Measuring Prohibitions

Over at The Corner , Jonah Goldberg responds to my column on lowering the drinking age by making a drug war comparison. He's right. If the drinking age were lowered to 18, more 18-21 year-olds would likely drink (on the other hand, 80% of underage drinking would be eliminated!).

And the comparison to the drug war is accurate, too. If all drugs were legalized tomorrow, there would almost certainly be an increase in use. And he's right that the law does effectively curb some behavior. There's a broader philosophical point regarding whether or not using the law to curb private behavior is a moral and appropriate use of government coercion, but let's put that aside for a moment. The inevitable rise in use that would follow legalization is a point proponents of drug prohibition often fault drug war critics for not acknowledging, though I really don't know of any critics who don't willingly concede the point.

The more appropriate response to "more users" argument is "so what?" A slight rise in the number of recreational drug users is only a problem if you believe that there's something inherently immoral and destructive about smoking a joint or snorting a line of coke--any worse, say, than downing a shot of whiskey or a taking drag off a tobacco pipe. The subset of people who refrain from drug use today out of respect for the law, but who might experiment with drugs should they one day be legal, probably isn't one we need to worry about becoming addicted in mass numbers, or committing crimes to support their habit (which probably wouldn't happen anyway if drugs were legal--how many alcoholics mug, burgle, or kill for gin money?). Unless you buy the "gateway" theory of marijuana, or the "instant addiction" theory about cocaine, both of which have zero scientific validity, I'm just not sure having slightly more overall users will have much of a negative impact on society at large.

The question, then, is what's the problem?

Many drug warriors get downright offended when you ask them that (I don't know that Goldberg would--he's historically ambivalent about the drug war). The problem for them is very simply that there will be more drug users. It's rather simple: Drug use = bad. More drug use = worse. Less drug use = success. For nearly forty years, these really been the only criteria for measuring the effectiveness of drug policy.

Let me give you two examples.

Over the years, drug warriors from William Bennett to John Walters to Karen Tandy (as well as the current DEA website) have defended the efficacy of alcohol prohibition. All three have called the experiment a "success," and the notion that it failed a "myth."

Why would they say that? The fact that Prohibition was repealed alone ought to say something about its "success."

But Bennett & Co. insist alcohol prohibition was a success because it reduced alcohol consumption. This assertion itself is debatable (see Jeff Miron's terrific research on the subject). But even assuming they're right, this line of argument is revealing. To call alcohol prohibition a "success," one would have to consider overall consumption of alcohol in America the only relevant criteria. You'd have to ignore the precipitous rise in homicides and other violent crime; the rise in hospitalizations due to alcohol poisoning; the number of people blinded or killed by drinking toxic, black market gin; the corrupting influence on government officials, from beat cops to the halls of congress to Harding's attorney general; and the erosion of the rule of law.

Of course, the 18th Amendment was passed because prohibitionists convinced the country that Prohibition would alleviate many of these problems. But once prohibition was in place--and still today among its defenders--it became not about externalities, but about preventing people from drinking as an end, indeed the only end. If it did that, it was successful. Never mind that it was exacerbating the very justifications for its enactment.

We see this today with the drug war. Which brings me to my second example. Last December, the ONDCP put out a triumphant press release celebrating a five-year decline in the use of illicit drugs among teens.

Teen drug use has declined by 23 percent since 2001 for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders combined, with reductions in the use of nearly every drug in every drug prevalence category, according to the University of Michigan's 2006 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, released today. This translates into approximately 840,000 fewer youth using illicit drugs in 2006 than in 2001. These reductions represent a nearly exact achievement of President Bush's goal of reducing youth drug use by 25 percent by 2006. Reductions in illicit drug use among 8th and 10th graders exceeded the President's goal, falling 30 and 26 percent since 2001, respectively.

"There has been a substance abuse sea change among American teens," Drug Czar John Walters said in the release. "They are getting the message that dangerous drugs damage their lives and limit their futures. We know that if people don't start using drugs during their teen years, they are very unlikely to go on to develop drug problems later in life."

Note that all of this triumphalism is based on one set of criteria, and one set only: The number of teens reporting the use of drugs over a given time frame.

But this past February, the CDC reported that deaths from drug overdoses rose nearly 70 percent over the last five years. Half the overdose deaths were attributable to cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs. The number of overdose deaths caused by marijuana--the drug most targeted by the ONDCP--remained at zero. And among the biggest increases (113%) were those aged 15-42, those same teenagers the ONDCP was celebrating in its prior press release.

To look at those two figures and conclude that the drug war is moving in the right direction seems to me to indicate a near-religious devotion to preventing recreational drug use, at any cost. Prohibition advocates are again measuring success not on how well the drug war is preventing real, tangible harm, but simply on how effectively they're preventing people from getting high.

And of course overdoses are only one aspect of the harm done by the drug war. There is also the appalling rate of incarceration in America, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the government infringement on the doctor-patient relationship, the contempt for property rights, the arrest of promising developments in the treatment of pain --the list goes on.

Nevertheless, so long as there are fewer joints in teen backpacks, the drug warriors are content to say we're "winning."

Goldberg isn't a Bennetista-type drug warrior. His post was really just my jumping-off point, here. But getting back to his point, I'm not sure having a few more recreational drug users would be all that harmful, any more than having a few more drinkers would. And it certainly wouldn't be harmful enough to outweigh the considerably larger reduction in harm that would result from ending drug prohibition.

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  • grylliade||

    Preach it, brother! Preach it!

  • Derrick||

    I've often thought that if currently-illegal recreational drugs were legalized, there would be in an increase in their use and a corresponding decrease in alcohol use. In other words, many people would just switch from booze to weed, and net use of intoxicants would stay flat.

    Also, violence would plummet, and Frito sales would skyrocket.

    P.S. Longest. Blog Entry. Ever.

  • ||

    Excellent post... The "drug use equals drug abuse" argument makes my skin crawl. Some people simply believe that intoxication is morally wrong-- be it from alcohol or anything else. Unfortunately a lot of those people get involved in government. Though how can we fault politicians who don't support decriminalization when few of their constituents do? Seriously, how? I am open to ideas.

    I do wonder if the legalization of medical marijuana would eventually lead to its legalization in general, and if that's the hidden reason some people are pushing so hard for medical marijuana.

  • ||

    Why do you hate America, Radley?

    If people could legally smoke pot, society would collapse. People's ambition for the biggest and baddest would falter, going out for fancy dinners would be a thing of the past, and the entertainment industry would collapse. All because people would just sit on their couches and toke while watching a DVD. Then they'd make a quick run to White Castle.

  • ||

    "I do wonder if the legalization of medical marijuana would eventually lead to its legalization in general, and if that's the hidden reason some people are pushing so hard for medical marijuana."

    Only if there was a rapid explosion of common sense into the world.
    The fact that I hope weed will be legal one day really has very little to do with the fact that I get fired up about medical marijuana.
    I get fired up because it is so unbelievably fucked up and evil that anyone would use violence to prevent a sick person from using a medicine that has been conclusively shown to help them.

  • ||

    "I do wonder if the legalization of medical marijuana would eventually lead to its legalization in general, and if that's the hidden reason some people are pushing so hard for medical marijuana."

    I generally think medicinal marijuana is a dead end, at least from an anti-drug-war perspective.

    First, it futhers the idea that drugs should be made legal on the basis of their inherent benefits. I should not have to prove that a substance is beneficial before I am allowed to possess it; rather the onus is on the government to prove that it is substantially harmful before banning it.

    Second, and probably more important in the long run, is that it's probably possible to extract the beneficial chemicals from cannabis without the compounds that cause various "recreational" effects, making the whole debate meaningless. My doctor can prescribe opioid painkillers, even while heroin is still illegal (theoretically, at least).

  • ||

    I smoked my last joint decades ago, vowing to wait for my next one when I could do it legally and not risk my career or my family's well being. Come on folks! I'm gettin' OLD.

    If it ever does happen, you're darn tootin' there'll be an immediate increase as some of us old codgers do a number for old times' sake. If not, well...only three years 'til retirement. Geez, I hope they can't take my retirement away for that.

  • daksya||

    Bergamot: it's probably possible to extract the beneficial chemicals from cannabis without the compounds that cause various "recreational" effects

    Actually, probably not. Most of the research implicates THC as having therapeutic potential, the very compound responsible for the high. However, the dose ranges for the various intended effects differ, thus providing scope for delivering only the intended effects, to an extent.

  • daksya||

    The inevitable rise in use that would follow legalization is a point proponents of drug prohibition often fault drug war critics for not acknowledging, though I really don't know of any critics who don't willingly concede the point.

    You're joking, right? Many reformers claim that there's no evidence use will rise and that laws have minimal impact. Go search through the archives of International Journal of Drug Policy or reform blogs like Drug WarRant.

  • Goldwater Conservative||

    Hey bitch, don't go making rational arguments. Slut, you need more Emotion

    WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!!!!!

  • ||

    First, it futhers the idea that drugs should be made legal on the basis of their inherent benefits. I should not have to prove that a substance is beneficial before I am allowed to possess it; rather the onus is on the government to prove that it is substantially harmful before banning it.- Bergamot



    I don't think you go far enough, B. The government should have to prove that my using a particular substance causes harm to someone else. If I'm only harming myself, and I'm of age, it can go bugger off. By harm, I mean actually causing some damage or annoyance to my neighbor that he objects to, and before anyone talks about any bans, I should be able to take steps to ameliorate that any harm that might befall others.

    I will admit to being one of those kids who stayed away from drugs due to their illegal status when I was in H.S. and college. It took me some time to work up to drinking before I was 18. Exept for those who got caught buying the stuff with fake I.D. at a liquor store, almost nobody got in legal trouble for underage drinking. Yes, you risked some tsuris should the police pull you over and they suspected you had been drinking, but I never drove when I imbibed. That was pretty easy to avoid, since I neither had a car nor could I ever get one of the parentals' rides away from my older siblings. Getting caught drinking did lead to hell from Mom and Dad, and the Catholic schools I went to would mete out punishments to anyone found with booze or pot on campus, on a class trip, or to athletes who had been found "breaking training," law or no.

    The 70s had their share of moral panic about drugs. New York's governor pushed through what were known as the Rockefeller drug laws, which was the leading edge of the "lock `em up" strategy of the 80s. Twerps like me, who could have modeled for a less attractive version of Alex Keaton, did not relish having a drug arrest to explain away to college admissions departments, even if it were only for being in the same car or room as someone who was holding. I don't know if this was actually law, but we firmly believed that the cops would arrest everyone if they found drugs on one of us, claiming that we were "in proximity."

    I totally admired Bill Buckley's stunt of lighting up on his yacht, oustide the 3-mile limit, in order to try marijuana "legally."* Afterwards, he could write about pot without the "you never tried it" jibes of the younger set.

    I decided that drug laws were illegitimate upon becoming a libertarian. Anti-prohibitionism seemed like a logical extension of basic principles. Others were driven to the libertarian idea by their bad experiences of the black market in drugs. Radley has pointed out that full-on prohibition of alcohol had ill effects, and the age specific kind has its own. In the college neighborhoods in my town, instead of 18-20 year-olds drinking in bars, with bartenders trained to cut them off, and bouncers ready to send them home on foot or call them a cab, the "kids" hold house parties that piss off the neighboring homeowners. The cops bust them when they can, but just like in the Roaring Twenties, almost everyone splits before John Law arrives, leaving the residents of the house or flat to accept any citation. Is a $X.00-per-plastic-Solo-cup charge for unlimited refills of Lite, with surcharges for Jello shots still the thing? We had raging keggers back in my day, but they were an exception to the normal rule of bar hopping. Things are reversed now.

    The potheads are at least quiet, if you can convince them to not pump the jamband music.

    Kevin

  • ||

    The mere fact that prices would drop precipitously (BTW, that word is used to indicate a steep drop, not increase) suggests that use would increase although largely among people who would be using anyway. I'm sure some people might try legal pot as a novelty but to suggest use would really expand substantially one must believe that there are vast numbers of Americans who would like to try drugs but just can't seem to get a hold of any.

    Let's not also forget that taking pot off the forbidden fruit list would kill much of its allure.

  • ||

    "Let's not also forget that taking pot off the forbidden fruit list would kill much of its allure."

    Not if you've tried it.

  • ||

    I suspect that many proponents of the present harm maximisation approach to drug use do not see the harm resulting from the drug laws as a bad thing, rather they see it as a good thing because it is happening to bad people. In addition they see these people as bad because of factors such as their race and social/economic class regardless of whether they use or trade illegal drugs. One cannot ignore US rascism as a major cause of their attitudes to drug users. Negroes use certain drugs therefore these drugs are wicked therefore Negroes deserve to be locked up for a long time. The Tulia cocaine traversty is a vivid illustration of this connection.

  • ||

    I have got to the ripeish age of 69 without ever having seen a joint so I don't have any stong feelings for or against legalisation. Other than that people should be able to find there own sweet way to Hell that is!
    However, if drugs were made legal who would dare sell them. It wouldn't need a particularly tricksy lawyer to mount countless class actions on the basis that his clients had suffered harm or had committed crimes under the influence of substances with a "known" propensity to do those things.

  • ||

    But Bennett & Co. insist alcohol prohibition was a success because it reduced alcohol consumption. This assertion itself is debatable (see Jeff Miron's terrific research on the subject).

    If alcohol prohibition didn't reduce alcohol use in any meaningful way, why should we "willingly concede" that that marijuana prohibition reduces pot smoking in any meaningful way, or the corollary that repealing it will result in more pot smoking?

    However, if drugs were made legal who would dare sell them. It wouldn't need a particularly tricksy lawyer to mount countless class actions on the basis that his clients had suffered harm or had committed crimes under the influence of substances with a "known" propensity to do those things.

    The alcohol industry seems to find adequate retail outlets. I'm sure the pot industry would, too.

  • Guy Montag||

    Being all for "legalization" of anything that any adult wants to put into their body I have a big problem with the other nonsense that advocates from the Left keep wanting to tack onto it. Yes, I have heard them in person and read them here and there.

    Things like:

    Tax the hell out of it

    I am at a loss as to how creating a black market to avoid excessive taxation changes anything. We can already see that with tobacco products.

    Legal use can't affect my job

    Sorry, if you want to be on weed you will not drive one of my trucks/trains/airplanes (if I was in that business). I am the final decision maker on that, no matter what you are taking. Go buy your own truck and drive while taking whatever you like.

    Government distribution

    Sorry Charlie (Rangel) your Socialism is not going to change anything. See black markets above.

    Substance abuse programs from the government

    Really don't need to comment on that one here do I?

    If a way could be found to just legalize without National/International Socialism, that's fine by me. I just don't see it happening.

  • ||

    Sorry, if you want to be on weed you will not drive one of my trucks/trains/airplanes (if I was in that business). I am the final decision maker on that, no matter what you are taking. Go buy your own truck and drive while taking whatever you like.

    Drug testing cannot distinguish between off hours recreational use and on the job use. Are you saying you support employer drug testing, or simply a non-use during work hours rule (like with alcohol)?

  • Guy Montag||

    However, if drugs were made legal who would dare sell them. It wouldn't need a particularly tricksy lawyer to mount countless class actions on the basis that his clients had suffered harm or had committed crimes under the influence of substances with a "known" propensity to do those things.

    Ah, there opens yes another silly Leftist door (not saying the writer is doing this at all) about forcing merchants to sell things. Like New Jersey with the "morning after" pill does to it's druggists.

    We do have a similar example to your idea of the tricky lawyers with the tobacco industry.

    You know, tobacco, the only leaf that is illegal to smoke in California.

  • Guy Montag||

    Drug testing cannot distinguish between off hours recreational use and on the job use. Are you saying you support employer drug testing, or simply a non-use during work hours rule (like with alcohol)?

    No, I am advocating the employer use any damn rule he wants when people are using his property.

    Oh, and non-use during working hours does not mean you snuffed out the joint right before clocking in any more than not drinking at work means you left the flask in your car before starting my truck.

    All that said, other employers might decide differently. If I employed stock brokers (like the fellow in an earlier Radley story) I would nto really care much what they were on as long as they were doing a good job.

  • mike van winkle||

    I would also point out that the reduction of cigarette consumption in the United States WITHOUT prohibition is evidence that taxation and public awareness might be an effective tool for reducing drug consumption without the collateral damage of a Drug War.

    Thus, even if Bill Bennett and Co. are right about the evil of drug consumption, there still wrong about the methods we should use to discourage it.

    see my post at www.mikevanwinkle.com

  • ||

    Drug testing cannot distinguish between off hours recreational use and on the job use. Are you saying you support employer drug testing, or simply a non-use during work hours rule (like with alcohol)?

    Could also be a flat-out, zero-tolerance, no-use policy; much like some businesses (mostly insurance companies) are firing smokers, even if they only smoke at home.

  • ||

    call alcohol prohibition a "success," one would have to consider overall consumption of alcohol in America the only relevant criteria

    I'm not in favor of prohibition by any means, but I remember readin in Samuel Eliot Morrison's Oxford History of the American People that Prohibition was successufl in more ways than this. Families stayed together more, work productivity increased, and while gang violence went up, other alcohol related crimes like drunken assaults went down. Eventually, people decided the costs outweighed the benefits, but let's not pretend that there were no benefits.

  • ||

    If it will make the government feel better, I promise, in the event of legalization, (1) not to suddenly take up drug use and (2) to continue to strongly discourage my kids from starting to use drugs.

    There, we've covered four Americans already.

  • Eric Sundwall||

    If the military age were raised to 21, no 'teen' need die in service to their country. Citizenship purports to have the same responsibilities as privileges.

  • ||

    But if they legalized drugs, the entire economy of Columbia would be in a Great Depression to make ours look like a picnic. Not to mention the economy of South Florida! Half of Key West would have to get jobs at the House of the Mouse.

    And a lot of small-time free enterprize here in New Mexico would be elbowed aside by former tobacco companies with a lot of idle machinery.

  • ||

    Radley Balko = God of journalism
    Jonah Goldberg = Satan's minion

  • ||

    "And of course overdoses are only one aspect of the harm done by the drug war. There is also the appalling rate of incarceration in America, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the government infringement on the doctor-patient relationship, the contempt for property rights, the arrest of promising developments in the treatment of pain --the list goes on."

    Hear, hear!

    It's not that some people won't harm themselves given the freedom to do so; it's that the status quo is unconscionable.

  • ||

    Radley,

    It is not clear from your post that you fully appreciate the preening moralism of the prohibitionists. Their goal, their SOLE goal, is to produce better individuals--and potheads, etc., are BAD people, period. So, if all kinds of systemic ills result from the "drug war", it matters not to them--just so long as they can declare that have possibly saved even one innocent youth from the clutches of the demon weed. The precious moral fiber of even ONE such youth is worth all the greater ills you so amply catalog.

    Such is the mindset of the moralist--it is immune to logic, reason, and both principled and pragmatic arguments.

  • ||

    Let us not forget that intimidation of teenagers by threatening them that they might ruin their futures is probably, in large part, responsible for the drop in teen drug use.

    I have been offered to smoke with some friends from time to time, but I never partake because it would KILL me to know that I didn't get a job I wanted (or get fired from one that required drug testing) just because I tested positive for having a harmlessly good time. It's always nice to threaten kids with the notion of being a failure just because they smoked some rolled up leaves that AREN'T sanctioned by the US Government. (as opposed to those that can kill you, like tobacco)

    (side note: I remember learning in health class in my public high school that a joint has 4 times the carcinogens of a cigarette. I never got a response from the teacher from my question: do you know anyone who smokes a pack of joints a day?)

  • ||

    Oh, and has anyone seen the movie "Reefer Madness" that Showtime released as a musical in 2005? I nearly died with laughter.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0404364/

  • ||

    Radly is absolutely correct that drug use would go up if they were legalized. Lots of law abiding people who wouldn't dream of touching the stuff now would at least try if it were legal. My guess is that few of them would become drug abusers and a lot of them would find that the drugs are not what they are cracked up to be and never use them again. I have said this before and will say it again now; you will never end the drug war until you kill off the addiction industry. As long as people think that drugs are poison that destroy people's lives and refuse to hold abusers responsible for their behavior, they will never agree to legalize drugs.

  • ||

    "Let us not forget that intimidation of teenagers by threatening them that they might ruin their futures is probably, in large part, responsible for the drop in teen drug use."

    It's interesting to meet you. I've never actually knew any teenagers who didn't indulge for fear of jeopardizing their futures--and I went to a prep school...

    ...but I will have to ask you to qualify that "drop in teen drug use". The stats I've seen suggest that teen drug use hasn't moved much in twenty years. Can you link to something showing a drop in teen drug use?

  • ||

    "And of course overdoses are only one aspect of the harm done by the drug war. There is also the appalling rate of incarceration in America, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the government infringement on the doctor-patient relationship, the contempt for property rights, the arrest of promising developments in the treatment of pain --the list goes on."

    This is why Radley Balko is a national fucking treasure.

  • ||

    Ken,

    I would imagine that random testing as a prerequisite to participating in extraciricular activities has put some kind of a damper on drug use. Drug use certainly dropped in the military when they started random testing back in the 1980s. In schools that test, the days of the stoned football player are probably a thing of the past. Not that that justifies testing.

  • ||

    Ken -
    I wonder if you read the blog entry above. Here is the link that they reference

    http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/news/press06/122106.html

    Also, while you may presume going to a prep school makes kids more concerned about their future than their public school counterparts, I would contest that prep-school kids don't really need to worry about their futures as much, as many already have enough connections to get into a high quality university and get a job with their dad's (or dad's golfing buddy's) business. Yes, I met quite a number of them at my school, and yes, they were more reckless than everyone else. It may be a sweeping generalization and I realize that not everyone is that way, but I'd say the trend of behavior is pretty solid (from my experiences).

  • Robert||

    I concluded a long time ago that the relatively small number of people who promote drug prohitibions in full knowledge are sadists, and would be even more pleased if people had to line up regularly to have pain inflicted on them.

  • grylliade||

    The mere fact that prices would drop precipitously (BTW, that word is used to indicate a steep drop, not increase)



    precipitously: 3. As or like a precipice; very steeply, vertically; = PRECIPITATELY adv. 2b. Also fig.

    From the OED. It just means "steep"; it can be used for either a precipitous rise or fall.

  • ||

    That's an interesting link. Maybe you can help me understand it. Using some round numbers...

    When I see that drug use has gone down 20%, that means that if 12.5% of teens were using drugs before, that only 10% are using drugs now--right?

    ...which is another way of saying that drug use among teens has only dropped by 2.5%.

  • lunchstealer||

    (on the other hand, 80% of underage drinking would be eliminated!)

    The obvious counter-argument to that would be that everyone who drinks while under-age would be under age drinking, so under age drinking rates would still be 100% among the drinking population under the age of majority, so it wouldn't be cut at all!

    At least, that seems about as sensible as the "Prohibition was a success" arguments. (The rate of legal alcohol consumption in the US did drop to zero, per capita. See how effective prohibition was!)

  • ||

    So if they're saving 2.5% of America's youth from devastation, what's the margin of error for those surveys?

    ...anybody know? Is it more than 2.5%?

  • ||

    With regards to the kind of mindset that seems to dominate the ranks of prohibitionists, I can recall what happened to the, shall we say, 'overly enthusiatic' evangelical Christians I knew on a southern Maryland college campus a quarter-century ago.

    Their efforts at proselytizing led to what amounted to self-inflicted ostracism; nobody wanted to have anything to do with them. In their zeal, they had antagonized so many different groups that even the Libbers and the resident social-democrat type Leftists agreed they were a pain. That led to bitterness and frustration on their parts, but they had to eat that frustration, because they were a minority that had little or no support amongst the faculty or student body.

    Such frustration tends to lead to very unChristian thoughts of revenge in the form of imposing one's beliefs upon others by force...for their own salvation, of course Which is, in the final analysis, the original idea underpinning drug prohibition.

    I can't help but wonder how many of these personality types graduated and then gravitated to civil service jobs. It would appear the DrugWar has an overabundance of them...

  • John Kindley||

    I'm all for legalizing marijuana (though I don't use it), but am for more ambivalent about drugs like heroin and crack (and if you legalize powder, you've for all practical purposes legalized crack). More people would try these drugs, and these drugs truly are addicting and dangerous.

  • ||

    Ken -

    Nowhere does it mention the beginning statistic of teenagers as 12.5%. You can't just pick a number out of nowhere and then claim that the results aren't statistically significant. If you look at any of the tables provided by the source, linked at the bottom of the press release, you'll notice that starting figures are really somewhere in the 30-40% range.
    In the press release they even mention that marijuana use in lifetime of teenagers surveyed dropped from 35% in 2001 to 29% in 2006. Overall...that's a 6% decrease for that time period. Granted, the numbers are flatter the farther back you go, but that's not what the press release was talking about.

  • ||

    So talking about decreases of 25 or 30 or 40% is practically meaningless, if not downright deceptive, without talking about the usage rates themselves.

    Now can move forward and talk about whether all the suffering...

    "...the appalling rate of incarceration in America, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the erosion of the rule of law, the government infringement on the doctor-patient relationship, the contempt for property rights, the arrest of promising developments in the treatment of pain --the list goes on."

    ...is worth it? ...just to see the usage rate among teens drop from, say, 38% to 32%?

  • ellipsis||

    Does Radley ever write a short post?

  • ||

    I find it interesting that almost everyone on this site is for the decriminalization of marijuana, and when you ask why, they say that we should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies, as long as we aren't hurting anyone else. Then when you say, "What about crack and heroin?" they oftentimes stutter and stammer and change the subject. So... what about crack and heroin?

  • ||

    Hey man, whatever you want to do to yourself is your own business. It isn't illegal to eat at McDonald's (yet), but I'm not about to run out and try to make legislation that says that you can't do things that make your health terrible and ultimately weigh heavily (no pun intended) on our health care system.

  • John Kindley||

    I find it interesting that almost everyone on this site is for the decriminalization of marijuana, and when you ask why, they say that we should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies, as long as we aren't hurting anyone else. Then when you say, "What about crack and heroin?" they oftentimes stutter and stammer and change the subject. So... what about crack and heroin?

  • John Kindley||

    That's emerson's comment copied above which I accidedentally posted without responding to. This is the response I meant to include:

    I consider myself a libertarian but believe that the principle that "we should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies, as long as we aren't hurting anyone else" is not absolute. The cops shouldn't stand idly by while somebody proceeds to light himself on fire on his front lawn (even apart from the fire code and laws against disturbing the peace or holding an unauthorized barbecue). Nevertheless, this principle should be the presumption. I think democracy got off on the wrong foot when it assumed that a simple majority should be enough to pass laws that limit an individual's liberty (or increase his taxes). A two-thirds or three-fourths majority would be more consistent with recognition of the fact that government exists to serve individuals and not the other way around. By that measure, I think two-thirds or more of Americans believe that crack and heroin should be illegal, but not that many believe marijuana should be illegal. Crack or heroin will destroy a personality and in many if not most cases of addiction lead to criminal behavior, and its use is analogous to the guy lighting himself on fire on his front lawn.

    On the other hand, I do think the penalties on these "victimless" crimes should be drastically reduced, so that users and addicts are not populating our prisons. Moreover, keeping these drugs illegal but eliminating or drastically scaling down the "war on drugs" would take much of the profit out of gang activity. Enforcement should not be the priority it is right now, but neither do we want people peddling crack on the corners with not even a law on the books to shoo them off, nor do we want heroin sold at corner drug stores.

  • John Kindley||

    "Moreover, keeping these drugs illegal but eliminating or drastically scaling down the "war on drugs" would take much of the profit out of gang activity."

    On second thought, not too sure about that. But it just doesn't make sense to sentence someone to 20+ years in prison for dealing drugs. Maybe you take their boat or their car and all their cash and put them under house arrest for a while. Maybe you catch them doing the violent things that necessarily accompany drug dealing and throw the book at them for that.

    On third thought, I guess I really don't know what to do about crack and heroin dealers. If their whole operation is indeed about poisoning people and communities, perhaps it should be treated as such, as it is now. But let's lay off the users and the addicts, and for God's sake take marijuana out of the equation. No harm in selling that at the corner drug store.

  • daksya||

    if you legalize powder, you've for all practical purposes legalized crack

    As demonstrated by the prevalence of crack before 1914. And also look at how almost all those who use cocaine use it in crack form. Oh, wait.

    On another note, keep coke illegal because it's so different than alcohol or weed. Oh wait, again.

  • John Kindley||

    My point, daksya, is that making crack from cocaine powder is a very simple process.

  • daksya||

    John Kindley, my point is that legal cocaine need not (and should not) be sold as powder. A nasal liquid spray does the job well enough. And even if it is, most users aren't inclined to convert it to crack (ratio today is roughly 85 to 15) despite the ease.

  • ||

    "If I employed stock brokers (like the fellow in an earlier Radley story) I would nto really care much what they were on as long as they were doing a good job."

    And what if someone is a good driver while they are high?

    In idaho, there has been a instance where a guy ADMITED to a cop he smoked marijuana. HOWEVER, he passed the sobriety test..

    They ruled, that since marijuana did not effect him, they can't give him a DUI..
    Here is a article-
    In Idaho, you can drive high as long as you can drive straight.

    Marijuana users can drive legally in the state as long as their driving isn’t erratic and they can pass a field sobriety test, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. The three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that while it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, Idaho law doesn’t list marijuana as a narcotic.

    The ruling overturned an impaired driving conviction against Matthew Patzer, 21, who was stopped for a broken tailgate light in 1998 and admitted to police he’d smoked marijuana at a party. The appeals court said Patzer could not automatically be presumed impaired; he wasn’t driving erratically and passed two field sobriety tests.

    “Given the distinction drawn by the statute, there is no basis to conclude that impairment may be presumed upon admission of use of a non-narcotic drug,” the appeals court wrote.
    -end

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