Archive for Friday, May 31, 2013

Letter: Legalized drugs

May 31, 2013


To the editor:

I liked Andres Oppenheimer’s piece about the OAS drug report.

I liked it less when he got to the part starting with “My opinion.” 

It’s good that Oppenheimer sees the sense of legalizing marijuana, but the hard drugs should be available at a reasonable price to addicts too. One hundred to 150 years ago, many people were addicted to drugs like cocaine and morphine  that they purchased from their local pharmacy. They were usually in liquid form and not extremely expensive, so the addiction was milder than if injected or snorted like today. Most of these people held down jobs and lived somewhat normal lives.

How could it be worse to have governments, even if corrupt, providing dope to addicts than to have murderous cartels doing it? And that’s only the political aspect of the effect of legalization. The most important effect would be to stop imprisoning people for the weakness of being addicted.

Anyway, it would actually reduce corruption in governments because there would no longer be a market need for the cartels with their bribes and murders.

Understanding addiction as a health issue is the enlightened view. Punishment has never and will never work to quell it. Treatment, even if imposed involuntarily, is the best bet although in some people nothing will work.  

If I were at a presidential press conference and got to ask a question, I would say: “Mr. President, should you have been imprisoned for your illegal drug use, and if not, why does your administration continue to imprison people for the same offenses?”


Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 6 months ago

People who are in jail or prison for drug offenses do not get paid to work at a job, and therefore they do not pay income tax. Considering that approximately 330,000 people are presently incarcerated for those offenses, that accounts for a lot of the national deficit.

That is in addition to the incarceration costs, which average $31,307 per inmate per year.

Add to that the costs spent on the enforcement for the war on drugs. The federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010. In addition to that, state and local governments spent at least another 25 billion dollars. However, some of that might be for incarceration costs, those statistics do not specify whether that is included or not.

There is a racial aspect to the present situation as well, the following is a clip from:

1) 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.

2) African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.

3) African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).
-end of clip-

I believe it would be better to legalize and heavily tax the less harmful drugs, because that would both cut a lot of costs as well as be very lucrative for both the state and federal governments. The nation simply cannot afford to continue the present policy.

esteshawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Caffiene, alcohol and prozac are okay though?

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

weed, crack, meth, women, god. Everybody has a crutch. I bet your's is... cheeseburgers!

jonas_opines 2 years, 6 months ago

"What a pathetic life you people must have when weed, crack, and meth are your gateways to happiness and contentment."

Religion doesn't work for everybody.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

That's an interesting observation. I would argue that religion has caused the deaths of more people throughout history than drugs have. The weed people and the meth people don't, as far as I know, go to war with each other over which drug is The True Drug. Further, I have never seen a crack user and a powder user even argue over which is better.

If you choose religion over drugs, then kudos to you for deciding which is most appropriate for you.

jonas_opines 2 years, 6 months ago

I did, for 18 years. The people were more or less the same in spirit as the people I know now. It didn't make any difference at all. Shallow people, thoughtful people, judgmental people, bad people, good people, accepting people. Successful people, people struggling. But when you see through the premise, and really, actually realize that we just made it all up, that The God (not necessarily A god) doesn't exist, never did, and it's all just books written by men to govern their lives and find some sort of meaning in life, you can't ever really go back. It's just a crutch, and I didn't need it anymore. You, and lots of other people, still do. I'm fine with that, as long as they don't consider themselves inherently superior. Which, sadly, many obviously do. In that, of course, they are hardly unique as a group. Again, it doesn't really make any difference.

But I've always tried to surround myself with beneficent people, which is why I have a high quality of life. One that involves a few intoxicants, from time to time.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

That's pretty much spot on, but I think people (American citizens protected by the first amendment) have the right to think they are innately and inanely superior to others.

"The God (not necessarily A god) doesn't)"

"gods don't"

Fixed. :-) If you don't believe in one in particular god why would you believe god(s) exist at all? Agnosticism is confusing. I don't know why you people do it.

jonas_opines 2 years, 6 months ago

I think god might be an advanced alien race that seeded life on this planet and then took off. It is, admittedly, a loaded word, god is. But really, to an isolated primitive tribe the trappings of western civilization might make us seem like gods. I suspect that a sufficiently advanced species might appear the same to us. That's just a possibility, though.

I prefer to retain a crack in any door, just in case I need to open it again. Too many people get so stuck in their paradigm that they lose flexibility and get angry, or simply break apart, when something shakes it about.

And I won't ever stop people from thinking that they're superior by force. I'll simply frown at them and prefer that they didn't.

Corey Williams 2 years, 5 months ago

Do you get a lot of nosebleeds from being on your high horse?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

The issue isn't your belief in your inherent superiority over those who do use-- it's about whether making these drugs and their use criminal acts creates more problems than it solves.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

Your argument is sliding all over the place now. Please make up your mind.

jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

How does it "protect" them to put them in jail?

Also, I disagree with the idea that the government needs to protect people from themselves.

Alcohol and cigarettes are bad, and "weak" people succumb to them, in your view. Should we make them illegal as well? Fast food, etc....

jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

Protecting others is a valid use of government, in my view, while protecting people from themselves isn't.

Where do you stop? Fast food, video games, tv, etc. There's a long list of things that can be bad for people - do you really want the government to make all of those illegal? How does that square with a belief in individual freedom?

deec 2 years, 6 months ago

What with STDs, AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy and inconsiderate partners, we should probably add sex to that list as well.

deec 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually at this point in time with 7 or 8 billion people on the planet, the survival of the species depends on less procreation. Sex is no more necessary for any individual's survival than drugs are.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

"Also, I disagree with the idea that the government needs to protect people from themselves."

Jafs, you're getting your libertarian mojo back. I'm getting all teary-eyed.

And you are right about protecting humans by putting them in a cage. That is a ludicrous concept. We don't have prisons in America to help people, we have them to punish people. We don't help tornado victims by putting them in jail, safe from twisters, why should we help dope addicts by locking them away from drugs?

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago


I have some libertarian tendencies, as you know.

In fact, my political outlook could probably be described as a combination of libertarian, liberal and conservative ideas. Sounds strange, but I find some valuable and good ideas in all of those viewpoints.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

Or, maybe it's just people who can't handle drugs who are "weak."

I don't actually believe that, but I primarily don't believe in labeling someone who has a different behavior from mine as "weak." That doesn't mean their behavior is admirable, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are weak, either.

joes_donuts 2 years, 6 months ago

Weak people let temptations overpower them. Strong people can accept temptation and not let it negatively affect their life.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

You mean like the temptation to climb Mount Everest?

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 6 months ago

Don't we have to take into consideration why the weak people may be weak...and why the strong people may be strong? This can get very complicated. There are no easy answers.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

No, drug abuse is bad. Drugs are like guns, they never killed anyone.

bad_dog 2 years, 6 months ago

You really shouldn't speak about Gov. B that way...

oldbaldguy 2 years, 6 months ago

legalize marijuana and tax the heck out of it like cigarettes. hard stuff still needs to be regulated. users should not go to prison, but rehab is expensive and politically not sustainable for most office holders.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

You would think politicians would have rehab covered by their insurance, but I guess they are in a high risk group.

Jeff Nolting 2 years, 6 months ago

You know - anyone who thinks drugs are OK - they have a mental illness - look at what kind fo life they lead and the morals , respectability , vaules and self respect ? I myself think selling drugs should be a death pentaly offense this would save tax payers so much money - just to bury them. Very few today have values, self esteem -

asixbury 2 years, 6 months ago

Obviously never tried any kinds of drugs, or you wouldn't think that way. Speak not of what you do not understand.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

When I was in the Army, in Germany we had some good hash. I remember one time being utterly stoned and drinking beer while eating chocolate covered graham crackers. I forget whether they went together well or not. That was 30 years ago.

asixbury 2 years, 5 months ago

No, they haven't fried my brain. I actually have a Master's degree and am quite successful. There is a difference between abusing drugs and using them occasionally when the time is right. Something else you obviously know nothing about.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

"You know - anyone who thinks drugs are OK - they have a mental illness"

Yes, thinking you have the right to do with your body what you want while not infringing on the rights of others is a mental illness. I'll keep that in mind.

"I myself think selling drugs should be a death pentaly offense"

I think capital punishment is barbaric and should not be practiced in the US.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 6 months ago

" ... while not infringing on the rights of others ..." Does infringing on the rights of others include the financial costs that will certainly be passed on to taxpayers? If a financial burden is being placed upon we the taxpayers, then we the taxpayers should have a say in whether drugs should be legalized and which drugs should be legalized.

deec 2 years, 6 months ago

Drinking alcohol or soda pop, eating a lot of processed food, a diet heavy on meat or sugar et. al. also cause health problems. Should taxpayers regulate what everyone else eats and drinks s well?

deec 2 years, 6 months ago

I'm trying no such thing, but limiting portion sizes is hardly analogous to making consumption illegal. It is too bad that children are so addicted to processed mcfood that they throw away vegetables and healthy food.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

You are better than that argument. Is it infringing on other's rights when you go hunting and accidentally shoot your partner in the face with a shotgun? If you are paying for my insurance, then I am paying for the fellow's that got shot by the former vice-president.

How about that SUV? It's prone to roll over more than other cars. Are you infringing on my rights when you drive it, blow a tire and roll it 10 times and break your finger? Somebody has to pay the cops and and firemen for coming to your aid.

I could use your argument and make everything illegal. That makes it a poor argument. I know for a fact you can do better, I've seen you do it.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 5 months ago

And imprisoning people for victimless crime has no taxpayer I right? Huh?

Currahee 2 years, 6 months ago

I can't believe what I'm reading. Legalizing currently illegal drugs? If they didn't harm anyone when they were legal- why are they banned now? Could it be some sort of big pharma conspiracy? No! These substances are bad for a reason- people get addicted to them quickly and they wont do it in moderation. Heroin, meth, etc. all give you an addictive feeling of pleasure that people drive themselves mad to experience again but never will.

jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

Nicotine is more addictive than opiates.

Nobody who argues (well, almost nobody) that we should legalize drugs thinks they're "good for you", anymore than anybody thinks smoking or drinking to excess is "good for you". The argument is that in a free society, people should have the right to make their own choices, even if those choices aren't the best for them.

And, the other part is that a lot of the problems with drug use right now stem from their being illegal, just as those problems occurred with alcohol during Prohibition.

It's more likely that the tobacco and alcohol industries would oppose legalization, because they're afraid it might cut into their market share than big pharma (since most of their stuff requires a prescription, it's not the same).

jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

I know you are - how about the rest of the list of things that people do that may harm them - all of them should be illegal?

How much more money will it cost to prosecute people for all of that stuff, and then incarcerate them for it?

Seems to me that speed limits aren't analogous to prohibiting substances, they might be analogous to legal limits on them, as we have with alcohol. And, simply drinking too much doesn't pose a danger to others, the way that driving 120 mph on a city street would.

You're much more comfortable with Big Brother than I am. Many people are incapable of thinking critically, including many legislators, in my opinion.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago


You're the one who used the phrase - I just went along with it.

"Again, sometimes Big Brother has to make laws..."

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

" I possess the ability and a vehicle capable of safely driving 120 mph, but I don't get to do that locally."

Why not? Friday night you can go to Heartland Park and make your car go as fast as it can manage in a quarter mile. I've seen cars break 300 there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 6 months ago

Actually, under a doctor's supervision and with controlled, clean doses, heroin addicts can generally function rather normally. That doesn't make heroin addiction a good thing, but it does mean that its criminalization isn't the best way to deal with it.

jafs 2 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to see some evidence of that.

If you mean that they can hold down a full-time job, drive safely, etc. I'm quite skeptical.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

Don't take what I posted as an endorsement of heroin usage-- it's a dangerous and very addictive drug, and I would certainly never recommend that anyone allow themselves to become addicted to it. The best way avoid addiction to it is to never use it at all.

That said, the most dangerous aspects of heroin usage are contaminated supplies, contaminated needles and inconsistency in potency. These can poison you or infect you with potentially fatal diseases (such as AIDS or hepatitis,) or lead to overdoses. If those risks are reduced or eliminated, then it's merely a matter of controlling the when and how much of actual consumption. When done correctly and diligently, a maintenance dose of heroin in the evening isn't that much different from having a couple of cocktails after work. But that doesn't mean that they should be firing up and heading off to work or a night on the town. Even if done in a controlled and "safe" way, it's still a very limiting drug to be addicted to.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

That makes more sense.

But, since it's so highly addictive, addicts develop a tolerance, and it may be unlikely they can manage with a small "maintenance dose" in the evening, any more than your average cigarette smoker could.

When not high, they also crave it, so I'm not sure how well they'd function all day with that in play.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm no expert on it, but from what I understand, a "maintenance" dose doesn't allow for increasing dosages, so likely significantly limits the extent of the high that's possible. The goal is to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which can be fatal, as well as the craving that can still exist with complete abstinence, and makes total sobriety so hard to maintain. It's not that much different from methadone treatments in that respect, but I understand that heroin used this way is actually safer than methadone.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 5 months ago

You're assuming the individual wants to be on a maintenance program. That assumes at least some level of wanting to make changes, leading to sobriety and being a contributing member of society. That description doesn't apply to many people who are addicted to whatever drug they are using. The majority of those addicted are continuing to search for that high that led them to the drug in the first place. Maintenance programs are fine for what they are. Just like "Just Say No" programs are fine for what they are.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 5 months ago

Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go unindicted and possession is a misdemeanor on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results.

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

" Heroin, meth, etc. all give you an addictive feeling of pleasure that people drive themselves mad to experience again but never will."

And that is your business, why?

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 6 months ago

Liberty275, I don't get your question. Families, relationships, lives, are torn apart by the pursuit of another "high". We all know that. If you're related to an addict, it certainly becomes your business.

deec 2 years, 5 months ago

I'll bet more families are torn apart by alcohol than all the other abused drugs combined.

Liberty275 2 years, 5 months ago

It is so simple, I can see why some might not understand. Meth, crack, heroine etc are horrible drugs and devastate people's lives. But that is no business of anyone other than the user.

If the user is violating other's rights and if they cannot change their behavior it is best that they be ostracized. If they commit violent acts or property crimes, then they should go to jail for those acts.

At some point you need to stop trying to run other people's lives.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

There is also the problem of drug addicted parents who can't take care of their kids.

It's a real problem, and their drug use negatively affects their children, who are victims in the situation. If we had better foster care/adoption options, I'd be more comfortable with that part of it.

Lisa Medsker 2 years, 5 months ago

Better social services, and treating addiction as a mental or public health issue, rather than a criminal issue, is how Europe has dealt with the problem for years. It seems to be working rather well.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

"There were reasons these substances came under scrutiny of law. "

With respect to pot, racism was the single biggest driver of outlawing it (due to all those blacks and mexicans and asians who smoked it.)

And while there were reasons behind the prohibitions of opiates, cocaine, etc., that still doesn't mean that prohibition is the best way to deal with it.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

Like all those cigarette smokers and drinkers?

Are you one who also wants to outlaw those, and every other activity that human beings may engage in that's bad for them on some level?

Count me out, thanks - I prefer a free society in which adults can make their own decisions, even if they're bad for them, and I'm not interested in having government intervene there.

Lisa Medsker 2 years, 5 months ago

Yes. Addiction is emotionally and socially crippling, so it only makes more sense that it be dealt with as an emotional or social problem, instead of a criminal problem. Putting them in prison doesn't address the social and emotional issues. It only institutionalizes them, guaranteeing that they will continue with crime when they get out.

jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

We're talking about what the effects of legalizing substances is vs. having them be illegal.

When alcohol was made illegal by Prohibition, we saw the same sorts of problems that we have today with illegal drugs, and when we repealed Prohibition, we saw those problems go away.

So, it's very likely that legalizing drugs will eliminate many of the issues involved with their being illegal, just as it did with alcohol.

Your version seems unrealistic to me - we don't have illegal suppliers competing with legal ones in the alcohol business - we have legal suppliers, regulated and taxed, competing with one another to provide a variety of strengths of alcohol, from beer, wine, etc. up to hard liquor. I see no reason why that model wouldn't apply with legalized drugs as well.

Lisa Medsker 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree. Government "regulates" it, and the substances are decriminalized, the Cartels are no longer "illegal".

ChuckFInster 2 years, 6 months ago

Why not just legalize and tax everything ?

Liberty275 2 years, 6 months ago

Why bother legalizing pot? It's already taxed by the state.

jack22 2 years, 6 months ago

There is always going to be a small percentage of people who use drugs. We as a society should do all we can to help these people quit or at least minimize their usage. Making drugs legal is not going to greatly increase consumption of drugs any more than lowering the cost of cigarettes is going to encourage people who already smoke to double their habit from one pack to three packs a day. In fact, legalizing drugs may reduce dependence for those currently addicted as they would no longer face incarceration, be ostracized from society, and could be encouraged to seek treatment. When drugs are illegal addicts are at the mercy of drug dealers who don't always provide safe and consistent drugs. People who take illegal drugs often die from drug overdoses because they're never sure of the purity and dosage of the drugs they're taking. By legalizing drugs we could decrease the number of overdoses by providing a safe and clean product. Legalizing drugs would also diminish many of the other illegal activities associated with drug usage. Problems like armed robbery and prostitution often go hand in hand with illegal drugs because addicts have few resources to pay the extreme costs associated with illegal drugs. There is no reason cocaine should cost more than gold. Once we legalize drugs we can eliminate the market for drug dealers and tax the product to pay for rehabilitation and health care.

jack22 2 years, 6 months ago

Well there aren't many people making moonshine anymore now that it's legal are there my friend? And as a result we don't have people dying or going blind from drinking bad whiskey, either. I've been to Switzerland when all drugs were legal and although it didn't make me want to try any, it seemed to me the addicts preferred to get their drugs from a reliable source they knew was not only consistent and cheaper, but cleaner and safer, too.

jack22 2 years, 5 months ago

You can continue to buy your Whiskey out of a dusty jug from Tennessee Jed if you like, the rest of us are going to a liquor store and are happy to pay the government our share of taxes for it. The criminal supply chain for illegal alcohol has all but dried up except for a few hold outs who produce small amounts of alcohol for their own consumption. Even the mafia has gotten out of the illegal liquor business because there is no money in it now that it's legal.
By the way, why does the government have to be the supplier? Private industry is who should be providing the product and selling it. This may even include former illegal suppliers who no longer have to bribe the police and kill their competition in order to sell their products. Drugs prices are extremely high right now because of the risk involved with growing, shipping, and selling an illegal product. The price will come down if we bring it out into the open and let the free market decide the price. Even with a high tax on marijuana the illegal sellers in California can't compete with the legal store front operations that offer lower prices, more variety, and a safe environment to purchase the product.

jack22 2 years, 5 months ago

I like your cigarette argument because it exposes the flaw in your thinking. Get it through your head, drugs are expensive because they are illegal, not because they are taxed. A Cuban cigar costs as much as marijuana precisely because they're both illegal. That $50 Cuban cigar would be $1.50 with tax if it were legal.

Prices will indeed come down with legalization, it's already happening in states where marijuana is now legal. And those states are now able to benefit from a new tax revenue where previously there was none. There will always be supply and demand at play to influence the price of drugs. When they are legal we could more precisely measure exactly what the supply and demand is and adjust the price accordingly. Right now the prices are inflated because the availability of the drugs is uncertain and the risks of it being illegal are so great. Sure, weed in California is still expensive, but it would be even lower if they had to compete with prices found in surrounding states not to mention mail order companies selling the product at reduced rates, taxes and all.

Liberty275 2 years, 5 months ago

The primary reason to end prohibition is stopping the violence associated with the black market. Enough people have been killed because of the black market. It is insane to fail for 50 years yet continue the policy even though it has little effect other than making little warlords that commit actual crimes like murder and tax evasion.

The war on drugs is lost. Enough Americans have died at the hands of criminals and the state. America needs a better solution to the problem. Freedom is the solution. End prohibition and you end the problem. When was the last time someone died in a Glenlivet deal gone bad? Do you recall the last time two liquor stores went to war over "turf"?

Drugs aren't the problem. Government trying to curb the freedom of Americans is the problem.

Lisa Medsker 2 years, 5 months ago

As well as making sure privatized corrections facilities have "customers".

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