Letters to the Editor

Harm, a popular vote

In 1518, Strasbourg suffered an “epidemic” spreading through Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France in which a “susceptible” number of the populace engaged in frenzied, compulsive, often fatal dancing. Similar “St. Vitus” bouts of mass psychogenic illness (MPI) have occurred in Tanzania, Tennessee and New York. In Strasbourg, doctors were forbidden to treat the dying dancers; instead “town officials” ordered more dancing. The dancers kept dying.

We have a similar situation with legalization (approval) of marijuana: more intoxication. More trouble.

Phil Dirkx, who writes a very sensible column, recognizes the difficulty in stopping the susceptible members of the population from harming themselves, and also harming the smaller social group who are not susceptible, (Marijuana laws don’t burn users, July 25). The distinction covers all sorts of legalized frenzy: alcohol, firearms, fire pits. (This was clearly demonstrated in the recent Assembly vote on Newport Beach fire pits: 64-0 in favor, despite the very obvious harm — harm being meaningless when it involves the public.)

Norm Jackson called Mr. Dirkx to task (Aug. 1) for “missing some important history” with regard to our worst-case alcohol. Mr. Jackson is right, in history and theory, but Mr. Dirkx is right in reality.

The mass of people want harm; who will deny them?

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