Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Question 2. Yes!


I was all set to write about this plan to shut off streetlights. I was going to debunk the idea that it would lead to more crime, which is very popular among the big piles of stupid who frequent the S&E's message boards.

But I figure the paper itself will probably do an editorial about it within the next week or so, and I can deal with it then. The S&E isn't representative of the community by any means, but they do a great job of promoting the ideas of the cranks who hang out on their message boards.

So instead, I'll deal with their current stupid editorial. As you've probably already figured out, it's about Question 2, and in a totally-not-shocking move is called Vote no on Question 2.

It's also laughably inept. Full of strawmen, non sequiturs, and just plain nonsense. It deserves a thorough fisking. Which will commence right now.

It actually starts off perfectly fine. Just the facts:
Question 2 proposes to decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.

It would not, however, legalize possession. Civil penalties would be enforced, and crimes such as driving under the influence of marijuana or intent to sell marijuana would remain the same.

Civil penalties for those age 18 or older would include forfeiture of the marijuana and a fine of $100.

Those under 18 would be subject to the same penalties, if they complete a drug-awareness program within one year of the offense.

The program would include 10 hours of community service and at least four hours of instruction or group discussion concerning the abuse of marijuana and other drugs.

If the program is not completed, the youth's fine could be increased to as much as $1,000. The offender could also face delinquency proceedings.

The main purpose is to prevent a one-time youthful offense from becoming a lifetime criminal record, which can make it difficult to gain employment, rent an apartment and secure student loans.
That is all correct. Sadly, that's the last we'll see of the facts for awhile. Wave goodbye if you like!

Here's where it starts to go terribly wrong:
We understand the intent. However, if this question is approved, what kind of message will it send to kids?

That breaking the law a little is OK? That if laws are broken often enough eventually we'll soften those laws?
I've lost count of the number of times I've read editorials in the S&E bitching about "sending the wrong message" to kids. It's one of their favorite arguments, perhaps because it doesn't actually mean anything. It's a thought-terminating cliche, so they can just sit back after using it and look smug. No followup required!

They do follow it up, though. With some nonsense about "breaking the law a little" being OK. Huh?

Possession of marijuana would still be illegal. It would just be a civil instead of a criminal offense. There's punishment if you do it, it's just that the punishment is more in line with the level of the offense. "Breaking the law a little" doesn't even make sense, and certainly isn't relevant here.

And yeah, if laws are broken enough, maybe they should be softened! What's wrong with that? We all break the old "blue laws" all the time (need I bring up fornication again?). Times change, laws change with them. If a law is so ridiculous that most people feel fine about breaking it, then maybe it needs to change. Has the S&E forgotten that this is a democracy?

On we go!
Massachusetts laws already require judges to dismiss charges and seal the records of first-time offenders.

Most first-time offenders are now required to participate in substance-abuse education and community-service work.
Okay, I was wrong up above. There were a couple more facts that snuck in. Unfortunately it appears they're attempting to be used to suggest that the criminalization of marijuana possession is fine because first-time offenders can have charges dismissed. This happens after a period of probation, which the editorialist neglected to mention.

Regardless of how these facts were meant to be used, we can just say "yep, that's true" and move on. It's not like the editorialist actually used them to make a coherent argument.

Back to crazy!
It is important to know that the marijuana available today is much stronger than it was 30 years ago.
Actually, no. It's not at all important to note that. Even if it's true, it's totally irrelevant to the issue at hand. Question 2 deals with decriminalization of up to an ounce of marijuana, not the potency of the pot. Could we stay on topic, please?
It typically contains nine times the amount of mind-altering THC and is twice as carcinogenic as tobacco.
Dammit, what did I just say?

Still, nine times the THC? What wondrous times we live in to get such good pot! Sadly, it's not true. The pot today is pretty much the same as the pot 30 years ago.

Also, it's good to know that smoking pot is equivalent to smoking two cigarettes. If someone smokes ten joints that's like smoking a pack of cigarettes, cancer-wise! And if they do that every single day for multiple years it could be a problem!

But nobody smokes 10 joints a day, every day, for years and years. That would be insane. Studies have shown no connection between marijuana use and cancer. So why even bring up the carcinogens?

Oh, scare tactic. Right.

They don't really care about the health risks of smoking pot. It's not a health issue to them at all, really. It's a criminal issue. This talk of health risks is just meant to make marijuana seem more dangerous than it actually is.

We're starting to approach the end of the editorial. Time for the writer to bring out his big guns!
Making possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense would serve to embolden drug dealers and prompt teens to think it's acceptable to use the drug.
Seriously? You're sticking with the lame "sending kids the wrong message" non-argument? I'm pretty sure "teens" don't base their judgment on the acceptability of using marijuana on whether it's a civil or criminal offense. Has the editorialist even ever met a teenager?

Also, "embolden drug dealers"? What the fuck? Question 2 has nothing at all to do with drug dealers. No laws about dealing are changing. It's about possession, not selling. Drug dealers will be no more or less bold if this question passes than they were before.

But hey Mr. Editor, you're on a roll. You've provided not one valid argument against Question 2. Could you maybe vomit out some more irrelevant and/or discredited talking points? Please?
Plus, marijuana often serves as a gateway to stronger and more addictive substances that destroy lives and families.
Thanks, that's perfect!

First, this is of course irrelevant to the issue of Question 2. Question 2 is not "is pot good or bad?", it's about how to properly deal with people who illegally possess it. Do we fuck up their lives permanently for a little pot, or use a lesser punishment?

This "gateway drug" nonsense has been around forever. You'd think people would stop using it, because it's such a ridiculously easy argument to debunk.

Here's how it generally goes. The anti-pot brigade brings out some scary junkie. Someone who's done every drug they could find, and committed any number of crimes to finance their drug habits. They then point out that this person started with marijuana.

Kapow! Marijuana leads to heroin junkiedom!

But it doesn't. You can't work backwards. Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in this country. So chances are that if you're someone who does less popular illegal drugs (like heroin, crack, etc) at some point you've probably also used marijuana. You're even more likely to have used the terrible gateway drug of alcohol, which of course should also be banned!

Of course most people who use marijuana don't go on to use anything else. Just like most people who drink alcohol don't go on to use other stuff. There's no causative link at all.

Hey, remember back when this editorial was dealing with facts? I miss those days.

Oh well, one more sentence to go. What's their coup de grace?
Decriminalizing marijuana amounts to an endorsement of substance abuse, and we do not support it.
That's not even an argument. It's just a lie. Well, the bit about endorsement is. They're probably not lying about not supporting it.

First off, nobody endorses substance abuse, you fucking moron. Even beer commercials--which explicitly endorse substance use--don't endorse substance abuse. Learn the difference.

Second, making marijuana possession a civil rather than a criminal offense doesn't even endorse substance use. It changes the penalties for something that remains illegal.

Let's say that somehow mail fraud had picked up the death penalty as its usual punishment. If you mail fireworks, you get executed. If they then change the law so that the penalty for mail fraud is a steep fine, that doesn't mean anybody endorses mail fraud. It just means that the original punishment was unnecessarily harsh.

It also doesn't mean people (or "teens" or whatever) are going to suddenly go out and commit mail fraud because the penalties aren't as bad anymore.

Question 2 is about changing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana from being something that can ruin your entire life to something that will be a pain, but not ruin your life. That's it.

It won't increase drug use, it won't bring society to its knees. It'll stop some of the harm that's done to people in the name of the ill-conceived "war on drugs," which is truly just a war on the American people.

The gobshites at the Sentinel won't recognize this, of course. But they're clearly not operating in the real world. For those of us who are, voting YES ON 2 is a good idea.