Dept. of Drug War Analogies

Stephen Chapman proposes an expansion of the crack/powder disparity:

Drunken driving is a serious national problem. So here's a proposal: Wine drinkers would not be arrested for DUI unless they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.10. But anyone drinking hard liquor would be considered intoxicated at 0.02.

I know it sounds nutty, since drunk is drunk, regardless of what you use to get there. But it's no crazier than the federal law on crack cocaine....To get five years in prison, a criminal had to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine, weighing 1.1 pounds, about as much as a typical package of ground beef--or 5 grams of crack, weighing as much as a nickel. To get 10 years, you'd need 5,000 grams of powder (11 pounds) or 50 grams (less than 2 ounces) of crack.

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  • John Norris Brown||

    The infinite wisdom of our government at work.

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    I hate to pick apart a good analogy, but hard liquor can be as expensive or more expensive than wine (and vice versa). Of course, beer vs. malt liquor would probably be a little too near the mark for comfort.

  • ||

    Wouldn't the correct ratio be 0.10 for wine and 0.001 for liquor? (And isn't 0.001 the equivalent of washing your mouth out with Listerine two days ago)?

  • ||

    Not that I give a rats ass about Mr. Chapman's arguement, but has anyone else noted that that the people who advance this logic(?) almost always propose ruding the penalty for crack to cocaine levels - never vice-versa.

  • ||

    ruding = reducing

  • ||

    But a crack high is worse than a coke high, which is worse than a weed high, which is worse than a vodka high, which is worse than a wine high, which is worse than a beer high. All of which is worse than talking on a cellphone.

    Since when is government in the business of objectively analyzing the resultant effects of certain "evils"? I mean, come on! The government seems to exist in the land of double standards. Without subjective applications of principles, where would we be? Well, I could be arrested for talking a cellphone whilst driving just as quickly as I could be arrested for having a 0.010 bac (considering that, you know, studies have shown that they both impair your driving abilities equally). But what fun would that be?

    Quite frankly, I don't want to live in a world where the government applies laws fairly and equally. It scares me. Just imagine if crack dealers got the same punishment as coke dealers! Just imagine if I could legally get high on gin OR weed! I shudder to think.

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    bendover: I have noticed that people generally propose a reduction in crack sentences rather than an augmentation of powder sentences. Of course, perhaps we just don't hear about the other arguments because they are laughed out of consideration.

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    To get 10 years, you'd need 5,000 grams of powder (11 pounds) or 50 grams (less than 2 ounces) of crack.

    Is this because crack is "black" and powder is "white yuppie" ? Just askin'.

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    Ethan, I suspect you're on to something there. I implied such an unspeakable accusation in my first post.

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    Damn we already can't afford to house these people why would we want to make the time more for powder? So we can pay more for longer to stop something that no one can stop? Makes perfect sense. Right up there with letting out murderers and rapists on parole to free up some more space for the rock stars.

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    Jesse-
    Anyone who knows a nickel=5g is clearly a stoner.

  • ||

    "Is this because crack is "black" and powder is "white yuppie" ? Just askin'."

    You need to take the violence metric into account. While it's true that Blacks sell and use crack and white yuppies use powder, it is also true that crack users/sellers are unnaturally violent as evidenced by their ubiquitous street shootings while powder users/sellers spend their free time listening to music on the Blue Note label.

    It's all about the concommitant violence of crack vs. powder.

  • Guy Montag||

    Ethan and Lamar,

    Yes, you are both on to something. The most vocal proponant of bringing slavery back to the federal government (conscription) is also the guy who got the federal increase in the penalty for crack vs. powder.

    That would be the Honerable Congressman Rangel, of NY.

    As usual, when people think some idea is a Republican plot (not you guys, this time) or some racist whitie beating down people of color it turns out that Democrat Rangel is behind the idea.

  • ||

    Yeah, Guy, the one thing the statist lefties and statist righties seem to agree on is the foolish War on Some Drugs.

    I'm usually a big Chapman supporter, but I think comparing possession of unconsumed recreational chemicals to BAC isn't pertinent. Educated drinkers know that if you have a shot, a 6 oz. glass of wine, or the average 12 oz. beer you are getting roughly the same dose of alcohol. You are likelier to sip your vino or brewski, and slam the booze, though sipping whiskey isn't unknown, nor is chugging beer or guzzling wine. Spirits are nore popular mixed into cocktails, which can also take some time to finish. My point is that both the amount of alcohol and the time you take to drink it are important factors in how fast you hit or exceed the legal BAC limit, with the delivery method being merely a matter of taste. Many a young person who couldn't stomach a few shots of good whiskey can get around enough wine coolers, umbrella drinks or cans of tasteless macrobrew to get thoroughly smashed.

    That brings us to cocaine. While I wouldn't bother revising the drug laws, as I would rather repeal them, if it were my task I'd equalize the penalties for crack, freebase or powder based on the number of standard doses the amount found would be expected to deliver. When the crack enhancements were passed, it would now seem, they overestimated the differences between rock and powder. They could get some scientific advice on what the current ratio ought to be, but that might lead to headlines like Congressman X: Relax Crack Penalties!, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Kevin

  • Fred||

    Officer Tom...are you serious? Can anyone's mind be more inundated with indoctrination.

    Have we lived under the dark spectre of the drug war so long that we only can goose-step to the drum of the military-industrial-media complex?

    Let's discuss this a bit further from this violence viewpoint: you are merely stating blacks are more violent than whites. Way to go, buddy! Very befitting the name "officer".

  • lunchstealer||

    powder users/sellers spend their free time listening to music on the Blue Note label.

    Hey, that's an unwarranted generalization. Some of them listen to music on Telarc and Duetschegrammaphone

  • lunchstealer||

    Fred - see above.

  • ||

    Fred,
    I think Officer Tom was being facetious, stating the sort of thing that the stereotypical "Johnny Law" thinks.

    kevrob,
    I agree that repeal is better than revisiting the penalties however that isn't going to happen anytime in the near future. That being the case a "tough on crime" congresscritter could potentially reduce drug sentences by looking at the disparity between drug and violent crime prision terms. The average low level crack dealer recieves a longer sentence, and serves more of it, than a rapist. My mind boggles at that and I can't be the only one. There is only so much prison space and money, so eventually congressmen are going to have to make a choice between violent criminals and drugs.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Fred, I'm pretty sure he's joking. Further evidence of the difficulty of satire on a message board.

    I can't add much to the discussion: Kevin hit on the reasons why it won't be substantively changed and Guy brought up that it was Rangel's name on the legislation, something I'm still laughing at.

    Grasping at straws to justify the Fed's differential treatment, but are the doses the same for a given mass of crack vs powder? If crack is more potent, mass for mass, how much more potent is it and does that explain some of the disparity? As I said, grasping at straws.

    Pigwiggle's observation that in stoner math, a nickel = 5g, reminded me of one of my first jobs in high school. We were in the back walk-in fridge at the pizza joint where I worked, inventory-ing food and trying to convert metric measurements to English, to write on the tally sheet. Silly, but so was the job. Someone asked me how much an 1/8th of an ounce was, right as my dumb-as-a-rock, perpetually bloodshot assistant manager walked by. Before I could reach my pencil, he interrupted, "3.5 grams," and kept walking towards the front of the house. Straight out of "Rain Man", if Rain Man were Rastafarian...

  • ||

    Sorry, Guy Montag, I have to call BS on your Rangel claims. He has introduced legislation trying to equalize the penalties for the two forms of coke. Did you forget that Rangel has introduced legislation (on more than one occasion) to equalize the penalties? The kernal of truth in your post is that Rangel voted for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. What you conveniently leave out is the fact that crack cocaine wasn't singled out for harsher punishment until 1988. There was very little debate on hitting crack hard because Len Bias died. So boo hoo, you got Rangel on that one. He, and a majority of Congress, passed Reagan's get tough laws. To suggest that this is Rangel's position is flat out wrong. I won't get into the issue of whether you knew that your post was disingenuous BS because you do a good job sometimes.

  • ||

    "Fred,
    I think Officer Tom was being facetious, stating the sort of thing that the stereotypical "Johnny Law" thinks."

    Wrong, Bucko. Just look at a newspaper. Read and analyze the crime statistics. Exurban powder users don't do drive-bys. Citizens can't even walk safely in the crackhead sections of town. They can in the suburbs where the powder boys are.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Thanks Lamar, you buzzkill... Teach me to accept something I read on the Net w/o authority.

    FWIW, according to thomas.gov, the legislative action that introduced the crack enhancement penalties was H.R. 5210, in August 1988. H.R. 5210 ended up becoming Pub. L. 100-690, by a 346-11 vote. The sponsors of H.R. 5210 were Tom Foley (D-WA, Majority Leader) and Robert Michel (R-IL, Minority Leader). Sounds rather bi-partisan to me.

    Thomas.gov is a good thing.

  • ||

    Read and analyze the crime statistics. Exurban powder users don't do drive-bys. Citizens can't even walk safely in the crackhead sections of town. They can in the suburbs where the powder boys are.

    Okay, but why do you think that is? Is it because of the race of the people involved? Or is it more complicated than that?

  • ||

    "Okay, but why do you think that is? Is it because of the race of the people involved? Or is it more complicated than that?"

    It's the crack. The CRACK! Haven't you been listening??? That's why the sentencing guidelines are fine as is. To assert they are racist, is a red-herring.

  • lunchstealer||

    Okeydoke. So maybe Officer Tom is trying to confirm the stereotypes of cops as dumbass drug-war cowboys, rather than just lampoon it.

  • ||

    "Okeydoke. So maybe Officer Tom is trying to confirm the stereotypes of cops as dumbass drug-war cowboys, rather than just lampoon it."

    Frankly, I don't see the sterotype you infer. The officer is saying that crack use produces a greater level of violence than powder use. He is comparing the effects of two different drugs. Why is that lost on you?

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    "I don't see the sterotype you infer."

    You don't see the stereotype of cops as cowboys? Perhaps I should stop calling them mustaches! Seriously, I think you meant to say something regarding race and crack, not whether cops are stereotyped incorrectly.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Is there a gizmo like a Breathalyzer that can quickly test someone's blood cocaine level? Just wondering.

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    "The officer is saying that crack use produces a greater level of violence than powder use. He is comparing the effects of two different drugs. Why is that lost on you?"

    Crack and cocaine are the same drug. Crack is essentially heavily stepped on freebase- hence it's inexpensive to make and sell.

  • ||

    "Crack and cocaine are the same drug."

    Sure, just like weed and hash. Same drug, same buzz, right?

    Or how about black tar opium and heroine? Same drug/buzz there too, right?

    Wine/brandy?

    See, that's the flaw in the argument. In order to play the race card, one has to claim that crack and blow produce the same effect/behavioral outcomes. But they don't. The overwhelming evidence is that crack users -- irrespective of their skin color -- tend to be more violent.

  • ||

    I get your point, Mustache Tom, but weed/hash, opium/heroin and wine/brandy are all upgrades that require refining. Cocaine/crack is an issue of mixing up a batch with added ingredients.

  • ||

    No the high is different.

    Crack/Freebase is more intense- the drug is delivered through the lungs rather nasal tissue and stomach.

  • ||

    "I get your point, Mustache Tom"

    Why the personal attack on the guy, Lamar? He's been most civil in his attemps to inform us.

    "No the high is different. Crack/Freebase is more intense- the drug is delivered through the lungs rather nasal tissue and stomach"

    That's my understanding too, StupendousMan.

  • ||

    ....eventually congressmen are going to have to make a choice between violent criminals and drugs. - Kwix



    That is so eminently sensible that I am convinced our pols could not bring themselves to do it.

    Kevin

  • Jesse Walker||

    From the article:

    After crack appeared, the number of people using it or any other form of cocaine didn't skyrocket--it fell. The harm to infants, we discovered, was not only greatly exaggerated but indistinguishable from the effects of powder cocaine. The violence turned out to be mostly the result of turf wars among drug dealers, not the drug itself.

    On the basic issue--is crack worse?--a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that "the physiological and psychoactive effects of cocaine are similar regardless" of how it's ingested.

  • ||

    "No the high is different."

    I'm not sure this matters. What if my reaction to crack is more intense than somebody else's? Should that make my sentence longer? Weed and Cocaine both give different highs, but the jail is still the same.

    Nelly's World: Since when is a mustache a personal attack?

  • ||

    "Nelly's World: Since when is a mustache a personal attack?"

    At the very least, and as no doubt you know, it's a slang term for a gay fella, which no doubt is why you direct it to the officer -- you wish to emasculate him.

    Very middle school.

  • ||

    I seriously did not know that "a mustache" is a gay guy,


    You just blew my freakin' mind

    My wife is a bit of a hag, as she is affectionately known by the local gay community, and very few of them wear mustaches.

    Lamar put in his earlier post that he consistently used the slang mustache to describe a cop, maybe he uses an entirely different slang vernacular than you?


    I think that there is a perfectly valid reason that that this particular slang might be in use, the beautiful 'stache of Jay Chandrasekhar(Sp?) in Super Troopers, a stirring portrayal by any standard.


    I believe what you are doing is called "projecting" in a psychiatric setting.

  • Fred...Again||

    The budgets that have been passed in the US for the last twenty years (since the proliferation of "crack") have consistently and conveniently been ridiculously slanted toward criminalization of citizens, demonization of users, and exaltation of the police state. There has been so little attention given to treatment and worthwhile studies outside of this agenda, that any domestic statistical analysis is a joke. Just north of our border, and also over the pond, there is a vast difference in the view of the user, and their conclusions are completely different than the typical justifications given by the American racist police organizations. Argueing this point only will reveal further the sad state of affairs that media propaganda and governmental marginalization has produced in the so-called "authorities", and no longer does anyone even believe that hype...ask any 8th grader in a DARE program. If you dispense this garbage to kids, they will never believe ANYTHING you say EVER again. Game over...drug war lost.

  • ||

    Hi. My first post on a Reason message board.

    Perhaps what everyone's saying, Tom, is that the difference in rates of violence is more attributable to socioeconomic factors like income and place of residence than the effects of different forms of cocaine per se.

    Yes, you're right--drive by shootings are more common in low-income urban (i.e. "crackhead")areas than in suburbs, but are you really asserting that the main operative variable affecting violent crime statistics is the type of cocaine predominantly consumed in a certain area?

    Because that's a weak argument, but you probably knew that's what I was getting at.

  • ||

    If I remember rightly, the idea behind the crack enhancement penalties, in 1988, was indeed to put the kibosh on the violence of the turf wars which, according to the Hon. Charles Rangel, were killing urban Blacks in droves -- and not only gangbangers, even babys and old folks were riddled with bullets in the crossfire when the crack-dealers slug it out in the projects.

    Rangel called this a "genozide" and implored his fellow Congresscritters to do something to stop that, and they obliged.

  • ||

    Nelly's World:

    First of all, in the context of straight/gay, a mustache is a woman who marries or acts as the girlfriend of a gay man to give him the appearance of straightness. I've always thought this was called a beard, but according to Urban Dictionary (I know, but what is an acceptable citation?) it's a mustache also.

    Do you have a comment or are you just here to police the slang? Here's my advice: if someone is sensitive to slang words used to describe police, then don't use Officer Bob as your handle.

    Ramsey, awesome Super Troopers reference. That mustache didn't get on to his face by accident.

    Most of all, I think Mark Renton hit the nail on the head. Drive-bys are more prevalent in low-income neighborhoods where, surprise, low-income drugs are also prevalent. Yes, Rangel (and all but 11 congressmen) were wrong in 1986 and 1988. By the mid-90's Rangel had changed his tune. Criticize him for flip-flopping (or as some call it "learning"), but he isn't supporting different sentences for crack and cocaine.

  • ||

    Gee, somebody here misspells heroin in the same way as somebody else who often posts here. Coincidence?

  • Guy Montag||

    Ah, Rangel was for disparity before he was against it so that makes it okay. Gotcha.

    He also made some speech, back when he helped increase penalties, raising hell about crack destroying the inner cities and the cops not doing anything about it. Not sure if he actually threw an overt racism bomb in that one or just let the implication stand.

    This whole stupid argument about crack vs. poweder is nothing but politics anyway. If you want to make an alcohol analogy then compare drinking it to injecting it into a vein. So what? You bought less for a higher dose.

    Now, if you want all of this crap to be legal stop defending the people who are mucking up the issue for whatever three week political gain thay can get and call them on it. Apparently Rangel is immune because he has a D behind his name.

    Also, I brought up the draft thing and Rangel because in about 18 months a bunch of blogtards are going to start spewing that there is a secret Republican plot to bring back the draft, even though the only sponsor of any draft bills for the past decade have been from the Democrat party.

    Guess what else? This new Democrat Congress could end Selective Service Registration too, but they won't. It was ended around the Nixon years, but James Earl Carter III and his Democrat buddies in the Congress brought it back at his request July 2nd, 1980.

    If your Democrat buddies would stop flipflopping on everything, and you stop letting them get away with it, then maybe they can get rid of a few laws instead of piling more on.

  • ||

    "Ah, Rangel was for disparity before he was against it so that makes it okay. Gotcha."

    Didn't say it was OK, I said that it wasn't his current position. You said that Rangel was the one guy who got the federal government to increase the penalties for crack, and it simply isn't true. Now you want to turn this into an indictment of Rangel. That's fine, I got no love for the guy and the only thing he should be immune to is false assertions that muck up the debate. Way I see it, Charles Rangel pushes all kinds of snake oil, and you can't put together a criticism without resorting bullshit? Or....perhaps....you don't even know it's bullshit? Perhaps you've fallen into the GOP trick of hating the person so much that any statement that hurts them is fair game?

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