The article in question starts with an interview with Sgt. Jim Gerhardt of a Denver-area drug task force. He was asked to discuss the effects that legalizing pot will have in Colorado. He made all the usual points you always hear from the non-legalization side. Let’s examine his points one by one:
“There’s plenty of evidence that this a harmful thing for kids. I can’t even believe I have to say that.”This is a horrible start. Do you know why? Because he just lost half his audience. Indeed, this opening shot discredits him with people who favor legalization precisely because he’s just stated a heavy bias. He’s basically told them that he thinks they are so stupid that he doesn’t even need to offer evidence to refute their views. After this, who could see this man as a credible source of information? And since he needs to reach people who favor legalization if he wants to prevent or reverse legalization efforts, this is a horrible way to begin.
“We’ve seen children infant age that have been getting into this stuff and hospitalized, and this has been under medical marijuana. I can’t imagine how bad it’s going to get with full blown legalization.”This is a loser with the public. The fact that a couple people have been irresponsible simply does not sway the public to take away freedoms. It hasn’t worked with guns, it hasn’t worked with alcohol, it hasn’t worked with anything. The American public does not believe that something should be banned just because someone misused it. Not to mention, the “do it for the children” approach has been so ruthlessly mocked that it is no longer a valid argument with the majority of the public, and it certainly holds no sway with the part of the public that is looking at pot as just a little bit of fun.
Unfortunately, he then fails to offer any real evidence of harm. Thus, his statement that “there’s plenty of evidence that this a harmful thing for kids” sounds like a lie and this reinforces the idea that the anti-legalization people have made up the dangers to scare us.
Next an addiction counselor adds this:
“Children are more likely to become dependant when they start use early. Even if it’s an advertant use. In children in particular the brain is still developing. It’s actually developing up until age 25. So we’re not sure how the substances impact the developing of the brain.”This is disastrous. First, again, we don’t ban something just because some idiot misuses it, even if their kids get a hold of it. BUT more importantly, notice the admission that they don’t know “how the substances impact the developing brain.” In other words, her argument is fabricated. She is arguing, “we have no idea how this actually hurts kids, but trust me, it will hurt kids.”
She then notes that kids are more likely to try pot if someone puts it in brownies and she lists two incidents where someone gave pot-laced brownies to a teenage girl and a college student and professor. Each of them ended up “going to the hospital.” She then gravely warns, “All the problems we’ve already had have exploded, and I think they are going to get worse.”
Can you see the problems? First, she failed to point out any harm from pot, yet now she proceeds to scaremonger by warning us of the pot brownie menace! Oh my! “I can’t tell you why this is bad, but it will be even worse once brownies enter the mix!” Then the pot brownie menace turns out to be two instances... and all we know about those people is that they ended up going to the hospital. There is NOTHING here that will sway anyone who doesn’t already believe. There is nothing to tell you why pot is harmful or why brownies will make it worse or how legalization will be worse yet... maybe we’ll get four people visiting the hospital with diarrhea! Oh my!
This is the problem with the anti-legalization crowd. They offer nothing but unsubstantiated opinion of mass horrors which they cannot even find evidence to support except for a handful of anecdotal instances that reek of simple misconduct. That is not going to sway anyone who doesn’t already believe that drugs are evil.
If you want to win the legalization issue, you need to learn to reach the people who aren’t already true believers. That means finding ways to sway people who simply don’t see the harm in it. Offering up anecdotal evidence of three people making non-specific hospital visits and unproven assurances of great horrors no one can see just isn’t going to do that. If you want to win this debate, get some real proof pot really does hurt people. Do statistical analysis. Look at the mental health, the physical health, the financial health and the criminal records of users. You can’t win significant public policy arguments with “trust me, it could be bad.”
And most importantly, find proof that allowing people to smoke pot hurts other people. Remember, the argument you need to defeat is that legalization is about personal freedom. That’s a powerful argument, and defeating it requires focusing on the people who will lose their freedoms if you grant this one. Focus on the people who will be randomly drug tested. Focus on the people who will die in accidents, the employers who will get sued, the taxpayers who will pay for a massive regulatory scheme, the increased crime rate, the increased cost of social services.
This point here actually applies to a lot of conservative arguments. Too often, conservatives present arguments that only appeal to believers. They need to learn to reach the people who are sitting in the middle and don’t buy the arguments conservatives have already tried, but whose minds are open to aspects of these issues they haven’t considered. You will never win an argument be repeating an argument people have already rejected.