Safer Recreation

You know things are changing with respect to marijuana laws when the former police chief of a major American city writes the forward to a book about how marijuana is safer than alcohol. Here’s former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper in the introduction to a new book called Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink:

In all my years on the streets, it was an extremely rare occasion to have a night go by without an alcohol-related incident. More often than not, there were multiple alcohol-related calls during a shift. I became accustomed to the pattern (and the odor). If I was called to a part of town with a concentration of bars or to the local university, I could expect to be greeted by one or more drunks, flexing their “beer muscles,” either in the throes of a fight or looking to start one. Sadly, the same was often true when I received a domestic abuse call. More often than not, these conflicts–many having erupted into physical violence–were fueled by one or both participants having overindulged in alcohol.

In case you might be thinking my observations are unique, let me share the results of some informal research I have conducted on my own. Over the past four years, out of a general interest in this subject, I’ve been asking police officers throughout the U.S. (and Canada) two questions. First: “When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana?” (And by this I mean marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause; they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask, “When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk?” They look at their watches.

This past weekend, another Hempfest came and went. Several hundred thousand people flocked to Myrtle Edwards Park, most of whom got high, and the most serious altercation was Dominic Holden being removed from the VIP area.

As Stamper points out, anyone remotely familiar with people who drink and people who smoke pot know quite well which category is more likely to be violent. Yet we continue to regard alcohol as the safer drug. Politicians of both parties have continually told us that we can’t legalize marijuana because of the message it would send to our kids, yet alcohol advertisements are everywhere. For those of us who grew up with this nonsense, we got the message loud and clear. Our drug laws don’t make any sense.

All day Thursday is a book bomb for the aforementioned book from Mason Tvert, Steve Fox, and Paul Armentano. Drug law reform groups are hoping to get the book to #1 on Amazon. I have my own copy already but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. The book is largely an extension of the work that Tvert has done with SAFER, a Colorado-based organization that has made some waves in that state already. You can grab it from Amazon here.


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    We can set posts to “go live” at a later date/time. Darryl had just posted up his big R-71 post when I finished typing this, so I set it for 4:20am… :)

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    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I don’t want people driving drunk or stoned! My kids are squashed just as flat on Aurora Avenue whether the driver was belligerent or not! Do you have any conception of how much fucking it takes to replace all those squashed bunnies?! I mean, at some point, my poor overworked dick gets pretty sore, man …

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    I worked the ‘Fest this year at the Info Booth, got to talk to loads of great people and some not so great. Next year, don’t start an argument with the Jesus freaks. It’s a fool’s errand. (- see Barney Frank’s response above)

    One of the questions we got (quite a bit, actually) was “Where’s the Beer Garden?” These were people who also used words like ‘damn hippies’ and ‘bunch of fuckin’ stoners’ when asking where stuff was. They were obviously out of their element.

    When we told them alcohol wasn’t allowed at Hempfest, they looked bewildered. How can you have a big ass party like this and not have beer?

    My observation was a good, well behaved crowd that put up with bottlenecks, longer venue with the stages mostly a long walk from the entrance and naked bicyclists. Numbers are probably hard to come by but my unscientific count would be 200,000 to 250,000 for the weekend.

    The cops I talked to said this was great duty for them, they look forward to it. It’s mellow and low key, people respect them and no hassles. (few hassles…don’t blow pot smoke into the nose of a mounted officer’s horse)

    On a side note, we were the lost and found for the event and had seven wallets tuned in, all with cash still inside. Tell me that happens at Bumbershoot.

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    ArtFart spews:

    There was one pot case that made it into court some years back in which the judge actually elucidated a rationale for conviction and a harsh sentence: the supposed “societal harm” of a drug that reduces agression. Basically, a drug that really “chills” people is a threat to the right’s ego-driven, greed-is-good, climb-to-the-top-by-stepping-on-your-brother’s-face free-market utopia.

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    Politically Incorrect spews:

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that most pot smokers are probably more interested in having a pepperoni pizza than they are in having a fight with the cops.

    It’s time to repeal these draconian marijuana laws and legalize this product for adults who choose to enjoy it. We waste far too many resources on marijuana because of the work of dicks like William Randolph Hearst and Harry Anslinger.

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    CC "Bud" Baxter spews:

    There is no comparison between people driving drunk and people driving stoned on pot. The drunk drivers are aggressive, arrogant and oblivious of their surroundings, with incredibly impaired motor skills. Pot smokers on the other hand usually get overly careful, that is driving too slow and what not.

    While I don’t recommend driving in either situation, driving while drunk is probably a thousand times more deadly. To equate the two as somehow equal betrays extreme ignorance.

    Roger Rabbit, you’ve been watching too much propaganda like Reefer Madness.

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    I was going to mention that too in the original post, but it was getting late last night. I obviously want the science to fully come in on it before I say anything definitive on the subject, but several studies have been done trying to prove that driving under the influence of marijuana increases the chance of being in a fatal wreck, but have instead shown the opposite. Stoned drivers tend to be overly cautious, which may mean that they do cause more wrecks, just not high-speed fatal ones.

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    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Hempfest too.

    One thing that did bother me was the presence of a small number of kids. Given the high content of smoke in the air, I think this was unwise.

    I also found the much touted doctors panel at Hempfest pretty unimpressive. No one there seemed to have any real expertise so the effect was more to cheer on the faithful (many of whom were stoned) than say anything useful.

    As for being “potted,” I left a bit early .. around 6, as part of a crowd packed unbelievably. It took a good hour to exit .. a five min walk otherwise.

    While there was very little crowd control, folks were really pretty nice about it. I suspect w/o the same mj smoke that made me concerned about the kids, a crowd like this would have been pretty unmanageable. One guy near me was nice enough to pass a joint around (while complaining why the organizers did not do a better job).

    The only time the entire crowd got scary was when the religious radical rabble was preaching their hatred. I really got the impression that the guy swinging the Jesus-on-a-stick, anti gay poster, was going to use it as a lethal weapon.

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    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:

    Of Cars and Weed

    What I have read of such studies supports lee’s claims with one exception. There is evidence that chronic pot users have slowed reflexes. Whether that means they are more likely to have accidents than other is not, to the best of my knowledge, clear.

    I would be willing to bet that excess caffeine is a lot more dangerous!

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    I also found the much touted doctors panel at Hempfest pretty unimpressive. No one there seemed to have any real expertise so the effect was more to cheer on the faithful (many of whom were stoned) than say anything useful.

    I was there for the entire doctor’s panel and did not see you. Making shit up again?

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    Actually, let me just make this easier. During the doctors panel, one of the California doctors talked for a while about starting to work with patients in his home state. What state was it?

    If you were there, it won’t be hard for you to answer that question.

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    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:

    And who was buried in Grant’s tomb?

    Since i suspect most folks find this stuff boring and certainly not relevant to the issues at HA, I will repsond over at your blog.