Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 10, 2009

Fallacies offer cold comfort for cognitive dissonance

“Often, the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.” ~ Mark Twain

Twain’s wisdom came to mind as I read a recent article by new Dispatch columnist John Larson (another new club member; welcome!) about medical marijuana dispensaries.

Near as I can tell, Larson supports in theory patient access to medical marijuana, but opposes in practice “putting [a medical marijuana dispensary] in Gilroy.”

That’s a perfect example of a NIMBY (not in my back yard) position. A Time magazine article on ethics called NIMBYism “a perverse form of antisocial activism.”

Certainly Gilroy should ensure that medical marijuana dispensaries — which are legal in California — are appropriately located, just as planners do for pharmacies and hardware stores, for example. Dispensaries should be treated like any other business seeking to locate in Gilroy.

Larson uses pretzel-twisted logic to try to justify his NIMBY position by claiming that legalizing medical marijuana usage is part of a larger battle to legalize recreational marijuana usage, something he apparently opposes.

He claims that dispensaries have “ill effects” on “family values and safety” and that they lead to an increase in crime.

He describes how ridiculously easy it is to get marijuana (since his childhood!) and then tries to scare readers into opposing dispensaries by claiming they’ll make it easy to get marijuana. Huh?

I call foul.

Larson provides zero evidence for these assertions, but that doesn’t prevent his lame attempt to support a conclusion that’s illogical and cruel to suffering patients. He does, however, provide examples of red herring, appeal to fear, and slippery slope logical fallacies.

I assume those fallacies help squelch the cognitive dissonance that must come from acknowledging the suffering of “someone with terminal cancer who finds relief from their pain or nausea by smoking a doobie” while opposing the only way, given our current ridiculous federal laws, for that patient to safely and legally obtain the medicine that brings much-needed relief.

Many people — like me — support legalizing medical marijuana because we understand that the federal government completely misclassifies marijuana, causing people to needlessly suffer.

The federal Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana on Schedule I, the most restricted category that is supposed to include only substances with high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and no standards for safe use under medical supervision. This is simply not true about marijuana, as I’ve detailed in previous columns.

It’s fine to debate legalizing recreational marijuana use, but it’s completely separate from the debate about medical marijuana.

Another thing: Larson’s use of a street name for a medical marijuana cigarette, and giving his fictional medical marijuana dispensaries monikers that incorporate other street names (“Weed-Mart,” “Ganja Emporium” and “Pot-pourri”) might be cute, but the names are irrelevant, and using them is illogical and unfair. Worse, they’re examples of the ad hominem and appeal to ridicule logical fallacies.

Does Larson call pharmacies “Lude Lounges” because they sell prescription quaaludes that some people use recreationally? Maybe he prefers “Hillbilly Heroin Huts” because some people abuse prescription OxyContin? Does he call hardware and paint stores “Huff Depots” because they sell products that contain inhalants? Does he oppose the presence of these stores in Gilroy?

The use of logical fallacies is usually a sign that the fallacy-employer knows that his position is weak and is thus reduced to trying to distract his audience and hoping that they don’t notice his argument’s flaws.

Something else about Larson’s column confused me: He believes it’s relevant to emphasize that he has never smoked marijuana. I fail to grasp the relevance, but I’ll share too: I have never smoked, seen, touched or been offered marijuana. I wouldn’t even recognize the odor, I lived such a sheltered youth.

However, I’ll also share a relevant personal fact: My daughter endured two-and-half years of chemotherapy to treat cancer. She suffered from nausea, but, thankfully, it was short-lived and manageable. However, had her doctors recommended medical marijuana, here’s what Larson and his ilk would require me to do: In their pollyanna-ish, “Weed-Mart”-free utopia, I would have had to locate one of the scores of unlicensed, unregulated street marijuana dispensaries (you know, drug dealers) sprinkled throughout South County to purchase marijuana of unknown quality and strength, in the process likely supporting other far worse illegal activities, while risking arrest, prosecution and incarceration when my young daughter desperately needed me.

Why? Because they don’t want legal, regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in this community.

Put that cruel reality in your NIMBY pipe and smoke it.

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