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Durbin falls for junk science

Wednesday, Feb 6, 2019

* Bernie

U.S. Sen. DICK DURBIN, D-Illinois, says he doesn’t think Illinois should rush into making recreational use of marijuana legal.

Durbin, of Springfield, was asked about the issue when appearing on another topic last week at the Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation.

“I can remember the worst times, when it came to marijuana, and when I was a lawyer in this town, and somebody with a 17-year-old son would come in and say, ‘My kid just got busted for smoking pot,’” Durbin said. “They wanted to know … whether or not there was any way to spare their son from the embarrassment and possibly life-changing results of being prosecuted for smoking a joint.” […]

Durbin said he recommends a recent article by MALCOLM GLADWELL in The New Yorker. The headline of the online version is: “Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think?”

He said it discusses “the impact of legalizing marijuana in many states … and what they have seen as a result of it: the increase in traffic accidents; certain mental health conditions seem to be more prevalent in those states. These are all legitimate clinical questions that should be asked and tested.”

* From that thoroughly debunked article, which is based on an even worse book

Berenson looks, too, at the early results from the state of Washington, which, in 2014, became the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana. Between 2013 and 2017, the state’s murder and aggravated-assault rates rose forty per cent—twice the national homicide increase and four times the national aggravated-assault increase. We don’t know that an increase in cannabis use was responsible for that surge in violence. Berenson, though, finds it strange that, at a time when Washington may have exposed its population to higher levels of what is widely assumed to be a calming substance, its citizens began turning on one another with increased aggression.

* James Hamblin in the Atlantic

We don’t know—that’s true. Science can’t prove a negative. But this is innuendo, the public-intellectual equivalent of just sayin’. Innumerable factors go into homicide rates. One of the strongest predictors is income inequality, for example, which was increasing in Washington during that period; the state now has the 10th-biggest gap in the country. If marijuana legalization accounted for increased murder rates, Amsterdam would be a much deadlier place to live. As it is, the homicide rate in the Netherlands is one-fifth as high as it is in the United States.

* Also

It’s not a presentation of evidence as much as a dire hypothetical that ignores literally all other possible factors for a fluctuation in assault and homicide rates.

* And

When it comes to violence, Beatriz Carlini, a senior research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, notes Gladwell says there was an increase in violent crime after marijuana legalization began in Washington. But what he fails to note, according to Carlini, is there was a decrease in violence the two years prior, and therefore crime levels have simply reached the point they were at in the years before legalization. And Benjamin Hansen, an economics professor at the University of Oregon, who showed that crime rates in Washington and Colorado have actually decreased since legalization.

Another thing Gladwell focuses on is a report by the National Academy of Medicine that showed a link between schizophrenia and marijuana use. But Ziva Cooper, a research director at UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative and one of the authors of the report cited by Gladwell, came out and publicly affirmed that the report does not mean that marijuana use causes schizophrenia.

You got had, Dick.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Stark - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:26 am:


  2. - Bobby T - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:30 am:

    Seems to me the biggest issue with legalizing weed is what to do with the excess. Oregon has the issue big-time — and while growers are supposed to record (as in “video”) the destruction of the excess weed — oversight is virtually nil.

    So a lot of Oregon growers are saying, yeah, we destroyed it, sure — when, in fact, they’re bootlegging it back into the black (or grey, I suppose) market for profit.

    There’s no good interstate network to transport the stuff and balance out the markets. This seems like a big, big issue — and one that can only partially be solved by regulating licenses.

    My guess is that a lot of growers will see profits rise in the beginning, and then once the market starts to stabilize will see profits drop like a rock — at least in the legal markets.

  3. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:34 am:

    Holy Cow. Dick Durbin an outlier among progressives. Who’d a thunk?

  4. - Terry Salad - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:34 am:

    Marijuana has a long history of safe use. But, there is a well-established correlation between heavy use by teens and some forms of mental illness. I favor legal weed, but only for people 21 and over. Teen brains are still developing and weed does affect them.

  5. - Iggy - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:35 am:

    Why on earth would Durbin ever be okay with cannabis? He was a champion of the tough on crime era, and only publicly shifted his views when his party moved so far to the left that if he remained tough on crime he would have received a legitimate primary opponent. In his heart Durbin will never be okay with people having access to a plant, connect the dots yourself, it’s obvious.

  6. - Arsenal - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:35 am:

    Unfortunate that Durbin is behind the times, but I doubt it’ll matter much to passage.

  7. - Al - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    The violence in Washington State is more likely due to Costco paying a lot of legislative consulting fees to do away with State ABC stores. More licensees selling more liquor.

  8. - don the legend - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    He’s 74 and been in Congress half his life, since 1982. He is so out of touch and insulated that he know not what he says.

    So many of his peers are the same.

  9. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    Nobody’s perfect.

  10. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    How any grown-up could buy the idea that marijuana use leads to violence and homicide, for crying out loud, is just unbelievable.

    Have you never used marijuana, or been around someone who has, in your life?

    The illegal trafficking of marijuana, however, has led to extremely violent and murderous organized crime groups, just like in the days of alcohol prohibition.

    Let’s make it simple for you, Dick: Al Capone, bang-bang — remember that? When murderous competing gangsters controlled the supply of beer, because it was illegal?

  11. - Saluki - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    Everything that stands in the way of weed legal is “thoroughly debunked”, and “junk science”. Good for Senator Durbin for taking a cautious approach. Once these eggs are scrambled, there will be no getting them back in the carton.

  12. - Glenn - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    This Senator Durbin is the very same person who openly proposed that journalists should be licensed by the state.

    One can imagine the type of journalists he would award First Amendment “rights” to through a state licensing process.

    “Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech. But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.

    “By this he means, basically, that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press probably don’t apply to you:

    “Not every blogger, tweeter or Facebook user is a “journalist.” While social media allows tens of millions of people to share information publicly, it does not entitle them to special legal protections to ignore requests for documents or information from grand juries, judges or other law enforcement personnel.”

  13. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    ===Everything that stands===

    Nope. Stop arguing like a child.

  14. - Pyrman - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    This issue shows why Durbin needs to retire, his thinking has not evolved and he is out of touch with his constituents

  15. - LXB - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    Gladwell is a scourge.

  16. - Sillies - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    The Gladwell piece is rather long and it appears you cherrypicked one or two of the many concerns he raises. The point which resonates for me is that there has been little to no real science confirming the safety of recently-available, higher potency marijuana. Yet, we seem to be on the cusp of endorsing and encouraging its use. What is the counter-argument to that? Have a joint?

  17. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:04 am:

    If smoking marijuana causes short term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana do?

  18. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    –Gladwell is a scourge.–

    He’s a pop culture story teller masquerading as a rigorous academic. He starts with a conclusion, then cherry picks anecdotes and random facts that support it, while ignoring deeper analysis that would pop his balloon.

    It’s highly profitable.

  19. - Al - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:08 am:

    Five times more liquor licensees selling 22% more liquor. Nothing to see here in Washington State save for the evil doings of that scourge so loved by jazz musicians, the dread reefer.

  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:11 am:

    –Good for Senator Durbin for taking a cautious approach. –

    I understand you don’t want to rush to put the cartels and street gangs out of business. Perhaps you prefer that they receive compensation for lost business?

  21. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:16 am:

    “If smoking marijuana causes short term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana do?”

    I’m going to respond to this comment. Wait, what was I just gonna do?

    People who turn to chronic drug use to cope, including marijuana, have preceding mental health issues. They use drugs because of mental unhealth, so how can we say marijuana causes mental problems when the problems are there to begin with and are driving use among certain people?

    No matter what, if we claim we love a free country, we will always have people using and abusing drugs. Marijuana prohibition has failed utterly. How about we stop this massive failure and create new models that would be more successful? Legalization is a work in progress, and I appreciate Illinois proponents looking at other legalization efforts and finding what works and what doesn’t.

  22. - JoanP - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:18 am:

    =there is a well-established correlation between heavy use by teens and some forms of mental illness.=

    Correlation is not causation.

  23. - DuPage - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    I think they need to clearly define DUI with weed smokers. People could be falsely accused of DUI, they just drive that way all the time. Others are good drivers even if they are high on weed. Are there any objective tests to measure just how much is too much to drive?

  24. - Rabid - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    Durbin has a lot of faith in prohibition, the facts just aren’t in yet

  25. - Generic Drone - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    Durbin. At the forefront of backward thinking.

  26. - Anon24 - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:39 am:

    Malcolm Gladwell spews trash. His books are so chockful of logical fallacies, it’s cringe-inducing knowing people totally buy into his work. There are college philosophy classes that critically tear his books apart with ease.

  27. - Responsa - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:44 am:

    If you live long enough you realize that every well-intentioned policy move also has unintended consequences that somebody along the way pointed out or warned might happen but were ignored in the rush. I don’t fault Durbin for trying to assess the big picture. I don’t know if he’s right or wrong but I wish more pols tried to look at issues from a 360 degree perspective.

  28. - Bourbon Street - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 10:50 am:

    @ DuPage. Among other things, Illinois’ current DUI statute prohibits driving “under the influence of alcohol” (in addition to prohibiting to driving with “an alcohol concentration” of 0.08 or more) and “under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving.” Courts and lawyers have been dealing with these types of cases for years. The dispositions are supposed to be based on the facts. Judges and juries have rendered “not guilty” findings and verdicts, but it’s hard to guarantee that wrongful arrests will not occur.

  29. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    Not his finest moment, but I like the guy, so I’m giving him a break. My guess is that his impression of marijuana is clouded by his hatred of cigarettes.

    Millennials may not remember a day when people smoked on airplanes. They can thank Durbin for that, among other things.

  30. - Winderweezle - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    @Bourbon Street, I believe you are probably already aware of this from your post but for the benefit of other readers…

    In the past a conviction for D.U.I. Drugs could be based on the fact that a person had any amount of THC in their blood. THC (as everyone knows) stays in your blood stream long after any impairment is gone. Think weeks not hours. It is my humble opinion that more than one officer had this figured out and were more than happy to arrest people with no evidence of impairment. Some officers demonstrated a pattern of arresting people and rolling the dice that there would be THC in their blood. The officers that demonstrated this pattern, sooner or later had blood results come back with no illegal substance. Yet neither the drivers WITH THC who were not impaired at the time of arrest or the drivers with NO illegal substance seemed to have any recourse against these officers.

    Recently the state has begun moving away from that standard and impairment has to be demonstrated to support the arrest. This has led to better training for officers. This change was long overdue. There is more work to be done.

  31. - The Dude - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    He quickly is becoming a dinosaur in politics.

    The dinosaurs went extinct there dick.

  32. - Terry Salad - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    True, correlation is not causation. But, “The COMT gene governs an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, a brain chemical involved in schizophrenia. It comes in two forms: “Met” and “Val.” Individuals with one or two copies of the Val variant have a higher risk of developing schizophrenic-type disorders if they used cannabis during adolescence ”

    Source: Caspi et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2005.

  33. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    ===True, correlation is not causation. But===

    FYI, I skipped everything you typed after that.

  34. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    Durbin probably looks at this issue the same way that all other elderly people do - they don’t accept the parameters of the current debate, and never will because they’ve had the “reefer madness” outlook embedded in their brains for too long. Anything that remotely resembles “science”, even if it’s easily debunked, will be latched onto if it appears to support the argument against legalization. At his advanced age, we can’t expect him to overcome his decades of programming on the subject. As with all elderly people, allowances have to be made when it comes to introducing new ideas and new ways of solving problems that they were never able to figure out.

  35. - Al - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    In 1990 Congressman Durbin was informed DEA Judge Francis Young ruled Cannabis was a safe and effective medicine and should be rescheduled. A town hall event in Palmyra. Senator Durbin has made a personal bidness decision.

  36. - Scribe - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:47 am:

    Time warp,this sounds more like the 1982 Durbin, not the 2019 version. As has been said before,it’s time for him to go.

  37. - LoyalVirus - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 11:58 am:

    Anyone know where Stava-Murray stands on legalization? This could be the traction her campaign needs!

  38. - Joe Bidenopolous - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    ===If smoking marijuana causes short term memory loss, what does smoking marijuana do?===

    That was a David Crosby tweet like five days ago

  39. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    ==Another thing Gladwell focuses on is a report by the National Academy of Medicine that showed a link between schizophrenia and marijuana use.==

    I find it easy to believe that someone with schizophrenia seeks out marijuana.

  40. - Pundent - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:27 pm:

    =I don’t fault Durbin for trying to assess the big picture.=

    I do fault him if he’s assessing the big picture based on junk science. Because that’s not assessing, that looking for data to confirm a bias.

  41. - pool boy - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:28 pm:

    Later he was quoted as saying “if you don’t believe me, you should watch Reefer Madness.”

  42. - RoscoeRatMatt - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:46 pm:

    Looks like electoral change is needed at the Senatorial level too.

  43. - Terry Salad - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    All Gladwell does is point out correlation. With teens and weed, the causation has been identified.

  44. - Soccermom - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 1:44 pm:

    Sillies — we don’t have the kind of research that you mentioned because it hasn’t been legal to do it. It’s infuriating.

  45. - Rabid - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 2:06 pm:

    Durbin wants clinical testing, it’s a schedule one, unavailable for testing

  46. - TheGoodLieutenant - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 2:25 pm:

    === Durbin wants clinical testing, it’s a schedule one, unavailable for testing ===

    What, the big Federal stash that’s been down in Mississippi for the last 40+ years hasn’t been used in clinical testing Senator?

  47. - James - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    These remarks suggest Sen. Durbin doesn’t read enough. When you are a Senator, you owe it to your constituents to question authority and do deeper research into policy, especially in the face of divergent opinions within the authorities, which should at least be publicly acknowledged. The Senator’s personal staff should assist in doing this research and briefing the Senator.

  48. - ArchPundit - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 4:29 pm:

    ===It’s highly profitable.

    Gladwell has spent 10,000 hours oversimplifying complicated problems and selling glibness.

  49. - James Knell - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 5:03 pm:

    I hope Senator Durbin will give this some serious attention. I have felt that the cure is worse than the problem when it comes to the drug war for many years. It’s amazing to see progress being made and people trying to undo some of the pointless damage to people’s lives.

  50. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 5:51 pm:

    –Millennials may not remember a day when people smoked on airplanes.–

    And in bars, restaurants, offices, etc. Banks had granite, permanent astrays attached to teller windows.

    When I was a kid, whenever the door of the teacher’s lounge was opened, a giant cloud of smoke would escape.

  51. - M - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 6:52 pm:

    At least one will know… what is in the Marijuana one purchased from the government controlled market. When buying it on the Black market, one never knows what drug the Marijuana has been laced with.

  52. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 6, 19 @ 8:22 pm:

    –Durbin probably looks at this issue the same way that all other elderly people do - they don’t accept the parameters of the current debate, and never will because they’ve had the “reefer madness” outlook embedded in their brains for too long.–

    Meh, I don’t think that flies for Durbin. He’s 74 — he was in his 20s in the 60s. People his age and older still smoke weed.

  53. - Question More - Thursday, Feb 7, 19 @ 3:54 am:

    Mr. Durbin has his fat pension and taxpayer funded benefits lined up. Science is not on top of his list.

  54. - Rabid - Thursday, Feb 7, 19 @ 4:38 am:

    Weed causes mental problems and accidents, Its not people with mental problems and bad drivers using weed

  55. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 7, 19 @ 6:34 am:

    “Weed causes mental problems and accidents, Its not people with mental problems and bad drivers using weed.”

    You know this how?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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