Legalizing Drugs: The Least Bad Answer

Dan Gillmor is a BoingBoing guest-blogger.

The Obama administration has named the latest of America's "drug czars" -- the person who heads the War on (Some) Drugs, a futile, expensive and supremely hypocritical campaign that has caused vastly more damage, in America and around the globe, than the problems it aims to fix. No one denies that drug misuse and addiction are often horrific to individuals and their families; what almost no one wants to ask, however, is whether legalization (or at least decriminalization) would have cumulatively less-bad effects. Perhaps the Warriors against (some) drugs -- almost all of whom, no doubt, are users of other drugs -- know that the weight of the evidence would not support their side.

Journalists, who are supposed to critically examine orthodoxy, have been especially cowardly. They won't go near the issue except at the edges, notably when voters in state after state approve "medical marijuana" in the clear realization that the drug-banning forces are cruelly indifferent to some kinds of human suffering that often can be alleviated with a well-filled water pipe.

One traditional journalism organization has been consistently asking the right questions, for several decades now. And the current issue of the Economist again treads confidently and logically where its peers won't begin to venture in this editorial, which begins:

A hundred years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission–just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.

That is the kind of promise politicians love to make. It assuages the sense of moral panic that has been the handmaiden of prohibition for a century. It is intended to reassure the parents of teenagers across the world. Yet it is a hugely irresponsible promise, because it cannot be fulfilled.

Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless. That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs.


  1. Well, in the US I think the beginning of the end of the war on drugs is near.

    Once the State of California starting cashing the tax checks from pot growers, there’s no way they’ll be turning back any time soon. After that, look to plenty of other states to get in on the action.

    This will, I think, more than outweigh the “benefits” of continued illegalization: Creating more police and prison system jobs isn’t a very cost-effective way of generating tax revenue.

    I’d also point out that pot is nothing compared to alcohol, in terms of body damage and violence-induction.

    Am I an advocate of pot usage? Hell no. That’s why I’m strongly pro-legalization.

    But in the end, if we’re talking about America, is it really American for the government to interfere with what consenting adults want to put into their own bodies?

  2. Drugs are not a particularly good thing… but neither is ice cream. My issue with the drug war is the pigheaded refusal to put results over ideology. Banning drugs and hunting down users and dealers is ideology. Coming up with a cost benefit analysis would put results in the forefront.

    For instance, ponder for a moment the moral revolution at the idea of not only making drugs legal, but making it a-okay for people go research new drugs. What if instead of selling already dangerously toxic chemicals made in a filthy basement by a person with no training and a near indifference as to quality of his product, you made drugs in sterilized FDA approved facilities after a nice long 10 year clinical study to understand the effects?

    Legal markets crush black markets. No one distills alcohol because it is easier, quicker, and safer to plunk down $10 for a handle of vodka. Even when threatened with high costs through taxes, the vast majority of people don’t bother to grow, much less roll their own tobacco despite the potentially massive costs savings.

    Imagine if instead of having people buy drugs off the street, they could buy them from a pharmacy. Imagine if there was an approval process for recreational drugs that centered on ensuring a lack chemical addictiveness, proper dosing, and safe use. Are people still going to find ways to OD or become dependent? Absolutely. Alcohol is one such drug. However, think of the benefits? You destroy the black markets. Tax revenue soars. Criminal activity suddenly becomes drastically harder as the largest source of funding is cut off. Prisons are left for real criminals. People with a problem can get help.

    To me it is simple. We have done the experiment already. Was the US a better place during prohibition or after it? Did prohibition of one of the most deadly, mind altering, and addictive drugs (alcohol) lead to greater or lesser social costs? The evidence is utterly conclusive. Prohibition leads to terrible social costs. Legalization isn’t a bed of roses, but it beats the alternative.

  3. unfortunately, a lot of what the UN does IS a racket, just as some critics of the UN say about other things the UN does. The UN has no credibility here and should be ignored as either corrupt,backward or both. Since most of the good suggestions the UN makes in human rights and peace work are utterly disregarded by so many, so then let this block-headed imbecile policy be likewise flushed.

  4. “The United Nations Drug Control Program noted the inevitable risk of drug-related police corruption in 1998, when it reported that “wherever there is a well-organized, illicit drug industry, there is also the danger of police corruption.”
    United Nations International Drug Control Program, Technical Series Report #6: Economic and Social Consequences of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (New York, NY: UNDCP, 1998), p. 38.”

    in other words, the UN acknowledges UN staff drawing pay from the Waronsomedrugs Industry have a stake in keeping drugs illegal – regardless of facts.

  5. Are they ( Obabma, the Washington establishment, congress, Nancy Pelosi…) listening?

    There are some amazingly powerful interests who are intent at keeping even cannabis illegal: the drug cartels (keep the price high), the law enforcement establishment(no money for enforcement – that’s their job), and the prison industry (obvious interests) to name three, and there are more. Mass media like CNN, MSNBC (who should know better) even New Scientist (who publishes regularly on the evils of marijuana ) are ignorant, or cowed (root of coward) by their incorrect perceptions on the issue. People *should* have the power – we did, afterall get Obama elected. Now is the time to *work* to get medieval drug laws reversed!

  6. er… dupe?

    I’m slightly disappointed by the surprised reaction that The Economist might strike out in an intellectually-lead direction countering the current orthodoxy; that’s been their USP, really, for as long as I’ve been reading it anyway. (And I’m a pretty died-in-the-wool pansy hippy tree-hugger freakniktard. )

  7. I doubt if I can expand much on the many good points already, but he’s my 1 cent worth. My guess would be that the folks who have the most to lose would be the cigarette and alcohol folks, who peddle far more addictive and destructive products than weed, but do so legally. I think they do their best to perpetuate the ignorance about its relative harmlessness.

  8. @7: No they are not listening.

    Major 2008 Presidential Candidates that supported some form of drug legalization:

    Ralph Nader
    Bob Barr
    Ron Paul

  9. “Drugs are not a particularly good thing… but neither is ice cream.”

    Yep, can’t count the number of times people have become addicted to ice cream and turned to a life of crime so that they may be able to pay for a few ice cream hits a day. Every day, I see stories about people ripping off copper wiring to pay for more ice cream.

    Are you advocating that drugs be made free, too? Because, if not, there will still be people too poor to afford their drug habits who will turn to crime to support it. Only, there would be many, many, many more of these criminals if drugs were actually legal and openly available. How about this– make drugs legal but only if you also make killing any and all drug addicts who try to rob you of anything at all nothing more than a ticketable offense with a minor fine? Oh, forget the ticket, how about giving out “friends of Darwin” medals for people who plug druggies?

    The least bad solution to the drug problem is a swift execution of drug dealers.

  10. Drug prohibition is precisely like the stoking of religious factionalism, serving to violently divide a populace against itself. With equivalent arguments, almost the same arguments, used in both cases.
    Who benefits?
    Clue: it ain’t the Average Joes and Janes, who pay for this shit three times over, that’s for sure!
    And who get a billy in the face or contemptuos sneers, if they ask for welfare/health care/help with the mortgage?

  11. yes, Mr. garrison, the state should make those drugs like meth and heroin and cocaine free to registered users. Why not? Cheaper than paying for the cops and prisons and crimes: and this shit is dirt dirt cheap to produce in quantity: and hey! the world was not bad because of drug addiction, prior to their prohibition round about the year 1900….in fact the next hundred years were the worst in human history for the sheer number of people killed in wars, none of which were started by druggies (Hitler was a teetotaler, after all…and Stalin drank).
    But then again, you think killing people is a good thing.

  12. The coolest thing about this editorial is that the Economist editors refer to “illiberal” as a bad thing.

    Long live the liberal Economist!

  13. By the way, mr. garrison, US banks have caused very recently caused more damage to America than terrorists or drug users ever have.
    What? No cry for executions?

  14. Yep, can’t count the number of times people have become addicted to ice cream and turned to a life of crime so that they may be able to pay for a few ice cream hits a day. Every day, I see stories about people ripping off copper wiring to pay for more ice cream.

    Bad food kills vastly more people than drugs. We let people make stupid decisions all of the time.

    The rest of your argument can be equally applied to alcohol, which is also a very powerful and addictive mind altering drug. I suppose you advocate alcohol prohibition (again) because it worked out so awesome the first time, right?

    Are you advocating that drugs be made free, too? Because, if not, there will still be people too poor to afford their drug habits who will turn to crime to support it.

    Which is different from now… how? We already have at least two expensive and addictive drugs that are utterly legal. Tobacco and alcohol are both addictive. Tobacco is in fact extremely addictive and expensive. Do you live your life in fear of people mugging you so they can get a few bucks for cigarettes or have you created in your head a magical barrier between drugs and drugs legal by legacy?

    If absolutely nothing, we need a sane and rational look at drug laws. Even if you want to swallow the argument that drugs lead to nothing but dependent users addicts who can’t function in society (err, except alcohol, that is the exception of course), and that the cost of these addicts is the massive and futile “war on drugs” that we have been losing since, oh, the dawn of human history, that still doesn’t justify the current drug laws.

    There are many utterly benign drugs that are illegal and not addictive or particularly harmful, yet we still waste countless billions “fighting” and failing against them. Further, you could merrily crush the “bad” drugs if you simply made it legal to research and sell better drugs.

    And finally, before we get any more OMG DRUGS ARE EVIL AND SHOULD BE ILLEGAL arguments, could the proponents of this position reconcile the legality and general belief that prohibition is bad for alcohol but good for everything else? Alcohol really is a drug, even if it is legal. You can OD on it, it doesn’t do nice things to your body, it and has mind altering effects that put most other drugs to shame. Yet we tolerate it and would be mortified by the suggestion that we ban it.

  15. The least bad solution to the drug problem is a swift execution of drug dealers.

    The least bad solution to any problem is the swift execution of people who call for swift executions.

    Oh, wait…

  16. Legalizing more drugs will not improve anything. Rampant drug use is a symptom of a crappy society, so why not work on the reasons why people use drugs.
    -Mental heath problems.

    It is a fracking fantasy that taxes from legal cannabis sales would benefit someone. More drug use will mean MORE people who are incapable of supporting themselves let alone their kids. Without adequate welfare they turn to crimes, so all those taxes will be spend on either helping People with drug problems or imprisoning them.

  17. It is a fracking fantasy that taxes from legal cannabis sales would benefit someone.

    -10 points, as President Roslin was toking on last weeks BSG.

  18. lets see Mr.garrison: the price will stay sky-high, in the complete absence of prohibition or legal sanction upon use or production, so high as to necessitate “users/addicts to commit crimes like they do now to supply their habits. Right.
    And you feel that the state should reward people who kill drug users, and that the death penalty is an appropriate penalty for selling marijuana or whatever “drug” the State may deem to be illegal.
    I’ll vote against that: the State ought not to be able to kill anybody: from whence have we the people ever gained such a power, to delegate it to our elected leaders?

  19. The other night while getting baked on some great local grown mad weed my friends and I got the munchies…turns out all our money was spent on the weed and we decided to shop-lift some Doritos…Later after discussing the origin of the color blue we wandered to our separate homes and fell into a deep comfortable sleep.


    The other night my friends and I smoked up some crak…ran out and robbed a liquor store to buy some more rock.

    hmmmm,,,which sounds better to you?

  20. Well, Obama may have appointed a drug czar, but as the article above mentioned, he removed it as a cabinet-level position. Another article with a headline I preferred:
    Between degrading the status of the drug czar, and the directive to end govt raiding of dispensaries, there is at least a little reason to hope…

  21. Legalizing more drugs will not improve anything. Rampant drug use is a symptom of a crappy society, so why not work on the reasons why people use drugs.

    You want to make them less fun? Scientifically craft all music and art so that its enjoyment is not enhanced by increased dopamine flow?

    I’m not even addressing the rest of your post, it’s so ridiculous.

  22. MDH. The fantasy is that there is an other. Nobody but you smoking. People used to be friends automatically . Now we have problems. The last thing we need is a drug recovery program. There is no such thing.

  23. “The least bad solution to the drug problem is a swift execution of drug dealers.”

    If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. – Solzhenitsyn.

  24. @ Bloodboiler #26:

    Legalizing more drugs will not improve anything. Rampant drug use is a symptom of a crappy society, so why not work on the reasons why people use drugs.
    -Mental heath problems.

    A big part of the poverty issue has to do with the huge percentage of the lower class that are serving hard time for non-violent drug crimes instead of supporting themselves or their families. Then when they are eventually released they often find that nobody wants to hire convicted felons EXCEPT their old buddies in the drug trade.

    It’s all connected, man. If we really want to help make society less crappy then we should treat drug abuse as a social disease, like alcoholism. Money would be far better spend on prevention and treatment than continuing the long-since-lost “war on drugs.”

  25. I suspect that one of the reasons legalizing pot has never quite taken hold is that there really isn’t enough financial interest in favor of it. Near as I can tell from popular discussion, the stuff grows like a weed (pun intended) and requires very little processing. Some people no doubt (perhaps myself) would buy the occasional Phillip Morris California Gold pack for the convenience, but I suspect the bulk of the market would go to local small time growers or people growing for their own use.

    So there is no bonanza for the state in taxing pot sales, there are no big companies pushing the government to open up a market. There’s only common sense. That may not be enough.

  26. People use drugs. There is no causal factor, as they always have. Drug laws are an assault on personal autonomy. Legalize all of them.*

    *’cept Fentanyl

  27. bloodboiler: a lot of people I know (who are all doing very very well for themselves, thank you very much for caring, but it seems you care not enough to stop hiring police goons to throw them into prison, take their jobs and kids and homes and right to vote away, etc., for smoking weed) think that “society” would take a giant step to being less “crappy” if they could legally use (ie without fear of suffering state violence) what they shall use anyway: IMHO much of what is “crappy” in “society”, can be laid at the door of this particularly misguided and bad-in-its-effects policy – particularly effects like the way the drug laws violently divide civil society against itself (even families torn apart! parents lie-ing to children, and vice-versa!), and how their enforcement leads to entire communities having no respect for any laws whatsoever, and for those entrusted and charged with the enforcement of the laws, primarily (or only!) because the law has it so very wrong with respect to drugs, and is so spectacularly bad in its effects upon their happiness, ease and leisure.
    Also, note how the nature of drug crime – bare possession – lessens the need for proof of “bad will” or intent to harm others or their interests; the so-called drug “criminal” need not have an iota of actual harmful intent in his heart, in order for her to be cast into the same pit as violent felons, and predators. How fair is that? Is this calculated to help the vulnerable? Is not protection of the vulnerable the only justification for penal sanctions for drugs?
    Is this not an abuse of the criminal law itself, which is directed in all other cases at the vicious, that is, the intent or recklessness of harm to others, and which thereby justifies its attack on an individual’s liberty?
    This unwarranted enlargement of the scope and reach of the criminal law brings the entire edifice of the Law into disrepute.
    Unless “vicious” is taken to mean precisely “not to obey the commands of the State, no matter how arbitrary or unreasoned”. The un-American view, that what the King says, goes. Period. No discussion. Analogous to persecuting protestants, by the criminal law, in a catholic country….
    A rather viciously circular definition of “vicious”: “it is whatever the King says it is”: and its off to prison with the disagreeable “subject”…in the US that used to be, “citizen”.
    And it is certainly not vicious to advocate the execution of those who traffic in harmless or beneficial and popular contraband, no sir, not in the Land of Liberty.
    Let us now praise vicious men, eh Mr. garrison? As long as it is in a good cause, no?

  28. If you legalize drugs: You take money away from terrorists, lower the price, raise the quality, raise tax revenues, lower violent crime rates, take money out the CIA’s pocket, fund recovery for those who want to quit, lower the number of crack hoes, lower the number of people in jail, you could grow marijuana for hemp paper and help green the planted one tree at a time, sell hemp seeds which are very high in protein, topple drug lords, stop drug wars, and many other things that are not so fun. Lots of positives and the only losers are people in law enforcement (less needed) and investors in privately owned prisons…

  29.     As RetchDog mentioned author Iain (M.) Banks, and since I’ve read all Banks’ Culture novels, I must admit that after this discussion I’m hankering for some drug (smoke) bowls and especially for some drug glands.
        Anyone know how to expatriate to a certain offworld socialist-anarchist post-scarcity utopia (preferably without death)?

  30. “The least bad solution to the drug problem is a swift execution of drug dealers.”

    Are you talking about killing all the employees of big pharmaceutical companies?

    Or maybe just killing all the 7-year-olds who trade their extra Ritalin for Hostess Twinkies at lunchtime?

    Do you believe that all illegal activities are automatically immoral?

    Are all legal activities automatically moral?

    Please define your terms.

  31. I have never meet a liberal that I like. I have been way too trashed behind “Sorry I hurt you” My Main Man Simple Human Spirit Loves your Hell. You have not been anywhere that Love cannot penetrate. Trillions of Dollars are as useless as Death in the water.

  32. The least bad solution to the drug problem is a swift execution of drug dealers.

    So then the least bad solution to the AIDS problem is to execute all who test positive?

    Your hate of stereotyped ‘drug dealers’ is exceeded only by my disgust with your intolerant, inhumane, and violent ‘solution’.


    The truth is that very few people develop addictions to ANY drug, and of the few that do, the vast majority have the presence of mind to recognize the problem as such and adjust accordingly.

    ARE there people out there whose crimes are fueled by addiction? YES. So what’s a better solution? Start offing the bastards? Or perhaps we ought to consider that a fraction of the population has ALWAYS taken mind altering substances, WILL ALWAYS take mind altering substances, and that the COMPASSIONATE and RIGHTEOUS thing to do is seek a solution that can accommodate ALL people.

    Put all the drug war money towards developing NONADDICTIVE ALTERNATIVES to the primitive garbage that we have now – namely heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

    Heard of LSD? It’ll get you at an order of magnitude higher than coke. And yet, the next day, there is absolutely no desire to repeat yesterdays experience. And LSD is kind of a fluke, it was discovered at least somewhat accidentally. 70 years ago.

    We could likely do some really wonderfully balanced things with modern technology, and make things like coke and heroin effectively OBSOLETE, and for VIRTUALLY NO COST (LSD costs about 20 to 30 CENTS per hit to produce clandestinely. In a proper lab, even less)

    So there you go, you authoritarian pigs – No addiction, no (significant) financial burden, no brain damage, nothing. Even if this weren’t simply a matter of personal freedom, all your arguments could be negated by decent science within only a few years.

    But you wouldn’t want people doing drugs even if all your arguments went away. You’d stick to your position as if it were a principle. And that’s what makes you unqualified to start any sentence with the phrase, “I think…” – You don’t think. You feel, and try and rationalize those feelings by grasping at straws and inciting panic among the gullible population (Legalization! OH NOES! Crack Dealers will give our kids drugs and we’ll be helpless to stop them!)

    Get your nose out of other peoples business, stop stifling progress, and stop advocating violence towards human beings who are simply DOING WHAT THEY’VE BEEN DOING SINCE THE DAWN OF FUCKING TIME.

  33. Swampdog said “I suspect the bulk of the market would go to local small time growers or people growing for their own use.”

    I think you greatly overestimate the public aptitude for DIY.

  34. I forgot to mention a point of ugly in Death Valley. A Golf course, Why? The present owners are not worthy of respect. Do the honorable thing and cash out.

  35. Universal health care, game cookies, theremins, drag law reform. It’s like someone peeked into my brain and made BB for me, today.

    Mr Garrison: RTFA, maybe? Then consider rindan @ #4. Then maybe you’ll reconsider your hysterical response.

    Although I appreciate many won’t see prohibition for what it really is – ideological gunk slowly ruining the world.

    Arguing for legalisation is actually exactly like banging your head against a wall: you look like a loon to way too many people, and after a while they think you’re doing it because you’re off your nutter on meth or something.

    That’s why journalists are so amazingly spineless when it comes to tackling this issue, and why it’ll continue to be so easy for bigots to prod at drug users like they’re subhuman.

  36. @#47: Agreed. It’s not like many people grow their own tobacco or brew their own beer now. Hell, most people don’t grow their own bean sprouts and all you need for that is a Chia Pet.

  37. Signaljammer: You mean criminalise fentanyl, it’s legal already. And yeah, if they replace it with something worthwhile, i could get behind that.

  38. #46 Sigh. No problem. It is the word problem. My problem is I have no problem Loving you. Seems natural.

  39. @takuan

    He’s still evil, rich, happy, got away with war crimes and knows there’s nothing anybody will do about it. Seems like he’s still on top.

  40. I’ve struggled with this idea for years, especially since I come from a family with a long history of alcoholism and addictive personalities (why yes, depression and ADD run in my gene pool- thanks so much for asking).
    We can’t stop the source, but we can scuttle the profitability of the illegal distribution network and allow our Public Health/Medical systems to deal directly with the drug consumer.
    If we legalize drugs, we can inform the consumer, regulate usage and use the distribution system to offer medical help and alternatives to the consumers.
    There are hundreds of people who use hard drugs in an attempt to treat undiagnosed organic problems or PTSD. These people could be reached and medically helped through information given out at Legal Drug Distribution Centers.
    The bored thrill seeker would get information on how to use safely, and reduce their risk of hurting themselves or others.
    So, we’d take away the huge profits that feed the violence in our cities, install legal use centers where people would be taught safe(r) usage of the drugs and given alternatives to help alleviate the REASONS behind their drug use. Other than magically wishing all drugs away forever, what better free-world alternative do we have?

  41. Keeper of the Lantern said:

    Am I an advocate of pot usage? Hell no. That’s why I’m strongly pro-legalization.

    Thaaaaaaaaaaank you!

  42. Lotsa drugged brains wandering about trying to think themselves awake. No Drugged brain has ever died bigger than it’s doses. Love Brain freedom has nothing to do with reality It is about Service.

  43. The only thing you need to understand about this is the obvious response of any elected official to this idea. Every last one, no matter who they are, will say the same thing.

    “I think this sends the wrong message, especially to children”.

    This is the one issue that is a sure-kill to anyone currently seeking to be elected now or in the future.

  44. MDH This is the whole point of it. Me/We be bigger than we think we are. Living with it is a Bitch. Male or Female

  45. Hey there Fltndboat, just a quick note to let you know that you’re failing to construct coherent sentences and your posts are meaningless. Don’t know how it’s looking from your side, but I hope it makes some kind of sense there.

  46. in the comments section of the Economist article, there were many posts relating a personal experience with a friend or loved one who lost themselves to addiction and crime and death, and using this admittedly horrible experience as evidence that drugs should indeed remain illegal. I thought it was peculiar that they did not see how if drugs were NOT illegal their friends or loved ones might have followed a different path, through education and treatment and such. I don’t fault them for a visceral response to the issue, but we need rational decisions for a change.

  47. George . Please.Re- Member. I T alken some realey dumb stuff that hase no valitidey anywhere.

  48. I am continually amazed that we can spend billions upon billions of dollars to infringe upon the liberty of citizens world wide. Irrationality rules.

    btw I’m with Robulus on the incoherency of Fltndboat’s posts- what the hell do you mean?

  49. Just seen on our local (Oregon) news:
    The State is considering a bill to prohibit citizens from growing their own Medical Marijuana (MM); one of the subjects interviewed (MS sufferer, MM prescription) grows her own for roughly $75/month with a rough yield of 3 oz./month. The State wants to prohibit personal growth for these people, take over cultivation, and sell it to MM users at a cost of roughly $275/month.


    On the recreational side, why does it automatically have to be drug abuse? That implies that the slightest exposure automatically makes one an addict; I know plenty of successful people that just plain use. Disillusionment with government – based on these perceived lies – breeds mistrust in all government.

  50. I’m torn on this issue.

    On the one hand, I find it insanely, painfully, OBVIOUSLY hypocritical that pot is illegal and alcohol is legal. I admit, I have never smoked anything illegal (although I LOVE Salvia Divinorum), but I know dozens of people who regularly smoke weed.

    First off, gateway drug my ass. I don’t know anyone who’s done pot and been like: “You know what? Fuck this kiddie shit and pass the heroin!” Everyone I know who smokes up sticks with it and doesn’t decide they want to go to a harder drug. And these are people I know well – lawyers, engineers, even a psychologist.

    Also, if people didn’t buy pot from the same people they could get shit like heroin from, there would be less of a “gateway” effect because they wouldn’t even have the option!

    I’ve watched people get drunk and be like: “SHIT WE NEED TO DRIVE SOMEWHERE LIKE, RIGHT NOW GET IN THE CAR.” All the people I’ve seen get stoned are like: “Shit…the chips are all the way over there…eh.”


    I find it difficult to believe that you should suddenly start going with the flow of things just because your efforts to change them are fruitless. Tell a war protester they should stop protesting because we all know war won’t go away. I find it to be the same situation with the drug war: We should legalize because we’re not successful in stopping it anyway? I know there are other reasons to legalize, but I feel like there are legitimate reasons for military intervention, too.

    The drug war has had countless casualties – people thrown into jail for years for no greater crime than possessing something (marijuana) that is LESS HARMFUL than a legal alternative (alcohol). I’m 100% for the legalization of marijuana.

    Other drugs, not so much. Many are addictive in a way that pot just isn’t. And yeah, nicotine might be the most addictive substance evar omg lol, but as was mentioned above: If you have a cigarette craving and you can’t get a cigarette, you don’t rob someone over it. If someone wants crack or heroin or meth, well – people WILL steal and mug and kill for that shit. And making it legal doesn’t suddenly mean they can afford it, unless we start passing it out at the local college campus or something.

    And the whole libertarian “I should be able to put into my body whatever I’d like” thing doesn’t fly with me, either. You could inject radioactive materials and then stroll around downtown, poisoning people.

    “But then you’d be hurting others!” come the cries.

    Unfortunately, so do addicts of many chemically addicting things (No, I don’t include food on there – an addiction to eating or what-have-you beyond biological need is a PSYCHOLOGICAL addiction) – alcoholics black out and then cheat on their spouses and drive drunk and beat their families and ruin other peoples’ lives, coke and crack and heroin addicts do whatever it takes to get another hit, etc.

    Do drug addicts need help? Absolutely. Do they need help because THEY made a potentially bad decision? Absolutely. Hell, doctors don’t refuse to treat a patient because they decided to drive drunk and ended up wrapping their car around a tree.

    We can all agree that people do drugs for different reasons: peer pressure, shitty life situation, whatever. But people suffering, even for willingly stupid decisions, only makes matters worse.

    So basically, for legalizing marijuana (completely for), but most anything else I just can’t get behind legalization.

    I’m sorry for yelling.

  51. any bio-hackers on the premises? Why does THC have to be produced solely by cultivation of whole plants?

  52. Always a great and controversial debate this.

    At the very least we should start with decriminalisation of marijuana and provide heroin to addicts as part of an addiction treatment program.

  53. Takuan, I believe its been synthesised. Apparently the effect is similar to psychadelics like LSD.

    Medicinally of course, they don’t want to just synthesise THC, because that would be too awesome. So they’re trying to find synthetics that get the anti-nausea and pain relieving effects without the dude-I-totally-forgot-what-I-was-saying effects. Like Codeine to Morphine.

    Little hope IMO. It’s all part of one crazy package.

  54. The cultivation of the “whole plant” is mostly done with clones, nowadays…does that count as bio-hacking?

  55. The Stranger – February 18, 2009

    In the first week of February, the news broke that President Barack Obama had tapped Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske to serve as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy—a position colloquially known as “drug czar.” The choice looks perfect from many angles: Kerlikowske would be relieved from patrolling a third-tier burg, and we’d be relieved to unload Kerlikowske. Moreover, if confirmed by the Senate, our top cop—a liberal by national standards—could take Seattle’s progressive approach to drug enforcement to Washington, D.C.

  56. robulus@74

    synthetic marijuana = merinol often prescribed for weight gain with HIV-AIDS patients.

    oh and it also helps Fltndboat make sense of what he/she/it is writing.

  57. @ #74 & #72

    THC is only produced in the resin glands of the mature female cannabis plant in any sort of quantity, the resin glands are called trichomes.

    The systhesis is called Marinol it is nothing like smoking cannabis it got me high once then even taking mildly heroic doses of it had little effect.

    Cannabis is much like Milk thistle a hard to synthesize natural compound that has proven positive health effects, take milk thistle to improve liver function.

    On the topic of small time local growers I suspect if they could take their hobbies and turn them into their careers I imagine there would be quite a few who would make that leap.

  58. cannabis first grew wild and humans discovered and used its properties, harvesting from a “weed”, as required, where discovered. This went on for thousands of years.

    With the advent of agriculture, cannabis was grown in a designated place and breeds distinguished, some for chemical use, some for physical properties of fiber. This went on for several thousand years.

    In a time still in the memory of some living, in few relatively minor places, cannabis became a political football for a few narrow interests and was attacked and banned. This drove cultivation to random weed patches, places beyond the law of those suffering under the bans and outdoor fields hidden in other crops.

    For a past few decades, cheap aviation (mostly helicopter) drove cannibis out of hidden fields and into indoor grow operations. At this point,significant energy was put into breeding for potency and compact bulk yield.

    Even more recently, computer surveys of power usage, infra-red scanning for heat signatures and enormous funding for bribing informants has moved cannibis cultivation into cool LED lighting, better hydroponics, CO2 and air filtering systems and even more breeding. As well as a crime peak.

    The next logical step is development by genetic manipulation of “plantless” growing of the THC bearing tissues. Petri dishes of green jello perhaps.

  59. Look how overtly the media frames the issue of Prohibition v. Legalization as a harm-reduction strategy. This subscribes both sides of this argument to the same meme: “We should legalize/prohibit drugs, whichever causes the least harm.”

    There is also the very valid position that “criminal drug prohibition infringes on the inalienable right to freedom of thought.” See Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics.

  60. One common thread I see between many liberals and many conservatives is this: A simple distrust for other human beings. A belief that the majority of the population is stupid and irresponsible. A belief that, given the opportunity and not (protected/prevented), most people will do stupid things.

    This is a reply to Garrison, of course.

    Knives are legal, and it’s perfectly easy to get one and cut yourself.

    Robitussin and Benadryl are legal, and both have a psychoactive effect much greater than many street drugs if taken in sufficient quantities.

    So, why do we not have epidimics of knife attacks and OTC drug abuse?

    In reality, the statistics have not shown and increase in crime in those countries that have legalized drugs.

    Create more laws and you create more lawlessness.

  61. I read about the first half of the comments, but gotta throw my dime-bags worth into the mix (the drugs made me do it!). [Most] Drugs could be legalized and regulated in a stringent manner, taxed like a motherfucker, as well as government provided TRUTHFUL education to the masses regarding what they are using (think DEA but for drug truth), thus giving people an idea of chemicals they may be imbibing (ala the ethos of Erowid: know your drug, know your source). That’s all kittens, rainbows and butterfly kisses though, as we live in a world so fucking corrupt with greed, vampiric on the attrition and pain of people, innocent or otherwise, that legalization is the proverbial “ship on the horizon”; close enough to see, but far enough to leave us stranded.

  62. Legalization = regulation = a safer and better quality product.

    This would remove many of the dangers from small-scale produced (or locally watered-down) drugs.

    Not the least of which are fertilizer nitrates from badly grown cannabis.

    Let alone removing monster income streams from sociopathic organizations.

  63. write to Obama and ask him why he is supporting crime by maintaining the DEA Cartel. (also put in a PS that we’re all dying to know how the three tonnes of coke got on the crashed CIA jet.)

  64. Legalization advocates:

    (a word in your ear, if you please)

    Abandon empirics.

    The “other” side refuses to learn from empirics. They disregard Prohibition. They disregard the successes from other modern countries with more liberal policies. They disregard the period of history pre-legalization. They disregard other, parallel legal drugs (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar).

    They really do not intend to study or measure any of their claims.

    I first realized this when I was discussing this issue and someone raised the strawperson of how many lives they have seen ruined by crime fueled by drug addiction. This one is so embarrassingly wrong I jolted awake … they don’t care about the actual truth of the issue! They feel free to assert whatever they like. (because, dude, how much crime ensues if legalized drugs cost the price of a pack of cigarettes? really, it is illegality of drugs that causes crime! see: Prohibition.)


    So how do you reach them? They love narratives. Imagine Reverend Lovejoy’s wife “won’t someone think of the children!!”

    So here is the narrative my friends:

    A few years back, a candy company introduced a candy that tasted like hemp. Didn’t get you high, just flavoring. I nodded sagely to the Mrs, pointing out that this is a great opportunity for organizations like the ACLU to move the needle on Probable Cause. The Mrs. rolled her eyes.

    And I thought that was the end of it.


    A high school principal banned the candy. Suddenly, a tepid sales profile had a volcanic hot spot at that school.

    This is the reason why banning pot fails in a way the “other side” can understand… it fails the TEENAGER test. We all know what those darned teenagers are like, right? An arbitrary and mysterious ban just encourages them!

    Don’t you think the best way to stop teenagers is to have their parents try to make them smoke pot?

    (The point is: the same mindset that distrusts fellow citizens to the point of being blind to empirics is ESPECIALLY sensitive to teenagers. USE their blind spots.)


    I personally approve of the drug war, despite its enormous cost, since it imprints very strongly on very many youths: don’t trust the government. They are knowingly lying.

    It is an essential meme for navigating today’s society.

  65. @HighlyVerbal: Brownie points all around. Excellent point, every single one things I have thought and argued before, but put eloquently. Well played.

  66. Drugs are not going away ever. Everyone knows it. The prisons are stuffed 7 million and counting. Law enforcement put people in prison for 10 bucks in crack. Talk about stupid.

    Jail costs a minimum of 35k a year. Prison averages in 50-70k a year.

    And if all that crap wasn’t enough, the one drug you can buy everywhere can turn you into a blathering, dangerous, moron with less sense than a 3 year old.

    Nothing will ever change, 1 out of 31 people are in jail. That number will only keep going up.

  67. Where do people get of on ejaculating left and right what other people should do with their lives?

    I smoked hashish and weed every day for two years some 8 years ago. My brain has never been the same since. My brain used to never fail me. Information I wanted was swiftly produced from memory, new info was stored and remained stored, words were flowing. I was pretty smart.

    Now Im not so smart anymore. Mainly Its the memory, both the collecting of new items and the efficiency of the archive. Its not working as well anymore. Its nothing noone else would notice but I notice it. And it makes me very sad sometimes. Its a damn shame.

    I started smoking cos it was wonderfull. It made music better, sex better, it made me very happy. I was really into it. I didnt mind it being illegal, but I was careful, cos I was a medical student and wouldnt be good for my “future” if i got cought.

    It beeing illegal had nothing to do we me quiting.
    I stopped smoking cos I got bored, I got stupid and I got paranoid. The passion passed.

    Point beeing, I would have smoked the same amount of dope regardless of it was a crime or not. The legality issue didnt influence my choice, and I think this is generally so for us users. We have our own reasons for using. And for quiting. It made no differene to me if it was legal or not. To most people it doesnt matter. I would have started any way, and I would have quit anyway, but i would not have quit sooner. Thats why its so stupid and sad that our small experiences is fueling some drugbaron and funneling money into crime instead of paying for schools and museums.


  68. studies were done in the UK a long time back, where they simply gave heroin to a number of addicts. What happened? Those addicts managed to begin to start leading normal lives again.

    Speaking as someone who’s both enjoyed (and on occasion) been addicted to a wide range of chemicals in my time – ‘civilians’ (non users) have a wide range of strange ideas about certain drugs. I will focus on heroin.

    What the UK study showed, was that by providing the heroin user with their fix – it meant that the addict no longer had to spend a good portion of their day hunting for money to pay inflated prices for impure (dangerous) heroin.

    It also meant that they were no longer needing to be in the debt or company of organized crime or criminals who profited by them being as deeply addicted and as desperate as possible.

    Once the desperation for the next fix was removed, the individuals were able to focus on their lives again. I forget the length of time, but I think it was about 3-6 months after the study commenced, a number of the users had voluntarily stepped down to methadone, en route to getting off heroin for good.

    ‘Heroin user’ doesn’t mean ‘exciting’ or ‘scumbag’ – it just means ‘a drug user’. You can be real boring AND addicted to one or another substance. Something that most civilians simply fail to understand.

    Here in America where 1 in every 31 (I think – might be 1 in 51) citizens, is sitting in jail – there’s a huge profit industry in criminality. Not only are there privatized jails, but politically, the fascist element in the US enjoys the fear-mongering which the supposed ‘drug war’ provides them.

    One shouldn’t forget that it was the CIA who brought in massive quantities of cocaine, and dispensed it in criminal networks into the urban centers of US cities. (Iran Contra)

    Consult Wikipedia for an extended list of US government involvement in drug smuggling:

    Personally I don’t even class pot as a drug – as there is no physical addiction involved. Where I come from, its sold by the pound. No big deal. *shrug*.

    Heroin – like cocaine, is very cheap to manufacture. I recall a UK price for a dose of pharmaceutical heroin being in the area of $6.00 a fix.

    ALL the damage done by heroin, is caused by the impure garbage mixed in with heroin, by those supplying it. One can be a heroin user and lead a relatively normal life, without needing to descend into criminality.

    But it clearly suits the powers that be, to let those who have an addictive impulse, degenerate and provide slave labor for American prisons.

    The entire ‘debate’ (as if any is needed) seems to be purely about the desire for the State to exercise a fascist-level of control over the pleasure experienced by its citizens.

    I see nothing wrong with legalizing all drugs, and with the more powerful drugs, if necessary, letting those who need them, register and collect their daily fix, and let them become productive citizens, if that is their choice.

    And those who don’t need the drugs, or who have never had the urge for any form of mind altering substance, should learn to shut up, and mind their own business. Any other approach to the issue is at best unintelligent, and perversely voyeuristic at worst. Like wanting to stare at the physically challenged. Let it go.

    Naturally, the State would never legalize all the drugs it should, as there is a clear profit motive in imprisoning citizens for no genuine reason, and ensuring that the only drugs available are the quite primitive ones like ‘alcohol’ – which, unlike some of the more deliciously interesting psychedelics, won’t ever cause a personal change in worldview and philosophy.

  69. Agreed mr frankenstein: there are many reasons for prohibition: but there are no GOOD resons, only bad ones.
    It’s the line in the sand, the one the media never acknowledges:
    The Battle of our times:
    Drug Users vs. Nazis

  70. Hey! Do ya think that maybe Mr. Cheney’s hit squad took out some mexican dealers in order to start a “drug war” in Mexico?
    An anti-legalization propaganda ploy, solidifying the fascists/military grip on the trade into the US at the same time?
    The DEA was ‘ecstatic” that the mexicans declared martial law “because of drugs”: Why? Why applaud violence?
    How “democratic and freedom-loving” is that?

  71. Interesting too that the “W.” Justice department was surveilling Spitzer rather than the Wall street Bankers defrauding the US of billions:

    What a co-incidence that the “Sheriff of Wall street” – Spitzer – should be taken out (by leaks from W’s Justice Department!) just as the Big NY Banks started to die/rollover/stink/beg for bail-outs.
    Yes. What a co-incidence: just as the polls were becoming clear that the Repubs. would be thrown out, the Repubs gift Wall Street enough to cripple any incoming Admin’s hope of spending on social needs eg. universal health care.
    Yes. What a co-incidence!
    But if you have unlimited resources to wiretap your populace, there is no limit to the manipulations available to the “rulers”.
    curious too how wiretaps played a role in Spitzer/Blago/kwame’s falls: all Dems, all young, all toast…

  72. I could go either way. It would be nice to be able to travel with your stash without a thought, but legalization would squelch a lot of folks’ supplementary (or primary) income. Not everyone who deals is a scumbag, you know. In any urban American environment, drugs are, for all intents and purposes (in terms of ease of procurement) legal. So, whatever.

  73. Stegodon: Drugs are NOT legal, but your post shows that they should be: supplementary hippie income is not a “good” reason for prohibition: it is another “bad” reason for it.

  74. @#97: “ALL the damage done by heroin, is caused by the impure garbage mixed in with heroin, by those supplying it. One can be a heroin user and lead a relatively normal life, without needing to descend into criminality.”

    You have got to be kidding me. ALL the damage? The problems my heroin addicted acquaintances/roommates have had tend to be more the result of going on/off the drug and not recognizing that their tolerance had changed, or getting some infection from a needle (even unshared…it’s not good to keep poking holes in your body).

    I support people’s right to do whatever drug they want, but heroin almost inevitably becomes a frickin’ LIFESTYLE, and not a particularly sustainable one.

  75. I can’t believe that the smartest and strongest nations in the world consider marijuana on the same level as Heroin, Cocaine, and other hard core substances.


    Imagine for one second that the pharmaceuticals did not run the world.

    My clothes would be made out of hemp, as would my petroleum, my cooking oil, my plastics, my food, my ropes, my freakin life man!

    As Jack Herer once wrote:

    “In 1916, USDA Bulletin No. 404, reported that one acre of cannabis hemp, in annual rotation over a 20-year period, would produce as much pulp for paper as 4.1 acres (17,000 m2) of trees being cut down over the same 20-year period. This process would use only 1/4 to 1/7 as much polluting sulfur-based acid chemicals to break down the glue-like lignin that binds the fibers of the pulp, or none at all using soda ash. The problem of dioxin contamination of rivers is avoided in the hemp paper making process, which does not need to use chlorine bleach (as the wood pulp paper making process requires) but instead safely substitutes hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching process. … If the new (1916) hemp pulp paper process were legal today, it would soon replace about 70% of all wood pulp paper, including computer printout paper, corrugated boxes and paper bags.”

  76. @ stegodon #101:

    I could go either way. It would be nice to be able to travel with your stash without a thought, but legalization would squelch a lot of folks’ supplementary (or primary) income. Not everyone who deals is a scumbag, you know.

    That’s like saying we should have kept prohibition since not everyone who made their money from booze was as bad as Al Capone.

  77. Perhaps the Warriors against (some) drugs — almost all of whom, no doubt, are users of other drugs — know that the weight of the evidence would not support their side

    If our dear blogger is making any aspirations about being taken seriously outside of a narrow circle, he’d better not throw in such unsubstantiated ad-hominems. It reflects badly on his other arguments when one of is claims is so blatantly pulled out of his darker regions.

    Other than that, IAWC40

  78. You know forty (40!) YEARS AGO, songs like this:

    were on the Billboard Top 100.
    Is not the failure to change the reefer laws a failure of American democracy?
    How can something which > 50% of the populace tries at one time or another in their lives be subject to harsh legal penalties, without injustice?
    Why should people be taught to distrust the State? Whose interests does the widespread adoption of that view ultimately serve?

  79. Remember folks: Jury Nullification is the way the common people can change unjust laws. I spent a month on a grand jury and dismissed every single drug charge and tried to persuade (not very succesfully) others to do the same. Maybe we need people outside the courthouses disseminating this information.

  80. @92 Highly Verbal: I agree with the notion of your post but I think your use of the word ’empirics’ is out of place. Maybe add in grand scale empirics and it would then make sense. The fact is, as you stated in your post, those who are against legaliszation use personal stories as arguments. That’s still empirical evidence, it’s just at a smaller scale then “look at how poorly the US prohibition on alcohol worked out”.

    I think one of the effective arguments for legaliszation would in fact be personal stories. I remember hearing about a website where casual users of illicit drugs could post their story and give proof to the notion that not everyone who uses illicit drugs are addicts that are a burden to society AND that not everyone who tries a substance ends up abusing it. NEone know of the website to which I’m referring?

  81. Legal markets crush black markets. No one distills alcohol because it is easier, quicker, and safer to plunk down $10 for a handle of vodka.

    Uh. I don’t know where you live, but in the United States, illegal production of alcohol is huge. While it is a small fraction of what it was in prohibition times, it never went away. Cloned high-end liquors sold with fake labels are a particular problem.

    Plus, you just laid out the perfect counter-argument to the Economist’s “just tax it a lot” idea. You can buy a handle of vodka for $10. The tax for liquor hasn’t kept up with inflation – no one likes raising taxes. So if we legalize opium again, in 80 years or so we might see what amounts to a $10 tax on a pound of the stuff.

    That’s not to say that I don’t agree with decriminalization or even legalization. I just wish someone else with a similar multi-cultural makeup would do it first so we could see what happens first. :)

  82. One of my problems is that the people who think curent drug laws are just fine seem to want to use the following argument: “Drugs are illegal because they’re bad. Drugs are bad because they’re illegal.” And also tend to assume that all problems related to drugs under current laws would merely get worse if the laws were removed. Historical evidence suggests otherwise. Alcoholism rates went up noticably during prohibition and went down again to previous levels shortly after that ended. Which implies a similar pattern will happen with other drugs. Marijuana will become less interesting to many because it will no longer be illegal. Ever want to make someone do something? Tell them they aren’t allowed to. Works especially well with teenagers.

  83. @ Aloisius #112:

    “Legal markets crush black markets. No one distills alcohol because it is easier, quicker, and safer to plunk down $10 for a handle of vodka.”

    Uh. I don’t know where you live, but in the United States, illegal production of alcohol is huge…

    While it’s an inaccurate to say that no one distills their own alcohol it is just as much an overstatement to say the phenomenon is “huge” in the U.S. (at least compared to overall production). Unless you have some reliable stats to share?

  84. I love this thread.

    I am a citizen. I am a taxpayer. I support legalization/decriminalization and taxation of marijuana. I know social drinkers and tokers, and they are autonomous adults, and they too are citizens and taxpayers, and in some cases, technically they are lawbreakers because of their own personal usage.

    The only problem in this equation is the illegality of a drug that is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal and taxed.

    I hope for a day when I can retire and open up my own coffeehouse in some nice up-and-coming eco-conscious town in North America. I hope it’s in the United States, because this is where I was born.

  85. Yeah… what is with those teenagers and their fascination with our forbidden closet of mystery?

  86. I think decriminalization of _all_ drugs would have the following benefits:
    – overnight elimination of a major source of funding to many (most) criminal organizations
    – removal of the incentive to get people addicted
    – consistent quality in the drugs (instead of having 3% pure stuff most of the time and then overdosing on 50% pure stuff)
    – easy research and medical access for those that want it
    – freeing up large amounts of tax dollars (currently spent on prisons and the DEA / FBI), and reducing the amount of USD sent overseas.

    Additionally, I believe that it would not cause any major problems. Smoking is still legal but everyone knows it’s bad for you and most people are stopping. A similar thing is likely to happen with prohibited drugs, especially if even 1/100th of the tax money now spent on enforcement is spent on education.

    The biggest benefit would be removing a large source of income for criminal organizations. Drugs are not prohibited with the interests of the population at heart.

    (Note: I would never consider using currently illicit drugs myself; a blood relative had schizophrenia triggeredby them and I think the same thing would happen to me.)

  87. I think it is SO exciting that we are finally discussing this issue. My angle is spiritual – the personal right we each have to experience our own life as we chose to. This right to individuality, is to me inalienable. My experiences taking pot in Amsterdam and Spice in England is this: a feeling of happiness, joy, relaxation, creativity and unity with the world. Some people find these feelings to be so utterly terrifying that they want to restrict them in others. It is true – what these feelings lead to is profound – the ability to have one’s own personal experience is the ability to manifest one’s own destiny. This is the foundation for our individual experience in limitlessness.

  88. I don’t think it wise to legalize drug.
    Remember for a period in the past, ministers banned alcohol drinking. And then underground organizations similar to Mafia began to smuggle wine into U.S to make good money. But when finally the government legalized the drinking of alcohol, wine plants shot up in America, these Mafia groups stopped alcohol smuggling, but they didn’t disappear, they turned to drug trade!!
    So today the government find it difficult to fight off the criminals and decided to legalize drug abuse? I would say, if you legalize the drug use, the criminals will change to something else which can make money, and if you further legalize other things, sooner or later you will find it necessary to legalize thefty, robbery, and even murder!

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