Drug legalization has pros, cons

April 12, 2012


— Amelioration of today’s drug problem requires Americans to understand the significance of the 80/20 ratio. Twenty percent of American drinkers consume 80 percent of the alcohol sold here. The same 80/20 split obtains among users of illicit drugs.

About 3 million people — less than 1 percent of America’s population — consume 80 percent of illegal hard drugs. Drug trafficking organizations can be most efficiently injured by changing the behavior of the 20 percent of heavy users, and we are learning how to do so. Reducing consumption by the 80 percent of casual users will not substantially reduce the northward flow of drugs or the southward flow of money.

Consider current policy concerning the only addictive intoxicant currently available as a consumer good — alcohol. America’s alcohol industry, which is as dependent on the 20 percent of heavy drinkers as they are on alcohol, markets its products aggressively, and effectively. Because marketing can drive consumption, America’s distillers, brewers and vintners spend $6 billion on advertising and promoting their products. Americans’ experience with marketing’s power inclines them to favor prohibition and enforcement over legalization and marketing of drugs.

But this choice has consequences: More Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses or drug-related probation and parole violations than for property crimes. And although America spends five times more jailing drug dealers than it did 30 years ago, the prices of cocaine and heroin are 80 percent to 90 percent lower than 30 years ago.  

In “Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know,” policy analysts Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken argue that imprisoning low-ranking, street-corner dealers is pointless: A $200 transaction can cost society $100,000 for a three-year sentence. And imprisoning large numbers of dealers produces an army of people who, emerging from prison with blighted employment prospects, can only deal drugs. Which is why, although a few years ago Washington, D.C., dealers earned an average of $30 an hour, today they earn less than the federal minimum wage ($7.25).

Dealers, aka “pushers,” have almost nothing to do with initiating drug use by future addicts; almost every user starts when given drugs by a friend, sibling or acquaintance. There is a staggering disparity between the trivial sums earned by dealers who connect the cartels to the cartels’ customers, and the huge sums trying to slow the flow of drugs to those street-level dealers. Kleiman, Caulkins and Hawken say that in developed nations, cocaine sells for about $3,000 per ounce — almost twice the price of gold. And the supply of cocaine, unlike that of gold, can be cheaply and quickly expanded. But in the countries where cocaine and heroin are produced, they sell for about 1 percent of their retail price in America. If cocaine were legalized, a $2,000 kilogram could be FedExed from Colombia for less than $50 and sold profitably in America for a small markup from its price in Colombia, and a $5 rock of crack might cost 25 cents. Criminalization drives the cost of the smuggled kilogram in America up to $20,000. But then it retails for more than $100,000.

People used to believe enforcement could raise prices but doubted that higher prices would decrease consumption. Now they know consumption declines as prices rise but wonder whether enforcement can substantially affect prices.

They urge rethinking the drug-control triad of enforcement, prevention and treatment because we have been much too optimistic about all three.

And cartels have oceans of money for corrupting enforcement because drugs are so cheap to produce and easy to renew. So it is not unreasonable to consider modifying a policy that gives hundreds of billions of dollars a year to violent organized crime.

Marijuana probably provides less than 25 percent of the cartels’ revenues. Legalizing it would take perhaps $10 billion from some bad and violent people, but the cartels would still make much more money from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines than they would lose from marijuana legalization.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized “medical marijuana,” a messy, mendacious semi-legalization that breeds cynicism regarding law. In 1990, 24 percent of Americans supported full legalization. Today, 50 percent do. In 2010, in California, where one-eighth of Americans live, 46 percent of voters supported legalization, and some opponents were marijuana growers who like the profits they make from prohibition of their product.

Would the public health problems resulting from legalization be a price worth paying for injuring the cartels and reducing the costs of enforcement? We probably are going to find out.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.    


thuja 6 years, 2 months ago

This guy must think that all drugs come from Mexico.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

What's your guess as to the percentage of illegal drugs that enter the U.S. coming in via Mexico?

RoeDapple 6 years, 2 months ago

I thought Columbia was in Missouri . . .

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

This is an odd combination of things - Will seems to be backing off from his earlier anti-legalization stance.

The relevant question about legalizing drugs is whether or not we think Prohibition was a good idea - if we don't, then we should legalize drugs. If we do, then we should make alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, etc. illegal.

There's really no convincing argument for allowing those substances to be legal, while making others illegal.

gudpoynt 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm $ure you can think of at lea$t one convin$ing argument, jaf$

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

"Everything has pros/cons."

Fixed the headline

verity 6 years, 2 months ago

Damn, I agree with everything Mr Will wrote today. Damn, what's the world coming to?

Myself, I don't particularly like being in an altered state of mind, although I am quite fond of margaritas. Too bad they don't make alcohol that doesn't make you high---but I digress.

In my opinion, our money would be better spent trying to figure out how to help and helping those who are addicted. Too many people wandering through life endangering themselves and others while denying that they have a problem.

jonas_opines 6 years, 2 months ago

When comparing the Big 3, so to speak, I usually find at least a few things in Will's columns that at least provoke a little bit of sound thought, and I often agree with a number of his premises and conclusions. He actually seems to think about things before he writes them. Unless he goes on a rant about how the youth are dressed or act these days, in which case, meh. He usually, though, at least avoids sounding like a revivalist preacher exhorting his flock with meaningless talking points, like Krauthhammer and ol' Cal usually do.

verity 6 years, 2 months ago

Not disagreeing with you---just that I rarely agree without reservations.

tbaker 6 years, 2 months ago

The so-called “war on drugs” is an abject failure by any rational measure. Nonetheless, the current political climate and American society in general are not ready to legalize drugs. A good first step would be to change Marijuana from a DEA schedule 1 drug to a DEA schedule 3 drug. This could be done with the stroke of a pen. Congress doesn’t need to do anything. Morphine is a schedule 2 drug believe or not. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on police, courts, and prisons locking up Marijuana users and ruining people’s lives and in the end society is far worse off for it.

Decriminalizing drugs makes treating drug addiction a health issue, not a criminal offense. This makes it easier for society to find better solutions at a tiny fraction of the cost of the current judicial system needed to prosecute drug offenders. Counseling and treatment are far more effective than prison in turning addicts into nonusers.

After 40 years, over $2.5 trillion in spending, and the arrest and incarceration of the equivalent of the population of North Dakota every year, all we have to show for it is outright warfare occurring on our Southern border. Prohibition doesn’t work. Our country does not have the money to waste following a policy as failed as this one is.

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. Read about what happened. http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/greenwald_whitepaper.pdf

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

That seems eminently sensible and not at all surprising to me.

I'd like to go further, though, and actually legalize them.

We can look at Prohibition here, and the results of repealing it, for any necessary evidence in favor of that.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Except that also means half of the population opposes it.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

45% of the population are pro-life with 49% being pro-choice yet we still hear people screaming to end abortion...so what is your point?

source: http://www.gallup.com/poll/147734/americans-split-along-pro-choice-pro-life-lines.aspx

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

It should be obvious - if about half of the population is for something, and about half against it, there's not a meaningful consensus of our population on the issue.

So, if about half support legalization, and half oppose it, then we don't have a meaningful consensus on that topic.

The same is clearly true of abortion - 49-45% isn't much of a majority.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Good point.

But 50% support isn't enough to claim a consensus, right?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes - I mean the second.

A rather tiny majority isn't a consensus, in my view.

Ragingbear 6 years, 2 months ago

1950 Called, they want their misinformation back.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Reefer Madness...best unintentionally funny movie ever.

gudpoynt 6 years, 2 months ago

PRO: coping with the reality that George Will is a nationally syndicated columnist.

verity 6 years, 2 months ago

Who would benefit from legalization and who would lose?

If we know the answer to that question, we may know why legalization languishes even though half our citizens supposedly support it.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, some believe that alcohol and tobacco companies would lose, but I think that's not necessarily true.

They can go into the drug business if it's legal - why wouldn't they do that?

But, again, if half support it, then half oppose it - that's not any sort of "mandate" from the population to implement legalization.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Losers would be the prison-industrial complex and the big pharmaceutical corporations. Marijuana is an effective treatment for a number of medical conditions, and people could grow their own medicine. Big no-no for Big Pharma. The private prison industry and the manufacturers of military grade equipment being sold to local police forces to fight the war on drugs would also be losers. The drug war also provides socially acceptable cover to remove civil rights we used to believe in, such as arbitrary seizure of assets, spying on citizens, and searches without warrants.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure about the pharmaceutical companies, but the rest seems reasonable to me.

As far as I know, marijuana is really just a pain reliever, not a "treatment" for medical conditions.

And, we have plenty of over the counter pain relievers, and big pharma is doing just fine.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

There have been a lot of studies that pot works better than pharmacy drugs for control of nausea, appetite stimulation, etc. It also is effective for treatment of glaucoma. And you could grow your own pain medicine if that is what you are using it for. There is some research that indicates it reduces cancer growth, and is very effective for treating side effects of chemotherapy and AIDS symptoms (lack of appetite and nausea).

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Thanks - that would make it a bit more of a threat to the pharmaceutical companies.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

A good starting place for researching the medical treatment uses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_cannabis

pizzapete 6 years, 2 months ago

Who would lose? The farmaceutical, patroleum, and paper industry would all take a hit. Also the police and prison industry would all lose money. Not to mention the drug dealers and criminal organizations that smuggle and sell drugs.

Who would win? Besides Cheech and Chong, everyone would benefit from having the freedom to take their drug of choice without the fear of being arrested and imprisoned.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

Losers might include those driving on the roads expecting other drivers will be drug free. Losers might be home buyers expecting that the carpenters framing their house did it while sober. Losers might be any person who has any interaction with another person with the expectation that that person isn't high as a kite. I certainly don't want my dentist giving me nitrous oxide if he just took a hit himself.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

All of those arguments should apply to alcohol as well - should we reinstate prohibition?

If not, why not?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

The difference with alcohol is that it is relatively easy to detect. Marijuana, pills, etc. are far more difficult to detect and far more invasive if we try to detect.
If a breathalyzer were developed that could easily detect pot or other drugs, then sure, put them in the same category as alcohol.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

My freedom and liberty are compromised every day, in many ways. That's the price we all pay for living in a civilized society. If you want absolute freedom, absolute liberty, then I suggest you move to an island. And take Liberty_One with you.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

vertigo - Google "butt-chugging" No thank you. That's just one of those things I'm going to choose to be ignorant of.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Do we routinely test all of the examples you mention for alcohol use?

I'm not aware of that, if that's the case.

Drunk driving is an epidemic in this country, and results in many injuries and deaths each year.

Are you advocating that we routinely give everybody a breathalyzer when they get to work? Or even if they're just walking down the street?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

The point is not that we test for all those things. It's that even a novice can easily detect alcohol. A foreman on a worksite can smell alcohol and send a carpenter home. Or should a dentist use nitrous and then be found out, there would be serious consequences. Not so much if everything was legalized.
Just as the headline states, there would be pros and cons. I'm not saying drugs must be kept illegal for all time. But I'm not going into this with rose colored glasses and I would caution you not to either. I do believe that for every pro, there is an equal con. We would be trading one set of problems for another set of problems. If that's what we as a society choose, fine. But if we as a society choose the other path, that's fine with me as well.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

That's simply not true.

Driving under the influence isn't allowed, even though alcohol is legal. It would be the same with drugs if they were legalized - it would still not be ok to drive under the influence, or have a doctor operate while on drugs, etc.

And, if somebody is either inebriated or on drugs, it should be obviously noticeable in the workplace, if it affects their job performance. And, if it doesn't, then perhaps it's not an issue.

So, you believe that repealing Prohibition wasn't a net gain, but simply a trade off? Why don't you ever answer my questions about that?

Would you support bringing Prohibition back? After all, if it's just an equal trade of one set of problems for another, why not do that?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

What is simply not true?

There are degrees of inebriation. The smell of alcohol might be the first indicator of someone being drunk. The same would not be true for other drugs. Someone might not be stumbling around, drunk or high as a kite, yet still be somewhat impaired. Without that first tool at his disposal, the police, or employer might not be able to tell right away. Still, that's not someone we want operating a car, heavy machinery etc. I'm certain many people have made it home safely having been drunk, high etc. That doesn't make it O.K., just because they got home. It's still something that we as a society have said we don't want. When it comes to commonly used drugs, I'm just saying that there is one less tool at the police's disposal and we should simply recognize that for what it is. I'm old enough to have been in that group that was allowed to drink at age 18 here in Kansas, (3.2 beer). There came a time when, with pressure from the federal government, all states raised their drinking age to 21. Why was that done? Was the federal government just being punitive? The reasoning at that time was that drunk driving deaths in the 18-21 year old group went up. Now I've seen links here that indicated that was not true. Without doing research myself, something I'm just not inclined to do, my common sense tells me that if you try, you can find studies that come down on both sides of the issue. I don't believe the government simply went out of it's way to be punitive. And yes, I do believe that Prohibition, and it's repeal, were trade offs. My intuition, based on decades of common sense, tells me that the easier something is to access, the more people will use it. Let me give you an example: the new casino in K.C., Ks. Are more people from Lawrence gambling now that they don't have to travel to the Missouri side? I don't have stats. I do have common sense. And it tells me that yes, more are gambling. In this very forum, many have decried this "new" tax on the poor. Well, if it's "new", that suggests that it is happening more. Build one by the Haskell Wetlands, and even more will gamble. Legalize drugs, and more will use.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

It's not true that if drugs were legalized, that people wouldn't face serious consequences from operating under their influence (like your dentist example).

Just like he would now, if he operated while drunk.

You may be right about it being a little harder to detect other drugs, but I'm sure we could figure out how to do that.

And, the smell of alcohol is almost certainly not the "first" indicator of being drunk. In order for somebody to smell of alcohol noticeably, they're pretty far gone already.

Did the drunk driving deaths decrease when the drinking age went up?

So, it would be fine with you to bring Prohibition back?

The issue isn't how many people use drugs, even if you're right about that - although there is some evidence that you're not - check tbaker's link v. Portugal and decriminalization.

So, if we legalized drugs, and more people used them, that's not an issue for me - the question is looking at the big picture, is it better for them to be legal or illegal?

I think that most people understand that Prohibition was a big mistake, and created more problems than it solved, including similar problems to the criminal enterprises surrounding drugs today, and that it was a good idea to repeal it.

Given that, there's really no good argument not to do the same with other substances.

I'm going to guess here, and say that the reason you don't respond directly to my questions about Prohibition is that you, like many Americans, like a drink now and then - am I right?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't drink. Nor do I do anything illegal. I have had some relatives who had substance abuse problems, problems that lead to early death. It was a poor choice of life paths. And though I respect their choice, I can honestly say that what they produced throughout their lives was way offset by the costs to society. Their medical costs, rehab, medical, rehab, medical, rehab., etc. and throw in a large part of their lives being largely unproductive tells me it's a lose/lose proposition.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes - nobody's arguing that being addicted to drugs is a good thing, any more than being an alcoholic is, or being a cigarette smoker is. I'm sorry to hear about your relatives - maybe that's the underlying emotion of your argument.

The question is whether or not it should be illegal.

If it's legal, we have all of the problems you mentioned, but not the associated problems of illegality - vast criminal enterprises, costs of criminal justice involvement, etc.

I have first hand experience with the destructive nature of alcohol and cigarette use - from my immediate family - but I don't think that alcohol and nicotine should be illegal.

booyalab 6 years, 2 months ago

Prohibiting alcohol would actually have a remarkable effect on improving health and decreasing DUIs. Personally, I would be ok with prohibition of alcohol considering I have to pay for other people's mistakes regarding it. Although I would prefer more privatization of roads, healthcare, and no welfare so I wouldn't have to pay for those mistakes and I could still drink.

That is a big difference between me and other libertarian-leaning people. I think our national priorities should be on increasing personal responsibility.

verity 6 years, 2 months ago

"Prohibiting alcohol would actually have a remarkable effect on improving health and decreasing DUIs."

Didn't we try that once? As I recall, it didn't work out so well. But then, even I wasn't born then---just hearsay.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago


We tried it, and not only didn't it work, it created the same set of associated problems we have today with drug use, in the form of criminal enterprises and violence.

It's so self evident, I'm amazed that everybody can't see it.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Um, those things already happen, but you don't know about it. People work drunk or high every day in America. People work dosed up on oxycodone or percoset, but they have a piece of paper that makes it okay.

tbaker 6 years, 2 months ago

You presume the number of drivers under the influence of drugs would increase if drugs were decriminalized. There is no data to support that assumption. There is plenty of data to refute it.

booyalab 6 years, 2 months ago

Proponents of drug legalization are rarely specific about what they would want to be legal and to what extent. If every recreational drug was legalized for everyone, we would have crystal meth available next to the aspirin, but what about prescription drugs that aren't available so freely? Why should meth be easier to get than antibiotics? Why do we have some drugs more available than others (that is not a rhetorical question, I am asking people to actually consider why we do it and whether they agree or disagree) and how would that apply to recreational drugs? Could a 12 year old buy cocaine OTC? If we think that a 12 year old couldn't buy it, would be willing to deal with them still having more access to it like they do with beer due to the resulting shift in demand? What about more welfare money being spent on drugs? Don't tell me that welfare is spent on cigarettes and alcohol already. I don't like that either. I am bored of the arguments involving cartel violence. I'm sorry, much of that is the fault of Central American governments. What about the issues regarding what drug legalization here would actually look like. Who would have access to the drugs and how do we reconcile that with current restrictions on legal drugs and the money that taxpayers already have to pay to supplement people's addictions which would increase?

Liberty275 6 years, 2 months ago

All of it should always be available for purchase by consenting adults. Insurance only covers drugs prescribed by your doctor.

Two sentences. Do you need more?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Some support decriminalization, some legalization - some only for milder drugs like marijuana, others for all recreational drugs.

I support legalization of all drugs, based on the idea that it's not the government's role to protect people from themselves.

All of the questions you ask can easily be answered by seeing how we currently treat alcohol, and modeling the drug availability on that model. There are certainly issues to consider, like driving under the influence, or underage use of drugs, but those aren't reasons to prohibit the substance.

Cartel violence, and criminal enterprises, are the clear result of making desired substances illegal - if drugs were legal, those would disappear, just as happened with Prohibition when it was repealed.

If you can get a bottle of wine, or rum, etc. without a doctor's prescription, then you should be able to get a joint, or a hit of cocaine, without one, in my view.

And, just for the record, I don't personally use drugs, or drink very much - I have a very occasional glass of wine. My position is based simply on logic - if alcohol and nicotine are legal, there's no real justification for making other drugs illegal, and Prohibition didn't work any better than the war on drugs is working.

Imagine drugs legalized - we could greatly free up space and resources in the criminal justice system, reduce/eliminate a lot of the tragic violence surrounding drugs, create a new revenue stream for the government (taxes on drugs), etc.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

It's not government's role to protect people from themselves. Yet we do it all the time. Should seat belts be optional? Should all manner of self destructive behavior be permitted?
I'll make you a deal, if a person does go without a seat belt, or chooses to use drugs to excess, and then sustains a serious injury or suffers an overdose, requiring substantial financial intervention from public resources, I'll agree that their self destructive practices be allowed if you agree to let their dying a$$es lay there to die, with no intervention from public resources. But if you're uncomfortable with the prospect of people left to die without aid, I'm uncomfortable with letting them engage in self destructive behavior that you and I will then have to pay for.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes - self destructive behavior isn't my business. If you want to destroy yourself, that's up to you. If we believe that we should protect people from their own bad choices, then we have to outlaw many more things.

I'm a bit uncomfortable just letting people die, but I agree that people should be free to make choices and deal with the consequences of those choices.

Is it really just a financial calculation for you?

I would take some of the money saved and gained from legalization and taxation, and put it into education and treatment for drug use.

What about people who eat badly, and don't exercise, leading to all sorts of health issues? Should we outlaw fast food? Or not treat them?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

You do understand that we're spending vast sums of money on catching, trying and convicting drug users, right?

All of that would become available if we legalized drugs for other purposes.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I think that whatever savings you have in one area will be offset by another. Just the numbers of new employees to administer the taxation and regulation boggles my mind. It will make the IRS look like a mom and pop. And the reason I bring up the money aspect is when someone tells me it's none of my business all the while their hand is in my pocket. It is very much my business. And while you admit you're uncomfortable with allowing people to die, that is the natural consequences of certain actions. If you don't want to regulate their behavior, why not let the enjoy the natural consequences of their actions. And one last point, and this is the pragmatist in me. Honestly, this country, our people will stand for only so much taxation. Given that, the pie as it were will only be so big. Now we can have grand illusions about cutting the military industrial complex, or the prison complex, or the bureaucracy. But those are so ingrained into our system that any substantial reductions are not likely. Adding a new bureaucracy as this plan would, would increase pressure on other discretionary spending. And if you want a quick definition of discretionary spending, look at schools, senior services, services for the disabled. If your wrong, if the money saved does not equal the costs, then where shall we cut? Which schools? Close Cottonwood? Maybe they can be housed in the jails that will no longer be full.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, we'd have to look at Prohibition, and see whether we spent more before or after it was repealed.

Or, find other countries and look at them, like Portugal.

My intuition is that it would cost us less, because we're eliminating a bunch of criminal justice costs, and creating a new revenue stream. So let's assume that we incur as much in new regulative, etc. costs as we're spending now on catching, convicting and incarcerating them. That leaves all of the new revenue from the manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs that can be taxed. Also, of course, it would create jobs in all of those areas.

The reason I'm hesitant to just let people die is that I'm not punitive - I like for people to make choices and deal with consequences as a learning tool, to help them make better choices. If somebody's dead, it's a bit too late for that.

Should we stop treating cigarette smokers with lung cancer? Alcoholics with a variety of related health issues? People who eat fast food, etc.?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

A quick google search turns up a report by economists on marijuana legalization, which concludes that the combination of legalizing and taxing marijuana would result in an overall plus of somewhere between $10-$14 billion/year.

Apparently the costs of regulating and taxing it are much lower than the costs of criminal justice enforcement.

And, that's just marijuana - the savings would improve if we added other drugs.

They probably didn't include public health costs in their calculation, though - but we have those now as well. Unless there were a vast increase in those, that is a relatively stable amount from pre to post legalization, I would think.

So, it looks like my intuition is probably right - we'd save/gain a bunch of money through legalization.

booyalab 6 years, 2 months ago

This is my view on it.... I am not even willing to consider legalizing drugs until every Federal welfare program is eradicated, infrastructure is completely privatized, and the FDA is abolished. That might limit my interaction with drug addicts enough for me to think about it.

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

It was said best on McLaughlin Group the war on drugs is a failure. And like alcohol, drugs will harm us all, legal or not.

Liberty275 6 years, 2 months ago

There is no right or wrong; only nihilism.

(from a source)

Liberty275 6 years, 2 months ago

It is the business of nobody except the consenting adults involved what they do with their own bodies. Period.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

That's true up to the point when the public's financial resources are necessary to deal with issues associated with the drug usage. Things like ambulance services for people who overdose, or medical intervention for those who contract diseases, or rehab services, or public assistance due to lost productivity, or, or, or.
When until you can guarantee that my financial resources won't be used, then you're wanting absolute privacy holds little validity.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

The same is true of alcohol abuse, isn't it?

Why do you always neatly neglect to mention that?

Given your general view, you really should be out there advocating strongly for the return of Prohibition, in addition to many other laws outlawing many other things that aren't good for people.

Why aren't you?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I would have no problem with that either. I really could care less. Just don't tell me it's none of my business while you're reaching into my billfold. As I've said before, if you want prohibition, fine. If you want legalization, fine.
Just take off your rose colored glasses and recognize that each solves certain problems all the while it creates other problems.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, given your outrage about public expenses, you shouldn't "care less" - you should be strongly advocating for Prohibition, making all sorts of food illegal, etc.

Why doesn't your outrage extend there, but only to drugs?

Also, you forget that enforcement of laws costs money as well - for every new substance we make illegal, we incur enforcement expenses.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

Remember, Jafs, I'm much more of a pragmatist than you. I'm much more willing to compromise. I'm willing change the things that I can change, not try to change that which I cannot, and I feel the decades of experience on this planet has given me a certain wisdom to know the difference. Not all the time, but more than most.
I'd love to put a $10 tax on all happy meals to finance the health related consequences of that very unhealthy food. But that ain't gonna fly. And if you legalize something like cocaine, and then tax it factoring in all the costs like ambulance, hospitalizations, disease related expences, rehab, lost productivity, etc. then guess what you'll have? A product costing a whole lot of money. And that cost will encourage criminals to circumvent the tax and bring the stuff here illegally. And then you're right back to square one. But if you want to try it, go ahead.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

First, if the true cost of cigarettes was factored in, including health related costs, then the cost of a pack of cigarettes would increase substantially. Though the taxes may seem high now, if the entire costs were included, there would be a much greater incentive to bypass tax laws. Second, there is some of that going on now, especially on Indian reservations that are on borders of the U.S. and Canada. The sovereign nations on those lands can and do sell cigarettes that have been smuggled out of the growing regions. It's become a big business, though legal due to the status of those nations. Perhaps in addition to casinos and cigarettes, we'll soon see medical marijuana, clinical coke and holistic heroin.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

So why not just make alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, etc. illegal?

I'm not sure whether or not it's necessary to tax at that level - we don't do that with alcohol or cigarettes, and I'm not sure how it would even be possible to calculate all of those accurately.

My main point is that any argument about this topic is completely inconsistent and unsatisfying to me if alcohol, nicotine, unhealthy food, and other substances that are bad for you are treated differently.

Since Prohibition is generally understood to have been a bad idea, then it follows immediately and logically that the "war on drugs" is similarly a bad idea.

What we decide as public policy about how we deal with those substances (all of them) and where the money comes from are worth discussing.

windjammer 6 years, 2 months ago

Take hard drugs off the street by far cheaper than what we are spending to fight the war on drugs. Let the cartel leaders of each producing country know we will be flying in to buy all their hard drugs. Load it up fly out over the ocean cut it open and drop it out. Fly back in and load up and do it all over again. Would cut the need for the FDA, lawyers, hospitals, prisons, border patrols, detectives, doctors, mortuaries by 90%. Never happen because too many professionals make a huge living on the war on drugs.

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Demand is what fuels the drug trade.

verity 6 years, 2 months ago

Interesting concept, windjammer. Might actually work.

BiPolarWookie_w_PhD 6 years, 2 months ago

Governor Hickenlooper balanced the state budget with marujuana money a few years back in Colorado. It was very simple, he raised the price of the card used to purchase marijuana then said, there you go. End of story. No tanks, pepper spray, helicopters, police, fireman, school teachers, police dogs, hidden cameras, undercover agents, police cars, tasers, assault rifles, stun grenades or politicians were injured in the the exchange.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

Interesting discussion here. Drug taking ape is as good a definition of our species as any. We forget the salesmen who pushed opiates on the bored frontier housewifes before they were put out of business. Prohibition is pointless and expensive; spend money on prevention and treatment. The prison-industrial complex would not like legalization and big pharma will push back as well. Most decisions to make substances illegal were based on ideology and/or racism, not science, good governance or on real concerns for people and their health. Good column, Mr. Will.

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