tv After Words CSPAN April 7, 2015 8:57pm-9:56pm EDT
fine line. anything that they did that specifically targeted african-americans favorite hero from certain parties or groups any effort that they tried. >> host: you have been at the white house through a very, very exciting time. thank you thank you for sharing your thoughts and book you with us today. >> guest: thank you. >> you're watching book tv in prime time. every weekend book tv features 48 hours of nonfiction books beginning at eight am eastern on saturday. for for the latest schedule information go to our website, c-span.org. with congress in recess book tv is in prime time.
and that happens on both sides. hillary clinton will give her own version of that a kind of thing. and i don't think that was actually true 30 years ago. i mean resentment has always been part of politics obviously, but the degree to which it's almost exclusively the motivating factor in truly committed republicans and democrats. >> sunday night at eight eastern and pacific on c-span's "q&a." >> and now on booktv this prime time, "after words." william bennett, former director of the office of national drug control policy under george h.w. bush argues against the legalization of marijuana with jonah goldberg, senior editor of "national review." >> host: hi, bill. >> guest: jonah. >> host: good to see you. we're going to talk about your book "going to pot."
first, we should have the full disclosure, we know each other. we are longtime acquaintances friends. i'm on your radio showment you actually must have been awake for quite a while now. >> guest: a long time. i'm not drugged. i have a little bit of caffeine in me. >> host: i'm glad you got that out there because as you well know my inclination in situations like this is to make a lot of pot jokes. >> guest: of course. i've got a couple too. >> host: fair enough. [laughter] i'm going to try to hold back and wait until they're tasteful and integral to the show we're going to do here. one of the things i love about the show is it's for authors it's not for interviewers, and it gives an author a chance to ask the greatest of all book tour questions, what is your book about? so what is your book about? >> guest: my book is about -- our book is about -- i co-authored it with robert white who is a friend a neighbor, a lawyer and a meticulous researcher, for which i'm
grateful. i'm not a meticulous researcher. and the book is about why we shouldn't legalize marijuana. and we wrote it pause we saw this train coming down the track. as we speak alaska has just legalized general recreational use. and public opinion has shifted very much in that direction. and pretty dramatically. maybe even more dramatically than gay marriage, this shift in public opinion to the favorable side. and, you know 20 years, 15, 20 years ago maybe 20% of the american people were in favor of legalization, now something like 60%. and 2007 -- given the evidence we thought it important to write this book, and no one else seemed to be writing it -- and i don't think anyone has -- about why this is a bad idea. the other thing is, and this is very relevant is as public opinion has softened on
marijuana, maybe 60% of people in favor of legalization the scientific evidence is overwell-ing against it -- overwhelming against it. i was director of national drug control policy '89-'90. we didn't have this kind of research then. we had some smattering but now it is overwhelming, the harm that marijuana does. and i just have to believe or want to believe the american people are not informed of these facts, so the point of the book was to get these facts out so they can make a second judgment on this, an informed decision. let me get to the end of my story. i think in colorado -- which has been kind of ground zero here -- that they will reconsider at the end of the day and try to put this genie back in the bottle and recriminallize, because they're starting to see the results of all this. >> host: so a couple questions about that. >> guest: sure. >> host: first, who is your intended audience for this? is it policymakers? is it voters? is it -- it's clearly not
libertarians. [laughter] so who, who are you aiming this at? >> guest: that's a great question. it's for the public policymakers and in this case public policymakers are voters. so it's for both. i was just in colorado. we did a big public forum out there in depp very and someone said -- denver and someone said well, you know, these hippies, these potheads, they forced this on us. this was decided by people in suits, if you will. i mean, big money is in here too. let's face that, we'll get into that. but, no, this was decided by i assume well-meaning public servants and some people or who are enthralled to, you know financial interests and others who just genuinely believe this is a good thing to do. but it wasn't it wasn't some takeover by, you know, by the pot-smoking lobby. it was something done by citizens in their i hope
deliberative process but not deliberative enough. >> host: so in your rendition of this, first of all, let me ask you why do you think public attitudes on marijuana usage have changed so dramatically? >> guest: several things. one, a very smart and well financed campaign for marijuana. and, you know, there's big money in here. there can be a lot of stories about how this was the investment of the year last year, the greatest growth stock. more and more big money is in it. the people who were for legalization way outspent, as they always do the people who are opposed. in florida where it barely escaped legalization they had to get a 60% vote in florida they got 58% -- >> host: yeah. >> guest: -- the opponents were outspent about three to one. and one of the people who contributed significantly against legalization was sheldon edelson. so if you're outspending sheldon
edelson, you're spending a lot of money. [laughter] i think he put $5 million into it in one state and was outspent. >> host: right. >> guest: so there was that. second there was what i call rosy memory, rosy-colored memory st. augustin phrase, he talks about how our memories are rosy-colored, it's better to remember than to have gone through it again. try going through it again, it won't be so rosy. people thought of their experience in the '60s and '70s, and they knew lots of people smoked marijuana, maybe they had smoked marijuana no big deal. no harm. it's not the marijuana we have today. third, a very effective campaign in classic terms, medical marijuana, the person who can't get relief anywhere else. so medical marijuana was the wedge. that's what it was in colorado that's what it is in many states saying how can you deny people the chance to feel better if this is the only thing that will make them feel better? this is a very interesting
difference between marijuana and cocaine, for example. cocaine, i became drug czar at the time of cocape when it was on -- cocaine, when it was on everybody's mind. lynn bias was a great athlete and he was struck down. a superb physical specimen. people look at struck down by marijuana in the same way. it happens but people calling my show always say or often say you know, no one dies from marijuana. well, people do die from marijuana, but not very often not in the same way as cocaine. cocaine takes you to your knees. this stuff doesn't take you to your knees, it kind of woos you in a very different way. so this argument is able to the work, and it seems a play on the american people's sympathies. what kind of person can you be to deny someone this medical marijuana? so in colorado, you know, initial permits permission
slips for medical marijuana were about 5,000. then when the courts released and said you can have as many as you want, it multiplied to 220,000. most of the people getting it were males between the ages of 18 and 25 for quote, pain. >> host: right. >> guest: and this was a ruse. this was, this was fraudulent. but it gave, it gave a way and a wedge to get it through. now one of the heads of the normalization groups legalization groups said go the route of medical marijuana. once we get that, we'll have so many people using that, we'll be able to to get the whole the whole loaf. >> host: okay. so one of my favorite quotes is from edmund burke who says the example of -- examples of the school of man kind and he will learn at no other. sometimes you have to show people you can't just tell people. so two questions related to that. first of all, you said yourself -- >> guest: yeah. >> host: -- you think colorado's going to eventually change its
mind on this and reverse course. isn't that actually a very useful teaching example? isn't that the whole point of federalism, which we're going to get to? the phrase laboratories for democracy is a loaded one, but these teaching cases -- >> guest: ing yeah. >> host: and second of all, if the problems with marijuana are what you say they are, and, you know i'll say this up front as a parent i found this book very very persuasive. where i'm going to challenge you more are on the policy aspects or the philosophical aspects. but as a parent it convinced me more than ever i would want my kids and kids i care about to stay away from marijuana. how we extrapolate from that public policy, therein lies the debate. but if marijuana is as bad as you say -- and i tend to agree with you on it -- why would attitudes change in its favor? i mean, you would think that millions of people living their lives smoking marijuana serving as examples to other and
examples to themselves, many people stop smoking marijuana you know, they do it for a little while and then they stop why would public sentiment move so much in contrast or in opposition to the facts on the ground? >> guest: because i think a lot of the facts on the ground haven't caught up, haven't become reality yet. out takes time. -- it takes time. it's not cocaine. when you lose eight iq points, which is what you lose if you start as a teenager and go for 10 or 15 years it's 10 or 15 years. and, you know, if you start as a teenager, there's a 17% of teenagers will become addicted. but addicted doesn't mean next week or next month or next year, it means a couple years, two years, three years four years. the other thing is there's a funny way in which people who have marijuana problems, many of them tend to disappear. they kind of disappear into the woodwork. they kind of fade out. they don't end up in
crackhouses, beating their wives, strangling their children. you know, this coke crazy coke drama. >> host: shirts and hemp stores out in colorado. >> guest: yeah. i ended up reading a book about this pot wife. the woman who was the star of -- this is the problem with you and i, everything is interesting in life to you and to me. [laughter] the woman who was the star in the blair witch project, okay? >> host: yeah. >> guest: after her career in the movies, she became a grower of marijuana in northern california. so that's how she kind of disappeared. i remember some of the heavy pot smokers from college and graduate school. and, you know they didn't die, they just kind of, you know just kind of faded -- didn't reach their potential. didn't reach, you know, what they should have been, but just kind of faded away. nothing more dramatic. but the point you raise is an interesting one. when i was director of drug policy or drug czar, people said why don't we let the state do
this federalism laboratories of democracy, and see what happens. and i said -- which i thought was the responsible thing to say -- look, i'm the director of drug policy, i'm t not going to allow -- that's not going to happen on my watch. >> host: right. >> guest: i'm not going to let people suffer for the sake of proving my point. let's have 100 million -- 100,000 kids not do their homework -- >> host: right. >> guest: see if they get stupidment. [laughter] not when i'm secretary of education, no, sir. but now it's occurred, so, yes. >> host: right. >> guest: there is an opportunity for learning here, and let's pay close anticipation, and let's go to colorado and take a real close look every six months every year, and let's count all the numbers, and let's do the science right and the math right. absolutely. >> host: okay. so you opened in the introduction of the book -- or you, i should say you and robert -- >> guest: robert white. >> host: you open with a hypothetical about tobacco. you say imagine -- and you tell me if i'm getting, well, you
make the comparison of your argument about tobacco. >> guest: yeah. and i'm not entirely sure that i agree with my own hypothetical. [laughter] but i think it's a good thought experiment. it's within your power to outlaw tobacco. if we could start this thing over again -- >> host: right. >> guest: we're pretty close on tobacco. we really made it a kind of mortal sin in public at least. >> host: yeah. >> guest: and people are shunned for smoking and so on. by the way, none of that seems to accrue i to marijuana smokers. i am told -- i don't know if this is true, but i'm told in boulder, colorado, talk about ground zero, there's a place where no smoking is allowed, but marijuana -- >> host: yeah, yeah. >> guest: that's the only thing that is allowed there. i can see how that makes kind of cultural sense to some people. if it were within our power never to have had cigarettes would we do it if we could legislate? which is where we are in some ways with marijuana. >> host: right. >> guest: state by state. would we have decided against it? you can do your thought
experiment with alcohol but it really doesn't work. so embedded in our culture. but, again, very harmful as cigarette smoking is very harmful. it seems to me a sane society tries to prevent really serious harms when doing this without outlawing it. i think someday someone might try to do this. but by, you know having this censurousness about tobacco, but we're at that stage with marijuana. we can make a decision about whether we want to have this thing more generally diffuse throughout society or not. >> host: because i have to anytime at the outset, i don't buy hypothetical. i mean personally, i would not, i would not go to the polls and vote to ban tobacco if i had
that opportunity. >> guest: right. >> host: nor would i ban alcohol. >> guest: right. >> host: this is not a surprise to anybody, i like alcohol. and i actually like cigars. >> guest: yep. >> host: and so the -- and getting to the issue -- >> guest: but the point, excuse me, if i may -- >> host: yeah, sure. >> guest: the point of the hypothetical isn't to say we absolutely would but what kinds of factors would we take into consideration if we did, and how embedded is this practice in the culture? and what reasons can we give historically culturally -- >> host: right. >> >> guest: -- for keeping it and then apply the same analysis to marijuana. >> host: right. what i'm trying to get at is there's a certain prosecutor's brief aspect to the book, right in. >> guest: sure there is. >> host: and so, again, in the sort of, in my lane as a parent, you know i'm with you for the most part. but in terms of the public policy, there's a certain amount
of let's not leave any argument out. >> guest: sure. >> host: right? >> guest: sure. >> host: and i was really intrigued as someone who personally loves federalism the idea of federalism -- i give talks to college students about federalism. i think it is the greatest system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness because it lets the most people live the way they want to live as a matter of math. you seem to, at one point basically throw the baby, federalism, out with the bath water here saying you can't have federalism for something like marijuana, and you reject the argument for federalism for marijuana. and i just sort of wonder whether or not the right of the american people to make mistakes -- and if i'm going to agree with you that they can mistake make mistakes -- to say not when it comes to marijuana. and, therefore, you even do something which i was sort of shocked by, you invoke the i
can't find it right now, i will find it. you know saying that people who most often end point out, make arguments about federalism did so to defend jim crow, and i agree there was a time when most people used states' rights as a synonym for jim crow and what not. but that's not what states' rights and that's not what federalism is about today, right? do you have any reluctance about invalidating the arguments for federalism even when you think people -- communities are making a mistake? >> guest: i'm a fan of federalism. i'm not sure i'm as big a fan as you are. i'm a fan of constitutionalism, particularly this republic's constitutionalism, and i do believe in the supremacy of federal law when the two conflict. now, i don't want to be accused of begging the question here. >> host: right. >> guest: let's remind people there is federal law here. >> host: sure. >> guest: it has been passed and the use of marijuana is against federal law. now, the obama administration
has decided to wink at this and maybe someone could argue we should never have passed those federal laws just let states decide it. but as it stands, this is another case of this administration going, you know pellmell against what established law is. >> host: sure. can you explain for the viewers who may not know what exactly the obama administration has done vis-a-vis colorado -- >> guest: what it has done is winked, essentially, and said we're not going to enforce federal law against the use and sale of marijuana. it's a class i substance it's against the law to sell it or to use it. and the dea has been told to lay off. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: i don't think that's a wise way to execute the laws, you know, which the president has sworn to do. if people don't like the federal law, let them work to change the federal law. >> host: right. >> guest: then let the states do whatever they want. i don't know by the way, how it would come out right now. i think it would come out you'd still have it against the law.
but i talked to people on the hill, by the way, and i don't want to distract from your question. this is not a republican, democrat -- did you see deborah wasserman schultz got into trouble with the marijuana because she opposed the florida initiative. meanwhile, some of our own folks on the republican conservative side dana rohrabacher, for example, want to go -- >> host: anyone with the last name paul. >> guest: anyone with the last name paul. and he'll be out there, rand paul will be out there and that'll be a big thing. but if we could talk about the beginning, could i change the subject a little bit? >> host: absolutely. >> guest: the other part of the beginning of the book is, it seems to me, where the strongest part of the brief is, and that is the harms of marijuana. i mean, we summarize and, indeed reprint the entire article from the new england journal of medicine which summarizes the research done at 20, 30 major universities. and the harms are considerable.
short term harm attention, focus, memory, long-term harm paranoia schizophrenia, loss of iq, loss of motivation, all sorts of problems. i didn't have this evidence when i was drug czar in '89, '90 and now that evidence is amply available. hans brighter, who's conducted a lot of the research -- professor at northwestern and harvard -- said if i could design a drug maximally harmful and distracting for a student, it would be marijuana. because of focus memory, attention and motivation. in some ways enough to to close the case, it seems to me. now, i will admit i never fully pick off the -- i never fully took off the hat of secretary of education. and it just seems to me nuts nuts to be saying let's have more of this on the developing brain. look we're talking about helmets, we're talking about kids playing football, we're talking about, you know, alcoholism in utero, we're
talking about all sorts of ways to protect that little brain, and here we have this overwhelming evidence that it's harmful to all brains but particularly the developing brain, and we want to make this more generally available. >> host: yeah. that was one of the reasons why i asked you in the beginning who is this book for, because you return to that theme often. and i think it's a really valid and on-point skewering of the cultural hypocrisy that's going on right now. there's a web site called vox.com that has -- >> guest: the president goes to that. >> host: yes, that's right. he gave an interview to them. and it has a piece up recently making the case for why we should treat sugar as a controlled substance. addictive, it's bad for you, it's abused it's ubiquitous blah blah, blah and they go through all of the -- and on paper it's to my mind it goes back and forth between being
persuasive and swiftian right? because we're not going to ban sugar. but if you come from a mindset, you know, bill buckleyed buckleyed that had that great line about privatizing white houses. he said look, libertarians want to privatize lighthouses, but he said the great thing about our country is debating isn't going to socialize medicine. his point was one that dogma defines the boundaries of reasonable discourse. and i think the point you make in the book over and over again is a very valid one that we are constant tally in -- constantly in this incredibly hyperparanoid state about safety and about health and treating our bodies like temples and banning this and regulating that, and then along comes pot and somehow it has just blanket and plenary immunity from all of those arguments. i think it's a very strange thing, and it's a very good point that you make. >> guest: a lot of things get
turned upside down in this debate. >> host: yeah. >> guest: a lot of things. and that's just one of them. all of a sudden that's just thrown out the window. >> host: so when you talk to audiences and you make that point, i mean, that's the question i was getting at about the audience for this. because as a conservative and with strong lib arertarian leanings -- libertarian leanings my saying that other stuff is ridiculous. obamacare getting deeper and deeper into our lives, and you make this point how obamacare does this but it excludes marijuana while it's nanny stating around all the this other stuff. what's wrong with getting rid of the nanny stating stuff all around and the cost of that is making marijuana one of the things that people have a right to do? >> guest: because it's too costly. i think it is too costly, and because there's a difference between getting fat and being dumb. again, maybe the secretary -- maybe it's a psychological answer in part. the harm is so real, so clear,
so definite, so obvious that it just seems to me extremely dumb to let this loose in the land. in any case, let's have an informed debate so people know we're not dealing with something that is innocent. you're sort of in the position in the book of dr. gupta. not bad company to be in. >> host: i've been put in worse company. >> guest: right. [laughter] you know he did surgeries on our guys in iraq so for that he was heroic. he says emphatically i will not let my kids anywhere near this but as a public policy matter he feels differently. his reward by the way -- maybe this has come to you -- he's had a couple of bugs named after him. they sell it in colorado. >> host: i doubt it. [laughter] >> guest: i'm waiting for one for me that doesn't taste good. [laughter]
>> host: but yeah. so again getting back to the question the audience -- well who are you -- i'm going to put it this way have you seen as a matter of debate and argumentation any movement on that? are the people who are for regulating sugar and banning big sodas, is there any sign that you see on the horizon of them all of a sudden saying, hey wait a second maybe pot isn't good for you? >> guest: well bloomberg seems to agree with me and i'm grateful with that because he's a formidable fellow though i don't agree with him on the sodas and other things. i think part of the plausibility of this argument is saying we're not going after everything. we're going to look at things individually and decide. but we made this decision as a society already. and, again, if people want to undo that there's a way to undo that. by the way, it is interesting for lawyers in the audience, oklahoma and nebraska are suing colorado on this issue.
they're saying they are in violation of federal law and the federal government has to enforce the federal law. >> host: because of the trafficking that's coming out -- >> guest: yeah. sure. that's the harm, that's what's giving them standing and that's the harm that's being dope. and by the way, this was one of the arguments that wouldn't be contained just in colorado. >> host: right. >> guest: remember all the other arguments, there'd be no black market. colorado's become the black market. the mexicans, by the way, the cartels are not bothered at all. though i suppose we can take pride in american ingenuity that the marijuana grown in colorado is more powerful concern. >> host: we're number one. >> guest: yeah. [laughter] i remember my brother told me about one of his climates tried to get some plea bargain for and the judge said, no, this is the worst -- i don't know whatever he was, bookie or something -- i've ever seen. my brother sadly told the guy, and he said, the worst, really? [laughter] people will take any distinction.
>> host: i used to take great pride in being dubbed the worst person in the world by keith olberman. >> guest: right. i made that too. i was regarded as the third most repressive person in america by the revolutionary communist newspaper when i was only 30 years old. >> host: that would put a spring in my step. that is a goal for me. [laughter] i don't smoke pot but maybe one day i can attain that. [laughter] >> guest: that's exactly right. i'd like to say something about the pot -- >> host: yeah. >> guest: just because it's important. the active ingredient which gets you high -- >> host: thc. >> guest: -- in the '60s and '07s averaged about 6%. today it's about 12%. i just looked at some ads a friend from denver sent me 30%. 30.5%, some of it 40, 45%. talk about drinking a glass of beer and then talking about
drinking a glass of vodka. >> host: right. >> guest: when maureen dowd famously went to colorado to experiment, she took two or three bites of a candy bar. she said she, in her hotel room, he curled up, and she -- she curled up and thought she had died. the candy is another thing. the argument this is not about children, it is about children if you look at the advertising look at the wrappers by the way. the candy takes a little longer so it's much more insidious. people take a bite, nothing happens, they take more. she thought she had died because of the thc, the content. you know, we're better at this. i mean, it's american ingenuity. just like what's his name, what was his name in "breaking bad," you know -- >> host: walter white. >> guest: walter white, he was very good at it. so we're good at it, and we're making more and more powerful strains. that is starting to show up in emergency rooms.
that's starting to show up in the visits to pediatric sigh psychiatrists in denver and so on. if you talk to the clinical people they will tell you now what the body count is and how it's grown. >> host: all right. so push back a little bit on that. >> guest: okay. >> host: jacob sullivan, who obviously, is not a huge fan of this book, big libertarian -- >> guest: sure sure. >> host: i disagree with him on some things, agree with him on other. he makes the comparison to a glass of beer to a glass of vodka misses the fact that very few people drink a glass of vodka the way they drink a glass of beer, that we can recognize the poe potency between hard liquor and beer. presumably people will -- >> guest: nurse it? >> host: well, yeah. what will happen and i'm playing a little bit of devil's advocate here, presumably what would happen is enough e.r. visits happen, enough people die or bad things happen to them, and the lesson is learned.
the more potent stuff you have to treat differently than the less potent stuff. and it seems to me that is a lesson that can be learned fairly quickly. again, i take your point about it, but certainly we don't say we can't trust people to drink -- we can't have vodka on the market because they might confuse the proof the alcohol content with the content of beer. >> guest: yeah. well a generation -- lots of generations have learned the lesson maybe individually about personal injury drinking, but it doesn't -- about binge drinking. but it doesn't seem to carry over. this argument that well, people will take 30% thc marijuana and they're just sip it is defied by experience. all i ask people to do is talk to people who smoke a lot of dope and ask them if that's what
they do can. what they say is, man, take a full pull on this, and is you will really go out of your mind. >> host: yeah. >> guest: remember the clean needles thing? >> host: sure. >> guest: that's back when i was drug czar, and i remember talking to people in the street in new york and boston because i was curious -- and baltimore where they were pushing this. and what people said was, man, we're getting clean needles? we can get tons to share now with all our friends. [laughter] no, it just isn't true. it's just false x that's why you're seeing more of overdosing and seeing more of the emergency rooms and will continue to see more. >> host: so culturally what do you think happens to a country that goes down the path you think -- that you're pushing against in your book? where do you think this is taking us? >> guest: well, i worry about it for a couple of reasons. first of all, as i said, it's not a republican/democrat issue. i was interested to see governor hickenlooper the democrat, say about this decision it was a
reckless decision. he's been all over the map on this, to be fair. there's a character in george elliot just could not keep shape. no matter what his position was he was never comfortable in it as soon as he was challenged. >> host: right. >> guest: he can't keep shape, but i think on balance if you look at his comments, he says it wasn't a good idea. jerry brown, i thought, said something -- i find myself in the odd position of quoting people i normally don't quote citing deborah wasserman schultz -- >> host: michael bloomberg maureen dowd -- [laughter] >> guest: i know. and the new england journal of medicine. the science. but it's an odd cant nation on all sides. a very odd cultural mix. but -- where was i? i'm sorry i lost my place. >> host: jerry brown. >> guest: jerry brown. thank you. been up a long time. jerry brown said when they asked him, he said i'm not in favor of
it. he said we've got some big challenges in this country, we've got some big challenges in california. i don't think we can meet them as effectively if a quarter of our population is buzzed a lot of the time. >> host: right. >> guest: and buzzed a lot of the time is what we're talking about. let me make two points here. the average across the country now, the average people 12 years and older is about 7% of people 12 years and older smoke marijuana. in colorado it's now 13. so it's twice that. and i think it'll continue continue to go up. that's a big jump. that's a lot of people. that's a big chunk of america. second when you've had something like legalization, as mark kleiman -- and i'll quote mark kleiman who's not on my side and he's an academic expert who's in favor, he was the drug czar the legal drug czar in the state of washington for a while -- says that when you legalize, you will see four to
six times as much stuff consumed, four to six times as much marijuana consumed. not four to six times as many people, but four to six times as much consumed. here the marijuana user imitates and apes the alcoholic. >> host: right. >> guest: so 10% of people who drink alcohol are alcohol you cans, and they consume 50% of the alcohol. 20% -- [inaudible] 20% of people who drink alcohol consume 80 or 90% of the alcohol. so what you have here, and kleiman has said this about colorado is weekly users have now become daily users. and you can write a lot of them off from productive activity. the other broader cultural aspect -- and let me just say because it's fair to say, every time we bring this up i get a caller to the show saying i am a mechanical engineer, i smoke pot three times a week it's never
affected me. sure, you know? people are different. but for most of us, you know not on this end of the bell curve and not on that end of the bell curve, it's going to affect us. the other cultural side of this is the problems that we do face do require a lot of attention do require a lot of focus do require us to tune in. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: and, again, as i was saying about cocaine, this stuff doesn't knock you out. maybe the first time it will but then you need more and more to keep your high. what it does is it distracts and kind of slowly takes you away from your duties, your responsibilities. we close the book with what i think is one of the most moving essays i've read it's from "the atlantic," and it's an essay by a woman named leah about her father who was a pothead. and he doesn't beat the children or, you know, get into a head-on collision, but she talks about how many times he forgot to pick
them up. >> host: yep. >> guest: how many missed meetings, how many mess-ups, screw-ups, how many times he p ran the car into the curb, how many things he just forgot to do. and she wonders what life would have been like with her father and their siblings if he had not opinion a pothead. had not been a pothead. you know, the immediate fatality, maybe not. but i know a lot of people who smoked even that weak pot. i was in or around the university from-'65 -- from almost '65 to '75, and, you know, what it killed was promise and opportunity and what they could have been. and they just kind of veered off and didn't die, became a lot less. >> host: yeah. >> guest: it saps your motivation and your focus and your attention and your energy. >> host: right. so, look i largely agree with that. i've known people on all ends of that bell curve, right? i've known people who are very effective, productive members of society who smoked pot, and i
know people who could have been very effective and productive members of society if they hadn't smoked pot. [laughter] and that's the problem with this, is that everyone can pick their anecdote cans. everyone is talking past each other, and people tend to think -- >> guest: but they can't pick their science. >> host: sure. i didn't want to get too deep and weedy -- pardon the pup -- [laughter] pardon the pun. on the science, but you have to admit there are competing studies for all of this stuff right? >> guest: not for all of it. the overwhelming -- the new england journal of medicine is the most prestigious journal in the world. these are not right-wing conservatives at the harvard medical school, this is the science that's happened in the last five years. assume all of it's true then there's no case for marijuana. assume half of it is true, assume a third of it is true -- >> host: right. >> guest: -- there's not study for study. there's some studies where yeah, you can cast out on but
the overwhelming evidence, preponderance of the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, the science. >> host: let's get back to the anecdotal point -- go ahead. >> guest: i just want to tie into another point which is about legal. pediatric psychiatrists, this is an anecdote, but it's very interesting. they said we're overwhelmed -- mostly medicaid patientses. she's overwhelmed with kids coming in with their parents. sometimes they've been vaping, and she says why are you relating your -- letting your child do it, and the parent says well it's legal. legal conflates. legal, permissible okay. and that's why when people see something's against the law, most people tend to avoid it. most people are not scoff laws, they tend to avoid it. they're worried about getting in trouble and so on. so it's important to have the law there not just because it's
dangerous, but because it sends a signal which most people observe. >> host: yeah. i'm very tomorrow on this because on the one, i think you're absolutely right it does. i was amazed -- i was amazed the first time it happened, i was speaking at a college campus and i was having beers with some kids afterwards at the fraternity or someplace and one of the kids wasn't drinking, and i asked him why. and he, something was shifty about his answer, and eventually after a little cross-examination, i found out he wasn't drinking simply because it was against the law, and he didn't want it on his record. and from my culture, it was very weird, but it was eye-opening and since then i've found that many many, many places. >> guest: yeah. >> host: and it is absolutely true that very ambitious people care about that kind of stuff. on the other hand, a lot of very ambitious people probably aren't going to be smoking pot either right? i don't know, this gets to my point i want to get to about the
anecdotes. you have a section in there where you're talking about how the fda takes some drugs off the market if even 2 or 3% -- >> guest: right. >> host: -- of people -- >> guest: vioxx. >> host: i think sometimes the fda's mad about that kind of stuff. if you told me that my loved one, there was a 97% chance that they would react to some drug very favorably and it might cure or help them but there's a 3% chance that they'd die, i'm -- i'd want to know what my alternatives are and all the rest, but at the end of the day, i wouldn't want the fda deciding whether or not my loved one or i could take that drug. i'd want to be the one deciding. now, on the other hand marijuana doesn't cure any diseases, so it's not quite the same thing. >> guest: that's right. >> host: but is it i guess the question i have is what is the logical process by which one makes these distinctions?
is it purely a numbers game in once you hit a tipping point of 12% of people harmed? >> guest: no it's all the factors you cited. i was a vioxx baby i was on vioxx for my knees. and they took it off the market because i think the number was 3%. >> host: yeah where. >> guest: but as you correctly noted, there were other drug cans available. maybe not as good maybe not as ea educate if i -- effective, but i didn't want to take 3% dying. well, this one is only 70% as effective as vioxx, but there's no death rate. fine. that'll do. that'll do nicely. and then, of course you're talking about your child, and this is the only thing. and i say too that on the medical side we do something that a lot of people who hold our position don't do. we allow for prescription medication of marijuana. that is if you have this case, there is testimony people come forward and say it's the only thing that works, it's the only
thing that relieves pain okay. but then follow a protocol. follow a normal medical protocol and get a prescription. >> host: right. >> guest: and satisfy that nothing else will work, etc., etc. , and that seems to us to make sense. you know you had 200,000 medical marijuana quote, users in colorado. a lot of people think it's work of 10 or 15 out-of-work chiropractors who are writing these permission slips. >> host: right. >> guest: we don't know the content -- i mean, they advertise content. we don't know the purities we don't know what it's tested for. i know this sound is like big government, but at the end of day when you put stuff into your body, you would like some reassurance somebody's tested it out and it's okay. particularly something that goes down into your lungs. >> host: um -- >> guest: you may get mad at the fda, but i think you want an
fda, don't you? >> host: yes. at the end of the day, i i want an fda. >> guest: i don't want it to be crazy -- >> host: right. >> guest: but it's drawing lines. the factors are the ones you cited. what else is available, how much harm is this doing, what are the risks of taking it not taking it. >> host: and that is a decision that you don't trust the state equivalent of an fda to look at you think it has to be, it has to be the federal drug enforcement agency? >> guest: i think it all depends. it depends on the nature of the harm and so on. do people want to also, say find cocaine and meth and heroin? by the way, those mexican drug cartels? they're growing better marijuana? they're now importing -- exporting large amounts of heroin into the american west. two can play at this game. >> host: well, yeah. i'm not sure we want to have our public policy held hostage to the reactions from the member can drug cartels. >> guest: we don't. but one of the arguments was this would put them out of
business, remember? instead of putting them out of business they did something very unusual called diversify. >> host: right. >> guest: change your -- >> host: turns out entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs no matter where they are. >> guest: yeah. >> host: i sort of, i want to get a little bit back to the your cultural concernings. i mean what -- again, going back to this analogy about tobacco, forget the question of whether we would ban it today or not. you know, tobacco is probably the most demonized product in american life, certainly more than marijuana. you're absolutely right about that. >> guest: sure. >> host: and, you know, it's one of the things i love about the cigar shop that i go to. it's a band of brothers. the only people there -- one thing you know about everybody there is they don't have a problem with cigars. [laughter] which you can't find almost anywhere else in america. >> host: the amazing thing is cigar officionado magazine. every time you look at that ah i didn't know that.
i wriewcially smoke cigars too. should i confess that in this -- >> host: that's what we're hooking for. sin. >> guest: i've got plenty of them. many of them right out in public. >> host: but so what would prohibit, at the end of the day, as you know you're trying to nip this in the bud -- again, pardon the pun. you know we're very early in the process of this decriminalization, mainstreaming of marijuana. it's going to, i think we both agree it's going to have twists and turns and ups and downs and all of rest. what would preclude the culture responding and the legal culture which i think is going to come in eventually? there are going to be some serious lawsuits and people messing things up, right? >> guest: yes, sir. absolutely, the bar will be in on this, sure. you'll see suits like you've seen against tobacco. >> host: right. there's also, i mean what i'm waiting for what i think is sort of fascinating is when
employers start saying we, we're going to fire you if you if we can test you for having taken a legal substance, right? and there are going to be lawsuits about that. i'm sure there already are lawsuits about that in colorado. but eventually all of these different institutions are going to wheel in. what is to prevent the culture and the legal institutions and all of that from doing to marijuana what they've dope to tobacco? -- what they've done to tobacco? and minimizing it and shrinking its usage? >> guest: they may. they may jonah. they may do that. but after what point and at what cost? and couldn't this have been avoided? yeah, they might. i mean, although i've seen -- i've heard both stories. in colorado we talked to some employers who said we don't even bother to test anymore. there's just no point. you know we've heard that lot of places. >> host: yeah. >> guest: because so many young people, so many young people are using it. but i think you will see
somebody who requires that testing and then gets sued either way. i also think you will have the bar -- and again, you know, often not allies of mine, the trial lawyers' association -- say these people are selling something which scientifically is demonstrably harmful. they know they're selling it. they're not warning people, and these guys should be sued for everything they're worth. i think we probably will see those. >> host: also truck drivers have been smoking pot, and they get into an accident -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: that's gross negligence. i'm not a lawyer but it's very bad. >> guest: we're seeing more and more of this too. but let's just talk about education. i mean i told folks in colorado just keep doing this you're going to see your scores go down and they're already not great. but you lose eight iq points that's a lot of iq points. >> host: yeah. >> guest: and, you know, we hear teachers administrators talking about kids in class vaping.
it looks like they're chewing on a pencil -- >> host: right. >> guest: -- but they're inhaling marijuana. this way lies disaster it seems to me educationally every other way. by the way, the development of the brain, you know, starting at 12 and 13, it is the time of onset for a lot of marijuana use. just exactly at the wrong time. >> host: right right. >> guest: in terms of in cognitive development. >> host: so let's -- >> guest: again, so it just seems to me all of the things we want to do, all of the things we're fighting for, all the things we're worried about, this just doesn't help. >> host: um, two points i want to get to. first of all, what about -- i mean, i will hear i'll get hell from libertarians if i don't bring it up, what about the argument that, sure, pot is bad, sure, pot is not ideal or pot is not great for everybody but it's okay for some people but the social costs of mass incarceration, the social costs
of sort of the militarization of police and the criminalization -- you know, the overcriminallization of society, those are costs on society too right? >> guest: yeah. but in sheer financial terms less as best we can estimate, a lot less than if you if it weren't available. the estimates for what we spend on prosecuting marijuana cases arresting people, the use of police, jeffrey myron at harvard says 4-5 billion, the aclu says i think 11 billion. you'll get way past 11 billion in harm and damage pretty soon. i mean the estimates are with alcohol, an analogy, is that for every dollar we spend, that we get from taxes, i'll call them taxes, we've got to spend $10 because of the harm done by alcohol. a lot of people believe that that's about the same ratio that you'll have. we don't spend that much. by the way, numbers let's get
to these numbers because they're very important. number of people in state prisons for marijuana where that is the most serious offense, marijuana possession, .6 of 1%. .6 of 1%. smoke a joint you're not going to jail. you're not going to jail. now, people plead down. people in federal prisons, federal prison for marijuana, possession is about 1.3, 1.4%. average amount of possession is 115 pounds. that's not just toking up, that's a lot of marijuana. >> host: not a guy's personal use. [laughter] >> guest: yeah, yeah some heavy user. so those numbers are wildly exaggerated. >> host: sure. >> guest: libertarians love to say, you know, you light up, you're going to go to prison. people don't go to prison for lighting up. you don't know anybody who went to prison for lighting up. >> host: no, i don't. the other question i want to ask you is how much of this is really downstream of larger
social problems that we've got you know? the kid who is in math class secretly toking or vaping pot in, you know, in high school that's probably reflective of a situation at home. i mean, again, look i know that there are other things going op. my brother had drug problems died because of his addictions. i've got very strong feelings about all of this personally and i know it comes from all sorts of different lifestyles and all sorts of different places, but we're talking about the macro level. a lot of the problems that you're trying to address really are upstream from smoking pot aren't they? or not? >> guest: yes. what we do know that here as elsewhere, you know, where you stand and how secure your foundation is has a lot to do with how much when the earth shakes you'll be moved.
it was an earthquake that taught me this, the earthquake in san francisco and the earthquake in mexico. many more lives lost in mexico because the supports were so weak. san francisco, very few lives were lost. a lot of complaining in san francisco, as you might expect. >> host: right. [laughter] >> guest: but -- and it was horrible, but lives weren't lost. i think the most absurd thing i saw was a panel discussion on c-span c-span occasionally has an absurd discussion. >> host: the hell you say. [laughter] >> guest: it was in part though. and it was this person from the washington state aclu saying when we open our dispensaries we need to put them in the poor neighborhoods so the people who have been most victimized by you know the police will have a chance to turn a profit. now there's a good idea. [laughter] you know, this was like when, you know i remember going after some of the liquor industry for the excessive advertising in harlem of, you know, the beer and the alcohol. >> host: right. >> guest: you guys really have to push it this hard? and i got scolded for it.
people yelled at me, you know on our side of the table, but nevertheless, it was the right thing to do. look, if you start smoking and you lose iq and you started with less iq, it hurts you more. if your motivation for school isn't that strong and you start smoking dope and your motivation is lower your odds of succeeding are lower. there isn't any question. >> host: right. >> guest: so take a malady, take something that's harmful to society, distribute it equally to all classes, people will offend in all classes, as you've said, but the effects of the harm, some people will have safety nets some people will be able to go to treatment centers, and other people won't. they will fall right through, and they will never get up again. >> host: so we've brought it up a bunch of times and just so you know, we have about four minutes left. >> guest: okay. >> host: alcohol. you know, alcohol's bad for you. that hasn't stopped me from
being a friend of the demon rum. >> guest: me neither. >> host: yep. >> guest: in my book of virtues you know, another book i was sitting there eating a steak and drinking a martini and a guy said, is that virtuous? [laughter] >> host: let the record show we've actually had martinis together. >> guest: yes, at 11:30. >> host: we didn't have to go that far. [laughter] >> guest: i'm sorry. we both get up early. >> host: so and you made allusion to it earlier is the only reason why you're not applying the same argument to alcohol is because alcohol's so much more embedded in the culture? >> guest: probably. >> host: so prohibition was the right idea but it just couldn't work because it was so deeply embedded in the culture. >> guest: prohibition worked. this is one of the things that's important, it reduced alcoholism by 70% alcohol consumption, reduced cirrhosis, all sorts of things, but the culture wouldn't let it stand.
people wanted to have their booze. who was it -- i can't think of his name -- said prohibition is better than no liquor at all you know? [laughter] typical ring lardner. we couldn't let it stand. wine at the last supper. you're not getting rid of it. you live with the demons you have, to some extempt, but don't introduce new ones in it seems to me. we know the harm alcohol has caused. every family has this problem. a lot of families have the drug problem. almost every family i know if we extend far enough has the alcohol problem -- >> host: and usually the distinction between the alcohol and the pot and the other problems is very blurred because -- >> guest: yes. >> host: -- your judgment is impaired on one you imbibe in the other. >> guest: a fair minded analysis jonah, a long and complicated series of arguments if you looked at marijuana, tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol
you would conclude all of this makes me think there's a strong or case against tobacco and alcohol than there is for marijuana. we're not going to prohibition. but, you know, inroads have mattered. mothers against drunk driving have done i think, very good work. and, look, all this stuff about you know, seriousness towards smokers has decreased smoking. there are now more teenagers smoking marijuana than smoking session relates. -- cigarettes. but i don't think society can put that alcohol genie back in the bottle. it can put the tobacco genie back in the bottle but we can stop this one from getting out that's what i'm arguing. >> host: okay. well, we are just about hot out of -- about out of time. i want to thank you for doing this, for writing the book, thank you to robert white as well -- >> guest: can i say one thing? >> host: you h