Thursday, February 09, 2012

This argument against legalizing marijuana is just... ludicrous

From The Dish, Patrick Appel points out a pretty poorly reasoned argument against legalizing marijuana that was sent to Although I do not use - nor have ever used - marijuana, I do support its legalization. For various reasons. However, this letter to the editor is - as Appel insinuates - bordering on hallucination:
To The Editor:
Starts off okay.
In regard to the petition to legalize marijuana. Well, here we go down the wrong road again. We legalized alcohol finally, and what happened? It was supposed to be in moderation and for social purposes. It really had no medicinal purpose that I know of other than a form of sterilization of a wound possibly. But, our government saw it was a way that it might as well collect tax on rather than let it continue to run out of control as something it couldn’t stop.
First, we RE-legalized alcohol production, transportation, and sales. The consumption of alcohol wasn't - itself - made illegal. Further, medicinal alcohol sales were permissible. And special dispensations were specifically made for Christian ceremony. So, even during Prohibition, alcohol - as a drink - was not illegal in all cases. What do you mean that "it was supposed to be in moderation"? Where in the repeal of Prohibition was it written that consumption ought to be in moderation? You're projecting your own personal "oughts" onto the written and legal "is". Logic fail.

As for the reasons why the government repealed the 18th Amendment, they were many, but you can be assured that government was well aware of the ability to tax alcohol sales and alcohol production PRIOR to Prohibition. To imply otherwise is just plain silly. But let's move on.
The amount of alcohol-related deaths to date is staggering. It climbs continuously every time somebody has too much or decides to get mad at their loved ones under its influence. I would venture to say 90 percent or close to it would be a close number for calls that law enforcement answer where alcohol is related.
The first statement is true, provided that you share the sentiment of the reader (which I do). However, it doesn't climb "continuously every time somebody has too much". This sentence means that all intoxicated people will cause a death every time they get intoxicated. I'm sorry, but that's just plain wrong. There will be times when an intoxicated person will cause a deal (either to him/herself or to someone else), but there will be more cases when the intoxicated person causes damage to him/herself or someone or something else. And there will be many more cases when the intoxicated person does no damage to anyone (save their liver). Logic fail.

The second part of the sentence is also ludicrously wrong: "[Alcohol-related deaths] climb continuously every time somebody ... decides to get mad at their loved ones under its influence". I'm sorry, but HUH? Take a look at what you're asserting: drunk people kill their loved ones every time they get angry at them. Again: logic fail.
But, we’re not talking about alcohol we’re talking about marijuana, a controlled substance that slows down the thinking process and motor nerves in one’s body. The longterm effects are not known. Neither was alcohol at the time it was introduced. Marijuana, on the other hand, does have a medicinal use. Although, still new in this area I can see a possible use for it there.
"We're not talking about alcohol"? You were talking about alcohol just now, in the previous paragraph. Perhaps, though, this is your attempt at a segue. Okay, fine. I'll give it to you, but it's a poor segue. Style fail.

The fact that it's controlled is not because it "slows down the thinking process and motor nerves in one's body." By this logic, cocaine, crack, speed, and methamphetamine ought to be legal, since they speed up the thinking process and one's reaction times. You are mistaking a effect for a cause. Logic fail. Again.

"The longterm [sic] are not known"? Seriously? You are telling me that there aren't any studies on people who have readily used marijuana for 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, or more? Hmmm... Somehow I doubt the veracity of your statement. Let's do a Google Scholar check for "long term effects of marijuana". Oh, good lord, look at all the citations! Logic fail. Again!

And what do you mean by "Neither was alcohol at the time it was introduced"? In what reality are you living? The introduction of alcohol into society? Did you know that society existed prior to the 18th Amendment (aka Prohibition)? Did you know that people DID know about the effects of alcohol at that time (and it was one of the motivations for that misguided movement)? Did you further know that during the 18th and early 19th centuries, part of one's payment may have included forms of alcohol? In short, what do you mean by this statement?!? History fail! Also: logic fail!
But, as a controlled substance, it should be regulated through a doctor’s prescription and purchased through a pharmacy. Marijuana can be cut with other drugs to make it more potent and dangerous. Do you really think that if you let people openly grow this that they won’t find a way to abuse it?
Alcohol is a controlled substance. Tobacco is a controlled substance. You can buy neither of these without the proper identification showing that you are of-age to purchase these products. The fact that not anyone can purchase them means that they are controlled substances. None of these require a doctor's prescription. None of these need be purchased through a pharmacy. See? Two readily available examples of controlled substances that don't fit into your poor definition of "controlled substance". (And you even used one to start your letter to the editor!) Definition fail!

Did you know that beer can also be "cut" (or mixed) with other types of alcohol to make it more potent? Did you know that alcohol can also be mixed with "energy drinks", and these have been shown to have a greater taxing effect on your body? Did you also know that these are legal to purchase, provided you have the ability to prove that you are over 21 years of age? One quite popular mixture in this vein is called a "vodka and Red Bull". Perhaps you have heard of it. Logic fail!

And people are allowed to brew their own alcohol. In many places people are also allowed to distill their own spirits. Selling them without paying state and local taxes is, however, illegal. However, growing grain or grape on your property for the expressed purposes of making alcohol isn't illegal. Logic fail!
The next thing to think about is who really wants it legalized? What is the main purpose in mind? I can’t imagine honest, hard-working citizens in the United States actually wanting to legalize something that could harm them or their children. If this is the case and it’s a minority that is introducing it, then we should not let this happen because it may offend some smaller group or hurt their feelings. You know I am impressed with one aspect of this. At least the minority introducing this is actually getting the consideration of a vote. I sure don’t recall a vote when it came to taking God out of the schools and our American heritage doctrines.
No... the next thing to think about is who really wants it to remain illegal? However, one could argue that this is where the main point of philosophical contention stems, so I will give you a pass on this one (as well as the rhetorical - and unnecessary - question that is your second sentence).

You can't imagine anyone wanting to legalize something "that could harm them or their children." But we have so many of these things already: tobacco, sedentary lifestyles coupled with poor dietary choices, alcohol (but I know that you are already against alcohol), toxins, motor vehicles, guns, and sex. And all of these cause more deaths in the United States than drug abuse as a whole does. In other words, EVEN IF all the deaths caused by drug abuse were due solely to marijuana, it would still be less than the ones listed. Based solely on the amount of time, money, effort, and shouting that gun-rights advocates make around gun ownership, I would say that I can imagine honest, hard-working citizens of the United States actually wanting to keep legal something that has a record of causing harm to sizable numbers every year. Statistics and logic fail.

Your next statement of, "if a minority introduces something that the majority doesn't like, we shouldn't do it because a smaller minority wouldn't like it" is just bonkers. What does this even mean?!? Logic fail!

You weren't alive when the vote to remove God from government occurred. It happened 200+ years ago. Also, God is not in our "American heritage documents" (I am assuming here that you mean the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) because God was never in them to begin with. History fail!
This would be the answer to our penal systems’ prayers. Overcrowded, just turn them loose. In the future at this rate what crime is great enough to even pass judgment on? Just lower our standards and keep lowering them till there’s nothing left. If one would just think for a few moments and take a close look at the United States to date, I think you would see that the road we’re heading down is much like that. Our forefathers would be turning over in their graves if they could see us now. What started out in good faith for the people by the people has somehow been altered, ratified, changed, or just plain screwed up.
Apparently, you won't likely agree with the scholarly literature about drug courts and about drug rehabilitation programs for marijuana use, so I won't mention them here. However, your statement of, "In the future at this rate what crime is great enough to even pass judgment on?" has been partially answered by the context of this letter! You started this letter by referring to the repeal of Prohibition ("We legalized alcohol finally and what happened?"). Do you remember writing that? Yes? Well, after the repeal of Prohibition, did all the laws of the country disappear? Nope. Newsflash: we will still have plenty of crimes to pass judgment on. Even if you use the argument that we are in a downward spiral that started with the 21st Amendment, I would still say that your argument holds no water, because are making the stupid slippery-slope argument with no proof (and poor argumentation to boot). Logic fail!

Apparently, you only did think for only a few moments, instead of pondering deeply about the course of history that the United States has tracked since the Declaration of Independence was penned in 1776. It's only when you don't spend enough time thinking about these things that you end up making illogical arguments like what we have come through so far. Argumentation fail!

As for our forefathers "turning over in their graves if they could see us now", I'm sorry, but I don't go in for that superstition. If our forefathers could see us now, they would likely be wondering why they were still alive after two centuries (and we would likely be studying them to figure out how to market their solution to long life or to reincarnation or something). However, if you were meaning to use the phrase as a marker to describe how ashamed they might be, then I ask you how you know what they would think. How do you know their morality? How do you know how they would react to things for which they didn't have the dimmest conception when they were alive? In other words, you are projecting your own biased opinion of how the founding fathers might look upon us today. Logic fail!

Also, you make references in your letter to being Christian. Isn't one of the major sins in Christianity the worship of false idols? I'm only pointing this out, because you are imbuing the founding fathers with as much rhetorical standing as one might give to a deity in one's arguments. (I.e., you are substituting a disembodied "other" to carry your own opinions and points of view, because you don't have a good argument and you lack facts to reinforce any shred of an argument that you have.) Religious practice fail!

Furthermore, didn't you know that many of the founding fathers - indeed, many landowners of the day - grew hemp? History fail!
If Mom and Dad can have a 10 by 10 plot, in their own backyard what about the children?
This whole paragraph is poorly integrated into the rest of your letter. Combining it with the body of the next paragraph would do nothing to diminish it's lack of substance, but it would mean that there would at least be some grist (or attempt at it) to accompany the hand wringing. Style fail.
What kind of a message does it send and how will they react when Mom and Dad are gone and they’ve watched and been taught by Mom and Dad how to use it? What about the children’s day care workers? If they smoke it and their senses are dulled by its use and they drop little Johnny on his head, whose fault is it now? If it’s legalized, there is no crime and no recourse for problems it causes. You may be able to sue for a wrongful death or injuries incurred, but other than that there’s been no crime.
 I imagine that it would be the same message that would be taught if their parents were vintners or brewers. Or gunsmiths. Or car enthusiasts.... I don't see what the problem is... unless by "gone" you  mean that Mom and Dad are dead. (If so, why not just say "dead" instead of resorting to a euphamism?) Oooh! An sideways attempt at instilling fear in the reader. (Use of hyperbole: argumentation fail!) How did the parents die? Did they smoke too much tobacco? Have a heart attack? Die in a car accident? Get shot? Die from toxic shock? Hmmm...

If a day care worker dropped "little Johnny on his head", it would be the fault of the day care worker. Really. No. It really would. Unless the law were changed to give immunity from prosecution to people who were intoxicated (i.e., "high") on marijuana, it would likely be something similar (or identical) to what would happen if the day care worker were intoxicated on alcohol (i.e., "drunk"): he or she would face penalties under the law. It's really not too difficult to imagine. Legalizing a substance doesn't abrogate a person from their own responsibilities. Just like it is a constitutional right to own a hand gun, it doesn't mean that it's legal to go on a shooting spree. Just like it is not illegal for people over the age of 21 years old to drink alcohol, it isn't legal to drive while intoxicated. Logic fail!!!

Your last point is absolutely correct (although - not being a lawyer - I cannot say that the types of crimes that you outline are the only thing under which charges can be brought).
The same situation will apply if the driving under the influence of it causes an accident. The police can’t intervene on a situation that isn’t a crime. Please think about these things, it is a big deal and it opens a can of worms that we will pay for the rest of our lives. Any local, state, federal, or other representative who doesn’t think this is a big deal needs to re-evaluate why he is in the position he’s in. It is a big deal.
Again, you fail at your logic. No sane person is saying that marijuana use and possession indemnify a person from any and all legal outcomes that may result in abusing the substance. Therefore, your comment, "The police can't intervene [if the driving under the influence of marijuana causes an accident]" is just illogical. Continued. Logic. Fail!

You ask us, "Please think about these things," and I would ask you to stop and spend more than just the "little bit" of time that you have taken to think about such weighty matters. I'm not even asking you to stop and think about why you should legalize marijuana. I'm asking you to, instead, think about what you have said. Stop and think about how absolutely incorrect your starting premises are. Stop and think about how poorly though out your argumentation is. Stop and think about how your commentary holds no internal logic. But you aren't going to do that. So, we must continue.
Anything that can be used can be abused. Pain sufferers should have what it takes to relieve pain without question. Growing it in your backyard, come on, people, ridiculous. We have an obligation to our children if nothing else. If this doesn’t send all the wrong messages then I don’t know of anything that would.
"Anything that can be use can be abused." Much like your abuse of logic.

I agree that growing marijuana in your back yard is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as it is to grow tobacco or hops or barley or grapes in your back wine to make cigarettes, beer, or wine. They should be available for purchase at a licensed and state approved location.

Your appeal to "our children" is, again, poor argumentation, and if its repeated used doesn't send the wrong message about good skills in rhetoric and debate, I don't know what possibly could.
In closing I’d like to say this... we all have a conscience, I think if you ask yourself if this is right or wrong and give yourself an honest answer, I think surely you would have to see this is clearly wrong. Religiously speaking, I would surely think that most Christian majority U.S. religions would not endorse this. As a Christian myself, I know that my God does not endorse it.
We do all have a conscience (well, perhaps, save for psychopaths). That is, we all have a "conscience", if you want to use that rather nebulous word to describe the socially and evolutionarily constructed and constrained methods of thinking about and relating to those we consider closer and farther from our "group". If that's what you mean, then this is an obvious statement and is, therefore, irrelevant to the logic of an argument. Style fail.

Your phrase, "I think if you ask yourself ... this is clearly wrong," is based on a logical fallacy. You presume a shared singular morality, and that's where your logical failing begins. You also presume that the evidence - such as it is - supports your personal constructed morality, and that 's where you dig yourself further into error. You finally presume that - since you perceive yourself to be moral, that you presume others to share your morality, and that the people will agree with the poor "evidence" you have cited - people will agree with you. This is merely solipsism, and yet another logic fail.

What is a "Christian majority U.S. religion"? The largest single denomination Christian faith in the U.S. is Catholicism. However, Catholicism isn't a U.S. Christian religion. It's a worldwide religion. You can't mean the mainline Protestant forms of Christianity, since they are also international. Perhaps you mean one of the Evangelical Christian churches in the U.S.? If so, then it cannot be a majority of the population, since evangelicals are ~26% of the population (i.e., hardly a majority). I know that you can't mean the Black Protestant churches, since these are - by definition - a minority. Definition fail!

Based on what I find online, it does seem that Catholic bishops tend to be against the use of marijuana. (Since I've posited that the Catholic Church is the only major single sect of Christianity in the U.S., I will stop there. It's not my job to track down all the clergy of notable rank of all the church sects in the U.S. to determine who supports and who doesn't support marijuana use.) However, this amounts to an argument from authority, and is thus another logic fail. (Did you see the metahumor of linking to a definition of argument from authority?)
Thanks for listening and this is not meant as a slam, but rather as a plea to please do the right thing if the need arises.
You're welcome. It was definitely a slam, since you used faulty logic, a-historicity, poor argumentation, and a lack of facts to make a point that is only based upon arguments from authority (your god, your opinion of what the founding fathers would have thought, and of religious clergy). My plea to you is to improve your argumentation skills in the future.

Back at The Dish, Appel links to Scott Morgan's response to the above letter. I only read through the one paragraph that Appel used from Morgan's response before I wrote my paragraph-by-paragraph response to the "argumentation" from It's good to note that my perceptions of the piece were shared by someone else:
You may think legalizing marijuana is such a great idea, but what if it's actually the worst idea ever? Here's someone who believes the latter, and they've written a letter to their local newspaper explaining why.
What about the children’s day care workers? If they smoke it and their senses are dulled by its use and they drop little Johnny on his head, whose fault is it now? If it’s legalized, there is no crime and no recourse for problems it causes. You may be able to sue for a wrongful death or injuries incurred, but other than that there’s been no crime.
The same situation will apply if the driving under the influence of it causes an accident. The police can’t intervene on a situation that isn’t a crime. Please think about these things, it is a big deal and it opens a can of worms that we will pay for the rest of our lives. []
If even one sentence of this impressively incoherent editorial made any sense at all, I suppose I'd be in a different line of work. Heck, I might even be dead. We might all be dead, slaughtered ironically by the very people whose job it was to care for us while our parents were at work. After all, at the risk of terrifying the above editorial's author, marijuana is already being grown, sold, and smoked in every neighborhood in America (except the South Bronx, where they've now captured every single offender).

Fortunately, things aren't actually that bad in real life, especially if you're not a paranoid idiot. For example, our foremost concerns about bad things happening at day care centers can be resolved satisfactorily in almost every case simply by choosing a facility with a good reputation for not killing the children.

What we have here, and it's hardly a rarity in the marijuana debate, is a bit of a mix up between the rather divergent concepts of legalizing simple possession of marijuana vs. legalizing extraordinary acts of recklessness or insanity whose perpetrator happens to have consumed marijuana prior to the incident. The idea is that walking down the street with a gram of pot in your pocket would no longer be a crime. Walking down the street throwing snakes at people and screaming voodoo curses would still be illegal, but the amount of pot in your pocket at the time would be considered irrelevant at trial.

In other words, the answer to the question "whose fault is it now?" would be the same after legalization as before. If you drop a kid, crash a car, or throw a snake at somebody, it's your fault. If marijuana was involved, it's still your fault for consuming marijuana, not marijuana's fault for being consumed by you. That's the rule for alcohol, and in case anyone somehow managed not to notice, it has yet to turn our day care centers into drunken death camps.

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