NIDA, MAPS........and Royal Dutch/Shell?

The advocates for legalization of the recreational and clinical use of marijuana and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy" in street parlance) are quite fond of questioning the observations published by scientists on the detrimental effects which may result from recreational use. This will come as no shock to my readers. Nor will the observation that certain legalization advocates seem to feel that drug abuse scientists funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse are willing tools and puppets of a vast right-wing prohibitionist conspiracy.
Since I have, do or likely will fall into this category of scientists, I take exception to this position.


Specifically, I have been known to bash the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for their unending attacks on MDMA science and scientists.
250px-TrojanHorseMythImage.jpgReaders will also note that I've been known to launch a broadside or two (or three) at drug legalization advocates, questioning their science, so to speak, on the basis of their underlying motivations. The cannabis fans are on my list too. I am particularly bothered, one will note, by my belief that much of the effort to get cannabis or MDMA established as clinically useful therapeutic agents is motivated mostly by a cynical Trojan Horse strategy to facilitate recreational use, rather than any true belief that these specific drugs are, or ever could be, good therapeutics.
On either side, accusations of bad-faith and supposedly objective outcomes driven by a pre-existing belief or positions have elements of truth and elements of an unfair dismissal of a legitimate position. It is not easy for us to be fair when we have convinced ourselves that the other side is operating from a bias or spinning their message to comport with.....interests.
You will have noticed that the Scienceblogs organization has launched a new group blog (For a Limited Engagement! Act Now!) entitled "Next Generation Energy" which is intended to be:

a new group blog about energy problems and solutions.
For the next three months, Seed editors and a hand-picked team of guest bloggers will delve into energy policies of all kinds--from carbon capture to windmills.
Every Wednesday, we'll post a new topic or question about alternative energy on the blog. In the days following, our expert guess bloggers will post their answers to the question, and respond to questions and comments from readers.

There is another interesting new experiment being attempted with this new blog.

This blog is sponsored by Shell. Shell is working on a second generation of biofuels that don't use food, but rather sources like wood chips and even algae that can reduce carbon emissions.

Uh-oh. Readers have already been expressing skepticism over the motivations for this sponsorship association and suspicion that content might be, errr, modulated by this association with Royal Dutch/Shell. Since they are in the Olde Energy business and all, it is not completely nuts to assume they might have some interest in the way New Generation Energy policies, regulations, technologies, markets and businesses develop over the coming years. Make no mistake, for those of us with a memory for corporate history that stretches back a couple or three decades, Royal Dutch/Shell is more or less permanently on the naughty list. Exploitation of developing countries, propping up oppressive governmental systems to further same, environmental damage, corporate shenanigans of the usual type including political bribery...the list of accusations (and dead-to-rights proof in many cases) is long.
So the readers have voiced their suspicions.
Fair Trade: It'll take a moment to get over the fact that Shell are sponsoring the blog but I guess there's no problem with 'poacher turned gamekeeper'...
bsci: since this is new, a more prominent explanation would be appropriate. Who gets the money from Shell? Is it significantly more than the standard ad box? Who would lose money if Shell removes it's sponsorship and do they have any editorial control or ability to suggest topics? Will this blog or specific authors disappear if the sponsorship ends?
Martin: It seriously undermines ScienceBlogs to see a Shell icon next to articles here, and it undermines any blogger who takes part. Even if you claim to be objective, the fact is that many people will - quite rightly from past experience - simply not believe you.
Naturally, the Sb folks have considered these sentiments and feel that this sponsorship from Shell is not a problem. After all, Shell is already a sponsor of Sb with a big banner right up top much of the time.
Responses from BorgQueen:Shell's sponsorship of a specific blog is new, and part of a deeper advertising relationship they have with ScienceBlogs (Shell ads have been on the network and in the magazine for awhile). Shell pays ScienceBlogs for various advertising/sponsorship services, and then ScienceBlogs pays our bloggers.
Shell does not have any editorial control. The bloggers were all chosen by Erin Johnson and me, after we surveyed the blogosphere for alternative energy experts. Shell is not in contact with any of the guest bloggers.
and the Kirsh: Shell has no influence on content and does not communicate with us or guide topics. I joined NexGen because a forum specifically on this single topic--a very relevant subject this summer and for the foreseeable future--offers the means for bloggers involved in the science behind emerging energies to contribute thoughts in a single place and thereby promote discussion.
Still. People will remain suspicious. As well they should. I think that a rare bit of wisdom from Greg Laden just nails it:

Yes, sponsorship absolutely means that there is the possibility of bias, intentional or not. There is not intentional bias. But subconscious bias, which we DO NOT WANT TO HAPPEN, cannot be ruled out unless everyone is vigilant. We will be vigilant. Our fellow Sblings will be vigilant. So please, dear reader and commenter, also be vigilant and help us make sure that this is a productive discussion about alternative energy and saving the planet ... etc. etc.

And therein lies the solution, no? If you think I'm bashing on the drug legalization types unjustifiably, call me out. I'll continue to do the same for their science-denial positions. And if energy policy or corporate greenwashing is your game, go on over to the NGE blog and, um, vigil.

43 responses so far

  • Dunc says:

    If you think I'm bashing on the drug legalization types unjustifiably, call me out.

    Oh, OK then... 😉
    While there may be many on the legalisation side who do base their position on the ludicrous and obviously false idea that recreational drug use is never harmful (although I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who proposes this, at least not anyone over the age of 25 and not actually on drugs at the time), there are also many of us who base our position on the (hopefully better-founded) idea that prohibition is not the most effective means of managing drug-related harms, and has numerous other drawbacks and undesirable side-effects which other approaches do not share.
    It is entirely possible for people of good conscience to agree that there is a problem, whilst disagreeing about best policy approach to tackling that problem.
    Sorry, just killing time until it's time to go home... 😉

  • Dunc, I'm not so charitable. There are people like that, but they only constitute about half of the pro-drug legalization movement. The other half has purely selfish motivations: they want to get high.
    Furthermore, many of their claims are untested, and the small amount of data that we have belies their claims. We don't know for sure whether and how much drug use will go up if drugs are legalized, but some will confidently claim that removing the laws will have no effect on drug use. Alaska flirted with legalizing marijuana, mj use went up, and they re-prohibited it. That's one small strike against them.

  • Jamie says:

    Neural -
    http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=3383
    Take that as you will. It is NORML, but on the other hand they are citing papers looking at statistics from all over the world and you are citing a wholly unsubstantiated anecdote from one part of the US.

  • Jamie says:

    And also, for people who don't believe in medical paternalism, just saying "drug use will go up" may not be a terribly convincing argument. Giving women the vote resulted in more women voting, too. Legalising homosexuality probably meant more gay people came out of the closet.

  • DuWayne says:

    Neural Transmissions -
    Here's a claim that is pretty absolute; Prohibition and The War On Drugs(tm) are both absolute and abysmal public health failures.
    I am and have been a staunch advocate for legalization of almost all drugs (PCP for example would be a reasonable drug to continue to restrict). I do not believe that the drugs in question are benign, indeed many of them are extremely bad on a number of levels. This doesn't change the fact that my body is mine and I should be able to put into it, pretty much anything I choose.
    Due to our insane War on Drugs, we are world leaders in incarceration. In this "land of the free" we incarcerate a larger percentage of our population than nearly any country in the world (look at the CIA world fact book for comparison figure cia.gov for a link). The vast majority for non-violent drug crimes. Many states spend better than forty percent of their budgets on prisons. MI for example, spends more than sixty percent.
    Aside from the monies spent on incarcerating a huge swath of our population, we are also spending more than thirty billion a year on enforcement - at the federal level. This does not include billions more at the state and local levels.
    Now I am not going to claim that legalization won't increase use, obviously it will. I will argue though, that it is unlikely to cause a significant, long term increase in use. It is unlikely that social stigma attached to such things as heroin abuse or crack use will suddenly change with legalization. Especially if some of the billions currently being thrown in the toilet (not to mention the billions in currently unrealized taxes on said drugs) are spent on education and drug abuse treatment and prevention.
    I am also not going to claim that legalization will instantly improve drug related public health issues. It will however have a long term positive effect. For certain, it is going to reduce violent crime that is related to the illicit drug trade. I haven't the illusion that legalization will stop all of the violence in a shit neighborhood such as mine, but it will certainly put a dent into it. Aside from that, as the legal fears are quelled it will make it easier for many to seek treatment.
    Legalization would also likely make research into and treatments for substance abuse easier. From a harm reduction standpoint, legalization has a lot of potential benefits. While it is obvious (DM for example) that not everyone in addiction/illicit drug research buys this argument, there is a growing and already sizable segment of that community that does believe it. As much as anything, I imagine that this is in part a response to the fact that prohibition and the War on Drugs are abysmal failures, so trying something new is an increasingly attractive idea.

  • neurolover says:

    But, last time I checked, there was no scientific basis for the argument that more women voting was medically harmful. If we believe that there's a finite risk to drug use (marijuana or MDMA or alcohol) the paternalism is of a completely different order. You can make the ideological argument that it doesn't matter if a drug has medical consequences, that adults should be able to make the decision for themselves whether to indulge. But, if you make that ideological argument, no science is necessary, and the ideology should spread to any drug (not just the theoretically "safer" ones like marijuana).

  • Art says:

    @Neural: I'm less concerned with drug use changing than morbidity, mortality, and cost to society changing. Do reasonable fluctuations in use really correlate with these things? I would be surprised.
    @DrugMonkey & Greg Laden: The problem with sponsorship isn't just possible bias. I think the more profound problem is that participating bloggers are lending their name and good reputations to a p.r. campaign by a company with a truly evil recent history, such as the 1995 execution of nonviolent environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others on trumped-up charges. There are some whose hands you can't even shake without getting dirty.

  • Pete Guither says:

    Willing puppets, no. But please excuse us for having a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to the realities of funding sources. The government has made it clear time and again that taxpayer resources will only be used to oppose legalization in any form.

    "Nora Volkow, has stressed that it's 'not NIDA's mission to study the medicinal use of marijuana or to advocate for the establishment of facilities to support this research.' Since NIDA's stated mission 'is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction, federally supported marijuana research will logically tilt toward the potential harms, not benefits, of cannabis" (Boston Globe 2006)

    Congressional authorization of the ONDCP requires that the drug czar:

    shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I

    Knowing these basic facts, I think that drug policy reform advocates can be forgiven for being skeptical about the overall (if not the individual) thrust of government-funded illicit-drug science. If the funding source is more interested in hearing negatives, then it only makes financial sense to design studies that are likely to find negatives.
    Another important point is that reform advocates are forced to deal with both the science and the politics of the situation. They know that the government will immediately send out press releases about ANYTHING that reflects negatively about illicit drugs and never the reverse. This goes to the absurd, with the ONDCP trumpeting a poorly designed New Zealand study with an extraordinarily tiny sample claiming a cannabis-cancer connection, while ignoring Tashkin's huge government funded [only because they expected a different result] UCLA study which showed absolutely no correlation between even heavy cannabis use and lung cancer.
    Finally, as soon as the subject of the legalization is brought up, it is entirely inappropriate to ONLY consider the relative dangers of drugs and whether, and to what degree, their use and/or abuse will increase or decrease in such a model (and the evidence is not quite as you paint it). Any discussion of legalization and harm MUST include the harms of prohibition in the equation.
    It is intellectually dishonest to oppose legalization solely on the basis of the harms of drugs without discussing the harms of prohibition.
    And again, this is where reform advocates have trouble with government funded science (not necessarily from the science itself, but from its use). Every revelation of some harm of cannabis, for example, is immediately followed (and I've even seen it in the abstracts of studies) with some sort of governmental proclamation regarding why this shows it is important to keep marijuana illegal, when that conclusion is not supported at all by the science.

  • neurolver says:

    But, women voting aside, Drugmonkey has brought up another issue -- the question of concerns of bias and when it applies. Scientists tend to be dismissive of the concept that bias influences our outcomes (i.e. NIH funding, or pharmaceutical funding, or the CDC). I generally agree. But, I think that presuming that getting your research dollars from Shell makes you orders of magnitude more suspect than getting your research dollars from NASA seems problematic to me, and seems like it draws on the idea that "corporations/for profit" == bad. "non-profit" == good. But, that's a false dichotomy. As we discussed in thinking about fraud & profit in science, it's a continuum and a question of how incentives are set up.
    Shell may do a lot of bad things, but they provide the gas that we put in our cars. Electric companies may poison the environment, but they light our houses (and, honestly, the people who work there care, really care about that. They stare at the big electricity grid maps, and a little part of them dies when a piece of the grid turns dark). To them, it's a failure, and they don't like to fail. People are people, everywhere. They lie and have honor and they respond to incentives. Incentives might produce bad behavior more often in some contexts than others.
    Pharmaceutical companies would *like* to make drugs that work, Shell would *like* to make energy that doesn't harm the environment, as long as we make sure they're incentivised to do so. Scientists would like to add to the body of knowledge about our universe, if the right incentives are there. If not, they'll go chasing after priority, and flashy publications, and harm the world, too

  • JSinger says:

    The bloggers were all chosen by Erin Johnson and me, after we surveyed the blogosphere for alternative energy experts.
    Maybe I'm missing something but, with the exception of Joseph Romm, are any of those people "alternative energy experts"?

  • juniorprof says:

    Pharmaceutical companies would *like* to make drugs that work
    Of course, this is how they make money.
    Shell would *like* to make energy that doesn't harm the environment
    HILARIOUS!! They're too busy laughing their way to the bank to care. Give me a break!!

  • Jamie says:

    "if you make that ideological argument, no science is necessary, and the ideology should spread to any drug"
    Agreed. I just don't like to see all legalisation advocates characterised as science deniers any more than you or Drugmonkey would presumably want to be seen as alcohol or tobacco science deniers. The point about women voters was indeed about ideology, not science, well done for spotting it.

  • DuWayne says:

    neurolover -
    But, if you make that ideological argument, no science is necessary,...
    While it isn't necessary for the argument, it is critical to implementation. As jamie mentions, not all of us are anti-science, not by a long shot. While I happen to advocate legalization, I place tremendous importance on the science to make it work. On many different levels, in many differing contexts, the study of currently illicit drugs, especially study of the most negative effects are absolutely critical. So not only am I not anti-science about this topic, I am very much a supporter of good science.

  • luke says:

    I just want to know when DrugMonkey will stand up and advocate the prohibition of alcohol and tobacco?
    These drugs are also baaad, right?

  • pinus says:

    by the #'s, I am believe that alcohol and nicotine are more costly.

  • bayman says:

    Pharmaceutical companies would *like* to make drugs that work. Of course, this is how they make money.
    I think that's a favorably biased oversimplification. Drugs that are aggressively marketed, highly addictive or dependency-forming, and totally ineffective at resolving the patient's underlying health problem are lucratively profitable.

  • student_b says:

    Eh, Neural Transmission, that's why the rate of drug consummation is so low in the USA and so high in European countries with laxer regimes... ups. 😉
    PS. Hey you started with assumptions without data, so I can do it too. 😉

  • yogi-one says:

    The drug war is an absolute, horrible, miserable, irreversible , irredeemable failure. Don;t ask me, as my city's (Seattle) former Chief of Police, Norm Stamper.
    http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/399/normstamper.shtml
    "Chief Norm Stamper: I believe it is time for a radical overhaul of the nation's drug laws. It's time to get out of the business of drug enforcement as we know it. The drug war has been an abysmal failure, causing more damage than it has prevented. "
    Question: Why would the man who was responsible for carrying out the mandates of the War On Drugs in the 1980s in a major American city become a staunch critic of that same War?
    Because he figured out the real effects of the War On Drugs:
    1. It got a lot of his police officers killed.
    2. It filled up the jails with non-violent offenders, costing the taxpayers quite a bit of money
    3. The prison lobby saw it as a racket, an opportunity to invest in more prisons due to the need to incarcerate more people
    4. All the above money poured into prison building and the War on Drugs came at the expense of the school systems and other public services.
    5. It ruined a lot of people's lives, in many cases destroying young people's futures with a simple first-time felony possession conviction.
    And oh yeah, let's not forget: IT DID NOT DECREASE ILLEGAL DRUG USE RATES, AND IT PUMPED UP THE PRICE OF STREET DRUGS, MAKING DRUG DEALING A MORE LUCRATIVE PROFESSION.
    So I agree, staying stoned a lot and using drugs like amphetamines or depressants recreationally is not a good thing, and it can harm people.
    But two wrongs don't make a right.
    Similarly, the War on Drugs solved none of the problems of drug abuse, and created quite a few social problems that weren't there before.
    A different solution is needed.

  • When I was a grad student I studied the physiologic effects of a particular bad substance. During my defense someone asked me, "So, not-yet-Dr. Isis, it sounds like you think this stuff is really bad. How do you prevent yourself from being biased?" At the time I said something only mildly intelligible. But, I have often thought back in that question...
    The truth is, we're all biased. What takes the bias out of science is peer review. So you keep doing what you're doing (and, for the record, I happen to think you are "in the right") and they will keep doing what you're doing and in the end your peers will decide which of you is full of shit.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    jamie@#11 and luke@#13,
    I am not entirely sure where you get the impression that I minimize or overlook the dangers of nicotine and alcohol consumption. I don't typically focus on these for the blog but that is hardly the same thing as denying or minimizing the science.
    I am on record with my opinion that the evidence of alcohol and nicotine being legal and other drugs being illegal shows us that comparisons of relative harm are completely beside the point when it comes to legal status. I may or may not have explicated this before as it is pretty obvious. In case I haven't been clear, what I mean by this is that alcohol and tobacco have very clearly established detrimental effects on public and individual health which are attributable in large part to them being addictive drugs.

  • bsci says:

    I'm coming a little bit late to this thread, but in both the NIDA and Shell cases, the issue is not merely whether there is bias, but whether the process is open. People like Pete Guither (#8) might not like that the we have an institute of drug abuse that focuses on abuse rather than potential benefits of the same substances, but they are clear about what they do, who they fund, and what is required to get funding. NIMH, NCI and other institutes might let drug benefits better fit in their mission.
    The issue with the Shell sponsorship is that the scienceblogs higher-ups seem to be trying very hard to keep every aspect of this contract besides, they are paid an unstated amount of money and include an ad in the left column secret. We don't know if Shell is giving enough money beyond the typical ad rate to influence future editorial decisions. We don't know who selects the questions for the weekly blog. This lack of transparency and lack of interest in transparency is exactly what separates the NIDA from the Shell examples.

  • Interrobang says:

    There are people like that, but they only constitute about half of the pro-drug legalization movement. The other half has purely selfish motivations: they want to get high.
    As near as I can tell, that's a false dichotomy. Can't you both think that enriching the prison-industrial complex and organised crime generally through prohibition is a public health and social policy disaster and want to get high, too? Personally, I'd love to see my government take that last step (which you Americans keep not letting us take; every time we try it, you get very crankly with us) and legalise marijuana for recreational use as well as medical use, and just about everything else, too.
    I'd really love to see the local Hell's Angels' go out of business because suddenly, most of their product line is available at every 7-11. I'd love to see the local jurisdiction reap the tax benefits of legal, government-regulated drugs, just as they do with alcohol. (They could use some of the revenues to fund rehab and recovery programmes, needle exchanges, and harm reduction initiatives.) I'd really love to see the local police force actually have to stop trying to score high-RWA brownie points by busting every pothead and indie grow-op in the city, to enthusiastic walrus cheers from the local fishwrap, and actually have to concentrate on solving some actual crimes for once, like who's abducting, raping, and murdering prostitutes, or why an acquaintance of mine got stabbed six times while leaving a bar downtown. I'd also really love to see the "Oh, fuck, guess the thumbscrews have stopped working," look on the faces of the then-current US administration when the law passes.
    And would I be lining up in the 7-11 to buy a pack of joints endorsed by the Beneficent State? Yes. You bet. (And my spending at the local government-run liquour store would go down accordingly. I'd really rather get high than drink.) Would I be doing it every single day, or even every month? Shit no, I've got better things to do...

  • cashmoney says:

    Can't you both think that enriching the prison-industrial complex and organised crime generally through prohibition is a public health and social policy disaster and want to get high, too?
    Sure, just like a NIDA funded scientist can take their money to discover drug risks while still thinking that drugs should be legalized. The difference is why you are arguing what you are arguing (which of course only you really know).
    If you are arguing for all these non-recreational use benefits of legalization without a neutral approach to the evidence, or disingenuously, or just plain ignorantly parroting NORML lit...well that's as bad as these alleged scientists who supposedly know that dope smoking is perfectly benign but still take that NIDA money...:-)

  • luke says:

    drugmonkey @ #20:
    Well why not just come out and openly advocate prohibition of alcohol and nicotine as forcefully as you speak out against legalization of marijuana, etc.
    I think the answer is clear. As harmful and addictive as alcohol is, the harms brought about by prohibition of alcohol far outweighed any benefits.
    It is by far better in a free society to allow people to make their own choices which may likely cause themselves harm, then to restrict free society. Such restrictions introduce criminal elements which can cause far greater harm to both the individual and to society at large.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Well why not just come out and openly advocate prohibition of alcohol and nicotine as forcefully as you speak out against legalization of marijuana, etc.
    When did I ever speak out against the "legalization of marijuana, etc"?
    I don't talk much about policy, I talk about the science. I blog on what interests me when I have time to write and there are certain things that I do or do not blog on because it seems at the time that it might be a problem for the pseud. Correspondingly it is an error to conclude that you know what my positions are based on what I don't happen to blog about.

  • DuWayne says:

    DM -
    I think the impression that people have of your views on legalization come from the tone of your comments about advocates of such. I have noted that you haven't (that I know of) actually written about your views on legalization, but you do seem to express a certain distaste when you mention the views of others on the topic.
    That said, you have never said anything forceful in the least.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I have noted that you haven't (that I know of) actually written about your views on legalization, but you do seem to express a certain distaste when you mention the views of others on the topic.
    Hopefully just certain views of the legalize it crowd, i.e., the reflexive science-denialist ones.

  • DuWayne says:

    Actually, that is the reason that I don't assume you are a prohibition/drug war advocate.
    I actually assume that if you do support/agree with legalization, it is grudgingly, like several harm reduction legalization advocates I know. People who would love to see recreational drug use just disappear, but who don't see the current paradigm as a reasonable method of achieving that goal.

  • Luke says:

    @drugmonkey
    I don't have the time to sift through all of your postings to find smoking gun evidence of you explicitly advocating anti-legalization policy, but I have to say that I along with others who enjoy reading your blog do get that distinct impression.
    Maybe it is the presentation of studies showing harmful effects of illegal drugs without presenting any context or counter examples. One example of this is the study showing gum disease in chronic pot smokers. Was there any control for chewing gum or breath freshener use which maybe higher in the chronic pot smoker group?
    The blog would be more balanced if studies showing the dangers of legal drugs or comparison studies of the ill effects of all drugs were also provided
    I am not telling you what you should be writing about just that your overarching theme while being focused on the science of drug harms appears to neglect mainstream legal drugs.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    don't have the time to sift through all of your postings to find smoking gun evidence of you explicitly advocating anti-legalization policy
    I'll save you the time. You won't find it.
    but I have to say that I along with others who enjoy reading your blog do get that distinct impression.
    Let me suggest that this is a result of your existing bias in the advocacy direction.
    Maybe it is the presentation of studies showing harmful effects of illegal drugs without presenting any context or counter examples.
    In other words I should attempt to minimize and undercut the validity of any scientific finding that I find to be of interest? This is almost diametrically opposed to my goals here. It is that faux-balance, red-herring "context" science-denial stuff that I find abhorrent in the advocacy position.
    One example of this is the study showing gum disease in chronic pot smokers. Was there any control for chewing gum or breath freshener use which maybe higher in the chronic pot smoker group?
    Didn't we get into all the caveat stuff in the comments on that one? Didn't I quote the advocate on the dental care issue specifically?
    I return to my point that there is a difference between legitimate scientific skepticism and outright agenda-based science denialism. One can always generate alternative hypotheses to explain a finding. Sure. If one keeps the caveats in mind while one builds a general picture of the existing evidence from multiple sources, this is appropriate. If one uses any-old low-probability alternative hypothesis to refuse to accept that any scientific finding could possibly be true, well, that's denialism.

  • luke says:

    @drugmonkey
    So much for trying to be polite and conciliatory.
    I am not being an "agenda based" science denialist. Are you an agenda-based scientist or just a scientist? I am starting to believe it is the former.
    I recall a study showing pot smoking actually carried a smaller risk of developing lung cancer in comparison to smoking tobacco. Was it discussed here?

  • DuWayne says:

    Luke -
    The blog would be more balanced if studies showing the dangers of legal drugs or comparison studies of the ill effects of all drugs were also provided
    Why? Seriously, I really don't see the point. My six year old can tell you exactly why alcohol and tobacco are bad for a person. I don't have the slightest interest in reading about the negative effects of alcohol or tobacco here. I am interested in learning more about currently illicit drugs and specific problems they can cause.
    Ironically, my interest in learning more about the health hazards of illicit drugs, is because I would like to see them legalized and regulated. I would also like to see more accurate education about the dangers of (currently) illicit drug use. The sort of science that DM does and writes about is a critical component of responsible drug policy.
    So much for trying to be polite and conciliatory.
    I am not being an "agenda based" science denialist. Are you an agenda-based scientist or just a scientist? I am starting to believe it is the former.
    Ok, I read and re-read DM's last comment a few times now. I am not seeing any accusations that you are a denialist.
    Unless you actually fit the criteria that DM listed, which I for one wasn't assuming you do.
    I recall a study showing pot smoking actually carried a smaller risk of developing lung cancer in comparison to smoking tobacco. Was it discussed here?
    And I recall seeing several studies that came to the opposite conclusion. Not one, not two or three, and not just by prohibition advocates. At least two studies that I recall concluding that quantity to quantity, cannabis is more likely to cause lung cancer and much more likely to cause emphysema, were conducted/funded by anti-prohibition advocates.
    I think that you are making a lot of assumptions without a lick of evidence. Having read quite a few of DMs drug posts, especially the care with which he doesn't actually specify his own position, I assume that DM is probably pro-legalization in some regard or another. I also assume that DM probably would love to see most, if not all recreational drug use end - the two positions are far from incompatible.
    I know a a few folks in addiction treatment (i.e. folks who work in treatment - I know a great many folks who are or have been on the receiving end) who really, really hate drugs. A lot. Yet they, like me, are legalization and regulation advocates.
    And to be quite honest and open about it, I feel much the same way that DM does about the denialism. Now I am not anti-drug use, though there are a few that I would like to see disappear. Indeed, I am an occasional pot smoker and while I have quit using hallucinogens, I used to get quite a bit of enjoyment out of a number of them too. There are very few drugs listed on most any illicit drug survey that I haven't at least tried (MDMA and PCP are the only ones that come to mind).
    But you know what, recreational drugs are usually bad for you. Things that alter your mind rarely come without some negative side effects, often they are substantial. Even the herb isn't good for you. It is bad for your lungs. it is bad for your heart. It is bad for your brain. Just scratching the surface here. None of this is a good reason for it to be illegal, but the fact that it shouldn't be illegal isn't an excuse to slam people who point out that it's bad for you.

  • luke says:

    @DuWayne
    The point of making public the ill effects of legal and illegal drugs is to show the utter subjective nature of prohibition of certain substances.
    Your six year old may know that tobacco and alcohol are bad for you but may also be under the impression that illegal drugs are more harmful by the mere fact that they are illegal.
    This gives our children a mixed message. They see all the fun people are having in those beer commercials at the same time we see people marked as criminals for smoking pot. When and if that young person smokes pot and realizes it is no more or even less harmful (no vomiting or hangovers) than drinking they tend to distrust previous information and could assume that they were lied to about harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.
    You assume DM is pro-legalization in some regard. How so? As the comments indicate others have also gotten the distinct impression of the opposite.
    And why should recreational drug use end? I assume because it is harmful to health. But all sorts of things in life are harmful. Should we ban glazed donuts, Big Macs and all you can eat buffets. How about scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving?
    Life is to be enjoyed with an eye to the risk reward or cost benefit of an activity. If some risky behavior gives you great pleasure let that person make the determination as to whether to engage in that activity, as long it does not cause direct harm to another.
    I leave with a something Bill Maher once said which I am sure I will butcher: When it comes to living life, I would much rather have 60 Sammy Davis years than 120 Ken Starr years.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    The point of making public the ill effects of legal and illegal drugs is to show the utter subjective nature of prohibition of certain substances.
    See, now I would have thought the point of making public "ill effects of legal and illegal drugs" would be to enhance the degree to which individuals, as well as political entities, can make informed choices

  • luke says:

    @drugmonkey
    Exactly, it helps to make informed choices. So knowing that alcohol is as or more additive and more toxic than caffeine can assist government in deciding whether to restrict minors from purchasing alcohol but not caffeine. And studies showing the harmful effects of alcohol, marijuana, etc. would assist government to make objective decisions on what should or should not be prohibited.
    But since people may place different values on the various harmful effects, it is better to take the libertarian approach to such issues.
    The choice would be even more informed if it the study was not provided only in the abstract.
    An example: study shows adding vitamins to your diet improves health but relative to other similar

  • DrugMonkey says:

    But since people may place different values on the various harmful effects, it is better to take the libertarian approach to such issues.
    how so?

  • DuWayne says:

    Luke -
    Your six year old may know that tobacco and alcohol are bad for you but may also be under the impression that illegal drugs are more harmful by the mere fact that they are illegal.
    I can assure you, that what little my six year old knows about recreational drugs does not suffer this illusion. The thing is that I really don't need DM to explain the dangers of tobacco and alcohol or any other legal drugs. I am far more interested in reading about illicit drugs, because there is a lot less known about most of them. All that throwing licit drugs into this mix would do is muddy the waters.
    This isn't to say that there isn't value in comparisons and in at least two posts here (I haven't been reading long) DM has talked about studies that actually do add licit drugs in their comparisons. But talking about every drug, licit or illicit in every post, to make sure you compare it all is pointless. It is not reasonable to expect DM to muddy it up like that, nor do I expect a lot of people would actually want to read that.
    This gives our children a mixed message. They see all the fun people are having in those beer commercials at the same time we see people marked as criminals for smoking pot. When and if that young person smokes pot and realizes it is no more or even less harmful (no vomiting or hangovers) than drinking they tend to distrust previous information and could assume that they were lied to about harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.
    You're really preaching to the choir with that one. I've written pretty extensively on that topic, in many comment threads on many blogs and in posts on my own blog. This is in the top ten most important topics to me.
    You assume DM is pro-legalization in some regard. How so? As the comments indicate others have also gotten the distinct impression of the opposite.
    I thought so at first as well. The thing is, I have noticed that DM takes a great deal of care to be very specific about the type of legalization/decrim advocates he is criticizing. DM also has never taken a pro-prohibition stance. Thus I conclude that DM is at least undecided. I don't assume that DM is actually pro-legalization, but considering the care he takes when talking about it, the probability is reasonable that he's pro-legalization in some regard.
    And why should recreational drug use end? I assume because it is harmful to health. But all sorts of things in life are harmful. Should we ban glazed donuts, Big Macs and all you can eat buffets. How about scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving?
    Again, I am not advocating for an end to recreational drug use. But there is a huge difference between wanting to see something disappear and advocating legislated bans.
    I want to see anti-gay bigotry disappear from our society. I would love to see the day that one can hold a gay pride event anywhere in the world and not see a single anti-gay bigot shouting their vile hatred. But I am absolutely and completely against restricting the freedom of those bigots who do exist to express their hatred. Wanting to see something end, is not the equivalent of advocating bans.
    Indeed, we are discussing ending bans in the face of wanting to see the thing being banned eliminated from our society.
    Life is to be enjoyed with an eye to the risk reward or cost benefit of an activity. If some risky behavior gives you great pleasure let that person make the determination as to whether to engage in that activity, as long it does not cause direct harm to another.
    Which is why I also advocate for legalized prostitution, gambling and proactively physician assisted suicide. I am not a libertarian by a long shot, but I believe absolutely in civil liberties for the individual. If it doesn't substantively harm others, it shouldn't be illegal.
    But since people may place different values on the various harmful effects, it is better to take the libertarian approach to such issues.
    Bullshit. Unless you subscribe to a different idea of libertarian than I am. Legalization, regulation and taxation. I do not buy into the libertarian notion of simply legalizing it and possibly taxing it (I know libertarians on both sides of that one). Very few libertarians I know are keen on trying to regulate them beyond age restrictions (a couple I know are against those too).
    I support legalization and science based regulation. I also support taxing the hell out of them, because regardless of legal status, recreational drug use comes at a cost to society. Not everyone who uses them costs us all, but plenty enough do that it is entirely reasonable to recoup that cost through taxes on the drugs.

  • luke says:

    @DuWayne
    I think your views on drug legalization are not much different than mine.
    @DrugMonkey
    Are you asking what exactly the libertarian approach would be?
    Basically, legalize drugs for adults and tax them to fund drug education and rehabilitation for addicts seeking assistance.
    By the way we might as well legalize prostitution and gambling while we are at it.
    Do away with all the paternalistic/moralistic crimes.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    luke @#38, gotcha.
    Would non-treatment seekers be permitted to drug themselves to death because, after all it was their free choice to start using?
    And where are you on speed limits for automobiles, recreational watercraft, motorcycles?
    Personal ownership of tigers, Cape buffalo or other charismatic megafauna?

  • Luke says:

    @Drugmonkey
    I really do not understand the purpose of all this. I am advocating a reasonable legalization position on drugs and it appears you are playing gotcha. But I'll play along because this may be a good way to tease out and refine the position.
    "Would non-treatment..."
    Well, could I go buy a fifth of Jack Daniels and kill myself? Yes. Should I be allowed to OD on heroin? Yes.
    I would rather not have speed limits but I can see a non-moralistic/non-paternalistic reason for having speed limits, i.e. preventing direct and foreseeable harm to another. If we are to have them they should be based on non-arbitrary one-size fits all regimen instead of having a system where a majority of drivers are breaking the law every time they get on the expressway.
    As for personal ownership of dangerous animals, I think it should be allowed with some common sense requirements to protect the animals and innocent third parties. Good luck getting home owners insurance.
    I just don't have the time to expand any further.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I do not intend this as a gotcha. My point is that I prefer that when we as societies or individuals espouse things "on principle" we examine the extent to which we are consistent with that principle and to what extent we are referencing a principle we do not actually espouse generally in support of our specific arbitrary goal.
    I also prefer that we not engage in fantasy when making predictions about the future and there it helps to know your specifics. Your position is that if we see a drug addict lying passed out on the sidewalk, we basically do nothing because that was his/her choice. Crime-ridden, crack house neighborhoods (again, your prediction about alls-well with legal and tax is no more supported than might that there will always be crime and decay with addiction, especially under libertarian policy of no state involvement)? Well, the good citizens can just leave right?
    Otherwise, you have this fantasy (and in this case we do have evidence that it is a fantasy) that taxing drugs is going to pay for all the harms. Guess what? Alc and tobacco taxes don't pay for all the harm caused by those substances.
    Again, a lot of this is testable and we should be clear that we are simply hypothesizing on all sides. The point being, however, that an honest look at repercussions is necessary to be considered an honest broker. And for that we need to all admit that there will be significant health and social problems of legalizing recreational drugs. It is ok to say that then your principled position is that we (as a society) tell those who are addicted or otherwise harmed to sod off...I just happen to really disagree with that one. And I think if we get back to consistent principles, self-identified libertarians are also highly selective abou the areas in which they agree with this principle too.

  • luke says:

    @drugmonkey
    Your first example said nothing of a drug addict lying passed out on the street. Of course if someone is unconscious on the street we should give medical assistance, hopefully paid for at least in part by taxes on drugs.
    Look, I do not disagree that we will likely see a spike in deaths and other harms with legalization but in the long run things will get better. The best example of this is with tobacco. Our society went from about 2/3 of the population smoking to about 25% today. This was done not by prohibition but through taxes, education and real world experience.
    When people see others especially loved ones destroying their lives with drugs it provides the strongest motivation and incentive not to follow that path. When such ills are out in the open not only can the afflicted seek help without fear of punishment but others can see the direct consequences such behavior. There is no better anti-drug education than such experiences.
    Truly, it is a shame that we will have to allow some to ruin their lives for the betterment of society over the long term, but we must realized that this behavior was freely chosen and that drug users would have found a way to get what they wanted regardless of the law. As a value choice, it is better to allow one to freely chose to harm themselves by doing drugs than to allow innocent bystanders to be hurt or killed over drug turf wars as a result of prohibition.

  • DuWayne says:

    DM -
    Would non-treatment seekers be permitted to drug themselves to death because, after all it was their free choice to start using?
    Absolutely. No different than I am allowed to down a couple jugs of Drano right now. The difference being that if it were legal, the odds of someone accidentally drugging themselves to death (i.e. ODing) substantially decreases because dosages and purity are regulated and clearly labeled.
    Your position is that if we see a drug addict lying passed out on the sidewalk, we basically do nothing because that was his/her choice.
    I'm not seeing that at all. Indeed what he is saying is that we should tax the shit out of the drugs to help pay for helping the OD passed out on the street.
    Crime-ridden, crack house neighborhoods (again, your prediction about alls-well with legal and tax is no more supported than might that there will always be crime and decay with addiction, especially under libertarian policy of no state involvement)? Well, the good citizens can just leave right?
    Fact is that a lot of folks are stuck there and the biggest crime problems are not from junkies, they're from the dope dealers. From turf wars (we just had one about a block away last night - fourteen people actually firing guns in a pitched battle) to dispute resolution, it's the dealers, not the users. Users are generally non-violent. If they commit crimes, they are usually petty theft and the like.

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