It’s 4/20. Is that a problem?

Statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High SchoolI don’t partake myself but the local college students I talked to this week say today is a still a significant day. I don’t worry about it.

The movie, It’s Complicated, has two very funny segments involving chemical use: one of Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) getting drunk and having sex, and another of Jane, Jake and Adam (Steve Martin) getting high at a party.  The abuse of alcohol was problematic; the use of pot, not so much.

Given what’s happening on our local campuses, I’m glad to see local folks focusing their efforts on preventing alcohol abuse. Since it’s 4/20 today, there’s a place where you can get the best bongs on the market. Check out SmokeCartel.


  1. Phil Poyner said:

    I wish there could be a serious national discussion about the role of drugs and alcohol in our society, but I just don’t see it ever happening. It’s just another politicized topic, right up there with “who’s the best at national defense”.

    April 21, 2010
  2. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    Griff, I must say that when Hollywood wants to climb on a political issue then truth and science should just sit down and shut up. You mentioned the movie Its Complicated where you note that “The abuse of alcohol was problematic; the use of pot, not so much.” This is consistent with the entertainment industry’s take on drugs and particularly on the alcohol vs pot issue.

    The science of brain research tells us that both pot and alcohol are psychoactive and that both result in long term changes to the brain. But movie makers have long understood that by making non-normal behaviors appear to be mainstream they can reduce the societal pressure to not participate using a a sort of supercharged “everybody’s doing it, why can’t I?” riff. Pot happens to be a favorite cause for the celebs, and since we all know they are the experts, well, who are we to complain?

    Unfortunately, in the early 20th century we tried to outlaw one of these and learned that making it illegal does not solve the problem. But then again, it was made illegal because of normalizing pressure from social activists who were able to override any sense of personal responsibility with a call for bigger government interventions to impose their vision of a healthy society (sounds like some issues today, doesn’t it?). The only thing we accomplished was creating some large family fortunes (Kennedys, if I remember correctly) for people willing to fill the economic vacuum created by prohibition.

    MADD has the right idea, don’t make the use illegal, just make the consequences of being stupid while under the influence severe. Given the nature of the drug, I think an argument could be made for making pot illegal until age 30, optional till age 65, and mandatory after 65. And DWI means driving under the influence (of a list of psychoactive compounds), and THAT remains illegal. And if some subcultures want to make use a moral issue within their group, then in the long run they will either prove to be the better for it, or not.


  3. Is Pot Demotivating?. Short answer may be NO.
  4. Violence amongst users – alcohol users are violent after using, pot users are violent because of associated antisocial behaviors (correlated but probably not causative.)
  5. April 21, 2010
  6. Phil Poyner said:

    Bruce, I completely agree with your final paragraph. But discussing the health impacts or Hollywood portrayals of pot use seems irrelevant. It doesn’t change the fact that, legal or not, 14.4 million Americans over the age of 18 use pot at least once a month. That’s 16% of all Americans over the age of 18 (The US has the highest levels of illegal drug use in the world). With those kinds of numbers, arguing pot use “on it’s merits” seems a bit silly. Americans will still use it, regardless of any argument.

    According to U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy more than 60 percent of the profits reaped by Mexican drug lords are derived from the exportation and sale of cannabis to the American market. Approximately half the marijuana consumed in the United States originates from outside its borders, and Mexico is far and away America’s largest pot provider. More than 22,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the nation’s narcotrafficking cartels in December 2006. Adding all that together, I would make the argument that, as long as pot is illegal, any American that uses pot has a fair chance of being partially responsible for those deaths. And those that use cocaine are responsible for deaths in Mexico, Colombia, and central America. And those that use opiates are responsible for deaths in Afghanistan, including some of our own troops. Criminalizing drugs in America while doing nothing to curb demand costs innocent people their lives in the third world.

    Those kinds of thoughts didn’t really sink in with me until I pulled a deployment to Panama in 1998/99 to support a counter-drug task force called JIATF-South. The task force would put up surveillance network, identify airbourne drug trafficers, and vector in local-national Air Force aircraft on the bad guys. There were military liason officers on the task force from Ecuador, Colombia, etc. Because I spoke Spanish, those officers were a little more apt to be open with me than they were with some of the higher ranking Americans. One night, the Colombians, with their antiquated A-37 aircraft and dumb-rockets, had a hard time hitting one of those suspect aircraft, and the American general in charge of the task force said some things about the episode that the Colombian liason officer found embarassing. To his credit he kept his cool. But later he let me know what he was really thinking: that if it wasn’t for childish Americans, who were so rich and bored that they couldn’t resist sticking crap in their arms and up their noses, there would be a lot less crime in his country. Basically, his feeling was the whole drug problem in Latin America was, at it’s core, our fault. He was right.

    As we have shown very little interest in reducing demand for drugs in this country, I think we owe it to the rest of the world to decriminalize them. As your last paragraph said, we can still criminalize any impact that use has on the safety of others (and I believe that’s what we should do). So, now I await all the slings and arrows that are sure to head my way.

    April 22, 2010
  7. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    Phil, Yup, my opening paragraph was just a prickly transition from Griff’s fawning use of Hollywood as a reference source. But I will be standing on that hill at your side when those arrows and slings are used agin’ us.

    April 22, 2010
  8. Scott Oney said:

    Phil: I’m flabbergasted! Didn’t they make you mumble some sort of oath before they signed you up and sent you down there? Do you remember it? You quote one of your South American contacts as saying that “if it wasn’t for childish Americans, who were so rich and bored that they couldn’t resist sticking crap in their arms and up their noses, there would be a lot less crime in his country. Basically, his feeling was the whole drug problem in Latin America was, at it’s core, our fault. He was right.” I know these are the South American talking points, and it was during the Clinton era, and all that, but come on, dude–that’s no excuse. You were supposed to be defending us! If anyone is still wondering why America is awash in drugs, I guess you’ll do as exhibit A.

    April 22, 2010
  9. Phil Poyner said:

    Wow, and the first arrow was even personally insulting!

    Well, since you asked for it, the oath of office kind of goes like this:
    “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” At no point does it say we have to believe a policy will be effective; it says we are to carry out the orders given to us by those duly appointed to do so. That we did, and to the very best of our abilities.

    In the military we don’t have “contacts”. That person you referred to as my “South American contact” was a military officer of an allied nation. He’d probably been fighting narco-trafficers, and the guerrillas they funded, for nearly two decades. To discount his professional opinion, regardless of how informally offered, as “talking points” is ill-advised.

    Yeah, it’s those of us that did counter-drug work in South America and on the US border that are to blame for America’s drug problem. Well, among those you blame (exhibit B?) make sure you include Capt. Jose A. Santiago, Capt. Jennifer J. Odom, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas G. Moore, Pfc. T. Bruce Cluff and Pfc. Ray E. Krueger. They were a crew I used to occasionally brief when I was down there. 5 months after I left they died when their reconnaissance plane crashed into a Colombian mountainside while on a counter-narcotics mission. Did you even know they died defending you?

    Stopping drugs at the source costs more money and resources than any US administration, democrat or republican, has been willing to spend. We haven’t even been able to stop the growing of marijuana here in America, where we can bring all our resources to bear, so stopping drugs at the source overseas may be impossible even with near unlimited resouces. The other choices we have are to stop the demand, something American society has been unwilling or incapable of doing, or decriminalize the drugs in order to at least bring a halt to much of the violence that surrounds its distribution. If you feel there are other options, Mr Oney, present them and argue your case.

    April 22, 2010
  10. kiffi summa said:

    Mr. Poyner: Thank you, thank you for your thoughtful, serious and yes, RESPONSIBLE reply.

    We seem to have a problem in Northfield, and in America in general as of late, of only being able to deal with the sound bite version of any issue. We are afraid or refuse to do the hard work of delving into the ‘depths’. We are hysterical about our children and drugs, but we continue to throw $$$ only at the punishment of users, not the prevention of using.

    That will continue as long as we see only the surface of the problem and refuse to look at the causes, or analyze a better solution for those who have been… yes at their own choice, but why?… victimized by their drug use.

    We all know, if we read, the costs of incarceration.
    Would rehab cost less?

    We all know, if we read, the statistics regarding usage in countries where decriminalization exists?
    Why are we afraid to try an avenue that may bring better results than the one we have been following?

    Remember Darwin’s evaluation of the species that is most successful; not the biggest, not the strongest… but the one that is most adaptable.

    I will now be accused of supporting the use of drugs in our community…
    I fervently, passionately, deny that accusation before it happens.

    Thanks again, Mr. Poyner, for a reasoned response, factually presented.

    The time has come to seek a better way, a better path; the one we have been walking down has not led to success.

    April 23, 2010
  11. Phil Poyner said:

    Thank you, Ms Summa. I appreciate your comments. I most certainly hope nobody accuses you of supporting drug use; I don’t support it either. And I also hope we can adapt, before things get any worse.

    April 23, 2010
  12. Scott Oney said:

    Phil: Thanks for posting the oath. It’s a good thing to think about once in a while. One minor footnote: Notice that defending the Constitution is stated in absolute terms, whereas the part about following orders comes with a significant hedge (“according to regulations . . .”).

    I’m glad you asked about other options. Most readers of Locally Grown have probably heard more than enough from me on the subject, so I won’t repeat my opinions here. You can look up older posts if you’re curious. But here’s some food for thought: We actually had an effective system in place when Harry J. Anslinger was in charge of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, starting in 1930. (He’s a guy dopers love to hate, so you can read all about him on the World Wide Web. His Wikipedia entry is as good a place as any to start.) You can see why his style didn’t mesh with the vision of America held by the Kennedy boys, among others, but notice what happened after he retired (or got canned) in 1962.

    April 23, 2010
  13. Phil Poyner said:

    Scott, that significant hedge is paramount; it prevents the military from hiding behind the “Nuremberg Defense” (“I was only following orders”) while reminding them that there is a separation of powers in our country (orders come from the executive branch, while the UCMJ belongs to the legislative branch). Orders that are deemed “unlawful” should not be followed. Those can range from low level orders, like an order to strike a prisoner (violation of article 93 of the UCMJ), to the highest level of orders, like an order from the President to seize the Capitol building and suspend Congress (a violation of the Constitution). From a historical perspective it’s a miracle that our country has never suffered from a military coup. I believe we haven’t had one in part because the military swears to defend the ideal of America rather than any particular party, polical doctrine, institution, or even geographic boundary. It helps keep the military from becoming a political “center of gravity”, making us somewhat rare in the world. I’m sure Samuel P. Huntington speaks to this issue much better than I do in his book “The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations”.

    I’ll make sure I take a look at the references you posted. I certainly don’t have anything in this world completely figured out, and I always appreciate hearing new ideas.

    April 24, 2010
  14. Scott Oney said:

    Phil: Thanks for the examples. I’ve never been particularly worried about a military coup here. I think most of those guys take their oath a lot more seriously than some of our elected leaders seem to.

    I’m sort of a fan of Samuel P. Huntington, as you might have guessed, but I haven’t read “Soldier and the State.” I should take a look at it.

    April 26, 2010
  15. Michelle Hawkins said:

    The numbers 4/20 don’t matter to me, Griff.
    Except to mark the date that I wholeheartedly agreed with both Kiffi Suma and Phil Poyner AND was exremely grateful for Phil’s post on the source cartels & terror that is happening south of the border and across the oceans as a direct result of our insatiable demand for mind and mood altering substances.
    We go to war over “US interests” i.e. oil and terroristic acts by dictators but can’t spend one tenth the time, money, attention and fervor on addressing the realities of wasted minds, wasted lives, and those lost in defending/protecting them.

    Phil- I know you had some words to dump on me in the past, they were well deserved at the time.
    I hope you will at this time accept my thanks for your service, and your post about such.

    It’s sad we spend so much energy,$$, attention, on historic buildings, post offices, land use etc etc(and yes I believe all that is important too), but we don’t spend half of that, even here on this blog, addressing ideas for real solutions even in our little town.

    Would the attendees to a meeting of minds to help or save our own children and townspeople from addiction and death number as many as those who showed up to save our post office?

    And if we did, would anybody listen and ACT?

    April 20, 2011
  16. Michelle asks why our spending priorities make so little sense. The sad facts are that we are conflated by our desires to not interfere with individual and our desires to control them, by our desires to be free and our desires to be safe and by our desires to live well and our desires to live sustainably. Unfortunately, years of experience and trillions of dollars spent trying to end poverty show that these sort of systemic and endemic problem are just not solvable by simple means. If they were, we would never have tried prohibition (a sort of shotgun to kill mosquitoes that we seem doomed to try over and over because we have large parts of our voting public who think that such problems are solvable by simply wishing them away (supported by a little change to our codes).

    So, we grow jaded. We are like the retired couple who lavish attention on their cats that they could never gin up when they were trying to mold children into adults. We grow weary of throwing good money after bad, and turn to outlets that do not present us with moral dilemmas, just fiscal ones.

    No one wants to see opium dens (or do they, St Paul Wet House solution), but the carnage we allow to be perpetrated because we insist on the simplistic prohibition should be spoken of whenever we talk about stricter drug laws. I, for one, am pretty sure that if we could keep the users out of downtown by housing them somewhere out of sight and out of mind, then we would see some acceptance of the possibility that not everyone can be saved. But writing off a portion of the population is unpleasant, creates a multi-class system, and probably represents a cultural maturity than we are incapable of at this time.

    Whether marijuana is problematic is to some extent not the issue, but using 4/20 as a sort of secret (not very secret) code is just pop-niche culture made mainstream by Wikipedia.

    April 20, 2011
  17. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Bruce you are very right and we have our very own microcosm example…can you say Greenvale Apts?
    Except they don’t stay at home, they bring their behaviors to town too.
    Except it’s not the rights of the individual(user) it’s also the rights of those in Wellstone who have achieved theri senior years only to have them disturbed and threatened by drunks and the criminal element that is housed and visits GReenvale apts directly behind them, right out their windows, in their parking lot.
    It’s the rights of individuals(users) that prop mgmt defend and the rights of the seniors and anyone not involved in the activity that mgmt ignores.

    I don’t for a second believe this is the only Northfield form of a “wethouse” there is either. It’s just the one I am most familiar with, having lived there four yrs til last august.

    Yes drug and alcohol abuse is everywhere in the country, no it can’t be stopped or completely eradicated, but at least you’d think in a nation so concerned with pro-life and right wing christianity, we could get a little more care and real actions taken to preserve, protect, and aid the peace of lives already here.

    April 20, 2011

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