Each year, as we get close to the kickoff of state legislative sessions, the battle begins between the pro- and anti-cannabis coalitions. Unfortunately, White people have consistently opposed “marijuana,” weed, pot, grass, dope, reefer, herb or pakalolo, as it’s commonly labeled here in Hawai’i. They stand on their self-righteous pedestals with a bottle of booze in one hand and tobacco smoke in another.
“First, want you to know I have no ‘dog in this fight.’ I’m a legal medical cannabis patient. Whether HI legalizes recreational is immaterial to me. I would prefer the state to collect legal tax revenues to assist their budget and stop incarcerating poor Brown people — but I leave that to your conscience. The evidence is clear.”
This post continues a conversation I had with Senior Reporter, Kevin Dayton, of CivilBeat, and my good friend, Hawai’i State Senator Roz Baker. The senator wrote, “You really donʻt help your cause with these kind of email.” Mr. Dayton responded, “Please be more cautious about accusing people of lying and such. Actually, the [Hawai’i AG Clare Connors] was referring to Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area reports for Washington and Colorado.”
As a political scientist and social science public healthcare professional, I can point out numerous flaws in the Colorado (not Washington state) “drug trafficking” report. Mr. Dayton admitted this, “I’m sure people can quarrel with the HIDTA conclusions, but that was my whole point: It will be some time before the research is conclusive. After all, even the report you linked says there is a need for more research.”
Let me be direct: alcohol and tobacco are insidious evils in our society. Although “the research is conclusive,” we accept the risks, harms and dangers. Americans, particularly White officials, hold cannabis to a different measure — and it’s an unscientific and racist standard. Further, as Mr. Dayton said, “It will be some time before the research is conclusive.”
Until then, Hawai’i plans to continue putting people in prison. Maybe Hawai’i should stop putting users in prison and destroying families until they “conclusively” determine pakalolo warrants such despotic interdiction.
As I wrote to both leaders, “First, want you to know I have no ‘dog in this fight.’ I’m a legal medical cannabis patient. Whether HI legalizes recreational is immaterial to me. I would prefer the state to collect legal tax revenues to assist their budget and stop incarcerating poor Brown people — but I leave that to your conscience. The evidence is clear.”
The CDC warns an estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Alcohol abuse is linked to sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. I’ll wager Mr. Dayton, Senator Baker and AG Connors enjoy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail (maybe two or three) occasionally. Prison sentences for all of them, right?
CDC research documents cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure, and making smoking the leading cause of preventable death in America. Obesity is the second ranked leading cause of preventable death. Trillions in combined medical costs to our nation.
White people dominate rule-making in America. They do not incarcerate adults for lawfully drinking, smoking or over-eating. Since the early 20th century, they’ve been punishing and imprisoning People of Color for any use of cannabis.
Cannabis is a complex drug. There are hazards to users and those around them. Yet no evidence-based researcher or professional can justify locking human beings in prison — or firing them from their employment — in a society that tolerates the consumption of alcohol or tobacco.
Although commonly stated nobody has ever died from cannabis overdose, there have been cannabis-related deaths. Personally, I suffered the racist and scientifically-illogical policies of Hawaiian Electric when CEO & President Constance Hee Lau and team terminated me for substituting medical cannabis for opioid pain medication, although my medication is legal (2000) and considered prescribed (2015).
Hawaiian Electric employees can smoke or use tobacco in designated areas at work, and even consume alcohol on property at approved events (below blue). Pakalolo? Shame on you. Society labels the user as a stoner, pothead, burnout, druggie, retard or worse.
I have never used a tobacco product. Do not consume alcohol. I medicate legally with cannabis only at home. Of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the country in 2017, over 47,000 involved the use of opioids. Connie Lau would not have fired me had I used opioid pain analgesics. She fires Veterans who legally use medical cannabis. This illustrates the madness and destruction of the War on Drugs.
Since 1937 led by director of Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, White America has conflated drug use, race, and music.
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as White men. There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes White women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Anslinger wrote an article about the alleged danger of cannabis, “Marijuana, Assassin of Youth,” which appeared in The American Magazine. He began with the common White supremacist trope, trading on the idea that White women and children were in danger.
His appeal to fear worked. Articles proclaiming the dangers of pakalolo ran in papers across the country. Anti-drug zealots swapped the term “cannabis” for “marihuana” or “marijuana,” hoping the Spanish word would conjure anti-Mexican sentiment. Newspapers, whether they believed it or not, went along for the ride, running headlines like “Murders Due to ‘Killer Drug’ Marihuana Sweeping the United States.” Anslinger’s efforts culminated in the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, which effectively made cannabis illegal.
President Richard Nixon was equally insidious. It is accepted today he launched the War on Americans who used drugs as a way to terrorize Hippies and Black people in 1969.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people.”
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”
John Erlichmann, Nixon’s Domestic Policy Chief, 1994
Nixon assembled a panel of America’s top leading experts. Known as the Shafer Commission, after its chair, Raymond P. Shafer, former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania. Gov. Shafer and eight other members of the Commission were appointed by the president. Four additional members were senators and representatives of Congress appointed by the Congressional leadership. It employed a staff of 76. It commissioned numerous reports and technical papers, totaling over 3,700 pages, published in four volumes of appendices.
The Commission’s report said that while public sentiment tended to view cannabis users as dangerous, they actually found users to be more timid, drowsy and passive. It concluded cannabis did not cause widespread danger to society. It recommended using social measures other than criminalization to discourage use. It compared the situation of cannabis to that of alcohol.
Failure of Prohibition
America experimented with alcohol prohibition between 1920 and 1933. The Temperance movement, primarily women, claimed to champion public morals and health. Although a “noble experiment,” the results of the policy clearly show it was a miserable failure on all counts.
The lessons of Prohibition remain important today. They apply not only to the debate over the war on drugs but also to the mounting efforts to drastically reduce access to alcohol and tobacco and to such issues as censorship and bans on insider trading, abortion, and gambling.
As alcohol became more dangerous to consume, crime increased and became ‘organized’; court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, cannabis, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition. [source]
Sound familiar? Our court and prison systems are overflowing. The War on Drugs has led to more dangerous substances in America that are accessible to more citizens than ever in history. Last year, the U.S. arrested 500,395 Americans for cannabis possession. We arrested fewer for violent crimes (495,871). Prohibition is not the solution.
AG Connor Continues Racist and False Attitudes
Writing in CivilBeat, Mr. Dayton noted Attorney General Clare Connors said she has opposed legalization because “recreational cannabis” remains illegal under federal law, and federal law is not changing on that count.
AG Connors, in my humble opinion, is a bright, educated professional woman. I rate her comment to be a lie. Under federal law, both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal. Yet the State of Hawai’i legalized medical cannabis in 2000 — and federal law “was not changing on that count.” The state moved forward anyway. Hawai’i decriminalized possession of up to three grams of cannabis last year. In twenty years, the federal government has not intervened nor has the state back-peddled. Her “legal” logic is simply a lie.
As Mr. Dayton highlighted in his article, eleven states and the District of Columbia currently authorize recreational cannabis. Four more (Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota) will join the movement due to success in the last election.
The federal government since October 19, 2009, and continued through the current Trump administration, defers to state authority:
As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of cannabis.
The U.S. DOT since October 22, 2009 makes no exception it is unacceptable for any SAFETY SENSITIVE EMPLOYEE to use medical cannabis. Since December 3, 2012, with efforts to legalize recreational cannabis, the Department clarified they do not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including cannabis, for any reason for any SAFETY SENSITIVE EMPLOYEE. The DOT does not restrict NON-SAFETY SENSITIVE EMPLOYEES, such as IT professionals or clerical staff.
Please note that cannabis remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use cannabis.
In my email conversation with Mr. Dayton, he stated, “Connors was saying that we don’t yet have a system for measuring cannabis impairment that is accepted by the courts and built into Hawai’i law. So, her point was we would need to take care of that — and a whole bunch of other issues — before any legalization went into effect.”
Again, the U.S. Department of Transportation and a number of states have established standards for measuring cannabis impairment, as well as other substances. The nation of Canada and Uruguay have fully legalized cannabis. All have standards.
If Hawai’i hasn’t “built this into Hawai’i law,” what is wrong with the AG and our legislators? Do your job! Medical cannabis patients have been driving in the state since 2000. The logic of AG Connors is so contorted I rate this as another lie.
Technology has also come to the rescue due to the needs of over 31+ medical cannabis states and 15 recreational-legal states, as well as D.C. Hound Labs now offers a cannabis breathalyzer, which can detect cannabis use up to two hours previously. This separates users who are currently intoxicated from those who consumed days or weeks earlier.
Mr. Dayton continued, “as for increases in accidents, Connors cited a specific study of accidents in Washington and Colorado.” First, the statement is verifiably false, as I show below. Second, the researchers were honest their results exhibited an “association” not causation. Any decent social scientist or attorney general knows the difference between association and causation. Connors’s position is clearly a lie.
From a June 2020 article, Brian Dunleavy reported researchers estimate since the state opted to legalize recreational use of cannabis in 2014, there have been an additional 75 deaths annually resulting from traffic accidents, on average. Conversely, Washington state, which lifted prohibitions on cannabis the same year, has seen traffic-related deaths remain relatively stable. These findings were published in JAMA.
Findings Using a synthetic control approach, this ecological study found that recreational cannabis laws were associated with increases in traffic fatalities in Colorado (mean of 75 excess fatalities per year) but not in Washington State.
If cannabis CAUSED driving fatalities, scientists would expect similar results in both states. What therefore happened in Colorado? In the first year of cannabis legalization, there were 488 traffic-related fatalities. That is only six more than the previous year (2013) when cannabis remained illegal. With passage of the law, motor vehicle death increased 1.2%. Not significant. [source]
The Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk: A Case-Control Study by NHTSA (2016) confirmed previous research indicating alcohol is a greater contributor to crash risk than drugs (Bernhoft, 2011; Hargutt, Krüger, & Knoche, 2011; Hels et al., 2011; Romano & Pollini, 2013; Romano, Torres-Saavedra, Voas, & Lacey, 2014; Romano & Voas, 2011; Sewell, Poling, & Sofuoglu, 2009).
Drug Crash Risk Estimates
There was no significant contribution to crash risk from any drug. Adjusted odds ratios were:
- Cannabis/THC: 1.00, 95% CI [.83, 1.22],
- Antidepressants: .86, 95% CI [.56, 1.33],
- Narcotic analgesics: 1.17, 95% CI [.87, 1.56],
- Sedatives: 1.19, 95% CI [.86, 1.64],
- Stimulants: .92, 95% CI [.70, 1.19],
- Illegal drugs: .99, 95% CI [.84, 1.18],
- Medications: 1.02, 95% CI [.83, 1.26].
In Colorado, there were sharp increases in fatalities 2015, 2016 and 2017, yet a measurable drop in 2018. Overall, the state observed a 29.5% increase in fatalities since cannabis legalization. In the same time period (2014-2018), alcohol-related deaths increased 17.5%; speed-related deaths increased 25.0%; and drivers or occupants killed while not wearing seatbelts increased 38.5%. AG Connors blames cannabis users. There is no direct evidence of this. Making such a claim amounts to a deception — and knowing history, it is a racist lie.
Crash fatality rates after recreational cannabis was legalized in Washington and Colorado were reviewed previously in 2017. Researchers found no statistically difference in rates for either state.
Results. Pre–recreational marijuana legalization annual changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were similar to those for the control states. Post–recreational marijuana legalization changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado also did not significantly differ from those for the control states (adjusted difference-in-differences coefficient = +0.2 fatalities/billion vehicle miles traveled; 95% confidence interval = −0.4, +0.9).
Conclusions. Three years after recreational marijuana legalization, changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates for Washington and Colorado were not statistically different from those in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization.
There are many reasons people die on our highways. Cannabis is not a top determinant. The 2016 NHTSA data shows 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6% from calendar year 2015:
- Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased by 2.2 percent;
- Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased by 3.5 percent;
- Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 percent;
- Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent;
- Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent;
- Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – highest since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent;
- Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – highest since 1990) increased by 9.0 percent; and
- Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – highest since 1991) increased by 1.3 percent.
There are additional studies that can be used to make either a pro or con argument, but ALL are associated findings. There are no direct studies on this subject than document causation to our knowledge.
Another concern is youth access to illicit substances. Pro-legalization advocates claim a regulated market better restricts these products from under-age youngsters. Criminals on the Black market sell to anyone. The Colorado School Counselor Association (CSCA) and Rocky Mountain HIDTA review this claim. About 7% of youngsters obtained cannabis from medical cardholders, caregivers, dispensaries or retail stores in 2015; this doubled by 2017. Most common sources remain Parents, Black Market or from friends who obtained the products legally. Diversion remains an issue.
It’s simple: alcohol is a MOST DANGEROUS substance in society, yet White people demand alcohol so it’s legal. Another MOST DANGEROUS substance is tobacco. Our national Founders needed this cash crop to build and finance a new nation. Thus we accept the social ills.
Historically, cannabis was used primarily by People of Color. White officials criminalized the substance for nefarious reasons — creating a draconian system of Institutional Racism that infects all areas of life in contemporary America.
If you are a Fair & Equitable human being, you either criminalize alcohol and tobacco along with cannabis, or allow all three to be regulated in a legal framework. There is no justification for putting people in prison for cannabis use — while standing there with an alcoholic drink in one hand and cigarette in another — unless one is both a racist and liar.
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