research starts rolling out it’ll be more readily accepted by the courts congress and state legislators.

        I ultimately believe that it’ll be little steps like getting US based research; getting more states to decriminalize; etc. that will be more effective then trying to take a giant bite like Barney Frank/Ron Paul bill. I support it but it’s obviously merely symbolic and will stir discussion, which is great but i’m not sure how it effectively it will convince people to take a closer look at the issue.

  4. Steve Rolles says:

    Interesting post Pete, but the clear thinking about the need for experimentation etc is rather spoilt IMHO by the inflamatory language about the crrupt being ‘first up against the wall when the revolution comes’. I know its just a turn of phrase but i dont think its helpful – and will potentially be quoted back at you/reformers as evidence of extremism. Id suggest editing it to something more moderate.

    • Pete says:

      True. I was thinking of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when I wrote it, and so it was a little more light-hearted in my head. Maybe I need to make that clearer.

      • darkcycle says:

        U.A.T.W.M.F’ers works OK for me….

      • Duncan20903 says:

        Wow it’s been years since I’d thought about the Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers. My all time favorite name of an anarchist organization. I don’t know where this country would be without them. Probably within 3 feet of where we are today, their most significant contribution to our culture really was their name. IMO of course.


        Say, (hypothetically) if I were to lead a revolution and overthrow the government of a country and install myself as the absolute political leader for life in a system of anarchy, would I be the Absolute Anarch?

        Anyone caught not doing as they please will be shot on sight. Yes, of course you can follow orders if that’s what floats your boat.

  5. Cannabis says:

    The sad thing is that there are a lot of people in the second category for whom prejudice, belief and emotion rule their decision making processes, not facts and rational thought. Even sadder, there are a lot of people in the first category who play on all of those things to keep their position in the world, including preachers, politicians, bureaucrats and the like, on a range of issues, not just drugs policy. The question is then, how do we reach the second group without resorting to the tactics of the first?

    • pt says:

      Yes, logic and science don’t appeal to many in the second category, if they “know” that prohibition helps America then by golly it does! Even if you produce evidence, they still wont change their mind. And secretly also influe
      ncing them is that they “hate drugees”. Luckily, at least with marijuana, the percentage of these people go down by the year. Due to more normal people admitting smoking, libertarian movements, medical uses etc.

  6. divadab says:

    @cannabis – some people are just unreachable. There is a hard core of 20-30% of the population that has authoritarian psychology – these people are perpetual suckers (the some you can fool all the time) and reflexively believe and support whatever those in authority tell them. (check out the science done by Bob Altmeyer at http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ )

    This hard core has been enough for the self-serving beneficiaries of prohibition to maintain their morally-dubious positions. IMHO, what will finally end it will be that there is just no money to continue arresting and jailing people to protect them from themselves.

    It will take a while but we’re approaching legalization in some States now and this will continue. The enemy still has power and is dangerous but they are increasingly backed into a corner.

    Some day the feds will realize that maintaining this stupid unconstitutional extravagant cruel prohibition regime only diminishes respect for them and ultimately diminishes their power.

  7. Duncan20903 says:

    I agree that having a single State re-legalize would be an excellent way to establish whether or not our position is valid. But the Know Nothings will want to be assured that we’re not ‘exporting’ cannabis to the other States so I propose that they give us Hawaii. They’ll be able to easily ‘blockade’ the State assuring that none of the evil mare iguana will reach the other 49 States. While it would be a horrid, heinous hardship to have to move to Hawaii sometimes in life progress requires us to do things that are distasteful. I’m sure after a while we’ll get used to it.

    • Plant down Babylon says:

      Excellent idea!!! Thank God i already live here.
      Should be good for our property values too.

      However, this state has made it a nightmare to travel interisland with our medicine thanks to the ever prying and civil rights abusing TSA monkeys.
      Because we know how dangerous it is to board a plane with cannabis. Maybe worse than guns…..

      Is it the TSA’s job to look for drugs?!

      Oh wait! I forgot the guy who heads our MMJ program Keith Kamita is a law enforcement prick who just HATES the very idea of MMJ.
      But what about the KIDS??!!

  8. Duncan20903 says:

    Well bloodletting to balance humors isn’t practiced today but leeches are an FDA approved medical device since 2004 and the only think those little buggers do is to suck blood. I’m not sure what their label use is but I know I was shocked to learn that leeches had found a place in modern human medicine. Somewhere, somebody owns an FDA medicinal grade leech production facility. The most significant thing about this turn of events is for people who say that the FDA has never approved a “smoked” medicine as if that means that the FDA will never do so. Gosh, before 2004 the FDA had never approved any blood sucking worms or necrotic flesh eating insect larvae as FDA approved medical devices and I’m certain almost everyone in 2003 would have laughed at the suggestion that the FDA would approve the medicinal use of leeches and maggots.

    • darkcycle says:

      Ahhhh…leeches produce a very effective and safe anticoagulant that cannot be replicated in vitro.

  9. Sukoi says:

    OT – Obama on legalizing MMJ: “you know, well, I’ll leave it at that.”


  10. Francis says:

    You know how when prohibitionists want to make pot smokers feel guilty, they argue that the illicit marijuana trade provides huge amounts of money to fund violent drug cartels?

    But if a reform advocate points out that legalizing marijuana would deprive the cartels of this particular funding source, suddenly marijuana becomes a trivial part of the equation. For example, I just encountered a commenter in a news story on border violence who claims that cartels make 74% (love the precision!) of their profits from heroin, cocaine, and meth (so naturally he claims that legalizing pot wouldn’t really help). Which brings me to a question for you all: what’s your take on a reliable estimate for the relative importance of the illicit cannabis trade to the cartels? (I don’t suppose anyone here does their book-keeping?) My hunch is that since cannabis is BY FAR the most popular illicit drug in the U.S., it simply can’t be an insignificant piece.

    The second response of this particular know-nothing was to argue that the cartels would “just shift the rest of their business,” thus leaving them largely unaffected by cannabis legalization. Because you know, sellers can magically create extra demand for their goods. Talk about being economically illiterate. It’s like arguing that Apple’s bottom line wouldn’t be affected if they were somehow prohibited from profitably selling electronics, because, after all, they could “just shift the rest of their business” to ice cream sandwiches or shower curtain rings. (“Dude, you’ve gotta try the new iShower 5 Rings. They are soooo much better than the 4’s! Totally worth the extra $200.”)

    I ended my response by noting that he’d actually (although inadvertently) made a good point. If we want to really break the cartels’ power, we should do away with the entire war on drugs.

  11. Servetus says:

    Alcohol Prohibition was called “The Great Experiment’. There is general agreement that morally cogent experiments are superior to experiments that lack a secular moral sense. Drug prohibitions fit the latter category.

    International law makes it a crime to impose experiments upon individuals without their express consent. This signed treaty law resulted from the outrage at the sadomedical experiments done by Dr. Mengele and his fellow co-fiends. Today, a Great Experiment like Prohibition would probably be illegal under international law were it not tied to legal precedents derived from racist and supremacist cultures. There are far more humane ways to conduct social experiments.

    The Netherlands’ soft drug experiment with marijuana, along with its soft drug enforcement, has produced such excellent results that it sends the U.S. government into fits of denial every time the numbers get mentioned. The Netherlands is just one example of how well humane treatment of its citizens works to create a better and more prosperous society.

    The United States failed to recognize international humanitarian law in the CIA’s infamous MKULTRA experiment. Then there was the agency’s crack cocaine marketing research conducted in South Central LA. The CIA/DEA/ONDCP needs to wise up and abandon their assumption that a president like Obama will always have their back.

    Today’s legal and political atmosphere calls for a total and unconditional surrender of the sadomoralizers and all those affiliated with the prohibition industrial complex. It calls for an enlightened nation armed with factual information and the tools of modern science, and a total rejection of the drug war’s current arsenal of stone knives and bearskins.

  12. A Critic says:

    Fantastic post. I would say that history already has conducted such an experiment. When cocaine, opium, hashish, alcohol, and tobacco were all legal and readily available, only one drug caused so much violence, crime, and social problems that there was a popular movement to prohibit it.

  13. Reckless says:

    It fascinates me that to grow a plant that naturally grows on this planet can be made illegal.
    If America is ruled by a predominately Christian based society (In God We Trust on every dollar bill) where does the good lord prohibit the use of one his plants??

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