I just teamed up with women’s lib writer Barbara Walker and Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School to publish on Kindle Pot Stories and Atheist Essays 

One piece, “Pot Story,” offers a very persuasive polemic for legalization and at the same time shows some of the misery and suffering that unwise laws have caused over the decades.  One section describes Harry Anslinger, the founder and first commissioner of the Prohibition Movement, as a conspicuous bigot and inarguable moron. 

Ms. Walker, in her inimitable style, writes of the abuses of religion over the centuries and the mistreatment of women, mostly due to original sin.

Also included is a podcast of Dr. Grinspoon where he categorically states there is no physical damage to the body at all.  He tells the story of how he first turned on, exhorted by none other than Carl Sagan on a cruise to a conference in Europe. 

If you’re interested in marijuana, either medically or recreationally, this is a must read so you’ll know what you’re doing or talking about.  Lot’s to discuss, n’est-ce pas?  


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Right on, Laura.  

one tends to generalize a bit in determining the source of guilt. A more accurate statement is that you tend to generalize a lot. What’s unfortunate about this is that your generalizations are not based on facts. Starting with something which initially seemed trivial to me, you stated driving under the speed limit is not against the law. An untrue statement which you asserted as true. Want another example? You stated I was a judge, and then proceeded to level an accusation about me “slamming down a gavel and giving misguided youth serious time.” Another completely false statement, for which you had no good faith basis in making. Nevertheless, the fact that it was false and made up didn’t seem to stop you in leveling that accusation. And it is an example of a false type of rhetorical ploy which you seem to relish.

Now, as to the scurrilous remark, allow me to point out the accusation about sending innocent people to prison. Luara is correct when she asks “Where is the evidence for that accusation?” She’s also correct in asking where the evidence is for you making the accusation that I sent someone to jail for smoking it.  There isn’t any, of course, but it’s the same knowingly false and dishonest rhetorical ploy of me asking you, “When did you quit beating your wife?”  The question contains the accusation as a fact, and only looks for a time period as the answer. You question pre-supposes that I sent innocent people to prison, and the only inquiry is about my emotional state. I know of no polite way to describe what you have stated. It is simply knowing dishonesty.

You seem to have a propensity of playing fast and loose with factual information. You previously stated I was a judge, when you had no good faith basis to make that statement.  You acknowledged that you unjustly stereotype people, yet continue to engage in that very same behavior. You now state I represent the entirety of the system that you so loathe and, I would add from your comments, appear to have little understanding of. This is disingenuous hyperbole. And based on your prior assertions, I can only come to the conclusion that it, too, is intentional. I no more represent the entire US criminal justice system than you, as an author, represent the entire US publishing industry including those which disseminates printed material promoting white supremacy and anti-Semitism.  For me to make such a claim would be an out and out lie. Yet, you seem to have no qualms about such conduct. Now, you have decided to ‘Godwin’ the discussion, as I am your favorite incarnation of evil for your histrionics.

So as not to violate the TOS here, I wish to make clear that what I am expressing is a personal opinion, based upon the entirety of your comments here. It is my opinion that you are simply a dishonest person. Worse, you seem to have no qualms about your dishonesty. You make false statements, false accusations, and engage in false exaggeration. I’m fairly certain that when you respond to this, you will have elevated me to something along the lines of Eichmann’s right hand man who dropped Zyklon B in the gas chambers. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck, or in your case, repeatedly makes false assertions, I can only come to one conclusion. I will no longer engage you in discussion. Not on this thread, but any other on A|N. I have better things to do than interact with someone whom, in my personal estimation, knowingly and purposefully engages in wilful deceit, gross dishonesty, and boorish behavior.

You question pre-supposes that I sent innocent people to prison

There must be drug dealers who are honorable about it, who give honest weight, who do their best to buy uncontaminated marijuana, who don't get violent about it. 

Someone like that hasn't done anything wrong so far as I can see.  I knew someone who told me he'd been a smalltime drug dealer in college.  It didn't bother me.  He didn't seem like he would rip anyone off, and he certainly wasn't lurking around high schools trying to get kids hooked (or other stereotypes). 

If you agree that such a person hasn't done anything wrong, how much latitude did you have as a prosecutor to take it easy on them? 

Maybe major drug dealers are inevitably involved in violence, but I don't think that would be true for small-scale drug dealers.  

Here's a review of America's Longest War, a book about the War on Drugs in the USA.

It's written by a former prosecutor.  He doesn't discuss personal ethical conflicts in being a prosecutor, but it's illuminating anyway. 

I have been an activist and NORML supporter for 30+ years.  It's great to see the government's lies exposed -- and to see Americans going ahead on their own, creating marijuana policy in states and localities.  This hideous, unconstitutional marijuana persecution will soon come to an end.  Like the end of slavery or the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is a real turning point.  See Thomas Szasz and Milton Friedman's On Liberty and Drugs (collection of essays).

Thanks for posting.  A ;lot of anti-pot sentiment is driven by religion.

Great to hear from you Alan.  As I remember we're always seen eye to eye on most threads on this broad.  Not that I'm in a class with Milton Friedman but my Pot Stories on the right has some beautiful history going back to Harry Angslinger and Prohibition.  My High School with Rudy Giuliani also exposes the sociopathic conceit and lust for power of our "leaders".  Fun read:  Harry is documented as saying, paraphrased that the major reason pot should be criminalized is because it makes "degenerate races feel equal to whites."  

It's infuriating to think about.  DEA agents are following the dictates of a Puritanical, racist moron 'til this day.  The War on Drugs has done almost as much damage to the country as the War in Viet Nam.  It's like the Wehrmacht following their general to Stalingrad—unquestioning obedience.  

Am I concerned that people want to make the use of pot legal? NO. You might as well use the words "legal again" because it once was legal. By keeping it illegal you invoke too many rights of "people control" and also manufacturers mixing and dusting the product. It's no accident that illegality keeps the price sky high and causes an inferior product. It would appear this was all done by design. Think back to when pot was legal (if you can) and ask yourself if we had any problems with it.

There were none that I can recall.

Thanks, Rich.  Drug wars have always been partly or mostly political - a way to hassle particular groups, marginalize and demonize them: blacks, Hispanics, orientals (opium), artists/musicians, hippies (pot).  Szasz and Friedman write about "drug as scapegoat" -- the ancient Greek word for both is pharmakos.

I hope this so called 'war on drugs' comes to an end soon.
Money is the reason it's happening now. Backed by religion. Money for the government since they confiscate a persons property if they suspect them of being involved in trafficking drugs. And often suspicion is all that's needed.
It's also a class war which is proven by the numbers of poor who are serving time in jail for low level drug offenses. And race. Blacks and hispanics are disproportionately targeted, and incarcerated, for drug offenses.
It's time for this to stop.

Right on k.h.  Beautiful.  Catch this: Unbelievable. 

Money is the reason it's happening now. Backed by religion. Money for the government since they confiscate a persons property if they suspect them of being involved in trafficking drugs.

I’ve repetitively mentioned how much I enjoy reading Barbara Walker.  I think she’s a genius.  Catch my review of Man Made God.  Some of the ideas in there came from conversations we’ve had over the years. 

An important thesis is that the Inquisition, which lasted over five hundred years, was nothing more than a con job and swindle.  She masterfully gives the dates and facts therein, explaining how the sickest people in history would make crazy accusations, devise crazy bogus evidence (a priest saw the accused turn into a black cat), torture the accused with the sickest of inventions, and inevitably come up with a guilty verdict which led to ghastly punishment, usually burning at the stake.  The final outcome of the entire human tragedy is the church’s confiscation of the victim’s estate, right down to family portraits, clothes and cutlery.  Only a few heretics were ever found innocent.  Barbara estimates the number of victims at over six million, but the American naturalist Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909) writer of Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft, claims he actually witnessed Vatican officials confiscating manuscripts that he was researching.  The number of victims, mostly women and young girls, is unknown. 

In the review of Barbara’s book (the first review on the Amazon page), I tell the story of how I went to school in Brooklyn during the ‘50s, attending St. Anthony of Padua Grammar School.  As a kid I thought what a wonderful man he must have been to have a school named after him in the New World.  After reading Barbara’s book I find that he was one of the sickest mfs in history—sadomasochist, misanthrope and documented misogynist.  The saint thought women were put here solely to tempt men, were in league with the devil and he regarded them at the same level as animals. 

What an irony.  Centuries later our own government works the same confidence game with the same results except for the smell of burning flesh—but thousands of ruined lives just the same.



Here is a passage from the book The End of Faith by Sam Harris, on the relation between religion and consensual crimes.  The picture of Jesus du Bong is from elsewhere.

In the United States, and in much of the rest of the world, it is cur­rently illegal to seek certain exper­i­ences of pleasure. Seek pleasure by a for­bidden means, even in the privacy of your own home, and men with guns may kick in the door and carry you away to prison for it. One of the most sur­prising things about this situ­ation is how unsur­prising most of us find it. As in most dreams, the very faculty of reason that would oth­er­wise notice the strange­ness of these events seems to have suc­cumbed to sleep.

Beha­viors like drug use, pros­ti­tu­tion, sodomy, and the viewing of obscene mater­ials have been cat­egor­ized as “vic­tim­less crimes.” Of course, society is the tan­gible victim of almost everything human beings do — from making noise to man­u­fac­turing chem­ical waste— but we have not made it a crime to do such things within certain limits. Setting these limits is invari­ably a matter of assessing risk. One could argue that it is, at the very least, con­ceiv­able that certain activ­ities engaged in private, like the viewing of sexu­ally violent por­no­graphy, might incline some people to commit genuine crimes against others. There is a tension, there­fore, between private freedom and public risk. If there were a drug, or a book, or a film, or a sexual pos­i­tion that led 90 percent of its users to rush into the street and begin killing people at random, con­cerns over private pleasure would surely yield to those of public safety. We can also stip­u­late that no one is eager to see gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren raised on a steady diet of methamphet­amine and Marquis de Sade. Society as a whole has an interest in how its chil­dren develop, and the private beha­vior of parents, along with the con­tents of our media, clearly play a role in this. But we must ask ourselves, why would anyone want to punish people for enga­ging in beha­vior that brings no sig­ni­ficant risk of harm to anyone? Indeed, what is start­ling about the notion of a vic­tim­less crime is that even when the beha­vior in ques­tion is genu­inely vic­tim­less, its crimin­ality is still affirmed by those who are eager to punish it. It is in such cases that the true genius lurking behind many of our laws stands revealed. The idea of a vic­tim­less crime is nothing more than a judi­cial reprise of the Chris­tian notion of sin.

It is no acci­dent that people of faith often want to curtail the private freedoms of others. This impulse has less to do with the history of reli­gion and more to do with its logic, because the very idea of privacy is incom­pat­ible with the exist­ence of God. If God sees and knows all things, and remains so pro­vin­cial a creature as to be scan­dal­ized by certain sexual beha­viors or states of the brain, then what people do in the privacy of their own homes, though it may not have the slightest implic­a­tion for their beha­vior in public, will still be a matter of public concern for people of faith.

A variety of reli­gious notions of wrong­doing can be seen con­ver­ging here — con­cerns over non­pro­cre­ative sexu­ality and idol­atry espe­cially — and these seem to have given many of us the sense that it is ethical to punish people, often severely, for enga­ging in private beha­vior that harms no one. Like most costly examples of irra­tion­ality, in which human hap­pi­ness has been blindly sub­verted for gen­er­a­tions, the role of reli­gion here is both explicit and found­a­tional. To see that our laws against “vice” have actu­ally nothing to do with keeping people from coming to phys­ical or psy­cho­lo­gical harm, and everything to do with not angering God, we need only con­sider that oral or anal sex between con­senting adults remains a crim­inal offence in thir­teen states. Four of the states (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mis­souri) pro­hibit these acts between same-​​sex couples and, there­fore, effect­ively pro­hibit homo­sexu­ality. The other nine ban con­sen­sual sodomy for everyone (these places of equity are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, North Car­o­lina, South Car­o­lina, Utah, and Vir­ginia). One does not have to be a demo­grapher to grasp that the impulse to pro­secute con­senting adults for non­pro­cre­ative sexual beha­vior will cor­relate rather strongly with reli­gious faith.

Jesus once got 5000 people totally baked with only an eighth of weed

Jesus once got 5000 people totally baked with only an eighth of weed

The influ­ence of faith on our crim­inal laws comes at a remark­able price. Con­sider the case of drugs. As it happens, there are many sub­stances — many of them nat­ur­ally occur­ring — the con­sump­tion of which leads to tran­sient states of inor­dinate pleasure. Occa­sion­ally, it is true, they lead to tran­sient states of misery as well, but there is no doubt that pleasure is the norm, oth­er­wise human beings would not have felt the con­tinual desire to take such sub­stances for mil­lennia. Of course, pleasure is pre­cisely the problem with these sub­stances, since pleasure and piety have always had an uneasy relationship.

When one looks at our drug laws — indeed, at our vice laws alto­gether — the only organ­izing prin­ciple that appears to make sense of them is that any­thing which might rad­ic­ally eclipse prayer or pro­cre­ative sexu­ality as a source of pleasure has been out­lawed. In par­tic­ular, any drug (LSD, mes­caline, psilo­cybin, DMT, MDMA, marijuana, etc.) to which spir­itual or reli­gious sig­ni­fic­ance has been ascribed by its users has been pro­hib­ited. Con­cerns about the health of our cit­izens, or about their pro­ductivity, are red her­rings in this debate, as the leg­ality of alcohol and cigar­ettes attests.

The fact that people are being pro­sec­uted and imprisoned for using marijuana, while alcohol remains a staple com­modity, is surely the reductio ad absurdum of any notion that our drug laws are designed to keep people from harming them­selves or others. Alcohol is by any measure the more dan­gerous sub­stance. It has no approved medical use, and its lethal dose is rather easily achieved. Its role in causing auto­mobile acci­dents is beyond dispute. The manner in which alcohol relieves people of their inhib­i­tions con­trib­utes to human viol­ence, per­sonal injury, unplanned preg­nancy, and the spread of sexual disease. Alcohol is also well known to be addictive. When con­sumed in large quant­ities over many years, it can lead to dev­ast­ating neur­o­lo­gical impair­ments, to cir­rhosis of the liver, and to death. In the United States alone, more than 100,000 people annu­ally die from its use. It is also more toxic to a devel­oping fetus than any other drug of abuse. (Indeed, “crack babies” appear to have been really suf­fering from fetal-​​alcohol syn­drome.) None of these charges can be leveled at marijuana. As a drug, marijuana is nearly unique in having several medical applic­a­tions and no known lethal dosage. While adverse reac­tions to drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen account for an estim­ated 7,600 deaths (and 76,000 hos­pit­al­iz­a­tions) each year in the United States alone, marijuana kills no one. Its role as a “gateway drug” now seems less plaus­ible than ever (and it was never plaus­ible). In fact, nearly everything human beings do — driving cars, flying planes, hitting golf balls — is more dan­gerous than smoking marijuana in the privacy of one’s own home. Anyone who would ser­i­ously attempt to argue that marijuana is worthy of pro­hib­i­tion because of the risk it poses to human beings will find that the powers of the human brain are simply insuf­fi­cient for the job.

And yet, we are so far from the shady groves of reason now that people are still receiving life sen­tences without the pos­sib­ility of parole for growing, selling, pos­sessing, or buying what is, in fact, a nat­ur­ally occur­ring plant. Cancer patients and para­ple­gics have been sen­tenced to decades in prison for marijuana pos­ses­sion. Owners of garden-​​supply stores have received similar sen­tences because some of their cus­tomers were caught growing marijuana. What explains this aston­ishing wastage of human life and material resources? The only explan­a­tion is that our dis­course on this subject has never been obliged to func­tion within the bounds of ration­ality. Under our current laws, it is safe to say, if a drug were invented that posed no risk of phys­ical harm or addic­tion to its users but pro­duced a brief feeling of spir­itual bliss and epi­phany in 100 percent of those who tried it, this drug would be illegal, and people would be pun­ished mer­ci­lessly for its use. Only anxiety about the bib­lical crime of idol­atry would appear to make sense of this retributive impulse. Because we are a people of faith, taught to concern ourselves with the sin­ful­ness of our neigh­bors, we have grown tol­erant of irra­tional uses of state power.

Our pro­hib­i­tion of certain sub­stances has led thou­sands of oth­er­wise pro­ductive and law-​​abiding men and women to be locked away for decades at a stretch, some­times for life. Their chil­dren have become wards of the state. As if such cas­cading horror were not dis­turbing enough, violent crim­inals — murders, rapists, and child molesters — are reg­u­larly paroled to make room for them. Here we appear to have over­stepped the banality of evil and plunged to the absurdity at its depths.

The con­sequences of our irra­tion­ality on this front are so egre­gious that they bear closer exam­in­a­tion. Each year, over 1.5 million men and women are arrested in the United States because of our drug laws. At this moment, some­where on the order of 400,000 men and women lan­guish in U.S. prisons for non­vi­olent drug offences. One million others are cur­rently on pro­ba­tion. More people are imprisoned for non­vi­olent drug offences in the United States than are incar­cer­ated, for any reason, in all of Western Europe (which has a larger pop­u­la­tion). The cost of these efforts, at the federal level alone, is nearly $20 billion dollars annu­ally. The total cost of our drug laws — when one factors in the expense to state and local gov­ern­ments and the tax revenue lost by our failure to reg­u­late the sale of drugs — could easily be in excess of $100 billion dollars each year. Our war on drugs con­sumes an estim­ated 50 percent of the trial time of our courts and the full-​​time ener­gies of over 400,000 police officers. These are resources that might oth­er­wise be used to fight violent crime and terrorism.

In his­tor­ical terms, there was every reason to expect that such a policy of pro­hib­i­tion would fail. It is well known, for instance, that the exper­i­ment with the pro­hib­i­tion of alcohol in the United States did little more than pre­cip­itate a ter­rible comedy of increased drinking, organ­ized crime, and police cor­rup­tion. What is not gen­er­ally remembered is that Pro­hib­i­tion was an expli­citly reli­gious exer­cise, being the joint product of the Woman’s Chris­tian Tem­per­ance Union and the pious lob­bying of certain Prot­estant mis­sionary soci­eties. The problem with the pro­hib­i­tion of any desir­able com­modity is money. The United Nations values the drug trade at $400 billion a year. This exceeds the annual budget for the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense. If this figure is correct, the trade in illegal drugs con­sti­tutes 8 percent of all inter­na­tional com­merce (while the sale of tex­tiles makes up 7.5 percent and motor vehicles just 5.3 percent). And yet, pro­hib­i­tion itself is what makes the man­u­fac­ture and sale of drugs so extraordin­arily prof­it­able. Those who earn their living in this way enjoy a 5,000 to 20,000 percent return on their invest­ment, tax-​​free. Every rel­evant indic­ator of the drug trade — rates of drug use and inter­dic­tion, estim­ates of pro­duc­tion, the purity of drugs on the street, etc. — shows that the gov­ern­ment can do nothing to stop it as long as such profits exist (indeed, these profits are highly cor­rupting of law enforce­ment in any case). The crimes of the addict, to finance the stra­to­spheric cost of his life­style, and the crimes of the dealer, to protect both his ter­ritory and his goods, are like­wise the results of pro­hib­i­tion. A final irony, which seems good enough to be the work of Satan himself, is that the market we have created by our drug laws has become a steady source of revenue for ter­rorist organ­iz­a­tions like Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Shining Path, and others.

Even if we acknow­ledge that stop­ping drug use is a jus­ti­fi­able social goal, how does the fin­an­cial cost of our war on drugs appear in light of the other chal­lenges we face? Con­sider that it would require only a onetime expenditure of $2 billion to secure our com­mer­cial sea­ports against smuggled nuclear weapons. At present we have alloc­ated a mere $93 million for this purpose. How will our pro­hib­i­tion of marijuana use look (this comes at a cost of $4 billion annu­ally) if a new sun ever dawns over the port of Los Angeles? Or con­sider that the U.S. gov­ern­ment can afford to spend only $2.3 billion each year on the recon­struc­tion of Afgh­anistan. The Taliban and Al Qaeda are now regrouping. War­lords rule the coun­tryside beyond the city limits of Kabul. Which is more important to us, reclaiming this part of the world for the forces of civil­iz­a­tion or keeping cancer patients in Berkeley from relieving their nausea with marijuana? Our present use of gov­ern­ment funds sug­gests an uncanny skewing — we might even say derange­ment — of our national pri­or­ities. Such a bizarre alloc­a­tion of resources is sure to keep Afgh­anistan in ruins for many years to come. It will also leave Afghan farmers with no altern­ative but to grow opium. Happily for them, our drug laws still render this a highly prof­it­able enterprise.

Anyone who believes that God is watching us from beyond the stars will feel that pun­ishing peaceful men and women for their private pleasure is per­fectly reas­on­able. We are now in the twenty-​​first century. Perhaps we should have better reasons for depriving our neigh­bors of their liberty at gun­point. Given the mag­nitude of the real prob­lems that con­front us-​​ — ter­rorism, nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion, the spread of infec­tious disease, failing infra­struc­ture, lack of adequate funds for edu­ca­tion and health care, etc. — our war on sin is so out­rageously unwise as to almost defy rational comment. How have we grown so blind to our deeper interests? And how have we managed to enact such policies with so little sub­stantive debate?

Great article.  Thanks Luara.



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