A budtender rolls a marijuana cigarette

In a recent interview, California Governor Jerry Brown expressed skepticism about marijuana legalization. “How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown asked. Even so, public acceptance of marijuana and support for legalization are on the rise. Sacramento Bee reporter Peter Hecht has been reporting on this new era for pot policy. He joins us to talk about his latest book, “Weed Land.”

Peter Hecht, reporter for The Sacramento Bee and author of "Weed Land: Inside America's Marijuana Epicenter and How Pot Went Legit"

  • thucy

    As a near-terminally uptight person, I’ve always been very anti-drugs, anti-smoking, anti-kegger, et cetera. I’m even against coffee, in theory. Most of all, I hate Cannabis and nearly everything associated with it.

    But as a taxpayer and a human being, I’m sufficiently appalled by the destruction wrought by the war on drugs to say in all seriousness: legalize it. Legalize all of it.

    Prohibition just doesn’t work. But it’s worse than that. Prohibition creates the very problems it set out to destroy.

    • geraldfnord

      Thank-you for understanding the difference between ‘I think it’s bad’ and ‘it should be illegal’; that, as well as the difference between ‘bad’ and ‘I don’t like it’, is all that stands between me and an obnoxious desire for many things and practices to be against the law, many of whose illegalisations might be the occasion of civil war.

  • Guest

    Taxation is a natural prohibition as it raises the price. And yet if the state taxes it, people can still grow their own and even give it away for free. With legalization there is always a monetary incentive to grow better products, and a growing gap between free stuff and paid for stuff.

  • Bob Fry

    It’s fascinating to see how quickly tolerance for gays and marijuana (and the overall war on drugs) has occurred, after decades of opposition by a large majority. I’d like to see a sociologist or other specialist discuss the dynamics of how a society adopts its views.

    Will acceptance and action on climate change happen in time to prevent catastrophe?

    • geraldfnord

      The nicest Christian evangelist I ever heard suggested to his audience that the best argument for their faith were to treat other people as well as possible; in the case of both gay rights and marijuana legalisation, liking people hurt by their absence constitutes an argument pro hominem.

      I don’t think this will happen for climate change, since by the time millions of sympathetic victims of our inaction appear it will be too late.

  • geraldfnord

    Most users, in my experience and others’, aren’t notionally worthless ‘stoners’, and legitimacy and normal social processes work best to encourage that.

    Prohibition works against the development of the social norms that make most of the difference between a drug’s being used and being abused, both in the sense of labelling and in the sense of actually learning, as a society, how to use a drug and still (pacem Mr Brown, who was always a better puritan than a liberal) be a productive member of that society.

    There have always been drunkards, but we know the signs that one were such, or becoming such—at least to _some_ extent—and we denigrate them, and most people who drink aren’t in their number. Back at the end of the ’70s, people at my high-school knew who the stoners were, laughed at and pitied them…even as many ‘normal’ people smoked or ate once a week—it worked better than D.A.R.E. later would.

  • Chemist150

    A curious phenomenon that I experienced over the proposition to use marijuana recreationally was that many of the medical marijuana users were against it. Within their ranks was a fear spread that they’d lose their rights as medical marijuana users. Many voted against recreational use.

    I got a few impressions from this phenomenon and one was that there were groups making a lot of money the way it was and didn’t want that taken away from them. i.e. much of it in came from the emerald triangle.

    On another level, it seemed that law enforcement was using similar propaganda to scare the medical marijuana users.

    In both cases, the fear seemed irrational for most that were not in a position to lose a lot of business since the proposition was worded in a way that seemed not to undermine the medical use laws.

    • geraldfnord

      Washington state seem to be on the road to severely clamping-down on their medical pot centres; this is ostensibly because they aren’t well-regulated, which is certainly true, but a cynic might note that medical pot is not there taxed, and that outrage over closing down the medical centres would be diminished by recreational users’ being able to get the highly-taxed (but still safer and cheaper than the illegal sources, if the state is playing their cards right) stuff.

      • Chemist150

        Here they can grow it under the medical license as I understand it.

    • Selostaja

      My biggest fear of legalization is the probability that the tobacco companies will manipulate and market a more addictive product. The current criminalization of its recreational use only provides an easy way to rack up numbers for crime stats that are used to justify enforcement performance evaluations and pay raises.

  • geraldfnord

    The fundamental difference that medical marijuana did was to remove pot from the ‘tabu-tabu! UNCLEAN’ mental bin in which it had formerly, firmly, been placed for many and into the realm of something like rational discourse around a real substance used by real people to good and to ill ends.

    And once it were no longer tabu for so many, many ‘came out’, and most of them—decent folk—were known to friends and family…the analogy with support for gay rights is obvious, it’s easier to hate an abstraction than something associated with someone you already know to be a good person.

  • Ehkzu

    The medical marijuana industry works on the fiction that most of its customers use it medically. The gigantic war on drugs complex works on the fiction that recreational drug use should be a criminal offense. Recreational drug use is the problem for which America’s cure is vastly worse than the disease. Instead of criminalizing private behavior, how about treating crimes committed under the influence of any substance–iuncluding alcohol–as premeditated? Either that or criminalize the most dangerous recreation drug of all: alcohol. After all, no one has ever OD’d from marijuana, whereas alcohol taken in quantity is a lethal poison.

  • Chemist150

    Backlash against the 60’s? OIH! Dupont had figured out how to process wood pulp into paper. Dupont being a huge government contractor for the military got the job done and got marijuana put on the list because it stood in the way of their profits. With politicians and government contractors sharing the common bond of loving fat cash, it was made illegal.

    • geraldfnord

      No, scheduling wasn’t until c.1970, and wood pulp paper dominated the market for cheap reads in the 1930s.

      Jack Herer had an insight, but he ran with it further than evidence would support—his supposèd malefactors were perfectly capable of making a killing in legal hemp, and ethnic hatred has a strong track-record as a spur toward drugs prohibition, even alcohol prohibition had a strong anti-immigrant/Catholic/Jewish component, opium laws started as explicitly anti-Celestial legislation, and coffee prohibition in Turkey was largely anti-Sufi.

      (And roughly everything Herer extols in industrial hemp is true of flax, which noöne wanted it banned.)

  • Selostaja

    I’ve occassionally used marijuana but decided it wasn’t worth the sluggishness or the caloric impact of the munchies. Pretty much all of my friends partake and most of us are 55+. Use the money spent of worthless enforcement for research and social ills. An addictive personality is an issue in itself, rather for drugs, alcohol, food or porn. I’d rather see a regulated system than money spent on supporting black market drug dealers.

  • Chemist150

    FYI, the body produces anabolic cannabinoids during vigorous exercise of the same potency of THC. Of course it’s of much lower doses than the “bud” of marijuana. Smoking leaves with much lower contents of the active ingredients easily achieves efficacious doses and the high does not last as long but the effective dose can last for up to four days. Thus, THC can achieve similar effects achieved during exercise that the cannabinoids produce such as vasodilatation leading to lower blood pressure. Feeling of well being etc. Of course it does not strengthen muscles and improve heart health through fat reduction, efficiency etc (but reduce blood pressure perhaps).

    They also tried to kill a monkey with THC at 9g/kg and failed. Feel like smoking 27kg of bud to try to reproduce it? You’d die of asphyxiation or lung damage first.

    • geraldfnord

      True, but death isn’t the only bad result—if Brown were right, and every smoker became either Chong or Kumar, he’d have a point. I’ve known pot burn-outs, it’s not pretty…but neither are armed raids, prison, or depriving people of a drug they need or a pleasure they can manage.

      (My apologies for posting so much; it’s largely because I typically see serious flaws in both sides’ arguments and apologia, though the burden of proof must be with the ones desiring the use of State power and resources, and they fall _so_ flat…. It should be neither reviled nor worshipped, just like the Market, the State, fire, or any other actual technology. )

      • Chemist150

        The burn outs aren’t stopped by laws. I don’t believe in the inherent addiction to pot. I think the problem is a result of an underlying problem that leads to escapism. Getting them off pot and forcing them into a particular lifestyle may help in some cases by forcing them to deal with the real issue but the real problem should be addressed.

  • SteveCastleman

    The fact that marijuana can have both powerfully positive effects (for the Vietnam vet referenced by a listener) and powerfully negative ones (the addiction of another listener’s son) underlines why science-based drug education is so important.

    THC is THC. It has a stable molecular structure that doesn’t vary depending on the user. What accounts for the different effects on different people is that their brains react to THC very differently. Neuroscientists says that those who become addicted to any drug, be it pot, alcohol, heroin or any other, have a genetic predisposition for addiction that’s triggered by negative environmental contributors. Most people don’t have that genetic predisposition. And many who do don’t develop addiction because they encountered positive environments that counteracted the predisposition. They can use drugs like alcohol and pot recreationally. Others aren’t so lucky.

    Rather than focusing on the drug, we need to focus on what all addictive drugs have in common: the way they manipulate the brain.

    For a not-for-profit website that discusses the science of substance use and abuse in accessible English (how alcohol and drugs work in the brain; how addiction develops; why addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease; what parts of the brain malfunction as a result of substance abuse; how that malfunction skews decision-making and motivation, resulting in addict behaviors; why some get addicted while others don’t; how treatment works; how well treatment works; why relapse is common; what family and friends can do; etc.) please click on http://www.AddictScience.com.

  • Auntie Dolores

    I found this story, and especially Dave Iverson to be very biased.
    It’s ironic that CNN is reporting more accurately than KQED! See “weed 2” and Sanjay Gupta’s inquiry into the the real reasons why legitimate patients do not have access to medical cannabis. Perhaps the next time Mr. Iverson asks such an important question as why Cannabis is a schedule 1 narcotic, he will dig a bit deeper when his guest fumbles for answers that the US public deserves to know. That question, in itself is at the crux of the issue; Mr. Iverson did not know what or how to ask, and Mr. Hecht apparently didn’t recognize the superb opportunity to set the record straight.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor