Iran's Enlightened Prohibitionists

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A New York Times story about alcohol prohibition in Iran notes that the government has stopped requiring that legally produced ethanol be adulterated with methanol to discourage recreational consumption. Nowadays a 600-milliliter bottle of unadulterated ethanol can be purchased in a pharmacy for less than $3. "The common recipe," the Times reports, "is to mix one shot of alcohol with two shots of juice, preferably pineapple." The story quotes an unnamed official who "said the decision to permit such widespread production of alcohol was made to limit the number of deaths and casualties caused by illegal drinks. Some 19 people were killed in 2004 after drinking bad bootleg liquor."

The conclusion that drinking, while a sin, does not merit the death penalty makes Iran's mullahs look enlightened and compassionate next to America's drug warriors, who reject "harm reduction" measures such as the distribution of clean needles for heroin injection because making drug use safer might make it more appealing. From this point of view, the unsanitary practices, unreliable quality, and unpredictable purity associated with the black market are not unfortunate side effects of prohibition but added deterrents to drug use. Defenders of mandatory adulteration during America's ignoble experiment with alcohol prohibition had a similar attitude: If you don't want to risk blindness, paralysis, and death, don't drink bootleg liquor.

Another way Iranian alcohol prohibition is milder than America's war on drugs: The penalties imposed on dealers–74 lashes, a fine, and three months to a year in prison–are nothing to sneeze at, but they don't compare to America's mandatory minimum sentences of five, 10, or 15 years, let alone the possibility of life imprisonment or execution for drug "kingpins." Maybe we should send James Sensenbrenner on a fact-finding tour of Iran.

NEXT: Damn, Imagine What He Could Get Away With If Dad Was a U.S. Senator

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  1. Those liberal Iranians think they’re better than us. Now they can join the Axis of Thinks-They’re-So-Much-Better-Than-Us.

  2. “Maybe we should send James Sensenbrenner on a fact-finding tour of Iran.”

    Do we have to let him come back?

  3. “…the government has stopped requiring that legally produced ethanol be adulterated with methanol to discourage recreational consumption.”

    While I agree with your overall views on drug legalization, to compare the ceasing of a requirement that a product be actively poisoned (extra poisoned for the RWJF neo-puritans) to the failure to set up a govt funded system to supply clean drug delivery devices seems a bit of a stretch.

    Poor analogies and bad comparisons don’t strengthen your argument beyond the choir, and sometimes not even there.

  4. Arthur,
    Go sit on a pike!

  5. Taking a back seat in civility to the Iranian mullah is pathetic. But how does the apples to apples comparison stack up? What are the penalties in Iran for Hashish and Opium?

  6. Taking a back seat in civility to the Iranian mullah is pathetic. But how does the apples to apples comparison stack up? What are the penalties in Iran for Hashish and Opium?

  7. “but they don’t compare to America’s mandatory minimum sentences of five, 10, or 15 years”

    And don’t forget a lifetime of having the Drug Treatment Religion forced onto convicted drug offenders by way of mandatory “drug treatment”. For DUI offenders that includes having the Alcoholics Anonymous Religion forced onto them. We’re as fundamentalist as the Iranians are about imposing religion on people. We just pretend that we adhere to the seperation of Church and State doctrine, when in reality we’re easily the most fundamentalist of any industrialized nation.

  8. Arthur, I don’t think you’ll find many folks on this board advocating gubmint sponsorship of needle exchanges. We just want it to be legal.

  9. I wonder what the encarceration rate is Iran compared to America. Hmmm…

    (we’re a friggin police state…)

    JMJ

  10. Sir Arthur, I don’t think the government should be in the needle distribution business either, but the hard-core drug warriors’ aversion to needle exchange also applies to private programs, which need government permission to operate legally because of drug paraphernalia laws and restrictions on the sale of injection equipment. Another example of a private harm reduction measure that drug warriors oppose is the testing of (purported) MDMA tablets by organizations such as DanceSafe, which can prevent potentially fatal reactions (as well as detect ripoffs).

  11. Iran repeals rules on requiring non-consumable alcohol to be denatured?

    Wow.

    Never thought I’d see the day when BATFE regs were more draconian than an Islamic theocracy run by an utter madman.

  12. If you don’t want to risk blindness, paralysis, and death, don’t drink bootleg liquor.

    The same logic applies to prison rape. Technically it’s not part of the punishment, but it sure does have a strong deterrent effect, which is why it’s tolerated (if not officially so) by the PTB. Or so I’m told.

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