Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More lies about marijuana legislation

It's about that time again.

Ever since marijuana was decriminalized (not legalized!) in Massachusetts, some people have been trying their hardest to subvert the legislation by creating ridiculous bills intended to recriminalize it, or at least to exact further punishment upon those who dare to smoke it.

Fine. They're allowed to do that, even if it's against the will of the voters and subverts the intent of the law. They can bring up all the bills they want, no matter how stupid they are.

It's even conceivable that there are good arguments to be made for changes to the law as it stands. Unfortunately, I haven't heard any of those arguments (the closest we get is "there are loopholes," which is pretty meaningless in itself). Instead, we get a lot of lies.

Let's look at some, as displayed in the Sentinel's Bill would fine drivers caught with marijuana article. First a little background on the bill in question:
A bill up for debate today in the Legislature would slap drivers caught with marijuana in their vehicle with a $1,000 fine. Those found in possession of the drug while driving would also have their licenses suspended for up to 90 days.

The bill slated for a hearing today at the Statehouse before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary was filed by state Sen. Scott Brown, a Wrentham Republican who is running this fall for U.S. Senate.
Not that I needed one, but there's yet another reason not to vote for Scott Brown!

Here's Brown's argument for why his dumb bill isn't just a waste of everyone's time:
Brown says he thinks driving under the influence of marijuana is just as dangerous as alcohol. He thinks the state should crack down on driving with pot just as it does against open alcoholic beverages in cars.
What does that have to do with fining and suspending the licenses of people who merely possess marijuana in their car? By all means punish those who are driving under the influence, but just because you have pot in the car doesn't mean you've been smoking it, or that your passengers (if there are any) have been blowing smoke in your face. There are already laws to deal with driving under the influence, how about we stick with those?

Brown is also wrong about it being "just as dangerous as alcohol." Here's a nice epidemiological study (pdf) about just that issue. I'm not going to go over the whole paper, so let's just skip to the end and give their conclusions:
Overall, we conclude that the weight of the evidence
indicates that:

1) There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.
2) The evidence concerning the combined effect of cannabis and alcohol on the risk of traffic fatalities and injuries, relative to the risk of alcohol alone, is unclear.
3) It is not possible to exclude the possibility that use of cannabis (with or without alcohol) leads to an increased risk of road traffic crashes causing less serious injuries and vehicle damage.
Yup, there's no evidence that cannabis use alone (as opposed to cannabis + alcohol) increases the risk of traffic fatalities or serious injuries, and it may even reduce those risks. Cannabis use may increase the risk of minor accidents, but even that is unclear.

So no, it's nowhere near as bad as alcohol. Scott Brown is wrong. I'm going to assume he's just an ignorant twit and not a liar, but the effect is the same. He's introducing legislation based on a false premise.

It would be nice if he were the only guy to be spreading falsehoods in this article, but as usual we need to hear the fact-free meanderings of some poorly-informed cop too.
"When you look at the laws we are passing that outlaw smoking, this law just doesn't make any sense. You can't smoke a cigarette outside a hospital, but you can smoke marijuana," said [Lowell Police Superintendent Kenneth] Lavallee.
This just isn't true. I'm going to assume that a Police Superintendent actually knows the law still prohibits possession of marijuana. If someone is smoking pot outside a hospital he or she can be fined and the pot can be seized.

If Lavallee doesn't know that, he should probably seek a new line of work. If he does know that, he's lying to you.

Because that's what these prohibitionists do. They don't have data to back up their assertions. They don't have evidence for their claims, nor have they generally even sought such evidence. They just make false statements that support what they want to believe, and expect people to fall for it.

Once these people can actually formulate a cogent argument, based on facts and not just what they personally believe, then maybe we would have a reason to take them seriously. As it is, they're just a bunch of liars and fools, spreading falsehoods to promote their own prohibitionist leanings.

Don't fall for it.