What’s Your General Rule on Drug Prohibition?

 

shutterstock_158845502Let me be very upfront here: I’m one of those radicals who thinks we should legalize all drugs. I’m not just in favor of marijuana legalization, but also the “hard stuff”: heroin, cocaine, LSD, and just about anything else you can think of. If you’re one of those weirdos who wants to put mescaline in your eggnog, I don’t think there should be a law against it.

We’ve had several awesome discussions recently here on drug prohibition. However, one thing that seems to be lacking, among prohibition advocates is a general principle. So to any of you prohibitionists, I’m issuing a challenge. I’m willing to listen to any prohibition standard you’re willing to propose. What I’d like to hear is a general rule on what the government should and shouldn’t prohibit, but I’m going to add a sticking point: you must apply it across the board to drugs, prescription medications, tobacco, and alcohol.

There it is. Prohibitionists are able to come up with all kinds of arguments, but I’ve yet to hear one that couldn’t also reasonably be applied to alcohol. But, I could be wrong (it happens… occasionally), so let’s hear it: What’s your general rule?

There are 343 comments.

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  1. Casey Inactive

    Before we begin, would your drugs be legally available to children? The mentally ill? Would people be allowed to pick up a drug off the counter that might interact with another drug? Would you allow the drugs to be consumed publicly? Could one set up a drug store near a school?

    How legal is your legal?

    • #1
    • April 22, 2015, at 3:54 AM PDT
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  2. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    Okay, so to address this before the whole thing goes off the rails: My question has to do with adults, not children.

    • #2
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:20 AM PDT
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  3. A-Squared Inactive

    Do we still have a welfare state to subsidize people who have become addicted to drugs?

    • #3
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:40 AM PDT
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  4. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    Sure. Does that make a difference? And I so, why?

    • #4
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:48 AM PDT
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  5. Casey Inactive

    Ok, so your legal isn’t really legal legal. Where do you draw the age line and why?

    • #5
    • April 22, 2015, at 5:20 AM PDT
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  6. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    You guys tell me.

    • #6
    • April 22, 2015, at 5:29 AM PDT
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  7. Casey Inactive

    Our solution is in practice. We vote and our representatives compromise. Work something out.

    Now, tell me. How legal is your legal? Can an 18 year old buy LSD? 21?

    • #7
    • April 22, 2015, at 5:41 AM PDT
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  8. Mike H Coolidge

    Casey:Our solution is in practice. We vote and our representatives compromise.Work something out.

    So your solution for taxes and marriage are in practice and you have no further opinion on the subject?

    • #8
    • April 22, 2015, at 5:55 AM PDT
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  9. Randy Webster Member

    I’ve long thought that the war on drugs has done more to damage society than any damage the drugs could do.

    I think you regulate drugs like you regulate alcohol. It should be illegal for anyone under 21 to buy drugs.

    But I also agree with Asquared. You can’t have legal drugs and a welfare state.

    I think it was Heinlein who said that freedom means that everyone is free to go to hell in their own way.

    • #9
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:06 AM PDT
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  10. Spin Inactive

    I’m running for President, so I say: leave it to the states.

    • #10
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:08 AM PDT
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  11. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    @Casey: Just so I understand you correctly, you don’t have any guiding/limiting principle, just the
    Will of the legislature?

    So then what principle should the
    Legislature be guided by?

    • #11
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:11 AM PDT
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  12. Spin Inactive

    I was having a conversation with a family member who was, for years, a junkie. He is now 2 decades clean. We were out shooting in the woods, just the two of us, and it gave me an opportunity to ask him about his experience with drugs. I won’t relate the whole conversation. But one thing he described struck me. He said that sometimes, depending on the drug, he could function. He could go to work, do his job, come home, have dinner, go to bed. But with other drugs one hit would leave him incapable of functioning for days. Oh, he’d shoot up and think he was functional. He described for me coming to his job site loaded, and he thought the site was too messy. He spent 12 hours cleaning the job site, then he crashed for 2 days. When he came back to the site, he realized that he hadn’t done anything but move stuff around.

    So here’s my general principle: there are some substances, that when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function. Those substances should be illegal to use recreationally. Pot, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. And I’m not sure what all drugs would fall in this category, but clearly some do. The rationale is this: the use of the drugs causes undue burden on society. Prolonged use of the drugs makes it worse. Since I have to take care of you when you are stoned, I get to say you can’t do it.

    There’s your GP, take it or leave it.

    • #12
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:21 AM PDT
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  13. GrannyDude Member

    I think you regulate drugs like you regulate alcohol. It should be illegal for anyone under 21 to buy drugs.

    Make it 18 again. If you’re an adult (can marry, enlist, vote) you’re an adult.

    So here’s my general principle: there are some substances, that when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function. Those substances should be illegal to use recreationally. Pot, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. And I’m not sure what all drugs would fall in this category, but clearly some do. The rationale is this: the use of the drugs causes undue burden on society. Prolonged use of the drugs makes it worse. Since I have to take care of you when you are stoned, I get to say you can’t do it.

    That’s not bad.

    • #13
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:29 AM PDT
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  14. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    So why is inability to function your standard? And would you prohibit heavy pain meds like one gets after surgery? Or would you allow them only with a prescription? And then would you allow heroin by prescription? And what about cocaine?

    • #14
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:30 AM PDT
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  15. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Spin:So here’s my general principle: there are some substances, that when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function. Those substances should be illegal to use recreationally. Pot, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. And I’m not sure what all drugs would fall in this category, but clearly some do. The rationale is this: the use of the drugs causes undue burden on society. Prolonged use of the drugs makes it worse. Since I have to take care of you when you are stoned, I get to say you can’t do it.

    I’ll second this as a good principle (though I’d say that the damage would be lessened considerably if the government got out of welfare and drug users had to confront the demands of private charity).

    Now, a second question might be whether — even if we agree such drugs are a severe social ill — whether law enforcement is the best way to do handle them.

    • #15
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:38 AM PDT
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  16. David Knights Member

    The rub is, things are interrelated. If you have a welfare state, then I cannot support complete drug legalization. If there isn’t a welfare state, then I am much more open to the argument.

    In my brief flirtation with capital L Libertarianism, it was the greatest mistake I though they made. 90% of those I came into contact with were all about drug legalization, everything else took second place. It is the exact opposite of what they should do. If their approach was, “we can’t even talk about other issues like legalization until after we dismantle the welfare state”, I think they’d have attracted much more support. Of course, they’d have lost the support of the 90% whose #1 issue was drug legalization. Its a Catch-22.

    • #16
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:45 AM PDT
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  17. Tuck Inactive

    Spin: “…The rationale is this: the use of the drugs causes undue burden on society. “

    This was the rationale behind prohibition of alcohol, which was and is the most harmful drug from this perspective.

    So you support a return of alcohol prohibition?

    Moreover, you’re assigning no value to the harm that drugs cause: drug prohibition grants criminal gangs a monopoly on producing and delivering the substances, and introduces massive corruption into the entire system of government.

    A general principle that fails to account for these cases is a total failure, in my estimation.

    “If you’re one of those weirdos who wants to put mescaline in your eggnog, I don’t think there should be a law against it.”

    Is this really, as they say, a thing?

    • #17
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:45 AM PDT
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  18. Casey Inactive

    Fred Cole:@Casey: Just so I understand you correctly, you don’t have any guiding/limiting principle, just the Will of the legislature?

    Can a line be cleanly drawn? The answer is no.

    You are attempting to draw a line at legality. But then you immediately back away on the issue of age. And you would immediately back down on dozens of other items, leaving us with all sorts of drug laws. And that’s where we are right now.

    Your legality is no more real than a unicorn.

    • #18
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:45 AM PDT
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  19. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Spin:So here’s my general principle: there are some substances, that when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function. Those substances should be illegal to use recreationally. Pot, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. And I’m not sure what all drugs would fall in this category, but clearly some do. The rationale is this: the use of the drugs causes undue burden on society. Prolonged use of the drugs makes it worse. Since I have to take care of you when you are stoned, I get to say you can’t do it.

    There’s your GP, take it or leave it.

    This is a good GP. Something like it had come to my mind: “if one could interact with the rest of society, even casually, when doing the drug at recreational doses.”

    • Tobacco, pot, and alcohol fit that bill; powdered cocaine may.
    • Meth, Special K, and smoked cocaine derivatives can make one very unstable when interacting with normals, even at apparently lower doses.
    • Opiates or other downers greatly diminish one’s desire to get out of one’s room.
    • #19
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:46 AM PDT
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  20. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    To throw the question back at Fred:

    For the sake of argument, that there was a drug that offered an enormous high… with a ⅓ chance of permanently turning a productive person into a complete imbecile and invalid, such that they require around-the-clock medical care for the rest of their lives.

    Would you have trouble with the government banning only that drug?

    Put another way, is there any limiting principle in favor of legalization?

    • #20
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:46 AM PDT
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  21. PHCheese Member

    Every thing should be illegal except alcohol.Why, because I get to make the rules in my comments if you get to make the rules in your posts

    • #21
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:47 AM PDT
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  22. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole Post author

    @Casey: All I’m
    Looking for is a guiding principle that we can apply to say “Why X but not Y.”

    • #22
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  23. Jager Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Now, a second question might be whether — even if we agree such drugs are a severe social ill — whether law enforcement is the best way to do handle them.

    If not law enforcement then how to you propose to handle the drugs that are a severe social ill.

    • #23
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:49 AM PDT
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  24. Casey Inactive

    Mike H:

    Casey:Our solution is in practice. We vote and our representatives compromise.Work something out.

    So your solution for taxes and marriage are in practice and you have no further opinion on the subject?

    If one says we ought to have zero taxation and then asks another who believes taxation is necessary what proper taxation ought to be, the second may be able to offer a clear and specific idea or not. But that is hardly relevant. One need not have a specific tax plan in mind to be correct that zero taxation isn’t workable.

    • #24
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:53 AM PDT
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  25. Casey Inactive

    Fred Cole:@Casey: All I’m Looking for is a guiding principle that we can apply to say “Why X but not Y.”

    And I’m throwing that question precisely back at you. Why should you be exempt from the same question?

    • #25
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:54 AM PDT
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  26. Valiuth Member

    Fred Cole:So why is inability to function your standard? And would you prohibit heavy pain meds like one gets after surgery? Or would you allow them only with a prescription? And then would you allow heroin by prescription? And what about cocaine?

    Inability to function properly is a good standard because if a person is impaired they become a danger to themselves and others. Furthermore they are willfully abrogating their own freedom by impairing their mental abilities. If you have charged the state with protecting your freedom then they are obliged to protect your freedom even from yourself (kind of how we lock up the suicidal). Essentially drug addicts are incapable of making rational choices about their well being because of their addictions.

    Now I agree that not all drugs are equally debilitating or addictive, so clearly we can have tolerance for certain substances under certain circumstances. Really you need to evaluate each drug on a case by case basis, for the harm it can and does cause. After all even though alcohol is illegal we prohibit its user from doing certain things and even set limits on their ultimate level of use through blood alcohol limits.

    With respect to pharmaceuticals. I would agree that any substance should be allowed to be prescribed by a doctor if it has a clear beneficial medical effect and is manufactured by some reputable source (ie. someone the FDA inspects) the least debilitating substance available that can help. So you can give someone heroine or morphine for sever pain (ie. just fell of a roof and broke all my bones) but not for a common headache (take aspirin). Of course given that we have many opiates available it isn’t clear to me why heroine is needed medically.

    • #26
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:55 AM PDT
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  27. Mendel Member

    Fred, respectfully, I find your approach here too reminiscent of high-school level debate. Your insistence on finding a standard which is consistently applied to alcohol, and your nit-picking follow-up comments, give the impression that you are implicitly accusing others of the worst epithet a teenage intellectual can dish out: hypocrisy.

    To a young intellectual mind, hypocrisy is the gravest of sins. Yet at some point, we begin to realize that our world, as given to us, is often too complex to conform to principles which can be expressed in 50 words or less.

    Drugs are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Each drug has different effects (including at different doses), different potential for addiction, different acceptance within society, different levels of group experience with its use, and so on.

    Finding a single guiding principle to deal with all drugs is next to impossible. The most internally-consistent positions on drugs are those which take the extreme, as yours does. But if given the choice between taking the extreme position or having an opinion which is partially hypocritical, most of us will probably accept being hypocrites.

    • #27
    • April 22, 2015, at 6:56 AM PDT
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  28. Charlotte Member

    Mendel #27 –

    One. Thousand. Likes.

    • #28
    • April 22, 2015, at 7:02 AM PDT
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  29. Mendel Member

    If I had to formulate some kind of general principle, it would be a slow movement toward legalizing/decriminalizing drugs, but one which moved slowly enough to allow the effects of incremental step to be observed and reversed if too many adverse effects resulted.

    For instance, I think there is enough “institutional experience” with marijuana – and enough demonstration of its relative harmlessness – to begin with full-on legalization. But I am glad that it is only currently legal in 2 states, so that the “kinks” can get worked out of the system. However, assuming that no unexpectedly dire outcomes emerge from Colorado or Washington, I would be happy if more states followed suit.

    When it comes to harder drugs, I think it would be appropriate for a few states to experiment with different versions of leniency or partial decriminalization for petty users of those drugs, in order to see what the consequences are. I would not advocate any bigger steps until we have a good idea of the results from the first incremental steps.

    • #29
    • April 22, 2015, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  30. Done Contributor

    Mendel:Finding a single guiding principle to deal with all drugs is next to impossible. The most internally-consistent positions on drugs are those which take the extreme, as yours does.

    This really isn’t true. There are plenty of reasonable standards on this issue which are internally consistent.

    Spin’s is very consistent for example, and draws the line allowing alcohol, tobacco and weed, while banning harder drugs.

    • #30
    • April 22, 2015, at 7:06 AM PDT
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