Scorecard for debates

In the debates today and Tuesday (listed below), here are some prohibitionist tricks and traps to watch for…

bullet image Numbers of use

They like to cherry-pick certain numbers to show the success of criminalization (use of x is down among y population…) and then use other numbers to show use is up when asking for funding.

The fact is that this debate is irrelevant. “Use” is unhelpful because it includes all non-problematic use. The real actual debate is whether the overall harm to society (from drug use and the drug war) is greater under prohibition than under legalization.

bullet image Perfect Solution Fallacy

“Legalization won’t eliminate the cartels, therefore we shouldn’t do it.” “Legalization won’t eliminate drug abuse, therefore we shouldn’t do it.” “Legalization won’t eliminate corruption, therefore we shouldn’t do it.”

Obviously, legalization will not solve everything, and at once. With the “cartels,” for example, they are entrenched because of decades of being fueled by prohibition. Cutting off the major source of funding will hurt them dramatically over time, because it will eliminate their funds for hiring new soldiers and bribing government agents. As that continues, the government can more easily fight them (if they remain in violent crime) because the cartels will no longer control the government.

As Peter Christ said (paraphrased) “Legalization is about solving our drug war problem. Then we can actually deal with our drug problem.”

bullet image The Irrelevant Lies

Watch for the common lies that are trotted out. “Marijuana has more carcinogens than tobacco. It’s more harmful than people think.” Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. It’s an attempt to get people to believe that marijuana causes cancer, and despite the fact that they’ve love you to believe a tiny, improperly done study in New Zealand, the truth is the science is not out on this. Marijuana does not cause head, neck or lung cancer.

“More people are in treatment for marijuana than any other drug. It’s dangerously addictive.” Another lie. They’re in treatment because they were sent there or signed up to avoid jail, not because they’re addicted.

There are a few others like these, and not only are they lies, but they’re also irrelevant. Even if marijuana was more cancer-causing and addictive than tobacco, that still wouldn’t justify criminalization as the way to deal with it. Legal regulation and education is the solution (as it is with tobacco).

bullet image What about the Children?

I don’t know anyone who says we should legalize drugs and promote their use for children. In fact, most legalizers want regulations to control use by children that are more restrictive than what criminal dealers follow.

Talking about children is an intentional distraction from the real issues in the discussion about legalization.

bullet image The roads

You’ll probably hear that with legalization we’ll face a fiery Armageddon on the highways from all the stoned people crashing.

Yesterday, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a ban against using cellphones while driving a car. Interestingly, they did not criminalize the ownership, manufacture, sales of cellphones or the use of cellphones outside the car. Because that would be stupid.

Pass laws that address the actual problem.

bullet image Drug abuse versus Drug war abuse

You may get a smart prohibitionist who admits that the drug war has its problems, but asserts that the problems of drug abuse outweigh those problems, so that it’s a necessary evil.

That’s a false dichotomy. It’s not “drug abuse problems” on one side and “drug war problems” on the other side. You do, in fact, have drug abuse problems under prohibition. Here’s what it really looks like:

Legalization: drug abuse problems
Criminalization: drug war problems AND drug abuse problems

And there’s absolutely no evidence that drug abuse problems are significantly less under criminalization (quite a bit of evidence that they are not).


So, for those who are able to watch the debates, how many of these distractions did the prohibitionists use, and how well were they countered by our side?

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36 Responses to Scorecard for debates

  1. Cold Blooded says:

    That’s a pretty good summary.

  2. Benjamin says:

    Awesome stuff.

  3. darkcycle says:

    I think I’ve cornered one of the debaters up here:
    It’s a poster who showed up here briefly and at a couple of other sites who appears to be polishing a prohibitionist argument. Check out “think for yourself”‘s comments.

    • darkcycle says:

      Oh, and I’m not 100% today, so a little help from more coherent voices wouldn’t hurt, either.

    • darkcycle says:

      clarification, I think it may be one of the I-squared debaters.

    • Francis says:

      “POLISHING a prohibitionist argument”?

      I believe there’s a (somewhat crass) expression to the effect that that’s impossible.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        People have been polishing turds since just shortly after the beginning of time. Others have been known to put lipstick on pigs. But really, what else are you going to polish if all that you have are turds?

  4. claygooding says:

    Top speaker,,Russ

    Most deranged speaker,,tied with witch from Tx and Preacher wanting to save children from drugs by continuing as we are.

    I say advocates for ending prohibition are the clear winners,,all the prohibs had was a poster and hand wringing about the proverbial strawman resulting from legalization,,while ignoring that most of the health issues in illicit drugs are because of prohibition,,not the drugs themselves.

    I am incapable of blocking that information and am amazed that anyone can.

    2nd session starting

  5. Chris says:

    Ugh can’t view this on my phone and at work anyway. Can’t wait to get home and watch

  6. allan says:

    yes, please, those who get to watch, post your comments please and a transcript link would be great. Russ is a pretty smart feller. I’m hoping he is as educated on general drug policy as he is on the ganj. I also most sincerely hope he shreds Sabet.

    • claygooding says:

      It was Russ Jones in round 1,,round 2 is Russ B and I am having link issues,,will report,,Sabet is talking in his circles manner,,never addressing harms from marijuana head on but always using other drugs harms and harms directly caused by prohibition as examples of proof of marijuana harm. Waiting for link to go back UP

      • claygooding says:

        Caught last 5 mins of it,,not enough to make full report of Russ’s response too Sabet’s diatribe filled with half facts and Ondcp double-speak.

  7. kaptinemo says:

    Damn link keeps crapping out. I hope there’s a transcript.

    • allan says:

      well if the both of you report funky link… bummer!

      I guess we wait for the transcript.

      • claygooding says:

        Or YouTube,,this stuff will definitely be up there soon,,really good debate,,check my quote at my wall on fb and like/comment if you can if you get time.

        “”Every advocate for keeping prohibition of marijuana in place has a vested interest in keeping prohibition in place,,jobs and income being their most driving force,while advocates for marijuana legalization are working towards unemployment,,,that about sums it up.””

        • darkcycle says:

          Clay….”working towards unemployment”? Did you really mean to say that?? I know what you meant…but…

        • allan says:

          as in no more work for legalizing herb when we win is how I take it. It did take some head scratching to get there tho’…

        • Duncan20903 says:


          The campaign to re-re-criminalize will start before the ink dries on the re-legalization law. Authorities in California have kept ASA busy for 15 years with their dirty tricks. I think there would be a place for a cannabinoidian anti-defamation league as well, BWDIK?

  8. claygooding says:

    For most advocates of marijuana legalization,,their “job” ends when legalization,,nationwide,,,,is enacted,,,when I see multiple 1000 acre fields of hemp being grown,,then our job ends.

    Most of us do not intend to make a living from legalization,,while prohibitionist can lose large funding when legalization occurs.

  9. ezrydn says:

    JOB? Yikes! Get that “evil” word away from me. LOL I quit having “bosses” about 18 years ago. Started working for a really cool SOB. Myself. Today I fund myself via FOREX trading and “Sports Investing.” So, no job to piss-test worry over. No overlord that didn’t get any last night. None of that old “cube crap.” Legalization, for me, is a no-brainer. I’ll fight for my “relaxing moment in the evening” just as THEY will. Plus, I feel I have the right to be in this “engagement.” And I put it in their faces every chance I get. Hear that, ICE? I’ll be flying to Washington DC in May to ride Rolling Thunder. What dismal agent will cross my path this time? LOL

  10. darkcycle says:

    I got the reference, guys, just trying to think like an average schmoe.

    • claygooding says:

      I missed a little word that would have cleared it up tremendously,,self-unemployment would have corrected it,me thinks.

  11. Chris says:

    Ok, so does anyone have a youtube link of this debate yet? I went on there and found this unrelated video from today with Ethan Nadelmann:
    Pretty damn good closing argument.

    • claygooding says:

      Still nothing showing up at youtube but the trailer and Naderman was speaking when I first dialed it in at the live feed earlier.

  12. Duncan20903 says:


    Reverend Robertson’s endorsement of ending the idiocy of the absolute prohibition of cannabis is reported by the Christian Science Monitor.

    It always puzzles me why some people will argue who has the best and most powerful imaginary friend.
    From the “now that’s comedy” category, the CSM article quotes Calvina Fay in in the article.

    Clearly he is ill-informed about the drug war,” says Calvina Fay, executive director of the [Truth] Free America Foundation. She says in 1978, 58 percent of high school seniors had used an illicit drug in the past year, compared with 28 percent in 1992 – more than a 50 percent drop.

    Why 1978?

    Why 1992?

    Peak and trough, obviously [insert mandatory quote from Mark Twain].

    • N.T. Greene says:

      There are also questions concerning the reliability of those numbers — 1978 was before some of the more vigorous anti-drug campaigns. By 1992 you have invariably poisoned the well of honesty when it comes to random questionnaires.

      It’s kind of like bragging that you’ve successfully made a bunch of people afraid of admitting something. Or, alternately, you just prove that proper education is key in drug abuse prevention, not the illegality of drugs.

      I mean, you could say that establishing a minimum age for alcohol consumption reduces youth alcohol abuse by a statistically relevant amount. Hmm. I wonder if that means a minimum toking age would work too?

      I, personally, think if you turn many prohibitionist arguments inside out, you actually have a reason for establishing proper legal regulation. After all, a lack of regulation equals a loss of actual control.


      • WeAlsoHaveThis says:

        Thanks Brian!

        Illicit Drug Use In The US Among Those Age 19 to 28 (1991 – 2008)

        1991 lifetime: 62.2 Past Year: 27.0 Past Month: 15.1

        1995 lifetime: 57.4 Past Year: 29.8 Past Month: 15.8

        2000 lifetime: 58.2 Past Year: 30.8 Past Month: 18.1

        2005 lifetime: 60.4 Past Year: 32.8 Past Month: 18.6

        2008 lifetime: 59.3 Past Year: 33.8 Past Month: 19.3

        The period 1991-2008 saw a decrease of 2.9% in lifetime use, an increase of 3.8% of past year use and an increase of 2.2 of past month use.

        Source: Monitoring the Future (2009), Vol II, Tables 5-1, 5-2, and 5-3, pp.148-154

    • Christy says:

      Keep in mind that 1978 saw a record numeber of teens using alcohol. From 1969 to 1976, some 30 states lowered their purchase ages, generally to 18. So if you had more teens boozing at record levels why wouldn’t you have more of them toking?

      • Duncan20903 says:


        I gradjitated high school in 1978. I have no problem with claims that peak usage of cannabis was in 1978.

        Man 1978 was some really nice quality Oaxacan and some tasty but mediocre blonde hash purportedly from Lebanon.

        The entire time I was in high school some enterprising seniors had beer on tap in the woods next door. They were open by 7 AM every school day. It wasn’t any kind of a secret. The legal age for beer & wine in Virginia was 18 at the time. It was always seniors because the local cops weren’t going to let anybody not enrolled in the school have the bootlegging concession. That retail outlet would not have been there with a drinking age of 21.

        We also had permission to use smoking tobacco. It’s true that it was only in designated smoking areas but that was outside of every entry except the main doors.

        It really was a different world back then. That being said I disagree that cannabis & drinking alcohol are married together. Today youth use rates of drinking alcohol are at 30 year lows while the rate of youth who choose to enjoy cannabis are at or near 30 year highs.

    • Peter says:

      the csm also has quote from one richard taite, owner of the for profit “some insurance accepted” cliffside malibu treatment center calling rbertsons comments “cavalier”. cleRly he doesnt want to see the end of court ordered “marijuana addicts” to his $63000 a month boondoggle

  13. N.T. Greene says:

    That’s the Belville v. Sabet debate. Skip to the end for the more active debating.

    Sabet’s arguments are pretty weak overall. A lot of talking about not-illegal drugs to substantiate his argument. I’m pretty sure he isn’t saying -anything- most of the time..

    Skip to around 53 minutes for a particularly revealing slip of the tongue from Sabet.

    • N.T. Greene says:

      If you click on the user for that page, there are posts for all of the Baker panels. No transcripts as of yet (AFAIK) but the full videos are up.

    • Peter says:

      notice sabet mopping his brow after the tongue slip. must be like arguing that the sun goes round the earth in gallileos day

    • N.T. Greene says:

      What I enjoyed most about that was the fact that he never even “corrected” himself. And it seems as though he was willing to concede quite a few points all the while attempting to maintain a staunch anti-legalization position.

      What we’re seeing here is an excellent example of how rhetoric can break down under appropriate amounts of pressure. When we can actually confront these people with a well-researched argument (as Russ Belville has been known to do; five to seven times a day has not diminished his capacity to compile information) we find that the opposition forces may as well have nothing in their hands at all.

      If the statistics disagree with your failed war, it’s difficult to make yourself look good.

  14. kaptinemo says:

    debates do matter, and at the highest levels they can be devastating.

    Take the 1976 Presidential election debates. Ford vs. Carter. It was a time where it seemed that Communism was on the move everywhere and the West was falling behind…which was in fact a lie, as the Sovs never had an economy capable of producing a credible threat to the US. In fact, if it were not for Western trade credits, the Sovs would have folded a lot sooner than they did.

    In that debate, Ford made one of the dumbest political gaffes ever possible, equivalent to him saying the sky was green. He said, completely at odds with the reality of the situation, that Eastern Europe was NOT under Soviet domination…as it had been since the ending of WW2.

    I saw this live, and as the camera switched to Carter’s face, the usually phegmatic Carter looked at Ford as if he had sprouted another head, and both heads grew three eyes, each. The look on Carter’s face was not gloating, but a genuine “WTF was that?” shock at what Ford said.

    Nobody, but nobody, could believe it, it was so obviously at odds with reality. That one stupid gaffe was probably the single biggest tactical error of Ford’s campaign, and hounded him all the way to his electoral loss.

    And that’s what eventually will happen to the likes of Sabet. Remember ‘Baghdad Bob’? Sabet is in ‘Bob’s unenviable situation of having to dissemble and misdirect if not outright lie. Arguing in defense of the indefensible is a fool’s game. Or, as the old Klingon proverb goes, “Only a fool fights in a burning house.”. Prohibition’s house has been beset by many small fires that now threaten to engulf it.

    An idiot cannot help being a fool, but for a bright person to have to play the fool, it can’t be very salutary to the ol’ equilibrium, and like that slip, betrays his understanding of his situation. Any more like that, and the Prison Industrial Complex will have to hire another mouthpiece…and Sabet is as slick as they come. The PIC won’t find anyone better.

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