The Scientific Case for Decriminalization

Neuroscientist Carl Hart on the fundamental ignorance that shapes our national conversation about drug policy.

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Hart: I sit on a number of review committees and one of the things we want to make sure before people get approval to study these drugs is that they have the appropriate amount of experience to do this research, and to make sure that they have the appropriate safeguards in place. Because you can imagine if you had people do this kind of research and they don't have the experience and they don't have the appropriate safeguards: If someone gets hurt you can imagine how that will set back the scientific investigation into this study. Think about Timothy Leary. His antics set back the research into hallucinogens 40 years. We don't want to see that happen again.

reason: Is there any study that has ever shown that any of these substances force people to do bad things-violence, crimes, and so on?

Hart: We have been doing this research for decades in which we bring people into the lab and administer drugs in order to develop better treatments, in order to determine the effects of drugs on people for a wide range of reasons. We've given drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, marijuana, you name it. Alcohol. We've given thousands of doses of these drugs, but we haven't seen any violence in the context in which we give these drugs.

That's not to say that people who use drugs don't get violent sometimes. You might see some violence with some of these drugs, but it's certainly not because of the pharmacology of the drugs. When we have this kind of discussion we sometimes think: If one person gets violent on crack cocaine, that's enough to change the policy. That's ridiculous.

The notion that we can prevent every accident, every sort of bad thing from happening in a society-if people have that notion they probably shouldn't be allowed to talk to the public.

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  • ||

    "Negro Cocaine Fiends Are New Southern Menace"

    I think that one headline explains the entire War on Drugs.

  • SIV||

    My favorite NYTs article ever.
    The scientific consensus was that cocaine improved Negro pistol marksmanship.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    "Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, jazz musicians, and entertainers. Their satanic music is driven by marijuana, and marijuana smoking by white women makes them want to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and others. It is a drug that causes insanity, criminality, and death — the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind. "

    Harry J. Anslinger

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind; however is alcohol.

    FIF Anslinger

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I tried to explain that these types of stories, these anecdotes-particularly about drugs-weren't new. We had heard them before.

    Recycled news seems to be everywhere, and a lot of it seems to be from the notion that if the writer/editor never heard of previous claims, then they found something "new." The usage of "unprecedented" should be taken as a warning that whatever the story is about happened many times before.

    Reason seems to be one of the better sites to uncover this sort of thing.

  • From the Tundra||

    Good read, but this got me:

    When we think about the guys who have occupied the White House-President Obama, President Bush, President Clinton-all three of those guys used illegal drugs in their youth. If they would have been caught, they would've gotten felony charges and probably would not have been allowed to make the contributions that they have made to our country.


  • Floridian||

    Well... he didn't say what kind of contribution.

  • Pelosi's Accommodator||

    Know who else made a contribution to his country?

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Pelosi's father?

  • Anomalous||

    Everyone who pays taxes?

  • MrGuy||

    My mom?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Getting caught does not stop anybody on the hard Left. Start at the middle with the Weathermen and work your way out.

  • Zeb||


    A lot of Weatherman members now hold high level political office?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    All depends on what you call a lot, or high. Matt Steen, first of the Weathermen to surrender and the inspiration for "Life During Wartime" by The Talking Heads is one example.

    Now, step two, work your way out past Tom Hayden. No, he was not a Weatherman, he was of the hard Left.

  • bassjoe||

    Hey man...

    Clinton gave us free trashy sitcom level entertainment.

    Bush gave us (well, some of us) FREE DRUGS. Wait, that's ironic somehow, isn't it?

    And Obama gave us free healthcare (right? I might be confused).

  • Floridian||

    I can't believe the police ever used .32 caliber revolvers. I have a .327 fed mag that my wife shoots .32's through. It is positively quaint.

  • DWC||

    How about the argument that you own you own self and can put anything into it you choose to . Speaking of quaint. Incidentally, a friend of mine had a 25 auto. Once he shot it at a wooden fence post from 10 feet away. It bounce off.

  • Floridian||


  • SIV||

    Graveyards are full of people killed with .25 ACP.

  • Virginian||

    If I cared about killing people, I'd carry a dart gun that shot darts filled with ricin or something like that. But it's not about killing, it's about stopping. .25 ACP can kill, but it doesn't stop as well as larger calibers.

    Of course any pistol is a poor substitute for a long gun, but c'est la vie.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Graveyards are full of people killed with .25 ACP.

    And many of those were killed by this guy. Not what I'd pick for self-defense, but .25 ACP can be plenty lethal.

  • Christophe||

    Holy shit that is disturbing. Fucking commies.

  • DWC||

    How about the argument that you own you own self and can put anything into it you choose to . Speaking of quaint. Incidentally, a friend of mine had a 25 auto. Once he shot it at a wooden fence post from 10 feet away. It bounce off.

  • Floridian||


  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    But what about the argument that you own you own self and can put anything into it you choose to . Speaking of quaint. Incidentally, a friend of DWC's had a 25 auto. Once he shot it at a wooden fence post from 10 feet away. It bounce off.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||


  • SIV||

    Graveyards are full of people killed with .25 ACP.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    You know what other caliber filled graveyards?

  • Floridian||

    30-06 at Normandy?

  • John Galt||

    Did I win?

  • John Galt||

    Any even more put there with .22LRs.

  • steffenmulroy||

    my friend's mother-in-law makes $88/hr on the laptop. She has been fired from work for ten months but last month her payment was $15328 just working on the laptop for a few hours. official website


  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Not everyone is willing to engage in space docking with Warty, no matter what kind of money they're offered.

  • John Galt||

    When I was young my working mother's doctor prescribed her methamphetamine, apparently because working mothers raising five children need a little extra pep sometimes.

    Back then, the early 60s, methamphetamine was considered by few outside the hardcore prohibitionist circles to be a drug of concern. Doctors prescribed it for everything from those experiencing fatigue, or having trouble staying alert to students preparing for examines.

    When considering the information about the drug being circulated today, it's suspicious that there wasn't a period of mass psychotic violence back when a large swath of the country was prescribed the drug.

    I can testify that, even though mom used to get alot of housework done, she never once to my knowledge transformed into a raging negro requiring a large caliber weapon to put her down.

  • datcv||

    "I can't eat, I can't sleep, but I've got the cleanest house on the street! It's meth!"

  • Thomas O.||

    "Cleaning an entire house in two hours isn't normal. But on meth it is."

  • gaoxiaen||

    I cleaned house all day yesterday and I'm still not finished. I guess tequila isn't as helpful as meth.

  • MamaLiberty||

    Hart seems to understand history and neuroscience, but he's a bit confused about the "law."

    "Legalization," such as with alcohol, is a fairly well understood term. It merely changed the government control from full out war on alcohol, to "allowing" it, with various regulations. Trust me, if you ignore or defy any of those regulations, you will go to jail if caught - every bit as much as before. The same would be true for any "legalization" of drugs.

    "Decriminalization" is not nearly as clear, but usually means the elimination of those regulations completely. Otherwise known as freedom. Used any other way, it is merely another form of continued state control of our bodies and what we choose to put into them.

  • Plopper||

    That seems backwards to what I've always understood the difference between "Decrim" and "Legalization" mean.

    I'd always heard decriminalization refer to mainly efforts to make possession of small amounts legal or instead of prison time make it civil penalty with a fine and/or compulsory rehab.

    Legalization on the other hand I've always taken to mean at least some level of legal sale as well as possession, if not mostly unregulated totally.

  • MamaLiberty||

    [continued due to length limit]

    As someone who dealt with a LOT of people in a long nursing career, I can tell you fairly accurately that most of the problems in society related to drugs are a direct result of the state attempts to control (or even benefit from) drugs... all of the state efforts at controlling people enter into it as well... Much of the suffering and death blamed on drugs is due to the prohibition market that allows and even encourages adulteration of the product and poor manufacturing practices. Those who find themselves having problems, whether with the drugs or the supply chain, have no real recourse. And this, combined with the high income and risk involved with any sort of smuggling, brings in the criminals who have no problems doing business via violence.

    Without prohibition and all the state generated graft and violence, there would be no more problems with morphine, cannabis or any of the rest of it than there is with the sale of cabbage or turnips. And just about as much demand for them.

  • ||

  • ||

    If you want people to take your seriously, you need to get a haircut.

  • Westmiller||

    "... reason interviewed Hard ..."

    Is that a verb or a misspelling of Hart's name?

  • herbisonmatilde||

    my friend's step-sister makes $84/hr on the computer. She has been laid off for nine months but last month her check was $21144 just working on the computer for a few hours. Continue Reading

  • Teaganl||

    Since I started fre+lancing I've been bringing in $90 bucks/h… I sit at home and i am doing my work from my laptop. The best thing is that i get more time to spent with my family and with my kids and in the same time i can earn enough to support them... You can do it too. Start here.for more work detail go to tech tab.


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