Legalization is not a stark alternative

David Frum drinks Kevin Sabet’s kool-aid: David Frum on the Perils of Legalizing Pot

It’s a bizarre article that really demonstrates that Frum (to be most charitable) has done no research on the subject.

For instance, he imagines a legalization world exacerbating class differences, without realizing that it’s the drug war that does exactly that.

It’s baffling to me that people who profess anxiety about the trend to social inequality will so often endorse drug legalization. A world of legal drugs will be a world in which the fates of the top one third of Americans and the lower two thirds will diverge even more than they already do. A world of weaker families, absent parents, and shriveling job opportunities is a world in which more Americans will seek a cheap and easy escape from their depressing reality. Legalized marijuana, like legal tobacco, will become a diversion for those who feel they have the least to lose.

Parents are absent and families are weaker due to the drug war, and it’s not the lure of legal drugs that is the problem, but rather the lure of black market money from prohibition that keeps the cycle of social inequality fueled.

And then he completely endorses Kevin Sabet’s “plan” without realizing that the “third way” isn’t actually a real thing.

“People tend to think if you’re against legalization, you’re in favor of increasing the jail population,” says Kevin Sabet, until recently a senior staffer in the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. “The reality is, we can reduce marijuana use as well as incarceration rates. They are not mutually exclusive goals. We can do that through smart measures such as brief medical interventions along with more intensive treatment when needed. Our choices are not as stark as advocates would like us to believe.”

Sabet is forming a new group to find a third way between those stark alternatives. He deserves support, because young Americans deserve better than to be led to a future shrouded in a drug-induced haze.

What is this third way and how does it work? Neither Kevin or the ONDCP ever say, other than vague talk about not emphasizing incarceration and increasing treatment. That’s not a way – it’s just putting lipstick on a pig.

How do you even consider a plan for drug policy without discussing the vast majority of drug users who have no problems with their use? There’s nothing in this third way notion that involves no longer arresting these people and ruining their lives — if there was, it would be called legalization.

Legalization is not a stark alternative — it’s an entire spectrum of options, including smart medical interventions for those who have problems with drugs (but without destroying the lives of those who don’t).

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50 Responses to Legalization is not a stark alternative

  1. Duncan20903 says:


    Why in the world would he waste time by looking up the truth? That would be letting those rascally facts get in the way of disseminating some of their most effective hysterical rhetoric. Prohibasites most certainly don’t consider the truth to be a welcome visitor in their homes. I’d bet dollars to dirt that if the truth were to knock politely at his door that he would call the police and demand that it be arrested for trespassing. …and all that the poor little truth wants to do is to set them free.

  2. Jillian Galloway says:

    Once again we’re reminded that marijuana prohibition is a cult. And like all cults, it doesn’t matter how much evidence there is proving that you’re wrong, you DO NOT question your beliefs and you do not EVER back down.

    For most people, seventy years of failure would be enough to at least encourage you to review your assumptions, but for cult members seven decades of unmitigated and unprecedented failure is NOTHING! Don’t back down, don’t question your beliefs is the only real goal they have.

    • Liam says:

      Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.
      (Thomas Szasz)

      On drug prohibition:

      (The Nazis spoke of having a “Jewish problem.” We now speak of having a drug-abuse problem. Actually, “Jewish problem” was the name the Germans gave to their persecution of the Jews; “drug-abuse problem” is the name we give to the persecution of people who use certain drugs.)

  3. Dante says:

    “Legalization” means Kevin would no longer have a job. He would no longer earn a living.

    Any guesses as to why Kevin continues to reject legalization? What type of people would continue to place their own selfish desires ahead of the good of all?

    Protect & Serve (Themselves!)

    • Duncan20903 says:


      Nonsense. The demand for hysterical rhetoric will increase substantially in the decade or so following the event. That’s at least. Think of the controversy over elective abortions. It’s just a little under 4 decades since Roe v Wade but still there is a not insignificant number of people making very good livings producing that stripe of hysterical rhetoric. Oh, and speaking of abortions, the next time somebody says we ought to have the death penalty like China ask them if we should adopt the mandatory abortion laws to force compliance with the Chinese legal limit of 1 child per woman. I tried using the 40 cents an hour minimum wage but they like that idea.

      This one is from the “as if on cue” category:

      Man struck, killed by truck driver on marijuana in Vancouver, police say

      Rowles stayed at the scene, but was arrested when an officer noticed he was under the influence of drugs, Kapp said. She said this is the first fatal pedestrian crash in Vancouver involving marijuana since recreational use of the drug was legalized in Washington in November.

      Isn’t that precious how the enemies of freedom attached re-legalization to impaired driving? We haven’t even seen the tox screen on the pedestrian. I’ve read that more than a third of pedestrian fatalities involve a pedestrian who was 3 sheets to the wind at the time of death. But wait, there are more of those pesky facts that the prohibitions are not assimilating:

      Scotty R. Rowles, whose last known address is in Milwaukie, was traveling west about 5:50 p.m., on East Mill Plain Boulevard when another man stepped into traffic from a median near North Andresen Road and was hit, said Kim Kapp, a Vancouver police spokeswoman.

  4. Cliff says:

    “He would no longer earn a living.”

    I thought you had to create something of value in order to “earn” a living. IMHO being a prohibitionist sock-puppet is not creating anything of value. Therefore, as a parasite prohibitionist, he should find another line of work in order to “earn” a living. I hear Wal Mart is hiring.

    • allan says:

      yeah, that “earning” a living caught my eye as well. I’d hardly call it that. Which brings up another bone stuck in my craw (“not da cRaw! Da craw!”)

      The whole prohib battle against those with pain and the treating of their pain is medical malpractice, by non-medical persons. I’d wager a survey of all the prohibition abc orgs (DEA, NIDA, etc) would show a very small portion of the persons employed therein have actually ever worked. Medical data shows that a great portion of our working class folks suffer chronic pain. And why is that? Because we f’ing WORK for a living!

      I was a lumberflinger for close to 20 years, I’ve dug ditches and holes and swung hammers and saws and climbed and fallen and in all those years of doing, of laboring, I’ve smashed and stabbed and cut and bent and strained my body all over the place. My friend and fellow Oregon activist Alice Ivany lost an arm in a mill accident. Damn it! We hurt and the treatment of the resulting pains and aches from working our asses off is between us and our doctors.

      I don’t want the gov’t in my bedroom, my bathroom, my computer, my doctor’s exam room… nowhere in my personal space. Seriously, fuck this. And them. All of ’em. For drug war crimes they belong behind bars, not us.

  5. kaptinemo says:

    A long time ago, Richard Cowan stated that one of the main reasons for cannabis prohibition lasting as long as it has could be summed up in two words: “Bad journalism”. Frum is just vindicating Cowan.

    Just as there is no such thing as being ‘a little bit pregnant’, there is no such thing as a ‘prohibition lite’. Just as you must never let the camel’s nose under the tent, lest you have the whole spitting, sh*tting foul-tempered beast take up your living space, you can likewise never let prohibition into your life for the same reason, with the added danger of possibly losing that life if you do.

    And no amount of lipstick that ol’ Kevie purveys can camouflage the fact that he’s applying it to the butt-ugly face of a Russian boar of a porker. Hopefully, he’ll apply so much makeup he’ll forget which end he’s supposed to kiss.

  6. darkcycle says:

    Not feeling very articulate today. Ya’ll continue, I’m gonna sit out of the conversation for a bit.

  7. Matthew Meyer says:


  8. someguy says:

    Nothing odd about Frum. He’s a huge liar, like all prohibitionists. He isn’t interested in telling the truth about marijuana, he’s only interested in towing the prohibitionist BS. That’s what prohibs do: they lie to the public to keep the public stupid just the way they prefer them.

    • divadab says:

      It’s even worse. Frum doesn’t even believe most of what he writes – he’s a paid propagandist who’s found a niche pandering to the authoritarian right wing. His late mother was a CBC TV journalist, much loved. Frum has used his privileged upbringing to become a good little publicist for the forces of oppression. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, if you don’t mind advancing the cause of unjust dominion.

  9. Servetus says:

    Drug legalization and regulation may indeed exacerbate class differences, at least in the sense that the mindless and morally derelict Sabets, Frums and other prohibisites of the world will finally be reduced by the rest of humanity to the bottom rung of society where they truly belong.

  10. claygooding says:

    “”A world of weaker families, absent parents, and shriveling job opportunities””

    This is the exasperating part,,they use the damage caused by prohibition and figure it will continue after removing it.

  11. Peter says:

    Frum is a neocon who still thinks the illegal invasion of Iraq was justified. Show him another morally bankrupt war (thanks Kev) and of course, he supports it.

  12. allan says:

    it’s generally scientifically accepted that Americans smoke more marijuana per person than any other people on earth.

    Pretty sure Canada and NZ rank ahead of the US. But why quibble?

    Habitual marijuana users experience more difficulty with learning and schooling. They do worse at work, miss more workdays, and suffer more accidents. They have fewer friends and occupy lower rungs on the socioeconomic ladder.

    Darn! Now a pot head will never be elected Prez, never win any Olympic Gold medals… Or is he just re-reading the Firestone “Study” …? But wait…

    He throws in a caveat

    Does marijuana cause these problems? That’s hard to say.


    Gosh now I’m getting confused.

    Research into the effects of long-term cannabis use on the structure of the brain has yielded inconsistent results. It may be that the effects are too subtle for reliable detection by current techniques.

    “subtle”… is that a synonym for “hard to find”?

    And yes Mr Frump, all praise the Kev-Kev! And no peeking behind the curtain.

    • Peter says:

      “subtle”… is that a synonym for “hard to find”?

      Back in the day a dealer in heavily cut coke might say “It’s a subtle buzz,” as he ripped you off. Now of course it’s the truth that’s being adulterated and the public at large who are being ripped off by Kev and Co.

    • primus says:

      We’re #1!!!! How do you spell our country’s name? It’s spelled C,eh? N,eh? D,eh? Go Canada.

  13. In debating Kevin Sabet, I’ve found pushing one question will keep him off balance:

    “Kevin, why do you think the government needs to threaten me with imprisonment if I don’t stop smoking pot?”

    Keep it personal – this isn’t about vague statistics, promises of treatment over incarceration, etc. Explain how the only problem you have with pot is the possibility of getting caught with it, so why should the gov’t manufacture a harm that doesn’t naturally exist?

    Kevin wants to place extreme straw men on either side of his position – either all drugs are available over the counter or we keep locking up potheads – so he can play the “sensible moderate” with his “third way”.

    Close that shit down with this: “It’s not a matter of legalization vs. prohibition, Kevin. It’s force people to stop smoking pot or recognize most pot smokers are like most wine drinkers and regulate it accordingly. Gov’t is either coercing me with force to put down my joint, or it is not.”

    • claygooding says:

      Thanks for dropping by the couch Russ and I have seen Kev’s knuckles turn white when people take out his strawmen and put it on a personal level.although I didn’t connect up the personal assault was the reason,,very good to know,,except the basturd never answers in his opeds except as an anonymous poster supporting his own opinion.

    • darkcycle says:

      That’s also the criticism that will put the lie to his “Third Way” B.S. At the heart of his “treatment” approach is the threat of force. Arrest and legal sanction. there is no “third way”. It’s just prohibition with and extra cooersive, degrading twist.

      • darkcycle says:

        I HATE that. My stinking computer “finishes” words for me. Mostly when they are ALREADY finished! Like making “an” into “and”. It just tried it again!. Some “invisible” feature.

    • Matthew Meyer says:

      Russ used that one in a debate with Kevin at the Baker Institute earlier this year, to good effect:

      (Kevin denied he wants Russ to go to jail…treatment, maybe…)

  14. allan says:

    RIP: Daniel Inouye, 88, US Senator for Hawaii, WWII vet and Medal of Honor recipient…

  15. Opiophiliac says:

    For Washington state, legal pot and now what?

    Officers will nevertheless advise people not to smoke in public, police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee wrote on the SPD Blotter. “The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a ‘Lord of the Rings’ marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to.”
    He offered a catchy new directive referring to the film “The Big Lebowski,” popular with many marijuana fans: “The Dude abides, and says ‘take it inside!'”

    When the police start making Big Lebowski references you know times are a changin.

  16. Boy, this is nothing but a fear mongering article with no facts and a bunch of general statements that make pronouncements like they are facts.

    Kevin and David Frum are pure fear mongers. Not a lick of sense in anything they say. Who buys this garbage?

  17. the “third way” is pretty much spelled out in the latest drug control strategy. seriously, am i the only one who actually reads the damn thing?

    their new approach is to focus on detecting and preventing drug use. they are using an emotional appeal wrapped in the bacon of “health and safety” to an extremely over-frightened populace to ensure they reach the nirvana of “zero-tolerance.”

    you only need to read the first few pages to see what they intend to do. indeed, on p.3 they list only two goals: curtail consumption, and reduce consequences.
    then on page 5 (curiously, page 4 is blank — so there’s even less you have to read), they start the meat and potatoes with their number one concern: “Strengthen Efforts to Prevent Drug Use in Our Communities.” see that word “prevent” — that’s the “evidence based” way to ensure there are no bad consequences of drug use. no use = no problem.

    and in a frightened society where health and safety (primarily for, yep, the children) mean more than everything except money, these assholes aren’t going to simply sign the surrender papers.

    they still fully intend to test their way to victory. so what happened in WA and CO is nowhere near as important as how we address the playbook they so graciously display to us.

    obamacare is the train, our piss is the trail.

    • I am very concerned about drug testing being the “prevent” part of drug control strategy. Strong arming the population with the Justice Department on one side and the drug testing industry on the other, and more money for expanding the drug testing of anyone they can think of, puts the ball right in the hands of Robert DuPont’s crew of drug testers and forced rehab through the courts.

      It paints a pretty sorry picture for everyone.

      • claygooding says:

        What does legalization of marijuana do to their testing?

        Urine testing effectiveness without marijuana being illegal will disappear because of it’s limited detection on other drugs.

        Besides,,if we take marijuana from the ONDCP I expect the entire drug war machine will be dismantled,,it was built to keep marijuana illegal and it’s failure to do so will remove a lot of lobby money keeping it in place now.

        • Byddaf yn egluro: says:

          Great observation!

        • Duncan20903 says:


          clay they can test for legal drugs. When we bought our house my wife and I decided to get life insurance naming each other as beneficiary because it would have been a financial squeeze on the one left were the other to die. So we decided to choose to not enjoy cannabis for 5 weeks in order to get our policies at the lowest price possible. Then the rat bastards went and skipped the testing for THC-cooh but they did test for nicotine. That and cocaine, but no opioids, no amphetamines, no barbiturates, no hypnotics etc etc etc. That’s USAA and they’re very risk adverse in their underwriting. They toss you to progressive for even just 3 minor moving violation at their auto insurance desk. If they’re not testing life insurance applicants for a particular substance you can be frikkin’ certain that they’ve studied the issue and decided that it wasn’t an indicator of risk. I know other life insurance companies do test for and jack up the premium if you test positive but that’s just because they can jack up the premium.

          There are more than a few companies that won’t hire tobacco smokers. Safeway tests their employees for nicotine because the company underwrites their employees health benefits. They’re also smarter than a lot of insurance companies because the employee doesn’t get penalized for having tobacco metabolites in their urine. But those that test “clean” get a substantial “discount” on their share of the premiums. Same end results, different spin doctoring.

          Persons with CDL licenses can be pulled at random and forced to blow for BAC. Their per se limit is 0.04, half of everyone else’s per se limit and they lose their CDL as well as getting convicted of drunken driving.

          Perhaps decades down the road we cannabinoidians will become a protected class but it sure isn’t going to happen in 2013. If they say we have to sit in the back of the bus that’s where we’ll be sitting.

  18. pfroehlich2004 says:

    Very rational words from Cory Booker, likely future Governor or Senator from New Jersey:

  19. Opiophiliac says:

    What is this third way and how does it work? Neither Kevin or the ONDCP ever say, other than vague talk about not emphasizing incarceration and increasing treatment. That’s not a way – it’s just putting lipstick on a pig.

    It’s actually quite easy to reduce incarceration and increase treatment. It can be done it two steps.
    1. Rename prisons “Hospitals”
    2. Call incarceration “treatment” and rename prison guards “drug abuse treatment specialists”
    See how easy that was? This is Sabet’s third way, the world of drug courts, civil commitment and coerced treatment. I’m all for providing treatment for those that want it, but when there is not even enough room for those that want drug treatment it is perverse and counterproductive to try to force someone into a lifestyle they do not want to live (a drug-free lifestyle, by which we exclude caffeine and tobacco from the definition of drug).

    Homosexuality was once considered a mental illness. Today forcing a homosexual man or woman to undergo “conversion therapy” against their will would be considered a humans rights violation. Yet drug users find themselves in the same situation, regardless of whether or not they truly have an “addiction.” And for what, because they choose to consume some substance that grows naturally from the earth (cocaine from coca, morphine derivatives from opium, cannabis products, ect), that means they are suffering from the mental affliction of “drug abuse?” You can call it whatever you want, but if there’s a lock on the door and I am not free to leave I am incarcerated. Moreover as Troy Duster as written in his study (“The Legislation of Morality”) on the civil commitment of opiate users, both the staff and the “patients” tended to view those under commitment as prisoners. What was that about lipstick and pigs?

    The sad thing is I can see Sabet appealing to the “progressive” crowd with his “treatment not jail” mantra. It sure sounds good, I mean what good liberal wouldn’t want more treatment and less jail for drug users, but I suspect most people have not thought through what that would mean or how it would work.

  20. Matthew Meyer says:

    OT: Trinity County, California’s newest member of the Sheriff’s Department is K-9 “Kash.”

    Kinda makes me think their minds are on something other than public safety.

  21. Byddaf yn egluro: says:

    Most of you may know that David Frum is a parasitic prohibitionist —but did you know that he’s also a despicable ghoul that can’t resist turning a tragic event into a showcase for his political jackassery?


  22. Deep Dish says:

    It appears Croatia is joining Portugal in decriminalizing all drugs, in small possession.

    The Croatian parliament approved a bill on 14th December that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. Under amendments to the country’s penal code, possession of drugs for personal use will no longer be a criminal offence… From January 1, those found in possession of drugs can be fined up to 2,680 euros ($3,503), be sent for rehabilitation or ordered to do community service. Previously, anyone convicted of drugs possession could be sentenced to up to three years in jail. Under the new law, however, stricter penalties of up to 15 years in jail will be handed down to those convicted of drug dealing, especially if caught near schools

    The wall continues to crumble, incrementally.

    • claygooding says:

      This sounds like Kevs work,,huge fines and forced rehab but it really depends on how the judges apply the law,,minimum fines or public service being the best outcome but mass rehab and maximum fines would be more Kevs style.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      The median monthly income in Croatia is €729. For those with broken calculators €3503.00 is 4.8 months of income.

      Median household income in the United States is €3324.38

      I’m not sure I would call a fine of $21,404.78 (€16183.85 or 4396.83 * 4.8) all that lenient. On the other hand with fines like that the Croatian police will have no problem making bank and a steady supply of headstash for looking the other way.


    Mike Riggs and David Frum go back and forth with each other

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