Forrest Hurd: Oversimplifications, cherry picking, fear mongering, and manipulation
November 10, 2017
On July 12 I stated, "The law was the problem, not their actions" in a Community Advisory Group meeting, which was then quoted in Mr. Lehner's op-ed in The Union.
Allow me to provide some context to Mr. Lehner's op-ed, though I am not going to ask "Are you listening?" after every paragraph because, frankly, I found it condescending.
My hope is that some will look at claims of impending cannabis-related doom in a more critical manner.
The statement "The law was the problem, not their actions" was made while discussing live-scan fingerprinting requirements for misdemeanor cannabis possession for the purpose of preventing those people from working in the cannabis industry. It was not, as portrayed in Mr. Lehner's article, the condoning of assault and murder.
Sure, listen. But don’t let that be a substitute for unbiased research.
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To further his point, he followed with, "We are a nation of laws. We don't get to pick and chose which ones to obey, and which to ignore."
Although, of course, we are a nation of laws, we also have a long and proud history of being able to recognize that legal and illegal does not always equal morally right and wrong. Look no further than the civil rights movement for examples.
As an advocate for children with catastrophic diseases that can be treated by cutting-edge cannabis science, I can tell you that unfortunately, we often have to violate laws to ensure our child's right to life; a right so deeply rooted in our nation's history that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were key points in our Declaration of Independence.
When it comes to protecting the lives of the most desperate children in our communities, you are technically right that there is always a "choice," but many fail to realize the choice is to step outside the law or watch our loved ones suffer, in some cases to death. When it comes to the lives of those who depend on us I stand by my statement that it is the law that is the problem, not the actions of those fighting for their loved ones. And unfortunately, misdemeanor possession charges because of these actions are not uncommon.
Crime follows prohibition. If there is an illegal, tax-free dollar to be made, someone will fill that role. Look no further than the lessons learned during the prohibition of alcohol: gang activity, murders, homemade whiskey stills blowing up in houses … sound familiar? There is a reason characters like Al Capone are no longer plaguing our communities. It is not due to law enforcement; it is because the profit motives fueling the criminal behavior no longer exist in a legal, well-regulated marketplace.
The bottom line is that none of the examples provided by Mr. Lehner demonstrate causality between behavior of people and the plant itself. Rather, they demonstrate a pattern in human behavior that has been replicated throughout history during prohibitions.
With legalization comes increased regulation, and the data shows conclusively that teen cannabis use drops significantly after legalization occurs. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, teen cannabis use is at a 22-year low and continues to drop.
The latest results of the national survey on drug use and health show that youth use has significantly dropped every year since legalization in Colorado and Washington. The study AAA cites is one from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, yet several much more credible studies exist. For example the study by the American Public Health Association out of the University of Texas showed no change in traffic fatalities. Also, in states where medical marijuana has been legalized, Fox News correctly reported that traffic fatalities actually decreased based on the data.
The claims about high school dropout rates, if one looks into the credibility of the organization making the claims, it is hardly conclusive. There are literally billions of dollars at stake for the pharmaceutical and big alcohol industries and they pump millions into advertising and junk studies to manipulate the public. We have to be highly critical and look at the source of the study being cited. Overall, the data supports that regulation is what best addresses all the issues raised by Mr. Lehner.
Mr. Lehner's own bias and what I can only interpret as a willingness to mislead the reader is shown in no better example than his claim that "The Surgeon General and the CDC report that 'Marijuana use is a major health problem in the United States.'" I was not only listening but willing to look into the claim as I was surprised I had not yet heard of it. It turns out that I didn't remember hearing our Surgeon General make these claims because I was three years old at the time! The quote taken by Mr. Lehner was in a report from August 13, 1982.
Oversimplifications, cherry-picking, fear-mongering and manipulation through misrepresented quotes is effective if your goal is to sway public opinion, but is not how we are going to best solve the complexities of safe cannabis regulation in our communities.
Sure, listen. But don't let that be a substitute for unbiased research.
Forrest Hurd is a member of the Caladrius Network.
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