Strained comparisons

“Drugs.” It’s a word like “food.” Encompasses a whole range of things, with a wide variety of impacts on humans.

Oreos and broccoli are both “food.” Yet I would guess that any educated person would say that there’s a difference in what happens if you eat a lot of one, compared to a lot of the other.

And yet, we’ve constantly dealt with public policy that treats “drugs” interchangeably (at least when convenient to do so).

NIDA’s Nora Volkow, whose entire job’s purpose is to find negative aspects to “drugs,” epitomizes this (intentionally) sloppy approach to science and policy.

“Look at the evidence,” Volkow said in an interview on the National Institutes of Health campus, pointing to the harms already inflicted by tobacco and alcohol. “It’s not subtle — it’s huge. Legal drugs are the main problem that we have in our country as it relates to morbidity and mortality. By far. Many more people die of tobacco than all of the drugs together. Many more people die of alcohol than all of the illicit drugs together.

“And it’s not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal. . . . The legalization process generates a much greater exposure of people and hence of negative consequences that will emerge. And that’s why I always say, ‘Can we as a country afford to have a third legal drug? Can we?’ We know the costs already on health care, we know the costs on accidents, on lost productivity. I let the numbers speak for themselves.”

We hear this over and over. “We can’t afford a third legal drug. Look at all the costs from alcohol and tobacco.”

Last I heard, marijuana is different than either alcohol or tobacco. Sure you can smoke both marijuana and tobacco (although you don’t have to), but the affects on the lungs are dramatically different and so is the nature of dependency. Sure, both marijuana and alcohol can make you high, but their mechanisms are remarkably different, as are the way they affect behavior.

Why are these the three? Why aren’t we considering the advisability of having the drug caffeine legal, given the societal costs of the other two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco? Or how about sugar? Certainly sugar is much more dangerous to health and national health costs than marijuana.

The “we can’t afford a third legal drug” is extremely dishonest (and so naturally it’s used by the Kevin Sabet group all the time). Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, caffeine, sugar, khat, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, etc., are all different. It does no good to crafting public policy to assume that any one of them will have the same effect on society as one of the others.

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23 Responses to Strained comparisons

  1. DonDig says:

    After so much ‘infrastructure’ having been put in place to prevent ‘another’ drug from becoming legal or accepted, in spite of the fact that it has directly caused no fatalities historically, dismantling that structure and control is what they’re all up in arms against.
    The government doesn’t want to shrink itself, or admit it’s wrong nor oppressive. In this day and age, it certainly doesn’t want to set itself up to have less power. That is anathema to government.

    That is their problem, and ours to overcome.

    • DonDig says:

      “And it’s not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal. . . . ”

      A completely ridiculous lie. Gimme a break! It is precisely because they are more dangerous, (as in lethal), that they cause so much harm.

      That harm was greatly exacerbated by the former prohibition of alcohol, as we all know, yet, of course, alcohol did not become non-lethal because of legalization.

  2. Tony Aroma says:

    I was reading comments to a similar article recently and noticed several different people arguing that alcohol is not physically addictive. To me, that highlights how pervasive the misinformation really is. Not only do many people not even realize that alcohol is a drug (!!!), but they are completely unaware that it’s about the most physically addictive drug there is (based on the severity of physical withdrawal symptoms). Makes me think if the general public were ever really educated about drugs, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  3. darkcycle says:

    This argument stands on two dishonest legs. In order to agree we don’t need a third drug, we have to make believe that marijuana use does not occur under prohibition. Instead of cannabis being widely used and available to anyone, anywhere, at virtually any time.
    We’re not ADDING anything.

  4. This argument is the refuge of cowards and imbeciles.

    Someone saved their child from an inoperable brain tumor by using oil derived from marijuana:

    Cannabis oil on pacifier cures babies brain tumor

    Medical marijuana is gaining acceptance, but could it even help kids? Dr. William Courtney has seen it happen, and on Friday, told HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski about it. Saying he was “quite a skeptic 5 or 6 years ago”, Dr. Courtney continued that “my youngest patient is 8 months old, and had a very massive centrally located inoperable brain tumor.” The child’s father pushed for non-traditional treatment utilizing cannabis.

    “They were putting cannabinoid oil on the baby’s pacifier twice a day, increasing the dose… And within two months there was a dramatic reduction, enough that the pediatric oncologist allowed them to go ahead with not pursuing traditional therapy.”The tumor was remarkably reduced after eight months of treatment. Dr. Courtney pointed out that the success of the cannabis approach means that “this child, because of that, is not going to have the long-term side effects that would come from a very high dose of chemotherapy or radiation… currently the child’s being called a miracle baby, and I would have to agree that this is the perfect response that we should be insisting is front line therapy for all children before they launch off on all medications that have horrific long term side effects.”

    – See more at:

  5. Servetus says:

    The “Third Legal Drug” argument has been used seemingly forever as an excuse by prohibitionists not to think. Nothing about the phrase makes sense, so it becomes a conversation stopper, a kind of debate rubbish that enables police, prosecutors and judges to keep the drug war rolling while maintaining a clear conscience about the lives they wreck. Admitting to ineffectiveness would mean the end of the NIDA, as well as an end to the interventions of a justice system that refuses to recognize a separation of church and state involving drug-taking morality.

    The reason it’s impossible to legislate morality is because making a material object illegal doesn’t change people’s attitudes about it. Such legislation occurs because people tend to objectify a multitude of different fears. Turning their various fears into an object makes it disposable, and therefore provides a convenient means of elimination through a sanctioned prohibition. Nora Volkow can pander to these fears because she’s never consumed illegal drugs. She cannot possibly know what drug consumers know. In a scientific world that values primary information, Volkow’s knowledge about drugs is secondary. It’s based on categorical beliefs. Nora believes certain recreational drugs are bad simply because her mommy (or some religious entity) said so, not because the scientific community has formed a consensus, as she concluded in her manipulated data reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    The question is whether Nora Volkow is a deliberate fake, or is just too scatterbrained to understand the theory of knowledge (epistemology) as it applies to scientific research and data. If she’s a fake, if she’s deliberately using her academic background to support continued human oppression and tyranny, she’s a war criminal.

  6. claygooding says:

    When Nora didn’t know that cocaine and opium are plant based drugs anyone with the knowledge just dismissed her as any kind of scientist or researcher,,I keep posting her ignorance at every place that quotes her about anything.

  7. Hope says:

    She must make an awful lot of money being one of the head liars and deceivers for the entrenched prohibitionists. It would have to be a lot. She seems to have sold her very soul. She can’t believe the things she says.

    If I were she, I’d resign while I still had any integrity or reputation left. If she does.

  8. DdC says:

    Everyday there is a “new” drug commercial blasted every 20 minutes with most of the time spent listing side effects, including death. Then a commercial on lawyers getting victims restitution. Once again we lump tobacco in the same basket as tobacco products, mixed with flame retardants, burn enhancers and pesticides. If you added the cigarette adulterants to cannabis, it too would have a long list of dead users. The enormous red flag is hard to see with blinders covering both eyes. That is where the profits are. A Trillion spent on the Ganjawar is a Trillion in the Pockets of Prohibitionists.

    Once again the drug worriers prove they can only exist with lies and misdirection or censorship. Odds are Increasing That D.C. Will Vote on MJ. History has a way of repeating itself as much as Nutty Nora’s gossip. DC Vote blocked by Barr – 10/21/00

    Now for my morningish Camel straight and coffee with cream and sugar. A ritual of mine for over 40 years. Lungs still clear thanks to my Ganja doobie ritual in the evening.

    Got drought? One Starbucks Latte takes 50 gallons of water.

  9. allan says:

    it is indeed a strange world. I just looked up “obfuscate” and got this: see Volkow, Nora.

  10. allan says:

    Oreos and broccoli are both “food.”

    Over the years I have found this a better description for Oreos, an edible non-food product.

    Let me eat a full bag and I become a weapon.

  11. kaptinemo says:

    They don’t fear addition. They fear subtraction.

    As in with the ‘normalizing’ of cannabis usage, the eventual migration of alcohol and tobacco users to cannabis will lead to the eventual shrinkage of both industries’ respective market shares to what amounts to a very small (and ever shrinking) population of hard-core addicts. Hence, ‘subtraction’…as to also affect the necessity for bureaucrats like Volkow.

    The longer that States suffering economic pauperism withhold from themselves the benefits of a legal cannabis market, the longer those States will suffer economic hardship. The writing is on the wall…in fluorescent emerald green letters: Legalization means black ink on the budgetary ledger, and prohibition a net loss, with the red ink dripping off the edge of the page. Ink partly made of Human blood.

    So…the ‘addition’ of cannabis means a ‘subtraction’ of both tobacco and alcohol; net gains, from a biological viewpoint. It also means less need for hypocritical parasitic bureaucratic scolds on our dime and our time. Definitely a net gain.

    It also means the beginning of a return of personal sovereignty that will end up being expressed not only socially but politically…with less and less need for said parasitic scolds. And that’s what really scares the would-be bureaucratic masters. No wonder they’re trotting out ‘Crazy Uncles’ like Volkow, who doesn’t know cocaine comes from the coca plant; they’re getting really desperate, now.

    • claygooding says:

      That is why I forward every success story from CO to my representatives,especially the Republicans,,I hope it rumbles through their mind while they are discussing making more cuts to education or social programs.
      I wish I had some success stories from WA but haven’t seen one lately,,did see an article stating that WA could run short on marijuana very quickly,,not enough legal production to meet the demands and one about 5 things you need to remember about WA legal marijuana sales,,I didn’t check to see if the author advised keeping your present dealer’s number handy.

  12. cave horse says:

    You’re not gonna get anywhere with these people:

    • primus says:

      This is fabulous. When the people learn of this over-reach, it will make the FDA look like the loons they are. More ammunition for our side; “Well, why would you listen to the FDA when they say that cherries and walnuts are drugs?” It undermines their cred hugely.

  13. Randy says:

    Legal drugs are the main problem that we have in our country as it relates to morbidity and mortality. By far. Many more people die of tobacco than all of the drugs together. Many more people die of alcohol than all of the illicit drugs together.

    The mindset common among public health officials and medical personnel in general is their assumption that maximizing one’s lifespan is the goal of all of us. To them, that should be everyone’s top priority. It never occurs to them that people are aware of the health risks and shorter lifespans associated with these activities and are happy trade a few years at the end of their lives in order to continue consuming these things that they see enriching their life experience.

    But letting people decide for themselves how they want to live their lives isn’t on the menu for the Nora Volkows of the world. It never occurs to her that some people have priorities in their lives other than maximizing their life spans. And if taking on these higher risk activities results in them losing five or ten or fifteen years off their lives, that’s their decision to make and not hers. To her and her ilk, whatever pleasures and enrichment we get doing these things while socializing with friends and family is foolishness in their eyes. In short, she and her ilk are anti-freedom and tyrants.

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