Attn, DC Reasonoids: Sullum Debates Drug Policy Tomorrow, March 9

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If you're in the DC area, don't miss this Thursday panel on drug policy. It features drug warriors former Attorney General Ed Meese, Rand Beers (architect of the Clinton admin's Plan Colombia), and social theorist James Q. Wilson–and Reason's Jacob Sullum.

An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy
Start: Thursday, March 9, 2006 11:00 AM
End: Thursday, March 9, 2006 12:30 PM
Location: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

In its efforts to control the use of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illegal drugs, the United States spends about $35 billion per year in public funds. Almost half a million dealers and users are incarcerated. In An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy (AEI Press, 2005), policy analysts David Boyum and Peter Reuter provide an assessment of how poorly this massive investment of tax dollars and government authority is working.

Boyum and Reuter assert that tough enforcement–the centerpiece of American drug policy in terms of rhetoric, budget, and substance–has little to show by way of success. They also argue that the eradication of drug crops should not necessarily be a routine aspect of international interdiction programs, especially when it conflicts with other foreign policy objectives.

By contrast, more effective or promising drug control policies remain underfunded. Most significantly, drug treatment services are in short supply, even though research indicates that treatment expenditures easily pay for themselves in terms of reduced crime and improved productivity.

The panel, including Edwin Meese, Rand Beers, and Jacob Sullum, will discuss the authors' conclusions.

More info and RSVP here.

NEXT: What Do Right-Wing Women Want?

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  1. Will there be a transcript online?

  2. In its efforts to control the use of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illegal drugs, the United States spends about $35 billion per year in public funds.

    Quit yer bitchin’!

    Some of us are earning

  3. By contrast, more effective or promising drug control policies remain underfunded. Most significantly, drug treatment services are in short supply, even though research indicates that treatment expenditures easily pay for themselves in terms of reduced crime and improved productivity.
    ——————-
    this totally ignores the fact that almost NO ONE pays for drug treatment out of their own pocket for themselves. drug treatment may be the biggest existential cop out on the planet today.

  4. If anyone can make a reasonable-sounding case for the incredibly assinine War on Drugs, it’s James Q. Wilson.

    Check out this logical-looking defense:

    http://www.slate.com/id/88934/

    (Basically, he plays to his strength by avoiding talking about marijuana at all. Also he paints an image of a skyrocketing number of post-legalization users, some proportion of which are good-for-nothing/criminals.)

  5. Almost half a million dealers and users are incarcerated.

    Please, I would love to see the gov’t take more of my competition off the street!

    I really don’t care… IMO, you have to be more than stupid to be caught.

  6. Alas, they chopped out my comment to that article, which pointed out that by his own math, drug-related crime would fall tremendously. He says prices would fall by a factor of 50, and that we’ll go from 200,000 to 1 million “totally zonked” users. In other words, the price goes down by a factor of 50, and the number of people who can only steal to support their habit goes up by a factor of 5. So, all else equal, drug related crime drops by a factor of 10. Sounds good to me.

  7. From James Q. Wilson’s Slate article (emphasis mine):
    Third, under legalization the search price would be zero. You would not have to search or run risks of being mugged or arrested. Maybe you would be able to buy it in the local pharmacy, but you would get it from some dealer operating in the open with no risk to you.

    You mean like I get my vodka from the hood on the corner instead of a regulated, legitimate business like a package store?

  8. James Q. Wilson sets up his argument against drug legalization…

    Now take a powerfully addictive substance, one that not only operates on but modifies the human brain by producing compelling effects that often can only be achieved again by increasing the dosage, and ask how many more people would buy it….

    …by describing alcohol.

    Boy, and we all know what a disaster alcohol legalization was.

  9. Jacob,

    Some advice you likely don’t need, but which I want to nosily share anyway:

    I have no doubt you’ll have plenty of fine arguments and have likely argued this more times than I and have also likely thought of everything in my post at the following link, but if not, feel free to use anything (or nothing) from said link, most of which is hardly original.

    https://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/02/first_aei_now_t.shtml
    February 24, 2006 01:48 PM

    Also, again I feel silly butting in like this, I suggest to get them to commit to a zero tolerance statement, or to disavow such a policy, and then proceed from there.

    If they choose zero tolerance, ask them where their optimism comes from after 30+ years of the drug war with nothing that looks like we will ever get to zero drug use. [en passant, use drug use instead of drug abuse and let them try to claim they are one and the same. 😮 ]

    Point out that if zero tolerance fails to get to zero drug use, then the best approach is harm reduction instead, and that approach is basically the opposite of a lot of what they are doing. An analogous situation would be communism. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. Sounds truly fabulous, and if it worked it would be awfully hard to argue against it, but it didn’t work. In fact it failed miserably, while the opposite approach helped the needy the most.

    The opposite approach to our current drug war is to let adults make their own risk/reward decisions, and much fewer people who are hurt by either drugs or the drug war would then be hurt.

  10. If Wilson’s argument is that if drugs were legalized more people would do them, I think he’s absolutely correct. Heck, if they were legal I’d do them (especially heroin). As it is I can get altered states with legal alcohol so I stick to it. The question is would the trade off (more users, more addicts and the problems that come with them vs. less costs and intrusions on civil liberties) be worth it.
    Meese on the example should prove infuriating or amusing, depending one one’s reaction to simplistic reactionary thinking. Take it to ’em JS.

  11. I don’t use any substances and have no interest in them-legal or not. I also know plenty of adults that don’t even use alcohol or smoke and never would. I don’t think they would start shooting up just because it’s legal.

  12. “Saying Yes…” is the best book out there on drug reform, especially chapter 2. Quote chapter and verse for em Jacob. Do to them drug warriors what Moses did to Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea.

    And I want to be able to read about it in the May or June issue.

  13. Philip Conti:

    “this totally ignores the fact that almost NO ONE pays for drug treatment out of their own pocket for themselves. drug treatment may be the biggest existential cop out on the planet today.”

    What does the fact that almost nobody pays for drug treatment out of their own pocket have to do with this? That’s a red herring if I’ve ever seen one. Maybe, MAYBE your point would have validity if anyone, ANYONE, paid for the war on drug users “out of their own pocket”. What the summary above suggests is this: if we’re going to spend tax dollars fighting drug use, then we should divert those funds towards something that actually works. If drug treatment works better than mass criminalization, then our tax dollars would be better spent on that. Whether people pay for drug treatment themselves is therefore irrelevant.

  14. I think legalization would also require a cleansing criminal records of felonies for non violent drug convictions.

    otherwise how will the low level guys be able to support themselves? I guess they could always smuggle cigarettes…

  15. Ed Meese!? Fucking ED MEESE!?!? I can’t believe society is still plagued by this minion of Satan. I guess he can’t die as long as he’s doing his masters bidding. Meese was the mold they cast Ashcroft from.

    Beers too shall burn for all eternity over the untold suffering he has caused.

    James Q. Wilson, I don’t know.

    You are a braver man than I Jacob. Although I sincerely hope we get to see/hear/read the fireworks, I’d be afraid to attend the actual event. Being in the same room where Ed Meese was flapping his lips would be bad for my health.

  16. jack,
    I think, once the stigma is off of what are now “illegal” drugs, a lot of alcohol users will switch to some sort of “cocktail” of drugs that would be likely to be less damaging than alcohol. I mean biologically as well as societally less damaging.
    At the very least, folks should be knowledgeable and have the options about whether they want to take “downers” or “uppers” or whatever.
    Now very few are knowledgeable, including me.

    The key issue to me is, “Do I own my body, or what?”

  17. If drug treatment works better than mass criminalization, then our tax dollars would be better spent on that. Whether people pay for drug treatment themselves is therefore irrelevant.
    ——————-
    Advocating that the state provide a fake treatment for a fake disease which has to be paid for by third parties, and naively assuming that it is better from a libertarian rights standpoint is absurd. I see no reason why drug users who violate the rights of others should not be referred to the criminal justice, and I dont think there is anything wrong with leaving drug users who are not bothering other people alone. In any event drug users should at least have a choice to avoid treatment, a point that is rarely, if ever, mentioned. I am not an economist, but I dont think the fact that no one pays for drug treatment themselves is economically irrelevant. People can make a profit selling fake vomit for christ’s sake, but not drug treatment? What this proves to me is that it is probably useless or worse. I wish that drug reformers would pay for drug treatment out of their own pocket.

  18. Underlying the drug war is a broader question; what do we as a society do about people who make unhealthy decisions?
    Should we leave people to their own devices? How about even subsidizing the purveyors of unhealthy choices?
    Perhaps we should educate about risks, and maybe add some ages restrictions.
    Or, let’s set up the world’s #1 prison regime to punish people for making unhealthy choices.
    Funny we do all of these. And without regard to logic, science, or weighing what the acutal risks really are.

    I propose we teach the following; get alot of exercise, keep your weight proportional to your height, eat lots of vegetables, get a good night’s sleep each night, use a condom, and use any and all intoxicants in moderation, if at all.

  19. I propose we teach the following; get alot of exercise, keep your weight proportional to your height, eat lots of vegetables, get a good night’s sleep each night, use a condom, and use any and all intoxicants in moderation, if at all.

    I propose we teach people to mind their own business. If you aren’t doing something to harm someone else, why should we waste money, police, and lives that could be better used elsewhere?

  20. Lifeliberty,
    Are you attempting to be funny or did you just land here from the planet Blypton?
    Don’t give us that, “What do we as a society do?” shit.
    Please.
    Take it back with you to Blypton. Now.

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