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by Clifford A. Schaffer
You have heard the argument before:
Pot is dangerous. It causes cancer, auto accidents, grows hair on your palms, and makes you go blind.
This is a guide on how to deal with this argument in all sorts of easy ways. Some of these arguments were developed during debates with doctors, so some of them assume that the opponent is a doctor.
First, it is generally pointless to get tied up in debating the details of health issues or, in general, any supposed danger of drugs. The reason is that you get so wound up in trading scientific references that you never get to the real bottom line -- prison. Dr. So-and-So (who the audience doesn't know anyway) says X, Dr. Whositt, says Y -- so what?
Net result -- you convince nobody. Once you have won your main point, and established that criminal punishment is not an effective approach to the problem -- no matter what you have assumed about the dangers -- then you can go back and, at your leisure, knock down their health evidence as well.
My approach -- conceding all their evidence up front -- does a complete end run. They expect me to argue that pot doesn't cause cancer, etc. When I don't, and jump to the bottom line policy issue (prison), they are completely disarmed. They really don't know what to do. They never thought about their logical non-sequitir (Because XXXXX is dangerous, therefore prison is the solution) and are completely unprepared to deal with arguments which address the logical disconnect. Once they are sitting there with a stunned expression on their face -- knowing they have been completely cut off -- then I come back with the mop up campaign of addressing the health risks and comparing them with other health risks for which we do not put people in jail. By that time, they will be doing little but nodding their head and agreeing.
I remember one debate in which my opponent showed up with a whole stack of medical references on the harmful effects of drugs. A few minutes into the debate he closed his folder and never opened it again. Of course, as always, he conceded and agreed with me.
The Specific Responses
Now for the specific responses:
If Your Opponent is a Doctor
16) Hey, Doc! What is the first rule of addressing a health problem? First, do no harm. Right? Putting people in prison does significant harm long before they are likely to get cancer.
If my opponent is a doctor I will hammer him on points just like the one above. If he is really concerned about pot as a health issue then, by God, he ought to be ready to address that part of the problem as he would any other health issue. Would he put people in prison for non-marital sex in order to prevent venereal disease? Obviously he wouldn't. Hit him with his own values and evidence.
And, if he is a doctor, I would hammer him repeatedly on the fact that he really didn't know anything about the subject. Like:
So tell me why the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs said that prohibition was the worst thing we could do for drug-related health problems. You haven't read it have you? The big problem here is ignorance, Doctor. It is one thing to read some medical literature about the harm these things can do and it is quite another to make the leap to an effective public policy. Your problem, Doctor, is that you have read some of the medical evidence but haven't read the evidence on drug policy. Ignorance is a shameful thing in someone with as much education as you have.
In short, if I am in a debate with a doctor, he will fall before I am done -- because
he is a doctor. I will goad him into reading the CU Report by taunting him, calling him
ignorant, cajoling him, or anything else I have to do. I will force him to either read
what I have read or look like a public fool. Once they read it, they always concede. For
example, see my much earlier post "Cliff Converts Doc". It was written by a
doctor who fought me tooth and nail and then wound up telling everyone that I was right.
Excerpts of my debate with him are posted on my web page.
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Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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