An Argument for Drug Legalization

LEAP, a group of former law enforcement officers opposed to the war on drugs, visits Great Britain this week. Simon Jenkins, writing for the Sunday Timesonline (UK) argues against prohibition and for licensing. He outlines the failure of the war on drugs.

Most drug users can handle the harm it undoubtedly does them personally. To this extent there is no justification for the state interfering in a private activity. As with the control of alcohol, the regulation of outlets should be required only to protect minors, prevent adulteration and collect taxes. Other European countries are moving in this direction, at least with ecstasy, cannabis and heroin.

Britain must find a way of legalising supplies. Only then can smuggling and racketeering be suppressed. How this is achieved is a subsidiary matter and a good subject for a committee. But the prohibitionist softies must first be outgunned. They are the true enemies of drug control. This market will never go away. The only tough policy is to regulate it.

Jenkins makes a comparison between deaths caused by drugs and terrorists:

More people die each year from adulterated drugs than from terrorism. The cost of prohibition both to the state and to the community is colossal. The illicit market in drugs undermines Britain’s communities and subverts British values far more than any Muslim cleric or rucksack bomber.

It will never be confronted until the counterproductive prohibitionist 1971 act is repealed.

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    The cure is worse than the disease. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by JSN on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 08:09:06 AM EST
    The cost of drug law enforcement, prosecution and subsequent incarceration is large and the benefits are small (if any). If the drug war was evauated using rational criteria we would have concluded long ago that the war was a failure.

    We are dealing with an emotion driven not a rational process because of drug deaths. The number of murders associated with drug trafficking tend to come in waves but I think their total far exceeds the total number of deaths caused by drug abuse. A middle class kid who dies from an drug overdose has family and friends with political influence and the family and friends of a poor kid murdered in a drug war do not.

    If you put a kid in prison and give him a part time job at $0.50 per hour mopping floors when he is released will he look for a job mopping floors or will he go back to selling drugs on a street corner? We have to do what it takes to eliminate the profits from drug trafficking.

    Decriminalization Perhaps? (4.00 / 2) (#21)
    by unbill on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 03:45:53 PM EST
    I agree that legalizing drugs may not be a good idea, in part because they probably would never be approved by the FDA, thus leading them back towards criminalization.

    When it comes to softer drugs, such as grass, I would suggest decriminalization instead of legalization. A healthy dose of tolerance could allow the user to buy his or her baggy and the farmer the freedom to grow a small crop. Without legalization and FDA approval, no big corporations would be allowed to sell joints. Sure, this allows for a state-sanctioned grey market, but it could be worked out that the IRS even gets its share.

    When it comes to hard drugs, though, maybe it is best for them to remain illegal, although with a considerably less punishment scale. Misdemeanors for small-time dealers and users, no jail time. Drug addiction is a serious problem and should be medically treated. Incarceration is a bad idea.

    In the whole debate we have to face the fact that drugs like crack and meth destroy lives. The War on Drugs is, however, definitely not the way to combat such problems.

    it's an often made argument (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 11:29:36 PM EST
    that will never fly, until the electorate is made fully cognizent of the actual cost of the "war on drugs". not just the budget costs, but the opportunity costs, for those caught up in it.

    as long as there is false science used to defend the criminalization of pot, probably the most benign of all recreational drugs, forget even discussing narcotics.

    we've been trained, as a society, since harry anslinger, that all drugs are bad, unless they happen to be alcohol, tobacco, or prescribed to you. they will all turn you into a raving, drooling sex fiend, willing to kill your mother to get your next fix. or so rumor has it.

    as well, there is an entire law enforcement industry that profits from the criminalization of drug possession/use. they aren't going to easily give that up.

    good luck with that.

    And besides... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 06:42:39 AM EST
    ...it would mean giving up the opportunity to do all that ridiculous "we're jes' doin' this fer yer own good, boy - it's hurts us more'n it hurts you - unnerstand, boy?"  self serving compassionate conservative 'heart full uh luv' psudo-moralistic posturing about how they are only out to help.

    What about crack (none / 0) (#4)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 08:48:28 AM EST
    Cocaine, Crack, Speek, heorin, meth etc... are all illegal for a reason.  Nobody uses these drugs responsibly and if you did make them legal it wouldn't be your local junky selling the stuff you'd have major corporations lining up to not only spit this stuff out but like tabacco companies figuring out how to make the stuff more addictive and the best way to sell it to teenagers so they can have crack addicts for life.

    As for pot the same thing would happen.   Instead of NC being the tabocco capital of the world, those crops would be replaced with pot plants and big money companies would line up to sell pot, distribute pot etc...

    Is that what we want?   Its funny how some get all hot and bothered about big companies dealing booze and cigarrets but don't realize it's these same companies and corporate boardrooms that we'll deal pot when it is legalized.    

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Slado (none / 0) (#5)
    by Dadler on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 11:12:39 AM EST
    First, I guarantee you there are opiate addicts all around you.  Whether heroin or painkillers or whatever.  Cocaine too.  There are addicts who go to work every day and function, there are addicts who don't.  Alcohol kills more people every year than all those other drugs combined, why are you not calling for its prohibition?  

    As for corporatizing, I suggest the skateboarder model would take hold.  That is, skateboarding, no matter how wildly popular, is still a sport that has not gone corporate in many ways.  Big companies like Nike have tried for years to get into the market, but can't because of the loyalty of skaters to keep their sport independent and anti-corporate.  Sure, the X-Games is corporate, but go look at skateboard and skate apparrel companies, they are almost entirely independent and are committed to maintaining the underground, rebellious core of their sport.  Selling out is seen as anathema.  If pot were legal, those companies could try, but my hunch is the pot community would reject them.  


    Ha ha (none / 0) (#6)
    by aw on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 11:20:37 AM EST
    Can you imagine the ad campaigns and promotions for pot by big corporations?

    Imagine spring break with a bunch of kids sound asleep in the sand.  Or pigging out.  Lotta corporate energy there.  Or something.

    Maybe marketing to middle-aged harried workers would be more successful.  Worker comes in the door after a rough day and a crappy commute.  Smokes X-brand.  Ahh.


    "No stems, no seeds that you don't need... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:20:01 PM EST
    ...Acapulco Gold is some bad a$$ weed!

    h/t to Cheech and Chong.


    Help... I've fallen over and... (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:22:19 PM EST
    ...I don't want to get up. ;-)

    If pot were legal... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 11:28:49 AM EST
    ...those companies could try, but my hunch is the pot community would reject them...

    ...and grow their own, or buy it from their friends.


    Ultimately (none / 0) (#8)
    by aw on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 11:29:20 AM EST
    the powers that be may just find that it's easier to keep us quiet with our "soma."

    Easier for them to use and abuse us in the long run.


    Xgames? (none / 0) (#14)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 01:02:27 PM EST
    Dadler that is a poor comparison IMHO.

    How many people use pot as opposed to buy/use skaeteboards?

    The question legalization people can't answer is what happens once it's legal.   The truth is you don't know.

    What are the drug cartels going to do?  Just fold up their tents and stop making pot, cocaine etc..?

    No way.  Now instead of being illegal we will allow them to charge more for their product because they will have to pay for distribution and the corporate taxes.  The demand is there.  How many college students won't buy pot when it becomes illegal?  What's the smoking age going to be 21 or 18?   How much pot can you have in your system before you're allowed to drive an automobile?  How mcuh crack?

    I understand the argument against our drug war I really do but until someone can answer what happens when it's legal I side with the status quo.


    Status Quo? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Pete Guither on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 01:37:11 PM EST
    You side with the status quo?  -- Billions of taxpayer dollars wasted each year on the war on drugs?  -- Making drug trafficking profitable to criminals?  --Putting the safety, distribution, age control, and potency of drugs in the hands of criminals? --Rampant corruption of police forces due to the huge criminal profits? -- and on and on, and yet people still use drugs!

    You don't know what the cartels would do with legalization, so you want to continue to support them?  How crazy is that?  Where's Capone and all the alcohol kingpins?  Oh, that's right, we took away their profits when we ended the first failed prohibition.

    The real question that has to be answered by the prohibitionists is:  "What do you think would happen with legalization?"  We know we'd eliminate all the problems of prohibition, so what's that enormous cost that wouldn't make it worthwhile?  People would use drugs?  They do now.  People would abuse more drugs?  Do you know that for sure?  International data tends to indicate otherwise.

    And the driving thing is a tired red herring.  Of course, driving while impaired will be illegal as it is now, and if we work on it, we can come up with better measures for that that are safety-based and not political.

    I'll answer what happens when pot is legal (although there are many models to choose from).  It will be regulated by the government like alcohol in terms of potency, packaging and age (perhaps decided state by state, perhaps federally).  It could be sold in state stores like alcohol was in many states, or through licensed distributors.  It would be taxed -- enough to fund treatment programs (that work better than incarceration anyway), which would make all the money we save from enforcement available to go to education or middle-class tax cuts.  You'd also be allowed to grow a small amount for your own use, but not to sell it.  Prices and taxes would be kept low enough so that people won't be tempted to go black-market.  Lots of people who don't like to use drugs for various reasons (health, morality, etc.) will continue to not use drugs.  Others who prefer to do so will now have a choice of alcohol or pot.  Assuming some will switch from alcohol to pot -- that will greatly reduce violence in society and also greatly reduce the dangers on the highways (since it's been proved over and over again that alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana for driving (which ranks just below fatique).

    Why are you supporting the status quo?  Why are you supporting destructive policies?  Why do we have 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prison population?


    hmm (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by scarshapedstar on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 05:41:53 PM EST
    The question legalization people can't answer is what happens once it's legal.   The truth is you don't know.

    I can answer that one.

    Nothing would change. People who want to smoke pot are already smoking it. If you disagree then you pretty clearly don't know what you're talking about.


    Huh? (none / 0) (#15)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 01:21:21 PM EST
    The question legalization people can't answer is what happens once it's legal. The truth is you don't now.

    You seemed to think you knew, earlier.


    Well (none / 0) (#25)
    by scarshapedstar on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 08:44:03 PM EST
    Technically, he only said we don't know. He knows that pot is a lot like gay marriage: as soon as you legalize it, people run around humping turtles and civilization comes to a screeching halt.

    You say that like there's something... (none / 0) (#27)
    by Bill Arnett on Wed Nov 29, 2006 at 04:12:34 PM EST
    ...wrong with turtle-humping.

    No one can predict ... (none / 0) (#16)
    by Sailor on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 01:29:40 PM EST
    ... what happens, so the Q you posed was a meaningless distraction. There certainly would be unpredictable, unintended consequences.

    That said, the taxes alone would pay for treatment, the black market would dry up and cops, from municipal to fed, would no longer be corrupted by the insane amounts of $$.

    We could have treatment instead of incarceration, secondary crime would fall, and the truth could be told about the very drugs you are railing against, and not confused with the lies equating pot with substances that will kill you.

    The gov't should treat people like adults; tell us the truth, warn warn us about actual dangers, and allow personal decisions (AKA freedom) to rule.


    Re: The truth is you don't know. (none / 0) (#18)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 01:42:12 PM EST
    The question legalization people can't answer is what happens once it's legal.   The truth is you don't know.

    I thought you knew?

    What will happen is that society will disintegrate into a chaotic amoral free for all of drug addicted crazed thieves, rapists and killers.

    You know. Just like it was in the old days. Before pot was illegal. :-/


    Slado (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 05:31:34 PM EST
    Frankly my brother, I don't see the problem.  I can go to 7-11 and buy a six-pack of Bud an a pack of Marlboros...why not a pack of Marleys?  Will the sun cease to rise?

    Think of the children (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by scarshapedstar on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 08:51:17 PM EST
    The children! The children! The children!

    Y'see, if pot's in stores, then it automatically makes it easier for kids to get ahold of that demon weed. Never mind that in order for this to make remote sense, we ought to ban tobacco and alcohol (again), but what the f*ck else is new.


    booze and tobacco (none / 0) (#13)
    by squeaky on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:29:25 PM EST
    Both booze and tobacco are difficult to manufacture, ergo the corporations have a big edge over the consumer. Weed is, well weed. It is very easy to grow. The corporations see no money in it, ergo it is illegal.

    That is why a canadian company developed an aerosol, somthing that is to complex for the consumer to manufacture  Too bad for them it is not as effective as real medical mj.


    Actually that Canadian company is... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 02:30:58 PM EST
    ...doing what the makers of Marinol did not: recognize that it is the relationship between THC AND the component canabinoids called (or abbreviated as CBD). THC by itself is worthless and not at all palliative.  Any self-educated grower can tell you the ratio of these two ingredients determine the high and/or pain relieving capacity of the weed.

    High THC, low CBDs, such as sativa strains have=soaring head high with minimal benefits for pain relief., but excellent for depression.

    Low THC, high CBDs, such as indica strains=heavier high, often called a "body stone", with very good pain relief.

    The Canadian drug under development takes into account these factors.

    And FWIW, marijuana IS one of the most benign substances known to man. It is estimated that a person would have to consume FORTY POUNDS of pot in one sitting for it to be harmful. (I would volunteer to participate in a lab study to test this theory, but can't find one!) There are no known fatalities attributable to pot, which, given man's 5,000-year history with weed is amazing.

    These statements cannot be made, insofar as safety is concerned, about aspirin, tylenol, potatoes, bananas, even water, and too many other substances to list.


    Why bother (none / 0) (#20)
    by squeaky on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 03:14:34 PM EST
    Still, with Marinol and Sativex it is like paying top dollar for bad air.  The cost of these products outweigh the benefits. MJ is far to complex in its natural state to synthesize. Most medical mj users get little relief from the spray, pills, or government weed for that matter, compared to the mj avaliable at a high quality distributor.

    Don't get me wrong, squeaky, I... (none / 0) (#22)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 04:01:08 PM EST
    ...whole-heartedly agree with you. I was just pointing out the differences of the American and Canadians in trying to find a substitute that will actually work.

    Nothin' beats the original! I have, as a California resident, had a doctor's recommendation to use pot for almost seven years now. It helps me cut my morphine intake considerably and for that alone it has been very beneficial for me.


    The biggest incentive for cops to NOT... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:17:46 PM EST
    ...see an end to an obviously futile drug war is ASSET FORFEITURES that the police get to split with the feds.

    If that isn't a disincentive to stop the nonsense I don't know what is.

    I mean, if you could seize a multi-million dollar home or BMWs, Mercedes, Hummers, etc. and get half the profits from the forced sale or just commandeer the vehicles for police use, wouldn't you want that?

    As long as there is this monetary consideration, the drug war will never end.

    Oh, yeah (none / 0) (#11)
    by aw on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:20:15 PM EST
    I forgot about big pharma for a moment, too.  

    Nevermind, it's hopeless.