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Right-Wing Think Tank's Marijuana Policy Paper Takes Absurdity to New Heights

The Heritage Foundation's Charles Stimson has released a completely bonkers prohibitionist screed on marijuana. Will the think tank retract it?

If you want to read one of the most absurd "policy" articles about marijuana in history, go quickly to the website of the Heritage Foundation to read "Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No." I say quickly because it is truly so absurd, I believe it will be taken down from the site soon.  


I have been working in marijuana policy reform for almost nine years now. I think I have heard all of the arguments against creating a legal, regulated marijuana market more than a few times. While some arguments have some legitimacy, most are distortions of the truth, intellectually inconsistent, or flat out wrong. But this new piece from Charles Stimson, which just went up on the Heritage Foundation site last week, is batshit crazy. 

It is honestly hard to know where to begin. My real desire is to start where he did -- comparing marijuana to alcohol -- as this is my passion and it is also where he truly jumps the shark. But I think I will leave the best for last. Instead, I will start by providing some of the other creative assertions he sprinkled throughout the piece. Consider them outrageous appetizers before the main course of ridiculous. 

In no particular order:

He quotes one random study that concluded, "long-term use of marijuana may alter the nervous system in ways that do promote violence." He backs this up not by citing acts of violence by marijuana users, but by describing a couple of areas (the Netherlands, California) where the sale of marijuana was supposedly linked to an increase in crime.  

At times, it is as if he was not able to complete the most basic research to determine whether his claims had any merit. 

"It is impossible to predict the precise consequences of legalization, but the experiences of places that have eased restrictions on marijuana are not positive. Already, California is suffering crime, dislocation, and increased drug use under its current regulatory scheme."

Here are the actual consequences: Since California made the medical use of marijuana legal, the number of violent crimes in the state have steadily  declined, from about 274,00 in 1996 to approximately 174,000 in 2009. Of course, as an intellectually honest person, I would not claim that is due to medical marijuana being legal. Other states have seen similar declines. But to assert that legal marijuana has caused an increase in crime in California is pure fantasy. In addition, if one were to look at cocaine use in California to determine whether "drug use" has increased in the state, it actually deceased between 2003 and 2008.  

Other times, he proves that his research, even when he attempted to conduct it, was not very reliable. Check out this section in which he calculates that a 25 square-foot plot -- about the size of a full size bed -- could produce up to 240,000(!) joints a year: 

"Under [Prop. 19], any resident could grow marijuana for "personal use" in a plot at home up to 25 square feet in size. One ounce of marijuana is enough for 60 to 120 marijuana cigarettes. One plant produces one to five pounds, or 16 to 80 ounces, of marijuana each year, and 25 square feet of land can sustain about 25 plants. Therefore, an individual will be able to produce 24,000 to 240,000 joints legally each year."

Proving that he is unable to see the forest through the marijuana plants, in one section he makes a powerful case for the need for a regulated marijuana market.