Join 3,430 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


One step at a time
June 1, 2011 5:06 PM   Subscribe

The Global Commission on Drug Policy is the latest group to advocate an end to the drug war - but also an unusually high-profile one, including former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland, Prime Minister of Greece, Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, George Shultz and Paul Volcker. Tomorrow, June 2, sees the launch of their report, which advocates treating recreational drug use (and abuse) as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one.

The report will be presented to current UN secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Friday, as will a global petition which has attracted over half a million signatures in just a few days.

This may accelerate the gradual shift away from the penal model within the US. A US district judge recently set aside sentencing guidelines for ecstasy as flawed, opting to use the much lower sentencing standard applied to cocaine. Meantime, the Department of Justice today unveiled a proposal to retroactively and automatically apply reduced sentencing levels for crack cocaine to existing convictions.
posted by anigbrowl (60 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
We seem to do much better in dealing with criminal behavior (those things we call criminal) than with health issues in our nation....but now (witness Calif) we can not deal with either because of broken economy.
posted by Postroad at 5:12 PM on June 1, 2011


We really need a change in direction. Here is how we can lighten the burden on our prisons and become again a great superpower. Let our greatest assets, the entrepreneurs, out of prison, as their only crime was being first to market. Plow over huge swaths of farmland, plant poppies, coca and marijuana. Set our research chemists to making the best recreational drugs we can. Send our best recreational drug salesmen abroad to flood the rest of the world with cheap narcotics and we will be back on top in no time. I know we can do it!
posted by Ad hominem at 5:21 PM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Statesmen (or politicians if you prefer) only seem to come out courageously on this issue after they've retired.

Maybe you should've done something about it when you actually had power?
posted by adoarns at 5:27 PM on June 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


We really need a change in direction. Here is how we can lighten the burden on our prisons and become again a great superpower. Let our greatest assets, the entrepreneurs, out of prison, as their only crime was being first to market. Plow over huge swaths of farmland, plant poppies, coca and marijuana. Set our research chemists to making the best recreational drugs we can. Send our best recreational drug salesmen abroad to flood the rest of the world with cheap narcotics and we will be back on top in no time. I know we can do it!

Ah, the Opium Wars model?
posted by jaduncan at 5:28 PM on June 1, 2011


Postroad: I wouldn't agree we do "much better" dealing with criminal behavior. Unless you consider prisoner abuse, degradation and irrationally long prison sentences to be "better". Or locking up more than 1% of our population (more than any other nation in the world). Or creating generations of people who have few opportunities that aren't criminal because we decided it was okay for the police to constantly watch some neighborhoods more often than others -- which means any mistake by a teenage boy in a poor neighborhood could mean a lifetime labeled "felon" while the same mistake by a kid in a better off neighborhood likely won't even get caught.

I'm glad to see there's some high profile people saying the drug war is immoral. The US has basically decided that's it's better to turn other countries (and parts of our own) into war zones instead of treating (illegal) drug addiction the same way we treat alcohol abuse.
posted by R343L at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


At the risk of being a little tiresome, I'll repeat what I keep saying. Mexico is approaching outright failure; it's the main front in the War on Drugs, and we are losing. Badly. People are dying by the thousands there, and the drugs flow freely.

Meanwhile, at home, police have gone fully militarized, and the routine procedure is to kick the doors in unannounced and charge the premises, high-powered weapons at the ready. The Supreme Court has ruled that warrants are no longer even necessary to enter private residences if the police think something bad is going on inside. And most of our inner cities have become outright war zones.

If we legalized drugs completely, how could the consequences possibly be worse than this?
posted by Malor at 5:38 PM on June 1, 2011 [43 favorites]


We ate lunch in the park near work today, and this was what we talked about. Four reasonably bright people, whose work is finding stuff out and writing about it in as objective a way as we can: we took time off from the daily grind, sat in the sun, and shot the breeze.

We played a game - explain the War On Drugs. We took it in turns to be The Man and defend what we thought was the strongest argument for the status quo. Then we took it in turns to be the cynical worldly-wise observer, and explain the real reason why what was happening, was happening.

Basically, we failed. Not only could none of us last a minute defending any of the reasons advanced by governments why aggressively-persecuted prohibition was the best option, but nobody could find a decent conspiracy theory why they'd want to even try.

W, as they say, TF?
posted by Devonian at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2011


It's because, Devonian, a lot of police paychecks depend on that war.
posted by Malor at 5:41 PM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


A book I just finished (In Defense of Flogging) reminds me of one very important point in judging the effectiveness of the War on Drugs: we can't even keep illegal drugs out of our prisons. If we can't keep them out of prisons, how can we even hope to keep them out of the country?

On preview, Malor has it: it didn't start that way, but now the War on Drugs is maintained because it funds the police, the prison system, all the labor unions that run the prisons, the private companies that provide goods and services to prisons (and run them in some cases), etc. In a lot of rural areas of the US, there are prisons that just wouldn't exist if we didn't need so much space to house drug criminals (and people who commit further crimes due to the drugs) -- and those rural areas wouldn't have many jobs without that prison. So even if you get a majority of people saying "stop this now", the entrenched interests can always whip up hysteria about how all the people that will start doing drugs and commit other crimes if drugs are decriminalized.
posted by R343L at 5:45 PM on June 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


A lot of Drug Smuggler/Crime Lord checks depend on drugs being illegal. They are the biggest losers if even Marijuana is legalized.
posted by bongo_x at 5:45 PM on June 1, 2011


but nobody could find a decent conspiracy theory why they'd want to even try

Money is the answer, simple. A lot of politicians, police departments, businesses, etc all get money from the status quo. (For police departments, forfeitures/seizures are quite profitable. All sorts of private businesses and private prisons make money from the drug war. Some of that money then goes to politicians). Not enough money on the legalization side to make up for that (sure, reduced cost to society --- but not more money to the decision makers, and thats what it would take).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:46 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oops! The report is available here. It's short (24 pages), pragmatic, and eminently readable. The inclusion of Richard Branson may have been a factor here, given his lifetime's experience of effective public messaging; the report aims for impact and action, rather than attempting to address every possible ramification. There's also some interesting background papers for the more academically inclined. the one on government criminalization struck me as particularly interesting, albeit somewhat thin.

By the way, it's worth noting that membership of this group includes some incumbent politicians and international figures as well as retired ones.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:49 PM on June 1, 2011


As a pharmacologist this is what I have thought up, mulling over the problems for years. We don't need to legalize all currently illegal drugs. What we need to legalize are substitute drugs and make them easily accessible.

#1. On the street, a good high is hard to come by. Most often the addicts are taking weak shit anyway.
#2. By making available drugs with "low" highs and long half-lives we will not eliminate the demand for the short half-life, high high drugs (such as heroin, cocaine and meth), but we will greatly cut back the demand for them as addicts can regularly replace their daily needs.
#3. Those drugs should be ones that are orally available, preferably given in a liquid form. The liquids can be downed at distribution sites which will keep from hoarding it (pills) or distilling it.

Pemoline for stimulants, methadone or LAAM for opiates. Not putting them on limited availability programs but making them very available.

Of course, like any drugs the ones with low highs and long half-lives also have toxic effects and that is why they have been of limited use. But the toxic effects and risks are way below that of street cut drugs.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:50 PM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


We tried that one on for size, Malor, but it didn't work out. Police don't set international policy and. hereabouts at least, they only take an interest in most drug use when there's a big push from above.

[The fact that the police officers we know are perfectly happy with a toke when they're off-duty is purely anecdotal]
posted by Devonian at 5:50 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


And most of our inner cities have become outright war zones.

Nah. LA is not a war zone. As you say, Mexico is a war zone.
posted by jaduncan at 6:00 PM on June 1, 2011


Malor: "It's because, Devonian, a lot of police paychecks depend on that war."

And tactical gear/weapons and prison companies and prison guards and handcuffs... Prison Industrial complex :(

Not to mention all the great guys at the top of the drug war (DEA) and the massive hardware up there. Helicopters and shiny new tech that the traditional "defense" industry can continue to build and rake in the profits while doing so.
posted by symbioid at 6:11 PM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


i smoked my first joint in 1962. i had a few tokes a couple of nights ago. the illegality, to me, is an important part of the high. it helps separate me from them.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:16 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why? You mean really why? Not the "why" they say, or "why" they think, but the real why that skulks around behind the rational decisions about the police/war/industrial complex? It's because they (the anti-drug faction) are afraid. They're afraid specifically of people they can't control. People who are high don't listen to authority when they're high, and people who trip may stop listening to authority completely. People who don't listen to authority might start thinking for themselves. This is scary, because people who think for themselves are unpredictable, chaotic actors. And a surplus of unpredictable, chaotic yet self-aware and rational actors are the worst thing that can happen to an authority-centred social system. At the very lowest level, the reaction is like "there is a wolf in my meadow, and it is going to fuck up my sheep." You can connect a line to the war on terrer if you like, which is based on the same fear: a rational yet chaotic actor -- someone not of your tribe.

We're just primates, folks. Selfish, scared primates. It's not anything more complex than that.

So fucking depressing, really.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:46 PM on June 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


You know, sean, that reflects some thoughts I had as a teenager, that people who smoked pot thought for themselves, and that the people in power seemed terrified of that. I'd forgotten that observation until you reminded me, just now.
posted by Malor at 8:19 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like a slice of butter...
posted by clavdivs at 8:37 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


R343L: ...the War on Drugs is maintained because it funds the police, the prison system, all the labor unions that run the prisons, the private companies that provide goods and services to prisons (and run them in some cases), etc

This times a billion. It's a profit margin that's continuing the drug war. Of course politicians know that we're losing--and badly. But so long as prisons create jobs, no politician wants to be in the crosshairs as having "cut" those jobs. Plus it makes them look "soft on crime" to even talk about decriminalization, much less legalization. It's a third rail. Other, namely European, countries don't have quite as much entrenched lobbying interests dictating federal policy. So you have countries like Portugal that legalize (IIRC) all drugs, and that's been a real success there.
posted by zardoz at 8:55 PM on June 1, 2011


sean and malor, you guys get it. i've shared pot with writers, artists, rockers, protestors, folk singers, clergymen, mexican fisherman, nuclear weapons experts, american indians, university professors, jungle dwelling savages, surfers, potters, amish farmers, refugees, hookers and cab drivers foreign and domestic. why would i want to smoke with every asshole in my neighborhood? this started out as a selective brotherhood and should remain so.
posted by kitchenrat at 8:55 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we should keep spending billions of dollars and ruining millions of lives so you can feel special?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:59 PM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


How much better would things be if we didn't put you in jail for (what are currently) illegal drugs but did put you in jail if you fucked around with antibiotics? It'd be beautiful.
posted by Justinian at 9:05 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coverage from the Wall Street Journal, BBC, CBS, and the Guardian.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:09 PM on June 1, 2011


why would i want to smoke with every asshole in my neighborhood?

so i have the right to share with

writers, artists, rockers, protestors, folk singers, clergymen, mexican fisherman, nuclear weapons experts, american indians, university professors, jungle dwelling savages, surfers, potters, amish farmers, refugees, hookers and cab drivers foreign and domestic.

The amish farmers is interesting as I had a similar experience in Lancaster county, except I was 12 and I traded an issue of Cracked for a neat bonnet and horseshoe.

no offense...grandma tried it in the 20s, called it "muggles" (Played a mean Saxaphone)
pops tried it in the navy, 1954 called it "reefers".
i forget the rest.

oh yes, mexico.
posted by clavdivs at 9:24 PM on June 1, 2011


but did put you in jail if you fucked around with antibiotics?

"The defendant had 1000 hits of Cipro your honor"
posted by clavdivs at 9:27 PM on June 1, 2011


Parts of Mexico are a bit fucked up, but it's nowhere near being a failed state. I certainly don't feel any more unsafe here than I do in LA.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:40 PM on June 1, 2011


I would think that the people who make a lot of money off selling illegal drugs, would have a vested interest in keeping it illegal, via well placed bribes. I would say they are pretty powerful organizations with long reach and a lot of resources.

Don't believe me? Ask yourself these questions:
1. How does cocaine get from south of the U.S. border to Chicago? Sure, the DEA catches some shipments, but in the late 90s , authorities estimate that they seized around 18,000 kg of the stuff.
2. How is it that traffickers felt confident enough to put 20 tons of cocaine on a freighter?
3. What about the other freighters? How do those get in?
4. Who forwards the money for the shipments? That's a lot of money, do you think that low level street gangs have that much cash?
posted by wuwei at 9:47 PM on June 1, 2011


I think calling "money" the main reason for the war on drugs is a little simplistic. Money does make the world go 'round, but it's not everything. I think that sean's idea is a little closer to reality: The War on Drugs is, primarily, a psychological exercise more than anything else.

The kind of people who go into police work, the sorts of people who become police officers, prosecuting attorneys, detectives and so forth -- these people have a profound need to enforce some kind of order upon the universe. They wouldn't do their job if this wasn't so.

Authority, Obedience, Respect. Those are the three words which describe the essence of police work. As a citizen, you are expected to

1) Defer to the proper Authority (the officer/judge/prosecutor)
2) Obey his commands
3) Respect his Authority over your life

People who don't do 1-3 are in for a world of hurt. Now, naturally, we tell people that we have a police force to enforce the laws and desires of our society. That is true, but it's also not true. There was a case a few years ago when voters in Denver voted that their police department should make marijuana enforcement their lowest possible priority. The police chief and the city attorney said "no".

They didn't say "Ok, whatever the voters want.." or "This is a very complex legal issue and we'll do our best to sort this mess out...". They said "No." The voters changed a law and law enforcment said "No, you can't change this law", and that was the end of that.

So, law enforcement in the United States is only tangentally employed in enforcing society's standards. When they do enforce community standards, it's often by accident. I theorize that law enforcement exists primarily as an outlet for those millions of men (and more than a few women) who have an intense desire to control and regulate their fellow human beings. People who get utterly bent out of shape when they consider that, somewhere, out there, somebody is burning an American flag at this very moment.

We have gotten to the point in this country where this group of people is esentially an unofficial fourth branch of government with their own veto power. They apparently have the option to nullify laws with which they disagree, if they so choose. But again, their motivation isn't money (directly, anyway). I think it's the emotional, the psychological, even the spiritual satisfaction that they gain from forcing their inferiors to respect and recognize their authority.

Or, as sean so correctly puts it: In the end, we are all apes.
posted by Avenger at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Money is the answer, simple. A lot of politicians, police departments, businesses, etc all get money from the status quo. (For police departments, forfeitures/seizures are quite profitable. All sorts of private businesses and private prisons make money from the drug war. Some of that money then goes to politicians). Not enough money on the legalization side to make up for that (sure, reduced cost to society --- but not more money to the decision makers, and thats what it would take)."

But just saying "money" is far too simplistic.

Sure, there are some nakedly rapacious players, but a lot of it is just feedback loop problems and America's deep prohibitionist streak. Combine that with a huge amount of ineptitude on the pro-legalization side and the public's shallow understanding, and you've got an entrenched, systemic problem made of a huge number of little problems.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on June 1, 2011


This is pretty much what people on the right say about bureaucrats, financial regulators, environmentalists and so forth. Labeling everyone you disagree with as a personality-deficient authoritarian is not really a sensible framework - it's a rhetorical rather than a substantive response.

Although I'm strongly in favor of legalizing drugs, I don't really buy into this idea that they're prohibited because of some innate hostility towards critical thinking. Regrettably, a lot of recreational drug users tend to wildly overestimate the originality or profundity of their own insights, for much the same reasons that people do when they're drinking or that leads smokers to characterize themselves as fighting on the front lines in a battle for personal freedom. Drugs may open up new cognitive territory for many people, but they're hardly the only pathway to philosophical independence.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:49 PM on June 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is pretty much what people on the right say about bureaucrats, financial regulators, environmentalists and so forth.

I was thinking about that as I wrote it. But what if they're right? I can't really say that they're wrong for saying that.

Labeling everyone you disagree with as a personality-deficient authoritarian is not really a sensible framework - it's a rhetorical rather than a substantive response.

*shrugs* It's not that I disagree with them per se, it's just how I perceive their motivations. Is it possible to truly know anybody's motivations? Probably not, but that won't stop our brains from trying.
posted by Avenger at 10:54 PM on June 1, 2011


Then we took it in turns to be the cynical worldly-wise observer, and explain the real reason why what was happening, was happening.
Class animosity. Your typical middle class people don't like drugs and think drugs are 'bad'. They don't like drug users and actively want bad things to happen to them. But more importantly, making drugs illegal 'sends a message' that drug users are officially condemned by society. Same with prostitution.

In RI they recently illegalized prostitution after it had been legalized for years due to a loophole. They had to come up with some B.S. rational about human trafficking, but they could have simply required that prostitutes register and be U.S. citizens. Really, it was all about social condemnation.

If people's lives get screwed up by those laws, so what? They just don't care. And they certainly don't care about "those people". So they vote for anti-drug politicians. And of course years of government subsidized propaganda help too.

Another thing to look at is the laws against transferring money to play online poker. Basically pointless, but it was passed only to appeal to moral voters who are opposed to gambling (plus rake in campaign contributions from casinos). The last thing the politicians actually cared about was people losing money playing online poker, it was a bill passed by the republicans right before an election, which they still got destroyed in (2006)

Recently there was a crackdown and lots of people got arrested, had their lives ruined for helping Americans transfer money around for online poker. But the law was only ever intended to 'send a message' about online gambling 'being bad'. However, the law was on the books so it got enforced.

I'm sure the so called prison industrial complex also helps out with lobbying and whatnot, but I don't think it would be helpful for a politician to advocate complete repeal of drugs laws and still get elected. (Also, there's the possibility of cartel money flowing to lobbyists to keep drugs illegal and profits up)
i smoked my first joint in 1962. i had a few tokes a couple of nights ago. the illegality, to me, is an important part of the high. it helps separate me from them.
Stupid. You would feel differently if you got arrested.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 AM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just this regular guy, and would love to eventually live in a society and in a wider world where my choice to medicate, and my choice for recreational stimulation, did not put me constantly under threat of having my whole life destroyed by the police apparatus.

So far I have been really lucky, and am very happy that I am an older white man now, but the stigma of being an "illegal drug user" is still there and the potential for ruin is always a step away.

What did I ever do to the Man? Just leave me alone is all I ask.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:54 AM on June 2, 2011


Hmm, read the post above about the ladder. why is the ladder *required*?? No one knows. No one.

But it's the "Status Quo" and that's how it will remain.
posted by sammyo at 4:19 AM on June 2, 2011


sean and malor, you guys get it. i've shared pot with writers, artists, rockers, protestors, folk singers, clergymen, mexican fisherman, nuclear weapons experts, american indians, university professors, jungle dwelling savages, surfers, potters, amish farmers, refugees, hookers and cab drivers foreign and domestic. why would i want to smoke with every asshole in my neighborhood? this started out as a selective brotherhood and should remain so.

Reminds me a bit of a documentary I saw about homosexuals in soho before it was legalised in the 1960s. They had a strange nostalgia for the days when everything was underground and there was a special language and culture. Some thought legalisation had ruined everything.

All of which is pretty unfair to the people who don't want to be part of some risky underground culture and just want to get on with their lives.
posted by Summer at 5:17 AM on June 2, 2011


I know it's only fiction but I enjoyed Ben Elton's book "High Society". A really interesting point of view.
posted by h00py at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2011


Promise me the murderers will still be pursued, apprehended, and prosecuted. Promise me that the drug lords will still have all of their money taken away from them and that they will end their days in prisons. Promise me that we'll at least fucking try like we mean it.

And promise me that nobody gets to advertise the drugs they sell. No commercials, no ads in magazines, no hiring advertising companies to find clever ways around it. Promise me that company actually producing/selling whatever drugs are to be legalized must legally provide at least 50% of its revenue to drug treatment programs and for the support of all the kids who have to deal with fucked-up drug-addicted parents.

Promise me that, and I won't be 100% against legalization.

I realize that the War on Drugs is failing. (I have been a participant, btw, and I don't feel the least bit bad about it.) I don't agree with a lot of the policies. We treat some drugs like they're a bigger problem/sin than they are, and we don't do enough to actively discourage use.

But it's a LOT more complicated than the usual "just legalize it and tax it" line that the burners always throw at me.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:46 AM on June 2, 2011


4. Who forwards the money for the shipments? That's a lot of money, do you think that low level street gangs have that much cash?

Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
posted by ryoshu at 8:53 AM on June 2, 2011


And promise me that nobody gets to advertise the drugs they sell. No commercials, no ads in magazines, no hiring advertising companies to find clever ways around it.

Are we going to retroactively apply this to alcohol and cigarette companies as well? Because if we are going to take a turning-a-blind-eye approach, I'd like to see it applied to two of the most dangerous drugs on the market.
posted by quin at 9:09 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are we going to retroactively apply this to alcohol and cigarette companies as well? Because if we are going to take a turning-a-blind-eye approach, I'd like to see it applied to two of the most dangerous drugs on the market.

Sure. I'd be perfectly fine with that.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:17 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well unfortunately, since in 2008, alcohol tax revenue brought in $5.7 billion and cigarette taxes came to about $16.6 billion, I don't see the government ever doing anything to stop that particular gravy train by imposing any kind of advertising restrictions.

However, our ability to hypocritically ignore the dangers of one profitable legal drug while vilifying and criminalizing other, much less harmful drugs suggest that if they ever did legalize some of the drugs out there, the blind-eye approach, as pointless as I'm sorry to say I think it'd be, might be something they'd actually try.
posted by quin at 9:29 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scaryblackdeath,

Drugs and drug dealing are not going anywhere with the status quo. Doesn't anyone find it ironic that the country with some of the harshes penalties for possession and sale is the largest consumer nation in the world with only~ 300 million people?

The problems you cite are not being addressed now. Really drug addiction and abuse should be treated as a medical condition, not a criminal issue. How many families have been torn apart under the status quo? Why are minorities over represented when whites consume more drugs in our prison industrial complex?

I wouldn't be proud to have said I aided in this problem, as your efforts certainly haven't helped the situation. With broken families, poor resources for addicts, and a societal safety net that has failed, why don't we look for new, and different approaches?
posted by handbanana at 9:34 AM on June 2, 2011


Promise me that, and I won't be 100% against legalization.

I think we'll be able to carry this without your vote, sbd.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:35 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sbd, not sure if by aided meant participated in drugs, or participated in prosecutions/maintaining the status quo. So ignore that aspect depending on what you meant.
posted by handbanana at 9:51 AM on June 2, 2011


My own family was torn apart by drugs without any interference whatsoever by any authorities. You can argue that it was my stepfather's personal issues that caused his drug use, rather than the drugs causing his issues. I really don't care. He was easier to live with when he wasn't using, and that tells me all I need to know.

I served in the Coast Guard. I chose that service over the others specifically because I wanted to work in drug interdiction. I helped catch smugglers. (They included white Americans.)

I got the crack dealer downstairs from me in my first apartment in Seattle run out of the building, and potentially out of town. (Also a white American. I bring this up because you point out the racial disparities in our prisons, which I certainly don't argue, or justify, or support.) I got his drugs seized by the cops. Sadly, he didn't get arrested, but he was gone. I'm perfectly proud of it.

I would agree that drug use is a medical problem. Hence my statement that I want to see the murderers prosecuted for murder, rather than me saying that everyone who broke any law should be chased down for it even after legalization happens. I'm not so interested in seeing every user put in jail. The penalties are out of scale with the crime. I don't deny that at all.

What I would like to see, rather than the typical legalization proponent who thinks that everything would be okay if we'd just toke up, are firm commitments to address the social problems that we already have in relation to drugs (put the cause & effect relation how you will). Many of those problems won't get any better if drugs are legalized.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:11 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They won't get BETTER, but they will be far more TREATABLE once one's "disease" (or the symptoms of a deeper mental issue) isn't classified as a criminal activity.

Sorry about your family, dude.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:18 AM on June 2, 2011


FWIW, I'm not one to cry about my stepfather situation. The family thing got brought up, so I figured I'd just say it. It lasted a few years and then my mother finally realized that he wasn't going to get any better, and so there was a divorce & we relocated. Thankfully we did it before his violence against inanimate objects escalated. (Not 'til after he put pot in the brownies that my sister was baking without telling anyone, which wasn't fun at all.) Yes, it's anecdotal, but I'm all too aware of how many kids have it much, much worse. As a teacher, I've seen it repeated over and over and over again.

I had this discussion with a class recently. Predictably, lots of teens are pro-legalization. I said, at one point, that I'd be fine with drugs being legal if users weren't allowed to be parents.

Given that many of them doubtlessly had parents who used and/or who had friends with that situation, I was pretty shocked at how many of them agreed with me. Emphatically.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2011


My parents were heroin addicts. Their addictions meant that I had to be raised by my grandparents. And yet, I can still see very clearly that their's was a medical/social problem, not a matter for the criminal justice system. They might as well have been gambling addicts, sex addicts, golf fanatics or alcoholics. Many different kinds of psychological addiction come with heavy social costs; we don't try to criminalize all of them, because criminalizing behavior isn't always the best solution.

It's now well beyond obvious that criminalizing everything up to and including casual drug use just to get at solving the problems associated with cases of serious addiction is like trying to use a jackhammer to turn a screw. It's the wrong tool for the job, it's overkill, and it's dangerous. At this point, the social costs that come with the criminalization of recreational drugs far exceed the costs of managing and treating drug addiction.

After all, the underlying social problem these laws should be meant to address isn't the mere fact that people sometimes enjoy feeling intoxicated; if that alone were the issue, we'd have to do away with all the sports bars, too. So presumably, the issue is addiction. Well, in many places, even as we wage this original installment in the now long running series of Wars on Nouns, we're also actively deregulating gambling and other potentially addictive behaviors, so the status quo is at the very least profoundly inconsistent.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:36 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Statesmen (or politicians if you prefer) only seem to come out courageously on this issue after they've retired.

Mostly yes. But the sitting PM of Greece is in that commission and even the President of Mexico has considered the idea.
posted by ersatz at 10:37 AM on June 2, 2011


#1. On the street, a good high is hard to come by. Most often the addicts are taking weak shit anyway.

This is really a highly variable and personal situation that cannot be so easily generalized, but I've been on both ends of it (cheap and WHOA everywhere and $$ for worthless dreck if you can find it). E.G. A few years back, I lived next to a junkie that could get me H anytime she was around. I occasionally went weeks without access to cannabis at the same time and it was pretty tempting sometimes. Heroin and cocaine, while not always pure and certainly not without side effects, will almost always get you pretty high for around $20 in the short term. A lot of it has to do with who you know and where you live in my experience.

#2. By making available drugs with "low" highs and long half-lives we will not eliminate the demand for the short half-life, high high drugs (such as heroin, cocaine and meth), but we will greatly cut back the demand for them as addicts can regularly replace their daily needs.

This makes a lot of sense, so long as the drugs are chemically compatible (in that they prevent withdrawals) and have no dangerous side effects if people attempt to abuse them (such as organ damage caused by mixing NSAIDs with opiates in the attempt to prevent abuse; people still try, people fuck their shit up). I like the idea of weaker, longer-lasting stuff being more available.

#3. Those drugs should be ones that are orally available, preferably given in a liquid form. The liquids can be downed at distribution sites which will keep from hoarding it (pills) or distilling it.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by "distilling it"? Liquids can be saved as well and distribution sites are not "very available". Granted, it is better than nothing, but driving or taking a bus across town to the clinic every morning is still inconvenient.

Pemoline for stimulants, methadone or LAAM for opiates. Not putting them on limited availability programs but making them very available.

Ech, really? (no offense intended) Pemoline is associated with liver failure, but other than that sounds pretty promising. I mean, none of the stimulants are without side effects, but dexedrine is pretty well-studied, and vyvnase is an awesome way to time-release it. It's very smooth and not very abuse-able in a good way; I really like the "add an amino" way they did that. LAAM is pretty new (I never heard of it before, it's certainly interesting) but has potentially dangerous ventricular rhythm disorders, from what WP tells me. My personal vote on the opiate side is for laudanum/poppy tea. I actually got hooked on it once without realizing it because its so slow-acting. It takes an hour or two to kick in, the buzz is not very intense or sudden, but nice and long-lasting (I could still feel it a bit the next morning) and you need to be dedicated to drink that stuff. I could go a full day without and through the next workday with no withdrawal symptoms so I figured I was in the clear. Then I decided to take an extended break after about a month or so of every-other-day and on day two I was bad sick, like a pretty shit flu. Took a few days off work (I was sick...) and overnighted some, ate what little I had left....blah blah...tapered off over a month with manageable symptoms. It was nothing like oxycodone, dialudid, or morphine, which were much more jones-y, had shittier come-downs and left me feeling like I was two steps away from a seriously frightening drug addiction. They also got me really high, but it wasn't worth it to me. YMMV. I had some friends that were pretty heavy into opiates, and they would sometimes use the tea/tincture to manage withdrawals, but usually didn't consider it WHOA enough to justify trading in their IV/intranasal dope habits.

Of course, like any drugs the ones with low highs and long half-lives also have toxic effects and that is why they have been of limited use. But the toxic effects and risks are way below that of street cut drugs.

But are they below that of known, widely used, substances produced in labs or by nature at a known purity that have been used for hundreds of years? I'm looking at you, coca, papaver somniferum, and cannabis. There's alcohol, too, but I'm only omitting it b/c it's currently legal-ish.

What I really like, though, is merely that this is being discussed. I know none of us have a panacea, but neither does the WoD. There just isn't one solution, or for that matter, just one problem. I think most of all, what we need as a society are discussions that include everyone from frightened suburban moms to current and past addicts to police to dealers to physicians to pharmacologists. We need to find other ways to use, distribute, and moderate our consumption. I know we can come up with better solutions - not just one, but many - that address the myriad issues of individuals, communities and nations. It will not be easy or quick or painless or perfect, but obviously locking people up and throwing away the key isn't, either. We can do better.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:52 AM on June 2, 2011


I had this discussion with a class recently. Predictably, lots of teens are pro-legalization. I said, at one point, that I'd be fine with drugs being legal if users weren't allowed to be parents.

I'm sure you're also for beer only being sold to licensed non-parents, as well as casino passes, sports games, WoW subscriptions, and everything else that a person could possibly fixate on and/or develop an addiction to; I'm sure this stance isn't purely reactionary based on your own personal anecdotes.

You want to reduce not just the criminality, but the actual personal damage of drug abuse? Fucking legalize it. It's been blindingly obvious in every outside scenario that legalization is the #1 most direct way to not just make dealing with the negative side effects of drug usage easier and less stigmatized, but also to make the ACTUAL PROBLEMS of drug use side effects less existent. Criminalization is the REASON for a majority of the harms of drug use, not the 'least worst' solution for them.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:26 AM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


"I've spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition."

More.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:29 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


sjd,
Many of us have known addicts in our families, and I am sorry to hear about your situation growing up.
Hey, I can't blame you for not wanting a crack dealer living underneath you, I wouldnt want that around me either (where I was born was like that, hence why my family moved the fuck out), but it doesn't solve the problem. Great, you made him move/locked him up @ a cost of $40gs + only for someone else to take his/her spot. What did that solve? Nothing. Addicts still get there fix, dealers make money.
The racial comment is to deal with the institutionalized racism our system has set up. We lock up "problems" and only continue the cycle, with broken homes, lack of educational opportunities and access to care.
I don't have the answer, but other countries are pushing into different and new territories that seem to alleviate some of the problems focused on drug abuse. Think methadone clinics, helping methamphetamine addicts with legal speed for maintenance, which can help break the cycle, help others, prevent the nuisances of dealers/violence, as well as save us the tax payers money.

People will and always have seek mind altering substances. Some can handle it, others (many) do not.
posted by handbanana at 11:34 AM on June 2, 2011


I'm sure you're also for beer only being sold to licensed non-parents, as well as casino passes, sports games, WoW subscriptions, and everything else that a person could possibly fixate on and/or develop an addiction to; I'm sure this stance isn't purely reactionary based on your own personal anecdotes.

Sorry. I just don't equate drugs (and alcohol is a drug, yes) with chosen behaviors. Taking a drug to alter your brain versus practicing a certain behavior just aren't the same things.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:04 PM on June 2, 2011


People will and always have seek mind altering substances. Some can handle it, others (many) do not.

This is what all the addicts tell me. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2011


This is what all the addicts tell me. :( posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:05 PM on 6/2

Yes, tell that to the elderly who is recovering from a surgery, is on a plethora of pain killers and becomes an" addict".

Almost every single society has had some chemical drugs for altered conscious.

Sorry. I just don't equate drugs (and alcohol is a drug, yes) with chosen behaviors. Taking a drug to alter your brain versus practicing a certain behavior just aren't the same things. posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:04 PM on 6/2

Recent advances and studies of brain chemistry show your hypothesis as incorrect. Check your neuroscience peer reviewed journal or a bit of googling will provide you with material. Its basic reward/pleasure chemistry in action.
posted by handbanana at 12:14 PM on June 2, 2011


Just to throw in my two cents, I'd like to see legalization of agricultural production for personal use. I would like to see the eventual development of cultural contexts wherein use can occur in a semi-controlled environment (set). I’m not in favor of advertisements. I would like to see decriminalization of simple possession. I’m also in favor of continuing to prosecute theft, assault, murder, etc. “I’m an addict” should not be a get-out-of-jail-free card. I think its important that parents provide a positive environment for their children, but couldn’t we rely on child welfare laws?

What I would most like to see, however, is a Recreational Pharmaceutical Consultant. There would be an establishment similar to a pharmacy. They would have a nurse and a Pharmacy Tech on duty, and a Pharmacist that specializes in recreational substances. Ideally, they would be operated as a non-profit agency and not sell the recreational substances in order to avoid conflicts of interest. A person seeking recreational substances would be assigned an ID, preferably some sort of one-way hash that verifies their identity without storing it directly. This way you avoid a giant list of all the people and what they use, while still providing a means of controlling distribution. I don’t expect it to be perfect, just better. If you want legit, heavy-duty substances, you must go through the official procedure. It would include education for each group of substances and extra education depending on severity of addiction, withdrawal, side effects for a given substance. A person would be given their first dose in a clinical setting under supervision and monitored (vital signs, etc). They would have an opportunity to discuss with the pharmacist their experience and intended use. Then, after a period of time determined by the addictive potential of the substance, they could come back and get an amount they could leave with. It would be less than the amount required to develop dependence before the next refill. If the individual would like to increase their dose, the amount they were allowed to possess would escalate over a period of time depending on the substance. The individual would require a check-up periodically to determine any organ damage or abnormalities, with the specific procedures determined by the known side effects of the substance. All technicians would have information on rehab, drug substitutions, addiction and withdrawal, and treatment. Anyone caught redistributing their substances would have their license suspended and later revoked. While incomplete and not without potential for abuse, I think it would be a good start. It seems like it would address public health issues, provide a safe and informed context within which to use these substances, reward responsible use and punish irresponsible use, and provide an easy avenue to discover health issues and get treatment. What say?
posted by nTeleKy at 2:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


gingerbeer: ""I've spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition."

More.
"

So... No season six then.
posted by symbioid at 2:39 PM on June 2, 2011


« Older Dangerous by Design: an interactive map of pedestr...  |  The Church of the Holy Sepulch... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments