Tag: Drug Policy

Tales from Arizona: Massive Fraud, Mass Grave, Massacre

 

No, this is not a tale from the 1800s, although you might find some themes and players in common with the excellent account of Henry Lafayette Dodge’s service. These three stories all broke since early October. First we learned of an Arizona native, from an old family, engaged in massive immigration and adoption fraud. Then we learned of a mass grave near a Mexican coastal town, long regarded by middle class Arizonans as their beach home community, nicknamed “Rocky Point.” Finally, while mulling over these two stories, Arizona and a neighboring Mexican state became national news with the shocking slaughter of nine women and children on a Mexican highway, almost certainly at the hands of an identifiable cartel. All of these stories are tied to the enormous wealth of the American nation, enabling appetites unrestrained by moral sentiments.

Massive Fraud Centered in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun:

In early October, news broke that Maricopa County Assessor Paul D Peterson had been indicted in a massive adoption and immigration fraud case. As the state and local government cast about for a legal way to remove this elected official from his office, I quickly captured his official biography.* He brazenly touted his adoption activities, apparently secure in his status as a fifth generation Arizonan and a staunch member of the Republican establishment.

This week on Banter, Representative Greg Walden (R–OR) joins the show to discuss the opioid epidemic and how Congress is addressing the crisis. Rep. Walden is the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He keynoted an event at AEI hosted by AEI Resident Scholar Sally Satel on addressing the opioid epidemic.

This is the first installment of a series on “Bridging the Dignity Divide.” Over the next six weeks, Banter guests will address topics such as ending the opioid epidemic, expanding career and technical education, reintegrating the incarcerated into society, and promoting work and family formation to overcome poverty. This series is part of a broader institutional push to help close the dignity gap by creating a culture and economy where everyone is needed. The links below provide more information on AEI’s work promoting dignity.

In this AEI Events Podcast, AEI’s Sally Satel and Nicholas Eberstadt join a distinguished panel to begin a series of conversations addressing the opioid crisis ravaging the nation. The panel discussion touches the cultural factors underpinning today’s crisis, the social, cultural, economic factors driving overdose deaths, and the role of the federal government to provide treatment and prevent overdose.

Panelists include Christopher Caldwell (The Weekly Standard), Nicholas Eberstadt (AEI), Harold Pollack (University of Chicago), and Danny Seiden (Office of the Governor, Arizona). The discussion is moderated by Sally Satel (AEI).

Bad Guys Will Still Be Bad Guys

 

Detroit_police_prohibitionMegan McArdle has an excellent post describing one of the best consequentialist arguments for ending the war on drugs:

… I consider the reduction of violent crime to be the main benefit. Deprived of the ability to enforce contracts through the relatively peaceful legal process used by other markets, black markets are accompanied by high levels of violence: Gangs fight for territory, enforce business agreements and try to defer defections. The more profitable the black market is, the more incentive there is to use violence to protect your profits, which may be one reason that the introduction of crack cocaine was accompanied by such a huge increase in violent crime. Legalizing drugs cuts into the profits and gives industry players legal means to settle their disputes, so in theory, this should reduce the prevalence, and the brutality, of violent gangs.

I find the logic of this nearly unassailable. Just as there’s no inherent reason why the alcohol trade should be violent, there’s little inherent reason why the market for other intoxicants should be. Give people the opportunity to work within the confines of the law — and to enjoy its protections — and the worst sorts of behavior become unnecessary. Deny them those confines and protections, and we quickly descend into a petty Hobbesianism that drives out all the nice guys and rewards the worst.

Overdose on Guns

 

From Robert VerBruggen, at Real Clear Policy, this simple graph:imageThree reactions:

  1. I have no idea what explains the steep drop in motor vehicle deaths. I haven’t noticed people driving more safely since 2006. Have you? Could it be gas prices leading to fewer cars on the road? (But gas prices have been dropping …)
  2. Gun deaths seem to be constant. So, another mystery: Why are lefty progressives acting like it’s an epidemic?
  3. Drug overdose deaths are skyrocketing. Why isn’t Barack Obama having town meetings about that?

Denying The Last Gamble

 

IMG_0660Public policy, like life, is always a matter of trade-offs. The difficulty often arises not so much in determining what is good and what is bad, but in comparing goods’ value to each other, especially when they come into conflict. Further complicating matters, this weighing of risk varies for any given individual depending on his situation: under some circumstances, risks that would be otherwise unthinkable may well be prudent and wise. And the only thing more difficult than anticipating changed circumstances is accurately forecasting people’s reaction to them.

This complexity — or, more specifically, the inherent difficulties in understanding this complexity — is one of the best arguments against Progressivism: no one is smart enough to be a philosopher king and attempts to approximate one through law and regulation are doubly doomed to failure. Leaving people to make their own choices and evaluate their own risks not only wins on its philosophical appeal to liberty (no small thing that), but also on terms of pure pragmatism.

It’s hard to imagine an issue that better illustrates the absurdity — and immorality — of Progressive’s we-know-what’s-best-for-you attitude than when it comes to access to experimental drugs for the terminally ill. Whatever benefits the FDA provides in terms of public safety and accountability (I’ve mixed feelings on the matter), they’re non-existent when it comes to dealing with the terminally ill. In what may well be a first, both National Review’s Wesley Smith and Reason’s Nick Gillespie both applaud the California Legislature (yes, you read that right) for passing a bill that would lax regulations for the dying which, unfortunately, met a sad end under Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto pen. As Smith notes in what can only be described as one of the most perfect ironies of all time, Brown also recently signed legislation — and with much fanfare — allowing assisted suicide.

Why Can’t We Make Better Painkillers?

 

painkillerI asked this question on Fred’s post about the problems his family’s had filling his mom’s prescriptions for painkillers — medication she needs to treat the pain of advanced lung cancer. Moments after asking it, I began thinking, “Hey, wait — that’s a good question.”

Or maybe it isn’t, but I figured there could be no harm asking, because I bet I’m not the only one to wonder.

Why is it that the only really effective painkillers we seem to have are highly addictive and dangerous drugs that addicts love? The point of a painkiller is to make the pain go away, not to get you high, so why do we not yet have a class of drugs that only do the former? Or, to wit: We already do have many of them, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. And those are great, effective drugs, as anyone who’s had a headache or a sprained ankle knows. But apparently, they’re not effective enough to treat more serious pain.

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?”

Marijuana The New Same-Sex Marriage Debate

 

yes-we-cannabis-resized-600.jpg

Well, it looks like the Weed Wars are back in California. We will likely see an initiative to legalize marijuana on the ballot in 2016 and it could be an issue that even affects the presidential race.

Rolling Stone has a long piece on the issue in their upcoming edition. I think it gives a good indication of the types of arguments the pro-legalization side will make. Their strategy is similar to that of gay marriage proponents: You should vote for this because…shut up. This is inevitable and so there’s no point in stopping what is bound to happen.

Marijuana: The Latest Constitutional Train Wreck

 

I presume others have seen the WSJ editorial regarding the recent suit by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. This led me to read a copy of the states’ brief seeking leave to file the case in the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over disputes between states, but the complaining states have to establish that they’re entitled to jump over the lower courts). To summarize the states’ argument:

  1. The Controlled Substances Act (the CSA), a federal law, makes it a criminal offense to manufacture, distribute, or possess a schedule I controlled substance, which includes marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols;
  2. Colorado’s constitution and laws have established a regulated industry for the manufacture and distribution of pot;
  3. The Obama Administration has elected not to enforce the CSA in Colorado or other states that have legalized pot;
  4. Nebraska and Oklahoma still prohibit pot, and the availability of pot in Colorado has made it more difficult and expensive for them to enforce their bans.
  5. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution provides that “the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land …, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
  6. Under the Supremacy Clause, Colorado should be enjoined from implementing the provisions of its constitution that would legalize and regulate the manufacture and sale of pot.

The editorial concludes:

What is the Problem with Illegal Drugs?

 

shutterstock_154594889My father was a cocaine addict who died of an overdose. He began using when I was about eight, and died when I was 24. He tried to quit a couple of times — twice he went into treatment centers — but he was not successful.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the problem of illegal and addictive drugs but have avoided drug-related threads because they’ve just been too painful to read. When I was younger and still considered myself a libertarian, I was very sympathetic to legalizing drugs. The “War on Drugs” is extremely expensive and its success is debatable. At this point, I’m just not sure which way is best. (For whatever it’s worth, according to this ngram, the phrase “war on drugs” didn’t become widely used until after 1980. Thanks to Mike H for that interesting link.)

Though — as I said — I haven’t followed all the arguments as closely as I should have, I think there’s a “supply and demand” aspect to illegal drug use that gets overlooked, mostly because both sides focus so much on the “supply-side” arguments, aruging either in favor of continuing or removing restrictions on the amount of drugs.

What is the Problem with Heroin?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn his post “Bringing Conservatives and Libertarians Together” about marijuana legalization, Fred Cole wrote:

I think it’s the situation with marijuana that it’s already so widely accepted and widely available, that most people who want to smoke already do. Whatever society costs it imposes are already there.

So marijuana prohibition means we get all of the downsides of legalization and all of the downsides of prohibition, but none of the upsides that come with legalization.  It’s the worst of both worlds.