Legalize It All

When my daughter was born, I quickly counted her fingers and toes. I was glad to see ten of each, because if I didn’t do myself serious genetic damage in the 1960s … well, it wasn’t for lack of trying …

During that time, I sampled every kind of drug that I came across. Hey, I was young and stupid, so sue me. I even shot heroin once. It was in a shabby apartment in a sad part of San Francisco. My girlfriend of the time shot me up, and I nodded out in front of the television. When I woke up, I thought “Man, I can pass out in front of the TV without needles, what’s the big deal”? Haven’t tried it since.

As a result of my misguided youth, I’ve seen the drug world up close and personal. I’ve known the players, because I was one of them, they were friends and acquaintances of mine—junkies, stoners, dealers, tweakers, coke whores, smokers, mystics, speed freaks, importers, crackheads, trippers, the good, the bad, and the ugly all came through my life and my living room at one time or another. Like the song says, “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done”.

Based on that lifetime of experience and relationships, here’s what I can tell you about the drug laws. We have two and only two choices regarding drugs in our societies:

We can have junkies nodding out on the street-corners and tweakers compulsively talking about nothing, OR

We can have junkies nodding out on the street-corners and tweakers compulsively talking about nothing, AND both groups mugging Grandma because drugs are illegal.

We do NOT have a choice called “no junkies nodding out on the street-corners”. In Singapore they freakin’ HANG people for being junkies … and despite that, there are still junkies in Singapore.

Look, guys, the US government has been fighting the Richard Nixon-declared War On Drugs for the last fifty years or so, and guess what?

Drugs won.

As one example among many showing that we lost and drugs won, for reasons best left unmentioned I happen to know that forty years ago a kilo of cocaine went for about thirty kilobucks per kilogram wholesale. Today, it’s about half of that, and less in constant dollars. Drugs aren’t getting scarcer, they’re getting more common.

Not only has the War On Drugs been lost, but in military terms there has been vast “collateral damage” of that War:

• Perhaps the greatest casualty in the War On Drugs is the loss of trust between the populace and the police force. Many of my friends would be glad to talk to the cops about real crimes. But their involvement with illegal drugs makes them fear and distrust the police. This is a very bad thing for our society.

• This loss of trust is particularly true in the inner cities. Look at Chicago. The relationships between the police and the inner city communities have huge problems because of the drug laws.

• The rise in the power, extent, and violence of street gangs. Almost all of them support themselves by moving drugs. The same thing happened with the Mafia during Prohibition, they became rich and powerful.

• The gradual corruption of the police, the border patrol, and the customs department. When a smuggler can offer a man ten years wages to look the other way, some men will. Police corruption is extremely damaging to the fabric of society.

• The disproportionate incarceration of people of color. For a host of reasons drug arrests are more common among communities of color. Not blaming anybody, just stating a tragic fact.

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• In addition, some decades of disparate sentencing, with shorter sentences for snorting cocaine (mostly white people) and longer sentences for smoking crack cocaine (same drug but more common among black people), have added to the racial injustices.

• The number of people in our prisons has gone through the roof.

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• Addicts use street drugs, which are often both highly impure to start with, and then adulterated with one or more of any number of chemicals. This has led to human costs in the form of sickness, ER visits, overdoses, and sometimes deaths.

• Addicts spread disease through needle sharing, affecting all of society.

• The War On Drugs does not just affect the US. There has been a huge cost to the world in the form of the rise of the Mexican drug cartels, some of the most bloodthirsty and violent forces around, as well as equivalent armed and dangerous groups in other countries.

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• There has been a huge cost in dollars, a needless clogging of the courts, and an immense waste of police resources. Every cop who is out there busting some guy smoking marijuana on his front porch is one less cop arresting a real criminal for a real crime.

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Note that these are not the costs of drugs. They are the costs of the War On Drugs.

So we need a re-boot. It’s coming slowly at the margins. For example, a number of states have legalized recreational marijuana. But we need a full re-boot. In best American fashion, we should simply declare victory in the War On Drugs and declare a new policy.

As you might imagine, or perhaps as you might fear, I’ve got some thoughts in this regard … here’s my plan:

First, as the title says, legalize it all. It’s the Gordian Knot solution. Of course it has to be adults only, as with alcohol. But other than that, get the government out of the business of regulating what people ingest.

Next, put the dispensing of the dangerous drugs in the hands of the doctors. Don’t penalize the docs for the amount they prescribe, leave the choice up to them. But we need to keep the addicts from falling out of touch with society. If a pregnant woman goes to a doctor and wants drugs, at least the doctor can explain to her the damage she is doing to her baby … and doctors are about the only people left that other people trust and pay attention to. Because as I said above, sadly we don’t have a choice called “no pregnant women taking drugs” … the best we can do is to make sure somebody who cares about them gets a chance to talk to them about it.

Next, put drug enhancements on our crimes. Just as a car crash when you are drunk merits a longer sentence than if you are sober, if you commit an assault AND you are on drugs, you should get a longer sentence. If you take PCP and kill someone, that should be first degree murder, not second degree, because you knowingly took a dangerous drug. In other words, punish actions and not ingestions or intentions.

Finally, make drugs a social rather than a criminal problem. We did that with alcohol when we repealed Prohibition. We can do the same with drugs. “Twelve-step” and other programs provably help addicts. We need to put our social dollars into programs rather than prisons.

I take this stance for some personal reasons in addition to my own experience. One is that on my mom’s side, alcoholism has been a constant theme for more than a century. At any given time a reasonable chunk of my ancestors and relatives have been alcoholics.

And during Prohibition, in addition to them being alcoholics, they were also criminals … didn’t stop them from being alkies, of course. It just made them felons as well. I never understood why society thought that was an improvement.

The other reason is that when my father was dying, he was in immense pain because the doctors at that time couldn’t prescribe heroin for the pain. The justification was to avoid the patient getting addicted … and my father had days to live.

So I’m opposed to continuing this insane War On Drugs. It has blighted lives, destroyed the inner cities, led to huge gang violence, made my father die in pain, increased racism, affected other countries, incarcerated my friends and relatives, cost a trillion dollars, and at the end of it all …

… we still have junkies nodding on the street-corners and mugging grandma …

We lost the War. Let’s get over it. It’s way past time to try something new, maybe not my suggestion, but we need something—what we’ve been doing isn’t working. Let’s take a different path.

Regards to all,

w.

My Request: In your comments please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS THAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO, so we can be clear just what you are discussing.

 

 

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69 thoughts on “Legalize It All

  1. first a nit-pick, the reason the two different forms of cocaine has the heavier sentencing is that there was a substantial pubic outcry to “do something” about the impact of crack cocaine. “something” was done, (increasing sentencing for crimes involving it) and now many of those same people have turned around and claimed that the sentencing difference is evidence of racism.

    As someone who has no interest in legalizing drugs, and has never been tempted by them, I think that the way to make the case for legalizing them as you say (rather than just reforming the system to do away with things like seizing property/money on the claim that it was involved with drug crimes) will be to look at the areas where recreational marijuana is being legalized, not just looking at the drug crimes in those areas, but all crimes in those areas, and the surrounding areas.

    If you can show with hard numbers over a few years that crime of all types drops in and around areas where a drug was legalized, then you may be able to convince someone like me to support a more wholesale loosening.

    P.S. given the way that there has been a huge outcry to go after the abuse of legal painkillers due to the “epidemics of deaths” involving them, this may still end up needing to be done in stages, keeping the ones that are the easies to overdose on for later stages.

    the urge to protect people from themselves is strong in this country, and it will take a long time to weaken in (see the banning of 32 oz sodas for an example)

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    • Kings Cross (in Sydney) has a legalized injecting room, run by some well-meaning nuns. The police aren’t allowed to arrest anybody caught with drugs around it. The result is that it is thought to be the safest place to sell drugs in the country.

      And a lot of people selling ‘legal’ drugs.

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      • I lived in the Netherlands during liberation of the law and it simply disappeared from the high schools as the crime of selling remained.

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      • I am living in the Netherlands and I am feeling much more safe in the Netherlands than in countries where there is a war on drugs. Inclusive the US.

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  2. I agree and disagree Willis. Tax what we can, test those who are on the government dole (so we don’t pay for it) , and keep those drugs that can permanently alter ones being, from just one use (Crack and the brain example), out of reach.

    It you change the paradigm of access, you change the incentive/opportunity for many profiting from the old way of doing things. Just like prohibition did.

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  3. Agree W but upgrade education on drug use in schools early on. Especially Education on hard core and highly addictive drugs like Heroine, Cocaine etc.

    Users who have been there done that and then fully and completely recovered. Kids need to understand there are better and more healthy ways to deal with the stress that life brings than using some kind of drug or alchol to escape and not deal with lifes stress etc.

    My two cents…..

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  4. Willis, you are exactly correct! Didn’t we learn anything from Prohibition? Humans have been ingesting substances to alter their perception of reality since the first one of us figured out that old fruit juice gave one an interesting feeling after drinking it.

    We have been spending enormous sums of money and have nothing to show for it other than more, cheaper drugs on the street. Education helps people avoid drugs to some extent but when that education is dishonest, claiming, for instance, that pot is highly addictive and a “gateway” drug, people stop listening. The only way to steer young people away from drug use is to tell them the truth and hope they listen.

    The only difference between drinking alcohol and smoking pot or using other drugs is that the former is legal and socially acceptable. When I was a kiddo in the ’60s, drug use was socially acceptable among my friends. And when is the last time you heard about some guy stoned out of his gourd getting into a brawl or causing a fatal accident? People stoned on pot sit in front of their TVs and giggle a lot while eating the contents of their fridge.

    It really is time to declare that we won the war, just like in Vietnam, and walk away.

    PMK.

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    • well, as a practical matter, I think that whatever the least bad illegal drug is, that drug will be a ‘gateway drug’ in that people try it, decide it wasn’t so bad after all, and decide that possibly the others aren’t so bad either.

      You ask when the last time that you heard someone on pot being violent, but if it’s legalized to the extent that Tabacco is (which in California is less than you would think), now you have to worry about the impact of people driving, operating heavy equipment, or supervising factories with it in their system.

      Given how it’s utterly illegal for a Amtrack Train Conductor (not the Enginner who’s in the Engine, but the Conductor who is supervising the passangers) to even have a phone turned on, thinking that people would be Ok with others having pot in their systems because they smoked a joint several hours earlier seems to be pushing things.

      The idea of adding additonal punishment if something bad happens while they have stuff in their systems is a nice idea, but that’s like saying that Drunk Driving isn’t really a problem if nothing else happens. The same people who go after zero tolorance of DD are going to (quite reasonably) argue that these other things are at least as bad.

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      • David, take the advice of a former drug user, me. Unlike Willis I never tried heroin, because I did not like the idea of sticking a needle in my arm, but tried many others over a long period, mostly sticking to smoking pot.

        My advice is that you should not believe the story about any drug being addictive from just a single use. For a very small percentage of people, maybe, but the truth is it all comes down to what the individual WANTS to do. I remember seeing a movie called “reefer madness” as a teenager. I think it was produced in the 1950’s, & it was a horror story. Several years later when I first tried pot, nothing whatsoever happened, which was disappointing to me, but also made me think that maybe the official line was a lie. Anyway, after about 6 months of occasional pot smoking, I finally got stoned for the first time. Guess what, I didn’t rapidly become insane, turn into a violent criminal, male prostitute, or even a drug addict.

        That is part of my story. The crux of the matter is that Willis is right. Prohibition of drugs has failed completely, just like it did with alcohol almost 100 years ago. Governments around the world are struggling to fund programs that portions of their populations want, while at the same time they spend vast amounts of taxpayers money attempting to eliminate a huge industry, one which generates vast amounts of UNTAXED income for those involved in it. That is the epitome of stupid, in my book.

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  5. Prohibition, that’s an excellent example. It didn’t stop drinking, it certainly didn’t stop crime. If it did any good at all, it provided Hollywood with lots of script material.

    Drugs won. In effect, although I would quibble and say drugs weren’t even playing and the war on drugs was lost because politicians didn’t fight their actual opponent … or even know who or what that was.

    Drugs are neither here nor there, they have uses, they have side-effects, not to mention dangers. Like guns. Will a war on guns work? The side that says guns don’t kill people has a point, for those who can look beyond the fact that “guns” do kill people.

    The war on drugs started long before it was called the war on drugs. Weren’t some of those movies about Marijuana The Killer Weed made in the thirties? It’s ironic that the killer weed turns out to be tobacco and now marijuana is so popular that it is becoming a gateway drug … to tobacco. Here’s a new slogan: legalize everything … except tobacco.

    The graph shows prison numbers and it does show the results of the war on drugs. Another graph would be interesting too, one that shows actual usage of drugs. “the sixties” was a turning point (tipping point?) for many things, and drug usage was a big one. Before that drug usage was something that could not be mentioned on the radio. Rock and Roll changed that in a way that Jazz never did. Then drug usage became popular and many Hollywood movies were as good as an instruction manual for how to snort cocaine.

    We do NOT have a choice called “no junkies nodding out on the street-corners”.
    I tend to agree, but once upon a time we did have that choice. And in that golden age, every building and sign was free of drug dealer tags. Progress is not a one-way street.

    Legalize It All. Definitely worth looking at, from a pragmatic point of view. But more than that, the problem with drugs is a moral problem first and a legal problem second, with protection of people and property from drug related crimes. As a moral problem, the government should not be in that business and should get out of it.

    “When I woke up, I thought “Man, I can pass out in front of the TV without needles, what’s the big deal”?”
    Wise man. Not everybody thinks that, since the demand for drugs is up, up, up.
    I can’t explain it. Does reality suck that much for so many?

    Back to the past. Why were there fewer drug addicts in the gutter before? Because the gutters were already full with winos? Because drugs were not easily available? Because drugs were not glorified in the media? Because the church still existed? Because we didn’t have Lance Armstrong as a role model?

    My take on it is that it is a culture thing and the culture changed circa 1967.
    (But Bill didn’t inhale). The only way to win a war on drugs is to reduce the demand side.

    The dollars going to Mexico for drugs could pay for lots of walls. But walls won’t stop the drugs.

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  6. Willis, I started reading you on WUWT, and I’m enjoying this blog a lot. I’m in favour of eventual legalisation of all drugs (if you don’t know the writer Iain M. Banks’ SF Culture series, I strongly recommend it); however, for the purpose of achieving social acceptance, and providing effective drug education, I think it should have phases, starting immediately with marijuana, testing the results, as another commenter mentions, then moving on to heavier drugs. Thanks.

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  7. You forgot the DEA who still support classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug (substances, or chemicals defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, e.g heroin) even though there is no valid medical reason to do so. For reference, cocaine is Schedule II which can be physician authorized. Of course the REAL reason is that estimates of DEA manpower loss would be up to 50% for marijuana alone. So every time pot legality or decriminalization is proposed (repeatedly since 1972), the DEA goes crying to congress to keep the prohibitions in place. Another major abuse arising from all of this are the RICO laws which allow confiscation of money or property on suspicion only without conviction being required and with a very short and nearly impossible time limit required on any legal attempt to re-acquire said money or property.

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  8. Perhaps these substances will eventually be legalised, however it is a stretch beyond what is credible to believe that the future social costs of this move will be constrained by either education to the dangers or by creating some form of clever legal sanction based on particular consequence. Judicial Watch estimates that around 14,000 to 16,000 people are currently dying each year from overdosing on drugs in the United States, the primary culprit being heroin. Hidden behind this baleful statistic are the lives of others ruined by addiction with all of its social and health outcomes. While I concede that today the ‘War on Drugs’ has largely been a failure, drugs of all kinds being freely available in every corner of America for not much money, it is naive to advance the idea that allowing them to be sold/prescribed freely will not create a wider consequence. The obvious reason for this conclusion being rooted in the propensity of humans to embrace self destructive behaviours. Frankly there is no solutions to this attitude, life in general is easy for almost every American, in fact for most westerners, there being no real struggles for the means to live, instead frivolous notions predominate, ideas egged on by a media machine whose current aims appears to be the destruction of civilised life through artful and repetitive brain-washing. I concede to your arguments, but it will not turn out the way you think Willis.

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    • “it is naive to advance the idea that allowing them to be sold/prescribed freely will not create a wider consequence. The obvious reason for this conclusion being rooted in the propensity of humans to embrace self destructive behaviours.”

      My opinion is the first sentence is the typical canard against legalization. For whatever reason, the land of the free has historically been fanatically prohibitionist. There seems no limits to the extent we want to meddle in “other” peoples affairs.

      I contend the second sentence somewhat defeats your own point. There is a propensity for some humans to embrace self destructive behaviours including the fact that a particular action is illegal. In other words, I don’t believe the calculus includes “Well I was going to engage in some self destructive behaviour today but then I remembered it was illegal”

      So I’m siding with Willis. I believe his perspective is much more insightful than mine (as a non-user) would be.

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  9. It’s striking how recently some drugs were made illegal. In Britain I understand that cocaine and opium became seriously regulated only about a century ago. The initial regulatory regime seemed pretty successful for four decades. Apparently the motive to interfere with it in the sixties wasn’t domestic concerns, but a consequence of American pressure.

    (Of course this puts the Opium Wars in a new light: the East India Company was trading in a legal substance, and just bringing the virtues of diversity and multiculturalism to China. So that’s OK.)

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  10. Been saying this a long time. People are going to do what people are going to do. Some people are going to use drugs and alcohol recreationally, some people are going to try to control what other people do. Prohibition is the example you have to keep pushing, it did not just fail it failed SPECTACULARLY. And in doing so created criminal syndicates that exist and thrive to this very day. All because people who want to control what others do got into positions of power and forced what they wanted on everyone else. And none of those people were ever held accountable for the nightmare they created and profited from.

    Some people are going to “abuse” anything. That is just how people are. Some abuse food. Some abuse alcohol. Some abuse drugs. And some abuse authority. Those who abuse authority over their fellow men are BY FAR more dangerous and destructive to human society as a whole than the others combined.

    Thus endeth the rant.

    Oh, and as for marijuana, legalizing it for personal use and allowing people to grow their own would rip a great deal of the monetary incentive out of the drug trade. Just sayin’.

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  11. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    ~
    Sober look at hard truth.

    Also, civil asset forfeiture is wrong and un-American. The most efficient way to rid our society of such corruption, is stop calling drugs corruption to justify it. Sure, drugs are bad. How does it make things better to also make drugs criminal?

    Willis is right. Legalize it all.

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  12. Another vote for legalization here.

    As long as they are illegal, the economics are too compelling for even the marginally criminal to ignore. The profits are huge. Huge profits lead to recruitment, which leads to increases over the normal (hate to say it, but there are always those…) usage. We literally didn’t have a drug problem until we made it one. When the overall profit margin is as high as 10,000x, there’s a lot of money to corrupt many people.

    In 1980 I ran as a libertarian for congress, I got questioned on my legalization stand. At the time my youngest daughter was 2, and I responded that I didn’t want her to be recruited in grade school – some people laughed at that. I don’t think they’d laugh about it any more. Afterward an older couple headed toward me, I’m thinking I’m going to hear about it. The wife said to my surprise, “You’re right about drugs, we have a neighbor boy and he’d have never gotten into trouble if someone hadn’t recruited him to try them.”

    I remember the panic when Tim Leary said, “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!” The Establishment wants to decide what is recreation and what isn’t. I didn’t try MJ until I was 40 and had a girlfriend to urged me to do so. I didn’t impress me and that was the only time I tried it.

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    • A drug legalization is a drug lord’s worst nightmare.

      It would solve not only the U.S. problems, but also Mexico’s problems, and lots of Latin America’s problems – maybe even some Afghan problems.

      As noted, it should not be a blanket free-for-all. An education will be needed; most of us know can drink a pint of beer, but would attempt to drink a pint of whisky. The law must specify penalties for misuse – like drunk driving. Highest penalties for forcing other people to develop an addiction.

      A little test: How much coca or cola does Coca-Cola contain?

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      • Yep, Afghanistan would actually have to raise food, instead. A long time ago it was explained that the heroin trade could be collapsed by re-instituting the use of opium in pharmaceutical industry. Synthetic substitutes have proven to be just as addictive as and less effective than the real thing. Pharmaceutical manufacturers could by up the raw opium production quite readily.

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      • Curious George: “It would solve not only the U.S. problems, but also Mexico’s problems, and lots of Latin America’s problems – maybe even some Afghan problems.”

        WR: “There is no business like drugs-business”. ‘Legalizing drugs’ would kill that business. And would kill most of the criminality that is connected to this ‘business’.

        Therefore, the best way to keep this ‘business’ (and the corresponding criminality) alive is: keep it illegal.

        Personally I prefer a world with as less criminality as possible. Spending the money that is used for the war on drugs, the money for the justice system involved, for the jails etc., spending that money on social and educative (preventive) programs would solve a lot of the safety problems the U.S. and other ‘war on drugs’ countries are facing.

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  13. If we are going to treat drugs the same way we do alcohol, then just as having Alcohol Beverage stores we would have “Drug Stores”. I understand the “go through Doctor” idea, but we don’t exactly do that now for alcohol.

    I suspect the illegal drug trade would only go away if the legal drugs were less expensive. Of course, the legal drugs would meet FDA specifications, so they would, or should, be “cleaner”.

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  14. I have found that I can easily become (addicted/habituated/dependent on/helpless against) some things, but not others. Way back during the hippie era, I had a serious Jones for tobacco. I finally kicked it, and one of the ways I kicked it involved marijuana. Then one day I noticed I hadn’t smoked any pot for two weeks. That was the extent of the hold it had on me. But it took maybe forty years to get past wanting a smoke of tobacco. I won the big prize the first time I played Bingo, and it took me YEARS to get rid of the habit.

    So: I have to be careful around tobacco and gambling. I’m perfectly safe around alcohol, and if I were in circles where pot was available, I’d be safe from that, too.

    Everybody has things they could get addicted to, and things they are safe from — but they’re different things for different people. Why forbid some things, and accept others, based on the fixations of legislatures and agencies? The crimes and tragedies created by prohibition are at least as bad as the tragedies from lack of prohibition.

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  15. Incarceration is costly. How costly depends on who you ask …

    The fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates in Fiscal Year 2014 was $30,619.85 ($83.89 per day).
    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/03/09/2015-05437/annual-determination-of-average-cost-of-incarceration

    It costs an average of about $71,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California
    http://www.lao.ca.gov/PolicyAreas/CJ/6_cj_inmatecost

    All part of the Social Cost of the War on Drugs.

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  16. It depends.
    A couple of “management” axioms and insights.
    1) if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
    2) behaviors you reward, you’ll see more of.
    3) behaviors you punish, you’ll see less often
    4) the ice ages were a narrow genetic and behavioral filter
    ….=> if you are “here”, your ancestors survived with all the crud that accumulated
    5) the Maslow hierarchy of needs neglects the “surviving grandchildren” strategic objective.

    So, the real questions are:
    A) on Lifeboat Earth, how does this get us “out of the nest”?
    ….Alpha Centauri will take a bit to get to. Moon, Mars, maybe not so much.
    B) how is this diversion of idle hands a) rewarded, and b) punished?

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      • OK,
        a) one must actually need to “manage people”,
        b) it is the trade off of reward vs punishment.
        …..for example, if the “penalty” for being picked up with prohibited drugs was one
        ……of your or your pre-appointed/agreed designee was to use an emasculator to attend
        ……to a “family jewel”, it might be a bit more “encouraging”

        On the other hand, the leeches in the bottom of lifeboat earth don’t care about getting out of the nest.

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        • I would say you are fairly screwed up in the head and should be locked in a cell for the safety of other citizens. Let me guess, shari’a is not nearly strict enough for you? Your need to use force to compel people to obey your commands is a sickness.

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        • I was given a pot cigarette by an American colleague in the 70’s. I had a great high, and once down, thought “Wow! Gotta do that again!” Then I thought about what I was saying to myself – that that way, addiction lies! Anyway, I DID inhale (but only the one!). So it seems that if you’re an addictive personality, you’ll get hooked – if not, not.
          But the same colleague lent me a book called “A Child’s Garden Of Grass”. One chapter was entitled “The dangers of pot”. There was a blank page with one line on the bottom – “Getting busted”.
          Yep – legalise – but check what happens!

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      • 2hotel9 wrote, “‘behaviors you punish, you’ll see less often’ This is the lie that gave us Prohibition, and the War on Drugs. Stop repeating lies, THAT will set you free.”

        Although popular opinion believes that Prohibition failed, it succeeded in cutting overall alcohol consumption in half during the 1920s, and consumption remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s, suggesting that Prohibition did socialize a significant proportion of the population in temperate habits, at least temporarily.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States

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        • Really? Everyone on the planet knows Prohibition failed, and failed spectacularly. Americans broke the law and drank anyway. A significant portion of the population did not drink to begin with. Using stats from people who supported Prohibition as proof it worked is not making your case.

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  17. The war on drugs is the perfect example of people’s inability to learn from history. Prohibition taught us that all of the consequences are negative – empowerment of criminals, waste of public resources, criminalization of addicts – but somehow we expected a different result from the war on drugs. We got exactly what should have been expected.

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  18. Willis, I followed you here from WUWT, always enjoying your insights and thoughtful commentary. I agree in principle with your thoughts on legalization. However, I believe that to have the desired outcomes legalization alone is not enough as it doesn’t address the cause of drug use/abuse. May I share my perspective?

    As a kid growing up in post WWII southern California in the late ’40’s and early 50’s it was common to see veterans with a sleeve or pants leg pinned up because of missing limbs. By the early ’50’s, it was rare. I asked my dad, a veteran of the 15th Air Force, where they all went and he replied that most of them had drunk themselves to death. Not all grievous injuries were so visible, and many vets lived with painful and debilitating injuries after discharge.
    I worked with a couple of veterans who were forced to go cold turkey off the morphine that had been provided during their recuperation despite the fact that they were still in considerable pain.
    They were both “junkies”, but held down full time jobs, had families, went to church, and were mortally ashamed of their addiction. These men, having come of age before and during the war, the societal milieu was considerably different than that following the ’60’s corruption of values and standards.

    After the societal devolution of the ’60’s (the cause of which is worth discussion) the age old and accepted standards of morality, duty, faith, and diligence were rocked. The hippies (useful idiots) and the counter culture rejected and mocked the values of their parents and grandparents because they had the leisure time to indulge themselves. (The awareness and gratitude that they had that leisure time because of the hard work, sacrifice, and values of their ancestors seems to have been lost on them).

    The now relaxed morality compounded by relative affluence allows too many the luxury of thinking they didn’t need to adhere to their elders strict and puritanical standards. Heck, they didn’t even need to work to eat! With the expansion of the food stamp program, increased welfare benefits, the acceptance of sloth as a lifestyle (hippies, surfers), vets returning from Vietnam with a taste for drugs they experienced overseas, the stage was set for the perfect storm of drug use/abuse.

    The result of that storm was a knee jerk reaction, the “war on drugs”. Rather than address the causes, we addressed the effects. The cause was affluenza and the degradation of morality. Life is too easy, we need to make it harder for those who are abusing our charity, thinking it is a “right”.

    Drug test everyone who receives any benefit derived from the taxpayers. Test inmates, civil servants, contractors, congress critters, cabinet and President. If dirty, lifetime ban on civil employment, social security, medicare, legal aid, and all other benefits.

    When you have to work for your meals and a roof over your head, you don’t have time for nonsense like drugs, protests, rioting, and whining. The evolution of our standards of morality, duty, faith and diligence came from necessity. Without them we could not have evolved as a culture or as a nation.

    We need to return to those “outdated” values. Only then will a return to legalization have the desired benefit.

    Like

    • Thanks, RBW. Indeed as you point out, we need to address the causes. However, I know that for every “cause” you can find an exception, people who are unaffected by that cause.

      By that I mean, I know people who grew up with every advantage, are hard-working, moral, dutiful, and diligent, and they still like to have a drink with lunch … what is your “cause” for that?

      As to whether we should “drug test everyone” who gets any government benefits, I’m not in agreement with that at all. Sure, for critical jobs, airplane pilots. But I truly don’t care if the President has an adult beverage with lunch or not …

      Next, you say if the President is found to have had a martini during working hours, your solution is fire him, put a “lifetime ban” on any further government job, and take away his social security and medicare … you don’t think that’s a trifle, well, over the top? …

      Finally, you say:

      When you have to work for your meals and a roof over your head, you don’t have time for nonsense like drugs, protests, rioting, and whining.

      Dang, you desperately need to learn to multitask. I know lots of people who work for their meals and roof and find plenty of time for drugs, protests, and rioting … heck, I’ve been there, done that in my youth while working full time.

      Overall, I’d say you are far too bloodthirsty and judgmental for my blood … but that’s just me.

      However, thank you for the clear statement of your position, it is what freedom of speech is all about.

      w.

      Like

      • Thanks Willis! Did I “stake out the far edge”, (bloodthirsty and judgemental as it is)? I will say I don’t equate alcohol with the illegal drugs that are the issue here, that’s why I didn’t mention it. Unlawful and churlish behavior under the influence of alcohol is well addressed by current societal norms and law, and I summarily exempt it from my wrath.

        As far as a government employee imbibing during “working hours”, in my agencies it was a career ending event. I appreciate my adult beverages as much as the next person but never in my years of government service did I even think of having a beer at lunch. I’ll give the President a pass on state dinners and such. Hard to believe, but the D.C. complex is exempt.

        Upon careful reading of your post, are you also advocating that medical doctors be allowed to dispense what are now prescription drugs for recreational use?

        Like

        • I would not say too bloodthirsty at all. I would add to it. Many of the issues cite and the growth of many other ills in society come down to well-meaning attempts to save people from themselves and take away consequences from actions. I say let actions start having consequences. You want to risk an OD? Don’t spend government money stalking every police vehicle with drugs to counter it. You test positive, then I agree deny benefits except perhaps some small subsistance level in a government provided facility with a MINIMUM standard of living – we wont insist anyone starve, but their CHOICE means to get the aid they get food, a roof, and a shovel. Want more than that? Then test clean. Choices must have consequences rather than trying to counteract Darwinism.

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          • You mean along the lines of CCC under Roosevelt? I could support that, for people who ask for it. Enter the system and get a full medical check, stay clean the full term of the program, learn job skills and basic education(reading,writing,arithmetic,civics) while working on public service projects. Once completed they go forth never to be eligible for public assistance again. Sounds like a win/win.

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  19. My instant response to legalization of drugs is negative. Probably due to the years of seeing in the media the results of drug abuse.
    Still I can see the futility of the “war”, I can see the probability of youth experimenting, babies hurt, and my summation, what is the difference, legal or illegal, we know how the current system fails, we can try the alternative with not much to lose, a lot to gain, or,realistically, not much change. The not much change sounds a lot better than what we have now.

    Like

    • Thanks, Bruce. Definitely, drugs and alcohol are a problem in all societies I know of.

      However, ending Prohibition REDUCED the number and severity of the problems with alcohol. Didn’t make them go away, as you point out, there are negative effects.

      But we can at least stop blighting lives and wrecking the inner cities and destroy the power of the gangs by legalization of drugs. We’ll still be left with the problems with drugs, but we can get rid of the bigger problems with the War On Drugs.

      w.

      w.

      Like

    • Actually, the “gain” would be a substantial reduction in the outflow of tax dollars and a substantial reduction in the number of Federal government employees. Win/win

      Like

  20. Of course one of the unintended (maybe intended) consequences of getting caught up in the legal system is the “Ant Man” effect (Baskin-Robbins always finds out). Now job opportunities start to get limited, it’s an easy downward spiral where most likely you will not end up getting a job as an Avenger.

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  21. Once again the Swiss experience with drug legalization needs to be discussed. The Swiss legalized drugs by a popular vote – not just MJ, but all drugs. You can go to a doctor and get your drugs, enough to avoid withdrawal, but not enough to get high. You need a Swiss ID or Passport to do so. You may hold a job, not in the transportation industry, at least not as a driver, engineer, or pilot, but in any case a job is possible.

    After 6 months the petty crime rate had dropped 70%. Fast forward a few years and once again the question of drug legalization was put to the vote – it passed overwhelmingly.

    Now as a libertarian, all rights are property rights starting with self-ownership. To my mind anyone has the right to ingest any idiotic thing or substance they choose – just don’t do it in such a fashion as to aggress against anyone else – that means don’t go driving anything under the influence. With that covered, knock yourself out.

    The fiscal cost of the war on drugs is currently in the trillions of dollars, the moral cost is incalculable. Legalize everything NOW!

    Like

    • Dang … thanks for that information about the Swiss, I’d never heard of that. I just made up my plan based on my own experiences and ideas, and the Swiss have done it with the result I predicted, reduction in crime. Love it when that happens.

      Thanks, amigo.

      w.

      Like

      • @ Willis,
        So now you’ve got a population of druggies, who’s gonna run the show.

        I’ll cut you off at the pass… amigo, it sounds like a downward spiral, Rome tried it.
        Just say’n.

        Like

          • Rome did not “try it” 2000 years ago. They flooded themselves with “immigrants” who did not assimilate to their culture. Don’t buy into a lie just because it sounds smooth and debonair. UK is comparing apples and iron ore. Not even close.

            Like

        • u.k.(us) February 3, 2017 at 2:46 pm

          @ Willis,
          So now you’ve got a population of druggies, who’s gonna run the show.

          What makes you think we’ll end up with “a population of druggies”? That hasn’t happened in the Netherlands, or Portugal, or Switzerland, despite lots of folks like you who have predicted for years that the problem was not enough laws, and that cutting back on the laws would lead to decay and ruin …

          Didn’t happen.

          w.

          Like

          • Just sorta playing Devil’s advocate.
            Now I need to start researching the likely outcomes of numerous horse races being run today.
            “One man’s fun is another man’s hell”.
            Cheers.

            Like

        • So prior to the U.S.making drugs illegal what did the U.K. do? No scandals there ever, right? Philby, nah, Maybe Christine Keeler and Mandi nah, what was that about those running the show? Or maybe only one party in the U.K. were druggies. Riiiight

          Like

  22. Being of a libertarian bent, I agree with you but there’s one issue that bothers me. It’s similar to helmet laws for motorcycles (or bicycles for that matter). I personally don’t give a damn if some idiot wants to ride without a helmet. My problem is when he crashes the rest of us have to take care of him when he becomes a drooling idiot. Obvious answer is to let him lie there where he crashed if he’s too stupid to protect himself or have insurance that will cover his ass. Unfortunately, society won’t do that. Same hold true for drug abusers. We already spend a lot of time taking care of the overdosers in emergency rooms. Would legalizing everything have us taking care of all the zoned out druggies who can’t or won’t take care of themselves?

    Like

    • No, the rest of us should not have to take care of him or them. Freedom comes with responsibility for ones actions. Harsh, maybe, but Nature’s harsher. Stupidity is often a Capital Offense.

      Like

  23. If you recall “Brave New World”, there is a drug “Soma” which keeps the masses happy and harmless.

    https://rightperspective.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/the-perfect-drug-television-and-the-intellectual-decline-of-america/

    “1984” versus “Brave New World”

    One look at communist China or Russia is enough to demonstrate that the censorship of information is a serious threat to freedom and civil liberty. But there is another equally chilling, while somewhat less obvious threat. As Aldous Huxley put it in Brave New World Revisited, those who are ever alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In Orwell’s world, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Huxley’s world, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In Orwell’s world, information is censored. In Huxley’s world, there is no need to censor information; it is drowned in a sea of irrelevant amusement. I believe that Huxley’s prediction of the future, not Orwell’s, was more accurate.

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  24. Agree with the idea but rebell at the idea of another group of people on the public dole. I work in an industry where if yo come to work drunk you are done. Same would (and does) apply to drug use. I question whether the drug dealers are reaaly so obsessed with keeping things are they are. With the amounts of money they have now lifting the bann on their social life would make them imediate society icons (After all it is all about money is not? Despite what SJW talk about)

    Like

  25. In what Willis as written and in the comments I have read thus-far one issue seems neglected — Child Welfare.

    I start from the following Premises:

    1. The law must protect the powerless from the predations of those who have power over them.
    2. Children have a legal claim on the wealth of their parents until they achieve legal majority

    Given this, the government will need to intervene in the welfare of children to insure that all their due rights are maintained. With the legalization of all drugs this might replace one jack-booted regime (the War on Drugs) with another, localized around various Departments of Social Services. I am not very confident in the efficacy of these departments as is. If drugs became more widely and cheaply available with less disapprobation (and therefore a corresponding increase in use) the cases of child neglect/abuse would increase. Even if this increase were merely fractional, the expected response would be a “War on Neglect/Abuse” which would see children removed at the utter discretion of DSS caseworkers. Yes, this is a hypothetical, and yet the intolerance for neglect/abuse of children is not to be underestimated.

    How do we make good drug policy while protecting both children, and also protecting ourselves from the reliable Government response to the expected results?

    Like

    • Wayne, you raise a good question. However, the problem is not drugs, it is the neglect and abuse of children. I know many parents who use a wide variety of drugs recreationally without the slightest visible effect on their children. I’ve also seen teetotal Christians who wouldn’t dream of taking drugs beat their children with sticks to where they were bruised for days. It’s not the drugs … it’s the abuse.

      Next, look at the chart of the increase in the prison population, a huge number of whom are in there for drugs. Which has more of a negative effect on the children, dad smoking a joint, or dad doing time in prison for smoking a joint?

      It’s like what I said about the alcoholics in my family. Not one of them stopped drinking because of Prohibition. It did not improve things, for either them or their children, to make them criminals.

      So I reject the argument that dad doing time in prison is better for the kids than dad smoking a joint, which if I understand you seems to be your underlying claim.

      Best regards, thanks for the interesting comment,

      w.

      Like

  26. Mr. Eschenbach your clarity continues to astound me, and I do not astound easily.

    I’d like to recommend the books of the late author Peter McWilliams. Here is a link to the full text of some of them placed on the web with the author’s permission before his death in 2000.

    His 1993 work Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country [full text] is a damned masterpiece of wit, apt quotes from all over and a central narrative that is extremely well-researched and enjoyable. It’s actually one of the only non-fiction books I ever read that I could not put down.

    It was this that first attracted the attention of the DEA. One agent confided to him later, “When we raided houses we kept finding copies of that book.” When McWilliams was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1996 and discovered that marijuana was the only effective medication that could alleviate the symptoms, he became one of the first people in California to (legally, Proposition 215) cultivate for personal use, and even wrote a book about that. Which pinged their radar again.

    The DEA then launched a years-long offensive against him, challenging the 10th amendment and finally imposing on him a condition (court-mandated cessation of use as his disease progressed) that likely resulted in his death. The DEA’s recent decision that the Feds will not target lawful medical users in states that allow it, accomplished mainly through defunding, was the culmination of a long battle that Peter began though he did not live to see its end. R.I.P. Peter, and hopefully I can get a new generation of folks (including Constitutional scholars) reading your books.

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  27. I agree wholeheartedly with legalizing most drugs. The whole thing smacks of paternalism to me. “Protecting people from themselves”. The gateway drug concept was founded upon the notion that certain persons could not make decisions for themselves, and we needed to protect the weak from addiction (see also gambling).

    Traditionally, the only persons that the law deems need protection from themselves are those with a “legal disability”. Minors are deemed to not have the legal capacity to make certain decisions, unless a court removes those legal disabilities. Other legal capacity issues include those that have been declared incompetent by a court, and had a conservator of their property and/or a guardian of their person appointed.

    Capacity can be somewhat nuanced. A person who is drunk or high may lack capacity in some cases, but not others. An addict is responsible for their actions while in an altered state (DUI), but in most U. S. states a contract that person enters into in an altered state of mind is void or voidable (usually coupled with knowledge of the other party).

    The tricky part will be deciding how to address capacity. For example, I have heard that THC inhibits brain development for people under the age of 25. I have no idea if that is really true. Anecdotally, I do know that several of my friends that smoked a lot of pot in college (I am 56), became somewhat lazy, and unproductive, but I don’t know if that is causation or correlation.

    If those under 25 truly inhibit brain development, then the legal age to smoke pot could be 25, recognizing that (1) those that want to will still find it, and (2) we are going to increase the number of people under 25 that are likely to smoke pot because it will be widely legally available.

    Like

  28. Willis, since you brought up Singapore… from an article a few years ago in the Guardian:

    “According to the 2008 World Drug Report by the United Nations office on drugs and crime 8.2% of the UK population are cannabis abusers; in Singapore it is 0.005%. For ecstasy, the figures are 1.8% for the UK and 0.003% for Singapore; and for opiates – such as heroin, opium and morphine – 0.9% for the UK and 0.005% for Singapore.”

    It is logically fallacious to argue, as you do, that strict criminal enforcement and legalization will lead to the same result. They clearly do not.

    I think that the legalization of drugs in the Netherlands, for example, has clearly sapped that nation of much of its vitality. Though I probably agree that we could not duplicate Singapore here, and I am pro-legalization…. drugs are more often the symptom of societal malaise than the disease.

    Like

  29. War on drugs is a lost war. A first step to deal with the problems that drugs do being to our societies is what Portugal has done at dozen years ago. There using drugs is not crime, and drug addicts can get medical assistance, use drugs with dignity in a clean environment with doctors and nurses nearby. Selling drugs is still a crime, but this policy has reduced the number od addicts and their impact on society.

    Like

  30. Pingback: Fixing The Brakes | Skating Under The Ice

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