Monday, October 14, 2013

"Drugs are bad, mmkay" Conclusion

Do I think that current drug laws are perfect?  No.  Marijuana is probably over-regulated, and society would not likely fall apart if it were legalized in the US.  A law that prevents someone from using an incredibly destructive substance is not an arbitrary law: it is a law that is meant to protect people.

And yes, some people need to be protected from themselves, because they lack the capacity to make responsible decisions.  Case in point: it's no secret that it is easy to become addicted to heroin, and heroin will ruin your life . . . yet people still do it.

If you are caught selling drugs, you will go to jail, and it will ruin your life . . . yet people still do it.

Tell the child of a drug addict that everything is okay, because drug abuse is a "victimless crime."  Tell the parents of a crack head that it's all going to be alright, because "it's his choice to destroy himself."  The next time you complain about taxes being so high, remind yourself that you shouldn't be mad because the money someone gets for disability--because drug addiction is considered a disability--is well spent, because you're just funding their ability to be free.

Go find a junkie and pat him on the back and tell him "congratulations, you're exercising your right to kill yourself!"

People should be free to run their lives as they see fit, but not at the expense of everyone else.  Anti-drug law proponents seem to think that the only related cost of drug abuse comes from the enforcement of drug laws.  The truth is that most people who argue in favor of complete drug legalization simply do not know the cost of cleaning up a junkie's mess.

If you believe that all drugs should be legalized, then I have a few questions for you.  How many junkies have you met?  How much time have you spent in low-income areas in which drug addiction is rampant?

If you truly believe that drug addiction is a victimless crime, then my guess is that you may not have much experience in working with that particular population.  Just an observation from someone who has experience working with them.


Anonymous said...

This is a good point against full legalization of all drugs:

The truth is that most people who argue in favor of complete drug legalization simply do not know the cost of cleaning up a junkie's mess.

I am pretty darn libertarian, but as I like to tell people in favor of total legalization, "The nation cannot implement libertarian policies unless it is prepared to face the libertarian consequences in a libertarian manner."

Jersey McJones said...

There is very, very little movement to legalize all drugs. Almost no constituency at all. There is, however, a strong movement to decriminalize drug abuse and small transactions. There's a difference there, but supporters of the status quo do not seem to grasp it. I think if we think of it as a personal/familial/social health issue, instead of as strictly a crime issue, then we could deal with it better.


Anonymous said...

Two points I think you are missing in your analysis:

1> Prohibition does not work. Increased penalties do not work. Increased enforcement does not work. You can see it plain as day, despite pouring more and more resources into the War on Drugs, marijuana use continues to increase and usage rates of other drugs show little or no change.

Prohibition has failed and it is past time to find a new way to discourage drug abuse.

2. You have ignored the loss of liberty caused by drug enforcement actions. Police forces are becoming more and more like paramilitary units, the use of SWAT teams has skyrocketed (40,000 raids per year by one estimate with an associated increase in raids on the wrong address and police killings of innocent people and family pets.

We tolerate intrusive security measures infringing on our freedom to travel, surveillance of our private communications, the use of drug dogs (whose accuracy is questionable at best) during routine traffic stops and in our schools, and civil forfeiture laws have allowed the confiscation of nearly any personal property while placing the owner in a position where they are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence to have any chance of having their assets returned. The use of civil forfeiture to fund further drug enforcement action creates an irresistible incentive for the police to abuse the process.

I am not naive to the horrific effects of drug abuse having grown up in the Northwest where heroin and methamphetamine are very popular and marijuana use is so common (and mostly harmless IMO) that hardly anyone bats an eye. I lived next to a house full of meth addicts for close to two years and they were not the most pleasant neighbors, but I still don't want to pour more resources and lose more liberty to an unwinnable war. It is antithetical to the founding principles of our nation for every citizen to be treated as a suspect by the people we pay to protect us.


Jersey McJones said...

Tony, your anecdote is far removed from the norm. I came of age in places like NYC and LA in the 80's. I know the devastation of hardcore drug abuse. The very notion of complete legalization, social normalization, of cocaine, meth, heroin, and the like, is obnoxious on the face of it - and I'm extremely liberal and civil libertarian. On the other hand, ruining peoples lives because they're ruining their lives and the lives of those around them helps no one involved or in the society as a whole. If people need help, and maybe can be happy with less dangerous habits, then maybe we can change things to make that so. But to argue complete legalization versus the status quo is waste of time. We have to address the problem in a different way, not just throw up our hands for an ideology of convenience.


Anonymous said...

I must again agree with Jersey.

I've enjoyed this series of posts and the discussion that followed.

We must harbor no illusions that legalizing pot will make the criminal gangs go away. We also have cocaine and other drugs coming across the border, and out consumption is fueling the drug cartels and violence in Mexico that kills over 100,000 people a year. Yes, we are responsible because of our voracious drug consumption.

Even if we legalize cocaine as well, it still wouldn't diminish the criminal gangs

From Anabel Hernandez, someone who has been studying this for years:

They are criminals, and they don’t just control drugs, they also control prostitution, child pornography, piracy, and many terrible criminal activities. I have heard many times, “It’s my body, it’s my life, it’s my problem.” But it can also be the body of your son, if he is kidnapped. It can be the problem of your sister, if she is trafficked. It’s everybody’s problem.

-- Silverfiddle

Jersey McJones said...

Well, decriminalization should reduce drug related crime significantly. It had that effect after Prohibition. It probably won't affect gang related crime all that much, but that is a fraction of the criminal activity related to the drug trade.


Anonymous said...

Jersey, please point out where I advocated blanket legalization. What I said was "Prohibition has failed and it is past time to find a new way to discourage drug abuse."

I am opposed to the continued erosion of our civil liberties in a misguided effort to save people who insist on destroying themselves, I am not an advocate for drug use.


Jersey McJones said...

Well, okay then!


Anonymous said...

This is exactly the sort of police behavior I am talking about:

Nobody is safer because of this, and the only people being served are the cops who get to add another case to their drug bust stats.


Silverfiddle said...

Amen, Tony!

Jack Camwell said...

"Prohibition does not work."

I would venture to guess that just about everyone drives their cars over the speed limit. 5 mph over is really no big deal, but almost everyone does it. Does that mean we should get rid of speed limits altogether?

Does that mean we need to find new ways to encourage people to not drive over the speed limit?

Here's the deal: technically, there is nothing actually stopping anyone from doing drugs. Everyone is able to go score some dope and shoot it up so long as they have the means to do so. There is no magical force stopping anyone from doing it.

Just as well, there is nothing stopping me from speaking my mind and exercising my freedom of speech. There are no laws keeping me from speaking my mind. However, when I do speak my mind, there is a consequence to that. There will be people who will ridicule me, call me a dumbass, and who will vehemently disagree with my positions.

With drug use--just like anything else we have the ability and the right to do--there is a consequence. The law merely adds to the already present consequence, and the reason the laws exist are in order to deter some people from getting in to drugs.

Granted, the laws don't do a very good job of that--at least as far as we know. Most people are smart enough to just stay away from drugs altogether.

I can tell you all that I have never even tried drugs save for alcohol (those that know me know that I can hold my own in that arena). There have been times where I've been curious about trying Mary Jane, and I've been offered. But there's one thing that has always kept me from doing it: the fear of getting caught and having my life ruined.

I'm the type of person that does not want even one blemish on his record, so you will never, EVER see a drug charge on my record. Why? Because having a drug charge would completely wreck all of my life's aspirations, thus I never seek out drugs.

No one will argue that the hard drugs are NOT destructive, and only someone who has never met a real-deal junkie and/or understands the actual cost to society said junkie incurs, would argue that hard drug use is a "victimless crime."

Not all drug related violence is also considered gang violence, or organized crime violence.

We are not going to agree on this, and that's fine. Everyone has the right to destroy their own lives, but ALL rights have consequences whether they are natural consequences or man-made.

With this debate, I get the sense that many people only focus on the potential benefit of legalizing drugs, and it typically has to do with the notion of money. But I think that many pro-legalization people don't think about the potential unintended consequences. Do the potential benefits outweigh the potential negative consequences?

Only experimentation will tell, I suppose.

Jersey McJones said...

Hey, Jack, you have to read this (if you haven't already):

Whatever people think of him personally, the Fourth Estate could use more Glenn Greenwalds.


Anonymous said...

I could go off on a hell of a rant regarding speed limits, but I'll keep it short. Speed limits in the US are kept artificially low as a means of revenue generation via citations and as a pretense for the police to stop people and look for reasons to conduct a search. Getting rid of speed limit entirely is not the answer of course, but speed limits in many areas could be safely raised and perhaps eliminated where appropriate. Enforcement action should be focused on actions that are actually dangerous such as aggressive or erratic driving and impeding the flow of traffic. Think of the Autobahn as a successful model.

In the same way I do not believe that blanket legalization is the way to go, but some drugs could be decriminalized (marijuana) and user-level actions directed more toward treatment than punishment while focusing enforcement action on the real producers and dealers as well as border security.

As far as personal views on drugs go we are much alike. I have never used any illegal drugs, though in my case it is not the fear of the law that has kept me from doing so. I just don't find it appealing. I have/had plenty of friends who smoke weed and I don't have any desire to smoke something that will make me want to sit around watching Sponge Bob and eating Funyuns.

I absolutely believe that the benefits of a new drug policy could outweigh the consequences, especially if modeled after a successful program like Portugal's.


Jack Camwell said...

Don't get me wrong, Tony. I think speed limits are retarded as well. My point was that removing the speed limits will not reduce the number of people who drive at unsafe speeds.

Raising the limit would only mean that people will do 75 in a 70 instead of 70 in a 65.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that people don't drive over the speed limit because they get a thrill off of breaking the law. The drive over the speed limit because they want to get where they're going faster.

Just as well, people don't use drugs because of the thrill of breaking the law. They typically use drugs because they like getting high.

Just as well, I don't think drug USE itself is criminal (unless you are operating a vehicle or publicly intoxicated). It is possession that is illegal.

What does that mean? It means you can check yourself into rehab without fear of being sent to jail for being a junkie. There's no fear of being criminally prosecuted for admitting you use and checking into a rehab.