Thursday, June 5, 2014

"But If It's Legal, No One Will Sell To Minors"

This is one of those logical but incorrect claims that gets made for legalizing marijuana -- that no licensed seller would risk the legal problems involving in selling to minors, unlike the situation when marijuana is illegal.  But as just the last few weeks news stories demonstrate, legal sellers of alcohol get caught all the time making illegal sales.

Two St. Lawrence Count residents were arrested May 29 from an underage drinking initiative check of 22 retails stores and establishments from around the county, according to state police.
WAYNE — Township police targeted the bars of two restaurants in an underage drinking sting that led to 18 summonses and a juvenile complaint, authorities said.Wayne police charged eight underage drinkers, a waitress, a bouncer, a bartender and a restaurant patron on Friday during a joint undercover operation with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. - See more at: 
More than half of all alcohol distributors at the Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival on Sunday sold alcohol to minors acting as decoys in an undercover police operation, authorities said.
In the sting, minors supervised by Long Beach Police Department and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control attempted to buy alcohol throughout the venue. Authorities found that more than half of the distributors sold alcohol to the minors, the LBPD said in a statement. 
Over the weekend, Bernalillo County deputies arrested at least five people who bought alcohol for minors or sold it to them during an underage drinking tactical plan. 
A sting against selling alcohol to minors ended with employees at four popular restaurants behind bars and facing criminal charges.Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) agents headed up an under sting on Thursday.TABC agents sent an undercover minor into 18 restaurants in Hidalgo County.Invsetigators reported that the operation ended with the arrests of four restaurant employees who sold beer to the undercover minor. 
There are dozens of news stories like these in the last few months.  Does making some legal reduce sales to minors?  That is a really interesting question that needs some data, not assumptions or ideology.

I could see the possibility that the fear of losing a business license and fines might restrain sales to minors.  I could also see the possibility that making something legal leads to a somewhat more relaxed view by sellers of what they are selling, or simply that the increased volume of a legal business increases the number of transactions where a clerk gets careless or sloppy.

And yes, the same thing is true of guns.  If guns were illegal to own and sell, there would be far fewer of them sold.  The problem is that a disproportionate number of those guns that continued to flow would end up in criminal hands compared to otherwise law-abiding people.  Worse, the more brutal the criminal, the less need he has for a gun to commit horrible crimes.


Rich Rostrom said...

It's actually a fairly straightforward comparison.

IS - # of illegal sellers

IWSM - %age of IS that will sell to minors (close to 100%)

LS - # of legal sellers (greater than IS)

LWSM - %age of LS that wouldn't sell to minors (probably well below 100%; most alcohol sellers try to follow the law)

The question is whether


(LS > IS if one counts conveniently accessible sellers)

scott said...

Hi Clayton,

Although I understand from your postings that pot may indeed pose a risk to the developing mind I still have to disagree with your resistance to legalizing it as are cigarettes and alcohol.

For the simple reason that the cure - the is the "war" on (some) drugs - is worse than the disease.

This 'war', including the effort to combat pot use, has been the chief cause of the destruction of much of the Bill of Rights. I'm sure I don't have to go into details on that.

On top of that there is the collateral damage of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of totally innocent people (not to mention dogs) who've been killed, injured, or otherwise brutalized at the hands of the police in "wrong-door" raids, illegal searches and siezures, and asset forfeitures by agents of the state as a result of that 'war'.

And tens of thousands of non-violent pot smokers lives are ruined for the "crime" of smoking pot. Yes, to a man I'm sure they knew it was illegal, but is the cost to society really worth it?

Anyway, been wanting to get that off my mind to you for a while. I'm assuming I'm correct in understanding your position on legalizing pot.

fyi, I own 2 of your 2A books and have never smoked pot of done any other illegal drug.

Regards, Scott

Clayton Cramer said...

Scott, how many of those raids are the pursuit of pot smokers? Most of these raids are pursuit of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana producers.

There's no question that the War on Drugs model was wrong in both rhetoric and action. But the promotion of the idea that marijuana was essentially zero risk was profoundly dishonest.

scott said...


If even 1 "innocent" person is killed I view it as sufficient reason to shut the whole war down.

Off the top of my head I can give you a half-dozen instances where totally innocent citizens died, including 2 cops. Look up the cases of Cory Mayes and Ryan Frederick.

I've been following this since at least the 80's. Look up Donald Scott in CA. The DA said his death was the result of a "conspiracy" by various Fed/State agencies to seize his property using the forfeiture laws.

There has been a LOT of collateral damage.

I'm a little disappointed that you would so cavalierly write off the deaths of otherwise innocent people.

scott said...

ps, as I noted from your postings I agree that the promotion of zero risk is dishonest.

But, can we justify even 1 innocent citizen being killed or brutalized in order to reduce the use of pot?

Clayton Cramer said...

I am well aware of Donald Scott. Pot growing was the excuse (and of course, they found none -- he was not growing pot). The reason was that the National Park Service wanted his land. That sounds like an argument for shutting down the NPS, right?

I am not cavalier about the deaths of innocent parties. But I would point out that the misserved warrant on Corey Mayes (wrong side of the duplex) was not for possession or personal use, but for sale. This was also a no-knock warrant, which is what led to the death of the police officer involved in this raid. I have argued for some time that while there are some legitimate reasons for no-knock warrants, they are quite rare, and judges should not be issuing them so readily.

There was an incident near San Diego some years ago where a no-knock warrant was issued without any good reason at all for a supposed 1/4 ton of cocaine in the garage. DEA could see into the garage when the owner returned home, and see that it wasn't there. They nearly killed the homeowner in a no-knock warrant raid.

There are a lot of serious consequences to marijuana use. If it were really risk-free, it would be impossible to defend attempts to discourage it, and the legal process needs to be the last step in that process. But you can stop the militarization of police, greatly reduce the use of no-knock warrants, and stop criminal acts such as the murder of Donald Scott, without abandoning the battle against intoxicants. It requires some willingness to recognize the absurdity of what has happened.

Rich Rostrom said...

Any time a "kinetic" warrant is served at the wrong address, the raid commander and his superior should lose their jobs.

Any time a "kinetic" warrant is issued for the wrong address: if the address was requested in the warrant request, the requester and his superior lose their jobs. If the warrant was returned with the wrong address, the issuing judge and his clerks lose their jobs too. (If the requester finds and reports the error before service, they of course area OK.)

No "kinetic" warrant should be issued without visual confirmation of the location and address by an investigator on the case. I.e. a report that X has dope at 123 Y St. is not enough; someone has to go there to confirm that X is actually there or that dope is being moved through there.

scott said...
If even 1 "innocent" person is killed I view it as sufficient reason to shut the whole war down.

We can be pretty sure that marijuana legalization alone will lead to a significant increase in schizophrenic dementia. (Marijuana is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause schizophrenia, but there is ample evidence that it promotes it.)

Cocaine, amphetamine, and hallucinogens also mess up people's heads.

If there is more insanity, there will be more spree killings. How many additional innocents will die because dope prohibition is ended?


IMO, these rules would eliminate the great majority of abuses and errors in "no-knock" warrants.

Police are like any other branch of government; they have great authority, and often don't realize how much they can affect the lives of citizens.

Clayton Cramer said...

Rich: very good ideas. There's a legitimate need for such warrants, but there should be such high costs to screwing up that everyone involved should be a LOT more careful before signing, approving, or participating.

scott said...


There are a LOT of serious consequences to lots of things, including gun ownership. But we gun owners would never agree to policies to prevent illegal gun use that result in the collateral damage that we are allowing in the "war on (some) drugs".

The deaths and other brutalizations thru no-knock warrants and other eqrigious actions by the state are BECAUSE of the "war on (some) drugs".

Beyond that, the 4th, 5th, 8th, even the 1st (efforts to restrict info on hydroponic farming) and the 2nd ("assault weapons are the weapon of choice for drug dealers") amendments have been attacked and some mortally wounded (the 4th for sure doesn't exist anymore) because of the "war on (some) drugs".

Rich here is also totally off base. I can apply his same argument to semi-auto weapons. Without those there would certainly be less "spree killings".

And the idea that we should accept some deaths of innocent people to prevent an unknown number of deaths thru people who become crazed with pot is ludicrous. "There is no free lunch". Rich should tell Cory Mayes that his odyssey in jail (in fact he was on DEATH row) was just society making him pay for lunch. Or to the cops family that the cops death was an acceptable cost. I really don't have the words to tell Rich how heinous his attitude is.

As to your suggestions that there be real consequences to state agents that kill innocent people in no-knock raids etc etc to eliminate those deaths (and other brutalizations and infringment of civil rights) - great, but it AIN'T going to happen.

The ONLY way to eliminate the misue of state power is to end the "war on (some) drugs". At least pot, but I'm not sure that leaving the other drugs as targets for the war wouldn't just result in a shifing of the excuse.

I just do not see how anyone can argue that the hundreds of dead innocent persons, not a few cops, and even more small-time criminals, along with the perversion and corruption of our justice system (it's not like cops and judges haven't been paid off in various drug cases) and the erosion of our Bill of Rights is an acceptable cost to combat pot use (and even other drugs).

De-criminalizing pot, at least, seems to me to be the only way to eliminate the collateral damage.

scott said...

Clayton, I'm not sure my long response posted (it seemed to dissappear in the login process), so I'm going to post a summary here.

The rise in no-knock raids and the militarization of the police are almost soley the result of the "war on (some) drugs".

The "war on (some) drugs" is the primary cause of the erosion of the Bill of Rights, the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th have been damaged or attacked, the 4th has been destroyed.

I'll repeat that - There is NO 4th amendment protection anymore - because of the war on drugs.

The suggest to rein in the abuses by sanctioning the police is great but it ain't going to happen.

Rich's attitude here is ludicrous (and heinous). Perhaps he should tell Corey Mayes that his time on death row was just society making him pay for lunch or tell the cops widow and family in that case that the cops death was acceptable and necessary to combat pot use (as I recall even the original target was not charged with a crime).

The deaths of hundreds of innocents (including children), not a few cops, and many more small-time criminals, along with all the other eqrigious actions by the state are simply not acceptable collateral damage.

The only way to eliminate the collateral damage is to stop the war.

Our anyone can not reach that conclusion is baffling to me.

I apologize if this duplicates my original post, I just don't have the time to wait to see if my 1st post made it.

Thx, Scott

Alcibiades said...

I've heard that these undercover sting operations sometimes dress the minor in extensive makeup to make them look older (facial hair, balding, etc.) in order to trick the establishments.

That may not be the case here. Maybe the "undercover minors" actually did look like minors and weren't carded (or maybe their IDs were obvious fakes).

Clayton Cramer said...

I think it would be easier to get majority support for holding police and judges responsible for no-knock warrants would be much easier than getting majority support for decriminalizing all drugs.

If your argument is that marijuana's risk are so low that it should be decriminalized, that's a plausible argument, but a lot of the War on Drugs stuff is connected not just to pot, but also meth and heroin.

scott said...

I'm frankly dissappointed Clayton that you seem to be unable to grasp my argument.

It is not that " marijuana's risk are so low that it should be decriminalized" it is that the cost of the "war on (some) drugs" exceeds the benefits. IE, the cure is worse than the disease.

Frankly I see no way for you to argue against this position - even if the thesis is that all drugs should be decriminalized.

The cost of the drug war -

The militarization of the police and the resulting increase in the violent endorcement of drug laws -actually all laws.

This has resulted in the deaths of hundreds (certainly over the past 20+ years) of largely innocent people, and small time grug offenders (for non-capital crimes), not a few cops, and for that matter an awfull lot of family pets.

The severe damage to civil liberties including the total destruction of the 4th amemdment.

The corruption and perversion of the law and destruction of respect for the law.

Against that you offer an un-quantifiable benefit of some un-known and un-knowable number of people who may or may not suffer some metal illness as a result of pot use.

I would note that it probably is not possible to assign pot as the culprit in any one of the recent mass shootings, even though several of them evidently did use pot (or perhaps other drugs). But they were also almost all on some legal psychotropic drug too which may actually be at more fault than the pot.

If you can say that nebulous benefit is worth the costs described above I simply don't know what to say.

I would add too that most certainly Donald Scott, Cory Mayes, Ryan Frederick, the cops the latter 2 shot, and the other thousands of other people brutalized didn't want to be part of the cost of the "war on (some) drugs" and indeed may not have agreed with the war in any event.

As far as "holding cops and judges accountable" - it is not going to happen.

The new standard is - "if the cop FEELS threatened" he can shoot". And that has been born out time and time again in the decisions of county DA's who excuse the (essentially) murder of (often) totally innocent citizens in the prosecution of this "war".

We have turned the police into an occupying army and made the badge a license to kill almost soley on the basis of this "war".

So until you can offer me a way to reverse the pernicious effects of this "war" I can't see any solution except to end the war.

If we don't end the war then innocent citizens will continue to die and the cops will be excused for killing them (or their dogs).

The most recent victim is a child in a crib who ended up sharing it with a flash-bang grenade. No, it wasn't about drugs it was just to serve an arrest warrant (for a non-capital crime) but 30 years ago the arrest attempt wouldn't have been a violent "dynamic" raid or included flash-bang grenades.

And ignoring that, or considering it as acceptable collateral damage as commentator Rich appears to do here, is "cavalier" in my opinion.

And I just don't see how a very intelligent man like yourself can continue to support a war that is not being won, cannot be won (at least so far as pot is concerned - which will be legalized eventually no matter what you and I think about it) and will continue to result in innocent deaths.

I just don't know how you can justify continuing to prosecute this war.

Best regards, Scott (Phx, AZ)

Clayton Cramer said...

My point has been that many of the costs that you list (and which I agree are very real costs) are not costs of having some drugs illegal, but of a fairly insane implementation of it. There are ways to prohibit drugs that do not require no-knock warrants, militarization of the police, and the rest of this.

Imagine if the same overheated rhetoric and tactics were used to pursue child abuse, with no-knock warrants, arresting people on mere suspicion, dropping the requirement for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Would we say, "The costs are too high! Stop enforcing these laws!" Or would we say that these are absurd methods of enforcing such laws?

I realize that for a lot of people, repealing the drug laws is very appealing. It makes everyone responsible for their own actions (or at least it should) and knocks out a bunch of serious corruption problems that prohibition has given us. But there are substantial costs not just in mental illness, but damage to motivation for a lot of young people whose drug addiction (like alcohol abuse) are making them far less capable of adult behavior.

You can disagree about whether the costs are greater than the benefit. Most Americans still agree that the costs are low enough to justify the benefits (at least for meth and opiates).

scott said...


But I've never said the "costs" are the result of (some) drugs being illegal.

I've always said the cost of the "war on (some) drugs" exceeds the benefits (of the drugs being illegal).

I'm not sure what your point is but regardless if the drugs weren't illegal there wouldn't be a "war" on them and therefor innocent people wouldn't have been killed in it.

IF, a big IF, you could fight the "war on (some) drugs" without no-knock raids and flash-bang grenades with the resltant casualties then I wouldn't particulalry care about this issue.

The (l)ibertarian part of me (I'd like to think of myself though as a classical republican liberal) says people should hae the right to do what they want if doesn't hurt anybody. But I don't smoke pot, never have, I don't like the smell of it, and would prefer that nobody did (but my wifes mother has a prescription for medical pot for the pain from her arthritis - and we considered it for my mom as she went thru chemo recently for ovarian cancer).

But, I don't think you CAN fight the "war" without the violence.

And regardless, the police aren't going to revert to being Joe Friday of Dragnet days. That genie is out of the bottle.

Donald Scott was killed 22 years ago as a result of a criminal conspiracy to use the drug forfeiture laws to seize his land. That makes it felony murder yet NO ONE was ever sent to jail over it, or even sanctioned in any way (to the best of my knowledge).

What was the police reaction to Ryan Frederick shooting one of theirs because he believed he was being the victim of a home invasion (he had been burgled a few days earlier, likely by the same "informant" who fingered him as having a hydroponic pot operation in his detached garage)? They decided he was a "cop-killer" and deserved to die for it. Fortunately the jury wouldn't go there and so gave him manslaughter.

But the mistakes were made by the police. And what did they learn from this. NOTHING. They decided that they now need to use even more violence so that "they go home at the end of their shift".

The only instance I can re-call of the police actually paying a price for killing an innocent was the Atlanta case a few years back where they did send at least 2 officers to jail. But that happened because they tried to cover up their mistake. If they had simply just said the poor woman threatened them they might have gotten away with it.

The point is that the "war" is only escelating and to believe that somehow you are going to get them to fight the war without violence is absurd. It. Will. Not. Happen.

Therefor, if one supports the "war on (some) drugs" then by default one is accepting the collateral damage. Simply claiming that (since) it "could" be fought without the violence allows one to disavow that violence while supporting the war strikes me as intellectual sophistry. One cannot avoid moral responsibilty based on spurious arguments.

Therefor the only possible position left, if one claims that the violence visited upon innocent people is not to be accepted is to advocate that the war be stopped.

Because that is the only way the violence and the brutalization of innocents is going to stop.

Against that, you again offer up an un-quantifiable cost? I'm guessing that the wife of the cop that Cory Mayes shot isn't so sanquine about the cost vs the benefits fo the "war on (some) drugs".

(end of part 1)

scott said...

part 2

btw, your hypothetical comparison falls a little flat, not the least of which is because society as a whole is not demanding that the violence be stopped, so they might very well accept it even in your example. Indeed, they probably would because we are teaching them to accept a violent police state as a norm (which goes to your last point but then they were stupid enough to elect O-Liar twice so I don't expect that much from the general public anymore).

But I can't speak for them.

All I can say is that I couldn't sleep at night if I was so un-empathetic as to accept the deaths of dozens and dozens of innocent people in order to prosecute this war - even IF I believed the point of the war was valid.

That you, a man whom I've had utmost respect for in the past, can apparently rationalize those deaths away distresses me.

No need to reply Clayton, I think we've said it all and it is clear that continuing is pointless.

Clayton Cramer said...

Scott, you seem to have missed my point: many of the tactics that you and I find horrifying are not intrinsic to the goal. And yes, the problem is that most Americans don't much care about militarization of the police and misused no-knock warrants. So why would they support legalizing drugs?

scott said...

Clayton, all right, I'll bite again.

It doesn't matter that they are or are not "intrinsic" to the goal. Talk about missing a point.

Those methods are being used, and they are going to continuge being used, and more innocent people are going to die.

That is certain. And more innocent people will die. That is certain.

Un-less the war on drugs (at least pot) is stopped.

As to the American people supporting the legalization of drugs. You seem to have missed the story there. Pot will be legalized, probably in under 25 years. So all the deaths in those subsequnt years will also be pointless.

I started this to find out what YOUR position on legalizing pot (at least) was, not to discuss what the people might or might not do. Now I know what your position is.

You are willing to accept the certain death of innocents (and a great deal of other damage) as a consequence of prosecuting an un-winnable war which purpose is the prevention of an un-quantifiable amount of damage from the use of pot.

Claiming that you don't agree with the methods used does not in my opionion leave you off the hook as to "accepting" the collateral damage. You know the methods will still be used and you know that innocent deaths will occur. Therefor you are willing to "accept" the collateral comage.

I don't find that a morally defensible position. Quite frankly I can't think of a better word than "cavalier" to describe it. You certainly seem absolutely un-moved as to be un-willing to entertain the only measure which will actually stop the deaths of innocents.

It is simply fantasy to think that the law enforcement business is going to dial back the violence. Fantasy.

Ergo, the only moral answer is to stop the war and you won't even consider the thought.

I have a hard time grasping that you (or any intelligent person that examines the issue) can look at those deaths and continue to excuse them in the pursuit of this war.

Maybe the people don't want to stop the violence or legalize pot. But I'm willing to tell them they are being cavalier about the deaths of innocent people.

Clayton Cramer said...

You make it sound like I have a lot of influence on this. For many years, I supported legalization of drugs, sometimes quite loudly. It didn't change a thing.

Our government does lots of horrible things, sometimes intrinsically wrong, sometimes right in conception, but wrong in practice. Does it bother me? Sure. But short of going Weather Underground, there's not much I can do about it.

If you really want to do something about the worst abuses of the War on Drugs, you would be focused on meth legalization, not pot.

scott said...

Well knock me over Clayton. If you had just told me that ("For many years, I supported legalization of drugs, sometimes quite loudly") we could have skipped a lot of this fun back and forth.

But I am confused. During this entire thread I think I've gotten nothing but resistence from you to the idea that we should legalize drugs (at least pot) in order to stop the vicitmization of innocent people in that "war".

Indeed I think your statements here were clear that you supported the war and keeping even pot illegal despite your mis-givings about the execution of that war.

But now you are telling that you simply support the legalization of drugs? All drugs, or just pot? And why? For libertarian ideals or for more pragmatic reasons such as mine?

What can you do? I don't expect you to stage violent revolution to fix this problem. I was hoping that you at least were a voice of sanity and willing to advocate an end to the "war on (some) drugs" - at least pot - even though, or if, believing that pot use in itself is harmful (which in most cases probably is harmfull to an extent at least).

What could you do? I think you are in a unique position to write a book. About why pot should remain illegal, the detrimental effects of the "war" on drugs, how that war can be fought without the violence so that we can have the benefit of keeping pot use down yet not pay the price in violence that we have now. How to protect our civil liberties while at the same time we fight a war aimed at a large number of our own citizens. I would like to see a book like that.

You are in a much better position to do that than I. You are somebody. I'm a nobody. All I can do is tell anyone who will listen that the "war on (some) drugs" is insane and why I think that way. Sadly few people think it is important enough to care about. It is too bad that they are very wrong in thinking that.

But, lastly, your final sentence? That seems out of left field.

I see no evidence that the violence surrounding the implementation of the drug war - as it impacts innocent citizens - revolves mostly around meth use?

All the expamples we've talked about here involve pot. I read stories all the time about no-knock raids and problems and it seems that as many or more are still for pot. And not just against producers but users (of course there may not be so fine a line between the two). Ryan Frederick was informed on as a producer but wasn't. Cory Mayes wasn't even a target so would it have mattered whether the next door neighbor was a meth or pot user/producer. Mayes would still have killed the cop and done 10 years on death row. Donald Scott died because of pot.

Maybe that is true but I don't see it, but I can't disprove it either. But I find your last statement confusing and counter-intuitive. Pot usage is far more prevelent than meth use to my knowledge so accordingly there would be a lot more opportunities for the police to make mistake in combating pot use.

Regardless, I guess I should be happy that I got that stateemnt out of you and I really wish you would write a book like the one I described. I would buy it.

But a little nagging part of me still thinks I haven't really connected with you on this issue and that we are still talking past each other on some level or something. Very frustrating.

Clayton Cramer said...

I supported complete decriminalization of all drugs for all the reasons that you are arguing: it is corrupting our criminal justice system; leads to disastrous consequences because of no-knock warrants; inteferes with the right of self-ownership.

I dropped my support for this idea after living in a place where, for practical purposes, pot was legal. Police would wave at 13 year olds smoking pot on the street. More importantly, the social pressure was so severe to smoke pot and get drunk in middle school that for many kids, it was nearly unstoppable. And over a period of about five years, a whole bunch of relatives, including some very close to me, turned minor mental issues into severe bipolar disorder -- in one case, disabling a relative for life (so far). And in every case, the problem appears within a year or so them starting to smoke pot. Most kids are not in any danger of mental problems from smoking pot, but those at risk are among the best and brightest of our society.

My point about decriminalizing all drugs is this: it's a more statement if it is based on some ideology support of self-ownership. Otherwise it smells of special pleading for pot.

scott said...

Well thanks finally for the full story.

I'm sorry about your experiences.

I've never argued that pot (or other drugs) should be legalized as a matter of principle, even considering my libertarian leanings.

As I pointed out, I've never smoked (anything, actually).

I've come to the point of advocating complete de-criminalizaion, even of meth and heroin, because of the pernicious effects of the drug war.

And since there is no chance that the war will be fought without the sacrificing of innocents I have to advocate stopping the war.

I don't want to be, nor do I want another person ever, to be in Cory Mayes shoes, or worse be dead, because of the war on drugs. Even if it could prevent all, or even some, of the circumstances that you have experienced.

It is simply not moral to accept that kind of cost.

But I understand now why it took so long for us to get down to rock bottom.

My regards Clayton. But I'm serious, if you would write that book I would buy it.