The Letter Of The Law

Dec 10 2012 @ 1:43pm

Kleiman objects to my characterization of marijuana law in Colorado and Washington:

Sullivan refers to people making money by growing and selling pot in violation of federal law as "law-abiding citizens." Many of them are in fact otherwise law-abiding. But the Controlled Substances Act law is still the law, even if you disagree with it.  And Sullivan certainly isn’t outraged that the federal government enforces, e.g., environmental laws or truth-in-lending laws, even in states whose own rules are looser; is someone who fills in a protected wetland without a federal permit in a state that requires no such permit "law-abiding"?  Only if each of us gets to pick his own laws.

Perhaps it is better stated that they are law-abiding in terms of their own state. Right now, I am a law-abiding married person in the state of New York. But the federal government regards my civil marriage as illegal. Should the feds actively arrest and enforce the federal law, i.e. DOMA, or let us be? You have to use discretion in prosecuting. Why not enforce those laws that apply both to states and the feds before pitting the two against each other in a shifting cultural climate? That's my point. Kleiman adds:

You can also read both essays through without ever learning that pot dependency is a real problem or that a large share of the current market involves sales to people with drug problems and to minors. Sullivan comes closest when he says that cannabis “is no more potentially damaging to a human being than alcohol,” which is a pretty low bar to have to clear.

Pot dependency is real but it is not a chemical addiction as with other Class I substances. And you can become dependent on a lot of things we do not find that problematic. Angry Birds dependency is real (tell me about it). Facebook dependency is real. Blog dependency is real (ditto). It doesn't mean, as Mark obviously agrees, that these dependencies should be illegal.

As to the "low bar" of alcohol – well, I didn't set that bar. The law does. And it is the bar, isn't it? It's the most common drug we market, consume and sell. If another substance does less harm to the individual and society than alcohol, it makes no sense to treat it differently. As for minors, I've long worried that the under-aged could hurt their mental development by using cannabis. We aired the arguments against pot use in The Cannabis Closet. The Dish hasn't shied away from these issues. There are trade-offs, to be sure. But I also believe that Prohibition makes pot more accessible to kids than a legal, regulated market would.