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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Barack Obama ending one of America's long wars? 


Every hawk is a dove about some war, and for me it is the war on drugs. If Barack Obama is quietly bringing it to an end, good on him. In the linked story, I like this bit:

In a column last May, FP Editor in Chief Moisés Naím called the United States "both the world’s largest importer of illicit drugs and the world’s largest exporter of bad drug policy," despite the fact that most Americans acknowledge that the current approach isn't working.

True, dat.

34 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 20, 12:57:00 AM:

How is not working?

The question is, and always has been, what would the rate of use be but for the current boundaries. It's like saying, well, my kid's going to drink, so I may as well give him alcohol. There are as many things wrong with the argument as their are with the idea that changing U.S. drug policy would change.

Most legal regimes are not about who is caught, or the existing population of violators, but about those on the other side of the line; those who would cross the line but for the legal regime. And on that score, drug policy is pretty successful, particularly given how wealthy (and how much disposable income) our country has.

Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_Wars.

This statistic ought ought to curl anyone's toes:

"Following China's defeat in the Second Opium War in 1858, China was forced to legalize opium and began massive domestic production. Importation of opium peaked in 1879 at 6,700 tons, and by 1906, China was producing 85% of the world's opium, some 35,000 tons, and 27% of its adult male population was addicted—13.5 million addicts consuming 39,000 tons of opium yearly.""

27% percent of its adult male population by 1906.....

I trust these foreign government's and their policy makers the way that I trust and respect the acumen of the Oslo Committee of the Nobel Prize -- not an iota.

They know jack about addiction.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Tue Oct 20, 02:23:00 AM:

The comparison with Opium-- an exceedingly physically addictive substance-- is not an altogether fair one with regard to THC.

Besides, in the final analysis, the main value of this is with respect to Federalism. If the states and their duly elected legislatures and designated judiciaries see fit to enact policies on the use of intoxicating substances, then it is no business of the Federal Government to supersede them. In this way, both the Constitutionally-defined relationship between the states and the Fed is honored, and the effects of those states' policies can be evaluated as a series of test cases, which would in turn inform the national debate on the matter.

Obama Administration getting a Federalist issue right. Go figure. Cf. stopped clocks, etc.  

By Blogger davod, at Tue Oct 20, 04:28:00 AM:

Selective use of Federalism is a problem. Maybe this is a precurser to "Resolving" the right to bear arms. I recall Mayor Daly in Chicago is pushing the gun ban issue as a States Rights issue.

Interesting, as I remember reading that, after the War of Northern Aggression, some Southern jurisdictons used gun bans as a way of depriving Blacks of the means of self protection.  

By Blogger davod, at Tue Oct 20, 04:35:00 AM:

PS: I should have concluded my earlier post by saying that Daly's position, whlle not for the same reason, achieves the same result. A Black population deprived of the right of self protection.  

By Blogger Mike, at Tue Oct 20, 10:29:00 AM:

True legalization (including opium and cocaine) might have other problems, but it would at least dry up a potent funding source for enemies like the Taliban and Hezbollah.

Worrying about oil (opening America for drilling, protecting nukes from baseless legal hassles, etc) and we might just suck all the air from our enemies.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Tue Oct 20, 10:41:00 AM:

How is it not working? Marijuana in particular? Try prices are low, supply is high and jails are full of thousands of people who committed victimless crimes. It is approaching legalized status in a number of states, it grows everywhere, and you can order seeds online. This is working so well I wish they'd outlaw crabgrass while they're at it.

Yeah, I'd say its working about as well as prohibition of alcohol did.  

By Anonymous Brooklyn, at Tue Oct 20, 11:04:00 AM:

Nothing victimless in peddling illegal substances "Charlottesvillain".

The true aspect remains, drugs have decimated a number of communities, and yes, this included the use of 'pot'.

The evidence is clear, it does lead to the use of harder substances, for the vast majority of users.

Look for the further dumb down of America's youth, coupled with terrible public education, a growing dependency on the DNC's version of socialism, etc., with the increase of the passive acceptance of a substance which creates non doers.

"Duh" is the future...

Get stoned, do nothing, get munchies, get high, blame others for your failure to have a healthy normal existence, grow with paranoia, etc.

No doubt reforms need to be made. A better PR against a very detrimental life style should be waged, from private sector community - as the work force will slowly grow even more incompetent as a result of the 'weed'.

Hey, and don't forget, the harder substances, which is inevitable to be used, whether it be X, coke, heroine, crack, meth, etc., is always tied to vast criminal networks, even Cartels and in some cases Terrorism.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Tue Oct 20, 12:18:00 PM:

The use of "States' Rights" to try and enact restrictive gun laws would run afoul of the 2nd Amendment, as it already has. So far, the SCOTUS is not constituted to erode this (all the more urgency for 1012!).

The "gateway drug" argument falls flat. People will gravitate toward those substances which they feel will "help" them regulate themselves (speed for depression or ADD, downers for anxiety or painful inner tension states, anger, etc.). THC fills a variety of niches, since its effects are so varied and difficult to quantify. Frequently, it is a means for creating a sense of tribal inclusion with fellow-smokers, and being "high" is secondary to this.

Those who escalate their drug use from one substance to another tend to do so because their "needs" are not being met by whatever substance they are ingesting. This will be the case with pretty much anything (including alcohol) with which they start. The answer in this case is not so much to make it difficult to obtain their substance, but to build their ability to cope with whatever ails them, and which makes them seek to medicate themselves in the first place. I've seen plenty of young people who "find themselves" smoking less and less as their self-esteem builds and they encounter successes in their ability to take control of their own lives.

People who do not know how to cope with the world will *always* find excuses and palliatives, from gambling to sex to alcohol, to weed, and beyond. People who take responsibility for their own lives and whose time horizon is broad enough to include goals and means to achieve them can toke up and giggle at Monty Python on the week-ends, and still make the world a better place.

Removing a source of profits from those criminal enterprises and cartels would be a good thing.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Tue Oct 20, 01:00:00 PM:

Once upon a time, opium, heroin, cocaine.... everything was legal in the USA. We didn't turn into a nation of addicts. If drugs were legalized would there be more addicts than there are now? My thinking is yes, but probably not by a very great percentage. In the end it boils down to this equation: Will the benefits of denying drug lords/terrorists this lucrative income stream outweigh the damage done by the social costs of increased addiction? No one knows the answer to that question for sure, but I shudder to think of the immigration surge this country will face if Mexico turns into another Somalia. At the end of the day, I would like to see Obama legalize all recreational drugs. Politically this is hardly an accomplishment that can be boasted of on the campaign trail. If it works, fine. If it doesn't we can beat him like a drum on the issue in 2012.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Tue Oct 20, 01:08:00 PM:

"The evidence is clear, it does lead to the use of harder substances, for the vast majority of users"

I don't think that statement is true at all. Do you have well documented evidence?  

By Blogger Cary, at Tue Oct 20, 02:26:00 PM:

Alcohol is a drug. It was once illegal. It could be considered a gateway drug and is well documented to addictive and destroy lives. Should we make it illegal again?

We drew the line with Alcohol. I don't see why we can't draw the line with pot.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Oct 20, 02:49:00 PM:

"Once upon a time, opium, heroin, cocaine.... everything was legal in the USA. We didn't turn into a nation of addicts."

Actually, there were plenty of addicts, considering that availability was pretty limited. They just weren't also criminals.

"If drugs were legalized would there be more addicts than there are now?"

Certainly.

"Will the benefits of denying drug lords/terrorists this lucrative income stream outweigh the damage done by the social costs of increased addiction?"

I honestly don't give a shit if black market narcotics money goes to drug lords or terrorists. They can always find another source of funding, perhaps by becoming mass market suppliers of newly legalized drugs through front companies. (that's what I'd do) I care that more people will be driving their cars next to me while on cocaine, or while suffering a PCP crash. You think DWIs are bad?

Hard drugs are, and should be, illegal for damn fine reasons. First of all is the fact that they are so hard to get off of if you're hooked. Nicotine is a god-damned cake walk to shake off in comparison. One youthful experiment with, say, crystal meth and you may be hooked for life. And if it's legal to get? That person may be forever destroyed as a productive member of society.

Another is that the effects are severe. See my fear above of people driving around suffering the effects (or after-effects) of such drugs. 'Regulating' the contexts of appropriate use will be just as effective as current regulations concerning the operation of heavy equipment while under the influence of a chemical substance; that is to say, not very. And the influence will be much more drastic.

Third, regular access to addictive drugs with strong effects + time = overdose. As the body builds a tolerance to a chemical, more is needed to produce the same effect. Without careful monitoring it is entirely likely you will eventually cross your body's invisible line of physical tolerance and kill or permanently ruin yourself. Legalization opens that path of self-destruction to literally everyone.

'Well not that many more people will do it.'

First, this is speculative. Second, so what? The numbers will rise, and that's more people who will become parasites on the rest of society. At least until they OD and remove themselves from the gene pool, but that can simply compound tragedy (like if they have kids, for instance).

This isn't a 'frat party exemption,' this is public policy. You must take into account the effects for the entire population.

I'm entirely willing to buy that THC is over-regulated. While it does have debilitating side effects (look at your local pothead), I don't think they're any worse in the aggregate than access to alcohol.

But cocaine? Crack? PCP? LSD? Opiates? There's a whole world of difference.  

By Blogger Mrs. Davis, at Tue Oct 20, 03:05:00 PM:

The assumption is that there is some portion of the population that would use drugs if only they could get them and if we legalize drugs, demand will go through the roof.

If the dealers can get drugs into the prisons, is there really much of the potential market they haven't reached?

And if our culture is really so decadent as 19th century China is there any way we can resist the dealers with all the wealth we have to give them?

If we legalize, we can take the obscene profit out of the equation and control distribution so that there is not as much incentive to market as aggressively and violently as at present.

Take the money spent on enforcement today and spend it on rehab.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Oct 20, 04:22:00 PM:

I don't know about any other folks' experiences, but the long-term pot smokers I know aren't super productive contributors on balance. Some are daily tokers who work, but haven't achieved what I'd consider full potential, and their lives generally are centered around addictive behaviors like excessive drinking along with the herb.

And I know plenty of pot smokers who moved onto other drugs. Gateway, maybe so, maybe not. Pre-disposition to addictive behavior is more likely.

Either way, I'd have an easier time with stoners if we didn't structure our safety nets to pick up the slack of slackers. If you want to spend your days stoned and have less, or no insurance, or need 'assistance' for food, clothing, housing, etc., then you should shouldn't be eligible. But I feel that way about drunks and harder drug abusers, generational welfare, etc.

As for the war on drugs ... I don't feel we've really ever waged it. Everyone knows the mob, big gangs and biker gangs traffic this stuff, and have territory carved up for distribution. If we really wanted to shut it down, we know exactly where to start. Exterminate these kinds of scum and cut down on a huge volume of violent and property crime. The whole thing has been a farce.

And I'm with you DF ... if we legalize dope, you shouldn't be allowed to drive a car under the effect, and work policies should expressly prohibit working under the influence.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Oct 20, 04:41:00 PM:

"I don't know about any other folks' experiences, but the long-term pot smokers I know aren't super productive contributors on balance..."

I have stoner friends who went on to get PHDs and to not just contribute to society but to excel. Just like I have friends who drink beer on the weekends and who are successful. I don't see how drinking your drug is somehow safer or different than smoking it.

We're talking about pot here. Not crack. Not cocaine. Pot. I don't want the hard drugs legalized. But destroying peoples lives over marijuana is and always has been a travesty.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Tue Oct 20, 05:37:00 PM:

"The assumption is that there is some portion of the population that would use drugs if only they could get them"

Lack of opportunity is not my assumption. Most people could get drugs if they tried very hard. My assumption is that people are deterred from drug use because of the costs (legal, social, or physical) associated with it. Remove legal deterrence and those people who were deterred only by the legal costs will use it; use will rise. Legalization may also diminish or remove social costs.

"and if we legalize drugs, demand will go through the roof."

This overstates the increase. If opium were legalized tomorrow, most people wouldn't go get some. But some people would.

"If the dealers can get drugs into the prisons, is there really much of the potential market they haven't reached?"

This conflates actual market with potential market. The actual market consists of those with the means and the desire, damn the consequences, and is fairly limited; gangers, yuppies, junkies, the NFL, Hollywood, etc. But if the stuff is legalized, then the potential market grows by orders of magnitude overnight to include virtually everyone in the country, just like with tobacco. You can't think of a market in terms of physical geography; it's people who want it and will pay X for it. And not only will people be able to purchase without fear of legal consequences, prices will fall so that more people can afford it.

"And if our culture is really so decadent as 19th century China is there any way we can resist the dealers with all the wealth we have to give them?"

You... think our culture is *less* decadent than 19th century China?

"If we legalize, we can take the obscene profit out of the equation and control distribution so that there is not as much incentive to market as aggressively and violently as at present."

I can absolutely imagine Big Pot becoming the next Big Tobacco, with enormous profits and aggressive ad campaigns; Phillip-Morris selling conveniently pre-measured and standardized marijuana cigarettes (filtered or unfiltered!) in little cartons for $10 a piece. Mass production can work wonders with luxury goods.

Wouldn't be violent though, I guess.

"Take the money spent on enforcement today and spend it on rehab."

We would certainly need it.

"I have stoner friends who went on to get PHDs and to not just contribute to society but to excel... I don't see how drinking your drug is somehow safer or different than smoking it."

I think that's a good point. Useless potheads are real and they are pathetic, but no more so than useless alcoholics. At least pot doesn't put people into rages...  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Tue Oct 20, 05:49:00 PM:

Brooklyn, "Peddling illegal substances?"

BS. First, there are thousands of people in jail for nothing but possession. Its a travesty. Second, pot is only an illegal substance because of a stupid law. You can't argue for the law by saying "Its illegal." There needs to be a better reason for the law. the problem is that there is no logical argument for outlawing marijuana that doesn't apply to alcohol in spades.

Someone argued that we haven't really waged the drug war. Huh? Of course we have waged the drug war. We've spent billions. We've accomplished exactly what prohibition usually accomplishes: enriching criminal cartels and doing nothing about usage. Marijuana has rarely been more part of our popular culture. Admitting you've smoked is now practially a requirement for higher office.

The prohibition of pot is absurd and can't be justified in a world where alcohol is legal. It is entrenched by law enforecement that now profits from forfeiture laws, the alcohol lobby which would hate to see weed legal, and big pharma which has acknowledged the beneficial qualities of cannabis by attempting to sythesize it but wants to control access. It certainly cannot be defended by logic. There is no documented case of a lethal dose of marijuana. People die every day from alcohol poisoning. Furthermore, there are millions of smokers in the nation who are made criminals by this intrusive and arbitrary law.

I'm not advocating its use (though generally have had positive experiences with it) and am certainly not saying it should be available without restriction (ie never for kids, obviously) but the WOD as currently executed is a massive waste of resources with little to show for it but ruining the lives of thousands, with no real result.

Now I'm worked up. Massive marijuana post might be forthcoming.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Tue Oct 20, 07:34:00 PM:

Millions of Americans buy illegal drugs every year even though they know their habit supports the gang killings, rapes and extortion in the domestic and international drug trade. So now the are going to get what they want, drug legalization, because the made bad decisions.
If they want my support they will have to give up the illegal drugs for 4 years and drive the cartels out of business. Once they have proven that they care about others to some degree, I will support them.  

By Anonymous WLindsayWheeler, at Tue Oct 20, 07:48:00 PM:

A nation of stoners! That's what we will get. Let's add stoner to the list of adjectives of Americans, Morons, Idiotic, Stupid---and Now Stoner! Let's add another ingredient to the already dysfunctional state of America. Stoner Nation.

Yes, I want to live amongst a bunch of stoners. If your not a drunk, one is a stoner. What a nation!

And THC is not addicting???? What? Then why smoke it everyday? It is as addictive as nicotine.

The Federal Government is levelling 130% taxes on nicotine to curtail its use---and now it wants to smooth the way for Marijuana---Can somebody say """"Hypocrisy""""? Which is it? Snuff out Tobacco but increase the use of Marijuanna? What are you smoking?

America is the land of Morons, Freaks, Idiots and now Stoners.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Tue Oct 20, 08:52:00 PM:

First of all:
http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Pot

Please don't ask me where I get any of my information in the following comment.
Marijuana is extraordinarily easy to get already. It's inexpensive if you know the right people, it has a higher bang/buck ratio than alcohol and is infinitely LESS deadly. It's more potent now than it was when YOU were growing up, and it's not physically addictive like Alcohol, Nicotine or Cocaine.

Lindsay, clearly, you never have had it, lol. True, some people get stoned every day, but some people also get drunk every day or (or AND) smoke two packs of cigarettes everyday. Let's face it, part of being an adult is having self-control, and they'll just have to add this to the list of things to consume in moderation.

To quote the fantastic movie Pineapple Express: "All the current system is doing is putting money in the hands of criminals, and it's making people like you and me deal with those criminals."  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Tue Oct 20, 09:06:00 PM:

For those of you who are for keeping recreational drugs illegal, I have a question: What can we do to stop the flow of illegal drugs that we have not already tried? What we are doing is clearly not working. So how can we change drug enforcement to make it work?  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Tue Oct 20, 09:17:00 PM:

FWIW: In Nebraska c.1930 hemp was grown commercially to be made into rope. I have seen pictures of farmers sitting atop 6 ton stacks of hemp. I don't know if anyone tried to smoke it or if it was a variety that just didn't have any kick. At any rate, the countryside was not populated with pot smokers.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Tue Oct 20, 09:17:00 PM:

I might add, not in response to anyone in particular, that I believe that weed is about as intoxicating as alcohol, therefore we should restrict it with similar laws. Not even hardcore stoners believe that it gives you a cigarette-like buzz, and any who claim so should be called out on it, because they're being dishonest with themselves and others.  

By Blogger Cap'n Rusty, at Tue Oct 20, 10:57:00 PM:

I used to think we should legalize pot; but I don't think so anymore. Too many things we changed in the last forty years had un-intended consequences, and we're stuck paying the bill for them. So let's do this. We'll have a big public referendum, maybe we'll vote on the internet, and we all get to see who's in favor and who's against. All those who vote in favor of legalizing pot will also agree to pay for any unintended consequences that might result. O.K?  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Oct 21, 01:14:00 AM:

Cap'n Rusty is on to something.
Every once in a while some politician wants to change things. In my experience they rarely know what they are doing. If we are going to legalize drugs let's do one drug and let's legalize it in 4 states for 4 years. Then let's watch what happens. If the stoners are able to keep their jobs and suddenly turn into law abiding citizens, everyone can vote accordingly and the country will be better off. If the stoners turn more anti-social and there are massive, negative unintended consequences, the people who voted for the change can be sent a bill for cleaning up the mess they helped create.  

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Wed Oct 21, 02:15:00 AM:

What about the unintended consequences of criminalization? Corrupt police forces, the cost of (failed) interdiction policies, the financial and human cost of incarceration of non-violent offenders. We are alrealy paying a huge price for this policy, which only a drug czar could say is a success.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Wed Oct 21, 09:22:00 AM:

"let's legalize it in 4 states for 4 years"...

I thought that's what California was for...  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Oct 21, 10:02:00 AM:

Catchy Pseudonym said, "I thought that's what California was for... "

You may be right. The brain addled drug addicts in Hollywood supporting Roman Polanski certainly appear to be some kind of mold based experiment from the back of the refrigerator.  

By Blogger Cap'n Rusty, at Wed Oct 21, 11:54:00 AM:

I’m glad to see that Charlottesvillain agrees with me that there are “unintended consequences” of the decisions we make and the actions we take, both personally and as a society. I’m Libertarian enough to think that we should be individually responsible for the consequences of our individual actions, including the unintended consequences. That is the only way any of us can be free. We are not free if we are forced to resolve the problems that others have gotten themselves into.

Corruption of the police forces (and other governmental bodies) is hardly an unintended consequence of the criminalization of marijuana. It is elementary that the passage of any criminal law (or civil law, for that matter) provides the opportunity for government actors to enrich themselves. When they do so, it is not a consequence of the law, but of their own immoral and/or illegal activity.

Likewise, the fact that interdiction policies are not completely successful is not an unintended consequence of the criminalization of marijuana. Any large and complicated effort will have some successes and some failures. While the failures are certainly not intended, they should not come as a surprise to those who make the efforts. Sure, there’s a cost, but under Charlottesvillain’s logic, we should not try to find a cure for cancer, because it might not be successful.

The utterly bogus assertion, however, is that the “financial and human cost of incarceration of non-violent offenders” is an unintended consequence of the ciminalization of marijuana. Charlottesvillain, while you might disagree with it, the “financial and human cost of incarceration of non-violent offenders” is the intended consequence of the ciminalization of marijuana. One of the reasons for passage of criminal laws is to punish certain behaviors, and punishment involves financial and human costs. Like I said above, if we are to be free, we must be responsible for the consequences of our actions. Those who choose to take the risk of violating the law cannot complain of the cost they may have to pay for that choice.  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Wed Oct 21, 12:59:00 PM:

"I don't know about any other folks' experiences, but the long-term pot smokers I know aren't super productive contributors on balance. Some are daily tokers who work, but haven't achieved what I'd consider full potential, and their lives generally are centered around addictive behaviors like excessive drinking along with the herb."

This is not my experience. The pot smokers I know are all productive members of society.  

By Blogger Tigerhawk Teenager, at Wed Oct 21, 01:03:00 PM:

I think examples of both productive stoners and unproductive stoners are easy to find. I know several that took gap years rather than go to college and they're not doing much useful with it. On the other hand, I know one who used to do his AP Physics homework when he smoked (he got As) and he's now spending a year in Germany.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Wed Oct 21, 01:24:00 PM:

And a good friend of mine is a bloke who does bong hits while writing gnarly and arcane Linux code...and makes a pretty juicy living at it.

Anecdotes do not an argument make, to be sure. But this in itself is an argument for the Federalist approach of allowing segments of the population to enact legislation and regulation schemes, then running the scenarios and seeing what it does to those subsets of the nation. Leaping to a country-wide, top-down approach flies in the face of what this nation is supposed to be about.

And I also balk at the "just legalize everything" argument. THC is appropriate to treat as a special case, and attempting to equate it with PCP or heroin is specious and silly.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Oct 21, 09:26:00 PM:

"Just legalize everything" is crazy as Noocyte points out.

If we are going to do this, lets try just Mary Jane, for a limited time, in a limited area. Let's make sure the stoners understand that if the experiment goes wrong, there will be no easy weed for them to smoke. Change should be based on "Change for the Good" so that the unintended consequences are understood and acceptable.

Charlottvillian brought up a point, "What about the unintended consequences of illegal drugs?"

There is a very important focus here that needs to be understood. A lot of the bad consequences of the War on Drugs are not "unintended". the drug lords intend to kill people. They do it on purpose. They are doing that specifically in opposition to the law. Just like Muslim terrorism, you can't give in to it without getting more of it. Unless you surrender completely.

I am not willing to give over control to the drug lords or the Muslim terrorists. Neither group has proven that they can be trusted with our health, freedom and well being.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Oct 21, 09:47:00 PM:

Anon said, "if we legalize dope, you shouldn't be allowed to drive a car under the effect, and work policies should expressly prohibit working under the influence."

Which will mean the country will have to buy billions of dollars of new equipment to test it's citizens. Will we all be tested, all the time so that there is no fear of possible discrimination? Let's work out the details and make some progress, but I am dead set against another mandate that taxes the people who are not involved to pay for the people who make bad choices, and expect others to foot the bill. Wealth redistribution is a socialist ideal that only works in the minds of... well, nevermind. We don't want to get on the "Rush" list.  

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