The Return of Does the Legal Status of Recreational Drugs Influence Your Use?

Dec 19 2013 Published by under Drug Abuse Science, Poll

I last did this poll in 2009 on the old Sb version of the blog. My readership has changed, medical marijuana has marched on and, most importantly, two US states have finally legalized recreational use of marijuana. A comment on a recent post reminded me of this.

Grumble asked:

I'm not sure why the "how much did usage change" question would be interesting at all. Can't we just say "of course usage will go up, duh?"

and I replied:

there is a species of denialist cannabis fan (we get them around here now and again) that insists that full legalization will do nothing to use rates. Their rationale is that pot is so easy to get that anyone who wants to smoke pot already does. I counter with the idea that they are biased by their subculture and proffer the counter example of *my* subcultures of interest in which there are tons of people for whom the only reason they do *not* smoke weed, on the odd occasion, is the legal status.

Well, what do you think?

Have at it peeps!

27 responses so far

  • zb says:

    OK, I have to ask how a drug is "illicit" if it's not illegal? I guess it's forbidden by custom if not the law? I think the last item would be "I wouldn't use recreational drugs even if they became legal."

  • zb says:

    PS: Don't we have any actual data on the question of how legality affects drug use?

  • Mikka says:

    Right now, there's two things that stand in the way between me and the goode weede: two kids and lack of a dealer. If I could just rock up to a dispensary and get a dimebag you bet your ass I would do it, for the odd night that the kids and wife are gone.

    I've never understood why the case for legalization is sold mostly as being about medical use. It's about getting high. Just like the second amendment freaks say it's about self defense or fighting against tyranny; bullshit, it's because guns give them a hard-on. If they just admitted it at least it would make things clearer. As it stands now it just taints the medical marihuana effort. I see nothing wrong with recreational use, but the ban on medical uses just screams to high heaven.

    But just wait for the brats to move out. When I retire, I fully intend to just get high and play videogames until I croak.

  • Grumble says:

    Last time I used was ... before. You know, before whatever length of time the statute of limitations is.

  • Joseph says:

    Addiction is a non-trivial public health concern that applies even with legal medications (hello, alcohol). For me the case for legalism is 100% about harm reduction -- do the social costs of enforcement outweigh the ravages of the marginal cases of addiction?

    But this goes both ways.

    I have a totally different view in cases where the disease is both highly painful and incurable. The risk of addiction for stage IV bone cancer is definitely outweighed by the potential pain reduction benefits, even if the drug is heroin. That being said, most MDs are much less worried about treatment of pain or other side effects for malignant pain. But this is a sub-set of medical cases, and likely the least controversial piece.

  • jojo says:

    I quote my partner "If pot was legal, I would smoke instead of drinking."

    My partner has an anxiety disorder and believes that pot would be helpful to them based on a few experiences, but is very straight-laced and their career includes educating youth. So smoking pot illegally would definitely get them fired.

    Anyone who says that use would not go up if you could just walk into a store and buy the product (rather than trying to figure out how to find a dealer, sketchily exchange paper bags at a food court somewhere, and then worry about being fired if you're caught...) is, frankly, an idiot.

  • Eric says:

    I think you would get different responses if you asked about drugs individually instead of lumping them all together. While I suspect that more people would use marijuana were it not illegal, I think a lot of that decision would be based on a perceived risk to ones health. That's not saying I believe that you wouldn't expect a rise in other illicit drugs, but more so for the seemingly "benign" maryjane.

  • dsks says:

    Frequency of use will go up, but I think much like cigarette smoking there will be social and cultural pressures that will kick in and prevent an epidemic of laziness and and a run on Cheetos.

    Joseph said,
    "The risk of addiction for stage IV bone cancer is definitely outweighed by the potential pain reduction benefits, even if the drug is heroin."

    I think they still give oral diamorphine in the UK here and there, but there isn't really any solid evidence that plasma morphine levels are any greater when administered this way versus straight morphine alone (although this might not be the case for addicts). Of course, if you want to get the patient high as well as pain free, then that would be the way to go.

  • Joseph says:

    It was my understanding that the reason for diamorphine use was to reduce the effective dose required for pain reduction in palliative care. So you want fewer side effects, including cognitive ones. Of course, it might be used in other contexts that I am less well versed in.

    But I mostly see it as being in the same general pool of drugs we might use to treat terminal patients with malignant pain that aren't really appropriate in other contexts.

  • Isabel says:

    "there is a species of denialist cannabis fan (we get them around here now and again) that insists that full legalization will do nothing to use rates."

    DM hangs out at ONDCP blogs and who knows where else that disseminate of propaganda like this. This is also where he learned phrases like "legaleeze it folks" etc.

    "I've never understood why the case for legalization is sold mostly as being about medical use"

    It's not, and it's a relatively recent trend as well.

    " If they just admitted it at least it would make things clearer."

    Another doofus giving people advice about something he knows zero about. This topic really brings that out in people.

    "For me the case for legalism is 100% about harm reduction -- do the social costs of enforcement outweigh the ravages of the marginal cases of addiction? "

    Joseph must be one of DMs brainwashed NIDA buddies. No mention of the ravages of prohibition that is destroying our society. Just the ravages of cannabis addiction that we are all familiar with thanks to the NIDA/DEA/ONDCP propaganda machine.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    So Isabel, are you finally admitting that legalization will lead to increasing numbers of pot users which will cause more pot addiction and traffic fatalities?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Also, Isabel, please point me to all these leegalizeetmon people who are not actively using medical marijuana as a Trojan Horse for their real agenda. I never seem to see a position that manages to resist the MM ploy.

  • blatnoi says:

    This post is very marijuana centric. And I did use it before a lot, but I would never do so now, even if it became legal. I think that inhaling small particulates into the lungs is not a good idea whether it is marijuana or cigarettes and I hike too much these days to deal with the lung cancer. Plus I'm getting older and I'm finding it harder to handle all kinds of drugs. I can never drink more than a couple of beer a day lately for example. I've cut down my coffee to once a day and sometimes I miss it entirely, and I often go a week without drinking any alcohol. Maybe I've become better at expecting the down of the day after (or the caffeine headaches as the case may be).

    Too bad I destroyed my brain with various drugs when I was young, so that now I'm just an experimental scientist who's forgotten all their higher math courses. I think my answer to the poll (which asks for my personal opinion of my usage), would have been a lot different depending on my age.

  • jojo says:

    >legalization will lead to increasing numbers of pot users which will cause more pot addiction and traffic fatalities?

    The first, definitely, I don't know about the second though.

    If someone is going to DWI with pot, I would imagine they are the type that is likely getting pot already because if they are driving high, I doubt they have a lot of respect for the law. I would hypothesize that people who are currently not smoking pot *only because it is illegal* are mostly NOT going to overlap with people that DWI, because the former group demonstrably don't tend to like to break the law (whether because they are risk averse or actually moral, it would vary from person to person), whereas the second group are already breaking the law.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    There are traffic fatality data, you know. This is not speculation.

  • Please point us to the data that establish being high on pot as a cause of traffic fatalities.

  • Isabel says:

     "There are traffic fatality data, you know. This is not speculation."

    That don't implicate grass as far as I know!

    "So Isabel, are you finally admitting that legalization will..."

    Who knows what will happen? Have we even discussed this before? It seems logical that there might be some increase in use. I believe there were some reports of decreased use of alcohol in teens when cannabis use increased.

    And the type of person you are referring to also probably was afraid to break the law when they were a teenager, the main group we are worried about with most of the risks of the drug, and it will be illegal for those under 21 still.

    Anyway, it occurs to me that Joseph, whoever he is, was possibly just being ironic in his rather understated question upthread- if that is the case, I apologize for my sarcastic reply.

  • Isabel says:

    "Also, Isabel, please point me to all these leegalizeetmon people who are not actively using medical marijuana as a Trojan Horse for their real agenda. I never seem to see a position that manages to resist the MM ploy."

    The one time I worked as an activist, in the late 90's, it was with a group that worked to raise awareness about mothers serving long sentences separated from their children because of trumped up drug war charges. SO, my one experience with an anti-prohibition group had nothing to do with MM.

    NORML doesn't make legalization about MM. Nor does the MPP. What groups are you guys talking about?

    I did not agree with the splintering in the 90's but you have to admit it was a successful strategy.

  • Isabel says:

    "Trumped up charges" may not be the term I am looking for- meaning long multi-decade sentences for things like answering the phone and taking a message for their drug dealing boyfriend...having no information to trade for lesser charges they ended up sentenced to absurd mandatory minimums. In many cases the boyfriends didn't even serve time.

    If I had time for real activism today (other than speaking out against the NIDA on popular blogs:)) I would focus on the complicity of medical professionals in these drug war shenanigans - going along with all these cavity searches and scans and other invasive procedures that have no medical purpose requested by law enforcement. I would focus on these horrific cases coming out about people crossing the border being subjected to up to 11 invasive procedures, even though nothing was found, because of a K-9 alert or whatever -because this is the direction the drug war is moving in, this is what the "Third Way" is all about.

  • Isabel says:

    It's just incredible that medical professionals go along with this.

    http://www.policestateusa.com/2013/woman-probed-cavity-searched-x-rayed-reenter-usa/

  • Greg says:

    "Well, what do you think? "

    Why guess? Use the experience from the 1920s alcohol pohibition.

  • kate says:

    No, it doesn't affect me because I never used them and don't plan to do it.

  • Isabel says:

    No response to my comments,DM? Typical. Mark my words people, the "Third Way" is ALL ABOUT the partnership between law enforcement and your family doctor. The shockingaccounts I linked to are extreme examples maybe, but it is dangerous to dismiss them as anomalies or mistakes that will be corrected.

    "The one time I worked as an activist, in the late 90's, it was with a group that worked to raise awareness about mothers serving long sentences separated from their children ..."

    Here's a recent update on the situation:

    http://www.policymic.com/articles/73507/this-single-mother-is-serving-life-without-parole-for-the-most-absurd-reason-you-can-imagine

    Anna Marie Johnson is just one of more than 110 case studies of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses from a recently-released ACLU report, titled, "A Living Death." Her daughter's words echo the anguish expressed by countless relatives of those doomed to die behind bars for low-level, nonviolent drug and property crimes.

    "The punishments these people received are grotesquely out of proportion to the crimes they committed," said Jennifer Turner, ACLU human rights researcher and author of the report, in an ACLU press release. Possession of a crack pipe, acting as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana, possession of a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin too small to weigh, selling of a single crack rock, and shoplifting a $159 jacket were among the crimes featured in the report that resulted in sentences of life without parole.

  • Isabel says:

    Funny how this blog is an appropriate place to discuss the ethics of carbon offsets, but not the ethics of prohibition. What about the ethics of medical professionals sexually violating an innocent woman eleven times while law enforcement stands by? Reaction on Drugmonkey blog: a big collective "whatever".

  • drugmonkey says:

    Really Isabel? I can't recall blogging that so your "whatever" characterization is made up. As far as "appropriate" goes, I can't recall ever using that phrasing either. You really need to read for content instead of listening to the straw blogger inside your own head that you keep tilting at. Here is a hint: my saying I choose not to blog about some topic doesn't make it inappropriate for the blog. I blog about what I feel like discussing at a given moment. This blog doesn't have a rigid mission statement. In the least.

    As always, it is trivial for you to set up your own WP blog and to get cracking on topics that interest you. I'm probably even good for a few audience pointers to anything you launch.

  • Isabel says:

    I am sure that if I put the time into it I would be able to find instances where you brushed off people who thought you should opine on on the effects of prohibition during discussions of "harms" -not because you just didn't feel like it, but because that isn't what your blog is about. You definitely made that excuse more than once.

    Either way it is shocking and heartless of you to blow off those requests (from many not just me) and ignore the shocking news stories I posted upthread and then post about the ethics of exchanging carbon offsets for access to birth control. That worries you, but medical professional in collusion with law enforcement engaging in forcible rape doesn't bother you, even when your own benefactors are helping to justify such behavior?

    " I'm probably even good for a few audience pointers to anything you launch."

    No, thanks, your blog already has the readership I am interested in reaching with this information. But I'll take the hint and buzz off again for a while. Just wanted to get the word out. I want people to know what the much vaunted Third Way is really all about. I am not naive enough to think the end of prohibition is going to happen without pushback and underhanded strategies to continue down the road to the police state that appears to be the goal- and I want people to be aware (as someone who actually researched the action items of the Third Way) before we find ourselves in yet another tragic quagmire.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You can't be bothered to blog your thoughts on this and yet you pretend outrage that someone else doesn't do it for you? M'kay...

Leave a Reply