Legalizing drugs has too many pitfalls

By chillinwill · Nov 10, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Legalize drugs, advocates say, and you'll, decrease drug use, virtually empty our prisons, end the violence between cartels in Mexico and move toward a more humane society in which abuse is treated as an illness, not a crime.

    You see, they further instruct us, the so-called war on drugs has won nary a battle, but is essentially a hugely expensive replay of Prohibition, which did nothing to lessen alcohol consumption. What we're talking about here is liberty. Drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamines are no worse than cigarettes or whiskey and the only ones hurt by their consumption are the adults who decide to use them.

    It's on the basis of such fictions that some well-meaning people - including some of my libertarian friends - are trying to march our society off a cliff. They really ought to take a close, hard look at the facts and some well-argued, contrary analyses that come to us not just from stubborn right-wingers, but from research by think tanks, governmental agencies and highly regarded social scientists.

    One such scientist is James Q. Wilson of Boston College, who makes the common-sense case that legalization will increase drug use because it will reduce the price of drugs, give increased assurance of their quality and make them easier to obtain.

    In the Netherlands, the government decided to permit legal cannabis shops, and soon enough you had twice as many people aged 18 to 20 using the drug, says one report. We once had legal opiate and cocaine drugs in the country, mostly sold as medications in the late 19th century to cure what ailed you, varied sources say. The drugs ailed us into high rates of debilitating addiction that began to lessen dramatically with the passage of inhibiting laws.

    With more drug use, Wilson says, will come more people on welfare, more traffic deaths and more ruined marriages. That's just the beginning. Because they so decisively unravel our self-control, drugs can render us more likely to do all kinds of things we would not do if we were straight and sober. Half of all those arrested for committing violent crimes were under the influence of drugs, says John Walters, former director of the Office of National Drug Policy, in a Wall Street Journal piece. He then gives us this startling statistic: 80 percent of all child abuse cases are drug-related. So this is the great libertarian cause - increase child abuse in America?

    The obvious fact is that use of illegal drugs does more than harm the user, but the user does in fact get harmed. Cocaine is reportedly something like seven times as addictive as alcohol, and even marijuana - - probably the least dangerous of these drugs - can cause cancer, according to a study published in 1998. It's true that drinking and smoking are hugely damaging themselves, but that's hardly an argument for more people than now to harm themselves with these drugs.

    More treatment than incarceration of drug abusers makes sense, but you don't get there through setting up legal methamphetamine stores for people to introduce their neighbors to health wreckage and possibly death. Walters and others observe that courts are increasingly getting users in rehabilitation programs. And, it has been pointed out, users make up a relatively small percentage of those in federal prisons for drug-related crimes.

    Despite the brouhaha to the contrary, Walters notes that anti-drug efforts have significantly decreased usage and addiction, just a Prohibition, for all its failures, did lead to less alcohol consumption, as another writer says. Decriminalizing marijuana, as some states have done, may turn out to be workable, but commercializing it? Surely not.

    And what about Mexico? Walters observes that ending Prohibition did not end organized crime and that Mexico's gangs have other markets besides the one in the United States. We don't need to worsen our own state of affairs to help the Mexicans.

    Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.

    Jay Ambrose
    November 9, 2009
    News Chief

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  1. 10outof10
    Well, this is an interesting topic.. This is a hard one for SWIM as she can see benefits but plenty of risks too. There is a certain argument to say that if certain substances were legalised the money made from taxes could perhaps fund better addiction treatment options. However SWIM doesn't think legalising everything is the answer, SWIM does think in the UK we need to totally revamp our existing drug policies and how we react to new trends.

    Take our classification system, most of it just does not make any sense! For example the substances that the Government are just about to ban GBL, BZP and related piperazines and cannabinoids is proof that there is no logic behind our system. GBL and BZP are going into class C and Cannabinoids such as JWH-018 contained in brands such as Spice are going into B??? SWIM would suggest that GBL is far more risky than JWH-018 due to the potenial for dependency and overdose etc and there has been deaths attached to this substance, I have not heard of any with JWH-018. That said SWIM would not be in favour of a ban for any of these substances. Whilst SWIM does not think making everything legal would solve the problem neither does SWIM see that banning everything would either.

    Perhaps decriminalisation is the way to go, SWIM welcomed the news of cannabis going into C previously, it's just a shame the Government didn't have enough balls to stick to their guns when there was a bit of a backlash..
  2. Nature Boy
    An article I don't agree with but thanks for posting it up all the same, chillinwill.

    In my own opinion, cannabis and naturally-occuring psychedelics should be entirely legalised and the use of all other drugs should be decriminalised. To deconstruct the argument made in the article, a few points:

    • It should be noted that many drugs are already legalised. Not just alcohol and tobacco but pharmaceutical prescription drugs which are heavily abused. Many Americans are over-medicated. Sometimes I see written exchanges on this very forum that frighten me. People listing out how many medications they're on as if it's the most natural thing in the world. A badge of honour if you're on more than five medications, the more the merrier and extra bonus points for the ones that interact dangerously with each other. Not to say that all prescription drug use is to be frowned upon. Some people genuinely need them but the US has taken it to ridiculous extremes. It's their equivalent of everyone mooching off social welfare in Western Europe. Instead, they just load up on pharms. Got a broken finger? Here's a six month supply of oxycodone. Ultimately, retracting drug prohinition merely ensures the quality of the drugs people use recreationally. I don't see how that could be such a bad thing. It would also make it harder for under-agers to access these drugs. It's easier for a kid to score a bag of weed than a six-pack of Budweiser.
    • Secondly, this "fact" about the Netherlands is either entirely untrue or completely misleading. Teen cannabis use in the country is amongst the lowest in the EU. If 18-20 year-olds happen to dabble in it, so what? They're adults by then and they're entitled to experiment. It's the same way an American is likely to delve into the beers for a while when they hit twenty-one. Note that the statistic focuses on 18-20 year-olds. Isn't there something unusual about that? Look at the 18-35 year-old age bracket. I'm sure Dutch levels would be quite low compared to other countries with more conservative drug policies.
    • Third point, how does James Q. Wilson link the legalisation of drugs to increased traffic accidents, increased reliance on social welfare and the breakdown of marriages? Traffic accidents can be avoided if police continue to do their jobs effectively. If someone is "drug-driving", why not give them the exact same penalties as a drunk driver (although I myself feel that many illegal drugs are nowhere near as dangerous to use when driving compared to alcohol). Marriages are a personal issue. They break down for personal reasons. I don't see how drug use really has anything to do with this. It shouldn't be a concern of the government. And as for social welfare, I fail to see why drug use is mentioned either. If systems are stringent enough not to let layabouts feed off the collective handouts, drug use shouldn't apply.
    • As for this 80% of child abuse cases being drug-related, how on Earth did they make that out? What drugs do they mean? Surely alcohol would cover a large fraction of that proposed 80% figure. The most reknowned child molesters in society, Roman Catholic priests, shun drug use apart from alcohol. Strange that they don't feature in his analysis. It should also be pointed out, when someone is being accused of a crime, the judicial system will find any reason to destroy the character of the defendant. Linking them to drug use is the ultimate weapon in defamation. In truth, drugs are everywhere. Nearly everyone's been in contact with them in some way whether it's use, supply or someone connected to them: "This man's clearly an unsavoury character. His uncle's cousin used to sell crack cocaine to schoolkids in the late 80's".
    • The marijuana link to cancer is a blatant lie. We all know such a study doesn't exist because it would be a prohibitionist's dream if it did. If anything, marijuana has been demonstrated to be effective against cancer, both as a preventer and an appetite booster for cancer patients. Disgraceful someone could drop this myth into an article and hope to get away with it. It's the equivalent of the creationist quote-mining of Albert Einstein.
    • Users vs. dealers in prison. I don't see the point here. Regardless of whether they're locking up dealers or junkies, the fact of the matter is that many non-violent drug offenders dwell within America's disturbingly over-incarcerating prison system. They cost the taxpayer money and they can forge connections that will deepen their role within violent crime upon release. Which would you prefer, people potentially sponging off welfare or even more money being blown on housing blacks and latinos unfortunate enough to be caught doing what rich white boys don't get sent to prison for?
    • Before his somewhat xenophobic send-off pop at Mexicans, he states decriminalisation as a fine solution. As I have stated, decriminalisation is fine when it comes to user possession of hard drugs but in terms of a cash-crop like cannabis, it's lunacy. Why would anyone want to leave all that taxable finance below the table and in the hands of the criminal black market? Talk about pouring money down the toilet.
  3. Zepfan
    This article reminds Monkey why he stopped paying attention to the establishment media a long time ago.

    Honestly, Monkey is unimpressed that prohibitionist arguments come "...not just from stubborn right-wingers, but from research by think tanks, governmental agencies and highly regarded social scientists..." This betrays an elitist mentality. Why should Monkey trust so-called experts to make decisions about what substances he chooses to put into his own body. That is his business and his fundamental right. If he chooses to abdicate soveriegnty over his own body, he has reduced himself to the status of a child.

    The 'experts', who have already brought us into the nanny-state, will always argue for more government control over our lives. After all, they rely on government paychecks and/or government research grants. Big pharma, the alcohol industry, and others with ulterior motives, fund lots of research, as well. They also fund the campaigns of politicians and give them cush little executive positions when they leave office.

    The moral arguments for individual freedom need to take center stage. Monkey says, "Keep your laws off of my body!"
  4. Joe-(5-HTP)
    re: the child abuse claim

    I feel sure it is the case that people who abuse children are more likely to use drugs, rather than those who use drugs are more likely to abuse children.
  5. Zepfan
    As he stated before, Monkey doesn't care about utilitarian arguments, when it concerns his freedoms. But this article is so full of illogic, he can't resist taking it on.

    According to the author, "...Because (psychotropic drugs) so decisively unravel our self-control, drugs can render us more likely to do all kinds of things we would not do if we were straight and sober..." He goes on to warn us about how all sorts of violent crimes and child abuse result from drug use. Apparently this applies to all drugs equally, since he makes no distinctions. Drugs are bad, m'kay. Meth, coke, heroin, weed, lsd, you can lump them all together. They make you do bad things. Reefer madness, you know.

    Strangely enough, Monkey usually just wants to eat cookies and listen to Pink Floyd after smoking weed. When he used to get stupid drunk in his younger days, he did some crazy stuff, blacked-out a couple of times, and caused himself much embarassment. Monkey wishes he had opted for cannabis instead. Which brings us to another of the author's many canards: "...It's true that drinking and smoking are hugely damaging themselves, but that's hardly an argument for more people than now to harm themselves with these drugs...". Is it not possible that, as a result of substitution of alternative, legal drugs, that alcohol use would decline, thus lessening social/health problems associated with alcohol use? People wanting an otc, legal intoxicant wouldn't be limited to the current choices: alcohol, paint-thinner, anti-histamines, dxm, etc.

    By the way, alcohol prohibition was not a success, even when it came to reducing alcohol use, as the author claims. You want 'experts'? Well, Monkey will pit his experts against those in the article any day of the week. According to Mark Thornton, professor of economics at Auburn University,
    "...Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became "organized"; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.
    Those results are documented from a variety of sources, most of which, ironically, are the work of supporters of Prohibition--most economists and social scientists supported it. Their findings make the case against Prohibition that much stronger..."
    Monkey attempted to post the link, but he apparently lacks the requisite number of posts. He apologizes.

    Monkey doesn't particularly like the way the author plays it loose with the facts, and how he doesn't even provide verifiable sourcing for many of his claims. If this were a college paper, Monkey would have to flunk it. The use of straw-man arguments is pathetic. "...And what about Mexico? Walters observes that ending Prohibition did not end organized crime..." What proponent of legalization ever claimed that drug legalization would end organized crime in Mexico? How about a rational evaluation of the consequences of legalization, both positive and negative?

    Monkey could continue, but he has developed a headache.
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