(Legalizing Marijuana - Goes back to 1942)
Since the question of Legalizing Marijuana has started up again (or actually never really went away), I ran across this Firing Line episode from October 1971, with William F. Buckley, Dr. Lester Grinspoon and Lawrence McKinney discussing the facts and myths behind Marijuana as a drug and as a question of legalizing.
William F. Buckley: “If it were legalized and freely available, anybody who overdosed himself would be doing so intentionally, am I right?
Dr. Lester Grinspoon: “Yes absolutely. I would say that without a doubt . . . .
Buckley: “And what percentage of the people who . .who in fact use marijuana today, would you say, accidentally overdose themselves?
Grinspoon: “ Well it’s hard to say. The frequency of these reactions is not . . . these adverse reactions, is not very common . . . the data from the Haight-Ashbury clinic, demonstrates that it’s not very common. In something like 280,000 consecutive admissions to the Los Angeles County General Hospital there are only several . . . two or three . . . .three marijuana reactions. And two of them were due to injecting stuff into their veins . . . .it’s really . . .except for this – people at the Haight-Ashbury are very experienced, relatively experienced marijuana users. And they’re less likely to have an adverse reaction. It’s people who are inexperienced . . . .
Buckley: “suppose I was to argue - okay, we worry about this set of people, now we legalize marijuana and its available in any vending machine, the number of people who then proceed to overdose themselves, simply because some people over drink, is going to exceed numerically the number of people who accidentally do so now, then isn’t the social argument against you?
Grinspoon:“ well, that depends. I mean, if you think that the number of people who . . .total number of people who smoke marijuana . . .
Buckley: “would increase?”
Grinspoon: ”would increase, but I don’t think the difference will be that great. The increase in the use of marijuana is going on geometrically now, and I’m not too sure . . . .
Buckley (to Lawrence McKinney): “Do you agree?”
McKinney: “yes, the amount that’s being confiscated, the amount of dollar sales that’s being reported are going straight up. I will say however, that the sale of it, this is my opinion, is going to go down. That, in those countries where marijuana is freely sold . . .
Buckley: “It has to go down if it’s going up geometrically . . . . “
McKinney: It’s a curiosity thing. And in those countries where marijuana has been smoked for generations, it is not considered a very popular intoxicant. . . . “
It seems the facts are about the same now as they were then, and even the same as they were when first introduced as legislation to legalize it in 1942 - and so are the political ramifications. Certainly the amount of federal funds being poured into the bottomless pit of drug reinforcement has increased massively over the years. And one would imagine there are many who would like to keep the status quo for purely economic reasons. But as is being considered in California, the idea of legalizing marijuana creates a massive new tax-derived income stream and it suddenly seems appealing.
I'm sure this one will be heating up very soon.