In this episode Kurt speaks with Tim Hsiao on the topic of marijuana. Aside from the personal question, there is a political one: Should people be free to get high?
Kurt: Well a good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. It is episode 420 this week. Actually, those that have been counting along, you might say that number is a little off. Chris’s idea ladies and gentlemen. That was Chris’s idea. For those of you who maybe didn’t know what we were going to do this week, we’re talking about marijuana. I guess there are a number of different nicknames for marijuana. Some of them I learned this week. A couple of them were very creative. Texas Tea. Acapulco Gold. Chris, what are some other nicknames?
Chris: I’ve heard California Roll before. Mary Jane.
Kurt: Mary Jane. Yep. Reefer.
Chris: Reefer. That’s an old school one. Joint.
Kurt: Yeah. Joint.
Chris: Modern vernacular.
Kurt: Yes. We’re talking about marijuana, but before we get to that, and it’s very complex issues, more complex than people realize. There’s a personal question, “Should I smoke weed?” But then there’s a political one? “Should other people be free or have a right to smoke marijuana?” That’s a more complex question. It’s different than just what I should do. Before we get into the topic though, I just have a couple things to say. First, on Monday, the Risen Jesus Podcast went live. That’s a podcast that I am hosting with Dr. Mike Licona and it already is a great program and I want to encourage you, if you’re a listener of this show, to go and subscribe to that. The first season is talking about Mike and who Mike is. Mike Licona is the president of Risen Jesus. It’s a great ministry he has. The future seasons are going to delve into Gospel studies and historiography. It’s going to be a lot of fun for me personally to be doing that with Mike and so go ahead and subscribe to that if you haven’t already. We would love to get your support for this program, Veracity Hill is by and large funded through the support of donors such as yourself. We are hoping to build this program into a flourishing radio ministry, a nationwide radio ministry, and so we are in year two of our project here I guess and we’ve certainly upped the quality of our production here. If you go back you can listen to just the audio, it all started out of my house in a room, the first few episodes, and we slowly built our way up and thanks to donors and a recent grant that allowed us to upgrade, hugely upgrade our camera equipment, it’s been a blessing. We’d love to get your support. Keep us not just going but growing as well so you can do that. Go to Veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab to begin donating today.
We’re talking about marijuana and you might recognize a familiar face on our program. He’s a faculty member at Grantham University which I believe is outside Kansas City. He is none other than Tim Hsiao. Tim. Thanks for joining us today.
Tim: Thanks for having me.
Kurt: Those might remember Tim came on when we did the episode to talk about gun control and those with a really good memory might remember just how I could not keep myself composed upon one of Tim’s answers questions to one of the rapid questions about what he would keep with him if he was stranded on an island, and just to give you a brief refresher here, that question is usually answered by my Bible or my spouse was another common answer. Tim’s was, I think we had knife too before Tim’s answer, of course, Tim, what was your answer?
Tim: My gun.
Kurt: That’s right. It was great. As I told you before our program here before we started, we do have more questions to Rapid Questions so we’ll go ahead and do that once we get to our midway point with you on today’s program. I am clueing into some of the comments or questions that you might have on our main page, we share the video into different groups. Sometimes I can’t keep tabs on all of those comments, but if you have a comment or question about our discussion today, please go to Veracity Hill’s Facebook page. You can also text the word VERACITY to 555-888 and I’ll keep an eye on those comments as well. Tim. This is a strange show insofar as usually I have a set of questions that I’ve prepared for my guests, but I thought I’d like to have a true unrehearsed or unprepared conversation with you on today’s episode and so I’ve started off by talking about the distinction between personal and private, so maybe we should first begin our program by looking at the personal aspects of marijuana and whether it’s something that we as people should consider making an evaluation, a moral evaluation? Is this something we should do, is it like drinking alcohol? You should do it in the privacy of your home as long as you’re not bothering anyone else. That’s a common line. What are some of the pros, if any, and cons of using marijuana?
Tim: Yeah. I’ll talk about the morality of marijuana and then I’ll speak a bit about the legality, should it be legal or not. Recreational marijuana use, I’ll be talking about recreational marijuana use. The point of recreational marijuana use is to get that intoxicating high. Whether you’re smoking a joint, eating an animal, it’s to overwhelm your cognitive faculties to produce a very pleasurable experience. Now, insofar as that impairs your ability to reason, I think that recreational marijuana use is immoral. Our fundamental moral obligation is to pursue what’s good, to avoid what’s evil, and in order to do that, we need to be able to reason. We need to be able to deliberate, think, and basically just be in control of ourselves, and the problem with recreational marijuana use is that it impairs the very thing that makes us rational beings. It impairs the very thing that allows us to act morally and so it prevents us from acting rationally and so I think that insofar as we’re prioritizing that pleasurable high over the ability to act morally itself, I think that’s immoral. I think that argument can also be leveraged into an argument for making it illegal. Actually, the argument I have for making it illegal is very much a libertarian argument. Libertarians prize liberty, freedom, so on and marijuana use impairs the very thing that allows us to act freely and rationally, namely the brain. It damages the brain. There’s acute and long-time effects, both impair our ability to think and so insofar as the government has the responsibility to protect our freedom, our liberty, and so on, it has a responsibility to protect the conditions that make it possible. Here’s an example. Take for example free markets. The government has an obligation to ensure freedom of exchange and in order to do that, it must protect certain fundamental structural conditions like the rule of law or other conditions like that. The same thing for rationality, when it comes to protecting our liberty, the government must protect certain structural conditions, one being clarity of thought. Because marijuana undermines our capacity to reason, there is a libertarian case to be made, if you’re a libertarian you should be in favor of marijuana restrictions because marijuana impairs the very thing that allows you to act freely to use your liberty. That’s the one-minute, two-minute rundown of why I think marijuana use is immoral and why I think the government should have a role in restricting it.
Kurt: There are many questions that can come out of this discussion. I want to, making a note here, we’re talking about recreational use. There’s also the medical use, but let’s pause on that. I’m making a note here. You said, and just so you know, I think some of my questions might be from playing devil’s advocate of sorts, you said that the government has a duty to, you’ll have to clarify my language here, a duty to retain order and structure in a society and so being of a clear mind is part of that so would you say that if you’re of the opinion that using marijuana is immoral, would you also say that getting drunk is immoral?
Tim: Yeah. It’s a good question.
Kurt: He smiles as I ask him.
Tim: I think there’s a big difference when it comes to marijuana use and alcohol. Alcohol can in principle be consumed without the intention to get drunk. People sometimes use it during dinner, to relax, whereas the whole point of smoking a joint to get high. I don’t know of anybody who smokes a joint and doesn’t intend to get high, so the primary premise of recreational marijuana use is to get that overwhelming intoxicating high whereas it’s not essential to alcohol use. That being said, I would favor, because alcohol does lead in sufficient amounts to intoxication, I would be in favor of alcohol restrictions, albeit not as restrictive as marijuana restrictions because namely of the difference, marijuana is primarily used to impede your rational faculties whereas for alcohol, that is not always sought after.
Kurt: We’re speaking of something as being an immoral act and I’m sure we’re going to spend the chunk of our program today talking about this distinction. An immoral act however, lying is an immoral act, but the government doesn’t regulate every instance of lying so should it be the case that people should be free to do immoral actions. We don’t want the government regulating every single thing we do do we?
Tim: Yeah. In most cases I would agree, but I would say that psychoactive drugs merit a special carve out from that. The approach I take is a libertarian one. The government has a responsibility to care about, to protect the conditions for freedom, for liberty, for rationality, so and so forth. Because psychoactive drugs work by impeding, impairing, frustrating the very conditions that you need to act freely which is a precondition for just exercising your freedom, I think psychoactive drugs merit a special carve out, a special exception from just any other immoral act. My argument is not that we should make marijuana illegal because it’s immoral. Rather, we should make mairjuana illegal because it interferes with the capacity to act freely. I do think recreational marijuana use is immoral, but I don’t base my case for immorality off its being immoral. I would agree with you that there are immoral things like lying that the government shouldn’t have an interest in regulating.
Kurt: I ask that question because when it pertains to alcohol, you’re right that alcohol doesn’t have that immediate effect or people don’t do it for the sake of getting drunk. Some people do, of course, and I would agree that getting drunk is immoral and something that ought not be done, but at the same time, I wouldn’t go so far to say that the government should prohibit people from getting drunk in their own homes. To have to regulate that I think could get a little complicated so why can’t it be the case that people should be able to get high in the privacy of their own homes?
Tim: I’m not saying that the government should knock down your door or come in and search your house and take away any weed or alcohol you have. My position is, there’s several points you could make. One thing is that practically speaking, when it comes to alcohol, marijuana, these things have bleed over effects to third parties. Your getting drunk, no man is an island, you’re getting drunk in very rare cases will just harm, you but you also have friends, family, dependents, people you are obligated to and as a matter of fact alcohol does affect that so just speaking in terms of harm to third parties, I think that there’s a case to be made, because you can make the case that marijuana, there’s secondhand smoke, it leads to dereliction of duty for your family members, impaired driving, much the same harm as alcohol. Right? I think insofar as the government does regulate alcohol, it’s because of the harmfulness to third parties. I do think, however, because psychoactive drugs merit a special carve out, I do think there is a mild form of paternalism here where I do think the government is justified in protecting people from themselves and here’s why. On a libertarian view, the government’s job is to protect people from unjust coercion. Marijuana works by impairing executive function, specifically inhibitory control, and so in doing that, marijuana opens the door for external coercive forces to basically influence how you act and insofar as you are coerced in that way, I think for psychoactive drugs in general, the government has an interest in protecting you from them because they open the door to that kind of coercion. Same thing with drunkenness too. Suppose I, and it’s different from just general acts of immorality in the privacy of your own home. Suppose I lie to my parents, right? That doesn’t generate any kinds of coercion whereas the activity of getting drunk, the activity of getting high, does generate coercion. Many people who are drunk or get high do things they otherwise would not do because they are coerced in that state. Again, I think there is a special carveout we can make for psychoactive drugs that are different from any other cases of immorality. That’s why I base my argument on psychoactive drugs impairing your rationality, thereby impairing your ability to act free, not because of the general immorality of things.
Kurt: But couldn’t the government simply regulate or firmly regulate its use?
Tim: Yeah. There are varying degrees of prohibition. Even under alcohol prohibition. Many people think alcohol prohibition banned alcohol completely. Actually, under alcohol prohibition it was still okay to personally consume alcohol. Alcohol prohibition in the United States only banned the sale and distribution of alcohol. Maybe for prudential reasons we could say that marijuana prohibition could take a similar approach in that you ban the sale and distribution and production of alcohol, but leave personal consumption in your own home legal. That would achieve roughly the same effects, but it would be slightly less restrictive. There are varying degrees of prohibition. We don’t have to say that if you commit to banning marijuana, you must be committed to banning every single aspect of it. There are degrees of prohibition we might take.
Kurt: Yeah. Like I said, it’s a complex issue from looking at the personal aspect and the political one and here you brought up something I hadn’t even considered is regulating the economy of it as opposed to just regulating its use. Maybe there’s a case where if the government wanted to say you can’t buy or sell, but if people want to grow it in their own homes, now the current law of the land wouldn’t even allow that and that’s because the federal government has prohibited it, although it depends on the, and I’d have to look here, the state government’s do a lot of the enforcing. There’s no national police force and except there is, you do have a force of sorts that works at the southern border so that’s an issue all on its own what to do there on the southern border. What are your thoughts on that Tim?
Tim: Yeah. Basically, I’ll just answer right now. The Supreme Court ruled in Gonzalez v. Raich that the federal government has the authority to prohibit marijuana. Whether or not that’s a good idea, I’m sort of a states right guy myself and I do think that when it comes to the federal government, I do think marijuana should be banned, but I think that primarily it should be a batter of the states…
Kurt: So we see eye to eye there.
Tim: Yeah. The states should have the right to ban marijuana. It’s pretty complex right now as it stands. The state does or the federal government does most of the regulating when it comes to control substances, what counts as medicine, the FDA’s in charge of that currently. Marijuana’s a schedule 1 drug. As for how medicine is regulated, that I might see a role for the federal government insofar as the need for consistency and stuff like that, but when it comes to just general drugs and that, maybe there’s a case to be made for states rights.
Kurt: So you’re okay looking at this from the medicinal angle, right? When we’re sometimes about this, we’re talking about recreational use, but the medicinal angle is really how this all got started in our society was it came in, doctors were prescribing it to cancer patients to help alleviate pain and at least as I’m trying to understand how this issue has become such a prominent one, it’s been through that door, the medicinal one, and so for you, you would say that the federal government should be able to regulate what constitutes as medicine, so in your opinion, do you think medicinal use of marijuana is permissible should we say?
Tim: This is a complex issue. Currently right now, marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug meaning that it has no medicinal, no except medicinal use. To say that marijuana is medicine, it’s sort of a misleading question. There’s the marijuana plant and there’s marijuana extract. The marijuana plant is not medicine. That’s why it’s classified as a scheduled 1 drug. Now marijuana does have compounds in it, THC and CBD, that do have potential medical use. The first distinction we should make is between the marijuana plant and the marijuana compounds. The marijuana plant is not medicine. That’s why it’s classified as a schedule 1 drug. The marijuana compound’s a different story. Currently right now, there’s a number of marijuana based drugs that are going through the process of FDA approval. Marinol has been FDA approved since I believe 1985 when a few days ago, Epidiolex was approved, which is I think pure CBD, was approved as a drug under the FDA. I would distinguish between the marijuana plant which is clearly not medicine and the extracts which can be medicine. I would be in favor of medical marijuana, insofar as you take the medicinally beneficial compounds or extracts from the plant and manufacture that into a pharmaceutically pure drug, which we have done, and which there are currently are federally legal drugs which are based on the marijuana plant. I would not, however, be in favor of legalizing the smoke or raw marijuana plant as medicine any more than I’d be in favor of, take opium for example. Right? Opium, Morphine is derived from Opium. Morphine is the medicinally benefical aspect of Opium, but I would not call a raw Opium plant medicine in the same way I wouldn’t call the raw marijuana plant medicine. When people speak of medical marijuana, it’s sort of misleading. They usually speak of the raw plant when states have legalized medical marijuana, it’s typically the raw plant, but that is not medicine. No medical organization, state or federal, recognizes the marijuana plant as accepted medicine. It’s only the THC or the CBD that has some medical benefit. Even then, it’s very limited. The evidence on this is rather controversial. That’s the nutshell answer. I’m sure you can ask more follow-up questions on that.
Kurt: Yeah. I want to take a step back here and look at how we’re analyzing this. There’s a distinction between medicinal use and by that, there are subcategories of smoking or taking a refined version of it which still has the same chemical compounds or some of the same chemical compounds. Then there’s the recreational use which certainly has implications. I know in the state of Colorado for instance, which was one of the first states to legalize recreational use, if not the first, Tim, was it the first state?
Tim: I believe so. I’m not too familiar. I know it was legalized recreational in 2014. I don’t know if it was the first state. I believe so.
Kurt: I think they are discovering some of the ramifications of doing so. They have, for example, the amount of traffic accidents increased and that’s clearly an instance when the government failed to regulate this because there were people that were dying as a result of drivers being high and that’s certainly something you don’t want, so if there is an attempt to legalize recreational use, it should be heavily regulated it seems. So we’ve got these different categories. We’ve got medicinal use. We’ve got recreational use. We also have the scope of regulation. Is it the duty of the state or is it the duty of the federal government and some people are in strong support of the federal government prohibiting this and the result of that is causing all sorts of gang violence, you’ve got the drug runners, you have underground tunnels going from Mexico to the United States. One of them I think, I don’t know if it was drug-related, but I remember a tunnel that came up through KFC, I gotta look this up because maybe it was for drug use. Yeah. It was a drug tunnel. A drug tunnel under KFC. Arizona police find Breaking Bad style, that’s funny. Breaking Bad style tunnel. So you clearly have people here trying to find ways around the federal regulations, literally around, in order to provide this so-called good for people to have and use and it’s creating a ripple effect. Tim, like you’d mentioned, the action is not just individuated. People are affected by this act and they’re affected by these decisions and so what is one of the best ways for a society, I don’t want to say government, what’s one of the best ways for a society to de-incentivize people from doing something? Maybe that’s what it gets down to. How do you have these disincentives from people doing something you don’t want them to do in general? Of course, there’s always the individual aspect of, “Hey. I don’t think you should do that.” Peer pressure. Drugs is not cool. Tim. I don’t know if you grew up with this, but I had the DARE program in elementary school which taught about drug education. Alright. What we’re going to do here, we’re going to take a short break. When we come back from the break we’re going to do our second round of Rapid Questions with Tim. He’s been on the program before and we’re going to talk about some of the upcoming elections, on Tuesday some people are going to be voting upon their states, I’m going to mention what states those are and what issues they’re going through, and we’ll keep talking about the topic of marijuana with Tim Hsiao on our program today. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, go to our website Veracityhill.com and click on that patron tab where you can learn about the great opportunities we have for you to sponsor with us for this program. Tim, it’s no surprise you’ve done Rapid Questions before and I’ve got some new questions. There are a number of people who said you have to get a greater variety of questions. We’ve got hundreds of questions that I now have to scroll through and pick at random. Some of them you won’t see coming. Are you ready? We’ve got sixty seconds on the game clock here. I will ask the first question as soon as it starts.
Did you have a dream last night?
Tim: I did. I dreamed about a game I played.
Kurt: Do you like to dance?
Tim: I can’t say I do.
Kurt: Have you ever lived abroad?
Tim: For about a week.
Kurt: When’s the last time you swam in a pool?
Tim: Half a year ago.
Kurt: Would you go bungee jumping or skydiving?
Tim: Heck, yeah.
Kurt: Do you have a garden?
Tim: Unfortunately, I don’t.
Kurt: Who was the last person you ate dinner with?
Tim: Probably somebody at my church.
Kurt: Do you believe in love at first sight?
Tim: Probably not.
Kurt: If you had a big win in the lottery how long would you wait to tell people?
Tim: I wouldn’t tell people.
Kurt: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Tim: A medical doctor.
Kurt: Where would you like to retire?
Tim: Probably Florida where I grew up.
Kurt: Florida. Very nice. Excellent. Thank you for playing that round of Rapid Questions. I have a number of follow-ups of course. You were dreaming of a video game? I didn’t have time to ask this because of the clock. What video game was it?
Tim: Don’t laugh, but I play a lot of Minecraft. I was dreaming about Minecraft.
Kurt: Not only do you play a lot of it, but Chris, my tech producer says there’s a poster in your background of Minecraft.
Kurt: Nice. A devoted Minecraft player.
Kurt: Sweet. You grew up in Florida. You went to Florida State which is the school my wife went to as well. What year did you graduate?
Tim: I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2014 and my Master’s in 2015.
Kurt: Gotcha. I don’t there would have been overlap. You would have just missed each other. She graduated in 2010. You grew up in Florida. Panhandle or?
Tim: Pennisula. Fort Myers area.
Kurt: Okay. Nice. Now you find yourself all the way in, was I right, Kansas City. Right?
Tim: Yeah. Kansas City.
Kurt: Is it the, a lot of people don’t know this, it’s a city in two different states. There’s the Missouri side and there’s the Kansas side so which side are you on?
Tim: On the Kansas side which is the better side.
Kurt: It’s a better side.
Kurt: Lower taxes? More freedom?
Tim: Actually if you live in the Kansas City Metro area there’s an added 1% city tax which I don’t care for that. I live in the Kansas side which is low taxes so good.
Kurt: Nice. Cool. Good. You teach various classes there, you’re a big ethics professor, right? That’s your main line teaching ethics courses.
Kurt: For those that want to hear some of Tim’s great stories, you can find them on Facebook. He has a website as well. You can go to TimHsiao.org. That’s H-S-I-A-O. TimHsiao.org. We’re talking about marijuana on our program today and it’s been awhile since we’ve done a political show, episode. I’m glad we picked this one. There is some relevancy with the elections on Tuesday, the midterms elections. There are some states voting on that. I just want to go through some of them. There are two states voting on a statewide ballot measure for recreational use, Michigan and North Dakota. In Michigan, it would be proposition, this comes from the Rolling Stone, Michigan could become the first state in the midwest to legalize recreational cannabis use joining 9 other states if voters pass proposition 18-1. If you live in Michigan, pay attention to proposition 18-1. There is some regulation here according to the description. North Dakota would be the state ballot measure #3. North Dakota’s another state. The state’s measure 3 would remove[NP1] , marijuana, and this is a medical term, tetrahydrocannabinol, that’s a mouthful, from its list of schedule 1 substances ultimately making recreational pot use legal for all adults. Then there are medicinal measures in Utah and Missouri, so Tim, you will not get to vote on that, but if you probably ten minutes to the east, you could. Those are up for not discussion at this point, for casting a ballot, if you live in those states or if you know someone who does, let them know, let them know your opinion as well. I’m very much an encourager of people getting involved in the political process. It’s very important. George Washington called this the great experiment and so educating people is highly important in the great experiment in order for the democracy to survive, and you think I’m exaggerating. I’m actually not exaggerating. Very important. Today with the isolation of the parties, the rhetoric, and now even more so the violence, it’s really a problem. We really need to learn how to be civil and have civil conversations, and hopefully, this program contributes to that. It’s been an example of how to do that. Tim. Alright. Let’s get back to our main thrust of discussion today. Again, something different here for me having no prepared questions. Let’s just converse. I think we see eye to eye that the federal government should not be regulating recreational use, but you said you were okay with the FDA regulating medicinal use. Is that correct?
Tim: Yeah. As it stands right now, the federal government does have that authority. Given that it does have that authority, personally, I don’t have a problem with it saying no weed…
Kurt: But should it have that authority? That’s the question.
Tim: Should it have the authority? No. It doesn’t actually have it. Yeah. Gonzalez. Interestingly enough in Gonzalez v. Raich, Justice Scalia actually wrote a concurring opinion where he argued that basically the federal government does have the authority to regulate marijuana at the federal level so that might be something that is compatible with a strict textualist reading of the Constitution.
Kurt: Doesn’t mean he was right though. I like to ask myself, and it’s true that the Constitution has changed, the laws governing our federal government have changed over time, but I like to ask myself the question, what would the founders have believed? What was the founders vision of the nation? Certainly it’s true that they were unable to implement many of their ideas, what they envisioned couldn’t have been brought about in the immediacy. It would take time, so for example, slavery, I bring this up because a lot of people don’t know that one of the earlier drafts of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson talked about how Africans were humans and that was actually, unfortunately, scrubbed, from one of the earlier drafts. He talked about humans being traded for sale in London. When people ask what was Thomas Jefferson’s views and why did the founders themselves when they supported abolition, but they still had slaves, why didn’t they do this? I think because some social structures were limiting in what they could and could not do. There were unfortunate circumstances we’ll say. All this to say, without going too far on a rabbit trail, with regard to marijuana, what would the founders have done? It seems they certainly allowed it. They couldn’t regulate it back then. Today, we have greater technology, say motor vehicles, which can allow the surveying and going and finding people and, oh no, there’s a marijuana farm, let’s go over there. It’s much easier to regulate than say the founders, so Tim, in your opinion, would the founders have been in support of regulating marijuana use?
Tim: Hemp wasn’t used back then. I think the best analog we have is tobacco. Tobacco was pretty prominent back in the colonial times. There were taxes on tobacco. I do think that regulating that would have been in the purview of the government. Whether or not it should be state governments or federal governments, I just don’t know enough about what the founders thought about that, but certainly they didn’t think it was out of the domain of the government to regulate these substances because they did have tobacco taxes for examples.
Kurt: I mean, some people call it Texas Tea. Why couldn’t it have been the Boston Tea? Gives a whole new meaning to the Boston Tea Party if you ask me.
Tim: I did want to address the question you brought up before the break about the scope of marijuana regulation so if I could say a few things about that…
Kurt: Yeah, please.
Tim: I think we can learn a good lesson from alcohol prohibition. Many people think that alcohol prohibition was just an abysmal failure. Actually, it’s not as it seems. Several things. First, alcohol prohibition actually reduced alcohol consumption by about 30-50%. So it had an effect in reducing not just alcohol consumption, admissions to mental hospitals, alcohol-related diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, so Prohibition does reduce consumption. It does reduce, it makes it easier for people to get the substance they need so in that respect it reduces consumption. Many people also have this idea that alcohol prohibition led to a crime wave. Actually the evidence for that is not clear at all. Crime was already rising prior to Prohibition. In fact, crime peaked at a time before Prohibition and what’s more, the idea that, around that time you had a lot of urbanization where people was moving to big cities and crime tends to be correlated in big cities, not because of anything alcohol or whatever, but because it’s big cities and also around the time, the amount of areas that the statistics were being created rose and you had this unofficial effect of it appeared that the homicide rate was rising, but it was just due to better data collection. In fact, there’s a paper by Emily Greene Owens where she argues that alcohol prohibition actually had the effect of reducing crime in that it reduced harms from intoxication, people drinking too much, and so forth. Finally, I want to say that alcohol prohibition failed not because it was impractical, but because it lost political support. In the work of the Great Depression, people wanted to get more tax revenue, and so Prohibition lost political support, but in terms of its practicality, it would have worked had it had a sufficient enforcement regime and had states dedicated more resources to enforcing it. What we can learn from marijuana is that Prohibition does work in reducing supply and demand and it does work in reducing the amount of social harms so Prohibition is not this failed experiment that many people thought it was. I talk about this in one of my papers. Prohibition actually had a net positive effect on society.
Kurt: So it could be the case that the federal government should continue regulating? Right? It currently has the authority, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it ought to, but there still is clearly a good that is resulting from it, but the question is is there a greater good available and if it’s not the federal government, perhaps the state governments are the ones that should be regulating their statewide economies. Some people might say that’s hard to do. I really get confused with people who think that when state governments have trouble doing something, they think the federal government doesn’t also have trouble doing something. Somehow, that error is prone to their thinking. So, while you talk about how there’s this good that resulted from Prohibition, but you wouldn’t say you would support a continuation of the Prohibition era regulations, right?
Tim: If it were, Prohibition was a constitutional amendment, it wasn’t just a law. National Prohibition followed several years of state Prohibition. First, several states prohibited alcohol and then the federal government adopted a constitutional amendment. I wouldn’t have a problem with another federal level Prohibition of marijuana, provided it followed the same steps as alcohol Prohibition. In principle, I am open to the idea. I think it’s better enforced, because the states are what do the enforcing even under alcohol Prohibition it was the states who carried out enforcement. I would think that if we do enact Prohibition it shouldn’t be at the state level, but I wouldn’t have a problem in principle with a federal Prohibition.
Kurt: But you say in principle so what’s your reasoning behind that?
Tim: I think that it would be more efficient if it were done at the state level because states can do things better than the federal government in general. If the states voted for a constitutional amendment or we got sufficient backing behind that, I wouldn’t have a problem with the constitutional amendment banning marijuana. At the state level, most of this is done by constitutional amendments. Right? It’s not a big leap from a state level to a federal level thing. It’s just a constitutional amendment, but I do think that when it comes to regulation, it should be at the state level.
Kurt: I’m with you there. I’m not sure I would say I think the federal government even in principle do it, but that could just be a political difference of how we’re interpreting the constitution or something like that or whether it would be, you’re saying it’s more efficient for the states, is that right?
Tim: Yeah. For a potential matter of fact, the states should do it.
Kurt: Yeah. Give us the rundown about why people themselves shouldn’t smoke pot and I ask for that because Tony here, he’s got a comment or question. He says, “If it could be shown smoking pot has a limited effect on some conditions, shouldn’t it be legal?”
Tim: Yeah. It’s about weighing the benefits and the odds when it comes to, by benefits I assume he means medicinal purposes. When it comes to that, you have to ask, suppose there are medicinal benefits to THC or CBD, well, you have to ask yourself what about the side effects. I think that smoking pot as a method of delivery is not exactly the best way to get whatever medical benefits there are. Right now there are THC and CBD forms of pure pharmaceutical. There’s Sativex, there’s[NP2] , there’s Marinol, there’s Epidolex, and so I think those pharmaceuticals would be the more efficient way, the better, the less reckless of administering marijuana at the medical level, but I don’t think that smoking with all of its carcinogenic effects would be an efficient method of delivery, nor would I think something like an edible would be okay, because you can’t really control the dosage of that. That’s a whole nother thing, but I think the best, if there are medical benefits of marijuana to get them, is basically how we take medicine right now. It’s one thing for a doctor to say “Smoke a joint for pain” and it’s another thing for a doctor to say “Take 100 mg of Amoxicillin twice a day.” I think the second one’s more narrow, more efficient, more safer in terms of getting the medical benefits of medicine.
Kurt: Now he doesn’t clarify in his comment if it’s medicinal, so let’s take it from a recreational perspective, and here’s this comment again. If it could be shown smoking pot has a limited effect on some conditions, shouldn’t it be legal?
Tim: When it comes to the non-medical benefits of marijuana, the research really doesn’t show that there are any non-medical benefits besides getting high. All the research, a large consensus of research, showing marijuana decreases IQ, it increases the propensity for dependence and use of other drugs, interferes with cognition, interferes with inhibitory and executive control. If you could argue that there is a non-medicinal benefit, it would have to be pretty darn good given what we know about marijuana’s negative effects right now. There’s a good article 2014 article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana that I’d recommend anybody read. It’s a good summary of the negative health effects of marijuana both acute and long-term.
Kurt: From federal government, state government, peer groups to individual. Federal government, you say it currently has the authority but maybe it shouldn’t. State governments, you say this is the best efficient way to regulate. Peer groups. You say we shouldn’t be doing that because it has all sorts of bad effects, and even the individual, you say, “Nah. It has all sorts of bad effects”, and shouldn’t be put to use. Is that accurate?
Tim: When it comes to legislation, I think that states, that should be the role of the states. When it comes to discouraging people, changing their attitudes, changing their perceptions, the best work there is done at the individual level. Pairing groups. Local organizations. Drug rehab organizations. I think those groups do the best way in spreading awareness about the dangers of not just marijuana in general and psychoactive drugs in general, and so in terms of discouraging people to use drugs, I think that local advocacy organizations do the best job of that. When it comes to legislation, I think that state governments should spearhead that.
Kurt: Tim. This is been an encouraging conversation, a fluid one. As I mentioned at the beginning of the program, it’s a very complex issue, for those that are interested to read, Tim, you have a few articles. Maybe before you go here tell us, let’s see, we’re going to put these links in our chat here for people to check out. You’ve got a few articles here. Tell us about them.
Tim: I’ve got an article in ethics and medicine titled The Case for Marijuana Prohibition. I go into a lot more detail, a lot more than I can say here. I go into extensive detail on why I think marijuana should be banned, why the alcohol objection doesn’t work, why a bunch of objections don’t work, what about medical marijuana. I have another article in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly on why marijuana consumption is immoral. I have one article on why it should be illegal. One on why it should be immoral. I have another article in the public discourse which is the journal of the Witherspoon Institute titled The Libertarian Case for Drug Prohibition, which I argue that Libertarians should be opposed to marijuana legalization, and finally coming out next week in Arc Digital, basically following up on the public discourse article explaining in more detail why Libertarians should oppose marijuana legalization.
Kurt: If you can convince the Libertarians, then you’re off to a good start. Tim. Thank you again for joining us on the program today, for enlightening us of the cautions we should have when talking about marijuana use from recreational to medicinal and how even still with the medicinal aspect there are better ways to move forward than just a full-scale endorsement and so we should be thoughtful in how we approach this very complex issue. Thank you, Tim.
Tim: No problem.
Kurt: I hope that this episode has been encouraging to you. Again, for those that live in the states that I mentioned, let’s see if I can remember. Utah and Missouri was going over medicinal. Michigan and North Dakota was voting on recreational. Those votes, if you haven’t voted already, Tuesday is election day, so pay attention to those ballot measures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the political episode as well. It’s been a long time and I think we’ve got a few more coming up. Let me take a look at our schedule coming up. We’ve got some great guests. Oh. I should mention, my wife is pregnant and she is due next week, so I am not sure whether I will be here, if we’ll have to air a pre-recorded episode or heaven forbid, Chris, that we not have an episode at all. We’ve never done that. We’ve been bringing new content to you week after week now for 420 episodes. Wait a second. Not quite. Right.
Next week we do have scheduled Greg Ganssle, God and Time, but in a few weeks, the last call for liberty with none other than Os Guinness. That is scheduled for November 24th. Those that have been long followers of the program know that I’m a huge Os Guinness fanboy so that’ll be a great episode and again a political themed one as well. If you have episode recommendations, I would love to hear them. I’d love to reach out to some people for some topic or if you have a specific person in mind, I would love to get the feedback from you and please don’t forget to consider reviewing us on iTunes or the Google Play store. We’d love to get those reviews up and going and regular, even our Facebook page, we’d love to get a review that you can then have for people to come and when they come to our page, they can see what do others think about this program. Loved to get your thoughts. That does it for the episode today. I am grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are, and Chris is going to queue up the image, he’s already got it, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer Chris for all the great work that he does and to our guest today, Tim Hsiao, and last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Unclear at 34:20
[NP2]Unclear at 46:40