How Dare You Speak the Truth!?

It’s not really atheist-related, but it pissed me off.

Saskatchewanian Kieran King was suspended from his high school because he said (said!) that marijuana wasn’t as bad as alcohol.

According to the National Post:

“In my opinion, cannabis is safer than they say, it is not worse than alcohol or tobacco,” said King, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student.

[Principal Susan] Wilson accused King of using and selling marijuana at school… King has offered to submit to a voluntary drug test to prove otherwise.

“I’ve never smoked marijuana. I’ve never even seen it,” said King.

He said he had done independent research on marijuana use out of personal curiosity and decided to share the information with his friends at school.

I believe him. I’ve never smoked it, but I’ve read enough about it to know it’s not going to do the damage that even small amounts of alcohol do. Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) wrote extensively about marijuana in his book Reefer Madness. How bad is pot? Schlosser writes:

Marijuana is one of the few therapeutically active substances for which there is no well-defined fatal dose. It has been estimated that a person would have to smoke a hundred pounds of marijuana a minute for fifteen minutes in order to induce a lethal response.

In any case, the school is wrong. Kieran is right. And he wasn’t promoting the use of drugs. Just stating facts.

Just read the article. It’ll make you mad.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Kieran King, marijuana, National Post, Susan Wilson, Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, Reefer Madness[/tags]

  • http://duoquartuncia.blogspot.com/ Chris Ho-Stuart

    There are plenty of bad things about this; but you have some key facts wrong.

    The student was NOT suspended for expressing his views on marijuana. He was suspended for protest actions afterwards, in which he organized some passive resistance. Specifically, he organized a walkout, the school countered with a lockdown, and he was suspended for disobeying the lockdown.

    This is not intended to support the actions of the school. It is a matter of getting the information accurate.

    Cheers — Chris (Duae Quartunciae)

  • Pam

    he is right- I’ve worked with substance misusing kids for years and he is plain right- most of the problems I work with come from alcohol use.

    og course if the other comment is correct – i don’t blame them for suspending him lol

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I just like the word Saskatchewanian.

  • Mriana

    He said, “In my opinion.” This does not mean that he does use it and/or sells it. It’s just an opinion. I’ve never used it either and I don’t necessarily agree with his statement from what I’ve read about it, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong either. The school should not have suspended him for an opinion. Are they trying to teach kids not to think?

  • Richard Wade

    Are they trying to teach kids not to think?

    Maybe they’re trying to teach the kids not to use, so that they can think.

  • Mriana

    Well, I’m sure NOT doing marijuana would help them think better, much better because they will keep more brain cells and loose less. Yes, I know alcohol and cigs kill braincells too. So, it’s best not to do any of it.

  • Richard Wade

    The kid raises an important point that he may not realize. What authority figures tell kids about drugs has to be accurate or it will backfire. If he calls into question what he’s been told, he should be asked to cite what he says he’s been reading, and give it a proper debate. It could have been turned into a school-wide research project. There’s a whole lot of falsehood said about drugs pro and con, so people decide to believe whatever propaganda they want to hear.

    Decades ago my generation (back when we used chariots and papyrus) were told all sorts of scary and obviously false things about cannabis. That we’d go nuts and rip our own eyeballs out, stuff like that. We looked at each other and whispered, “that’s bullshit,” so we discounted everything we were told about substances, including the true part. As a result my generation was pretty much devastated by addiction.

    This issue of well-intentioned falsehoods backfiring actually can relate to issues about religion and atheism…

  • Lance

    And this is why I think America is on the road to being Communist. If Canada’s doing it, America can’t be far behind. I mean, if a Canadian principal is willing to violate a kid’s right to free speech, who’s to say that it won’t soon happen here in the states? I mean, what with school uniforms being prevalent, and the “children should be seen and not heard” doctrine making a comeback, it does seem likely.

    I’m seventeen years old. I’m American. I’m atheist. I am also deeply saddened and angered by Wilson’s actions, and hope that legal action is brought against her quickly and with all force.

    Tell me, does anyone else think that America might soon adopt a “be silent or agree with me” law?

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    And this is why I think America is on the road to being Communist.

    You mean Fascist, right? Oy. Communism is the far left of the political spectrum, but our government is currently headed by a far-right administration.

    Actually extremist dictatorships on both the right and left ends of the political spectrum employ very similar tactics to suppress opposition voices.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Lance,
    I don’t think free speech is in serious danger. Americans are far too opinionated and our opinions are far too diverse for any particular majority opinion to gain totalitarian power. I mean, it could happen if people stopped fighting the little inroads that control freaks and centralists often try, but exactly what you are doing is part of keeping our freedoms healthy.

    I don’t know enough about the case yet to decide that Wilson is a complete villain; there are always several sides to a story. Often people on both sides go a little too far. I’ll be looking for more info on the story.

    As a seventeen year old have you been getting much of that seen and not heard stuff? I imagine it gets worse if the topic of your atheism comes up. It also can vary a lot in different parts of the U.S. What part are you in?

  • Richard Wade

    Oh by “centralists” I don’t mean the center of the left and the right, I mean those who would like to centralize their power, such as George the Usurper.

  • Lee

    Under the “Been There, Done That” column, I’d like to say that I’ve have been there and done that when it comes to both marijuana and alcohol… (in fact I still imbibe alcohol on occasion) I can tell you that the alcohol had a much more profound effect on my judgement than the reefer did.

  • Mriana

    Richard, it does cause a chemical disruption in your brain, so that it is not functioning properly. I saw a kid in high school who was so spaced out on it that he was a riot, but also the class idiot. The whole class laughed at him because he was a real deadhead pothead and he’d always smoke it right before German class. He couldn’t do anything except be stupid. He failed.

    Also, it impairs driving almost as much as alcohol does. Slower reaction time response.

    And if you are allergic to it, it can cause serious respiratory problems. My older son and I know this from experience. We’ve never smoked it, but we’ve been around it and had respiratory problems. So, our fun was spoiled by some rude people. My son won’t even go to another concert because he almost ended up in the hospital with breathing problems. No, it’s not the smoke, because I smoke tobacco and we do fine. It’s the hemp, marijuana we’re allergic too.

    I think it should be banned at all public functions because people are allergic to it. Why not? Tobacco is and it bothers people also. I also think IF it’s legalized, cancer rates will go up because one joint is equal to one pack of cigs, but I guess that is the smoker’s problem if they get cancer from smoking it. Not mine. Yes, some people don’t want to believe it, but mark my words, cancer rates will go up more if it’s legalized.

  • Mriana

    Lance, I’m from the U.S. and I’m not sure what you are talking about. I’m not even sure if you know what Communism is. As some of the history profs at the Uni say, it started out as a good idea, but Communists and Socialists took it to an extreme.

    Long story short, Marx wanted his ideas for the working class. Have the wealth distributed evenly. The gov. assigns you an apt and until then you live with family. Communists/Socialists had long lines just to get bread, esp Russia. That’s not how Marx wanted it though.

    Lack of freedom of speech was not just for children, it was everyone and unless you were an olympian, gov. official, or some well known person, it was hard to get a “vacation” out of the country. Check Point Charlie in Germany, you’d better have proof you don’t live in E. Berlin or you weren’t going home until you did.

    Freedom of religion is almost unheard of- most were atheists in part of the government, but IF the gov approved a church, like Eastern Orthydox I think was common, you didn’t have much to choose from by way of churches.

    My point is, Communism is more than just silencing of children. Of course, I’m getting this info from profs and immigrants, but I think it was not fun even for adults under such govs.

  • Mriana

    Long story short, Marx wanted his ideas for the working class. Have the wealth distributed evenly. The gov. assigns you an apt and until then you live with family. Communists/Socialists had long lines just to get bread, esp Russia. That’s not how Marx wanted it though.

    Sorry, I’m confusing here. Marx wanted his ideas for the working people and to try and even out the wealth. Communists and Socialists did the apt assigning and distirbution of food. It was not Marx’s intension for his ideas to be like that. So, once again, humans messed up an idea that could have been good, but we’ll neve know unless someone can figure out how to do it right.

  • stogoe

    Feh. The War on Drugs is a farce. Its only successes have been the militarization of police forces, the terrorization of the public, and the incarceration of the poor.

    Legalize, regulate, and tax.

  • HappyNat

    I saw a kid in high school who was so spaced out on it that he was a riot, but also the class idiot. The whole class laughed at him because he was a real deadhead pothead and he’d always smoke it right before German class. He couldn’t do anything except be stupid. He failed.

    I know kids like this who never smoked anything. I’ve also know people who get high and have done very well in school and their professional life. It affects different people in different ways. Some use it as a crutch and an excuse and some use it to relax or be creative. The same with any substance, some people can handle bran flakes and some can not.

    I think it should be banned at all public functions because people are allergic to it.

    What public functions is it legal to smoke marijuana? Any concert/camp out I’ve been to, it isn’t legal but people do it any way. I think your issue it because of enforcement of polcies not the policies themsleves. If I got you wrong let me know where you see concerts. :)

    I also think IF it’s legalized, cancer rates will go up because one joint is equal to one pack of cigs, but I guess that is the smoker’s problem if they get cancer from smoking it. Not mine

    If cigs were outlawed cancer rates would go down. Assuming they are not driving or forcing the smoke on others, it is the choice of the individual if they want to ingest poison or not.

  • Mriana

    No it’s not legal at concerts, but at rock concerts, people still smoke the crap and get away with it.

    Of course, if they kept marijuana illegal too, cancers rates would go down. If they illegallized tobacco and legalized maryjane, it would go down only because few people smoke the crap. Now if more people started smoking it because it was legal, which IMHO would be dumb, cancer rates would be about the same.

    But Ok legalize drugs and let everyone walk around high, not caring about anything. The gov can control everything with all the people who choose to stay lucid.

  • Richard Wade

    When I was an addiction counselor most of my patients used marijuana as a secondary substance in addition to the primary substances that were ruining their lives, such as alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or combinations of those. They really wanted to stop using their primaries, but if they continued to use their secondary they ended up going back to the one that was kicking their ass. Using the things that didn’t have direct negative consequences still kept them from clearly feeling their feelings and dealing with their feelings through positive action. In effect they never developed their “feelings muscles” so when a bigger life challenge came up they inevitably went back to their more effective primary.

    Occasionally I met a true marijuana purist, who only used pot and nothing else. The most common problem they exhibited was something called amotivational syndrome; basically they had little or no ambition to do anything constructive in their lives. They sat around all day daydreaming about all the great things they were going to do someday. Someday was always tomorrow. To read a transcript of their words you would assume they were teenagers, but they were in their thirties and forties. The second most common problem was accidents on the highway or at work. In a different line of work on two separate occasions I came within inches of being killed by the negligence of on-the-job pot smokers using high speed machinery. I quit before becoming the reason for the company to clean up its act.

    HappyNat is correct to point out that the effect of substances is idiosyncratic to each individual. There are strong genetic tendencies for problematic use in certain families, and some substances have a higher incidence of causing problems in the general population than others. So to say “always” or “never” causes the confusion and discounting of good advice when it comes to this issue, as I said earlier. Substance abuse is a huge problem in our society that causes great pain and frustration, so the hyperbole on one side and the rationalization on the other side muddle the debate.

    But HappyNat’s point must be given the caveat that the effect that a substance has on a person’s life can change over time. A substance that you can “handle” can slowly change its effect on you but if you already have a long history of successfully using it without negative consequences, you will tend to overlook, rationalize and shift the blame for the gradually growing problems. So the user is very often the last to know that he’s no longer handling it well.

  • HappyNat

    If they illegallized tobacco and legalized maryjane, it would go down only because few people smoke the crap.

    This is funny from someone who smokes tobacco. Why are cigarettes OK and marijuana crap? Why do you hate Mary Jane? :)

    But Ok legalize drugs and let everyone walk around high, not caring about anything. The gov can control everything with all the people who choose to stay lucid.

    I’m not sure why you think people who smoke are mindless drones that get high all day. A lot of people use marijuana the same way people unwind with a drink or two or three after work. The effects are largely the same and if helps people after a day of work/school I don;t see a problem. I bet you’d be surprised at the number of fucntioning adults who use on a regular basis. Not to mention many of the musicians, artists, and poets I’m sure you enjoy.

    Sure some people abuse it and let it ruin their lives/bodies but the same can be said for gambling, food, alcohol, porn, caffiene, beanie babies, ebay, etc. This is not an argument to legalize it just pointing out if people want to screw up their lives they will find a way. As far as drugs go marijuana is pretty low on the list of evils in the world.

  • stogoe

    No one’s (translation: I’m not) saying that people should be high all the time. That’s a fricking strawman. We should treat being high in much the same way we treat drunkenness.

  • Steelman

    stogoe suggested: Legalize, regulate, and tax.

    I wonder if one of the reasons that marijuana hasn’t been legalized in the U.S. is the lack of an accurate drug testing method? I’m not sure there is a test that can determine whether a marijuana user is currently intoxicated (as opposed to simply having used the drug within X number of days) and, if so, the level of intoxication. Police officers can always conduct a field sobriety test to decide if a suspect should be arrested for DUI, and, in the case of alcohol, the breathalyzer and blood tests greatly simplify prosecution according to a violation of a predetermined legal amount of the drug in the bloodstream. Not so for marijuana.

  • Richard Wade

    Steelman,
    You are correct that testing for specific amounts of marijuana use is far more difficult than alcohol.

    Because alcohol is water soluble it is metabolized in the body quickly, so a field test of blood alcohol content (BAC) generally reflects an accurate measure of the amount in the person’s body at the time of arrest. On the other hand THC, the active ingredient in marijuana is fat soluble and so is metabolized very slowly. It is stored in fat and can stay in the body for a long time. Sometimes when a person has not used for quite some time his THC blood level can rise if he exercises enough to burn fat and the stored THC is released.

    This is one of the sources of confusion in court cases that defense attorneys try to take advantage of. Most inexpensive urine tests for THC give only positive or negative results, rather than a percentage in the blood. I believe it can be quantified in very expensive and slow procedures that are generally used only in research. Law enforcement usually has to rely on measuring impairment such as movement coordination or cognitive ability tests. It’s also why highly sensitive industries like airlines or railroads have zero tolerance policies for their pilots and engineers. If pot was legalized it would be much harder to justify firing someone in a position of public safety if they measured positive for pot. Public confidence would suffer and so would the industries. A few years ago there was a spate of fatal railroad accidents involving THC-positive crews. Train ticket sales took a nose dive.

    Even if an immediate THC level test becomes available the problem remains as with alcohol, that setting a legal limit is in the end arbitrary. How impaired a person is on a given amount varies because of many factors. The legal limits of BAC for driving in most states have gone down simply because the public is tired of the carnage on the highways, not because someone has figured out exactly how much one can “handle.”

    The so-called war on drugs is a complete failure, as someone else here remarked. That’s because it has focused mainly on supply rather than demand. It has been politicized by casting foreigners as villains and ignoring the responsibility of the Americans who pay for the drugs. Chasing drug dealers through jungles or off the coast of Florida is expensive and catches only a tiny percentage. As long as there is a demand there will be a supply. The American public funds the illegal drug trade with thousands of times more money than the government can spend fighting it. But this isn’t necessarily a good argument for legalizing drugs. One reason some people want to legalize drugs is so that the money can be put to better use in alcohol and drug awareness education and in treatment for substance abuse. But that shift of where we put our resources could be done without changing the legal status of the substances. Many laws are not very, if at all enforced.

    The legal-illegal question is not really the pertinent issue. The issue is are we as a society willing to take responsibility for our own enormous problem rather than blame it on somebody else, and are we going to fix the problem or fix the blame.

  • Mriana

    This is funny from someone who smokes tobacco. Why are cigarettes OK and marijuana crap? Why do you hate Mary Jane?

    Because if you come around my older son or me smoking a joint, we could very well end up in the hospital with breathing problems. We are allergic to it. I break out in a rash with hemp ropes even. Tobacco doesn’t do it to us though. Years ago, I had an allergy test done and it showed I was allergic to western water hemp even.

    I’m with you Richard. We need to fix the problem, not the blame.

  • Ash

    whilst i don’t think marijuana should be legalised for general use (for all the problems listed above), i’d definetly say there’s a case for more extensive research on it for medical use. there’s been quite a few cases in england where sufferers of a long term debilitating illness, or even terminal disease, have claimed that its use has helped relieve their symptons. i imagine even more cases have been overlooked by sympathetic officers. the point being, if this is true, should we not research it further so that others can be helped by it?

    to take this back to being an atheist blog, i’ve gotta ask – what would jesus do? given the philosophical, loved-up states of some smokers, would he have been a pot-head? :¬)

  • Richard Wade

    Ash,
    I thought somebody would eventually bring that up. Cannabis was known and used throughout Eurasia for various purposes for centuries before Christ, so it was around. But do we really want to open up this hot-wet bag of fertilizer?

    Disciple: Jesus, the Romans, the Pharisees, and even Herod are getting to be a real pain in the ass!

    Jesus: Huh?….Hey, chill out, dude. Y’know y’gotta hang loose an’ let the love flow. Like I was sayin’, jus’ keep the mellow an’ spread the good word. Here man, have a lil’ bita’ heaven.

  • Dave

    Watch this video of a school official explaining her actions:

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvc5zLee–8

    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxavtfDPZvE

    Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTDVdT-YjoI

  • Jo Ann Euler

    I am Kieran’s mother- the issue for Kieran is freedom of speech and now fair evaluation, not so much the suspension (as he did defy an order to stay in the school after the lock down.) On May 29th, I was told that the police would be called if Kieran again shared information about Marijuana with Grade 9 students. Kieran believes in freedom of speech. Kieran is a major researcher- he has researched this topic very extensively since a presentation on drugs at school earlier in the year. He stated that the presenter had not cited sources and did not back up her information, so he wanted to find out more. He was simply sharing researched information and debating about (as he loves to do) information on marijuana. Kieran did organize a protest in defense of his freedom of speech. On June 4, after a call from Senator Lorne Campbell’s office to the school in support of freedom of speech, I was called in again and it was repeated that Kieran was not to speak about marijuana. I was told that I should step up as a parent and stop Kieran from pursuing this issue. As you see Kieran did not stop in the pursuit of recognition for his freedom to share information. He was suspended but also denied the right to write his scheduled finals- he will be given marks 30% below what he had worked extremely hard for- this is not fair assessment.
    There is more info on the Saskboy and John Murney blogs. I cannot drop this issue at this point , but I see that a person with little money and no influence may be able to do very little. I will be starting with a second appeal to the school board (whom I found somewhat supportive).

  • Mriana

    Jo Ann, I don’t think your son did anything wrong by researching this subject or any subject. I am all for free inquiry, esp if it’s done properly. If he can show the information he is quoting then he did nothing wrong with sharing any and ALL the information he learned, which I hope is both sides of the issue. He certainly did not do anything to prevent him from taking finals, IMO. I do hope you are presuing this matter in a court of law.

    I don’t necessarily approve of it’s use, but I have no problems with researching the various resource for more info on it. I think schools have gotten too uptight anymore about students researching anything they want.

  • Jo Ann Euler

    This is Kieran’s mom- he is in China and not available for a few days. This is Kieran’s mom.
    “The youth and his mother had been warned previously that school officials didn’t think it was appropriate for him to promote drug use at the school, Rempel said”…”Condoning drug use in a school setting is inappropriate. The freedom of speech issue is really a mischaracterization of what occurred here,” Rempel said.” Mr. Remple is so wrong when he says this to the Canadian Press, that I could scream. I am sorry, but I am sick of this slander from the school division. Kieran did not promote drug use- he researched and shared facts and compared statistics. It is a crime that the director keeps saying that Kieran was promoting drug use.
    Also, the official suspension note from Mrs. Wilson stated, “Kieran is being suspended for organizing a protest against school administration” and for “defying direct instructions” when told to stay in the school. Freedom of speech and fair assessment are the issues now, not the suspension. Thanks you for all supporters and others that read.
    Jo Ann Euler, Kieran’s mother | 06.16.07 – Sorry, but I must leave another comment.

  • DrB

    I’ll have to go out on a limb here and admit to casual (but not chronic) use of marijuana. I find that most talk of the ills of cannabis use are in general way overblown when we are talking about responsible adult use. The problem is, at least for me, that the absolutely massive black market for obtaining cannabis infiltrates its way into schools and into the hands of minors who more often than not do not have the proper life experience to deal with it in a mature way. Legalization and regulation would help curb this (as it does with alcohol) and lessen the “gate-way” effect that the drug is constantly blamed for in youth. Regulation would also help keep cannabis pure and free from disastrous street versions that can be laced with other very dangerous (and physically addictive) substances.

    I know many, many, many adults who use cannabis and DO NOT use (yes it IS possible to use a drug and not abuse it — there is a difference) other powerful and potentially life-threatening drugs like cocaine and MDMA. This does happen for some, of course, but it is certainly not the default or even majority choice from my experience.

    The denial in the US (in most of our states) of legal medical use of marijuana is abysmally immoral and irrational. This is something astonishingly easy to fix, but many people with completely legitimate needs are denied this basic and most humane treatment. They often have to resort to the black market to obtain it, which contributes to the demand for that market and hence its continued and often adulterated intrusion into youth culture. Vicious and stupid circle.

    Let me also add that cannabis can be consumed orally (the effects are actually much more powerful since no THC is burned) so that the health issues associated with smoking it can be avoided entirely.

    I’m not trying to push the drug on anyone (no one who is even slightly uncomfortable with illegal drugs should consider it lightly; it is a very serious choice) but I just thought I’d add another viewpoint to the discussion.

    As this topic relates to atheism: I realized through my own experiences with cannabis (and other psychoactives) that our perceptions are absolutely contingent, often unreliable, and easily shaken. Minute chemical changes (neurochemistry) can alter your grasp (or interpretation) of reality in so many ways. It’s often no different in religious experience. It helped me to distrust religious experience as an authenticator for supernatural phenomena. Evidence is FAR more important. Anybody else share this point of view?

  • Miko

    As this topic relates to atheism: I realized through my own experiences with cannabis (and other psychoactives) that our perceptions are absolutely contingent, often unreliable, and easily shaken. Minute chemical changes (neurochemistry) can alter your grasp (or interpretation) of reality in so many ways. It’s often no different in religious experience. It helped me to distrust religious experience as an authenticator for supernatural phenomena. Evidence is FAR more important.

    But there are religions out there that take drugs to intentionally bring on such experiences. How is thinking that the drug allows you to experience the divine any more or less silly than thinking that you can experience it in the first place? Perhaps god created peyote so that we could all experience him/her/it through the drug. ;-)

  • DrB

    to Miko: Exactly what I was trying to say, but maybe I should have put “religious experiences” in “scare quotes”? In other words, feelings of transcendence during a trip or a high don’t tell us a single thing about the veracity of anybody’s God claims — only that the temporary transmutation of perceptions can make one more susceptible to entertaining claims for which there is no evidence. Any clearer? (maybe not…;))

  • Mriana

    I don’t share this opinion, but let’s just say they do legalize it, I hope like they do cigs now days, it can’t be smoked out in public. Some people are really and truly allergic to the crap. Even so, IF I’m at a bus stop with you, don’t complain if I light a tobacco cig and I won’t complain (unless my allergy to it kicks in badly) too much if you light a joint.

  • http://www.webng.com/poetrybyagirl Melody

    It’s funny that this topic came up. It was actually marijuana usage that helped me “deconvert”, if you will. When I began to ponder, then research the affects of THCs on the brain, it became clear to me that unexplained phenomena involving the mind was not the result of something supernatural but rather the brain’s electrochemistry. I grew sick of hearing people say “God has given me a word for you” or “the voice of God spoke clearly to me”. I couldn’t understand why a sane person would immediately think it’s “God” speaking to them when they’re hearing voices in their head. (But then, maybe a sane person wouldn’t be hearing voices.) Just as THCs are released in the brain during marijuana usage causing changes on the chemical level, years of indoctrinized fear and obsession creates chemical changes in the brain as well.


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