General Principles for Controlling Substances

 

shutterstock_162691106Yesterday, Fred Cole challenged members who support the prohibition of at least some drugs to describe the first principles they use to come to their conclusions. That thread got pretty contentious, so I thought I’d start a second one answering his question.

Below you will find what I believe to be an excellent starting point for a general guiding principle related to making some drugs illegal. Before you read that, some guidelines and definitions.

By “drug”, I mean any of those substances commonly used recreationally. This includes, but is not limited to, alcohol and tobacco, as well as those substances more generally considered “drugs,” such as meth, heroine, cocaine, etc. That’s generally what we are all discussing, so there’s no need to ask question like “Oh yeah, well what about caffeine?”

By “make illegal” I mean control. By control I mean “make regulations at any level of government that specify how the substance is used, dispensed, manufactured, etc.”

By “general principle,” I mean a guiding rationale, that generally can be used as the basis for a decision, but may not be in some cases due to the specific nature of those cases.

My general principle is as follows:

There are some substances that ,when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function in society. Those substances should be carefully controlled. You should not be able to get those things over the counter. I would suggest that marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol are not in this group. I would further suggest that the drugs that do fit in this group should be determined by experts, such as pharmacists, medical doctors, drug and alcohol counselors, as well as recovered addicts.

My rationale is this: the use of these drugs causes undue burdens on society. Prolonged use makes it worse. Since “we” have to take care of people who use these drugs, “we” are justified — in a free society — in controlling the drugs, and taking appropriate action against those people. We can do so and still call our society free.

So, agree or disagree?

There are 95 comments.

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  1. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    I put this up here like 30 seconds ago. There’s no comments yet? Come on, people!

    • #1
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:47 PM PDT
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  2. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Spin: …I am starting a new thread on this topic because I believe the previous thread has gone into the ditch…

    Well, I think we need more threads about Star Wars!

    • #2
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:54 PM PDT
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  3. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin: …I am starting a new thread on this topic because I believe the previous thread has gone into the ditch…

    Well, I think we need more threads about Star Wars!

    “First catch of the day.”

    • #3
    • April 22, 2015, at 4:56 PM PDT
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  4. Sabrdance Member

    Wasn’t this essentially Paul Rahe’s argument when he and James Dellingpole discussed this?

    • #4
    • April 22, 2015, at 5:39 PM PDT
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  5. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    Sabrdance:Wasn’t this essentially Paul Rahe’s argument when he and James Dellingpole discussed this?

    Then I am in good company.

    • #5
    • April 22, 2015, at 8:02 PM PDT
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  6. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Spin:By “make illegal” I mean control. By control I mean “make regulations at any level of government that specify how the substance is used, dispensed, manufactured, etc.”

    So wouldn’t “regulated” be a better word?

    • #6
    • April 23, 2015, at 5:54 AM PDT
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Some suggested revisions:

    Spin:There are some substances whose use predictably renders a person permanently unable to be a productive, self-possessed citizen. Those substances should be carefully controlled. You should not be able to get those things over the counter. I would suggest that marijuana, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. I would further suggest that the drugs that do fit in this group should be determined by experts, such as pharmacists, medical doctors, drug and alcohol counselors, as well as recovered addicts.

    • #7
    • April 23, 2015, at 5:57 AM PDT
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  8. Nick Stuart Inactive

    As I noted deep in Fred’s thread, we have what I call the Bill Bennett principle “My vices should be legal, yours shouldn’t [unless they happen to be mine].” Likely that’s going to be what obtains for a long time unless elite opinion flips on this subject like it did on Same Sex Marriage.

    • #8
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:30 AM PDT
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  9. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Spin:By “make illegal” I mean control. By control I mean “make regulations at any level of government that specify how the substance is used, dispensed, manufactured, etc.”

    So wouldn’t “regulated” be a better word?

    Yes. I was specifically being snarky here.

    • #9
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:31 AM PDT
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  10. Red Feline Inactive

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin: …I am starting a new thread on this topic because I believe the previous thread has gone into the ditch…

    Well, I think we need more threads about Star Wars!

    Och, come on, Mis! This is a serious topic! On the other hand, when is a little levity anything other than good! :)

    • #10
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:32 AM PDT
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  11. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    My rationale is this: the use of these drugs causes undue burden on society. Prolonged use of the drugs makes it worse. Since “we” have to take care of people who use these drugs, “we” are justified, in a free society, in controlling the drugs, and taking appropriate action against those people. We can do so and still call our society free.

    I think this is a strong argument that, I think, legalizers need to engage with. That said, I think there may be alternative responses. For example — and I’m not quite advocated this — that society and government have no obligation to help those who purposely damage themselves and that people who choose to do will be forced to rely on private charity for help. That would probably mean more bodies in the short term, but (possibly) fewer in the long term.

    • #11
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:32 AM PDT
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  12. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Some suggested revisions:

    Spin:There are some substances whose use predictably renders a person permanently unable to be a productive, self-possessed citizen. Those substances should be carefully controlled. You should not be able to get those things over the counter. I would suggest that marijuana, tobacco, alcohol are not in this group. I would further suggest that the drugs that do fit in this group should be determined by experts, such as pharmacists, medical doctors, drug and alcohol counselors, as well as recovered addicts.

    I wouldn’t use permanent in the guiding principle. If the use of the drug renders you effectively non-functional for more than 24 hours, then I’d put in the controlled substance category. I’ve had folks tell me about spending hours and hours hi, then crashing for days. Who takes care of those people? Society does. So my rationale, I believe, holds.

    • #12
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:33 AM PDT
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  13. Spin Inactive
    Spin Post author

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

     that society and government have no obligation to help those who purposely damage themselves and that people who choose to do will be forced to rely on private charity for help. That would probably mean more bodies in the short term, but (possibly) fewer in the long term.

    Absolutely. The day the nanny state ends, and folks have to live (or die) with their poor decisions, then my view of this changes.

    • #13
    • April 23, 2015, at 6:37 AM PDT
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  14. Red Feline Inactive

    You are making a very good argument here, Spin! I would agree with not prohibiting the use of any drug. There are other ways of dealing with the problems of the abuse of drugs.

    In Canada, when tackling the use of nicotine in public places, legislation was put in place as to WHERE people could smoke. It was banned from all public areas, work places, and in pubs and restaurants.

    What a relief that was! I, and many other people, had reached the stage we didn’t want to go out anywhere as the tobacco smoke was so intolerable. It was necessary when coming back from any public event to have a shower, shampooing the hair too. The clothes worn had to be dispatched to the laundry or cleaners. Many people are allergic to tobacco smoke, so they were happy too. The only people who were not too happy were those people who couldn’t shake the addiction and had to smoke outside during winter in the howling winds from the north. It’s a dreadful addiction!

    There has been a campaign to change public opinion on what is acceptable behaviour when using drugs. Public opinion is a very powerful force, and could be utilized to change behaviour around drugs. Drug abuse is looked on as a sickness. The person is ill, not a criminal.

    • #14
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:11 AM PDT
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  15. Fred Cole Member

    So where does cocaine fit? Where do amphetamines fit?

    • #15
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:11 AM PDT
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  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Spin:My general principle is as follows:

    There are some substances, that when used in any quantity, render a person completely unable to function in society. Those substances should be carefully controlled.

    As a purely literal matter, I have a problem with the phrase “when used in any quantity”. Because, unless you’re actually allergic to a substance, you’re unlikely to respond to minute quantities of it.

    For example, ingesting poppy seeds or nutmeg in normal quantities means putting trace amounts of opiates or hallucinogen into your body. Yet no normal person notices any effect from these drugs at trace concentrations, even though opiates and hallucinogens are presumably the type of drug that most ordinary people would also suspect of being “unsafe in any quantity”.

    Similarly, very low-dose cocaine (like what you find in coca-leaf tea or coca drops) is not scary at all, but that doesn’t mean that people who get high on huge doses will be able to function in society.

    Would you be comfortable putting any drug, including those mentioned above, into the category of “not needing careful control” just because, at very low doses, it’s not impairing? If not, why not?

    This leads me to believe that “used in any quantity” is not a particularly useful criterion. “Used at the quantity it’s most likely to be used at recreationally” might be a better criterion…

    • #16
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:26 AM PDT
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  17. Casey Inactive

    Fred Cole:So where does cocaine fit?Where do amphetamines fit?

    Fred, Spin has put forth his notion of illegal. Might you first put forth your definition of legal before we dive into specific drugs under Spin’s notion?

    • #17
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  18. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    Is the rationale for controlling these substances really about the short term loss of normal function or is it more about their addictive properties? What burden on society are we really trying to prevent, the single use experimental consumption or the repeated consumption that comes with addiction and really does render a person less than useful to himself and society?

    • #18
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  19. Done Contributor

    Fred Cole:So where does cocaine fit?Where do amphetamines fit?

    I don’t know Fred, where do you think they fit in?

    This would be a handy moment for one of our Docs to hop in and lay out the differences between some of these drugs.

    • #19
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  20. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Fred Cole:So where does cocaine fit?Where do amphetamines fit?

    Both substances are available with a prescription. In fact, prescription amphetamines are a really, really big seller.

    • #20
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:44 AM PDT
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  21. Done Contributor

    The King Prawn:Is the rationale for controlling these substances really about the short term loss of normal function or is it more about their addictive properties? What burden on society are we really trying to prevent, the single use experimental consumption or the repeated consumption that comes with addiction and really does render a person less than useful to himself and society?

    I’m not greatly impressed with arguments for prohibition based on assumptions that you are resource of society and not allowed to jeopardize that resource.

    • #21
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  22. Jager Member

    Frank Soto:

    The King Prawn:Is the rationale for controlling these substances really about the short term loss of normal function or is it more about their addictive properties? What burden on society are we really trying to prevent, the single use experimental consumption or the repeated consumption that comes with addiction and really does render a person less than useful to himself and society?

    I’m not greatly impressed with arguments for prohibition based on assumptions that you are resource of society and not allowed to jeopardize that resource.

    I guess I read that differently. I hope King Prawn can clarify this. I took “less useful to society” to mean imposing actual costs on society rather than failing to live up to your potential benefit to society.

    • #22
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Frank Soto:

    The King Prawn:Is the rationale for controlling these substances really about the short term loss of normal function or is it more about their addictive properties? What burden on society are we really trying to prevent, the single use experimental consumption or the repeated consumption that comes with addiction and really does render a person less than useful to himself and society?

    I’m not greatly impressed with arguments for prohibition based on assumptions that you are resource of society and not allowed to jeopardize that resource.

    You may not be greatly impressed, but I suspect most ordinary people are concerned less about substances (like Benadryl) that typically impair normal function (Benadryls reputation for inducing somnolence without euphoria is why it’s widely used as a sleep aid) than about the kind of impairment that feels so very awesome that people are likely to keep coming back for more and more. The addictive reputation and the high are what frighten people, not the temporary impairment.

    • #23
    • April 23, 2015, at 7:59 AM PDT
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  24. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Red Feline:

    Misthiocracy:

    Spin: …I am starting a new thread on this topic because I believe the previous thread has gone into the ditch…

    Well, I think we need more threads about Star Wars!

    Och, come on, Mis! This is a serious topic!

    So is Star Wars!

    ;-)

    • #24
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:04 AM PDT
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  25. Done Contributor

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Frank Soto:

    The King Prawn:Is the rationale for controlling these substances really about the short term loss of normal function or is it more about their addictive properties? What burden on society are we really trying to prevent, the single use experimental consumption or the repeated consumption that comes with addiction and really does render a person less than useful to himself and society?

    I’m not greatly impressed with arguments for prohibition based on assumptions that you are resource of society and not allowed to jeopardize that resource.

    You may not be greatly impressed, but I suspect most ordinary people are concerned less about substances (like Benadryl) that typically impair normal function (Benadryls reputation for inducing somnolence without euphoria is why it’s widely used as a sleep aid) than about the kind of impairment that feels so very awesome that people are likely to keep coming back for more and more. The addictive reputation and the high are what frighten people, not the temporary impairment.

    Benadryl is a poor example, as most people function fine on it. It’s “temporary impairment” doesn’t remotely qualify by Spin’s criteria.

    Back to principles, are we really okay ceding the argument that you are a resource of the state, and therefore required to maximize your usefulness to it at the state’s discretion?

    • #25
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  26. Profile Photo Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Fred Cole:So where does cocaine fit?Where do amphetamines fit?

    Both substances are available with a prescription. In fact, prescription amphetamines are a really, really big seller.

    Out of curiosity, on what basis would a doctor prescribe it?

    It’s not that I am unsympathetic to the control argument. But I look at something like medical marijuana where there are doctors who will find a reason to write the prescription. I think it is a kind of corruption of the medical profession to have doctors write prescriptions for stuff people don’t need. Maybe that is an argument for total deregulation. Maybe it is an argument for a different kind of control, something like an opium den with medical supervision, where control is over location.

    Mostly just thinking out loud.

    • #26
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:41 AM PDT
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  27. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Moderator

    Frank Soto:

    Benadryl is a poor example, as most people function fine on it. It’s “temporary impairment” doesn’t remotely qualify by Spin’s criteria.

    Fair point that Unisom also contains doxylamine, not just Benadryl. Nonetheless, a medicine designed to create intense drowsiness doesn’t meet my criteria of allowing people to “function just fine”: the point is to impair function enough to induce sleep.

    OTC laxatives can also cause temporary impairment. It’s not super-hard to overdose, and the resultant vomiting and diarrhea would definitely count as impairment. What makes this acceptable is that almost nobody finds this sort of impairment fun.

    Back to principles, are we really okay ceding the argument that you are a resource of the state, and therefore required to maximize your usefulness to it at the state’s discretion?

    I’m trying to explain what really motivates prohibitionist sentiments, not endorsing prohibitionist sentiments. The fear of people (including ourselves) being seduced into uselessness by will-weakening pleasure is what frightens people about euphoric drugs. While it’s possible to have this fear without endorsing prohibition, I doubt anyone would endorse prohibition without also harboring this fear.

    • #27
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:45 AM PDT
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  28. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    Misthiocracy:

    Fred Cole:So where does cocaine fit?Where do amphetamines fit?

    Both substances are available with a prescription. In fact, prescription amphetamines are a really, really big seller.

    Out of curiosity, on what basis would a doctor prescribe it?

    Cocaine can be prescribed for topical use as a local anesthetic, particularly in nasal or mouth surgeries.

    Amphetamines are prescribed extensively for Attention-Deficit Disorder.

    • #28
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:53 AM PDT
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  29. Profile Photo Member

    Misthiocracy:Cocaine can be prescribed for topical use as a local anesthetic, particularly in nasal or mouth surgeries.

    Amphetamines are prescribed extensively for Attention-Deficit Disorder.

    I guess my follow up is, whether we would suddenly seen an outbreak of ADD, much like the medical marijuana doctors always manage to find something?

    • #29
    • April 23, 2015, at 8:59 AM PDT
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  30. The (apathetic) King Prawn Member

    To clarify, the negative I see is not in what a person is prevented from providing to society but rather the person’s inability to support himself in society. Be of zero use to us if you choose, but don’t be a draw on the resources and labors of others.

    • #30
    • April 23, 2015, at 9:12 AM PDT
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