David Frum is a smart guy who should know better. Most of the arguments recycled in this piece are essentially a lament on why policy makers didn't address the cannabis issue decades ago when the evidence became clear that criminalizing cannabis use was more harmful than use of the drug itself. Had policy makers in the 1940s and ‘50s not succumbed to the temptation to demonize and scapegoat, they might have paused long enough to take a close look at the already substantial evidence around them and concluded that, on balance, criminal prohibition would produce greater harms – social and individual – than the drug itself. They could have, if intelligent and well intentioned, gotten ahead of the issue and mitigated many of the concerns Frum worries about today. Many problems get worse the longer we put off dealing with them – cannabis is one of them. It was inevitable that the longer policy makers lied and fear-mongered, the more intractable the problems would become. Then the internet happened.
Frum says public policy is about tradeoffs. Actually it’s more like the trading of big serious problems for slightly smaller less serious problems – but only if we’re extremely smart and lucky. The experience of cannabis shows that policy makers can be extremely stupid for a long, long time. Legal cannabis may indeed mean more teen cannabis use – but if legal cannabis means fewer youth with criminal records most people who have studied this issue would regard that as a net win for individuals and the society in which they live. Frum would too if he thought about it. -- Craig Jones, PhD | Executive Director National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada