What would an evidence-based drug policy look like?

Discuss

79 Responses to “What would an evidence-based drug policy look like?”

  1. enishmarati says:

    “The point isn’t that alcohol should be banned— after all, there’s a difference between casual and problem drinkers, and evidence also shows the prohibition doesn’t work very well.”

    I’ll never understand why it’s so hard for policy-makers to understand that this applies to every drug out there, as well as alcohol.

  2. Guesstimate Jones says:

    Apples and Oranges. We’re comparing two completely different things. Every drug has it’s own unique hazards, legal status and usage patterns.

    Alcoholics don’t typically develop abscesses, collapsed veins and other problems that are a result of intravenous administration, while heroin users don’t develop cirrhosis.

    Does that mean heroin is safer than alcohol?

    • nixiebunny says:

      The other thing that an alcohol user does that a heroin user doesn’t do is beat his wife.

      • Guesstimate Jones says:

        Heroin users have been known to pimp out their female relatives in order to support their habits, however…

        Abscesses are just one of the numerous hazards of self-administered intravenous drug use, which exposes the user to all manner of pathogens, from the common cold, to HIV, to HepC.

        Abscesses result due to poor sanitation…impurities in the drug are a contributing factor, but a user can develop abscesses, just from using the same vein repeatedly, even with clean needles & dope.

        Not all heroin users use needles, of course. In America, most of the opiate addicts use oxycontin, which is “less” dangerous than IV heroin, in as much as it doesn’t require the use of needles.
        Oxycontin addiction is still a huge problem, though.

        And that is the real measure of how “dangerous” any given drug is…it’s addiction potential, and the long-term effects, of that addiction.

        • Nadreck says:

          Heroin users have been known to pimp out their female relatives in order to support their habits

          You seem to be confusing the effects of prohibition with the effects of actually using drugs. Drug addicts will do anything that’s necessary to get their fix but if all that’s necessary is to go to an addiction treatment centre or doctor and get a free fix (as was the case in Britain once – back when they had a working drug policy) that that’s all that’s necessary and that’s all they’ll do. Note also that rich people, who are often heavily addicted to drugs (see Hollywood) don’t do things like this because their income handily handles even prohibition drug prices.

          Nicotine addicts often can’t afford their fixes due to the taxes on cigarettes (to hand a small fraction of the costs of the lung cancer smoking causes) so burglary and smuggling are then the order of the day.

          The exceptions are, of course, things like alcohol and Angle Dust, but then classifying them together is what evidence based policy would be about.

          • Guesstimate Jones says:

            As fashionable as the libertarian argument for complete drug legalization, has become, it is dangerously naive, especially with respect to the opiates.

            As you note, the addict will do anything, to avoid withdrawal…just because he can obtain his heroin legally, doesn’t mean he won’t resort to ______ in order to get it, if for whatever reason, he suddenly finds himself unable to get his fix, one day.

            The addict is bound what Burroughs refers to as “the algebra of need”. This situation, in turn, creates the potential to have an entire population quite literally enslaved by chemical dependence…a prospect any libertarian ought to abhor.

      • bklynchris says:

        Well, I do see your point. BUT, sadly not always the case. I have a sad little Master’s thesis (and I mean that literally and figuratively…literally) that says, not so much (Ha, again l and f). When both the husband/wife (thesis:primary male partner/primary female partner) need more heroin, all kinds of crazy shit starts to happen. I am sure you can kind of figure it out. Kind of along the lines of
        Him:I need more
        Her:I need more too
        Both:We have no money, where can we get some?
        Him:Hey, I have an idea
        Her:You want me to what?! I am not doing that!
        Him:Yes, you are, or else…
        Her:Or else, what?
        or
        Him:where’s the money/dope?
        Her:I lost it, business was slow, I used/spent it all

        Anyway, you should read some of the comments about this article over on CNN. People are getting there panties in a bundle when their alcohol use is suggested as dangerous as drug use. Nadreck, is absolutely right.
        AND, people seem to not get the risk comparison of “most harmful to others:alcohol” vs. “most harmful to individuals:heroin and crack cocaine”

      • Lucifer says:

        I would have to argue here that in the throes of addiction, abuse and neglect and the destruction of relationships occurs across the field from “soft” to “hard” drug users alike. While one may argue that not everyone who does drugs loses their ability to remain “functional”, the macro view shows enormous damage to lives in the form of loss of career, loss of money and property, lost relationships, loss of health, reduced self worth/identity, and for many, loss of life. The destruction of a human life is easier and takes a short time over building or rebuilding one up over years. For those who even recover, the hardest part is to realize how far they’ve set their lives back and how much they’ve lost in the process. Often, one can never make up for that lost time.

    • Lester says:

      Heroin users do often have to deal with cirrhosis, but only because they often get hepatitis.

    • Anonymous says:

      Alcoholics don’t typically develop abscesses, collapsed veins and other problems that are a result of intravenous administration

      You don’t see diabetics with these problems. There’s nothing wrong with intravenous administration. The problem is because it’s illegal, because of prohibition, people cut herion with drain cleaner and god knows what else, then the users inject it with used needles and puddle water in the back of some trash filled alley. Most of the dangers of heroin are caused by its prohibition. By itself, it’s fairly benign. After all, they sold it as a cough syrup suitable for children, it was invented as a less addictive replacement for morphine.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m not typically of libertarian bent, but the more I think about it, the more confused I get about why any government thinks it has the right to dictate what citizens can or cannot put into their bodies.

    It’s something to do with the fact that most of those citizens will eventually leave the house and drive a car.

    In private? Go nuts, have fun, bring some Fritos. But double and redouble the penalties for public impairment in situations that affect others.

  4. Guesstimate Jones says:

    “Heroin & cocaine were once legal…But it didn’t cause the RUIN of our society did it?”

    No, it didn’t…because we made it illegal.

    Again, you are conflating the rational for the prohibition of cannabis, with that of more dangerous drugs.

    Naturally, no prohibition is ever completely effective, yet it seems to be enough to deter some people, maybe even most people.

    Anybody who is really determined…and nobody is determined, like a junkie…can readily find opiates in most places…and not much can be done about it.

    But how easy should we make it, for newbies to start using heroin? Make them get a physicians’s recommendation, or just sell it at 7-11?

    Or could we use it as a food additive, in sweets…just think of the revenue!

    What you are conveniently omitting, is that opiate addiction is slavery.

  5. Guesstimate Jones says:

    One of the aspects of the drug business, that people often overlook, is that the drug business is a business.

    It is, of course, a business that employs criminals, but at least it keeps them busy…depriving the criminal underclass of their primary source of revenue could have unintended consequences.

    • Pyros says:

      It is a business that creates criminals. This is a critical distinction. For the most part, people don’t choose criminality as a life’s course, it chooses them. Under the right circumstances, everyone could be a criminal. If you have a lot of criminals in your society, the best way to combat that is to change or eradicate the environments in which they thrive.

      Also, remember that the drug war, like any war, is extremely costly. Once it is ended, there should be a great deal of money, assuming that the funds once used to prosecute such are war are then put to some other more productive use. One such productive use might be job creation through public works projects — like repairing our long-neglected infastructure, money for people who want to go to college, etc.

      See, Guesstimate Jones, these are the things that we give up in order to spend trillions on a non-productive, highly destructive (in fact) pointless war on drugs.

      In point of fact, I have begun to wonder whether you, and many of your anti-drug co-religionists have any conception of what it would be like not to live in fear, and to have vibrant, beautiful communities.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Sounds like a threat, that did.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Guesstimate Jones

    “Heroin & cocaine were once legal…But it didn’t cause the RUIN of our society did it?”

    “No, it didn’t…because we made it illegal. ”

    Clearly you’ve never been out of the burbs.

    • Guesstimate Jones says:

      Your point being that because hard drugs ruined the ghettos, but not the burbs, we should let them ruin both?

  7. Goblin says:

    On the face of it I have to wonder just how “dirty” the researchers got.

    Surely a trip though a few drug and crime infested neighborhoods might convince these researchers that crack, cocaine and heroin truly are more damaging to society and communities then alcohol is.

    It looks like the researchers only looked at families (that’s where I think their alcohol skew originates from) and didn’t bother to expand their data to reflect community and society wide problems.

    I am willing to entertain notions of reform, but I need more to go on then just this. This “evidence” is statistical (how did they quantify human effects?) and therefore open to endless re-interpretation.

    • dculberson says:

      I don’t think there’s a neighborhood out there that suffers solely from drugs and not from alcohol. Name a ‘hood filled with drug users, and it would invariably be one filled with problem drinkers as well. There would likely be more problem drinkers, in my opinion. The problem is the poverty and despair that is causing the desire to escape. Drugs and alcohol are a symptom.

      Meaning, the same “dirty” trip that you recommend would seem to support alcohol prohibition as much or more than drug prohibition. Neither of which is successful at what its proponents are hoping for.

    • Nadreck says:

      Surely a trip though a few drug and crime infested neighborhoods might convince these researchers that crack, cocaine and heroin truly are more damaging to society and communities then alcohol is.

      You seem to be confusing the effects of prohibition and economic status with the effects of actually taking the drugs. The crime is due to the prohibition; not the drug consumption. Also, crime ridden neighbourhoods are poor neighbourhoods where drug usage, and drug prohibition enforcement, are very obvious because no one can afford much privacy. Rich people consume just as many drugs as poor people do (see Hollywood) but they don’t have to steal to come up with the price of a fix nor will they ever suffer any legal consequences because they’ll do it in the privacy of their own homes. This is where the “some people” in “The War On Some People Who Use Some Drugs” comes from.

      As far as “society wide problems go”: here in Canada 60% of all assault cases have alcohol as as a contributing factor and the publicly funded cancer wards are full of nicotine addicts and their families.

      • Goblin says:

        Nadreck, you’re right, and that is also why I believe the study is not as evidential as it claims to be. Alcohol may have achieved it’s rating in this study simply because it is the only drug that isn’t prohibited.

        In order for the study to be a true as it may claim it must account for this. I am wondering how the researchers controlled for the fact alcohol was freely available and the other drugs were not.

        There are historical reasons behind opiate prohibition. I stand by my contention that heroin and other opiates are more destructive then alcohol
        and as evidence I can point to the British Opium wars as an example of what I am talking about (2 million plus addicted Chinese) and a government being dragged under by its population.

        This is why I question this study as it was examining all drug users as they exist in their current state. And in my mind the study in reality points to the success of modern prohibition, it is hardly evidential when it may come to re-evaluating modern drug policy.

    • dragonfrog says:

      Disclaimer: I have not yet read this report. I have however read the 2007 study (referenced in the abstract to this one), of which this one is an extension and improvement. That report was also published in the Lancet.

      The findings of that report were very similar to what this one sounds like. Here are some choice quotes from that report:

      These experts had experience in one of the many areas of addiction, ranging from chemistry, pharmacology, and forensic science, through psychiatry and other medical specialties, including epidemiology, as well as the legal and police services.

      So yes, they had experience of “dirty” (i.e. poor? is that what you mean?) neighbourhoods and their problems.

      There is a rapidly accelerating harm value from alcohol upwards. So, if a three-category classification were to be retained, one possible interpretation of our findings is that drugs with harm scores equal to that of alcohol and above might be class A, cannabis and those below might be class C, and drugs in between might be class B. In that case, it is salutary to see that alcohol and tobacco — the most widely used unclassified substances — would have harm ratings comparable with class A and B illegal drugs, respectively.

      So, the findings were quite similar. In that study, they found alcohol best fit either in the bottom of the same harm class as heroin and cocaine, or in the top of the harm class below.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “It is, of course, a business that employs criminals, but at least it keeps them busy…depriving the criminal underclass of their primary source of revenue could have unintended consequences.”

    I’ve heard the DEA make this argument before. We need to keep the war on drugs to keep drug profits up, lest the cartels resort to more brutal forms of revenue generation such as kidnapping and murder…

    Ending prohibition means a spike in murders and kidnappings. You don’t support murder and kidnapping, do you?

  9. Anonymous says:

    The report apparently claims that following close on the heels of heroin and crack comes Magic Mushrooms. As far as I’m concerned this invalidates the entire report. I can’t imagine any kind of criteria that places psychedelic mushrooms that high on the list.

  10. technogeek says:

    Most of the “long-term effects” of addiction are a direct result of being addicted to something illegal, and thus having to pay a high price to maintain their supply. Nicotine is more physically addictive than most of these drugs, but it doesn’t generally drive people into prostitution or crime simply because it’s a less expensive habit to feed.

    Cut the price supports out of it, cut the bad shit out of it, and you’re left with something that carries a definite “stupidity tax” and which may be no safer than alcohol if someone operates machinery while under the influence… but which really doesn’t seem to be all that much less safe.

    And, yeah, I’m all for making DWI a one-year suspension of license on first offense and permanent revocation on second. THAT is a problem, no matter what folks are intoxicated on. (And, yeah, I could be argued into setting a limit on a driver’s blood caffeine content too.)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Californians!

    Please strike a blow against cannabis prohibition Tuesday.

    This study confirms what many have said for years, cannabis is less harmful to its users and society in general than alcohol.

    Please vote to support prop. 19. Get your friends to go to the polls, too. Turnout is going to be the key to winning this.

    (I cannot vote for prop 19 because I do not live in California. But if I did live there, I surely would vote for it.)

  12. imag says:

    I think this is a great study. The only issue I have is that it doesn’t sound like they normalized for the population of users on the societal detriment section.

    It could be that the newspaper summary is lacking. I would think any study going after this would talk about the societal detriment per capita of users.

    Anyway, it’s good to see some sane thinking on this stuff at last. I hope the tide is turning.

  13. Pyros says:

    “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right… The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

    John Stewart Mill

    There can be no credible argument made, according to this edict, for the continued illegality of marijuana, or any other mind altering substance, I would further argue. One might, by the most tangential logic imaginable, insist that as the individual harms himself, so does he also harm his fellows. But this is a form of casuistry, in my opinion: for example, one might assert that buying marijuana results in propagating a vast, subversive, and destabilizing criminal underground that undermines the values of society. If we are concerned about causing least harm, this is a de facto argument for legalization, not for continuing the disastrous policies of prohibition which created the vast criminal underclass in the first place.

    And if you are going to make this argument, you would also have to apply it universally to all drugs, and, indeed to all activity which has been proven to cause harm to others. That would mean,just for starters, total immobilization since driving, to take but one example, indisputably kills about one million people globally every year.

    Ah, but the clever debater would simply say that, on balance, the risks of mass immobilization would indirectly lead to even more deaths: people wouldn’t be able to work, goods couldn’t be delivered, etc. How ridiculous, even given the grim tallies, would it be for someone to seriously propose that we all stop driving in order to spare the million or so lives!

    Yes, drugs kill people. The illegality of drugs kills even more still.

    There is also the issue of how successful interdiction is in general. It seems that most agree that it has had almost zero effectiveness.

    Why is that, do you suppose? Well, I’m sure that there are lots of reasons, one of which has to do with basic economics: simply the prohibition of certain drugs has served to inflate their costs dramatically, and this cost is directly proportional to the risks that must be taken in producing, distributing, and selling. Since there is clearly demand, the price at which drugs can be sold, and the profits that can be made will always guarantee that there are sellers. Removing product from the market only serves to raise prices, and that only serves to attract more sellers.

    But most importantly, there is something fundamental to human nature which seeks to escape the boredom of ever day existence. Aldous Huxley addressed this in an insightful essay he wrote in a 1953 entitled The Devils of Loudon:

    “Without an understanding of man’s deep-seated urge to self-transcendence, of his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own particular period of history or indeed of history in general, of life as it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I propose to discuss some of the more common Grace- substitutes, into which and by means of which men and women have tried to escape from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves.”

    “In France there is now one retailer of alcohol to every hundred inhabitants, more or less. In the United States there are probably at least a million desperate alcoholics, besides a much larger number of very heavy drinkers whose disease has not yet become mortal. Regarding the consumption of intoxicants in the past we have no precise or statistical knowledge. In Western Europe, among the Celts and Teutons, and throughout medieval and early modern times, the individual intake of alcohol was probably even greater than it is today. On the many occasions when we drink tea, or coffee, or soda pop, our ancestors refreshed themselves with wine, beer, mead and, in later centuries, with gin, brandy and usquebaugh. The regular drinking of water was a penance imposed on wrongdoers, or accepted by the religious, along with occasional vegetarianism, as a very severe mortification. Not to drink an intoxicant was an eccentricity sufficiently remarkable to call for comment and the using of a more or less disparaging nickname. Hence such patronymics as the Italian Bevilacqua, the French Boileau and the English Drinkwater”

    Huxley, more or less on the right lines here, wrote this essay before his own, now famous, personal experience with LSD — one which inspired a more tolerant view, obviously, which can be found expressed in his book The Doors of Perception. That is, at the time of this writing, Huxley recognized that men, or at least certain of them, had an urge toward using drugs as a means of escaping everyday reality, but he took a somewhat disparaging view of those who did — (‘his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending way, and his search for some bogus liberation…”).

    That is why people take drugs. Normal reality MUST give way to altered states — our very consciousness was designed for this, and one might even make the argument (perhaps backed up by scientific research touched on in Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire?) that our brains are uniquely receptive to mind altering substances.

    In every culture, for instance, rites of passage of followed by the ritualistic ingestion of some kind of mind altering substance. Remember that the next time you go to a wedding, a funeral, a bar mitzvah, etc.

    The states desire to control how we might otherwise choose to induce an altered state should be viewed as a gross intrusion on personal liberty. Remember that the states concern over these matters arose in lock-step with industrialization. One might infer a relationship there since it is doubtful that you can have a liberal drug policy and the form of mass control that we have all been subjected to over the last 100 years or so (crucial to keeping everyone feverishly working away), both at the same time. The level of control that the state exerts over individuals by discouraging drug use is the sine qua non which makes the highly industrialized state possible in the first place.

    If we are allowed altered states at all, those, anyway which are not caused by the toxicity of alcohol, they are those that might be experienced as the rapture of buying stuff, and the near digital commas in which many citizens conduct their daily affairs and find themselves in nearly day and night. So there winds up being, in place of a robust and vibrant drug culture, the purchasing of a lot of plastic (left over from shopping), the obsession with music (something that a lot of people seem to unwittingly wish it could do more for them than it actually can without its proper complement), and the narcotizing nonsense which they watch on television, to name but a few.

    Remember the 60s? The prevalence of widespread drug usage was a serious concern for our government. People really did just “drop out” at the time in history. And it was also during this era that the government began a more serious policy of enforcement (which has resulted in our modern day prison-industrial complex).

    If you want to know why the drug war continues to be waged, it is because without it, society would change very quickly and very radically. Those in power do not want a repeat of the 60s!!!

    While we’re on the subject, I’ll leave you with something by Antonin Artaud:

    “As long as we have failed to eliminate any of the causes of human despair, we do not have the right to try to eliminate those means by which man tries to cleanse himself of despair.”

  14. Guesstimate Jones says:

    Most, if not all, drugs of abuse have medical applications…this should be the foundation, of any policy. How a society chooses to handle what drugs it will allow, and how to regulate them, is a highly political matter.

    The war on drugs won’t ever just “end”…it can be gradually de-escalated, however, and re-scheduling cannabis would probably be the single most effective step the Federal Government could take, as far as moving towards a rational drug policy is concerned.

    Pressing for the legalization of opiates, for recreational use, on the very eve of the potential nominal “legalization” of cannabis in California, however…I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound like such a good idea, to me.

    I mean, I haven’t even decided how I’m going to vote on Prop 19 yet…

  15. Pyros says:

    It wasn’t because we made them illegal that they didn’t cause the ruin of our society since they were legal for decades. I don’t conveniently omit that opiate addiction is slavery, either. I have fully acknowledge that there are certainly adverse consequences for some, even many who chose to go down that road.

    Though you have accused me of conflating the rational for the prohibition of cannabis with that of other more dangerous drugs, it is you who omit, then, an argument for the re-criminalization of alcohol. The point of the piece which lead to this discussion was to inform the public that alcohol is as dangerous as the more dangerous drugs, cocaine and opium, which you site.

    Actually, you have failed to address just about every single one of my salient points, preferring instead to emphasize the dangers of addiction — something that we actually agree upon. I just don’t happen to give much clout to the scare-scenarios which you think are inevitable having to do with a far greater number of people becoming impaired by the substance.

    You also make a mockery of what might otherwise have been a productive exchange by suggesting that it might be sold at 7-11, or added to candy — what was the point of that since I hadn’t addressed at all some of the more sensible ways distribution and sale might be managed?

    Here’s the dealio: a credible, effective, logical argument for the criminalization of drugs is no longer tenable. To understand why we haven’t instituted more sensible policies, we need only ask ourselves one question about the policies we do have: cui bono — who benefits?

    There are multi-billion dollar industries that do: here are but a few:

    1. defense contractors — like when we send helicopters to Columbia to spray toxic shit on their lands in a futile attempt to eradicate drugs.

    2. Hundreds of thousands of people who work in the criminal justice system whose livelihoods depend upon a continually fresh supply of new “criminals”

    3. Politicians who are able to leverage fear mongering by turning it into political gain. This comes in the form of tough-on-crime, tough-on drugs laws which are extremely popular with the electorate.

    4. People who build, staff, and maintain prisons. This multi-billion dollar industry would diminish to about 30% of its size within about 15 years if we enacted sensible drug policies.

    5. Moralize — those who derive value from feeling morally superior to others because they don’t partake in drugs, and support legislators determined to gain influence by taking a tough stand.

    It is understandable that the oblique and even tangential influence of these titanic economic forces would be obscure enough to be beyond the grasp of many people who have spent only a short amount of time really giving the issue some thought, or to those who lack the sufficient powers of reason and insight to comprehend the matter past the pronouncements and proscriptions of the government’s propaganda office. It is much more likely for the mind to produce a ready-made reason to account for the illegality of drugs that purports to make some amount of sense. After all, people do overdose on drugs. After all, every park in any major city, infested with the drug addicted canailles, serves as a reminder of the dangers of hard drug usage.

    The mistake that many might make in their thinking is to assume that just because no good argument can be made for the continued criminalization of drugs, that it would be a simple matter to dismantle the apparatus that keeps them illegal in the first place.

    The problem is that many lives and many fortunes also depend upon the status quo, and the status quo is entrenched, connected, and well-funded. It is, in fact, a who’s who, essentially, of all who currently possess power.

    You cannot trot out any of the arguments that I have trotted out as a means of persuasion because the powers that be have already laid claim, in the mind’s of the majority, it would seem, that mental space devoted to sorting through all of it, and their mind’s are made up: drugs are bad, especially cocaine and heroin, and their continued criminalization should stay in place. Since people, by nature are not rational (though, quite vexingly, they think they are), it is very difficult to dislodge the fruits of their faulty reasoning and imperfect knowledge.

    The powers that advocate for decriminalization are minuscule compared with those that oppose it. The fundamental difference between these two powers is that one has an economic base predicated on criminalization. There is lots of money in that, and that money can be used to buy influence, and it does, and for this reason the drug war rages on, and more people get sent to prison. The result is that we now have the world’s largest prison population. No one else is anywhere close to catching up to us either. On a per capita basis, we probably imprison 10 to 20 times more people than other similarly developed countries, and 3 to 4 times as many people as more totalitarian countries like China, Iran, etc. Also, rampant crime has been framed as a drug issue instead of a criminalization issue, so continued spending on these programs can be sold to the public in the name of safety and crime reduction. Vivid and frequent media images of murder and mayhem serve to underscore and reinforce this complex of perception.

    The powers of decriminalization have no economic base, really, or not one that can fairly be compared to the powers of criminalization. There might be a collection of volunteers, a few non-profits in Portland, Oregon or San Francisco (read: the liberal elite), but overall, their ability to influence Power, Power, by the way, which stands to directly gain from the status quo, is very limited. They are also not very well directly plugged in to the perception complex — there is no way for them, for example, to send a message to viewers who have watched a broadcast featuring the most recent casualties of drug involvement to give them a more nuanced view.

    Yet, just like the moai that the Easter Islanders continued to build with all the greater assiduity as their society slid into collapse, they being the central objects around which their beliefs, identities, and activities were centered, we continue to build more prisons in an ever-going attempt to rid the nature of crime and the drug scourge. If the forces of decriminalization have anything going for them it is this — the fact that they are right (not necessarily an unimportant thing). When prisons become as common as the 7-11 that we now see on every corner selling sweets to any comers, when EVERYONE has either served a stretch or known two or three people who have, when people get tired of sending others of their fellows into bondage for victimless crimes, when people begin to notice the decay of their communities owing to the vast sums of revenue expropriated for a vast and sprawling program of incarceration, maybe then the powers of criminalization can be challenged.

    That is, until a sufficient amount of people have really, really suffered and had their lives ruined, or practically ruined will there ever be a change. Even then it’s doubtful. I have zero confidence, at this point, that people will be compelled to act out of moral conviction, outrage, humanitarianism, or anything else before then.

  16. Ugly Canuck says:

    What would an “evidence-based” drugs policy look like?

    One that actually worked to reduce drug use?

    It would be called a “generous welfare state”, according to the scientists:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/02/bigger-welfare-state-drug-use

    Well well. The politics of inclusion, rather than exclusion, works to reduce the number of addicts.

  17. Hools Verne says:

    A lot in common? Alcohol is easily worse than both of those “big scary” drugs. The addiction rate for booze hovers well over 50%, in contrast Heroin’s addiction rate is 23%. An overdoes of heroin or alcohol will kill you, but only alcohol withdrawal is fatal.

  18. Enormo says:

    “Surely a trip though a few drug and crime infested neighborhoods might convince these researchers that crack, cocaine and heroin truly are more damaging to society and communities then alcohol is.”

    Your response seems closer to moralizing than critical problem solving. (dculberson puts it well in his reply) Try looking at drugs (including alcohol!) as a symptom of a problem rather than the problem in and of itself.

    • Aloisius says:

      Your response seems closer to moralizing than critical problem solving. (dculberson puts it well in his reply) Try looking at drugs (including alcohol!) as a symptom of a problem rather than the problem in and of itself.

      Not everyone who uses hard drugs was suffering from depression or poverty when they started.

      I’ve known doctors who were addicted to amphetamines because they started taking them in too large of doses. One lost his practice and basically wrecked his life because he was prescribing his patients huge doses that he then bought from them to feed his habit.

      The idea that you could just have single doses of crystal meth for sale in a store as long as it was taxed high enough to cover the cost to society is just a libertarian fantasy.

  19. IPFREELY says:

    There should be additional information on a Drivers licence instead of the date with which people turn 21. It doesn’t have to be much, maybe a color, but it should limit the amount they should have so there is less over-drinking.

  20. oohShiny says:

    I feel as though maybe, instead of spending the money on a failed policy that puts people in jail for becoming addicted to certain substances, maybe the money should be spent on education/prevention and treatment? The analogy is one of treating an illness — is drug use something like cancer, that can only be treated by killing the offending tissues, or is it like a virus, that can be eliminated by strengthening the immune system?

    I also kinda feel like maybe we should be telling kids growing up in an alcohol-drinking culture that the first thing a drink does is to tell your brain that you’re okay to have another. :/

  21. Anonymous says:

    Just a quick note of thanks for the post and comments. Good stuff.

  22. Pyros says:

    @Guestimate Jones:

    The libertarian position (I am not a libertarian, btw) is about personal liberty. Your argument is based on a what if scenario for which there is no evidence.

    As it is, we already have draconian drug laws, yet this has not eliminated demand since there are still plenty of heroin users. Society hasn’t crumbled. For your argument to have any persuasive power at all, you would need to somehow offer evidence that legalizing opiates would result in a significant increase in usage.

    Keep in mind, too, that where certain drugs have been decriminalized, usage has actually fallen. Here you can read about what happened in Portugal: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html

    You seem to suggest that humans are merely the string-pulled puppets of their own desires, and without severe state control, the individual cannot be relied upon to act prudently. In the spirit of Reefer Madness, we’re all just going to lose control and become junkies?

    • Guesstimate Jones says:

      Everybody is sovereign, over their own bodies…you can use heroin now, nobody is stopping you. But some humans become very much like string-pulled puppets, especially when it comes opiates.

      There is ample evidence, and precedent for what I wrote. The implications of opium use, for the consolidation of wealth and the exercise political power have been known for centuries…
      Somebody else already mentioned the experience of the Chinese, at the hands of British opium merchants.

      Ever tried heroin? Not even once, just to see what it was like, or to test your willpower? Then you know not, of which you speak.

      Heroin is NOT cannabis…anybody who conflates the two is a fool.

      • zyodei says:

        I’ve tried heroin. It was meh. I’m glad I tried it, primarily because I feel it’s good to be informed of things you have an opinion about. I didn’t have a strong desire to do it again. I probably would not have tried it were it legal, but prohibition is great marketing.

        I should point out, spraypaint is illegal, as are an number of other destructive things. Junk food is physically and mentally destructive, and can be addictive. Should we illegalize ding dongs?

  23. artaxerxes says:

    I haven’t yet had the time to read through the many well-reasoned and well-written posts on this page. However, I would like to point out that cannabis needn’t be smoked in order to be ingested.

    All of the partakers in my circle (yes, we’re an aging group of health freaks) wouldn’t go near a cigarette or second-hand smoke of any kind. I’m the Black(-lunged) Sheep. They partake of cannabis daily, using a vaporizer.

    Vaporizers are affordable for many in the middle-class, and affordable over time for the working-class, with reliable models going for around $150. A vaporizer can be viewed as an investment. They are also very easy to make with everyday items, therefore available to all.

    Of course, cannabis can also be eaten. There are some hurdles: The effects are different, heavier usually, and dosages are usually not standardized unless the home cook has been practicing cannabis cookery for a while. Or if the consumer has been buying edibles from a licensed dispensary. But these hurdles can be easily overcome especially as dispensaries offer a wider range of edibles and as information about the effects of different strains becomes more widely available to the population.

    I blame a lot of the Prop 19 proponents for the lack of awareness of alternate means of ingestion. Perhaps when they were scripting ads and interviews, they chose to focus on larger issues, but airing ads in which cannabis users fired up joints did not do the cannabis lobby any favors.

    I have been surprised at how little discussion of alternate methods of consumption has taken place in this particular pre-electoral season. Surely some of the voters who value health and view cannabis as a unhealthy activity would be impressed by the new methods of taking the drug.

    • zyodei says:

      It’s worth mentioning that one of the nicknames for weed was traditionally “tea.”

      The reason people don’t brew it into tea anymore is because of the hugely inflated cost from prohibition. Smoking is more efficient than brewing.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Zyodei #67:

        Wrongo, boyo: it has NEVER been popular to brew marijuana tea, not because of cost, but rather, because THC, the psychoactive ingredient, is not water soluble.

        The simple infusion of marijuana into hot water does not work: the THC stays in the leaf.

        There is a “trick” to making good marijuana tea, but I’m not going to tell you what it is…inform yourself, if you’re so interested.

        But please stop with the false history as to marijuana use.

        We do appreciate your opinion that the law should only bind those who voluntarily submit to them – but for the sake of business efficacy, we disagree.

  24. Lucifer says:

    This isn’t good science. The metrics being used are bunk.
    Cigarettes are linked to about 400,000 deaths per year in the US. Alcohol related deaths – including traffic fatalities – number around 100,000. Roughly 4:1 ratio of tobacco deaths to alcohol deaths. Yet alcohol is far ahead of tobacco. I think the bias in the research is fairly obvious.

  25. Anonymous says:

    One of the things that some mind altering substances do is “soften” one’s beliefs by letting us see that perception is seen as reality but is not reality; and, that perception is easily conditioned and trained by indoctrinating beliefs.

    Imagine everyone seeing that the people “owning” most money, power, influence, “property” etc. only “own” these because we’ve agreed, and continue agreeing to their saying so.

    Imagine everyone seeing that nothing is worth causing suffering and no goal is worth killing.

    And I mean seeing, not imagining or believing.

    Is it a wonder that tyrants are scared, angry and ruthless in their war to such awareness?

  26. hassenpfeffer says:

    I’m not typically of libertarian bent, but the more I think about it, the more confused I get about why any government thinks it has the right to dictate what citizens can or cannot put into their bodies.

    /Voice of a migraine sufferer who has failed *every* neurological treatment, finds that standard Rx pain meds kill the headache, but cannot get a doctor to prescribe them because of the Big Bad DEA Bogeyman

    • Anonymous says:

      John Donne’s quote is a partial explanation:

      “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

      Alternately, when people live closely side-by-side, there are no independent actions. We have to weigh the needs of the many vs the needs of the few. Currently, our society doesn’t officially recognize any benefit from ingesting certain chemicals. Just the negative. With that assumption, the needs of the many far outweight the needs of the few.

      As for migraines, they run in my family. My mom’s are so bad (4 out of 7 days, year round) she’s tried the whole gamut of migraine, seizure, barbiturate, and opium based treatments. Imitrex almost works. She hasn’t yet tried hallucinogenics (which have great results for some). As for myself, I get all the classic migraine symptoms about once a month, but am not sure it really is a migraine. Vodka (1 shot) fixes me 90% of the time and is cheap.

      • zyodei says:

        While this quote is true, and beautiful, it must be up to each individual whether to maintain that philosophy. It cannot be enforced on anybody.

        If you sacrifice the ability of each to make up their own decisions for the good of the abstraction know as “society”, you reach dangerous ground.

        Hell, I hate junk food..I don’t want to sit on the subway next to some fuckin guy who just ate a big mac. I sure as hell don’t want to pay in any way for his health care. Should we illegalize all unhealthy food?

        • Ugly Canuck says:

          Where I live health care is established as a social right: and if you’re selling things which are making people sick, you are committing a social wrong: and ought to be punished therefor.

          Marijuana, as it is commonly used, does not make people sick or dis-eased: on the contrary, it seems to put them at ease.

          Keep a strong lock on the medicine chest: but marijuana is a very special case.

    • Anonymous says:

      I like that the government has a right to decide what people can sell me, though, or at least how they can label it. Maybe we can go with alcohol and marijuana with “side effects may include” lists?

    • zyodei says:

      Careful what you go thinking there! Follow that line of thinking too far, and you’ll wonder why we have an FDA. Follow it a bit further, you’ll wonder why we have regulations on consumer goods at all – doesn’t it make more sense to simply inform people of the properties of the items, rather than outright prohibiting some of them? Follow it a bit further, and you’ll wonder why they have the right to bar any economic transaction between two consenting adults, for instance the minimum wage.

      The idea you mention is called “self-ownership”, and it’s a dangerous concept if you think into it too deeply.

      And *boom* next think you know, you’ve covered your car with Ron Paul bumper stickers and you’re quoting Murray Rothbard to exasperated dinner guests. So be careful!

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Perhaps you’ll also wonder why there still aren’t people dropping dead after taking a single pill sold by an itinerant peddler of “medicines” – as actually happened to John D Rockefeller’s (great Capitalist that he was) great-grand-mother.

        Business cannot thrive, and man cannot live, where obedience to the Law is merely voluntary.

        The word for that isn’t “libertarianism”: it is “tyranny of the strong, the wealthy and the violent”.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Crap! There goes chocolate! And butter. And fries.

    They can have my potato chips when they pry them from my cold dead hands.

  28. Nuts & Bolts says:

    Transform has published a blueprint discribing what an evidence based policy would look like.

    http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blueprint%20download.htm

  29. Anonymous says:

    Current drug policy is a product of history and politics (and the greed and psychologies associated with those two). The only place that pharmacology enters into current policy is the historical development and ease of production of the drugs in question.

    Can we ever press the ‘reset button’, neglect this history, and apply science to governmental policy? Not in the current day U.S. it seems.

  30. hassenpfeffer says:

    Sorry, I commented early, then disappeared for a while. I’m not going to attempt to address all the points made against my statement, and I’ll probably contradict myself, but here goes:

    - I should, as an adult citizen, be able to go into a pharmacy and say, I do not have a doctor’s prescription, but I would like 30 Percocet 5/325 mg tablets. I am happy to sign a form saying I have reviewed the prescribing literature and am aware of any effects or side effects this medication is known to cause. If they want to know why, I should be able to put “migraines” or “back pain” or “goddamn it, I wanna get a little buzzed tonight.” I acknowledge responsibility for any illegal behavior I commit while taking this medication, even if the illegal behavior is the result of taking this medication.

    This policy would apply to any drug that affects ONLY the user. Antibiotics should still be practitioner-prescribed only, and we need to develop rapid, in-office screen tests for ALL bacteria, so that practitioner knows from a nose swab whether I really do have a bacterial sinus infection or just another miserable head cold. There are widespread public-health implications to the overprescription of bacteria, and many doctors/PAs/CRNPs are still happy to throw them at you as though they were candy.

    BTW, we need to ban the addition of antibiotics to livestock food. Period, the end.

    The I-self-prescribe-with-this-form would also apply to agents of limited testing and/or dubious efficacy–I’m specifically thinking of a terminal cancer patient who wants to give Compound X a try as a last hope but wasn’t able to get into the protocol at the univ. med center.

    - There are already laws on the books making it illegal to drive under the influence of *any* conscious-altering drug–an attorney-friend in Ohio has defended several cases where his client was pulled over and admitted to being on *Benadryl.* Refine those laws and, again, develop better field tests for sedative-type meds. (While we’re at it, we need to outlaw cell-phone use while driving, period, in the name of public safety.)

    - I’m glad one user finds that a shot of vodka clears his/her migraines, but alcohol only makes mine worse. I’m the patient of one of 200 super-special-certified headache-specialists in the US, and he hasn’t been able to do dick for me. Two of the meds he’s prescribed have caused chest pain that earned me overnight stays in the cardiac observation unit and thallium stress tests (BTW, while I waited for the tests, I was getting 2-3 mg of IV Dilaudid every 4 hours; does that give you an indication of how bad my headaches get?). Topamax, Depakote, etc., make me literally crazy. Beta-blockers made me so depressed I nearly wound up inpatient at the local psych hospital. He’s out of stuff to try, and I just want to banish the headaches.

    - As far as opiates or whatnot causing a drain on society, when I do have Percocet to knock out migraines, I can take a couple at work and–keep working. No time off, no buzz, no having to retreat to my bed for a day feeling as though I’ve been worked over w/ a sledgehammer (which happens w/ Imitrex & other triptans, after they give me dyspnea and angina). I can come home and spend quality time with my kids, help out my wife, be a generally productive member of society. Without the Percs, when I get a headache, I have to come home, take antinausea meds meant for cancer pts undergoing extreme chemo and radiation therapy, and crawl into a dark room for a day, or two, or three, chewing through all my PTO/vacation time, not seeing my kids, and stressing out my wife with the extra work.

    - I wish I were in a state that allowed medical marijuana, but this Commonwealth will probably be the *last* state to allow it, given the cobwebby clinginess of many 19th-c/Prohibition-era “blue laws.” We can’t buy any alcohol in grocery stores. State stores sell wine and liquor, while beer is available *by the case*, no smaller, at beer distributors, and six-packs are available only at taverns w/ special licenses. Yeah.

    Basically I’m saying that the gummint is frakking up my life courtesy of the DEA, FDA, and CSA, and I’d like to see all three banned and/or neutered.

  31. Anonymous says:

    “The scoring system was subjective…”

    …and therefore not scientific, making the claim that the the policy would be “evidence based” specious at best, and disingenuous at worst.

    -RTM

  32. hassenpfeffer says:

    Forgot one thing: This little snippet from the Merck Manual, a standard medical general-reference text http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec15/ch198/ch198f.html :

    Long-term effects of the opioids themselves are minimal; even decades of methadone
    use appear to be well tolerated physiologically, although some long-term opioid users experience chronic constipation, excessive sweating, peripheral edema, drowsiness, and decreased libido. However, many long-term users who inject opioids have adverse effects from contaminants (eg, talc) and adulterants (eg, nonprescription stimulant drugs); cardiac, pulmonary, and hepatic damage from infections such as HIV infection and hepatitis B or C, which are spread by needle sharing and nonsterile injection techniques (see Drug Use and Dependence: Injection Drug Use).

    Emphasis mine; not also the adverse health effects caused by the treating-people-like-rats portion of our current policy

    • Pyros says:

      Oh, this is something that Aldous Huxley wrote, perhaps somewhat in accordance with your view:

      “If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution — then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise.”

      Well, this might be a little overblown, but opioids (and their synthetics) really are wonder drugs — nothing more effectively relieves pain and anxiety, and they are some of the least toxic drugs known to man so long as they are not taken in quantities sufficient to interfere with normal breathing. That’s why it is also routinely given to people suspected of having heart attacks since the panic caused by the realization that you might be undergoing one only serves to accelerate the worsening of the condition. Opium is also very effective for those who are suffering from grief over a loss, and I hold that it is actually inhumane to withhold this drug from those folks.

      The reason why people so often overdose is because the purity of street drugs is highly irregular. Make purity uniform, and you reduce many of the deaths caused by this substance. If they made tylenol illegal, and an underground market sprang up to meet the demand, you would have the same thing. Nevertheless, it is this unfortunate fact which has helped demonize the drug. The public perception is that it can cause instant death, instant addiction, etc.

      The last thing in the world that Big Pharma wants is some kind of opioid drug easily available as this would eliminate numerous protected markets of far less potent and effective drugs.

      Yet, through subtle and persistent propaganda campaigns, those most likely to suffer the deleterious effects of current drug policy are often the very ones who most likely to passionately support prohibition. I mean great masses of people are terrified of taking natural drugs (opium, papaver somniferum, after all, is derived from a plant, and hardly processed before it’s highly effective, just about like any herbal remedy — it’s even often taken as an additive to tea)that could do them great worlds of good.

  33. hassenpfeffer says:

    Sorry, one more comment about those who see *all* dependence on meds or any other substances as some sort of intrinsic evil: I’m already dependent on a combination of two antidepressants that allow me to function without constantly thinking of driving my car off a bridge. I accept that I’ll be on these drugs or their successors for the rest of my life.

  34. technogeek says:

    Proposal: Make some recreational drugs legally available. Control quality, via the FDA. Tax them, as we do alcohol. Use the taxes to address the problems of overuse.

    Result: Crime drops substantially as people no longer get “blackmailed” into crime by having to feed their habits at high prices. Deaths drop substantially due to quality control. Addictive risk may become more manageable with known-quality/known-quantity dosages. Heck, domestic abuse may go down, since we *KNOW* alcohol releases inhibitions against violence and most of the others don’t.

    But it won’t happen, because both the moralists who don’t understand real-world compromise, and organized crime who don’t want to lose governmental price support, will actively lobby against it. The latter are past masters at buying politicians; the former represent a group that the republicans (at least) are terrified of offending.

    Democracy: The worst political system possible. Except for all the others.

  35. Anonymous says:

    It’s painful to think of the powerful sleep aides that I have been perscribed, when all I really need is a few tokes of grass. Also, legalized marijuana would almost certainly result in some reduction in alcohol abuse, as there would finally be a cheap alternative.

  36. Anonymous says:

    “[Alcohol] is…involved in a greater percentage of crime than most other drugs, including heroin…”

    These data are not comparable. I’d imagine that 100% of crimes are committed by people who breathe air, however…

  37. sidecar_jon says:

    Far more people suffer the problems that drinking causes then drug related crime. A heroine addict is not likely to kick off your car mirror or smash you face in for “looking at him funny”. All they seem to do is poverty related crimes of theft etc. Remove the poverty remove the problem. As a non drinker id far rather the pubs sold sliffs. I’d make a fortune sellign mars bars at closing time rather than stepping over pools of vomit and negotiating loud aggressive drunks.

  38. alphagirl says:

    Well put, Pyros.

    Guesstimate Jones, you seem to be making an assertion that the only thing keeping people from trying opiates is their illegality.
    I don’t see anyone asserting that heroin is cannabis, or that people should be encouraged to try it. Legalization is not an endorsement. Why can’t the drugs be made legal, and ACCURATE information about the varying harmful effects and addiction potential be distributed, to enable informed decisions.

    As it is you we have cannabis, psilicibin and MDMA lumped in with meth and heroin, and meanwhile alcohol ravages barely checked.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Anon

    1) I’m not typically of libertarian bent, but the more I think about it, the more confused I get about why any government thinks it has the right to dictate what citizens can or cannot put into their bodies.

    2) It’s something to do with the fact that most of those citizens will eventually leave the house and drive a car.

    In private? Go nuts, have fun, bring some Fritos. But double and redouble the penalties for public impairment in situations that affect others.
    ***************

    3) That doesn’t explain why alcohol is legal, and everything else isn’t. Also, assorted powerful and rich people (and arguably, the CIA) make a buttload of money from the narcotics trade, and don’t want to see that go.

  40. Chesterfield says:

    Since alcohol is much more available than any of the other drugs, it would be surprising if it weren’t more connected to crime and health problems.

  41. Pyros says:

    @Guesstimate Jones

    Yes, there are in fact people who will try to stop me from using heroin (the trade name for a legal drug manufactured originally by Bayer pharmaceuticals). They are called policemen. As I understand your argument, you are advocating for the continued illegality of this drug? Or, are you saying that personal freedom is not impinged upon by the minor triviality of is illegal status since this doesn’t really serve as an effective impediment? IF that is how you feel, what is the point of if being illegal in the first place? I don’t think you can hold that you support the position that personal liberty should not be infringed upon AND this drug should be illegal.

    In any case, no one is arguing that if improperly used it isn’t a dangerous substance, or that some people don’t become addled by their experience with using it. The argument that you use is one, by the way, that was used to justify the continued illegality of marijuana, at least until more recent times which seems to find it falling into desuetude owing to it sheer ridiculousness. And it goes almost exactly as you’ve reproduced it here: that decriminalization would lead to the break down of society, that negroes would be running wild in the streets causing havoc, that the good values of everyday white people would be corrupted, and so forth. The point is that criminalization has failed to stop its illegal use.

    Secondly, you have failed to address the one thing that might give your argument a little persuasive power. You would somehow have to convince people that whatever happened between China and England so long ago is relevant to our present day. Would you start using heroin just because it was legal?

    What about the fact that it was once legal in the U.S.? Cocaine was legal too, and was found in numerous concoctions. Why isn’t there more in the historical record about how this caused the ruin of our society. Yes, some became addicted. Yes, certain lives were destroyed, etc. But it didn’t cause the RUIN of our society did it? In fact, it’s something that is rarely brought up, and hardly ever talked precisely because these things didn’t happen. In this way, it is counter-message — it undermines years of drug indoctrination.

    So, to understand your position, you believe that decriminalizing opiates, specifically, will result in a significant influx of new users, that these new users will cause irreparable harm to society and that a sensible policy for producing, distributing and selling this drug cannot be imagined as anything other than something similar to how the British managed this well over 100 years ago — there is no other way to imagine decriminalization as anything other than a repeat of that scenario even though the pertinent variables are radically different?

    And that you think in place of decriminalization that the failed situation (EVERYONE, regardless of political persuasion is in agreement on this) that we have now wherein which hundreds of thousands languish in prison (which a huge and growing percentage of your tax dollars go to support in lieu of such things as health care, tax breaks, balancing the federal budget, etc.), trillions are spent in a futile attempt to stem the trade (in lieu of health care, tax breaks, parks, civic improvements, etc., etc., etc.,), a violent criminal underclass (which, even in their sobriety will enforce their control by such things as murder) has been engendered to handle the trade, etc., etc., etc., it is better to just keep doing the same old thing which everyone knows doesn’t work?

    The issues of personal liberty aside, it would be one thing if criminalization actually worked. That is, if some how the huge price we pay were worth it — that it would somehow stop demand, but it doesn’t it.

    Even if the number of addicts doubled or tripled — something I highly doubt, decriminalization would still be the way to go just to eliminate all of the collateral damage.

    So, let’s assume your argument: decriminalization would result in 3 times the number of addicts that we have today. If you then took all of the money currently devoted to the so-called drug war, an amount that exceeds 40 billion annually, and depending on how you figure it, up to 100 billion annually, and used it instead for treatment, you would have a net savings. You would also have to factor in the amount of tax revenue generated by the sale of these drugs. Overall, this would mean that your taxes could either be lowered or spent on more worthy causes (like education, health care, balancing the budget, etc.), your children would be less likely to end up in gangs (since decriminalization would undermine their economic base), neighborhoods would be safer, better maintained, etc. Your scenario of people lying around in opium dens, of the whole population turning in mass to dissipated drug usage simply isn’t realistic. It’s reminiscent of the very effective anti-drug scare propaganda from the early 50s and 60s.

  42. Lester says:

    I’d wager that if as money people binged on heroin as binged on booze, the effects would be much worse. Still, I’m with the legalize and regulate everything crowd.

    I agree with technogeek that crime would drop, and his proposal, in general. Only, I have a lingering suspicion that marijuana smokers might be disappointed by legalization when it becomes apparent that inhaling shit is just bad for your lungs, and people start lumping pot smokers in with cigarette smokers. I mean, I remember reading recently that THC may slow cancer growth (or just make it lazy as shit), but you’re still taking a big dose of tar and other assorted chemicals.

    Of course, people don’t generally smoke pot as frequently as cigarettes.

    • strangefriend says:

      Lester, one difference is that US tobacco has radioactive isotopes in it due to the phosphate fertilizer tobacco farmers use.
      http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/sources/tobacco.html
      Marijuana smoke on the other hand has substances that kill cancer cells.
      http://www.drugpolicycentral.com/bot/pg/cancer/THC_cancer_nov_2003.htm

      GJ,junkies develop abscesses because of the impurities in the heroin. That would end if junkies started getting skag in little vials produced in pharma labs. I don’t think it would stop veins collapsing, tho.

      • Lester says:

        I mentioned that. The extra tar in marijuana is problematic, though.

        http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/8/12/1071.long

      • dragonfrog says:

        “junkies develop abscesses because of the impurities in the heroin. That would end if junkies started getting skag in little vials produced in pharma labs. I don’t think it would stop veins collapsing, tho.”

        If it was affordable enough, would they have to inject it at all? Other opiates are certainly active when taken orally – if pharmacies can produce orally active codeine or morphine, any reason there couldn’t be orally active heroin?

        I honestly don’t know – I have never done any research into becoming a heroin user or producer, nor do I know anything much about pharmacology.

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