Drug Policy

If Using Drugs Is Not a Crime, Neither Is Helping People Use Drugs

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has reiterated her support for decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use. Her rationale features the traditional distinction between drug users, who are equated with addicts and described as victims, and drug suppliers, who are treated as predators deserving harsh punishment:

"I don't like it when people easily condemn someone who has an addiction as if he were a criminal, as if he were a person who should be persecuted," she told a meeting of the National Investigation into the Consumption of Alcohol, Tobacco, Psychopharmaceuticals and Illegal Drugs.

"Those who should be persecuted are those who sell the substances, those who give it away, those who traffic in it."…

"Decriminalization of the consumer should include what are called second-generation human rights, but at the same time there should be a strong policy of prevention, so that no one falls in the situation of consuming any substance," said Anibal Fernandez, the minister of security and justice.

"Falls into the situation"? Is that how drug use typically occurs? Drug markets exist because people like to use drugs. If the government insists on treating use of certain arbitrarily chosen intoxicants as a crime, drug dealers are properly viewed as aiders and abettors. Once the government no longer treats drug use as a crime, the rationale for treating drug selling as a crime should disappear.

Although the policy De Kirchner proposes certainly sounds better than the status quo, her reasoning closes the door to further reform. I prefer the way Barney Frank explained his marijuana decriminalization bill at a press conference last week:

The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business. I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time.

Last April I addressed the user/dealer distinction in a Los Angeles Times debate with the Heritage Foundation's Charles Stimson.

[Thanks to Tony Newman at the Drug Policy Alliance for the tip.]

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  1. Spell check got you.

  2. HEY PINHEAD, STAY AWAY FROM MY FAMILY!

    /issue solved

  3. Is it perhaps overly extreme to hope that all efforts will be expended to prevent Ms. Fernandez from consuming any substance?
    Emphasis on the any, of course, and with full scope to the extension of ‘substance’.
    Seems only appropriate somehow…

    no hugs for thugs,
    Shirley Knott

  4. Using drugs should not be a crime, however just as we recognize a distinction between bootlegging and legal alcohol production we also need to recognize a distinction between illegal marijuana production and legal production by authorized growers.

    The legalization of marijuana is NOT about simply declaring activities legal that are currently illegal. It is about approving the production and sale of marijuana by honest businessmen. It is about taxing and regulating a market that is currently untaxed and unregulated. And it is about forcing out the gangs and criminal organizations by undercutting their prices to a point where they can no longer make a profit and stay in the market.

  5. The legalization of marijuana is NOT about simply declaring activities legal that are currently illegal. It is about approving the production and sale of marijuana by honest businessmen. It is about taxing and regulating a market that is currently untaxed and unregulated…

    Dude, you are *so* on the wrong website.

  6. Reminds me of one of my favorite TV tropes: The aggressive drug dealer. The character in anti-drug commercials and cartoons who aggressively pushes drugs on people.
    The site also has this interesting theory:
    “This troper [editor of the TVTropes wiki] thinks it was a clever Xanatos Gambit [Essentially reverse psychology] on the part of the anti-drug groups to convince people that this was how real drug dealers acted and so limit their access to drugs since they never even got a CHANCE to say no. It kept this gullible troper drug free for many years.”

  7. Why do so many marijuana legalizers get all wet about taxing and regulating it?

  8. The view she takes is one where the drug user is a victim, and THAT is why they should not be prosecuted. In this scenerio the dealer is harming the user (Victim), which is considered a crime.

    If she were saying that nobody should be prosecuted for how they choose to spend their money and time, that would be one thing. But she’s not.

  9. Nigel,

    It may make it slightly more palatable to someone who is unsure about the issure. “Look, we don’t want to legalize weed just so people can get high- just think of all the money we can collect for the children by taxing the stuff!”

  10. *um, issue

  11. Barney Frank, an advocate par excellence of gov’t intervention into the private decisions of nearly everyone, suddenly doesn’t care about how I spend my leisure time? What’s he been smoking?

  12. This goes to the idea of the “Responsibility-Free” society progressives like to push: everything is a disease and individuals who get hooked on booze, pills or whatever are innocent victims. There’s no embrace of individual choice to pursue pleasure here; there’s the soft smearing of happy drug users as hapless victims. This way, the State can simultaneously throw you in a hospital (through civil commitment, mayhap) with no demonstrable proof…because it will be based on the pop-psychology issue of the week, and go after the “big, bad ‘capitalist’ drug makers” who “forced” our poor children and young adults to use drugs.

    It’s the same logic behind the anti-smoking crusade: the cigarette companies are big bad meanies and smokers are poor dears who are in the throes of an “addiction” pushed on them by the big bad meanies.

  13. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has reiterated her support for decriminalizing possession of drugs for personal use.

    I bet she’s hot.

    *runs Google Search*

    Yep.

  14. Nigel Watt,

    Why do so many marijuana legalizers get all wet about taxing and regulating it?

    Because, at the end of the day, they want to smoke pot rather than promote human freedom. If you had to be licensed to sell to, licensed to buy it, fingerprinted in head shops, had to wear a T-shirt that said “pot smoker,” or could only ride public transport if you ever smoke it, they’d be just fine.

    marijuana activist =/= libertarian

  15. Taktix?,

    Sweet funky Moses! France gets a ex-supermodel First Lady, Argentina has a hot President, Belarus and the Ukraine have hot parliamentarians.

    What the fuck is wrong with America?

    Why can’t the sexists in our country understand that a hot woman can be an effective leader? Why all the hate?

  16. could only ride public transport if you ever smoke it

    I mean, like get high a week ago, and still aren’t allowed to drive a car, not DUI. Although mostly because stoners drive really slow.

  17. however just as we recognize a distinction between bootlegging and legal alcohol production we also need to recognize a distinction between illegal marijuana production and legal production by authorized growers.

    Well, bootleggers often produce a liquid that will kill or blind you if you drink it. I don’t think that a pot plant grown by someone who is not licensed is any more dangerous than one grown by someone who is licensed.

  18. RCD,

    Probably because too much ZOMG THC makes people beat wimminz and kill puppies. At least that’s what the government is implying when it says that today’s marijuana is over 9000 times more powerful than than hippie weed.

  19. Ah, yes, the mythical drug-pushing boogeyman strikes again. Funny, seems to me that, for both my pot and shrooms sources, I personally know everyone along the supply chain all the way back to the grower, and every one of them indulges in the product. I only know my immediate supplier for MDMA, but she refuses to sell from each fresh batch until she’s personally quality-tested it. Yeah, that sure seems really predatory, sure, whatever.

  20. I fucking fail at typing today.

  21. The timing of Kirchner is suspect. Just recently parliament blocked her export taxes on farming. She has been polling at all time lows. Is this the way to look good on Argentianian television?

  22. SugarFree – you’re forgetting Italy, with it’s hot fascist Alessandra Mussolini and Milly D’Abbraccio, the porn star with a campaign poster you can get behind (NSFW, unless you’re in Italy, I guess), who’s currently running.

  23. >>but at the same time there should be a strong policy of prevention, so that no one falls in the situation of consuming any substance,” said Anibal Fernandez, the minister of security and justice.

    Hey, why doesn’t the gov. and mind police just get fuck off our backs.

    This woman has absolutely no clue about human right or freedom, second generation or any generation…

  24. Why do so many marijuana legalizers get all wet about taxing and regulating it?

    It will never happen without a tax. Think alcohol, tobacco, dining out, staying in a hotel, electricity and gasoline. All taxed. Reality blows but it remains real.

    Making it illegal to sell to twelve year olds would be regulating it. I’m for keeping marijuana sales to twelve year olds illegal.

  25. J sub D: Is there any evidence that will prevent marijuana from being sold to twelve-year-olds?

  26. Why do so many marijuana legalizers get all wet about taxing and regulating it?

    The fact is that there is violence and organized crime associated with wholesale drug dealing. This is a symptom of prohibition – but don’t expect these guys to give up the business once its legalized, at least not without a fight.

    I suspect after weed gets legalized, a couple of legitimate business men will find themselves paying protection money. Though I suppose that’s what taxes are too.

  27. I don’t imagine your local safeway or corner liqour store still pays off the bootlegger competition.

    The real money in weed, like in booze, is in the production. The big skill in the black market will become the cream of the crop of growers, having both the technical skills to manage the equipment and sufficient knowledge of genetic engineering to make good breeds.

  28. sufficient knowledge of genetic engineering to make good breeds.

    now now. we mustn’t play god. gotta make sure its organic and natural and all that crunchy granola bullshit. genetic engineering is for devil worshipping shroomers and acid heads.

  29. J sub D: Is there any evidence that will prevent marijuana from being sold to twelve-year-olds?

    Prevent? No. Minimized, yes. The regulated liquor industry has a fairly good record of not selling its drugs to minors. Will kids still be able to get dope if its legalized and regulated? Yes. Should the wino who buys it (reefer or booze) for them be prosecuted? Yes again.

    Its that whole consenting adults thingee.

  30. Why can’t the sexists in our country understand that a hot woman can be an effective leader? Why all the hate?

    Needs a correction:

    Why can’t people realize that since most leaders are ineffective, we might as well at least elect some hot ones.

  31. J sub D: Is there any evidence that will prevent marijuana from being sold to twelve-year-olds?

    If that was the extent that the state engaged in regulation, I would agree that it would be worth it just to keep snot nosed kids out of the shops just for the adult friendly environment alone, but you know that
    there is no way under decriminalization that that would be the extent of regulation.

    As someone mentioned, every substance
    that comes to market is subject to onerous and asinine regulation, and it isn’t really about ‘public safety’. It is about paying the piper, in our times, public employee
    unions. Need fewer cops because prohibition has ended, well then, the distribution shops will be ran by public employees with most of the profits going to their collective til. That is how liquor is regulated in my state.

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