Thursday, March 10, 2016

Drug Legalization 101

This is the first and last time I'll cover this topic, except to point anyone back at it.
It is the rhetorical equivalent of clubbing baby seals, but on this topic, it needs doing.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

The following solution was proposed to solving endemic drug use (in the inner city in the post in question, but by extension, nationwide) on a blog I enjoy, and by a fairly bright guy. But this stands as Reason One why large "L" Libertarianism (i.e. the political platform, which is asinine; as opposed to small "l", the underlying philosophy of minimizing government interventions, which I like) is full of large quantities of severe mental retardation in their schemes vis-a-vis reality.

First I would end the war on drugs. Make them all legal and destroy the incentive for people to buy them from criminals. It would take away the vast majority of their money. Also this would end or greatly decrease all the ancillary crime associated with those criminals protecting their terf, etc. This combined with eliminating a bunch of other stupid laws (basically everything that doesn't directly hurt another person) would end the massive prison industry which we currently have. For a host of reasons this industry targets poor people and minorities most often. This is really a two'fer of undercutting the gangs by taking away their ability to print money and getting people out of the revolving correctional door system we have now.
My response:

So, once you legalize the drugs, you're going to give them away free, by the barrel, to everyone, right? And all kinds too, not just pot. You're going to have to give away heroin, cocaine and crack, meth, uppers, downers, and get rid of prescription narcotic categories too.
Of course if they cost money to buy, addicts are only going to go up at least fourfold, if not ten- or twenty-fold over current patterns. And then, when they've spent all their money, how will they get more money to do more, More, MORE drugs, like they want to?

(You couldn't be suggesting that when they spend all they have, and want more drugs, they'll go cold turkey and wait for next month's supply, are you? Like they don't do now???)
Take your time coming up with that answer, I'll wait for you to catch up.

{And we'll postpone for another day what you'll do when 10, 20, 30 percent of the entire country is stoned regularly, and the resultant skyrocketing number of traffic fatalities, workplace injuries, medical, legal, and prison costs, and relegating the nation to not merely tolerate, but embrace millions and millions of daily addicts, including the explosion that'll take place among those under age, because drug addicts are so circumspect with keeping their drugs away from their kids. The net effect would be to set off a hydrogen bomb in the Superbowl, once a week, forever. And probably worse. Not to mention the cost to grow, produce, distribute, and administer it all, and the salaries and benefits to the government workers involved.}
So, getting back to the question, when they run out of money, do you suppose they might >gasp!< rob and steal to get more drugs??
Sh'yeah, and now with only 5000% more criminals, except now violent offenders, and bonus, hopped up on drugs! What could go wrong there?

And what if the drug dealers cut their prices? To below the government's price? Think capitalism works with drugs just like it does with every good and service in history? D'ya think cartels might know this better than Thomas Sowell or Adam Smith?

So once again, you're back to giving them away by the metric fuckton, absolutely free.

The idea of legalizing drugs is frankly as asinine as giving away unlimited free Lotto tickets for the asking: the cost of printing the tickets approaches infinity, as the money spent to purchase them and pay the winnings approaches zero. So, what's the winning ticket pay off when there are 40,000,000 of them, and there are $0 in the receipt till? That's "legalized drugs" in a nutshell. An idea for people who suck at math.
The only way to say it worse would be to go with the TSA approach: offer to put the cartels and drug dealers on government payroll, forever.
That's exactly how we "solved" the airline security "problem" after 9/11. We put all the private fat stupid incompetent rent-a-cops onto the government payroll, so now we have fat, stupid incompetent government rent-a-cops.
Tell me how THAT has worked out. Last I looked, they only failed to spot simulated bombs and weapons 95% of the time, and only about 20% of them have been fired for stealing from luggage and cargo. So far.

It is like Wile E. Coyote logic on how to walk across a chasm: everything works fine until you look down, and then the laws of the physical universe kick your ass.

Legalizing drugs might unfund drug dealers (might, because who can say whether they'd undercut the government price if there was one, and make it up by volume - exactly as they do now with untaxed cigarettes) unless you're prepared to have the government produce and distribute virtually unlimited quantities of everything, and give it away to everyone absolutely FREE. Forever.

And even then, you'll only be stuck with a medical system overrun with millions of addicts, forever, and courtesy of HopeyDopey, that's all coming out of your taxes and insurance premiums, forever. Isn't government healthcare wonderful?

At least if you'd gone the other way, and suggested shooting drug addicts in the head for a first offense, the costs would be manageable, and mainly only impact ammunition supply, sanitation needs, and the mortuary industry's ability to cope with the increased traffic. It would also have the virtues of being both more morally laudable and more compassionate and humane towards the addicts than the current system, with the bonus that the addict pool would shrink to microscopic numbers over time, because bullet in the head.

Anyone suggesting any legalization scheme is throwing juvenile magical thinking of the worst sort at the subject, and giving it far beneath the usual time you devote to thinking things through.

I thus urge you to please reconsider the idea.

Drug legalization as suggested, is thus equivalent to shoving a hand grenade up your ass with the pin pulled, as a therapy for cancer. It'll work, after a fashion, but probably not quite in the way you imagined.

It's funny in a cartoon, but in real life, not so much.

And it's a handy topic to separate the serious people from those who've only dabbled in actually thinking about this stuff. If you've got a serious idea, bring it on.
If all you've got is the plot outline for a Saturday morning cartoon sketch, maybe keep it to yourself.

Election Year Bonus: see if you can figure which candidate(s) for US president as of this moment are most likely to seriously suggest legalization as a solution, or in whose mouth(s) you'd be least shocked to hear the original suggestion. Or may already have.


LL said...

I agree completely.

Anyone who pushes for legalization is either a stoner pushing for free dope or a fool who hasn't thought it through.

Anonymous said...

thought experiment: we got emp'd by the dissolves....drugs automatically are legal due to no "overarching legal authority" do surviving groups deal with drug users?.... if they're dangerous or useless easy answer.....banishment...freedom of association, or non-association in this case, prevails....if drug users are "functional", non-issue, they remain in the group, are "associated with"...

now simply apply the same criteria of functionality or non and freedom of association with gov present to drug users where drug use is legal. assume drugs obtained via normal market forces, i.e. no gov price fixing or other market manipulation......I fail to see a problem....

enjoy your blog

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

"The issue of decriminalizing illicit drugs is hotly debated, but is rarely subject to evidence-based analysis. This paper examines the case of Portugal, a nation that decriminalized the use and possession of all illicit drugs on 1 July 2001. Drawing upon independent evaluations and interviews conducted with 13 key stakeholders in 2007 and 2009, it critically analyses the criminal justice and health impacts against trends from neighbouring Spain and Italy. It concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding. The article discusses these developments in the context of drug law debates and criminological discussions on late modern governance."

That's the abstract of an article in the British Journal of Criminology. Link:

Note that Portugal's decriminalization is not the same as legalization.

I've never met a libertarian who advocated giving away "free" drugs to anyone who wants them. Libertarians will let you spend your own money on your own drugs. You pay for, and suffer, your own consequences, too.

The issue of drug legalization is too complex to resolve with a thought experiment. If I were king, I'd allow states to experiment with drug legalization. Then we'd have hard data with which to answer the question whether drug legalization were a net benefit or net detriment to society. Note that a policy that works for Connecticut may not work for Mississippi. Same for Portugal versus the U.S.

The relative lack of state experimentation is partly due to federal laws. But the last time I read the Constitution, I found only three federal crimes: piracy, counterfeiting, and treason.


PS: I don't smoke pot. The only drugs I take are caffeine, alcohol, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Nearly ever day that I'm "on call" for the emergency room, I see drug-related problems. The most common adverse drug consequences I have to deal with as a physician in Scottdale, Arizona, are secondary to alcohol.

Aesop said...

The problem is that dope fiends want their dope, and the fact that it may take your TV or car stereo to finance them is a minor hindrance, whether they're "legal" or not.
(This is why cities even here in Califrutopia have enacted zoning ordinances to limit pot shops: they've become a string of stop-n-robs, both for the money, and the ready supply of dope, despite the fact that money can be had simply for working, and dope is legal. Crooks are just going to be crooked.)

Thus the stealing of your shit in order for them to buy theirs is "normal market forces", and going to prison is just a cost of doing that business.

You can't apply straight line logic and reason to people who are, by definition, reality-altered as a matter of fact pretty much 24/7.

You may as well quote the doggie leash law to rabid pit bulls for all the good it does.

One drug addict out of one hundred will end up being a law-abiding addict. The other ninety-nine will either show up in jail or the ER, usually both, and after harming others. For them, there needs to be a jail cell afterwards to remove the behavior from the realm of most people's everyday life, and to incline them to abandon the habit. And in any event, to forfeit their freedom to pillage innocents to support their problem. This is a society, not a clan of cave-dwellers in anarchy.

Or, as suggested, try the bullet-to-the-head solution.
Recidivism under that plan: 0%.

But you can't have a society that functions according to consensual laws, while allowing a large segment of the population to alter their minds near-continuously, as if there were no consequences for such behavior or policy. I'm certainly not any fan of the X VIIIth Amendment, but it's taken 6000 years to mostly get alcohol to near-sanity. Mostly. (If you don't count the avalanche of drunk-driving fatalities, and the hordes of drunkaholic bums wandering hither and yon daily and everywhere.)

But going back to at least 2000 B.C., there were long-standing civic sanctions regarding drugs. We got to the current drug situation because of the experience with trying laissez-faire up to that point. It failed abysmally. We needn't repeat that folly to prove that it still won't work.

Anonymous said...

my problem with enforcing drug laws is there is no moral authority to do so. you or your group may not legitimately impose your will on another who has not violated your life liberty or property. once they cross those lines, sky's the my opinion then you brand them so they can be identified and banish from the community.

the 4th turning is upon us....society that survives will have no place for mind altered zombies, they'll darwin themselves or be darwinned out of existence. like functional alcohol users, functional drug users will, by definition, comport

Aesop said...

If there were no societal consequences to their actions (IOW, if this were pure philosophical fantasy) you'd be right.
But there are real-world consequences, every time. And everybody already pays for them.

I'll go along with not touching anyone who never shows up on the radar: at the side of the road, in the hospital, or in court.
As long as you'll go along with bullet-to-the-head the minute they do.
Do we have a deal? Or would you rather slide your chips back into your pile?

Because over time, virtually 100% would end up in Potter's Field in a sack, minus a hunk of brains. And the fact that they'd gotten over once or twice would just encourage them to go farther, until they inevitably screw the pooch. That's just human nature.

If you want to talk about making the first offense mandatory treatment, fine and dandy (so long as no one was harmed whatsoever in the original offense). Any failure during treatment, and it's back to the can for hard time. Re-offend, hard time.

Any additional criminal activity (other than mere possession), and/or any harm to others or society, and they get maxxed out.

And when I say hard time, I'm not talking weight piles, cable TV, and family visits on Sundays either.
Prison is so expensive because we do it wrong.
Go back to Chateau D'If accommodations. The non-violent and short-timers (say anything under 10 years) get to break little rocks into small ones 6 days a week, rain or shine.
Violent offenders and long-timers get put in a cell, and twice a day, morning and evening, someone slides a plate of food through a slot in the door. Once a week their slop bucket gets exchanged for an empty one. Once a year they get a shower and a haircut.
If one day the food is untouched, they get a burlap sack and a cinder block, and over the wall into the sea.
Otherwise, they can watch the sun move across the bars day in and day out - if they're lucky enough to have a window. Once the place is built, the expense would be minimal.
That's prison. Not this dog-and-pony crap we do now.

I already spend far too much time dealing with the consequences of addicts after the fact. If you want to legalize drug use, then the paramedics should be able to legally abandon anyone found stoned off their ass to whatever fate has in store, including dying, and the hospital should be allowed to toss them out in a wheelbarrow at curbside with the same lack of concern. Even if it's 20 below outside and they're in a t-shirt and flip flops.
Your body, your choice, right?
(Unless they've already posted $20,000 in cash to cover any and all expenses if and when found stoned into oblivion. The first time they're caught short, hard time. Sensing a pattern here?)

Still want to tell me about my moral authority?
The concept of a drug user who's responsible for his actions is an oxymoron.
Would that such were actually enforceable by law.
But it's not.

So don't start yacking to me about moral authority, when the root of the desire is pure amoral self-gratification at everyone else's expense.
There's no moral authority for that, anywhere this side of sanity.

We've tried mollycoddling this problem. It doesn't work. Time for some tough love.

Dan said...

Up until the early 20th century drugs like heroin, morphine, cocaine etc were not just legal bur READILY AVAILABLE at stores and by mail order. All of the horrific things you predict will happen if they are legal were not happening then...and they won't be any more of a problem now. The legality of drugs had NOTHING TO DO with their being available and being used. Their legality ONLY affects how the government acts. And the government uses this illegality as a excuse to attack and destroy Constitutional freedoms using the 'drugs are bad' bullshit excuse. We tried this with didn't work....and gave us Capone and organized crime. We are trying it with 'drugs' ISN'T WORKING and it brought us violent drug cartels, prisons bulging to the seams with nonviolent drug abusers and the LOVELY insanity called 'civil asset forfeiture'.....i.e. THEFT UNDER COLOR OF AUTHORITY. End the faux war on some drugs which is actually the war on freedom. You will be surprised to find that nothing bad will happen that isn't already commonplace and a LOT of the illegal power siezed by the government becomes totally unjustifiable....meaning we get to watch the poly tickians in Mordor on the Potomac dance and wiggle dreaming up a new excuse to savage freedom and the Bill of Rights.

Anonymous said...

I'd classify marijuana differently at least so as to allow people in pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. to study it properly to understand the antispasmodic and sometimes ant-inflammatory and pain killing effects it has. So many compounds and they should be understood. Personally I hate the stuff and the feeling it gave me, but for Oddi spasms and the subsequent vomiting nothing hit them so fast and stopped them and the nausea. I'd have preferred JUST that effect without all of the other stuff in there and what it did to my head (bleh) and that dry mouth, so if it could be reclassified enough to study it for medical use, like they did in Europe and Canada for Sativex, I'd be fine with that (please). I did it all legal-like with the doctor and everything, but still, no thanks. Just the spasms and horking gone instantly, please, none of the other effects. Just like cocaine is still used in some eye drops (though derivitaves are much more often used now), and heroin and morphine come from the same base, there's definitely something beneficial in there. As for complete legalization of ALL drugs though, are people nuts? Yes, please, let's add MORE heroin and cocaine and methamphetamine addicts, we don't have enough, right?

Anonymous said...

I am not a supporter of legalizing drugs, and I not libertarian (that's small "l" libertarian, not them Big "L" Libertarian schmucks).
But if you replace the subject with "gun", your article sounds like it was written by some pant-shitting gun-grabber.


GamegetterII said...

Maybe if more people spent several years working an ER in a shitty part of Cleveland,Ohio-more people would have a similar opinion to Aesop.
My sister is a RN and spent several years working an ER in probably the shittiest area of Cleveland,her opinion on the drug users is about the same,as is pretty much every Dr and RN who's spent a few years working in such a place.
Downtown Cleveland is full of the casualties of prolonged drug use,none of them function in society any longer,and almost all have been to treatment multiple times.
No home,no car,no job-where do you think they get the $$$ for their heroin or meth,or pills,or cocaine/crack?
Who pays their medical bills when one of their fellow junkies stabs them with a rusty piece of steel they found somewhere and sharpened on a rock? Or when one of their fellow drug addled zombies busts them over the head with a rock,or a chunk of concrete they picked up from one of the many car parts eating holes in the roads?
Who pays their medical bills after the EMT's shot 'em up with Narcan to prevent the heroin overdose from killing them?
I know several people who would gladly put a bullet in the back of every drug dealer and junkies head to stop the madness that is the heroin "epidemic" in NE Ohio so that no other parent had to lose a child,and no one else had to lose a brother or sister or husband or wife.
Drug users/junkies are not a part of any "victimless crime",they rob,steal,lie cheat,do whatever it takes to avoid drug withdrawl.
All these 6 week "cures" are just so much BS,as are the 6,12,18 month prison sentences.
The prisons are more a criminal grad school than they are punishment.
Short prison terms in med/min security prisons do nothing to stop drug users from being drug users.
Talk to the few that stopped being junkies-they all will tell you unless it's 5+ years in prison,it's just learning how to be a better criminal/junkie.

Aesop said...

Your fantasies overlook the fact that drugs were criminalized specifically because of the societal problem they caused when they were readily available. No one woke up one day and said, "Hey, let's do this because it's a stupid idea!" In fact, even though Phibition itself was a bad idea, the same people who undid that mistake left the drug laws intact. So even they didn't buy the BS you're selling, in the day.
And your comments regarding the efficacy of prison are undone by the current experience with declining crime rates exactly as we've incarcerated more criminals for longer sentences. Real prison terms work, because criminals commit a dozen or a hundred crimes for every one they get caught and sentenced for. Including drug crimes. (What a shock, people who won't work for a living honestly also tend to use drugs regularly. Chicken/egg. Who knew? Oh, besides cops, prison guards, judges, DAs, medical people, and oh just about everyone, I mean...)Smart people call that a trend-line. So you're left arguing against both the experience of past history, and that of the present day. So I can believe you, or my lying eyes.
But what we expressly AREN'T doing is "trying (Prohibition) with drugs" - except to the extent that Prohibition wasn't seriously followed anywhere either, and was in fact flouted by most Americans the entire time it was in effect. We pretend to enforce drug sanctions, and government, being what it is, fucks it up and uses it to advance against their Constitutional limits.
The current so-called drug war is nothing but screwing around with it. Revolving door justice for druggies doesn't work. Stop dicking with it. And stop the strawman argument of pretending anything we're doing for the last 50 years is the best and brightest way to go after it, let alone anything remotely like a war. It's not even close to a slapfight. Treat drug dealing as a capitol offense, and LWOP people for it, or go with bullet-to-the-head instead of parole, and see how many people want to step into that line of work.
You want to argue for a return to government following the Constitution, I'm with you completely. But bad practice doesn't justify bad policy, and when your wristwatch isn't working, you don't chop your arm off to get rid of it.

Aesop said...

If marijuana were actually treated like the drug it is, it would come in varying dosages measured in milligrams, like every real drug does, and the scrip for it would be written by a doctor, and you'd get it at a real pharmacy, for a given dosage per day, and a given number of days, monitored by regular visits to that doctor, for the specific symptoms being treated, and those effects charted over time.
In other words, nothing like what we do anywhere.
Real medicines are classified, weighed out by dose, and actual medical practitioners titrate dosage for effect, for actual documented symptoms and real diseases. They don't give you a weed card to do all you want. The current pot legalization nonsense is thus nakedly merely carte blanche to potheads masquerading as medicine. And badly. But it was sold as "medical" marijuana, rather than libertine indulgence of the potheads. And the data we're getting is showing what a stupid idea it's been, because even with decriminalization and legalization, the amount of pot smuggled into even this hashhead state has gone up, not down, and the aftermath ends up in the ER and courts, as usual.
If TPTB wanted to treat it as an actual medicine, and study it as such, I would be all for it. Along with returning it to being treated exactly like every other drug we currently dispense.
Yeah, and if you replace the subject with baby porkchops (the other white meat!), it sounds like it was written by some anti-cannibal. Shocking, huh?
That's why I use words: they mean things.
But hey, call me when they enshrine protection of the right to keep and bear narcotic drugs in the Bill Of Rights, based on your pre-existing natural-law right to be stoned, and that observation will have some merit.
Then reflect that at the time of the Bill of Rights, mere public drunkenness was punished and punishable in every state by some time in the public stocks, where the state neither sheltered nor fed you, and passersby were free to throw insults or rotten fruit, at their whim.
Oh, for the good old days.

I appreciate one and all engaging. I simply ask that instead of any knee-jerk pro or con arguments, you look at the realities first.
I'm arguing from first-hand experience, amplified by nearly a century's worth of the same on a national scale, documented to the moon. So when your philosophical position doesn't accord with reality on the ground, it isn't reality that's wrong.

Anonymous said...

Aesop, exactly what I was asking for with marijuana. Reclassify so it can be studied in this country and, like Sativex is in Europe and Canada, prescribed with correct dosages under a doctor's supervision. And for God's sakes take out what it does to the head, at least for me. Just the antispasmodic, anti-nausea, and analgesic compounds in a fully licensed and prescribed dosage, like anything else. One nice thing based on studies is it doesn't seem to be physically addicting, so as a painkiller, if it's a replacement for Oxycontin or the other painkillers that are addictive, then that might stop some of the prescription drug abuse also running rampant. As it is now though, I know of very few medical marijuana users who actually use it for the intended purpose. My doctor and I did in a last-ditch attempt because I'm allergic to nearly everything on the planet, and it worked, but I absolutely hated it. Most people, it's a card to get high. For cancer and other serious illness patients I have to say I can't begrudge them it though. Whatever makes life livable for them with he pain they endure. That's when it IS medical marijuana. Still, I'd really like to see it purified, perhaps in a capsule form, and in measured doses for people like me who enjoy having a very clear head. I just dislike intense pain and vomiting, which is probably true for everyone ;) So if the FDA could just allow for those studies, please.

Aesop said...

IOW, exactly what it was billed as when they were pushing for it here in Califrutopia.
Right before it turned into "Weed for everyone who wants it".

I suspect Colorado's experience is going to be somewhat the worse for ducking even the pretense.

tweell said...

My problem with legalizing drugs is children and pedophiles. The standard kiddie-diddler hands out tobacco and alcohol to their marks, they don't like to deal with your standard drug dealer (too dangerous). With decriminalizing drugs, that issue would be gone. Get a child hooked on hard stuff, demonstrate withdrawal and the pedophile owns that child, body and soul. Blackest evil, and not least that the victim would be doing everything they could to stay that way, so they could get their next fix.

GamegetterII said...

@ tweell

That's beyond evil.
The problem with the short eyes/diaper snipers is that the sick fucks are not curable,"rehabilitation" does not,has not,and will not work on them-ever.
These are the people that need a bullet in the head-actually two-one in each head-small one first.
Legalizing drugs so the sick twisted diaper snipers can have an even better "tool" to ply their evil with-no thanks.
I think any drug dealer who is caught selling anything to the short eyes should be shot for doing so-no 20 years of appeals while they work their way down to minimum security prisons-instant death as soon as found guilty.
For the diaper snipers-bring back the stocks,give the parents a big pile of the small rocks the "inmates" made out of big rocks-and let them throw them at chester until they're out of rocks.
Both examples of punishment-being actual punishment-would rapidly lead to a sudden,very steep decline in the number of offenses committed by either one of the groups of not fit for civilized society types.