Idaho State Police & Drug Czar Afraid to Debate Marijuana Reform

   

I’m sitting in the offices of New Approach Idaho, the grassroots volunteer effort to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize personal possession in the Gem State. They have flown me and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Inge Fryklund here to participate in a Marijuana Town Hall at the Boise State University Student Union Jordan Ballroom.

Appearing at the event with Inge and me in just five hours from now are Tate Fegley from Students for Sensible Drug Policy at BSU; Elisha Figueroa, the Director of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy (the state “drug czar”); Cody Jorgenson, a BSU Professor of Criminal Justice; Senator Curt McKenzie, a Republican state rep from Nampa (my hometown), and representatives from the Idaho State Police.

Or, at least, they were. We just received an email from Ms. Figueroa that she and members of the Idaho State Police will not be attending.

Ms. Figueroa insinuates that this has become a “pro-marijuana” event loaded with “radical speakers” who are “out-of-state” ringers, and objects to my desire to live-stream the event. From Ms. Figueroa’s email this morning, at about 10:30am local time:

I am disappointed by the continued manipulation of the marijuana forum by New Approach.  I shared my concerns with you last week, yet there has now been the last minute addition of another radical speaker from out of state. As a result, it has become clear that what was billed as a college forum for meaningful discussion has turned into a choreographed pro-marijuana rally. I had agreed to participate because of your stated goal of a balanced discussion on the issue of marijuana legalization with a speaker list made up of Idaho citizens and Idaho government officials. However, because that is no longer the case, I will not be participating in the forum. For your information, Ginny Gobel will be withdrawing as well. I regret the loss of what might have been a valuable opportunity for education and dialogue.

Apparently, the inclusion of Inge Fryklund from LEAP is what tipped the scales for the Idaho Drug Czar and convinced Director Figueroa to drop out of the town hall. (Maybe Ms. Figueroa saw Ms. Fryklund’s performance in Oregon’s televised marijuana legalization debate, where she mopped the floor with the Clatsop County District Attorney and the rehab doctor who claimed five kids have died from marijuana edibles in Colorado.) Ms. Figueroa then apparently counseled the Idaho State Police to withdraw as well, as evidenced by this email from about 12:30pm local time from Teresa Baker at the Idaho State Police:

I am sorry to cancel at on the day of the event but after consultation with the Office of Drug Policy we are going to set [sic] this one out as we are not sure we will add much to the discussion.  It sounds like you have plenty of speakers so I am sure you will be fine.  Thank you for the opportunity.

Nothing to add from the State Police, who wail to every local news outlet they can that the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and Washington is causing mayhem in Idaho. The Idaho State Police, who say “The interests of Idaho should be protected and maintained by those with a personal vested interest in securing a bright future for our children, free of the devastating effects of drug use,” have nothing to add to our marijuana town hall discussion?

It’s probably best they don’t step on a stage with Inge and me to try to defend some of their more outrageous beliefs, including:

Drug abuse impacts the family in forms of child abuse and/or abandonment, domestic violence, the incidence of violence when someone addicted commits a violent act against another for their money or their property, to satisfy their own addiction. There are also innocent victims who are murdered, raped or assaulted as a result of someone’s addiction which is the result of a lack of self-control.

Ah, Idaho can’t legalize pot because we’ll all go a-rapin’ and a-beatin’ and a-murderin’ the women and children. But feel free to enjoy all the liquor you can drink in one of fine taverns or restaurants. Everybody knows drunks don’t harm anybody.

[M]arijuana is considered a “gateway” drug, one which tends to lead users down a path towards the use of other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

So, you’re afraid of marijuana because other drugs are harmful? The fact you have to demonize it as a “gateway” reveals the lack of dangers you could cite for marijuana. Look, for people under age 65, over half have tried marijuana – that’s over 100 million people. There are about 3 million people who use any other illegal drug but marijuana at the rate of at least once per month. In other words, it’s a gateway only 3 out of 100 people go through… pretty lousy gateway, huh?

The facts are that every major study, including the feds’ own 1999 Insititute of Medicine study, find the gateway theory to be a myth – marijuana use does not predict use of harder drugs. Actually, cigarette and alcohol use are better predictors of future drug use, but nobody calls them “gateway drugs” because the seller isn’t dealing crack and meth alongside the cigs and booze.

Alcohol and drugs are not the same. People drink not necessarily to become intoxicated. However, people use drugs for the sole purpose of getting high.

Ah, yes, the “drinkers drink to be social; stoners toke to get high” argument. It was just as stupid when Art Linkletter and Richard Nixon invented it in the 1970s. Tell ya what, Idaho State Police, the next time you’re having one of your grand soirees (since policemen don’t have balls anymore), replace all the wine with grape juice and all the beer with O’Doul’s (near beer) and tell us all just how social everybody was that evening.

The only reason this myth persists is because of language and framing. With alcohol, we have an entire vocabulary designed to shield us from the fact that not only is it a drug, it’s the most dangerous highly addictive drug on the menu, legal or illegal. You’re not taking drugs, you’re drinking. You’re not a drug user, you’re a social drinker. You’re not a drug addict, you’re a problem drinker or alcoholic. You’re not high, you’re buzzedYou didn’t overdose, you just blacked out. You’re not suffering an overdose, you’re just hung over.

Then consider the spectrum of drinking we all recognize. You go from a drink to tipsy to buzzed to drunk to sloshed to hammered and so forth. What is there for marijuana use? High and not high. Similarly, there’s no demarcation of users; you’re either a stoner/pothead or you don’t do drugs.

But I’m here to tell you there are all levels of pot smoking. You go from relaxed to lifted to high to medicated to baked to couchlock and so forth. Plenty of us use marijuana for social purposes. Hell, what could be more social than a circle of strangers passing a joint? I have yet to see any social drinkers pass around a stein of beer for a communal sip.

Since marijuana is considered a “gateway” drug, legalization of marijuana could be viewed as an inroad toward legalization of other substances – a dangerous precedent to set.

In the latest polls, 58 percent of Americans nationally support the legalization of marijuana. The next most popular drug for legalization is ecstasy, at about 10 percent. Other illicit drugs have never topped 8 percent in support for their legalization. That’s some mighty strong legal marijuana if smoking it makes people suddenly want to legalize crack.

There is proof that marijuana increases harmful and criminal behavior on the part of the user.

Then why have harmful and criminal behaviors in Colorado and Washington dropped or remain the same?

[M]arijuana use leads to chronic and interim effects from regular use, specifically with regards to decreased testosterone, reduced sperm count and motility, altered sperm structure (with chromosomal and DNA alterations), interference with ovulation and the hormone cycle in women, suspected mutagenic alterations in DNA of germ cell chromosomes, and embryocidal toxicity and development impairment in the fetus and newborn exposed in utero or in milk supply of newborns.

Right. I’ll be sure to tell Tommy Chong’s six kids, Willie Nelson’s seven kids, Bob Marley’s 12 kids, and every Rasta and hippie kid I meet.

[Drugs were legal] prior to 1914. And although data is lacking, there is good evidence that with one-third of today’s population, drug addiction was greater. That is why we outlawed drugs.

Nope, untrue. Data go back to about 1875 and show that throughout history and regardless of legality or prohibition, about one percent of the population has aserious drug abuse problem.

On average, marijuana users have 30% more fat than non-marijuana users.

So, what, everybody at the Wal-Mart in Nampa is a pot smoker? Seriously, the latest bunch of studies on the issue have shown that regular marijuana users have lower body-mass index than non-tokers.

The tax earned on marijuana would not be enough to cover the abuse created in our society.

So, then, show me the $200 million in social costs racked up in Colorado and Washington, since that’s what they’ve raised in marijuana tax revenue.

There is evidence which indicates that the carcinogens in marijuana are much stronger than those in tobacco. Also, numerous studies have found that marijuana causes pre-cancerous changes similar to those of tobacco.

And the hydrogen we find in water is far more explosive than the oxygen… yet, thanks to chemistry, two hydrogen and one oxygen atom together are completely non-explosive and inflammable.

Chemistry matters. While any burning vegetable matter smoke contains carcinogens, what else they contain makes a difference. Cannabis smoke contains THC, which federally-funded studies have shown is an anti-tumoral agent. When Dr. Donald Tashkin, the foremost pulmonary expert at UCLA Medical School, did a thirty-year study on longtime pot smokers expecting to find the link to lung cancer, he actually found that the pot smokers had a lower incidence of lung cancer than non-smokers. Further studies found we have lower rates of head, neck, and throat cancer, too.

Yeah, it’s probably better for the Idaho State Police and Idaho Drug Czar not to share a stage with me.

Russ Belville

“Radical” Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour tal