Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Debate Rages On

First, for anyone who happens to have an interest in this blog, my apologies for letting you down. I had visions of posting weekly...but I dont think that's gonna happen. Who knew selling weed would be so time consuming?

That said, this is an easy post because it has already been written. The background is day an old friend who I have known since my summer camp days, alerted to me to a somewhat negative post about Dixie products, written by a fairly reputable, yet conservative author/journalist named David Frum.  Hat tip to @fisherqt for the twit-tip...and on a unrelated sidenote, it was this tweet that allowed me to enjoy reconnecting with an old friend.

Anywho--I reached out to him to ask if he was interested in discussing his views with me. Turns out, he was. Below is a rather prolific email exchange between Frum and me that I felt was a great summary of many sides of this issue-as told by someone who favored legalization and is living it and someone who fears it is simply the next step toward the end of times. Truthfully, I was honored to have had so much of his time and thoughts--when I began the discussion with him I didnt realize exactly who he was. Turns out..he's kind of a big deal. The bones of our discussion were very much related to a subsequent article for Commentary Magazine which had begun to write before we began our exchange. I emailed him after it posted, and I told him I that while I disagreed with most of it, I felt it was pretty eloquent.

So, it's long...but take a look at the below thread and let me know your thoughts. I dont believe there is a "winner" in this debate necessarily, but these are the some of the issues. Read it from the bottom up of course.

A few quick things:
1     I just wanted to thank you for your passionate and articulate responses. I completely understand your position, I respect it, and I thank you for taking the time to share it with me. I know how busy you are…and the respect you command within the world of the written word.
2     How would you feel if I was to take this email thread, wholesale, and post it to my blog? I just think its an interesting examination of the debate and I think you have some great points. If you’d rather not-I completely understand.
    I apologize in advance for the length of the below…

Now, per the below…I think we are at the point to agree to disagree.  I think what lies at the crux is the fact that you are operating from preconceived notions, prejudices and assumptions. I agree with your first point—but I don’t see us working to fix the issues. As a country, as a community, as a global economy…the system is broken irreparably. Now, that’s not to say it is a reason for chaos and anarchy, or that I want to contribute to the demise. But it IS to say that if we were working on the real issues (inequality of pay, education, etc.), legalization would seem much less threatening to you is my guess. And again-that’s where there is a bit of a redistribution in that we are taking these tax dollars and applying them to schools. Which, IMHO, is very germane to the social issues you mention below.

But, as for your later points… I want to take a few of them individually for response:
·         We have a legal market for prescription drugs AND an illegal market for them

      This is true. However, I cant walk into a store to purchase Vicodin. I have to have a drs.                 Prescription. Thus, the black market can continue to thrive because there is limited access.             Additionally, its important to note that most physicians (and society in general) would agree that       opiates are far more addictive and harmful than marijuana.  Are you suggesting that we should         eliminate prescription medications that have the potential for abuse?

·         The under-18s you wish to keep marijuana away from (neurologically, the cut-off age should be 25) are getting their marijuana from the over-18s legally permitted to buy.
Agree that it should be at least under 21 (with the exception of legitimate and documented medical purposes)…and guess what? That is the law. I am not in the business of enforcing the law, but I can tell you that if someone over the age of 21 sells or gives marijuana to someone under the age of 21 (and yes, I know the neurological studies you refer to about the development of the brain, esp. in males, until 25), then they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. So, we cant have it both ways. We cant say that the war on drugs should continue, but then argue that we cant keep it out of the hands of the under-21 crowd.  Im also not sure what you mean by a surplus due to the higher potency? There are basic economics of supply and demand at play, regardless of potency.

·         For years, advocates of legal marijuana denied that pot was a “gateway” drug. Yet here you are arguing just the opposite
This point somewhat confounded me. Im not sure how I was arguing that it IS indeed a gateway drug. My point was simply that a drug dealer is going to push other more addictive, higher value drugs on a young person whereas a legal, regulated store will not. The truth is that alcohol is more a gateway drug than anything else. Its not the drug that becomes the gateway. There is NO evidence that people who consume marijuana are more/less likely than anyone else to go on to harder drugs. The idea that the marijuana consumer is always looking for a bigger, better, different high simply isn’t true. Unless we say its like the beer drinker who eventually learns that he/she likes wine and then vodka. I know plenty of MJ consumers who would never dream of consuming meth or heroin.

The rest of your points I will simply address on the whole—which is that your information and perceptions are outdated. IT is not simply a drug for those under 30. A significant part of our target, and future markets skew much older (35+)and the baby boomer generation is one of the faster growing segments. You also seem to have the perspective that one automatically becomes “addicted” to marijuana with its use. The younger they start, the more they consume.  I can tell you that there are many recreational users (myself included) who use it on an occasional basis as it can be pretty fun and relaxing. I first tried it in college, like most people—many of whom either never use it later in life or who use it occasionally. There simply is no evidence to support your claim (NOTE: My social worker wife did point out that earlier use increases the chance for addiction after reading my note to Frum. Score one for Robyn).  Which leads to the next point—not sure why you assume that people who use MJ are likely to drink more. Please share that data with me because my (mostly anecdotal) evidence points to the fact that more frequent MJ users are actually less likely to use/abuse alcohol.
You also note this all as being “my harms” that will be incurred. I/we don’t force people to enjoy our product. And just like the pervasive alcohol companies, we encourage safety and moderation. Idiots will be idiots. Unsafe drivers who make poor decisions will be unsafe drivers who make poor decisions. Its not the MJ that creates that scenario.  There are plenty of people who use this product responsibly. Plenty. I think all of your prejudice is grounded in a bit of a reefer madness assumption about the downfall of society. This plant has redeeming medicinal qualities, it can be used recreationally and enjoyably. It is less addictive than alcohol. I could go on and on. But I have yet to see any proof that shows it to be the case that Colorado is falling apart as a result of legalization. If anything, we are thriving. We are creating jobs. We are developing a great tax base for education. We don’t have stoned zombies walking the streets.

I urge you to shrug off you antiquated assumptions and take a hard look at the evidence.  You suffer from the delusion that MJ is a Schedule I drug, more harmful than cocaine, meth, heroin etc. and it simply isn’t true. And again, its important to remind you that we didn’t invent MJ. It has existed for a looong time.

But again—this simply might be where we have to agree to disagree.

From: DavidFrum
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 6:59 AM
To: Joe Hodas
Subject: Re: Dixie Follow Up

I don’t know how much you want to hear from me about all this, but 2 points:

1) Yes, marijuana abuse is only a symptom of larger social problems. So are credit card abuse, gun homicides, obesity, and so on. If we knew how to treat the underlying social problems of poverty, racism and its after-effects, the decline of the two parent family, deindustrialization, the anomie of the suburbs, the loss of personal meaning in a secularizing society, etc etc etc we’d surely do that. But just as doctors successfully treated infection before they knew the causes of infection, so we don’t have to wait to fix our daunting social problems to mitigate their effects. If we can’t teach everyone financial literacy, at least we can halt the marketing of predatory mortgages. We may be stumped by the family breakdown caused by declining wages of less-skilled men, but at least we can deny guns to wife-batterers.

Same goes w marijuana. Perhaps if we achieved some heroic and as yet unspecified social overhaul, it might be less dangerous to allow the marketing of mind-altering and dependency-inducing drugs. In the meantime, given the society we actually happen to have, the marketing of such drugs is a formula for nothing but trouble. 

2) The argument that legalization somehow erects a higher wall against illegal drugs is belied by experience. We have a legal market for prescription drugs AND an illegal market for them, and the legal market is the illegal market’s most important source of supply. So it is for legal marijuana, as we’re already seeing in Colorado. The under-18s you wish to keep marijuana away from (neurologically, the cut-off age should be 25) are getting their marijuana from the over-18s legally permitted to buy. And by the way the new high-intensity products your company markets creates a much greater psychoactive surplus for sale to minors. Your own website talks about the ability of vapor pens to get people high instantly and keep them high for hours on a very small quantity of product. Meanwhile, the drug cartels will continue to exist until such time as heroin, cocaine, and meth are legalized. 

Final grimly humorous note: For years, advocates of legal marijuana denied that pot was a “gateway” drug. Yet here you are arguing just the opposite: that precisely because pot is a gateway, legalization will somehow quarantine the pot market from the market for harder drugs. We already know however that marijuana and alcohol aren’t substitutes for each other: people who smoke more also drink more. And I fear we will discover, as legalization expands the population of marijuana-dependent teens and 20-somethings, that legalization has increased the target market for harder drugs proportionally. 

As your own market research surely shows you, marijuana is a drug for the young: half of people who ever try marijuana quit by age 30. The earlier they start, the more they use. I don’t doubt that marijuana will be a lucrative business if allowed. So were cigarettes in their day. But the social harms are very large, and the money your company earns is taken, in great measure, from the taxpayers who must bear the costs your harms incur: more car accidents, lower graduation rates, reduced incomes, more drug treatment costs, and so on. 

The $40 m taxes your industry pays the state of Colorado will not begin to cover those costs, as the governor has indicated. 

You may say that it’s a better deal than putting people in prison. I’ll agree with that. But to veer from mass incarceration to mass marketing is an over-correction even worse than the original bad policy.

On Mar 17, 2014, at 5:59 PM, Joe Hodas <> wrote:

Well, I cant argue that its more powerful (compared to 20 yrs ago at least...). But, in terms of profiting from those most likely to succumb… I have to take exception there. And you are not likely to buy these augments but….I think that we, once again, are looking for a scapegoat (Ie-marijuana) for what ails our country. MJ might be a symptom, but the societal challenges you refer to would (and do) exist with or without legal marijuana. Now, against that backdrop, consider this--$40M in tax revenue will go straight to education, no ifs ands or buts. New schools. Better equipment, enrichment courses, etc. And that will benefit those who you refer to as “at risk” below. Secondly—that 18 yr old kid, in a state where MJ is illegal, likely will still get his/her hands on it, but will also end up serving a prison sentence for possession—taking him/her WAY off course. More so than in a state where it is legal and more easily accessed. And of course, I don’t have to tell you that incarceration is disproportionately affecting men of color.  Finally—when these products are retailing at $50 or so, Im not saying at risk kids wont access it, but, these products are priced for those with disposable income.
Last soap box piece—if someone gets a professionally manufactured product, from a licensed, tracked store—they aren’t then likely to get “sold” on crack, meth etc. that a drug dealer likely would. Thereby getting them into much more damaging, and addictive drugs. And we (state and industry), are working hard on the tracking system so that we can track all they way back to the store and possibly the purchaser.

From: DavidFrum
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2014 3:34 PM
To: Joe Hodas
Subject: Re: Dixie Follow Up

But now it’s more chemically powerful, more readily accessible, & more attractively marketed.
Parenting matters a lot, I agree. Your kids will be fine, thanks to the love and care of their two highly educated, affluent, & committed parents. If they make mistakes along the way, you’ll be there to cushion the consequences and set them on the right path. That does not describe everybody’s kids. And from subprime mortgages to junk food to the new marijuana industry, it just seems a shame that so many in the American upper class gain their economic security by putting snares in the path of those most likely to succumb and least likely to recover.

On Mar 17, 2014, at 5:28 PM, Joe Hodas <> wrote:

But david—we didn’t invent marijuana. It existed before. And adolescents used it before. Parenting and prevention is still parenting and prevention.

From: DavidFrum
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2014 3:27 PM
To: Joe Hodas
Subject: Re: Dixie Follow Up

Yes, I write a lot about this subject. 
I heard about the vapor pens from Colorado high school principals who have suddenly begun confiscating a lot of them.
I read your personal story on your blog, and I appreciate that you are wrestling with your conscience about your industry. Childproofing won’t deter adolescents, unfortunately.
David Frum

On Mar 17, 2014, at 5:13 PM, Joe Hodas <> wrote:

Hi David-
Thanks for the note. A buddy of mine forwarded me your tweet…and I felt compelled to reach out. To be honest—vape pens are really not what we do. We are actually an edibles company. Granted, that probably doesn’t change the conversation much. But, as a father of three kids (5, 10, 12) I feel really strongly about this issue. In fact, I just attended a press conf. from the Governor today talking about childproof packaging etc. 

If you ever have a desire to hear about things from the inside of the industry, I would be happy to chat. 

Thanks David. Appreciate it.