Saturday, October 01, 2011

Lies, damn lies, and drug war statistics

Anti-marijuana campaigners hate the fact that in some states in the U.S. sick people are allowed to use a drug that doesn't come from a big pharmaceutical company, which they fear could eventually lead to a broader relaxation of cannabis laws. But they can't really just say that they'd prefer your grandma to spend all day vomiting up her cancer drugs, so they, predictably, point to the children.

As the Contra Costa Times reports, prohibitionists in California are claiming "relaxed state laws toward medical marijuana" are responsible for an overall increase in the use of pot.
"In evaluating the statistics, it shows states that have a medical-marijuana program have a significant increase in use of those who are using marijuana," said Paul Chabot, founder of Rancho Cucamonga-based Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition.
What follows is a bunch of statistics showing marijuana use is slightly up, not just in California, but around the country. Nowhere is their statistical evidence that "states that have a medical-marijuana program" experienced larger increases, as implied by the noble and not at all self-interested Mr. Chabot.

So, what do the statistics actually say? California's had legal medical marijuana for about 15 years now, so somebody has to have studied the issue. Let's see what we can find on the website of the U.S. government's National Institute of Health, shall we?

"Do medical cannabis laws encourage cannabis use?" That sounds promising. Published in 2007, the study was conducted by researchers at Texas A&M's Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. And what did it find?
No statistically significant pre-law versus post-law differences were found . . . . Thus, consistent with other studies of the liberalization of cannabis laws, medical cannabis laws do not appear to increase use of the drug. One reason for this might be that relatively few individuals are registered medical cannabis patients or caregivers. In addition, use of the drug by those already sick might "de-glamorise" it and thereby do little to encourage use among others.
Meanwhile, Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project notes that a recent federal survey of teen cannabis use found that in states like California "rates actually decreased since the implementation of their medical marijuana programs."

So just who is this Paul Chabot guy anyway and why is he so invested in making factually flawed arguments against liberalized drug laws? It's interesting, actually. From his official bio on the website of the Coalition for a Drug Free California, we find that he is:
a combat veteran from Iraq [sic] where he served as an intelligence officer with special operations forces. Having fought to defend America's values and principles, he returned home to find California falling further down a slippery slope of drug legalization, addiction, crime and violence. At the early age of 12 Paul entered drug rehab for alcohol and marijuana addiction, and has to date achieved 25 years of sobriety. He served as a police officer, a parole board commissioner and a White House Senior Advisor for law enforcement, justice and drug control, followed by assignments with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the State Department. As a professional speaker, he has traveled to 48 states to speak on the perils of substance abuse.
Chabot is also a failed Republican candidate for California's State Assembly, his 2010 campaign based on the rallying cry of "Send a Military and Law Enforcement Veteran to Fight for You in Sacramento." The Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition that he is credited as founding, meanwhile, is according to its website composed of, among others: "Law Enforcement"; "Healthcare Professionals, including mental health and substance abuse"; and "Government agencies."

In other words, Chabot's career, like the careers of other prohibitionists, is dependent on maintaining the drug war status quo. Oh, he may believe the stuff he says; he may be a true believer. But then, money and power have a strange way of affecting people's thinking. The simple, indisputable fact is the institutions Chabot served, and the groups that now fund his anti-pot campaigning -- law enforcement and drug rehab profiteers -- depend on a system of fines, jail time and mandatory treatment for marijuana use.

Don't accuse me of being surprised this isn't the case, but it'd sure be nice if journalists noted the personal and financial interests anti-marijuana campaigners have in maintaining draconian drug laws. Or maybe they could just fact check the things they say before printing them.


  1. Brian M7:34 AM

    I don't think the media in this case is really hiding anything per se. I think that the positions of Mr. Chabot are simply considered so obvious, so much conventional wisdom and by definition
    "correct", so there is no need to note for them to acknowledge youur realities, Charles. :) That would be beyond the pale, you know!

  2. I wish that were the case. Instead, all too often I see these folks quoted and portrayed as simply Concerned Parents, usually contrasted with someone in the marijuana business whose personal and financial stake in the debate is made obvious.

  3. Brian M8:45 AM

    true enough!

    I would merely add that medical marijuana has become simply ridiculous here in California. Our local free weekly features full glossy photographs of bud with exotic names and properties listed in breathless prose...all the glories of American advertising in full hue and cry. Heck, they had so many ads that they have pulled them into a separate free monthly (glossy, on better paper stock than the rest of the paper), the "420" issue.

    Let's get rid of the hypocrisy*. Legalize it!**

    * I know there are epeople who marijuana helps...not dismissing their need for the drug or the evil/stupidity of harrassing them.

    ** I do not indulge myself. Asthma and raw unfiltered inhalants are not really a good combination.

  4. Anonymous9:09 PM

    I wish that were the case. Instead, all too often I see these folks quoted and portrayed as simply Concerned Parents, usually contrasted with someone in the marijuana business whose personal and financial stake in the debate is made obvious.