Thus Spake the Potheads

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   1/14/14
It’s starting to appear as if marijuana users have become the homosexual lobby of the chemically dependent. What do I mean? Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson could mention one sexual behavior (adultery) as disqualifying someone from the “kingdom of God,” but mentioning that “other” sexual behavior? That’s a boycottin’, pardner! Likewise, there’s no shortage of articles about the perils of smoking tobacco — about how it causes lung cancer, emphysema and premature aging; about how it’s a dirty, nasty habit — all without indignant smokers crawling out of the woodwork to protest, between hacking coughs, that their passion is being unfairly demonized. But dare imply that inhaling copious amounts of marijuana smoke may not be one of Dr. Oz’s top ten health recommendations, and, well, the potheads cometh.

Let’s begin here with a simple but apparently radical premise: habitually sucking into your lungs hot gases containing carbon particles probably isn’t the most healthful practice. This is true whether the source is a Marlboro, a truck’s tailpipe or a bong loaded with cannabis. Agreed?

Apparently not. As with this article about pot use’s correlation with psychotic behavior, such assertions not only bring out the potheads — who do seem to have the ambition to defend their vice — but also some apologists who claim that marijuana smoking is actually a good. It’s for medicinal purposes, you see.

So we hear about how negative reporting on pot is all Puritan propaganda, about how tobacco is far worse, about how I’m 49 and toked since I were a teen and I funkshun fein, about how if you purge the THC, it’s a perfect drug (somehow every pothead is Linus Pauling). And then there’s the old standby: alcohol is legal and is worse. Alcohol is more addictive. Alcohol this and alcohol that. Potheads love the alcohol comparison. Okay, then, let’s compare the two.

While most agree that casual drinking — one or two drinks — is fine and may even offer health benefits, it’s universally acknowledged that drunkenness is destructive, ugly and reckless. In accordance with the old PSA, “If you have to drink to be social, it’s not social drinking,” it’s accepted that if you have to get inebriated to deal with life, you have a problem. Even drunkards tend to acknowledge this (they just usually deny that they have a problem). And we certainly shouldn’t exercise double standards.

So I’ll say that if you want to have one or two small puffs of a marijuana cigarette, fine.

But you’ve crossed the line if you get high.

Deal?

This puts the lie to the alcohol/pot comparison. There are millions of casual drinkers who may have a beer or glass of wine with dinner but have no intention of getting tipsy. Except, however, for the few who use pot for legitimate medical purposes (and I’m dubious about the necessity of this, mind you), the goal of a marijuana smoker is ever and always to get high (drunk). The intention is always to alter his mental state.

Always.

This is why the proper comparison is not pot smoking and “drinking,” but pot smoking and drunkenness. It is why legal marijuana doesn’t correspond to legal alcohol as much as it does to legal cocaine, another drug that takes you from sober to stewed with one dose.

And it’s why there’s no such thing in the real world as “casual” marijuana use. Millions of “drinkers” can honestly say that they have no chemical dependency issue, but not one regular pot user can. By definition, pot smokers’ goal is to get “drunk.”

So one drink doesn’t equal one joint — one bottle does. But to further cement the point, imagine alcohol really was pot’s equivalent, that even just one six-ounce drink got you plastered. Would we find any degree of alcohol consumption tolerable? Would Prohibition ever have ended?

Note here what I am not doing. I’m not making any claims about whether pot is more unhealthful than tobacco; I’m not denying that a pothead is a safer driver than a drunkard, or opining on whether or not marijuana use increases the incidence of psychosis or lowers I.Q. when used by the young (as another study indicated). I’m not weighing in right now on whether or not the drug should be legal. I’m simply pointing out that the main arguments used to legitimize pot are pap.

And “legitimize” is the operative word. When people editorialized against Prohibition, their argument perhaps was of the nature G.K. Chesterton presented in a 1935 radio talk when he opined, “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” But I don’t know of anyone who claimed that drunkenness should be considered a desired state or even acceptable. Yet this notion runs through pro-pot commentary: the idea that potheads’ form of drunkenness is okay. And it has to run through it — because, again, to advocate pot use is to advocate “drunkenness.”

So while we may argue about whether pot is a gateway drug, advocacy of it is certainly a gateway idea. Inherent in it is the notion that altering your mind is okay, getting high is fine. Of course, some potheads might tell us that their form of drunkenness is different, that the acceptance of it won’t lead to the acceptance of getting high via other means. Hey, all these things occur in a bubble, there is no slippery slope, and precedents don’t precede. (And where have we heard that before?)

Wherever you stand on pot legalization, about legitimization there should be no debate. A nation that does not maintain stringent social prohibitions (in the least) against chemical dependency will not likely remain strong and vibrant. Thus, we always must be able to unabashedly say: if you’re using marijuana habitually, face it, you’re a pothead. You’re self-medicating. You’re chemically dependent. You have a problem. And drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

This is true whether it’s by bottle or bong.
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20 Responses to Thus Spake the Potheads

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    My view is that most, probably all, illegal drugs are illegal for a good reason. I think the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition exceed the positive ones, but I do agree that marijuana use is undesirable. And the idea of marijuana without THC is a joke. Why bother to indulge without the payoff?

  2. John Kirke John Kirke says:

    A sane free society would make a clear distinction between what behavior is legitimate and what behavior is merely legal: the state would allow for an awful lot, but society wouldn’t endorse everything.

    But our no-longer-sane society is subverting traditional institutions, subordinating them to the state, or demolishing them altogether, so people are treating “legal” and “moral” as increasingly interchangeable concepts.

    That’s the biggest reason to oppose legalizing even a relatively mild narcotic like marijuana: right now it’s hard to legalize reckless behavior without simultaneously endorsing it.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    ” people are treating “legal” and “moral” as increasingly interchangeable concepts.”

    That’ what one gets when materialism completely takes over.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    I was one of those hypocrites who disdained the use of pot for everyone else, but used it religiously for nearly three decades. I claimed I could do anything while using it, and I self-righteously did so: running 10k races, hiking, reading, lovemaking, driving, waterskiing, going to graduate school….hell, I even defended my Master’s thesis on Nietzsche after a few bong hits in the car. I was so confident of my secret friend that I failed to notice that she had me firmly by my throat. You see, somewhere along the line I became in thralldom to a lover who had all the time in the world to wait for me. Eventually, it became obvious to everyone around me that I was a stone addict. Pot ruled the way I lived and if I could not travel some place without it, like on an airplane, I did not want to go.

    I see this same self-deception in the kids who come into my classrooms. I have a spectacular sense of judgment as to who is high….and it seems that the kids are getting younger and younger. I was lucky and did not get involved till college. But I can look back now and see the wreckage that drug use caused me, and it is through the grace of God that I was never arrested for possession or dui or dealing it to my friends. But I did not get away scott free, for God knows the anguish, torment, and the hoops I went through for the sake of my great love who turned me into her bloody stuttering fool.

  5. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    Selwyn raises some good points here – and I think ST is indeed the place to raise them. (Sad to say, it’s hard to imagine National Review publishing a piece like this one, although I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of their regular writers came up with some reasons why getting stoned wasn’t really such a bad thing, and maybe the GOP should light up its collective bong if it wants to broaden its appeal to socially liberal voters). It’s good to distinguish between those who believe in drug legalization because the individual has the right to make his own decisions even if that means he hurts himself, and those who believe in drug legalization because they think drug use is a fine thing. In the former category are some Conservatives (who in this follow W. F. Buckley Jr., and I wish I knew the proportion of Conservatives who agree); in the latter are the Libertarians, always averse to moral judgments, and the Left, who are both indulging their libertinism.

    The Left is in favor of pot for the same reason it favors abortion: it wants the people it intends to rule to be able to distract themselves with sex and drugs Brave New World-style, to enjoy “freedom” in those areas of life it has no desire to control, while it consolidates its power over those areas of our lives it does wish to control – pretty much everything else. Thus the recent pot legalization in Colorado is no cause for celebration even if we take the Buckley view of drugs, because it was championed by the very same people who simultaneously passed draconian new gun control laws and drove Magpul out of the state.

    P.S. Shortly after this was written, I remembered that Brad had written “National Review is going to Pot” not long ago, so perhaps my implied criticism of NR is gratuitous at this point, but I left it in place anyway.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      One minor correction: In addition to those who actually support marijuana use and those who don’t support it but support legalization for libertarian reasons of personal liberty, there are people like me who are quite ready to believe (even if I’m not sure, the evidence being so heavily disputed and not important enough to me to study it in detail) that marijuana is harmful enough to justify banning it — but also suspect that existing law does more harm (corruption of various sorts) than good.

      • steve lancaster says:

        Tim,
        “that existing law does more harm (corruption of various sorts) than good.”

        This is the very heart of libertarian argument about drugs. Few if any, right thinking, by this I mean not stoned, libertarians will argue the degrading effect of any drug, including alcohol. Our opposition is that the supposed cure is worse than the disease. I do not want to see anyone doing drugs, from the neighbor next door that seems to use too much Prozac, to the doper on the bus nodding off from too much of what ever they could score.

        I doubt that there is a law, regulation, code, or even public shunning that will stop drugs. Parents have a social obligation to prevent drugs in their homes, and to endeavor to keep them from their children, however, society has no obligation to provide druggies with any form of support. All too many times when you dig into the drug users story we discover that they are the receivers of food stamps, welfare, etc. from badly depleted public funds.

        The other side of the story is corruption of public officials, from the border guard, who doesn’t guard anything to the policeman who takes just a little for his kids education to the political officials who encourage the drug trade because it means millions in their pockets.

        We have waged the “war on drugs” for most of my 66 years, just how is that working out?

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I’m quite willing to believe that you, like me, are simply skeptical that drug prohibition is practical given the many serious negative consequences, but I have to wonder how many libertarians actually agree with you. I can’t help recalling that L. Neil Smith had a libertarian activist in one of his novels offering “Thank you for pot smoking” buttons. I also recall that Samuel Konkin expressed the view that one should disobey laws to challenge the authorities or some such reason (this was probably a couple of decades ago). I also recall another libertarian writing to FOSFAX that he votes Democratic because of their support for abortion (and thus their rejection of laws based on religious morality). I suspect libertinism is much more common than you’d like among libertarians.

          • steve lancaster says:

            Tim,
            I admit that I do not know every libertarian even in my own town, however, my point of view among those I do know is very common, perhaps its because here in the South we have a real meth problem that government is incapable of even addressing, not to mention solving.

            I do not know what the solution is, but I do know that the current efforts at control are flaccid.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Don’t forget the people who as sophomores in college read a little Nietzsche while stoned and considered themselves to be the world’s Uebermenschen who were above the morality of the masses and could create their own new values.

            A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

        • Rozy says:

          Timothy, you are so correct about individuals having liberty to do what they want, but not having to be supported by society in their choices. We should cut off their financial support. Why should my taxes support their addictions? Rights come with responsibilities and allowing the first should mean we enforce the second.

  6. David Ray says:

    Good article.
    It reminds me of when the libertarians drove Ann Coulter out due solely to her not being a purist on free drug laws. She was more focused on eliminating departments (EPA, Education, etc), reduced regulation, flat tax, etc.
    They were focused on drug legalization.

    Fuming over their tunnel vision, she dropped her bid to join so as to run against RINO Chris Shays.
    She quoted the Russian proverb “. . . I will burn my neighbor’s house down.”, and as such wrote two articles in a row staunchly defending drug laws – mainly just to piss off the Libertarian stalwarts that couldn’t get the bigger “limited gov’t” picture.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Good post, David. One certainly gets the idea that “libertarian,” in practice, means libertine. The philosophy that draws on “reason” as its foundation seems to spend most of its time trying to rationalize its vices.

  7. Good analysis. I love the parallel of smoking pot = getting drunk. The problem here is that we can’t cure the problem with law, nor can we, in good conscience, put a societal stamp of approval, i.e. legalizing, on what is demonstrably negative activity. I find it interesting that in ancient times drug use was synonymous with demon possession. In the Greek New Testament the word for either was “pharmakeia.” There is some truth to that.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung pointed this article out to me by Ben Stein. And it’s a good one: Stoned Crazy at the ‘New York Times’:

    I have seen up close and personal what today’s marijuana does to young and old people. It isn’t a mild relaxant. It isn’t a mild hallucinogen. It is a powerful sedative and hallucinogen. It robs human beings of their energy, their consciousness, their ability to plan, their ability to make moral decisions. It destroys ambition. It turns young people who had goals and dreams into vegetables.

    For libertarians, the very measure of a free America is if they can get stoned out of their minds, and do so with the tacit approval of government.

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. has a nice article on the subject at hand: Marijuana vs. Scotch and a Low IQ

    If you are a libertarian and believe that legalizing pot is a good thing, you are one of the little barbarians in our culture who need civilizing — not unlike those black hoodlums in Ferguson.

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