Thursday, March 09, 2006

Legalization

I have been embroiled in numerous debates recently one of them regarding logic and the other the legalization of “illicit drugs”. I would like to post about the idea of legalization.

I, being a libertarian and a realist, believe that it is both unconstitutional and impractical to not only prohibit certain, discriminately selected, substances but to wage an all out war on them. It is unconstitutional to revoke the rights of private citizens in such a gratuitous, and oddly selective, manner. It creates, and has created, one of the world’s most heinous black markets in history ruled by gangs, mobs and terrorists.

The number of overdoses and health related toxic injuries greatly increases when you prohibit a specific drug forcing those that seek its use to attain it through the black market. Where there is a demand there is a supply and despite any effort to curb either the demand or the supply of certain drugs both steadily go on, if not increasing. When you relegate the supply of a drug that is in high demand to the clandestine and criminal elements you are effectively ensuring that the drugs offered are poorly produced and are of highly dangerous qualities. Drugs that are produced in a clandestine manner are replete with contaminant chemicals and toxic precursors that increase the drugs danger and the user’s health risks. Simply put drugs are far more dangerous when they are prohibited.

Some argue that legalizing and regulating illicit drugs would effectively send the use of them sky ward, I find that the opposite would be the likelier scenario. If one were to observe drug treatment center statistics and trends one would undoubtedly notice that the majority of addicts and abusers that occupy such centers are those that use and abuse illegal drugs. The majority of individuals that inhabit treatment centers and rehabs are there for illicit street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, phencyclidine (PCP), etc. These are the drugs that people are supposedly doing less of because of prohibition. Then you have the individuals at treatment centers, at a far lower rate, for alcohol and prescription drugs (such as oxycontin, valium, vicodin, xanax, etc.). The drugs that are legal and regulated by the federal government have fewer addicts and abusers.

Our current jail systems are overwhelmed and under funded for the prohibition of illicit drugs. Many of the jails are full of individuals convicted of a drug related crime (mainly simple possession). Then there are the outstanding numbers of felons that occupy jails for heinous crimes such as grand theft and homicide that are drug related. Making it a crime to sell, buy or posses certain drugs greatly increases crime. If a cocaine abuser could readily purchase cocaine, that has been produced cleanly and regulated safely, they would not ever face the need of reverting to crime to fuel and pay for their drug.

Some also claim that the strain that legalizing certain drugs would have on healthcare and the taxpayers would be too great. The current war on drugs costs taxpayers an annual 40 billion dollars. This sum of money, no longer being thrown away in the name of a war on drugs, could easily be relocated towards programs such as healthcare. Not to mention the enormous revenue that would be produced by selling and taxing the drugs.

Also certain illicit drugs that so many people are appalled by and would never like to see legalized are already sold, bought and possessed for medical purposes. Cannabis sativa being the most commonly known case, however, far fewer people are aware that methamphetamine is being used for legitimate and legal medical purposes. Methamphetamine is a schedule II substance which means that while it is illegal within the United States to buy, sell or posses this drug without a DEA license or prescription that it is legal to buy, sell and/or posses this drug with a DEA license or prescription. Methamphetamine is currently being used by Americans all over this country for legitimate medical purposes and the regulation and distribution has not been a problem. The pharmaceutical name for methamphetamine is Desoxyn. Granted the regulation and distribution for medical drugs is different but not so entirely different for there to not be a logical inference.

In summation it is unconstitutional to deem certain substances illegal (and to erode private citizen’s constitutional rights and liberties) and the war on drugs that we now have the displeasure of waging is one of the most costly and damaging policies of our government. Prohibiting substances (as the prohibition of alcohol so readily proves) simply creates far more problems than it resolves.

I don’t believe that smoking cannabis sativa or opium on a regular basis is a wise decision but neither is smoking nicotine or drinking alcohol and it is my firm belief that all of these substances should be legal and that those that wish to use them should be able to do so. Only a country that is unconcerned with true freedom and liberty would make such substances illegal.


16 comments:

Jewish Atheist said...

I completely agree.

Making drugs illegal (i.e. criminal) does several things:

1) Ruins lives of people who've done nothing particularly immoral by sending them to prison.

2) Makes drugs more dangerous by keeping them unregulated.

3) Supports crime, terrorism, etc.

It's typical small-minded thinking. If something is "wrong" it should be criminal.

Jewish Atheist said...

BTW, this inspired me to write my own post. :) Hope you don't mind.

JDHURF said...

jewishatheist,
I agree, it seems to be a case of pushing ones condensending superior sense of morality on others at the expense of the criminal and healthcare systems, the safety of the general populace and our attempt to curb gangs and terrorism to name only a few.

I certainly don’t mind at all if you post on the subject. I am certainly interested and intrigued to read your post.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

JustinOther said...

don’t believe that smoking cannabis sativa or opium on a regular basis is a wise decision but neither is smoking nicotine or drinking alcohol

This has been my contention for years. The selective illegalization is, as usual, based on the financial pull of the alcohol and tobacco producing companies. These will never be illegal while the money is going to the candidates.

JDHURF said...

justinother,
That is certainly true the very politicians that so fervently wage the “war on drugs” are, ironically enough, the very same politicians reeling in the benefits of the tobacco and alcohol industries. A few reasons why it will be extremely difficult, if at all possible, to decriminalize and legalize “illicit” psychoactive substances are numerous. There is the fact that thousands of Americans are entrenched within this “war”, they derive their entire livelihood from such a policy, there are entire organizations that can only exist with such a policy and if this policy were abandoned or loosened up many people would lose jobs. Another very large obstacle is the religionists “morality” that continually comes into play regarding such issues and this very well may be the most defining obstacle that such policies are faced with.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Stardust said...

I too can't understand why some drugs are illegal and alcohol and cigarettes are not. Alcohol has caused more death to others, and to the user than any other drug. Cigarette smoking kills. Second-hand smoke can kill non-smokers. I think if the government could figure out a way to get a cut of the profits from the selling of cannibis and other illegal drugs, they would have markets for them all over the place.

JustinOther said...

I've smoked marajuana in high school and I've been drunk on alcohol.

Trust me, I'd rather someone drive a car stoned than drunk.

Stardust said...

It's something that while we are just discussing this issue, here is this headline: Drinking May Have Fueled Ala. Church Fires

slithy said...

What is the basis for arguing that drug prohibitation is unconsitituional? It's certainly not in the Bill of Rights. The only possible place that it could be remotely covered might be The Right of Privacy which actually isn't expressly mentiond in the constituion, but has been ruled from court cases to exist under such Amendments as 1, 3, 4, & 9.

Just to summerize my question, I would like to see your logic behind saying that prohibiting drugs is unconstiutional.

JDHURF said...

“Indeed, given our system of limited government constrained by a written Constitution, can one legislate against drugs? Again, one must turn to history to see how the original drug legislation was justified.
The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 was, on its surface, a tax measure. In fact, when the Supreme Court upheld the act in 1915, it did so despite its “grave doubt as to its constitutionality except as a revenue measure” (Szasz 41). Thomas W. Christopher, an Emory University Law Professor, suggests that the Harrison Act and the Marihuana Tax Act “on their faces, merely levy a tax and provide for effective collection thereof; regulation of an evil is not mentioned. But…[if] the sole purpose of the legislation is to regulate…the constitutionality of the acts would be in doubt” (Christopher 52). Oddly, however, their constitutionality has not been seriously questioned in over 80 years. How could one begin to question them?
Among our most cherished rights is the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” However unappealing or shallow pursuing it through mind-altering substances may be, we must still protect people’s right to do so. Although no article of the constitution explicitly secures the right to ingest such substances, there is likewise no provision for Congress to legislate against such ingestion. The ninth and tenth amendments clearly state: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people” and “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Therefore, personal rights need not actually be in the Constitution.” – Luke Swartz

“Precedents for each of these penalties scarcely exist in American his-
tory. The restoration of criminal forfeiture of property--rejected by the
Founding Fathers because of its association with the evils of English
rule--could not have found its way back into American law but for the
popular desire to give substance to the rhetorical war on drugs.” - Ethan Nadelmann

"A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring
one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own
pursuits of industry and improvement." – Thomas Jefferson

“It's unconstitutional. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
clearly give us the right to pursue our lives without the forced
intervention of self-appointed moralists, do-gooders and busy-bodies.
Those who claim that the Constitution is "a Christian document"
are about as wrong as they could be. (Which, considering how wrong
these people can be, is pretty wrong.) The founding fathers --
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John
Adams -- were not even Christians; they were Deists. They believed
there is a God, but did not believe the "revealed word" or any
religion. The founding fathers read the words of Jesus with respect,
but they also turned for inspiration to the works of Confucius,
Zoroaster, Socrates and many others. That almost everyone believes the
founding fathers were all "God-fearing Christians" is a perfect example
of telling a big enough lie often enough that is becomes "truth."
George Washington summed it up succinctly: "The government of the
United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Consent is one of the most precious rights we have. It is central
to self-determination. It allows us to enter into agreements and
contracts. It gives us the ability to choose. "Without the
possibility of choice and the exercise of choice," the poet Archibald
MacLeish wrote, "a man is not a man but a member, an instrument,
a thing." Being an adult, in fact, can be defined as having reached
the age of consent. It is upon reaching the age of consent that
we become responsible for our choices, actions and behaviors.
(Nothing in this article, by the way, refers to children. It
discusses only activities between or performed by consenting adults.)
The laws against consensual crimes take away the right we all have
to be different. Even if you don't want to take part in any of
the illegal consensual acts, a culture that puts people in jail
for them is also a culture that will disapprove -- forcefully,
clearly and oppressively -- of something different you _may_ want
to do.
If we let anyone lose his or her freedom without just cause, we
all have lost our freedom. The bell, as the poet said, tolls for
thee.” - Peter McWilliams

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right.” – John Stuart Mill

The federal government's "Controlled Substances Act" goes too far, when, in 21 USC Section 812, it defines Schedule I drugs to have "... a lack of accepted safety ... under medical supervision". That statement assumes and dictates federal government control of "medical supervision" in the states and is patently unconstitutional.

http://www.lukeswartz.com/writing/legaldrugs.html

http://www.druglibrary.org/SCHAFFER/debate/dwarcon1.htm

http://bbsnews.net/bw2003-09-07a.html

http://www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/racialjustice/10856res20011217.html

http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0502e.asp

Just a few things to think about for I am on lunch break from work and could not afford the time to respond with an original response from myself. Though, if you would like me to do so I will later tonight after I get off of work.

Stardust said...

Wow JD..you found all that on your lunch break!

Good resources.

JDHURF said...

Thank you stardust!

melloncollie said...

Sorry I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to add my support. I agree that outlawing this stuff is unconstitutional. This is another terrific piece.

I'm so glad this blog exists.

Jason H. Bowden said...

The war on drugs has been a resounding success. Drug use has been steadily declining-- for instance, cocaine use is down 70% from where it was 15 years ago. Coincidentally, crime in the United States is at record lows. Homicide here in Chicago is the lowest it has been since 1965.

Meanwhile, tolerant Europe is experiencing a massive crime wave. Sweden? Denmark? Germany? Britain? The United States has lower burglary rates than each of them. Robbery and burglary rates in British cities like Nottingham and Manchester exceed New York City's. In 2004, Copenhagen reported five times New York's theft rate, two and a half times its auto thefts, and over four times its burglaries. Theft rates have surged ahead of the United States in Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, and Norway. There are more per capita assaults in Britain than there are in the United States. Europeans are great at car theft too, with Italy, Scandinavia, France, and the UK all having higher rates than America. The rising European murder rate is nothing to brag about either. In 2001, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, and Brussels were suffering 40 percent or more of the homicide rate that New York City has today. The homicide rate in the United States was down to 5.5 per 100,000 people in 2004 and is expected to be lower for 2005.

Take Amsterdam, the druggie experiment in practice. Heroin and cocaine have been decriminalized for all practical purposes. Addicts now account for 80% of all property crime in the city, and as a result, Amsterdam has to maintain a police presence greater than cities of comparable size in the United States. The Netherlands hasn't raised one dollar in drugs sales, and drug addicts now account for 50% of their prison population. The Netherlands now is one of the most crime prone nations in Europe.

Americans, tough on crime, collectively say no thank you to at least heroin and cocaine (there might be a case to decriminalize pot), and with good reason. We want less crime and more respectable citizens.

JDHURF said...

I am not sure where you have come by some of your “resounding” information but I highly suggest that you cross-reference it and double check it. You are as misguided and wrong, as any conservative group and organization that does a great disservice to this issue, as you could ever hope to be. I fear that you are merely propagating the conservative viewpoints and politics regarding this issue without actually looking into it for yourself. Which, unfortunately, all too many people do, even those that are otherwise liberal and even libertarian.
In your first paragraph you assert a few percentages and statistics I would like to know where they came from so that I may be able to look into the, as of now rather vague, data. Cocaine use down 70%? That’s not what I have seen, please enlighten me. The jails are, right now, overwhelmed with drug related crime so it would seem that if crimes, overall, are going down then the only reason there is a jail population problem and dilemma would stem directly from the unconstitutional drug prohibition. Overall crime rates are not what being discussed here in the first place, maybe you missed that point, drug prohibition and the corresponding crime related to such a prohibition is.
Your second paragraph does not say one thing of drug prohibition or of drug related crime, you merely go onto a very long and diluted tangent about crime overall, which again is not what is being discussed here. So I will ignore the second paragraph altogether.
You speak of Amsterdam as being the country to look to regarding the legal premises of drug laws. Are you mad? Amsterdam is obviously not the country to imitate regarding anything that I am aware of they can’t even regulate medical drugs efficiently. As far as the Netherlands not being able to revenue any money in drug sales this says nothing of the legitimacy and enormous revenue that could be produced from the sale and distribution of such drugs, it merely says that the Netherlands is incapable of doing so, which is actually not too surprising.
You are correct that most Americans say no to drugs, though they only say no to a selected few that were seemingly chosen at random. Alcohol is the third highest cause of death in this country but we should deem it “okay” while other drugs such as cannabis and MDMA are “not okay.” This is beyond foolish and is something that should be appalling to any intelligent and decent human being, for there are no medical merits to alcohol consumption where are there are with both cannabis and MDMA. You are, again, wrong when you say that Americans are right and have a good reason to infringe and revoke constitutional rights in a prejudiced and unwarranted manner.
Since you felt impelled to include statistics, which oddly enough did not correspond to drugs or drug related crime in any way, I will include some myself that actually do correspond to the topic at hand.

In the year 2000 the largest cause of death was tobacco related with 435,000 deaths and in third was alcohol related death with 85,000 deaths, these two drugs make up the top three leading causes of death in America yet they are legal whereas other drugs are not, other drugs such as cannabis that has not been the cause of death for even one incident in all of human recorded history; that is what I call egregious malevolence.*
In 2003 drug related criminals made up 55% of the prison population** and over 80% of the increase in the federal prison population was due to drug convictions alone.*** The United States of America, with it’s “tough on crime” citizens, has the highest prison population rate in the world with an average of 701 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia.**** I also call into to question your alleged crime rate regression for the rate of incarceration in prison and jail was 724 inmates per 100,000 in 2004 which was an increase from the 601 per 100,000 in 1995.***** Now lets look at how many of these inmates where there for crimes related to drugs. According to a federal survey of jail inmates, of the total 440,670 jail inmates in the US in 2002, 112,447 were drug offenders: 48,823 for possession, 56,574 for trafficking.****** According to the US Justice Department, "While the number of offenders in each major offense category increased [from 1995 to 2003], the number incarcerated for a drug offense accounted for the largest percentage of the total growth (49%), followed by public-order offenders (38%)."******* "Over the past twenty-five years, the United States has built the largest prison system in the world. But despite a recent downturn in the crime rate, we remain far and away the most violent advanced industrial society on earth."******** Now would you have me believe that this is because of our “tough on crime” stance is working? I don’t buy it and the only individuals that are both blind and foolish enough to make such assertions are those that are in league with the flagrantly wrong conservatives. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, "[T]he value of the global illicit drug market for the year 2003 was estimated at US$13 bn [billion] at the production level, at $94 bn at the wholesale level (taking seizures into account), and at US$322bn based on retail prices and taking seizures and other losses into account. This indicates that despite seizures and losses, the value of the drugs increase substantially as they move from producer to consumer."********* Yet you claim that there would be no revenue produced from the sale and distribution of such substances federally (not to mention the $40 billion that could go to other programs if the drug prohibition were to stop throwing out tax money away), I would have to ask you why.

Your post was nothing more than mere capitulation, and the kind I only hear from conservative groups that have the blind audacity to make them, and statistics that do not directly correspond to either drug related crime or the drug prohibition itself. You are blindly spouting conservative propaganda and in doing so you are belittling our constitutional freedom and liberty. The drug prohibition policy is one of the largest problems in America and it is obvious anyone that is not misty eyed over their condescending and conservative “morality.”

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

*http://www.stopaddiction.com/narconon_alcohol_deaths.html
** Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2004 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Oct. 2005), p. 10.
*** US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 1996 (Washington DC: US Department of Justice, 1997).
**** Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List (Fifth Edition)" (London, England, UK: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, 2003), p. 1.
***** Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2004 (Washington DC: US Department of Justice, Oct. 2005), p. 2.
****** Karberg, Jennifer C. and Doris J. James, US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, July 2005), Table 7, p. 6.
******* Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, Allen J., PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2004 (Washington DC: US Department of Justice, Oct. 2005), p. 10.
******** Currie, E., Crime and Punishment in America (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1998), p. 3.
********* United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2005 (Vienna, Austria: UNODC, June 2005), p. 127.

Riker said...

The War on Drugs:

An awkward intersection of ideals between the nanny-state liberal left and the morality-shepherd conservative religious right.

The opinions presented in your essay remind me of a noteworthy book, unofficially adopted as the principal text of the 'legalizationist' population:

"The Case for Legalizing Drugs", by Richard Miller.

It's a good read which presents the best-case consequences of the legalization scenario. While not presented as a critical analysis, this can be forgiven; we all already know the case made against legalization... Miller takes the initiative to present a contrasting view in a good light, and I submit that it's appropriate for him to do so. An idea as 'radical' as this doesn't come to acceptance with great ease. People have to be willing to believe it as a tangible possibility before they can begin to accept the evidence that would change their opinion on it. Presenting the best-case scenario is just such a means to make that radical idea palatable.

I was so inspired upon reading this book that I decided to write my senior thesis on the subject of the potential socioeconomic benefits to the country if it adopted widespread legalization strategies. I used Miller's book as my primary reference.

If you have the opportunity, I strongly urge you to give it a read.