I believe Prager is the one on the left.

LG fave Dennis Prager has written a hilariously poorly reasoned argument against marijuana legalization. After claiming bizarrely that pot is a “gift from the left” to young people–because conservative folks have never used it? or older people? even before the ideas of “left” and “right” even existed?–he goes through the usual lugubrious hippie-punching before making a point:

So, legalizing marijuana is foolish because it leads to far more use of the drug and the availability of ever more potent forms.

A unique twist on the widely discredited gateway drug argument, but still very silly. Most of the pot users I’ve known use it mostly to help them relax. There’s only so far you can go to help yourself relax. Personally, my worries about young people constantly finding ever more extreme forms of relaxation is not all that strong. Prager doesn’t really seem to understand how the drug is generally used, though ignorance has never stopped a D-Pra column.

Yes, tobacco — specifically cigarettes — kills and marijuana doesn’t. But, forgive the ultimate political incorrectness, young people would do much better in life if they smoked tobacco rather than weed.

First, tobacco doesn’t kill young people. [emphasis mine] When it kills, it generally kills much older people. Moreover, according to a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, if you stop smoking cigarettes by age 44, you will lose only one more year of life than a person who never smoked.

By the same token, spending money trying to keep asbestos out of schools is a waste, because that doesn’t kill young people! (Oh, and isn’t it awesome that he is actually making this argument! I also like the implication that smoking cigarettes is something you can just easily kick at a certain age to minimize the risk.) But ultimately, this has all been prologue to the rancid core of his argument:

Second, regular pot smokers increasingly tune out of life, becoming what are known as potheads, or, to put it bluntly, losers.

No evidence given of this whatsoever. Of course, given that the last three presidents of the United States have all admitted to using the drug in their youth, it’s hard to imagine that some use, or even a lot of use, during youth is automatically going to wreck someone’s life. And just going through the statistics, it’s just not possible that everyone who uses the drug in their youth becomes a waste of potential. I think there’d be just a wee bit of attention paid if 38% of the nation were shiftless, unemployable losers. What’s most interesting about Prager’s column is not that the points are so lame, but they don’t really have any sort of coherent theme or framework to tie them together. It appears that the only reason he hates pot is because some lefties made a big to-do about it forty years ago, which is a silly extent to politicize things. It would be like disavowing Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard because some right-wingers liked their work during the same era, which would be nuts. There’s no reason to deprive yourself of “Mama Tried” or “Cry, Cry, Cry” simply because of the political context forty years ago.

What is encouraging about this–and it’s a rare, rare event–is the response of the TownHall commenters. That comment section typically saps my will to live, but this time, the vast majority of comments are mocking Prager’s arguments and assumptions, it’s actually downright encouraging. And this is key. Marijuana legalization has followed a similar arc in public opinion surveys to same-sex marriage, indeed, it’s been so similar that it makes a person think that the same underlying force is at work in propelling both issues. But while marriage has been a top-tier political issue for a decade, and a significant one before that, legalizing marijuana has been a backwater of an issue in terms of national politics probably since the 1970s. Hardly any congresspeople run on it or debate it, and media institutions haven’t devoted nearly the same attention to it since it has never mattered in horserace terms. So, two states voting to legalize pot last year (and two very close calls in Oregon and California in the past few years) has been a real wake-up call for a whole ton of people, although it merely reflects a rapidly evolving consensus on the subject. Anti-equality advocates like Maggie Gallagher and Ross Douthat have had decades to hone their arguments, to try to make the most reasonable case for their positions. It hasn’t stopped progress, but perhaps it held back the tide for a bit. At the very least, the traditionalist argument against expanding marriage rights has some superficial truth to it–a dumb person will hear that marriage hasn’t changed in thousands of years and figure we should keep it from changing, even though it’s never stopped changing to fit the cultural context. On the other hand, anti-marijuana advocates have clearly been blindsided by recent developments and are desperately scrambling to come up with something compelling. They have a much harder task. There’s no traditionalist argument, anti-pot types have to contend with the fact that society got along just fine with legal pot until the Wilson Administration. There is no real traditionalist case to be made there, and since only the biggest charlatans bother with silly arguments about “gateway drugs” and the like by now, it’s quite clear that they have absolutely nothing to use to debate against it. Aside from hippie-punching, that is.

This debate is going to be over in a fraction of the time it will take us to get marriage equality.

  1. Matmos says:

    1. Mad props on the Insane Clown Posse.
    2. I will give you odds that the minute pot becomes legal, this guy invests heavily in whatever RJ Reynolds-equivalent starts factory farming it, particularly if it *is* RJ Reynolds, because, probably, Al Gore is fat.
    3. You actually read Townhall columns and comments on purpose? Good god.

    • Lev says:

      3. Sometimes. Sometimes people draw my attention to the nutty/funny ones. Prager is one of my longstanding fixations, since he combines being a really bad writer, a really bad thinker, and a really supercilious son of a bitch. He usually comes off like a sitcom character, like a less funny Peter Boyle from “Everybody Loves Raymond” for example. It’s bizarrely compelling.

      Also, shouldn’t conservatives support pot because WOODROW WILSON OUTLAWED IT! Apparently he’s the worst person ever according to Glenn Beck & others.

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